Calcutta Guide: A walk along Chowringhee Road
sets the pace as you set out to unravel the rare beauty of this city. Across the road
sweeps a huge, lush green, open parkland called the Maidan, centering around Fort
William, the massive and impregnable British Citadel built in 1773. The fort is still
in use and retains its well guarded grandeur. Visitors are allowed in with special
Along St George’s
Gate Road, on the southern fringe of the Maidan, your sight is arrested
by a splendid monument in white Makrana marble. Built in Italian
Renaissance cum Saracenic style, Victoria Memorial
was planned by Lord Curzon and opened by the Prince of Wales in 1921. This British attempt
at building a second Taj Mahal , is dedicated to Queen Victoria and houses a fantastic
collection of rare memorabilia from colonial days. A light and sound show recreates
history every evening.
The adjoining Race Course, built
in 1819, is one of the best in the east and is the scene of much gaiety, especially during
the winter season.Northwards, along Chowringhee Road, stands the Birla Planetarium,
one of the largest in the world. The central dome measures 25 mts in diameter.Located on
Chowringhee Road is the Indian Museum built in 1877 in Italian style of
Walk in to a varied collection of
exhibits that include unique fossils, Buddhist Gandharan art, an Egyptian mummy and a
roomful of memories !The 48 mt tower of Ochterlony Monument , now renamed Shahid
Minar , holds command at the northern end of the Maidan.And the mighty river Hooghly
beckons.At the northern end of the Maidan, towards the river, is the Old British
Government house now called Raj Bhavan . Built in 1803, modelled
on Lord Curzon’s home, Keddleston Hall, Derbyshire, England, this is now
the official residence of the Governor of Bengal. There are many rare
works of art and other interesting items. Entry is restricted.
A walk across is the Town Hall
, built in 1813, in Doric style of architecture. It is now the City
Magistrate’s Office.Don’t let the riverfront mesmerize you yet !Between
the Town Hall and
the Strand is the Calcutta High Court , scene of legendary legal battles.
Completed in 1872, the Gothic architectural style was copied from the Staadhans at Ypres,
Belgium. The tower measures 55 mts.
The Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar
Setu frame the skyline of the riverfront. The ambience is as amicable and profound as
the river that flows alongside.But, turn back to your trail of discovery. Dalhousie Square
was the administrative centre for British India. On one side is the General Post Office,
a majestic specimen of Edwardian architecture. It is built on the site of the original
Fort William. On the other side stands Writers’ Building , a
massive Gothic structure with lonic pillars – still the house of
The dulcet whispers of history echo
through the old mansions of Hindu aristocrats in North Calcutta. One such old house, Tagore
House, at Jorasanko, is the birth place of Rabindranath Tagore,
India’s greatest modern poet. Converted to Rabindra Bharati University,
it is now a centre for Indian Classical Fine Arts.
At Chorbagan is the Marble Palace
built in 1840 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, now a museum. Spend your
afternoon among precious objects d’art including works of Rubens and Sir
Joshua Reynolds.When tired, take a tram ride along Red Road with the
green expanse of the Maidan around you. The perfect antidote.
A little away, in the south of
Calcutta, is a stately mansion. Once home of the British Viceroys, Belvedere House is now
the National Library. It houses over a million books and is the biggest in India.A
must is a day spent at Science City. Pick your special thrill at this exposition
park. A space theatre, space flight simulator, recreated Jurassic forest, aviary and
butterfly corner and much more !
The Missionaries of Charity is a new
order formed in 1950 by Mother Teresa. Their vow ‘to
give wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor’ was
put into action with the setting up of several homes.Visit Mother
Teresa’s tomb at the Mother
House and witness the generosity of the her spirit at Nirmal Hriday (home for
the dying) , Shanti Nagar (for lepers) and Nirmala Shishu Bhavan
(the children’s home).For voluntary work with the Mission , in India,
you may contact the London branch of the Missionaries of Charity, 41
Villiers Road, Southall , Middlesex , UK, or write in to the "Mother
House", 54A, Lower Circular Road , Calcutta 700 014.
The Green Belt Enjoying a different Calcutta at the :
Three km in length and over one km in width, the rambling green is the
‘lung of Calcutta’. Dotted with colourful maidan clubs, the area is a hub of diverse activities.
Eden Gardens : Named after Lord Auckland’s sister, this
picturesque garden has a tiny Burmese pagoda set in a small lake. It
also houses Calcutta’s Cricket Stadium.
Outram Ghat, Ganges riverfront : A pleasant walk . View
the majesty of the busiest bridge in the world, the Howrah Bridge and
the Vidyasagar Setu – an awesome structural feat . Or enjoy a cruise on
the river in a panshi.
Zoological Garden : Covers 16 hectares of land and built in 1876. The lakes
within are a favourite retreat for migratory Siberian birds.
Horticultural Garden : The lush environ is also the venue for exotic
plant and flower exhibitions.
Rabindra Sarovar : A park and picnic spot with a central lake and overhanging
trees. The rowing regatta events are held here.
THE SPIRITUAL SOJOURN
Kalighat : According to the legend, when Lord
Shiva’s wife Parvati’s body was cut up, one of her fingers fell here.
Rebuilt in 1809, this is an important shrine of Hindu Shakti worship.
The temple is in the southern part of the city.
Dakshineswar Kali Temple and Belur Math : Built in 1847, on the banks of the
Hooghly, north of Calcutta, the temple is associated with Shri Ramakrishna , the eclectic
19th century saint who revived Hinduism during the British Raj. Across the
river stands Belur Math, headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission. The monastery is a haven of
peace and religious harmony.
Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture : Commemorates the birth centenary of
Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Religious discourses and cultural exchanges are held here
among international scholars. The institute is located at Golpark.
Nakhoda Mosque : Modelled on Akbar’s tomb in Sikandra, the red
sandstone mosque has two minarets 46 mts high, a brightly painted onion
shaped dome and can accommodate 10,000 people. Built in 1926 and located
on Chitpur Road.
St John’s Church : Built in 1787 with Grecian columns. The burial ground
has the mausoleum of Job Charnock, founder of Calcutta. On the north-west side of Raj
St Paul’s Cathedral : Constructed between 1839 and 1847 in
Gothic style with stained glass windows and two Florentine frescoes, the
cathedral is the largest in the city and next to the Birla Planetarium.
St Paul’s was conscerated in 1874.
Armenian Church : The oldest place of Christian worship in Calcutta. The church
of Holy Nazareth was built in 1764.Among the other churches to visit are
St Andrew’s Church. The Old Mission Church and the Greek Orthodox Church.
Jewish Synagogues : The Maghen David Synagogue on Jewish Synagogue Street and
the BETHEL on Pollock Street are very old worship houses and a reminder to the
cosmopolitan nature of the city.
Parsi Fire Temples : They cater to the religious needs of the prominent Parsi
community of Calcutta. Located on Metcalf Street and Beliaghata.
Japanese Buddhist Temple : Located on the banks of Rabindra Sarovar.
Pareshnath Jain Temple : The temple is an ornate mass of mirrors, coloured
stones and glass mosaic, and overlooks a beautiful garden. It is in Shyambazar.