A total of 18 years I spent in Kolkata, enough to know a city’s ups and downs, glorious days, struggling by people, political disturbances, strikes, bandhs, suffering of people, hostilities, charities, Cultural Revolution. The streets, lanes and bi-lanes that I used to walk past every day, morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night observing the city life, its culture, street foods, hawkers who used sell variety of clothes and other articles of daily needs and lastly my friends with whom I used to enjoy visiting cinema halls, restaurants and parks spending hours and hours discussing the topics some disclosable and some not still remind me of the days that will never comeback in my life. I am now away from Kolkata for over 47 years. I have become a pacca (true) ‘Delhite’ but could not forget the days I spent in Kolkata. It still attracts me, invites me loves me as its foremost dearest son of the soil at least I presume so. A feeling of nostalgia works within me that drives me crazy at times to rush to this adorable city and find out the latest achievements that it made; the new flyovers, illuminated streets, musical fountains – but I restrain myself at the same time due to circumstances not within my control. It is a true cosmopolitan city by nature. Here the population consists of not only Bengali but people from other parts of India either settled or live here for the purposes of education, service, business, daily earning jobs So whenever I get a chance to visit this city I take a detour of the city’s sightseeing places spending a couple of days with family and friends.
Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal is situated by the eastern banks of the river Hooghly, the other name of river Ganga. After Delhi and Mumbai it is the most thickly populated city. The place has earned reputation as‘City of Palaces ‘and City of Joy.
Job Charnok, an agent of the East India Company was deputed to Bengal from Madras to oversee the business interest and selected this place for a trade settlement for British. Due to reasons of security and need of protection the place was found suitable with Hooghly river on the north and widespread water body of salt lakes to its east. The east bank Hooghly consisted of three villages Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata. The landlords of these villages sold their portions to the British. These villages were later reconstituted to form the city Kolkata under British Rule. The city is the birth place of many eminent personalities like Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore.
Kolkata has become as one of the major tourist destination of India. Some of the places worth visiting for tourists coming to this city for the first time and which I personally have visited several times are –
On arrival from Delhi by Rajdhani Express sometime in December, we went past this bridge in the morning while going to our residence in Kolkata. It serves the purpose of gateway to Kolkata. We stood over the bridge for few minutes and saluted its creator to offer us such a wonderful thing which is also one of the sixth such bridges in the world. It is a cantilever bridge hanging on two pillars at both sides of the banks of the River Ganga or Hoogly. The bridge is a link between Kolkata and Howrah station where the trains originate and terminate to and from various destinations of India. We saw some steamers and boats were passing under the bridge. On the eastern side of the river was Kolkata Dockyard with some Ships moving in and out and some parked for transportation of goods. The bridge has now been renamed after the world famous poet Rabindranath Tagore and is known as Rabindra Setu. About half a kilometer away in front of us was another newly constructed bridge ‘Vidyasagar Setu‘ hanging similarly on iron cable support.
In about half an hour’s time we reached our Kolkata home at Dumdum. It is my nephew’s place. We were welcomed by his wife and the children. Here we stayed for about a week and utilized the opportunities to travel to various sightseeing places. Next day we booked a cab for sightseeing. After breakfast, we proceeded to our first destination in the north Kolkata Jorasako Thakurbari the birth place of Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize winner poet.
Jorasanko Thakurbari or the House of Thakurs was built by Prince Dwarkanath Thakur the grandfather of Rabindranath Tagore, in the 18th century. This palatial building now houses a museum that put on display various collection of articles by the Tagore family One portion of the housing complex is occupied by Rabindra Bharathi University.We spent a couple of hours inside the building viewing the birth place of Rabindranath Thakur and the Univeristy where many interesting subject of arts and culture are taught in postgraduate level degree courses.
By the time we came out of this place we were feeling hungry and it was nearing our lunch time. Our group consisting of two families and one common friend decided to visit a place ‘Park Street’ where chains of restaurants, hotels and famous bars of Kolkata are located. It is a must see for the tourists coming to Kolkata for enjoying gourmet foods and entertainment.
After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, construction of the building started in 1906. After its completion, Lord Curzon dedicated this beautiful palatial building in memory of Queen Victoria. Located at the banks of the River Hooghly, the building made of white marble reflecting blend of Mughal and British culture was commissioned and opened to public in 1921. The museum houses 25 galleries that contain various articles of antiquities and artifact and daily use item of Queen Victoria , weapons and dresses used during war by the Mughals and British kings and soldiers. There is a beautiful lake in front of the memorial and some large trees adding attractions to the place. Beautiful flowers blooming all around the place made the place hypnotic. We became spellbound by the beauty and ambiance of the place. It was very difficult for all of us to leave the place as we became emotional, unwilling at heart to return to home. But the evening was disappearing fast after the sunset so we started for our residence at Kolkata so as to be enable ourselves ready for our next day’s trip to other places of the city.
St Paul’s Cathedral
The St. Paul’s Cathedral of Kolkata part of the Anglican Communion is one of the best united churches in India. It is visited by all sections of people. The architectural beauty of the church is at par with many other churches of the world. We entered the church and received blessing from the Father. We stood in silence and offered our prayers to Jesus Christ for wellbeing of the mankind.
Marble Palace Mansion
The palatial mansion was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, the famous Zaminder of Kolkata and is used to be occupied by his descendents. The architectural beauty of the Marble Palace Mansion is one of the best of its class in India. The Place Museum contains many old and precious paintings, old antique furniture which are unique in construction. The zoo adjacent to the place is a must visit for the tourists.
Headquarters of the Ramkrishna Mission and Math, the Belur Mutt is situated on the west bank of Hooghly River. The place is accessible both by road, rail and boats. Photography inside the Math is prohibited. The photograph here is sourced from the Math authorities. Once inside, the temple we sat in front of the marble statue of Ramakrishna Paramahansa Dev to offer our prayers. People from all strata of society Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian visit this Math without any restrictions every day. The temple complex includes various other temples of Ma Sharada Devi, wife of Ramakrishna, Swami Brahamananda, the room where Swami Vivekananda used to live, a hostel for the disciples of Ramakrishna, We took turn to visit the places and after about two hours we finished our visit and started for Ma Kali Temple in Dakshineshwar which is located just opposite of Belur Math and in the east bank of the river Ganga or Hooghly.