This time we will start our journey from a place where idols of Maa Durga are being brought. I am talking about Kumartuli. That part of the old city where potters from all over Bengal have established a settlement. Sculptors can be seen pouring life out of clay here throughout the year, but the place comes alive a few months before Durga Puja. Some small and some big idols are being made in the streets here. An entire street is decorated with shops of mother’s adornment. From here all the people take one to one beautiful idols of Durga Maa for their pandals. You can spend a whole day in this area. In this locality of potters, people work day and night to prepare beautiful idols of Maa Durga. To make beautiful idols of Durga, where idols are made from clay. The base of the idol is prepared by tying jute and straw on a wooden structure, On which the idol is prepared by mixing paddy husk with clay and applying a paste. The decoration of the statue is done with great effort, in which different types of clothes and ornaments are used.
Durga Puja Pandal
There is a lot of fanfare of Durga Puja pandals all over Kolkata. The city is decorated like a bride for the entire nine days of the puja. Nowadays there is a big craze for theme pandals. In which people display their arts with full enthusiasm. Some pandals are very famous in Kolkata, in which the main ones are. Santosh Mitra Square, who have been making pandals for the last 80 years. College Square, Bagbazar of North Kolkata, Hindustan Park, Samaj SEBI Union of South Kolkata, Ballygunge Cultural Association, Despariya Park, Kumartuli Park, Dum Dum Park, Tarun Sangha, Sikandar Bagan Ordinary Durga Puja, Mohammed Ali Park Durga Puja, Singhai Park Sarbojanin Durgautsav etc. Seeing these pandals, you will believe that Kolkata is not considered the cultural capital of the country just like that. The decoration of the pandals is in itself a living proof of the shared culture of Bengal. All the pandals look as if we have reached some other city. Then what is the delay? To be a part of this folk festival, you also keep roaming from one pandal to another.
Kolkata has two faces. One Kolkata is the bearer of the ancient traditions of Bengal and the other Kolkata is the Kolkata with the impression of the British. In which memories of the colonial era are seen. On one hand there are ancient temples and monasteries and on the other hand there are structures like Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge. But the best part is that in spite of so many contradictions, this city is truly the City of Joy. Because here happiness is not dependent on a lot of money. You can enjoy Kolkata even in few coins.
Kalighat Kali Temple
Kalighat Kali Temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in the country. This temple is dedicated to Maa Kali. This temple is famous all over Bengal. This temple built on the banks of Hooghly river is famous all over the world. The Ghat adjacent to this temple is known as Kali Ghat. Once upon a time, Ganga Ghat was completely adjacent to the temple, but now it is a little far away. Although this temple is considered to be of the seventeenth century, but the present temple is running for the last 200 years under the patronage of the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family.
Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Dakshineswar Kali Temple is a grand temple of Kali Maa built on the eastern bank of the Ganges. To see this temple, you have to cross the whole of Kolkata. If you have time, do this journey the way local Kolkatans do. Go for some distance by bus, then move on to a big steamer plying on the Hooghly River and finally cover some distance by tram. In this trip you will enjoy the whole of Kolkata. This temple was built by Rani Rashmoni in 1855. There is also a ghat adjacent to the temple where people come to take a holy dip. There is a great recognition of this temple in the whole of Bengal.
There are also 12 pagodas in the temple premises. There is also a big lake adjacent to the temple. There is also a Radha Krishna temple here.
The Vallur Math is also located here, close to the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. The best way to reach this mutt is by taking a boat from the Ghat of Dakshineswar Kali Temple here to reach Vallur Math. You can enjoy boating on the wide flow of Hooghly river by paying only 10 rupees. Vallur Math is also known as Ramakrishna Math. Which is related to the worldwide Ramakrishna Mission. Vellur Math is built on 40 acres of land on the Western Ghats of the Hooghly River. This monastery was established in the year 1899. Now this monastery has two parts, one old and one new building. Swami Vivekananda’s room is present in the ancient monastery. Swami Vivekananda took Mahasamadhi at this place on July 4, 1902. The Samadhi of Swami Vivekananda has also been built in this Math. The monastery opens for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. The vote remains closed in the afternoon. This monastery was established by Ramakrishna Paramhans. This monastery is also the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission.
Taking the name of Kolkata, the name of the white marble building that emerges in the mind is Victoria Memorial. The construction of this building, built in the Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture style, began in 1910.
Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of British-India, envisaged the construction of this monument on Queen’s Way in memory of the late Queen Victoria. One crore, five lakh rupees were spent on the construction of this great monument at that time. In this building of national importance, 28,394 art objects and 3,900 color paintings have been collected.
