July 16, 2011

Kolkata - A Complete Travel Guide

Kolkata, located in the eastern part of India, is the capital city of West Bengal state of India. Kolkata, which was called Calcutta till a few years back, is truly a city with strong religious, cultural and literary flavor. Here, you can find BMWs as well as the human powered rickshaws. It is  full of narrow congested lanes as well as well planned townships such as Salt Lake City. Only in this city can you still find trams in India while side by side you also have India's first underground railway. You can meditate peacefully in places like Belur Math while losing it all in the places like the Kali temple. The choice is yours. The city, which was once the capital of India, is full of diversity. Let me explore some of the important tourist sites of this ancient yet ever-growing mammoth.


Maidan:


Maidan (meaning "open ground") is one of the important tourist sites of Kolkata city. It is located at the heart of the city, flanked by many important tourist sites as well as Government buildings such as Victoria Memorial, Eden Garden, Birla Planetarium, Raj Bhavan, etc. It is definitely a green oasis in the middle of an otherwise super-congested city. It also has the necessary historical significance to earn the status of a tourist site. During the British period, a fort was built to avoid antagonistic invasions. After building the structure, the British cleared the area surrounding the fort. The cleared area became what is now called the maidan. This huge open ground has also witnessed a lot of historically important political rallies after independence.


To know more about Maidan, click here.


Victoria Memorial:



If you stand in front of Victoria Memorial Hall, you could feel the grandeur of British architecture.



At the same time, you could also sense some bit of Mughal architecture. The awesome marble facade of the structure is an excellent example of Mughal influenced British architecture. You might have seen many British constructions in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and other Indian cities. But, I am sure no other building comes close to this splendid Victoria Memorial.

The extraordinary marble structure, the magnificent statue of Queen Victoria near the entrance, the well maintained park around the white edifice, the vintage lamp posts and the brass canons would make you feel as if you are standing somewhere in the Great Britain. The memorial houses a lot of interesting artifacts and photographs related to Rabindranath Tagore and Mother Teresa. The interesting artifacts in this museum are the statues and paintings of British Viceroys and British royal family. It is unfortunate that photography is not allowed inside the building, so the interiors of the memorial has to be captured in the recesses of memory.

To know more about Victoria Memorial, click here.

St. John's Church:

St. John's Church, which is located at Council House Street near the maidan area, is definitely worth visiting. It is unfortunate that not many people visit this place and even most of the locals are unaware of this peaceful church. I don't know how many people know that the mausoleum of Job Charnock, the founder of Kolkata, is located in this church. The monument commemorating those who died in the 'Black Hole of Calcutta' is also located in this church. 

To know more about St. John's Church, click here.









Indian Museum:

Although the largest museum of India located in Kolkata is named "Indian" Museum, the architecture is very Italian. The Museum is certainly one of the places to hang around in the city. Like any other big museum in India, this too has various sections displaying a lot of art collections and rare exhibits. The section displaying the skull of mammoths and dinosaurs definitely attracts a lot of visitors. The Egyptian section with a real mummy can be considered to be the highlight of this museum. Only few other museums in India have mummy.

To know more about Indian Museum, click here.




Marble Palace:

Marble Palace, the elegant 19th century mansion, is a unique building in Kolkata. As the name indicates, the building is built completely of marble. The three storey structure has open courtyards, tall pillars, ornamented verandas and decorated roofs. There is not even a small space in the entire palace which is without any artifacts. Hundreds of objects, be it Chinese and Japanese chandeliers, urns, old clocks, huge mirrors, busts of British royal families and importantly a lot of paintings - some by notable painters. There is even a big clock made completely out of gold and a giant mirror. To be frank, most of the paintings and small marble statues depict naked/half-naked women.

To visit this site, one has to get permission at least one day in advance. Photography is strictly prohibited even from outside the building. 

To know more about Marble Palace, click here.



Kalighat Kali Temple:

One theory is that the city got its name from the famous Kalighat Kali temple. It is one of the most popular temples dedicated to the mother Goddess in all of India. The temple is small but always crowded. 

To know more about Kolkata Kalighat Kali temple, click here.










Belur Math:

Belur Math is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math. It has many temples and shrines within the complex. The big temple dedicated to Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the other smaller shrines of Sarada, Vivekananda and other disciples of Ramakrishna are ideal places for meditation. The huge complex of the math situated on the banks of the river Ganga is indeed a tranquil site. 

To know more about Belur Math, click here.





Dakshineshwar Temple:

The huge temple of Kali named Dakshineshwar is very organized and neatly maintained. From Belur Math, if you cross the river you can reach the campus. Apart from Kali, this temple houses a lot of other shrines and idols including 12 Jyotir Lingas. Similar to Belur Math,  this temple  is too  ideal for contemplation and meditation. There is a room in this temple where Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to stay. The bhajans that are still conducted in this room make the environment more serene. 

To know more about Dakshineshwar temple, click here.

Apart from the above mentioned tourist sites, there are a lot of other tourist sites in Kolkata. They include Shaheed Minar, Howrah Bridge and St. Paul's Cathedral


Happy travelling. 


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