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Kolkata district General information

Overview

Located in northeast India, West Bengal is bounded in north by Sikkim and Bhutan, east by Bihar and northwest by Nepal. Calcutta is India's second largest city and the capital of West Bengal. The Capital of India till 1911 and till recently called Calcutta, the city is still one of India's commercial and cultural centers. It is a city with a great deal of charm - a city of strange paradoxes and one that leaves an indelible impression on the visitor. Total population of Calcutta is around 12 million, and the main language is Bengali. The capital of West Bengal, Calcutta, renamed recently as Kolkata, lies on the Hoogly, distributaries of the Ganges. Its close proximity to the river and sea developed it as a major commercial center. A city of historical interest, archaeological splendor and social significance, the history of this city can be traced back to only 300 years when the visionary from the east India Company, Job Charnock landed here. The source of the name Kolkata is still confusing. The city of Joy is the country's largest city and one of the most populous in the world. It is a city overflowing with various types of goods. However Kolkata is famous for its beautiful cotton sarees called the Tant and leather purses. Kolkata is also famous for its sweets. The sweet shops are always crowded and equally crowded are the fish markets and the flower markets. Kolkata is always a vibrant city. The city with all its problems of overcrowding and poverty is a dynamo and this vibrancy makes it one of the world's most fascinating cities. It is chaotic, volatile, noisy and decaying. On the other hand it is vibrant, warm, indestructible, dynamic, alive and friendly. It is one of the greatest metropolitan cities in the world, India's largest city and the gateway to the great natural and industrial wealth of Eastern India. Kolkata was the first headquarters of the East India Company, and some of its best-known monuments were built by this British trading house. If Delhi is the elegant capital of the nation and Bombay its major industrial city, then Kolkata ranks as the intellectual capital. Poets, thinkers and film directors of international renown hail from this city where avant- plays and art exhibitions go on show practically every day of the year.

Climate

Situated on the bank of the River Ganga, Kolkata has a typical tropical climate, humid and hot for the most of the time of the year. It rains heavily during the monsoon and the winters are the most pleasant season of the year. The most suitable time to visit Kolkata according to the climatic conditions is during winter which is between October to March. From October to March, Calcutta wears a radiant look. Sunshine, mild winter, lights, colours, fairs, festivals, galas and excursions, the mood is infectious and spirit sweeping.

People

Calcutta is the home of the Bengalis - volatile in politics, sports lover, intellectual, romantic with a unique sensibility. To whom every activity is a commitment of passionate intensity - be it a religious festival, soccer matches, political demonstrations, music, art, poetry reading, eating or adda (chat sessions). Kolkata has grown into a universal city, a sprawling city that has absorbed people from all over India and many parts of the world as well - - all of whom have left their imprint in pockets of Kolkata. In its three hundred years of existence as a city, Kolkata has been variously described as an example of the triumph of urban civilization and a disastrous result of unchecked urbanization. Calcutta is called the soul of India. The contrasts between the rich and the poor, the educated and the ignorant, the old and the new are more evident here, than any other metropolis of India. Today Kolkata bustles with life carrying the Bengali traditions and culture. A metropolis with a Bengali flavour. The metro railway in India is first introduced in Kolkata but the age old tram and rickshaws pulled by men are also present in Kolkata. This contradiction, smile in pathetic conditions and in life has allured the visitors. Calcutta breeds culture. Rabindranath Tagore gave Bengal new composite music, dance drama and literature. Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar internationalised Indian Classical music. Jamini Roy revived folk painting. Uday Shankar created a new dance form. Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) introduced a new genre of performing arts. Ustad Allauddin Khan created a new orchestra and famous film maker Satyajit Ray's home and canvas was Calcutta. The novelist William Thackrey and famous actress Merle Oberon the actress of the film" The Scarlet Pinpernel are also from this city. Home to four Nobel laureates - Ronald Ross, Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen, Calcutta is the nerve centre of intellect and human values, where many modern movements began in art, cinema and theatre, science and industry. India's quest for freedom began here. One has to salute the indigenous spirit of the people of Kolkata, fighting the odds and living through, making it a city of Joy.

Festivals & Fairs

The festive spirit sets in with Durga Puja, a five day ritual and celebration for the ten armed goddess Durga. A major festival when excitement and activity touches a feverish pitch. Diwali, the festival of lights is the worship of goddess Kali. Clay lamps and firecrackers are a part of the festival. Rathajatra, is Lord Jagannath's Car festival. Holi, the festival of colours, is a celebration of the spring season. Muslim festivals, the two Ids, are also celebrated with great rejoicing. Unique, perhaps, is the Christmas festivity that continues till the New Year. From November, part of the Maidan is converted into fairgrounds. The Textile Fair, Art and Handicrafts Fair, Leather Exhibition and the famous Calcutta Book Fair are the favourites. The city is resonant with Film and Theatre Festivals, music conferences, rock shows, art exhibitions and various other cultural activities. This is also the time when the fairs of rural Bengal are held.

Shopping Centres

Areas: New Market, Air-conditioned Market, Vardaan Market, Park Street, Gariahat, Barabazar, College Street Market, Shyambazar, Hatibagan, Lake Market, Kalighat, Dakshinapan near Dhakuria and Uttarapan near Ultadanga (the State emporia are also there in these two huge shopping complexes). The wholesale and retail trade in Calcutta is concentrated in Burrabazar located north of BBD Bag. It is a bewildering medley of crowds and merchandise and the businessmen who operate here care nothing for appearances... money is the keyword.

Sports

Kolkata is a city of sports lovers. Soccer has the most passionate following. Cricket, golf, tennis, swimming and rowing are also among the favourites.