William Emerson was the architect of this great structure. Architect William had made many great structures in the country. These include iconic buildings such as Crawford Market in Bombay and All Saints Cathedral in Allahabad. This structure was dedicated to Queen Victoria, the Queen of Britain. Today it is the main philosophical site of Kolkata and also houses a museum. The building is maintained by the Ministry of Culture. You can also book tickets online before coming here. This place remains open everyday from 10 AM to 6 PM except on Mondays and national holidays. To add charm to this structure, beautiful gardens spread over 57 acres have been created around it.
The Victoria Memorial has a bronze statue of Queen Victoria close to the main building. Here the Queen is shown seated on a throne dressed in the Star of India. Monuments of many other great personalities are also built in this courtyard, such as the monument of Emperor Edward-VII, the marble statue of Lord Curzon, the Governor-General of India Lord Bentinck, Lord Ripon and the statue of Bengal’s leading industrialist Sir Rajendranath Mukherjee etc. According to an estimate, about 20 lakh visitors visit this place every year.
There are many galleries here, in which the Western Picture Gallery has a unique collection of Western style paintings made by many great painters. Various subjects and color mediums have been used in the Western style paintings present here, along with portraits of prominent rulers of the colonial period to the kings and rulers of India. Of particular importance are the paintings of Tilly Kettle, John Zoffany and the landscapes of William Hodges and Daniels in the Victoria Memorial Hall’s invaluable color collection.
There is a gallery entirely dedicated to rare oil paintings by Indian painters. From miniature paintings of Rajput and Mughal style to modern Indian painters like Nandlal Bose, Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, the memorial has a good collection of color paintings.
The Victoria Memorial Hall has a number of rare photographs by Bourne and Shepherd in its collection. With the medium of these pictures, you can feel that era very well. In this museum, there are many sections of manuscripts ranging from various Buddhist texts to Sanskrit texts.
Howrah Bridge, the identity of Kolkata, was built over the Hooghly River 75 years ago to connect the two cities of Kolkata and Howrah. In 1965, it was renamed Rabindra Setu after the famous poet Rabindranath Tagore, but even today people prefer to call it Howrah Bridge. You will be surprised to know that this is such a bridge in which nut bolts have not been installed anywhere. This bridge is one of the longest 6 suspension bridges in the world. The construction of this bridge was completed in 1942 and opened to the public in February 1943. This bridge is 705 meters long and 30 meters wide. According to an estimate, 80 thousand vehicles and 10 lakh pedestrians pass on this huge bridge every day.
Malik Ghat Flower Market
Another philosophical spot is the Malik Ghat Flower Market, just below the Howrah Bridge. If you go in the morning, you will get to see the hustle and bustle of this market. Different types of flowers are sold here. Its view from Howrah Bridge looks very beautiful.
How can it be that there is talk of Kolkata and there is no talk of Rabindranath Tagore. So do visit Jorsanko Thakur Bari to see the ancestral home of Mr. Rabindranath Tagore. This red colored building was constructed in 1784. Today it is a museum also known as Rabindra Bharati Museum. There are 3 museums present in it. Rabindranath Tagore took his last breath here. This is a beautiful haveli. Coming here will remind you of the bygone era of the wealthy landlords of Bengal. There is a ticket of 10 rupees to come here. It is considered to take photographs inside.
On Muktram Babu Street near Thakur Bari, there is another philosophical place called Marble Palace. This grand 19th century mansion in North Kolkata is a reminder of Kolkata’s bygone era. Get here before 4 pm. There is a collection of beautiful paintings made by Indian and European painters in this palace, western sculptures, Victorian furniture.
Try to take a hand rickshaw from Thakur Bari to Marble Palace. It is a short distance and on this pretext you will get a chance to face another heritage of Kolkata.
St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is famous for its grand white structure built in Gothic architecture. This church comes under the North Indian Church. St Paul’s Cathedral is located on Cathedral Road, close to the Birla Planetarium. This church was completed in 1847. It is said that this church is the largest Episcopal Church in Asia. The nearest metro station to reach here is Maidan Metro Station.
Kids love to visit Birla Planetarium to witness the magical world of constellations. Its building is inspired by the Shanti Stupa of Sanchi. Do come here to experience some untouched aspects of the universe. Shows are shown here in both Hindi and English languages. You will feel like being in space while watching this show. You can enjoy this experience for just Rs.60. You can also book tickets online. If you want to become an astrophysicist, then many workshops are also organized here for you.
A short walk from the Victoria Memorial is the Prinsep Ghat, another beautiful structure adorned with white pillars. It was built in 1843 on the banks of the Hooghly River in memory of the Anglo-Indian scholar James Prinsep. Today there is a beautiful garden and Ghat is present here. If you want to do traditional boating then definitely come here in the evening. The Vivekanandan Setu lit up at night looks very beautiful from here.
