‘The city of joy’, Kolkata, which was previously known as ‘Calcutta’, has a chaotic sweetness to her everyday mundane. The warmth of the place instantly makes one belong here. It is a city beyond brick and mortar, driven by crazy emotions, love for Durga Pujo, food and football. I wish my city a very happy birthday today.
The Birth of Kolkata
24th of August is considered the birthday of Kolkata, a city with enticing history. Kolkata, the capital of the State of West Bengal, is woven with the old world charm and modern amenities. It is one of the major metropolitan cities of India. In 1698 Job Charnock, an administrator of the English East India Company, bought three villages from the local landlord Sabarna Chowdhury. Sutanuti, Kolkata and Gobindapur were joined to form Calcutta, the capital of British India (1772-1911). So, today let’s see some of the places to see in Kolkata which will make one understand the city better.
Some of the photos are clicked by me and my friend Debashis Kumar. I have also used photos from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
Victoria Memorial and Maidan - Red Road Circuit
Victoria Memorial was built between 1906 and 1921, in the memory of Queen Victoria. It is a majestic marble monument with a beautiful garden and a museum. Enjoy a ride on a horse carriage from the Victoria Memorial, around the green Maidan. Riding on the beautiful red road with horses grazing in the Race Course beside, takes one to the imperial era.
From the Red Road we also get a glimpse of Shaheed Minaar (1824), a 50m tall and slender tower. It stands on the green Brigade Ground, offering a bird’s eye view of the city. This monument is beautifully illuminated in the evening. Cross Fort William (1696), now being used as the Eastern command headquarters for the Indian Army. One can’t miss Eden Gardens (1864), the oldest cricket stadium in India, while driving on the Red Road.
St. Paul’s Cathedral (1847)
It is one of the unforgettable places to visit in Kolkata. It has an august Indo-gothic architecture. The huge trees around the area make the place magical. An afternoon spent at the cathedral complex is sure to be etched in the memory for ever.
Princep Ghat (1841)
This place robs the heart with its Greek and Gothic architecture on the banks of the River Hooghly, a tributary of River Ganga. The panoramic view of River Hooghly on one side and the modern Vidyasagar Sethu on the other is a photographer’s paradise. Boating, taking a stroll by the river and munching street side delicacies are experiences here.
A drive/walk around the Dalhousie Square is a must for history buffs. The stoned pavements and the colonial buildings with Laal Dighi (Pool of water) at the centre are similar to those of London’s Trafalgar Square. St. John’s Church (1787), Kolkata’s first Parish Church, faces the Dalhousie square. It was modelled after London’s Gibb’s St.Martin’s, with a Neo Classical Structure, with a 174ft tall stone spire with a giant clock. It’s compound being an age old cemetery, houses tombs and memorials of some eminent historic figures. The Calcutta Black Hole Monument, Lady Canning’s Memorial and the Mausoleum of Job Charnock, the founder of Calcutta, all lie here. In this area you can see the iconic GPO, Writers’ Building, Raj Bhavan, Metcalfe Hall and other imperial buildings standing tall. This is one of those places to visit in Kolkata which comprise of numerous historic monuments.
Mullick Ghat Flower Market Near Howrah Bridge, the Symbol of Kolkata
Mullik Ghat Flower Market, near the southeast end of Howrah Bridge is Asia’s largest flower market. It is fascinatingly colourful. An early morning stroll around the place with a sip of a hot smacking chai is breathtaking. Watch the local wrestlers’ practise their art. A ferry ride across the river in the evening, sighting the majestically lit Howrah Bridge, the historic cantilever bridge, is eventful indeed.
College Street, Treasure of Kolkata
Book lovers have a paradise amongst places to visit in Kolkata. College Street is Asia’s largest book market and World’s 2nd largest market for 2nd hand books. It is a mile long avenue dotted with book stores on both sides. The College Street is houses the College Square, India’s oldest University- University of Calcutta, Asia’s oldest medical college- Calcutta Medical College and the Mahabodhi Society. Do not miss Indian Coffee House and Paramount Sherbat, the legendary places to eat and chill.
Heritage of North Kolkata
Rabindranath Tagore, India’s first Nobel Laureate was born at Jorasanko Thakur Bari, to the eminent Thakur/Tagore family. Their contribution to Indian Renaissance is remarkable. This house is now a heritage museum and gallery with objects and pictures, literary work and paintings by Rabindranath Tagore and his family. A 10minutes’ walk will take you to the Marble Palace, a palatial marble building of the monarchs of the Imperial Era. Nakhoda Masjid, on Zakariya Street, Chitpur, is Kolkata’s principle mosque with majestic red lime stone structure. Zakariya Street comes alive with gastronomic adventures for Iftari during Ramadan.
Park Street, the Heart of Kolkata
Park Street, the heart of Kolkata, is not only a shopper’s den but also a food lover’s. Well, food in Kolkata deserves exclusive discussion. Still Rasogolla (sweet) and misti doi (sweet curd) must be mentioned. Kati roll and Kolkata Biriyani should definitely be tried by non vegetarians. There are numePark Street. Park Street’s illumination with lights, laughter and food is worth a visit during Christmas. Another unique spot here is the South Park Street Cemetery with 1600 Indo-Gothic tombs. The Indian Museum, India’s oldest and the largest museum must be visited for its plethora of collectibles of Buddhist and Mughal exhibits, mummies and other Egyptian exhibits, fossils, skeletons and more. Its aura also lies in its massive colonial architecture.
Places of Religious/ Spiritual Significance:
There are several temples which must be included in the list of places to visit in Kolkata. Birla Temple is a modern day marble temple with pristine Rajasthani architecture. The Kalighat temple, one of the 52 Shatipeeths, is extremely popular. The Dakshineswar Temple where Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa lived most of his days, is another popular and beautiful temple. It is on the banks of the River Hooghly and has a massive compound. Belur Math, the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna’s chief disciple and Swamiji’s house, now turned into a museum, are significant sites of interest. They are not only of historical or religious significance but also have remarkable architecture.
The Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity, established by Mother Teresa deserves a visit to pay homage to her noble philosophy of selfless sacrifice.
Kolkata's Favourite Nature Lovers' and Photographer's Den
Nature lovers also have loads of places to visit in Kolkata. They will definitely enjoy Rabindra Sarovar, a beautiful artificial lake spread across 192 acres amidst the posh urban south. Howrah’s Botanical Garden with the Giant Banyan Tree as the star attraction is India’s oldest and largest botanical garden. Another place to visit is the Zoological Garden of Kolkata, Alipore. It is the oldest in the country and houses around 1250 animals and is home to numerous migratory birds in the winter. Besides these heritage spots, Biswa Bangla Gate and Eco Park at New Town are amazing places to visit in Kolkata.
If you are a photography buff, do visit the Kumartuli (especially pre Durga Puja) to see how the idols are being built and feel the romanticism. Durga Puja is a festival, pivotal to a Bengali’s life. The scale of this event is unimaginable. One needs to be in Kolkata to experience this.
The Never Ending List of Things to See in Kolkata
Places to visit in Kolkata should not exclude shopping destinations like Dakshinapan and Gariahat. The Hogg market and the Newmarket in Esplanade area are shoppers’ paradise. Kolkata’s love for intellect, art and movies is widespread. For the film and art lovers, Nandan, Rabindra Sadan, the Film and Cultural Centre and Academy of Fine Arts, the first Fine Art Society in India are most important places to visit in Kolkata. Mohor Kunjo or Citizen’s Park, famous for the musical fountain, is just opposite to them.