Places of Interest

Belur Math

About 6 km from Howrah, the twin city of Kolkata, is the Belur Math and the Ramakrishna Temple. The Belur math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna mission. In 1897 Swami Vivekananda founded Ramakrishna Mission in loving memory of his Guru Ramakrishna Paramhansa who preached unity of all religions. Swami Vivekananda is largely credited with the concept of the Math. The Ramakrishna Mission is famous for its missionary work and there are now branches of Ramakrishna Mission all over India. The architecture of Belur Math combines the features of a church, a temple and a mosque, to embody the spirit of religious fraternity. Another attraction for visitors is the Sri Ramkrishna Museum, set up with the assistance of the National Council of Science Museum. Items owned by Sri Ramkrishna, Ma Sarada and Swami Vivekananda are kept as souvenirs, and made to recreate the bygone ambience of blessed serenity. Its sprawling prayer hall with a statue of Ramakrishna is remarkable. People from different parts of the country and abroad visit this place. Its peaceful and calm atmosphere is befitting the gravity of the place. The Mission runs among other things, an art college, an industrial school and charitable dispensary. Belur Math is open daily from 6.30 am to 11.00 am and from 3.30 pm to 7.00 pm.

Dakshineshwar Kali temple

Built in 1847 by Rani Rasmoni, on the banks of Ganges, is Dakshineswar Kali Temple. Situated on the north of Belur Math, this is the place where Ramakrishna attained spiritual vision while working as a priest of Kali temple. The colossal kali temple is known to be one of the rare temples of Indian origin, having world-renowned fame. The legend goes that the Goddess came in the dreams of a rich lady who wanted to go to Varanasi for pilgrimage. The goddess asked her instead to build a temple on the banks of the Ganga River where she herself would reside in the idol. Thus the presiding deity here is Goddess Kali who is surrounded by 12 other temples dedicated to Lord Siva. The main temple is called the Navaratna Temple. Here there is a silver lotus with a thousand petals. On the flower is the idol of Goddess Kali, standing on the prostrate body of Lord Shiva. A temple dedicated to Rani Rasmoni has later been added near the entrance. The Panchavati, a congregation of five ancient trees, is a spot for peaceful meditation.

Kali Temple, Kalighat

This Temple is located in South Calcutta on the banks of Hoogly. Built in 1809, this temple dedicated to Goddess Kali, is one of the ancient Shakti temples of India. The original building was renovated in 1971. The Kali Temple existed long before the city of Calcutta was born. Even the City takes its name after Kali, the patron deity of the city. It is situated in Alipore about 5 miles from Howrah and is always over crowded with devotees from all over the country. The legend has it that while carrying Sati's burnt remains from Daksha's Yagna, Shiva dropped the right toe of Sati here. Sati's father had set up to perform a major yagna and everyone was invited except for his daughter and son-in-law, as he had never liked Shiva. On reaching the Yagna, Sati and Shiva were constantly ignored. Humiliated by this Sati cursed the Yagna and threw herself into the fire. The burnt remains fell down in 51 places while carrying them back to his abode. This temple of Mother Kali is one of the 52 Shakthi Peetams in India and does known for her aggressive yet love nature. Apart from the divine power of the residing deity, the temple has long been famous for its fine examples of terracotta art, though a lot of it has been ravaged by time. The idol of Goddess Kali is made of black stone and decorated with gold and silver. The one of Lord Shiva is in silver. There is a big slaughter house for the offering of the Goddess and devotees throng to this place from all over the world. During the day many poor people come here for a free feed. The temple is about 2 km directly south of St Paul's Cathedral and is easily accessible by metro. Mother Teresa's Hospital for the Dying Destitute is right next door to the temple.

The Nakhoda Mosque

What is today the largest mosque in Calcutta was originally a small place of worship for the Muslims. The present structure, commissioned by Abdur Rahim Osman, was completed in 1942. Built in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture the mosque is modelled on Akbar's tomb at Sikandra, near Agra. It has a large dome and minarets in red sandstone, set off by sections in marble. Rising to a height of more than 15 m., the four-storey mosque has a capacity of 10,000 worshippers.

Parshwanath Jain Temple

Located at Belgachia, this Jain temple is the most interesting temples of Kolkata. An ornate mass of mirrors, coloured stones and glass mosaic, this exquisite structure built in 1867 is dedicated to Shitalnathji, 10th of the 24 Jain prophets. It overlooks a beautiful garden and is unusually flamboyant for a Jain temple. It is in Shyambazar.

