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   Architectural  >  Calcutta  
 

 

Tourist Attractions in West Bengal

Calcutta

Calcutta

Howrah BridgeCalcutta, the erstwhile capital of British India, still bears the influence of the Raj.  The Gateway to India till 1912 is the largest metropolis in India.  The ten million people of Calcutta are full of zest and always on the move.  Calcutta is the commercial capital of the east, with major industrial plants, textile mills and corporate houses.  Administrative offices, posh hotels, busy bazaars highlight the city.

The people of Calcutta are known to be connoisseurs of art and sports. Their passion for football and cricket is hardly unknown to anyone.  Calcutta hosts a plethora of cultural activities and festive events. 
A person who visits calcutta for once can never forget the city.  Such in the magic of the city.

Places to visit

Shahid Minar : Shahi Minar used to be known as Ochterlony Monument, located in the heart of Esplanade. One can have a great view of the city  from the top which can leave you breathless. With 218 steps, this 52 meters high monument consists of a combination of an Egyptian base, Syrian column and Turkish copula.

Victoria Memorial

Probably Calcutta's most prized and also perhaps one of the most famous monuments, the idea of the memorial was Lord Curzon's . Its foundation stone was  laid by George V on his princely excursion to Calcutta in 1906, and whatever professional frustrations Sir William may have suffered from at home, he let them  loose in one majestic throw right  here. Sixty-four acres of lawns, ponds, shrubbery and herbaceous borders make the Victoria Memorial probably the most pleasing monument in Calcutta. Here, as you walk up one of the drives, past the bronze Victoria on her throne, or the bronze Edward VII on his horse, or the marble Curzon looking very stern and unbending, you behold something which is more palatial than memorial; a great white cliff which is quite blinding in the sun, with its slightly Renaissance side ending at each corner in a sort of minaret, with its entrance arches soaring  two storeys high, with its  impressive rectangle dominated by a colonnaded dome which is itself capped by three tons of bronzed and victorious angel.

It echoes inside, as it was doubtless meant to. It echoes most resonantly under the dome, in the Queen's Hall whose walls have been deeply graven with the text of Victoria's proclamation of herself as Empress. But reverberations from those illustrious days pursue the visitor to the Memorial wherever he goes along its galleries, its armories, and its ennobled chambers. Many of India's old rulers are represented here in stone, quite often dressed in Roman togas, like Warren Hastings and Lord Cornwallis. And wherever they have not been immortalised in stone or bronze they have certainly been represented in oils. The Queen herself, quite naturally, comes first in all things. There are paintings of her coronation, at her marriage, at the baptism of her son and heir, at her first and second jubilee celebrations in her cathedral church, at her son's wedding, at her residence at Frogmore, and at exercise with dear old John Brown holding the horse's reins. There are portraits of other Great Britons who were in Calcutta at one time or another; Macaulay, of course, and Kipling and Bishop Heber and William Hickey with the closest of his sixty three servants and his little dog. From time to time an Indian face is displayed without discrimination among these alien images- Keshub Chandra Sen, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore and his enterprising grandfather Dwarkanath. There are documents, including the forgery which had Nuncomar judicially executed.

Jorsanko Tagore House (Thakurbari) - The world famous poet Rabindranath Tagore was born in this house and died here too. Located at the junction of the Chitpur Road and the Vivekananda Road, it is the headquarters of Rabindrabharati University, a famous center for the study of the Indian Arts. There is a museum too in memory of the great Tagore family.

Marble Palace -

Indisputably one of  the richest, and almost the saddest relic is what, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, was beginning to be called the City of Palaces. Unbelievable as it may sound one will find this palace with some difficulty, down a side street among the pulsating alleys off Chittaranjan Avenue. The air reeks down here, like so many of the central throughfares, the worn-out engine fumes mixed up with half a dozen varieties of decay. The pushing and shoving and sidestepping past rickshaws and cows and people is almost as concentrated and chaotic as anywhere else in India.  It feels and looks and is just about as unsavoury as it's past. But in the middle of this towering mess you find, unbelievably, a real garden maybe of an acre with a Palladian mansion set square in the centre, it has Neptune figures brandishing conch shells, with indeterminate water beasts gaping at them from the surrounding pool and four nubile naiads upholding a classical urn on top of the central column.

The inside of the house has some more surprises in store. You enter a courtyard first, which is topped by a high gallery. The floor is patterned with diamond shape tiles and lozenges of multi-colored marbles, the white walls are embellished with swagging in Wedgwood blue, there are wonderfully cool-looking maidens and men cut in stone, wrapped in togas and standing high on plinths. There are a couple of urns with a variety of aspidistra growing from the bowls. And there is a menagerie out in the garden, pelicans and peacocks, mallard and teal have been poking and prodding at the lawns and dozing in the pool. In this courtyard there are scarlet macaws from Burma tethered to perches, albino mynahs from Bihar whistling in cages, and pinioned parakeets from Northern Australia making a mess on the statues.

Beyond lie apartments and galleries, and in these the Marble Palace becomes a fantasy brought to earth. They are full, as no building was ever filled before, with art and objects from Bangkok to Bristol and back, though almost everything seems to have been picked up from the auctions and markets and dispossessed households of Europe. There is a very old Queen Victoria in plaster standing large as life by the main stairway and a very young Queen Victoria in oak , somewhat larger , dominating a red marble room where another squadron of busts glare at her from shadows. There is marble everywhere, in ninety different varieties it is said, transported across the seas by the ton to provide floors and wall panels and table tops.

Belur Math -

BELUR MATH, sprawling over several acres of land on the western bank of the Hooghly (Ganga), is a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world professing different religious faiths. Even people not interested in religion come here for the peace it exudes.