Rashtriya Museum was established in 1814 by the Aesthetic Society of Bengal on Park Street. It is the largest museum in the country. It takes at least half a day to explore this museum comfortably. There are many galleries in this museum like Gandhara Gallery, Bronze Gallery, Coins Gallery, Textile, Painting, Mask, Bird, Decorative Art, Egypt, Fossils, Skeletons, Mummies, Paintings etc. The main attraction of the Egypt Gallery here is the 4,000-year-old Egyptian mummy. To see which people come from far away.
The Millennium Park, built on the banks of the Hooghly River, is the main attraction for children. The lit up Howrah Bridge is very beautiful in the evening from here. The entry of this park is only five rupees. Ferry ride can be enjoyed from here.
Kolkata Tram is also known as the oldest transport of Asia. It started on March 27, 1902. The first tram ran between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street. This was the time when trams were pulled by horses. Horse-drawn trams were specially imported from London. It was inaugurated by Lord Rippon. Over time, the Kolkata tram got a loco motive engine and since then it continues to ply on the roads even today. Today, the city may have caught pace with taxis and metro, but Kolkata’s old world charm is still intact through these trams. Even if you go on short rides in your trip to Kolkata, do take a tram ride at least once. You can also visit the Tram Museum to know the history of Tram.
Park Street is the pride of Kolkata. Big hotels, restaurants, markets etc. are considered to be the identity of Park Street. This place is famous for shopping. People like to come here in the evening. This place is also known for night life. The famous Moulin Rouge is located here.
New Market is located on Mirza Ghalib Street in Kolkata. This is a shopping complex where you can buy all kinds of clothes, shoes and other accessories. There is always a lot of activity in the New Market. The street food here is also very famous.
Dakshinapan Shopping Complex is great for buying handy craft items. Even outside this complex, people set up a market on the footpath. Bada Bazaar is an ancient market in Kolkata. Which you can compare with Chandni Chowk of Delhi. Gariahat Market falls in South Kolkata. In this market, you can buy Bengal’s Handicraft, Textile and other goods at reasonable prices.
Talking about Kolkata, it is impossible not to mention the food here. The street food of Kolkata is considered to be the best street food in India. If you go to Kolkata then your trip will be considered incomplete without trying these street foods. Puchka which we call Panipuri or Golgappa is unique here.
A complete range of Kathi Rolls will be available in the New Market. Must try them. There is a big custom of fried snacks called Talebhaja. If you want to enjoy fish fry, there is a shop near Golpark 5-point crossing, which sells delicious fried fish.
And if you want to taste East Bengal i.e. Bangladeshi cuisine, then definitely visit Kasturi restaurant on Mushtaq Ahmed Street, New Market Area. Here you will find authentic Bengali food like Bhetki Baked Fish, Kochu Patta Chingri Bhappa, Prawns Curry, Prawn Malai Curry, Bhetki Paturi (steamed fish wrapped in banana leaf) etc. When visiting Princep Ghat or Millennium Park, you must try Jhalmuri there.
Although Kolkata’s famous Rasgulla can be eaten anywhere in the whole city, but Balram Malik and Radharam Malik of Bhawanipur are something else. Your soul will be mesmerized after eating the Rasmalai, Rajbhog, Sandesh here. In this season you will get to taste rasgulla made of jaggery syrup. The ones that melt in the mouth. Its caramel flavor is very unique.
Nearby Philosophical Sites
Mandarmani is a beach located in the Bay of Bengal near Kolkata. Its distance from Kolkata is 171 kms. The way to reach here is very beautiful. You reach Mandarmani in 4-5 hours by passing through the green rural areas of Bengal. This beach is very clean. Here you can also enjoy water sports. In the meantime, red colored crabs are seen. There are many beach resorts where one can stay. You can also drive your car to Mandarmani Beach.
Digha Beach is located at a distance of 30 kms from Mandarmani. This beach is also known for its clear water. People come here for picnic on weekends. In the meantime, you can enjoy fresh sea food. The fishermen here also have seafood stalls. Adventure sports can be enjoyed here. Sunrise looks very beautiful from here. You can also reach Digha by train.
Sundarbans is the home of the Royal Bengal Tigers. It got its name Sundarbans after the Sundari tree found in abundance here. Sundarbans, located at a distance of 109 kilometers from Kolkata, has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is said that about 400 Royal Bengal tigers and 30,000 spotted deer live in the Sundarbans. Sundarbans is so big that it extends from India to Bangladesh. Sundarbans is considered to be the largest mangrove forest in the world. Which is spread over 4000 square kilometers. 102 islands are inhabited inside it. Out of which people live on 54 islands, the rest are dense forests. Boating is the best way to see Sundarbans. You can enjoy a 2-hour boat ride by spending just Rs 10. It is said that Sundarbans is home to the largest number of Bengal tigers in the world. In Sundarbans you can see some very unique feats of nature. Low and high tide comes here twice a day. Some such plant planktons are found here which shine with the reflection of water even in the dark night. So you can also enjoy night safari here.
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