|$ Kolkata Kolkata developed as the biggest colonial trade center in Asia during the British Raj and thus it earned the epithet ‘Jewel of the East.’ The erstwhile capital of British India boasts magnificent Victorian buildings, ornamental pools, intricate stone-paved footpaths, figured lamp posts, and sweeping esplanades, although much of the city’s architectural heritage is crumbling due to poor maintenance. Park Street, which may be regarded as the downtown of Kolkata, has quality restaurants.
The second largest city in the Indian subcontinent, Kolkata is known for its dense population. The city still has many slums, but there is also a mushrooming of new townships in the suburbs. Despite its inconveniences, tourists pour in to admire the vestiges of the British Raj. They hold hands outside the Victoria Memorial, speak in hushed tones under the roof of the St Paul’s Cathedral, and stare eyed at the wonders in the Indian Museum. You will find the locals friendly, helpful and warmer than the residents of India’s other cities. There is absolutely no way, a visit to Kolkata will be disappointing.
How to get there
By Air: The airport in Kolkata is situated at Dumdum, which is about 17 km northeast of the city center. Most domestic airlines have direct services to Kolkata from major Indian cities and to most of the countries in Southeast Asia.
By Rail: The city has two major railway stations – one at Howrah and the other one at Sealdah. Superfast trains like the Rajdhani Express and Shatabdi Express connect the city to Delhi and nearby cities like Bokaro and Rourkela. The Coromandel Express and Gitanjali Express connect Kolkata to Chennai and Mumbai respectively.
By Road: National and State Highways connect Kolkata with most Indian cities. The Esplanade Terminus in the heart of
the city is the main bus terminus. Within the city, there are several modes of transport like trams, buses, rickshaws, metered taxis, minibuses and the Metro.
Places of interest Victoria Memorial: Built in the early 20th century, in memory of Queen Victoria, this magnificent structure is modeled on the Taj Mahal. It is located at the southern end of a Maidan, near Jawaharlal Nehru Road. The majestic bronze statue of the queen near the entrance, the brass canons, time-tested wrought iron street lamps, manicured lawns, gardens and pathways, the magical lighting, all together create a mesmerising atmosphere.
Indian Museum: Established in 1878, the Italian style museum is considered the largest museum in the country and is one ofthe best in Asia. It is on the Jawaharlal Nehru Road. The museum has six sections: Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Industry (economic botany). The museum has an excellent collection ranging from an Egyptian mummy to the skeleton of a whale and some rare statues. North of the Maidan: There are many curiosities around New Market like the fascinatingly collapsing Futani Chambers, the ‘old is gold’ Elite Cinema, the brilliant colonial-era Metropolitan Building and the beautiful Tipu Sultan’s Mosque. The north end ofthe Maidan is dotted with monuments. You will have more entertainment at the Sahid Minar with Circus performers, political firebrands and hawkers selling mystic medicines. Eden Gardens is dotted with
beautiful trees and shrubs, intersected by winding paths, and there is a large artificial lake too. The famous Ranji Stadium in Eden Garden hosts international cricket matches.
St Paul’s Cathedral: Built during the British Raj, St Paul’s Cathedral is located on the east of the Victoria Memorial and is one of India’s important churches. The steeple collapsed during an earthquake in 1897 and was reconstructed. The Cathedral has some interesting memorials and stained glass, including the west window by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
Howrah Bridge Across the river Hooghly, the Howrah Bridge remains a popular icon of not just Kolkata but entire West Bengal. The bridge supported by steel cantilevers, although over 60 years old, is perhaps the world’s busiest bridge. It successfully bears a daily traffic of about 80,000 vehicles and, possibly, 1,000,000 pedestrians.
Although renamed Rabindra Setu in 1965, the bridge continues to be known as the Howrah bridge. Interestingly, this bridge spanning 450 meters across the Hooghly River has no pylons at all within the river. The ferries running below Howrah Station are convenient to cross the river, and gives you a good view of the bridge.
Birla Planetarium: Located near the India Tourism office amidst picturesque settings, the Birla Planetarium is one ofthe largest in the world. There are shows in English everyday. This 21st century marvel of science, communication and environment is the first and only institution of its kind in India.
BBD Bagh (Dalhousie Square): When Kolkata was the administrative centre of
British India, BBD Bagh was the centre of power. An attempt on the life of Lord Dalhousie was made in this place by the BBD trio (Binoy, Badal and Dinesh). Their bid in 1930, turned out to be a misadventure that claimed the life of an unlucky prisons inspector within the picture-perfect 1780 Writer’s Building here. The building’s south fagade look similar to that of the a French provincial city hall.
Kali Temple: Dedicated to Goddess Durga, the present temple was rebuilt in 1809 on the site of a much older temple. Kalighat (as it is also known) is the actual temple from which Calcutta takes its name and since then it has been an important pilgrim centre. The temple was renovated in 1971.
been a favourite hill station, from the time of the British. Surrounded by tea plantations with the backdrop ofthe splendid Himalayas, the hill station has a lot to offer the tourists. With natural beauty at its best, Darjeeling is aptly called the queen of hill stations.
Tagore’s House: Located at the junction of Chitpur Road and Vivekananda Road, it is in this house, the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was born. Also known as Jorasanko Thakurbari, the expansive house within the Rabindra Bharati University has now been converted into a shrine-like museum to India’s greatest poet. There is also a gallery with a good collection of paintings by his family and contemporaries.
India Tourism, #4, Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata. Ph: 22825823/22827731 West Bengal Tourism, #3/2, BBD Bagh, Kolkata. Ph: 22488271