Sights to See
Kolkata is the self-proclaimed capital of India's intellectuals. It is no surprise that the ancestral home of Asia’s first Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore predominantly figures in the list of the city’s attractions. It has now been converted into a museum and learning centre of dance, music and other arts. Built by India’s first and probably greatest industrialist, Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, it is the birthplace of Rabindranath Tagore.
The monument which draws the largest crowds to Kolkata is Victoria Memorial, a fine specimen of Indo-Sarsenic architecture and Kolkata’s most recognisable landmark. It houses an excellent collection of Raj memorabilia including paintings and manuscripts. The foundation stone of this domed structure was laid by the King George V, the then Prince of Wales in 1906. You can relive the history of colonial India during a dramatic sound and light show with the grand structure in the background.
One of the most visited museums in India,Indian Museum is the second largest museum in the country. Known locally as JaduGhar, this eclectic museum is a treasure-trove of artefacts belonging to the different periods of Indian history. Exhibits of the museum include the dinosaur skeleton, replica of the 2nd-century BC BarhutStupa. It is open on all days except Mondays.
Constructed in 1814, this iconic landmark of Kolkata is a fine specimen of this the Doric style of architecture during the British Raj. Home to India’s first high-tech interactive museum, there is a fine spectacle of the lives and times of Kolkatans from the time of the city’s inception.
Built in 1864, the main or General Post Office of Kolkata is an impressive buildingwith high domed roof. The imposing pillared corridors go extra miles to lend an element of grandeur to the edifice. The adjoining Philatelic Bureau with an impressive collection of Indian stamps over the decades and the Postal Museum with an interesting collection of artefacts from the Indian postalservice are worth a visit.
Other attraction that will detain you in Kolkata is Raja RajendroMullick’s Marble Palace. Built in 1835, this landmark exudes an old-world charm with its marble walls, floors, antique collections, paintings, floor-to-ceilingmirrors and marble statues. The palace remains closed on Mondays and Thursdays.
Swami Vivekananda’s House
Visitors who travel to Kolkata set off for the hallowed address of 3,GourmohanMukhopadhyay Street.This is Swamiji’sbirthplace and residence has been thrown open to visitors after a thorough renovation. The special attractions are: replica of a Shiva idol worshipped by Vivekananda mother Bhubaneshwari Devi; a museum displaying furniture of the period, with an almirah used by Bhubaneshwari Devi being the cynosure, a computerised library, a seminar hall and research centre, a centre for relief and succour. Asiatic Society Founded in 1784 by 30 leading European citizens of Kolkata with WarrenHastings as patron, the institution is now a leading centre of Ideological Studies in the world. Its collection of about 30,000 manuscripts is anepitome of India’s achievement in different spheres of learning.
Also known as the Ochterlony Monument after David Ochterlony, this 158-ft high edifice has 198 steps. It is situated in the Maidan and the area around has now become a centre of political meetings and activities.
Gurusaday Museum of Folk Arts
The rich culture of rural Bengal with its baulsangeet, santhali dance, intricatedokra work has been beautifully exhibited at this museum of folk. The place can be visited between 1100 hrs and 1630 hrs from Tuesdays to Sundays at an entry fee of Rs.10 for Indians and Rs.50 for foreigners.
It is popularly known as the second Howrah Bridge. Resembling the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, this suspension bridge looks breathtakingly beautiful at sundown when the lights come on.
On the last day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar which is known as the MakarSankranti, a fair is held at the island of Ganga Sagar(120 km from Kolkata) which is at the confluence of the river Ganges with the Bay of Bengal. Known as the SagarMela, it is considered to be very auspicious to take a dip in the sea - water on that day. A huge fair is held on that occasion. Generally the Mela is held on 14th and 15th of January. During the Mela period temporary accommodations are arranged.
West Bengal Tourism also conducts trips.
This palatial structure was built at the insistence of Lord Wellesley, theGovernor-General of India from 1798 to 1805. Built in the image of the Kedteston Hall in England, the Raj Bhavan was the residence of Governors-General. It has six doors with a statue of a lion on top of the door and the bodies of hominoid lions a little below. It is now the official residenceof the Governor of West Bengal.
TEMPLES, MOSQUES AND CHURCHES
One of the most sacred pilgrimage destinations of the Hindus, this temple is one of the shaktipeeths. Devotees consider their pilgrimage incomplete without a visit to this temple. It is believed to have been originally built 350 years ago.
Situated on the banks of the river Hooghly, this serene temple’s architecture is an interesting and very unusual mix of a church and a mosque. The headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda, Belur Math is thronged by devotees throughout the year. The museum dedicated to Swami Vivekananda’s life is an added attraction.
A true devotee of the Goddess Kali, the Hindu goddess of ‘shakti’, Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa had made this his home. Considered to be among the holiest of Hindu temples, the Dakshineswar Temple is visited by thousands of pilgrims from all strata, particularly on the 1st of January every year during the KalpataruUtsav.
Modelled after Emperor Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra near Agra, the red sandstone mosque, the biggest in the country, is said to be able to accommodate 10,000 people.
St. John’s Church
Popularly known as ‘The Stone Church’, this wonderful place of worship, where Job Charnock was buried, is one of the oldest in Kolkata. Following Greek architectural pattern, the 174 ft-high stone tower was built with stones from Ganda and Chunar. The marvellous stained glass windows in the church are worth a mention.