St. John's Church

Located south to the B.B.D. Bag, St. John's Church is one of the oldest churches of Kolkata. Modeled on London's St. Martin - in the field, this stone church was built in 1784. This structure has the famous painting of The Last Supper by John Zoffany, a marvellous stained glass window, the paintings of the Passion of Christ and memorial tablets of prominent citizens through the ages. The graveyard outside has the graves of the founder of the city Job Charnock and his daughters, Lord Brabourne, Lady Canning and several distinguished persons. It also has the grave of the Admiral Charles Watson who helped Lord Clive retake Calcutta. Based on Greek architecture and designed by Lt. James Agg, the graceful Church is made entirely of stone. It is the earliest example of British masonry in India. Near the west wall is a replica of the Holwell Monument - originally erected at the site of the Black Hole of Calcutta. The stone tower is 174 ft. high. Job Charnock's sculpture was made by his son-in-law Sir Charles Ayar around 1695 and is a unique specimen of art. There is a dome with a pitcher appended to it. Situated near the High Court it is accessible by any bus going to B B D Bag. The Sunday service is held regularly at the church.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Standing at the southern end of the Maidan and just to the east of Victoria Memorial is the St. Paul's Cathedral of Kolkata. It was built between 1839 and 1847 it is now most important churches of Kolkata. This distinguished Gothic structure is notable for its striking murals and frescoes, stained glass windows and coloured altar reredos. It was devastated in the earthquake of 1934 and was reconstructed in 1938 and is must a visit. The foundation for St. Paul's Cathedral was laid largely due to the efforts of Bishop Wilson. An earthquake destroyed the original 61-m. high tower in 1897. After restoration, it was again destroyed by another earthquake. Finally, it was rebuilt as a replica of the Bell Harry Tower of Canterbury Cathedral. The main cathedral hall is large, with beautifully carved wooden pews and chairs along with the stained glass window to the west, the intricate coloured artwork covering the eastern walls, the two marvellous Florentine frescoes. The church is 247 ft. in length and 81 ft. in width and the tower is 201 ft. high. The Cathedral is set within huge grounds with several ancient trees. There is a small meditation spot on the grounds, set up recently in collaboration with distinguished citizens of Tagore's Shantiniketan. The interim of the church is a feast for the eyes, with excellent floral designs on the walls. Beautiful architecture and exquisite mural painting captivates the beholder. The life and work of St. Paul is vividly described in pictures. Bishop Wilson lies in his eternal slumber in a coffin inside an underground chamber. The commission plate conferred on him by Queen Victoria is still exhibited here. The ambience of the church is very soothing and tranquil. It is open to visitors from 9 am to noon, and from 3 to 6 pm. Sunday services are at 7.30 and 8.30 am, and 6 pm.

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.

Armenian Church

The oldest place of Christian worship in Calcutta. The church of Holy Nazareth was built in 1764.

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.

Mahabodhi Temple
Baikunthanath Temple
Mother Teresa Mission of Charity
International Society of Krishna Consciousness
Bara Sikh Sangat Sikh Gurudwara
Tipu Sultan's Mosque
St. Andrew's Church
St. Thomas Church

Museums, Art Galleries and Libraries of Kolkata

Ashutosh Museum Of Indian Art

Established in 1937, it is located within the premises of Calcutta University having interesting pieces of Bengal art. It is open from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm on weekdays and upto 3.00 pm on Saturdays

Academy Of Fine Arts

India, with its 5000 years of history, has a rich artistic heritage. Calcutta has been an important center of the development of modern Indian art. Calcutta has several art galleries. The two leading ones are the Academy of Fine Arts and the Birla Academy of Art and Culture. The Academy holds regular art exhibitions. It has an auditorium popular with small theater groups.
Set up at the initiative of Lady Ranu Mukherjee in 1933, the Academy of Fine Art is a favourite rendezvous of Calcutta's cultural intelligentsia. Situated near Victoria Memorial, its galleries are open daily from 3 PM to 8 PM (except the Rabindra Gallery 12 PM to 6 PM daily, closed on Mondays). The Rabindra Gallery contains original paintings, manuscripts and personal belongings of the Nobel Laureate Shri Rabindranath Tagore. It also contains some photocopies of pages from his diary and letters. The Textile Gallery contains several exquisite specimens of hand-woven fabrics like dhakai, baluchari, patola, brocade, benarasi silk and jamewar shawls. There are authentic Mughal miniatures in the Miniatures Gallery. The Carpets Gallery boasts of a number of beautiful Persian exhibits. No doubt, the major attraction of the Academy however, lies in the fact that Bengali plays and exhibitions by contemporary artists are regularly held throughout the year. It is a focal point of the arts, be it sculpture, drama, painting or photography.

Academy Of Indian Coins And History

Located at 361/B Rabindra Sarani, this Academy of Indian Coins and History is open every weekday from 11 am to 1 pm. Ancient Indian coin collections are the main attraction in this Academy of Indian Coins and History.

Agri-Horticultural Gardens

William Carey founded these botanical gardens in 1820 at Alipore near to the present Calcutta Zoological Gardens. It houses a massive collection of plants and flowers. It has a significant collection of botanical varieties with facilities for gardeners and plant/flower lovers. Courses on gardening and cultivation of certain species are offered to the general public from time to time. There is also a well-equipped library. Housed in a sprawling estate, this oasis of colours presents a rare harmony between man and nature. A large variety of ferns and medicinal plants are grown in the Society's gardens. Thousands of fruits and flowers are seen here, and may also be bought at the nursery. The annual flower show held in the premises in winter is a major seasonal attraction.

Asiatic Society

This Institution is situated at 1, Park Street, Calcutta. The Society's new building houses a museum, a library and administrative offices. On display are old maps, coins, copper inscriptions, journals and palm leaf manuscripts, Tibetan manuscripts, etc. There is an oil painting of Cleopatra by Guido and another of Maria de Medici by Joshua Reynolds. The library is quite exhaustive and is open to visitors. Sir William Jones founded this Asiatic Society in 1784 under the patronage of Warren Hastings, which is famous for collection of Indology, Literature and Scientific Research of about 20000 volumes including some 8000 rare Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Hindi manuscripts. The Society publishes the Journal of 'The Asiatic Society of Bengal' and 'The Proceedings' containing material of utmost importance.

Art Industry Museum

Birla Industrial And Technological Museum

Located near Gurusaday Road, Birla Industrial and Technological Museum is a seat of learning modern science and technology for students, research scholars with workshop which designs and produces most of its exhibits. It is closed on Mondays. It was established in 1966. It is believed to be a permanent exhibition of industrial and technological progress in India. Scientific processes are demonstrated through mechanical models, with lucid explanations given beside each. The ingenious models blend education with entertainment, drawing thousands of children and adults each year. The miniature planetarium, the mini zoo and simulated coalmine are worth a visit. There is an in-house workshop that designs and produces most of the exhibits. The library on science and technology is also well equipped.