Swami Vivekananda, the most famous of its residents,  the direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, besides many other monks have sanctified the Belur Math. The Belur Math premises include the main monastery, several temples, and the headquarters of the twin organizations,  Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. In a world so consumed by its own importance and the need for self-aggrandizement, the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission stand as a symbol of the eternal truths of religion tested and embodied by Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Their message of harmony of religions, divinity of the soul, renunciation and service is still preached and practiced in the Ramkrishna Missions and Maths everywhere.  Free from bigotry and sectarianism, rational and modern in outlook, the Math and the Mission are committed to the task of ushering in a new age in which the distinctions of caste, creed and class do not exist. The aim of the Ramakrishna Movement is the regeneration of the entire humanity.

Indian Museum  -- This museum was established in 1878. The museum is built in  the Italian architectural style and is considered as the largest museum in the country and one of the best in Asia. This museum has different sections and the artefacts displayed here are amazing. Form the Egyptian mummy to the skeleton of the whale and some rare statues; the museum has everything. One of the rooms has a collection of meteorites. The museum also has a unique fossil collection of prehistoric animals which includes a giant crocodile and a huge tortoise. The art collection has many fine pieces from Orissan and other temples and superb example of Buddhist Gandharan art.

Dakshineshwar Kali, Temple - 20 kms. north of the city of Calcutta and across the river Hooghly from Belur Math, stands this Kali temple built in 1847. It is associated with Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the spiritual guide and guru of Swami Vivekananda. It is here that Ramakrishna realized the essential unity of all religions and undesirability of distinction on the basis of castes and creeds. The main shrine houses an image of goddess Kali standing on Prostrate Shiva.

Kalighat Temple -

The Kali temple of Kalighat in Calcutta even today continues to attract a large volume of pilgrims, local, regional as well as from all over India. It seems that at the beginning of the nineteenth century the rural neighbourhood around the Kali temple, with its sacred zone of 595 bighas (about 180 acres), referred to as Kalikshetra was predominantly inhabited by the Sevayats (manager/devotees) of the temple and other residents connected with temple services and associated activities. If we probe further back in time, certain legends tell us  that the temple gained its decisive significance due to its association with the legendary site where the right toe of Goddess Sati fell off after a great Puranic tragedy of Dakshayajna. Kalighat is thus one of the 51 famous piths (sanctuaries) of the Sakta sect described in Pithamala.

If one follows the genealogical records and associated legends of the Kalighat Sevayats, it becomes obvious that the temple gained prominence with the Moghul patronage of Lakshmi Kanta, ancestor of Sravarna Chaudhuris of Barisha, the chief patron of Kali temple. Later on, Kalighat gained importance along with the growth of the city of Calcutta which brought wealthy patrons for the temple, such as the Rajas and Zamindars of Sovabazar, Hatkhola, Paikpara and so on.

Although the temple is managed by the Bengalis and the Bengali form the prevailing majority of the pilgrims, Kalighat draws visitors from all language groups in the country. All the visitors share a common integrative feeling of visiting an important Hindu shrine.

The Nakhoda mosque

The Nakhoda Mosque  is an excellent example of Indo-Sarcenic architecture and stands on the north of Dalhousie square. It is reminiscent of Akbar's tomb in Sikandra, near Agra. The large prayer hall can accommodate more than 10,000 persons at a time.

St.Paul's Cathedral - the most important church of the city; located  between Birla planetarium and Rabindra Sadan. It was constructed by Bishop Wilson in 1847 . It is the first Episcopal Church of the East. The Indo-Gothic style architecture of this church is really impressive

   

Around Calcutta

The world famous Botanical Gardens is situated at 8 km from Calcutta on the west bank of Ganga. The highlight of the Gardens is the 200 year old banyan tree, said to be the largest in the world.The tree is 26 metres high with a circumference of approximately 900 feet. The world's largest estuarine forest in the world, the Sunderbans, the habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger, which also houses the estuarine crocodile, wild boar and several varieties of birds and snakes, is within easy reach of Calcutta. This famous Project Tiger Reserve can be approached only via the waterways.

One of the world's widest beach resorts with a 6 km long beach is situated in Digha which is 185 km south east of Calcutta.  Bakkhali, another popular beach resort lies at 132 km from the city. 48 km south of Calcutta is the beautiful Diamond Harbour, at the mouth of the Hooghly, an ideal picnic spot. 12 km from the city centre, on the banks of the Ganga, is the magnificent Dakshineswar Temple, dedicated to Goddess Kali . 136 km from the city is the one - of - its - kind university of Shantiniketan. Rabindranath Tagore started this university as an experimental open air classroom.  The university is renowned for its academic excellence.

Festivals
The 10 day Durga Puja is celebrated with great pomp in Calcutta. The whole city adorns the garb of brilliance.  The Goddess Durga is worshipped, her statusque images are created all over the city accompanied by thunderous beat of drums. 

Basant Utsav, Saraswati Pooja and Holi are the other festivals that are celebrated with fervour.

How to Get There

Calcutta is a major railhead and is well - connected to the rest of the country.An international airport, Calcutta is connected to most parts of the world by several major airlines as well as Air India. Within India, the Indian Airlines and other domestic airlines link the city with other major cities in the country.

Where to Stay

Calcutta has elegant hotels in the five star deluxe, four star, three star ranges and also in the economy range. Udyachal, a tourist hotel run by West Bengal Tourism.

Contact

Government of India Tourist Office, 'Embassy', 4 Shakespeare Sarani, Calcutta 700071.
Tel: 242-1402, 242-5813

 

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