St Paul’s Cathedral
A perfect example of Indo-Gothic architecture, this cathedral is a must-visit during Christmas. The stained glass window is considered to be the best in the country.
A more recent addition to the city’s pilgrimage points, this temple in south Kolkata attracts all kinds of people, not just pilgrims, through its architectural splendour. Built of marble, this Lord Vishnu temple looks spectacular at night.
Dedicated to the 10th Jain Tirthankara, this is known as the Jewel Box Temple of Calcutta because of its exquisite mirror work, coloured stone and glass mosaic.
GARDENS, AMUSEMENT PARKS AND OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST
Best known for its 200-year-old banyan tree that has a circumference of 900 ft and has over 300 aerial roots, the Botanical Garden was laid out in 1787. It is the largest of its kind in India. With the Orchid House, Palm House, a separate area dedicated to various kinds of cacti and home to a wide variety of and some very rare plants brought from all over the world, this garden is a botanist’s delight. Can be visited daily between 0700 hrs and 1700 hrs at a nominal fee of Rs.5.
Though famous for the legendary cricket stadium that is considered to be one of the best in the world, the beautifully laid-out Gardens itself is an attraction with an ornamental lake and a Burmese pagoda brought from Myanmar in 1856.
A must visit for nature lovers, the sprawling campus is home to an interesting collection of plant life. Founded by William Carey in 1820, it is situated in Alipore, close to the Zoological Gardens. No entry fee is charged.
Located to the west of the Victoria Memorial, the Race Course is regarded as one of the best in India. Horse racing started off in 1819 in the city, under the aegis of the Royal Turf Club. Apart from races, the ground is also used for playing polo. Racing season commences in July and continues till September. It starts again in November and concludes in March. Although generally held on Saturdays, important holidays and some special occasions are also race days in Kolkata.
Kali Puja Held a fortnight after Durga Puja, Kali Puja coincides with the celebration of Diwali in the rest of the country. It is also a celebration of the form of Shakti as ‘Kali’. Similar pandals are set up for the community ‘pujas’.West Bengal Tourism and ITDC organizes similar trips during Kali Puja also.
Laid out across a sprawling campus, the Kolkata zoo is home to many rare animals and birds. The lake in the centre attracts a large number of migratory birds during the winter months. The aquarium in front of the zoo has some rare species of fish. Open daily between 0900 hrs and 2100 hrs at a fee of Rs.15 per person.
Situated on the eastern fringes of the city on the EM Bypass it provides entertainment along with education for the entire family with a science and education park, space theatre and time machine. It is open on all daysfrom 0900 hrs to 2100 hrs and entry is for Rs.15 per person.
Situated along Southern Avenue in the heart of south Kolkata, this huge lake is a beehive of activity. It has swimming pools, several rowing clubs and a Japanese Buddhist temple. Rowing and kayaking competitions are regularly held here.
Located on the banks of the Hooghly River, this park has a laid-back ambience. Ideal for a relaxed evening to enjoy the cool evening river breeze, the park is visited by large number of people. On weekends river trips are arranged, departing from the Millennium Park Jetty.
A sprawling family entertainment centre it has things to offer for people of all ages. The place can be visited on all days between 1100 hrs and 2100 hrs. The entry ticket of Rs.50 includes 8 rides.
The green lungs of the city, Maidan is spread over a large area. This is also the hub of various kinds of activity as the Maidan is the playground for the city’s youngsters - soccer and cricket being the biggest draws.
This water amusement park is the place to be during the summer months. Open between 10.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m., the entry charges are Rs.150 on weekdays and Rs.200 on weekends.
Nalban Boating Complex
Located next to Nicco Park, this, as the name suggests, is a place where visitors can enjoy boat rides on a stretch of natural water body. Open on all days from 1000 hrs to 2100 hrs at an entry fee of Rs.15.
Nandan and RabindraSadan Complex
The cultural hobnob of the city, the entire complex houses an auditorium, a film centre which hosts rare films and film festivals and an art exhibition gallery. It is the cultural and intelligentsia centre of the city.
It is one of the largest in the world and has regular astronomical shows in Hindi, Bengali and English starting from 1230 hours to 1830 hours. Held daily, the entrance fees are Rs 10/- and Rs 20/-.
A recent addition to the city’s destinations, this multi-cultural heritageplaza is a place of rare beauty. With numerous ethnic shops displaying handicrafts from all regions of India and a unique food court for cuisines from the four corners of the country, this place serves as a window to the folk traditions of India. An open auditorium with frequent cultural performances is an added attraction. Open daily between 1200 hours and 2100 hours at an entry fee of Rs 20.
A plethora of plush shopping malls and the traditional markets with an old world charm defines the shopping experience in Kolkata. The old traditional New Market, Barra Bazaar, which is the largest whole sale market in Eastern India and Gariahat compete with the modern, new-age malls like the Forum on Elgin Road, 22 Camac Street, Charnock City in Salt Lake and the Metro Plaza. The shopper in this city has thus a mixed bag of options, straddling the traditional and modern with ease.
The most important festival of the Bengalis spreading over a period of five days it marks the epitome of all festivities when the entire city comes into the grip of sheer joyfulness and celebration. It celebrates the homecoming of the Mother Goddess Durga along with her fourchildren from the Himalayan heights where she resides- so goes the lore. It also marks the display of artistry in myriad forms of ‘pandal’ making, idol making, lighting displays. Conducted tours are organized by West Bengal Tourism and ITDC during the Puja celebrations.