Birla Planetarium

This is the largest planetarium in the World near the Government of India tourist office providing a view of the stars and the solar system. The planetarium is a single storeyed, circular structure constructed in pure Indian architectural style. The central dome has a diameter of 27m. shaped in imitation of the Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi. The central hall can accommodate 500 persons. Interesting exhibits are the fine collections of paintings, celestial models and busts of famous astronomers that line the corridors. The gigantic planetarium projector accessories comprise of 29000 parts and combine to portray on the inner ceiling of the planetarium, the naked face of space, Stars, planets and heavenly bodies. There are daily programs from 12 PM to 7 PM. in English, Bengali and Hindi. There are shows in English every day, but as times vary, check in advance. Closed on Monday.

Centre Of International Modern Art (cima)

Situated near Birla temple, close to Ballygunge Phari, CIMA features Indian contemporary art, which is renowned worldwide. It was begun in 1993 under the auspices of a leading publishing house, and CIMA was conceived with an ambitious agenda - to create and establish an internationally, recognised art institution, promoting on a globally significant scale the finest in contemporary Indian art. It is open from 2 pm to 8 pm, except Mondays.

Floating Museum

World's first floating museum , located at the "Man-o-War" jetty.

Marble Palace

Built in 1835, is one of the well-maintained buildings of 19th century colonial Kolkata. It is a fine example of Gothic architecture. The 3-storey building has tall Corinthian pillars and Chinese pavilion type verandas. There is a large circular lawn, which has an aviary and an intricately carved marble fountain at the centre. Beyond are a rock garden and a statue of the Buddha. There is marble everywhere - of about 90 different varieties transported across the seas to provide floors, wall panels and tabletops. Inside are displays of beautiful paintings, sculpture, furniture and antique urns, a collection, garnered from 90 countries around the world. The Marble Palace is situated on Muktaram Babu Street, off Chittaranjan Avenue and is open on all days except Mondays and Thursdays.

Indian Museum

It is the ninth oldest museum of the world, the oldest institution of its kind in Asia Pacific region and repository of the largest museum objects in India. Founded in 1814. The colonnaded Italian-style building has an excellent collection. It has over sixty galleries of Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Botany sections. Many rare specimens both Indian and Trans-Indian origin relating to Humanities and Natural Science are preserved and displayed in the galleries of these sections. More than 1 million exhibits are presently exhibited that include: Shivalik fossils, outstanding exhibits from the Harappa and Mohenjodaro periods, prized collection of Buddhist Art, Miniature Paintings, 'Art and Textile' with Ivory, Glass and Silverware, 200-year-old Hand-Drawn Maps and many more.It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (March to November) and 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. (December to February). Closed on Mondays. Entry fee, Rs.10. Free for children below 12 years. Foreigners Rs. 150.

Nehru Children's Museum

It's a great entertaining place for the children, named after the first prime minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It's located at Jawaharlal Nehru Road (formerly Chowringhee Road). The stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have been depicted nicely with the help of the animated dolls. Some science models are also on exhiibition; must see for the kids.

National Library

Housed in the former residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal popularly known as Belvedere Estate, The Calcutta public library and Imperial Library amalgamated in 1903 to become National Library, which is supposed to be India's largest library. The building that houses the National Library was originally constructed as the Vice regal House around 1700. Meant as a symbol of imperial power, it was built on a grand scale with a high arched gateway, sprawling lawns and ornate halls. The number of reader-members in this library at present is a whopping 18 thousand. The collection comprises about 20,00,000 books and 5,00,000 manuscripts. Its gigantic campus encompasses 130 acres of land. At present, the National Library is the 2nd largest public library in Asia for which several notable persons have donated their invaluable collections at different times.

Nandan

Late Satyajit Ray inaugurated and patronized this center of culture housing three cinema halls one of which is dedicated in screening art movies. It is Calcutta's best movie theater. The Rabindra Sadan and Sisir Mancha (both auditoriums) are situated next to Nandan. Nandan theatre behind Rabindra Sadan is Calcutta's place of cine culture for film enthusiasts and professionals. Late Satyajit Ray designed its intriguing emblem. Its three motion picture theatres have the best screening facilities in Calcutta. Largely film clubs to screen art movies for their members use one hall. People camp overnight outside ticket counters during film festivals to get hold of tickets. Nandan is the best cultural centre in the eastern zone of India, which was established on 2nd September 1985. Nandan has its own library and a great museum in the name of Satyajit Roy. It is called Satyajit Roy Archives. The Ray Archive is run by the Department of Information and Cultural Affairs of the Government of West Bengal as a part of Nandan. The maestro's contributions as a filmmaker, composer, writer, illustrator, calligrapher and critic are collected and preserved for research, publication, exhibition and screening. The activities of the Archive could be undertaken with generous financial assistance from the Ford Foundation. The Archive has so far collected 30 films. The collection of the Archive is accessible to film makers, critics, researchers, film students, individuals and institutions. The library has 300 titles, whose collection includes all the fictions and other writings by Ray. Constant search is on to gather similar other items. There are 773 periodicals in this section which includes a sizeable quantity of Sandesh, a children's magazine founded by Ray's grand-father which was revised by Ray himself in 1961. Different types of books about film are available in Nandan's library. Nandan has had published many research works about films. These are like Bengali film Directory, Bengali Cinema and short films, A poet with a camera, 100 years of cinema etc. It also organises various types of film - related programmes.These archives are well - ornamented by the books of Satyajit, his film records (cassettes), his camera, cigar-pipes, awards, a huge collection of books and many other valuable documents. Nandan I is the main auditorium with a capacity of over 1100. There are two mini auditoria, Nandan II and III. There is also a seminar and conference hall (Nandan IV). The film complex also houses Ritwik Memorial Library and a film vault. A permanent exhibition of antique film and audio equipment has been installed at Nandan. This institution, concerns itself with all aspects of cinema and covers the following - Screening of significant films produced both in India and abroad including commercial releases Retrospectives and Festivals Exhibitions and Publications Seminars, discourses and annual lectures Training Courses Archival work and Research Library of books and periodicals.

