Once the Capital of the Imperials and the major port, Kolkata has its imprints deep into the Indian history and culture and often defines the richness and heritage of the country. An unique city which has been able to remarkably preserve the legacy, yet allowed space for the modernity to seep in. Kolkata today is a city that is a concoction of the ancient and the modern culture. Here are some places that will take you on a culture trip…
Walk down the memory lane: Heritage Buildings
- Howrah Bridge:
Built in 1943 and thereafter renamed Rabindra Setu, this bridge epitomizes the identity of Kolkata. The Howrah Railway station connects two different rail lines, Eastern and the Southern lines.
If you have come to Kolkata and not seen the Howrah Bridge, then your journey here is summarily incomplete. The Howrah Bridge connects the modern Kolkata with the yet so ancient Howrah district over the Hooghly River.
- Victoria Memorial:
Victoria Memorial Museum incubated by Lord Curzon and designed by Sir William Emerson, in the memory of the Imperial Queen Victoria, takes us right back into the Colonial British Empire and commemorates the pinnacle of the British Rule in India.Inaugurated by the Prince of Wales in 1921, it displays the paraphernalia of the Queen and the musings of the British memorabilia.
- Eden Garden Stadium:
From Cricket World Cup to the Local football league, Eden Garden Stadium has a global renown and recognition. Come cricket season and there’s no place in Kolkata to find a roof to hide. Kolkata is even crazier for football than cricket. The stadium is often full of teams and clubs practicing dribbling and skills inside.
- Science City: Get wowed at the Earth Exploration Hall by moving inside the replica of earth divided into latitudes and longitudes. Learn the evolution of the life species at the Evolution Park. Know your universe at the Space Theatre at the Helios Star Ball Planetarium with 150 projectors giving realistic effects of space and the universe. Get aboard the Time Machine and take a tour to the past or future.
Come and explore the largest Science centre of the Indian Subcontinent under the National Council of Science Museums. Test your perception at the Dynamotion hall with a permanent exhibition on the World of Illusion. Get mesmerised by the beauty of the butterfly colonies at the Live Butterfly Enclave.
- Birla Planetarium:
Inaugurated in 1963, this planetarium is styled similar to Sanchi Stupa and also called the Birla Planetarium. Dwelve deeper into the history of universe with the astronomical gallery and witness the condominium of paintings and celestial models. Sneak peek through the Celestron C-14 Telescope at the astronomical observatory.Go live and working with more than 100 astronomical projects on astronomy, astro-physics and Space Science
Take a tour of the largest and the oldest museum not only of the Indian Subcontinent, but also of the entire Asia Pacific Region, boasting a collection of more than 1.8 million species of animal and bird fossils, numerous antiques, ornaments, Egyptian collection, paintings, prehistoric monuments and idols. Founded by the Asiatic Society of Kolkata, in 1814, the Indian Museum with its sprawling complex has its collection accumulated over two floors, and it will take you considerable time to go through the entire collection preserved in the museum.
Witness India’s oldest and biggest zoological park and tourist attraction of Kolkata. Alipore zoological gardens was opened as a zoo since 1876 and covers 18.81 ha (46.5 acres). The zoo displays a large collection of crowd-pulling animals and some threatened species of birds.
- Nicco Park:
The ‘Disney Land of Kolkata’, this amusement park, spread over a sprawling 40 acres is a continued source of family-friendly entertainment and education. Located in the Salt Lake City, this mansion was opened in October 1931.
Join the Festival
The best part about Kolkata is it is always in a festive mood. Come evening and you can find the melody of the classical music being practiced in almost every single house. Kolkata alone produces the majority of the singers of the entire country alone. One of the best time to visit Kolkata is between October and December, as the city immerses itself in glittering light, music pomp and show.
‘Durga Pujo’ is the most important festival for the Bengali Community and the entire state awaits anxiously every year for this event. A lot of preparation goes into the celebrations and people save a considerable portion of their earnings anxiously awaiting this day. The markets are flooded with visitors purchasing jewelry, clothes, sweets, decoratives, souvenirs and the whole atmosphere is filled with the fragrance of camphor and incense. Almost every street has a pandol which flaunts the beautiful and varied moods of the goddess; in fact, some of the areas also witness competitions for the best style of the idol portrayed.
Indian dresses are famous for their colours, pattern, style and designs. And Kolkata is one place that offers it all. Goriahat is a place that can get you shopping the whole day with the largest variety of ethnic wear at best of bargain prices. Whether its Indian saris, or Kurtas, this is one place from where you will want to keep coming again for more.