Rabindrabharati Museum

Rabindrabharati Museum has a collection of Bengal renaissance artifacts and is situated near Girish Park on Chittaranjan Avenue. It is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm on weekdays. The Museum concentrates on the Bengal renaissance of the nineteenth century.

The Science City

The Science City situated in the eastern part of Kolkata is a great gateway for young and old alike with lots of fun and education. Asia's only venture of the kind, here science and technology, have been put to ingenious use to explain scientific principles. Natural phenomena such as earthquakes, quicksand and tornadoes, interior of a volcano are some of the many displays. Travel through time and outer space in the time Machine transports visitors across past and future with sights and sounds. Another main attraction is the Space Theatre.

Jorasa(n)ko Tagore House (Thakurbari)

The world famous poet Rabindranath Tagore was born and died in this house. Located at the junction of the Chitpur Road and the Vivekananda Road, it is the headquarter 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.

Netaji Bhawan

This is the place where Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose lived and worked. His personal belongings are on exhibition here.

Parks and Picnic Spots of Kolkata

Botanical Garden

In the twin city of Howrah, on the bank of River Hooghly, are the majestic Indian Botanical Gardens, spread over an area of 273 acres. The oldest and probably the biggest in the country, these gardens were established in July 1786 as a pleasure retreat for Colonel Kyd of the East India Company. Later it was developed by him for the collection of plants, indigenous to the country and for the introduction and acclimatization of plants from foreign lands. The star attraction is the 250-year old banyan tree with nearly 2,000 aerial roots, making it the largest tree of its kind in the world. Other notable botanical specimens are the double coconut tree from Sicily, the branching palm tree from Brazil, the multicoloured bamboo trees, the mad tree, various cacti and orchids. There is a huge lake, with a large variety of aquatic plants, including the rare Victoria Amazonica. Today this flora museum is a home to 35,000 types of fruits and flowers, besides 15,000 other botanical specimens, including medicinal plants. It also houses a library containing an invaluable collection of rare books on botany and allied subjects. . The Central National Harbarium of the Botanical Survey of India is here and has 2500000 dried plants in its collection. The gardens are over the Howrah Bridge, about 19 kms. from Chowringhee on a bus heading for Sibpur.

The Zoological Gardens

Established in 1875, and spread over nearly 100 acres in the heart of Kolkata are the Zoological Gardens. Inaugurated by the Prince of Wales in 1876, it is one of the oldest and the largest Zoos of India. There is a vast variety of animals present here in their most natural environments. Special attractions are the white tiger, the tigon (a cross between a tiger and a lion), the litigon (a cross between a lion and a tigor) and a tortoise that is much older than the zoo itself. Giraffes and Kangaroos, Monkeys and Hippos along with various birds and reptiles are also exhibited in the Zoo. It is one of the most famous picnic spot for the people of Kolkata. During winter, the migratory birds from all over the world are the special attractions. Across the road in front of the Zoo, one can visit the Aquarium housing various kinds of fishes and other aquatic animals.

Bidhan Children's Park

a great place for kids.

Dhakuria Lake

Dhakuria Lake located in South Calcutta is an artificial lake providing rowing facilities with a safari garden and children's play center. There is an open-air theatre. Swimming pool training centre is also available. It was earlier named as Dhakuria Lake and was later rechristened as Rabindra Sarobar. The ambience is placid, soothing and peaceful. The youth throng here in the afternoons and evenings to chill out. The veterans loiter around breathing in the fresh air. There is a tiny island at the south of the lake, which is linked with the mainland via a wooden bridge. Shoal of fishes swim in the pellucid water, but fishing is strictly prohibited here. Within a short distance Japanese Buddhist Temple, Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, etc. have sprung up. A five minutes walk from here will lead one to the 'Ramakrishna Mission' at Golpark. This is an ideal location for picnics.

Nico Park

Joining the modern stream of theme parks, Nico Park is the Disneyland for Calcuttans with its various adventure rides. Nico Park situated at Salt Lake has a variety of unusual games and rides. The Cave Ride is the latest addition and is the only of its kind in this part of the world. Set up in Salt Lake, on the northeastern fringe of Calcutta, this amusement park covers an area of 40 acres, offering wholesome fun for children as well as adults. There are a wide variety of rides to choose from, with the Toy Train, Cable Car, Tilt-a-Whirl, Water Chute, Water Coaster, Flying Saucer, Pirate Ship and Moonraker being the popular ones. It also offers delighting food for the foodaholics. The park is open to the public from 10.00 a. m to 8.00 p. m everyday during the winter and 11.00 a. m to 9.00 p. m everyday during the rest of the year. Adjacent to the park is the Nalban Boating Complex offering a close-to-nature experience with its greenery, flowers and the cool breezes blowing across the wetlands. Opposite the Salt Lake stadium is the Subhash Sarovar (lake), which is not very well maintained but has the potential to become a nice tourist spot.

Rat Park

This is a unique and fascinating sight at Curzon Park, where hundreds of rats scamper about in a meshed enclosure.

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.

Horticultural Garden

The lush environment 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 there.

Stadiums

Eden Gardens

this stretch of greenery that comprises the gardens was named after Emily and Fanny Eden, sisters of the erstwhile Governor General, Lord Auckland. Covering nearly 50 acres, the garden features many local species of trees. It also features a serpentine lake and a pagoda-like Burmese pavilion that was built in 1854. There is also the Band Stand where military bands used to play till the 1960s. Just next to the garden is the Ranji Stadium, which has been the site of many famous cricket matches. In fact, with its lush green look and enthusiastic crowds, it is the favourite playing ground of many leading cricketers. It is the World's largest cricket stadium that can house up to 90,000 spectators. It was one of the first cricket stadiums in India where floodlights were installed and Day and Night cricket was played with the gigantic electronic scoreboard.

Netaji Indoor

Netaji Indoor Stadium is located in front of the High court, beside the Eden Gardens and is a fully air-conditioned indoor stadium of world standards. This was founded in 1975 and inaugurated by Siddharta Sankar Roy, former Chief Minister of West Bengal, for indoor games and sports like Table Tennis, Basket Ball, Volley Ball, Badminton etc. Cultural Functions and different programmes are also held here. Total capacity of the Stadium is almost 1,20,000.

Salt Lake Stadium

Located in Calcutta's peripheral Salt Lake City, this is a relatively newer and bigger stadium, which can house more than one lakh spectators. It is a huge 3-tier stadium on the periphery of Calcutta's satellite Salt Lake City. Salt Lake Stadium is also known as the Yuva Bharati Krirangan. It is situated approximately 10 kms. from the heart of the city. It is elliptical in shape. The roof is made of strong tubes and aluminum sheets. There are two electronic score boards and control rooms. The lighting is uniformly distributed to facilitate nocturnal sports along with special arrangements for Television broadcasting.

Royal Calcutta Turf Club

Royal Calcutta Turf Club is situated on the western side of the Victoria Memorial. A remnant of the British era, this is one of the largest horse racing turfs in India. Many important and prestigious racing events are held here regularly. It is regarded as one of the best racecourses in India. It started off in 1819 organised by the Royal Turf Club. Apart from horse races, this ground was also used for playing polo. The horse race starts in the month of July and continues till September. It starts again in November and concludes in March. The race generally held on Saturdays, however, it is also held on important holidays and some special occasions.

Rabindra Sarovar Stadium
Ranji Stadium
Race Course
Golf Course
Polo Grounds

Heritage Buildings in Kolkata

Victoria Memorial

Built as a tribute to Queen Victoria in 1921, it was conceived by the Viceroy Curzon in 1905, four years after the Queen's death. The Prince of Wales (later King George V) laid the foundation stone in January 1906 and the memorial was officially inaugurated in December 1921 by the Duke of Windsor. Designed by Sir William Emerson, this 61m high structure of white marble stands on 26 hectares of land. Inspired by the Taj Mahal, its splendid form combines British architecture and Mughal artistry and exemplifies the grandeur of imperialism. It houses a fantastic collection of rare memorabilia from Colonial days. A light and sound show recreates history every evening. The sprawling grounds, with their lakes, trees and flowering plants have a grand statue of Queen Victoria in her full regalia, seated on a throne. Several other elegant statues also dot the ground. Inside the hall there are several galleries containing articles of the Queen, her letters and manuscripts, portraits of the Royal family and of several early British administrators. There is also an exhibition of military uniforms, arms and armours. One room contains a 6m by 3m painting of a royal procession in Jaipur, which is possibly the largest painting in Asia. One gallery also contains sketches, photographs, paintings and an illustrated history of the city's growth and development.

Town Hall

This historical Hall had been the venue of public meetings and social gatherings. The construction of the Hall was completed in 1814 in doric style of architecture at a cost of Rs. 7 lakhs by means of public lotteries. Like many other heritage buildings, the Town Hall has recently been restored to its original form. Closely, the Kolkata Museum too has been 'done up' with the addition of a library and an Archive.

Raj Bhavan

The mighty river Hooghly beckons at the northern end of the Maidan. 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.

Central Municipal Building

In 1872, the Justice of Peace decided to construct a suitable Municipal Office at a cost of Rs. 1 lakh exclusive of the price of the land. The present site was acquired for Rs.65,000/-. The building was designed by Mr. Osmond of Mackintosh Burn & Co; the total cost of construction of 1.98 lakh was met partly from the legacy left by Marcus and partly by Govt. grant.

Calcutta High Court

The landmark Gothic building constructed in 1872- West Bengal High court is one of the oldest located near Eden Gardens. It is the highest seat of judiciary in West Bengal. An extension was added later, retaining its architectural symmetry. Designed on Gothic lines by Walter B. Grenville, the Calcutta High Court is reminiscent of the colleges in Oxford. On the eastern side is the original sandstone courthouse. Portraits and busts of legal luminaries adorn the courtrooms and the corridors and the Bar Library is a treasury for the legal tomes. Browsing is permitted with the librarian's permission. The Judges Library contains interesting legal documents. Visitors are allowed inside the court premises.