A shopping centre on the Goriahat Road, at the foot of Dhakuria flyover, this open air shopping complex is a show-house of state handlooms, textiles and handicrafts, designer furniture and imitation jewelry.
Drop into Madhusudan Mancha and Children Little Theatre to be a part of the cultural shows, theater, dance, drama, recitals and various forms of performing arts presented by the leading artists and groups of the city.
- Bow Bazar, Jewellery street:
Bask yourself in the glow of yellow in the Bow Bazar Market with the consortium of gold jewellery. Everything that glitters here is gold. Explore and take a surprise home..
Located on the banks of River Ganges, precisely on the Eastern bank of the Hooghly River, the picturesque view of Dakhineshwar is enough to awake the spiritual vibes within leaving one enchanted and willing to come back more often.
Pilgrims from all across the country flock here to seek the blessings of Bhavtarini, one of the many forms of Goddess Kali and take a dip into the holy Ganges to cleanse their soul and liberate oneself from the worldly cycle of life and death.
One of the 51 shaktipeethas (nodes of spiritual power), Kalighat Kalika Temple is situated in Kalighat. A shaktipeetha or the node of spiritual power is one which has emanated or manifested naturally from the earth and not made by any human form.
It is believed that the right toe of the body of Goddess Shakti, one of the 51 parts into which her body she got shattered into after she chose to self-destruct it, when her husband Shiva was insulted by her father, had fallen here.
- Belur Math:
Witness the creation of the most significant Yogi this country can ever be blessed with; Swami Vivekananda; the spiritual guru, the Karma yogi and a staunch disciple of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, who laid the foundation stone of the famous Ramakrishna Mission in 1938.
There are four such monasteries of which Belur Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission. Disciples come here in thousands to seek the Deeksha, or the spiritual initiation by the religious guru.
Immerse in the Folk
The famous nobel laureate, Shri Rabindranath Tagore, developed this small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. Known for its exemplary education system which includes subjects such as music, drama, painting, arts, and philosophy; and is known as the Vishwa Bharti University.
Shantiniketan is also important for two main reasons. One, it is a place of origin of many of the literary classics of Shri Rabimdranath Tagore and second, it is the powerhouse of the Bengali folk music ‘Bowl’ and Rabindra Sangeet.
Relax & Rejuvenate
An avid reader? What if I tell you that there is a complete lane where you can gratify your book-wormish senses, then? Well, the Boi-Para or the book lane in the literal sense at the College Street is the place you should be looking for..It is the largest second hand book market in the world. An entire mile of the lane overflowing with books, from educational to leisurely, and in several languages apart from Indian, there is no book that you ask for and do not find. If that is not all, you can do a buy back by returning your old books after reading and also bargain heavily if you are coming here for the first time.
How wonderful would it be, if you find your favourite book at a dirt cheap price and then some coffee a further few steps ahead?? Priceless, right! Well, Indian Coffee House is a few steps away, and if you cannot wait to start reading that favourite book in your hand, then you must drop in here and try out the first and the oldest chain of Coffee Houses. Let me leave the rest for you to experience….
- New Park Eco Park, Rajarhat
Evening time and you want to spend some quiet time. Then take a drive little away from the hustle and bustle of the city and visit the New Town Eco Park at Rajarhat. A 480 acres park surrounding 104 acres of water body, this place can be seen busy in the evenings with joggers, toddlers, fitness freaks, young couples evening walk enthusiasts.Sit with your better half along the shore and speak your heart out, or take a boat ride into the lake, or try yoga for a break. Relax and let go. Sometimes, all we need is a good break and this is the ideal place for it.
Don’t miss the joy ride
- Tram Ride:
The oldest transportation system of Kolkata, the tram service is the legacy which the city has been able to retain beautifully. Infact, Kolkata is the only city in India where the tram service available today. Enjoy the beauty of the city at your own pace, as you move slowly with several twists and turns through the narrow lanes of the city.
- Man Rickshaw
Another oldest means of transport, even hand-rickshaws are not seen anywhere across entire India. Essentially pulled by the man at the cart, it epitomized the period of the British times in this country, when the Indian citizens were systematically reduced to the slave culture; yet even today the most poor sections of this city have been able to retain this culture, not as a slave though, but as a means of livelihood.
- Kolkata Metro
Kolkata Metro service was the first underground metro project of India. It was first such service started in the year 1984. Every day, it serves more than 500000 passengers and connects 14 different stations within the city.
Finally, what you will take home is lots of vivid memories. A trip to Kolkata will leave you coloured with an experience you will never have witnessed before. And its a promise that any one who comes here will not come just once, as it will keep one coming back for more..always…..