Fort William

Completed in 1781 to serve as an impregnable fort at Maidan, Fort William, named after King William III, now serves as the Military Head quarters of the Eastern Command, which can accommodate a garrison of 10,000 men and has huge green expanse giving lung space to a chocked city. After the events of 1756, the British decided there would be no repetition of the attack on the city and set out to replace the original Fort William. First they cleared out the inhabitants of the village of Govindpur and in 1758 laid the foundations of a fort, which was completed in 1781 at an expense of 2 million British pounds. The fort is still in use today and visitors are allowed inside only with special permission. The area cleared around Fort William became the Maidan, the 'lungs' of modern Calcutta, stretching 3 km north to south and is over a km wide. The Fort is a brick-and-mortar structure built in the shape of an irregular octagon surrounding 5 square km of which five sides look landward and three on the river, surrounded by a fosse 9 meter deep and 15 meter broad which can be flooded in times of emergency. There are six gates Chowringhee, Plassey Calcutta, Water gate St Georges and Treasury Gate. A telephone office, recreation club, canteen, cinema hall, restaurant, swimming pool and wide moat surround it. For the tourist, there is a museum housing arms and armours, swords, muskets and machine guns. Another section has photographs of the Burma campaign and of the Bangladesh Liberation War. The Arsenal inside is worth visiting with a prior permission required from the Commanding Officer.

General Post Office (gpo)

The Postal headquarters of Calcutta, located in the BBD Bag area, is an interesting architectural piece. The Calcutta General Post Office (GPO), the commercial hub of the city designed by Walter B. Grenville was built in 1864. Its high domed roof and tall Ionic-Corinthian pillars give the building an imposing appearance marking the boundaries of the former Fort William, destroyed during Shiraj-ud-Daulah's attack on the British Settlement in 1756. It is also alleged to be the site of the notorious Black Hole of Calcutta. The GPO functions as the chief post office of West Bengal and houses an adjacent redbrick building, the Postal Museum that was built in 1884. The museum displays a wide collection of artefacts and stamps, which includes antique cast iron post boxes, signal lights from the Railway Mail Service, franking seals, copies of charters, etc commemorating the history of postal services in India. At the southwestern end of the building is the Philatelic Bureau, which is a collector's delight. Visitors can buy some of the more recent first day covers and mint stamps at cost price from the Bureau.

Howrah Bridge

This is the busiest Cantilever Bridge in the World, which sees a daily traffic of about 60,000 vehicles and innumerable pedestrians similar to Sydney Harbor Bridge. But the later can never dream of such a traffic. Until 1943, the Hoogly River was crossed by a pontoon bridge, which had to be opened to let river traffic through. There was a considerable fear that it would affect the river currents and cause silting problems. This problem was eventually avoided by building a bridge that crosses the river in a single 450m span. The Rabindra Setu, popularly known as the Howrah Bridge, is the gateway to the city of Calcutta. Built on River Hoogly, it was originally meant to facilitate military transportation between Calcutta and the industrial town of Howrah during World War II. It remains an arterial bridge connecting the city to its main railway station, the Howrah Station. The bridge is 705 m. long and 97 m. wide. More than 2590 MT of high tensile steel went into this unique cantilevered bridge supported by two piers, each nearly 90 meters in height above the road level. An engineering marvel, it expands by as much as a metre during the heat of a summer day. The eight-lane bridge carries a steady flow of more than lakh vehicles and 2 million commuters every day. The best way to enjoy its stately beauty is to view it from the middle of the river where photography is strictly prohibited. It is one of the world's busiest bridges. The ferries running from below Howrah Station are a more convenient way to cross the river and give a good view of the bridge. It is one of three bridges on the river Hoogly and is the most famous symbol of Calcutta as well as West Bengal.

Marble Palace

Built in 1835 by a Bengali Zamindar on Muktaram Babu St. a narrow lane off Chittaranjan Ave, this palace houses an interesting collection of curios, statues, paintings and a private zoo. There is a private zoo here too, but the inhabitants are only slightly more animated than the marble lions gracing the palace lawns. The Marble Palace is one of the well-maintained buildings of 19th century colonial Calcutta and is a fine example of Gothic architecture. The three-storey building has tall Corinthian pillars and Chinese pavilion type verandas on the sides. The high iron gates open out to a large circular lawn, which has an aviary and an intricately carved marble fountain at the centre; beyond are a rock garden and a statue of the Buddha. Entering the building, one finds a succession of large halls and marbles everywhere - of 90 different varieties and it is said that these are transported across the seas to provide floors, wall panels and tabletops. Inside are displays of beautiful paintings, sculpture, furniture and antique urns. This collection, garnered from 90 countries around the world, is definitely not to be missed. Built in 1855, in Chorebagan the famous place of the Mullicks, it contains numerous art treasures, statues pictures and oil painting, among which two are by Reubens. There is also an original painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds. It is located on C R Avenue in north Calcutta at Muktaram Babu Street, Chorebagan. It is open daily except Monday and Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm, and entry is free with a permit from the Government of India tourist office.

Shaheed Minar / Ochterlony

This is a 48-meter high monument, built with a unique blend of Turkish, Egyptian and Syrian architecture. Originally called the Ochterlony Monument, the Minar (column) was built in 1828 to commemorate the British East India Company's victory in the Nepal Campaign of 1814-16. It was named in honour of Sir David Ochterlony, the hero of the war. In 1969 its name was changed to 'Shaheed Minar' in memory of the Indian freedom fighters. It was erected in 1828. Designed by J.P. Parker, this column is of mixed architectural style having a Syrian column, an Egyptian plinth slightly tapering towards the top, and a Turkish cupola. It needs 218 steps to climb to the top of the high tower. Political parties, trade unions and other groups frequently use the grounds adjoining the monument to hold public meetings. The custom of convening political seminars started in 1931 when a historical convocation took place here, presided by Rabindranath Tagore. The humanitarian poet had severely condemned the vandalism of the imperialist British Government that had shot a youth dead in the Calabooze in Hizli. Few years ago, the dome of the 'Minar' was coloured which kicked off a storm of protest. There is a fine view from the top of the column, but permission to ascend must be obtained from police headquarters, which is on Lal Bazaar St. It is only open Monday to Friday and you should simply ask for a monument pass at the Assistant Commissioner's office on the 2nd floor. A little distance away from the foot of the monument, there is a terminus for local buses as well as long-distance One can have a panoramic view of Kolkata from the top of this Minar. From there, the much-known Kolkata is transformed into an enigmatic fantasyland. But one cannot get at the top of the Minar at one's will until he has the permission of the Deputy Commissioner.

Vidyasagar Setu

The modern cable stayed bridge known as Vidyasagar Setu lies across Hoogly offering a panoramic view of the skyline of Kolkata. This impressive bridge provides an alternative to the Howrah Bridge. The Vidyasagar Setu, better known locally as the second Hoogly Bridge, stands on the river Hoogly. Located 2 kms. to the south of the Howrah Bridge, it was built to reduce vehicular pressure from the latter. The construction work took 22 years and cost Rs. 3.88 billion and finally it was opened to traffic officially on 10th October 1992. The Setu is Asia's longest and the world's third largest cable-stayed bridge. Supported by 121 wire cables, it is 457 m. long and 115 m. wide. This graceful structure stands on four pylons, on a foundation that is 100 m. deep. It affords a panoramic view of the Calcutta skyline. The Vidyasagar Setu or the second Hoogly Bridge spans over the Hoogly River linking Calcutta to its twin city of Howrah and on to Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. This is a toll bridge and gives a fast connection from downtown Calcutta to the Botanical Gardens (which has the world's biggest banyan tree) and the Bengal Engineering College.

Others

Mother Teresa's Home

'Nirmal Hriday' or Soft Heart is one of the first foundations of Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying Destitute in Kolkata. It is located in a 'dharamsala' in the premises of the Kali temple. Men, women and children who were dying on the streets were brought to this home. In their last hours the Missionaries of Charity gave them human and divine love. For those who didn't die the sisters tried to find a job or they were sent to homes where they could live happily some more years in homely surrounding. Visit Mother Teresa's tomb at the Mother House and witness the generosity of her spirit at Nirmal Hriday (home for the dying), Shanti Nagar (for lepers) and Nirmala Shishu Bhavan (the children's home). 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.

Places of Interest around Kolkata

Chandannagor

Today famous for its artisans making beautiful clay figurines, the small township of Chandannagor was a famous French trading post till recently. It was handed over to India along with Pondicherry in 1951. Hardly 40 kms from Kolkata this enchanting town still carries the aura of French settlement with its heritage French buildings like the Clock Tower. Nearby is the Octagonal Dutch Church and settlement at Chinsurah, 45 kms away. The Hooghly Imambara and the Portuguese monastery and church at Bandel, 48 kms from Kolkata, are places worth visiting. The Hanseshwari temple with unusual carvings and unique structure and the Basudeva temple located at Bansberia are 47 kms from Kolkata.

Bandel Church

40 kms from Calcutta on the banks of River Hoogly lies Bandel, which is a pilgrimage center for the worshipers of Mother Mary. This four centuries old church is perhaps the oldest church. Its serene, calm and quiet atmosphere make this an attractive place to visit. Although pilgrims and tourists visit the shrine all through the year, September to March are preferred by the visitors. This Basilica has a number of important feasts in the year. There is the first Sunday of Lent procession, feast of Lady of the Rosary in the month of May, feast of Our Lady of Happy voyage in the month of November, Christmas, and New Year, walking pilgrimage from Calcutta etc. Facilities are also offered to pilgrims who would like to stay overnight. It is easily approachable by rail and road. Frequent suburban local trains from Howrah Station to Bandel take just over one hour to cover the distance. By road the trip can be done in about two hours.

Diamond Harbour

Located 48 km. south of Calcutta, the harbour is a popular excursion for Calcuttans, accessible from the city by road and rail. For families and friends looking for a quick getaway, this is an ideal picnic spot. River cruises are available and tourists may spend the entire day on the gently lapping Hoogly. Walking along the riverbank, one can also reach the Sharisha Ramkrishna Mission Ashram, a popular spot for pilgrims. Tourists can spend a day at the riverfront of this beautiful delta area. A ruined fort, dating back to the time when Portuguese pirates infested the river mouth, makes for an exciting site for exploration. Also interesting is the old lighthouse. Nearby is the town of Joynagar, where visitors can see manuscripts, terracotta figurines and black stone images of Buddha, Mahavir and Vishnu, belonging to the 11th and 12th centuries, at Kalidas Dutta's collection.

Barrackpur

This town, a part of Kolkata''s urban agglomeration, is 24 km north of Kolkata on the banks of River Ganga. Situated in the district of North 24 paraganas; famous for its waterways and wetlands, the only of its kind in India, the name Barrackpur comes from the barracks where troops have been stationed since 1772. This small township is famous for its Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 which triggered the 90 year old freedom struggle. A memorial to Mangal Pandey, the famous martyr hanged in Barrackpur''s Latbagan, has been erected at Dhubighat. Another major attraction is the Gandhi Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi stands in the form of the Gandhi Museum, built in 1966.

North 24 Parganas, is also famous as the birth place of sage Loknath. Devotees flock to the temple in Chakladham dedicated to the sage. Kochua, nearby also has a temple dedicated to Loknath.

Kolkata