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Kolkata… An Enigma

Prime Attractions of Kolkata (Calcutta)
  s Fort William: To consolidate their hold on Bengal and avoid any further attack on the trade establishments the British had built a fort which cost them an awesome 2 million pounds in those days. With the permission of the Nawab of Bengal, this fort was built between 1696 and 1702 by the British East India Company and named after King William III of England. In 1756 the fort was taken by the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-dullah. In 1757 East India Company regained their power and demolished this fort and they started reconstruction of the fort. The new fort was completed in 1773. The forest around this fort was cleared to give a clear shot to the cannons. Strangely enough not a single shot has been fired from the fort. Today the fort stands as the reminder of first steps of British towards establishment of the Indian empire.  
Maidan: The lungs of Kolkata (Calcutta), The Maidan is one of the few open spaces in the city. The forest around the new Fort William was cleared to give a clear shot to the cannons. Thus the Maidan was created in 1758. The treeless character of the Maidan changed almost a century later when trees were planted and avenues constructed. Access to this park was limited during the British rule. Now it is the central place in Kolkata (Calcutta) to organize any fair, rallies, exhibitions or just have a chat with friends. Besides political rallies, the Maidan is also the favorite rendezvous for the sports loving people of Kolkata (Calcutta). The Maidan acts as breather for the otherwise congested city.    
    Victoria Memorial: A splendid example of British architecture, this building in white marble was built in memory of Queen Victoria and was inaugurated by Prince of Wales in 1921. The project was commissioned by Lord Curzon (infamous for his partition of Bengal) in 1906. The architect was Sir William Emerson. It is based on architecture of the Taj Mahal. Its foundation stone was tapped into place by George V on his princely excursion to Kolkata (Calcutta) in 1906. The monument was finally completed in 1921. Built with white marble from Markana, Rajasthan, it is probably the most graceful structure in Calcutta. Today it’s a museum having various Queen Victoria memorabilia, Raj paintings and other displays.  
Birla Planetorium: One of the earliest Planetariums in India. The only planetarium in the country, whose dome houses a collection of projectors and optical equipments expensively imported from East Germany. It is the largest planetarium in South-East Asia and the second largest planetarium in the world. It was opened in 1961 and the cost of completion came to about 2 crores. The capacity of the auditorium is 500. There are daily shows in different languages. Inside the planetarium you can relax and gaze at the stars which are better seen here than in the polluted atmosphere out side. The planetarium gives complete information about the Universe and our solar systems. The models and the pictures kept here are special attraction for the children.    
    Shahid Minar: Previously known as Ochterlony Monument, located in the heart of Esplanade in the northern part of the Maidan. A combination of Turkish, Egyptian and Syrian architectural elements, this monument was built in 1828 in honor of Sir David Ochterlony who led the British forces to victory in the Nepalese wars. It was renamed as the Shahid Minar in memory of India’s martyred freedom fighters. The panoramic view of the city from the top of the monument is really captivating. With 218 steps, this 52 meters high monument consists of a combination of Egyptian base, Syrian column and Turkish cupola crown.  
  Nandan: A modern cinema complex, a unique cultural centre without a parallel in the country. It was inaugurated by Satyajit Ray in 1985. It is the symbol of art and culture in the city which is termed as the Cultural Capital of India.    
    Indian Museum: The Indian Museum was established in 1878 by Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich. It is built in Italian architectural style and is considered the largest and oldest museum in the country and one of the best in Asia. It is the ninth oldest regular museum of the world, and is the oldest institution of its kind in Asia Pacific region.  
  Rabindra Setu: The symbol of Calcutta, this bridge is a marvel of British engineering. The Rabindra Setu also known as the Howrah Bridge is one of three bridges on the river Hooghly and is a suspended bridge on pillars. This cantilever bridge was built in 1943 and is 97 metres (295 ft) high and 705 meters (2,150 ft) long. Though very old, the bridge is still holding good to reduce the traffic across the river.    
    St Paul’s Cathedral: The St. Paul’s Cathedral was erected by Major W. N. Forbes in 1847. It has many well-preserved memorials, one of which is a stained glass panel of the west window, designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones in 1880 to honour Lord Mayo assassinated in the Andaman Islands.  
Vidyasagar Setu: An architectural beauty, the Vidyasagar Setu is designed on the famous San Francisco Golden Gate. It’s a unique one, and the only one of its kind in India. The bridge with it’s network of criss-crossing and overlapping flyovers is a marvel. This impressive cable stayed bridge relieves pressure on the Rabindra Setu (Howrah bridge) by acting as the second main link to the city. The bridge, inaugurated in 1992, connects Kolkata (Calcutta) to it’s twin city Howrah. With 9 lanes of traffic routes the bridge is capable of handling more than 85,000 vehicles daily.  
 
    National Library: Kolkata’s most important library is the National Library. The National Library, is India’s largest library. Housed in the former residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, the library was founded in 1948 with the enactment of the Imperial Library Act, 1948. The library contains a huge collection of rare books and manuscripts. It is an institution of national importance which acts as a reference center for research scholars. It coordinates and determines standards in the field of library services in the country.
Eden Gardens: Named after the sister of Alexander, the Eden Gardens used to be a lush area covered by trees and gardens. Major part of the garden has been taken to construct one of the largest and beautiful stadiums of India - the Eden Garden or the Ranji Stadium. The place still holds the charm to attract people who come here for a stroll and relax. The area also has a wooden pagoda.    
    Shibpur Botanical Garden: The botanical garden of Kolkata (Calcutta) is perhaps the most important gardens in India. The Botanical Garden was set up in 1786 by Col Robert Kyd. The garden has a well classified and categorized variety of Flora and Fauna. The 250 year old Banyan tree is a special attraction. It is said that the tree has spread its area so much that it is difficult to say which one is the original trunk. The circumference of the tree is around 420 meter and it reaches upto 24.5 meter in height. The botanical garden is located on other side of Kolkata (Calcutta) on the banks of river Hooghly at Shibpur.  
Kalighat Temple: The Kalighat Temple is one of the pithasthans of Hindus in India. The legend says that the little toe of Sati, wife of Lord Shiva, fell in this place. Since then it has been an important pilgrimage site. But the temple is dedicated to the destructive side of Shiva which takes the form of Kali. She requires sacrifice daily to satisfy her blood lust so every morning goats are sacrifices on the alter of the temple. The present Kali temple was built in 1809 by the Subarna Roychowdhury family on the site of an ancient temple. It is also known as the Kalighat temple.    
    Marble Palace: The marble palace was the private mansion of Zamindar (Land owner) Raja Rajendro Mullick, who had built this palace in 1835. It is situated on the Muktaram Babu Street in a congested part of the city. A real garden, of maybe of an acre with a Palladian Mansion set square in the centre. Today this place has an incongruous collection of statues and paintings. There is also a private zoo housing a collection of birds from different corners of the world.
 
 
  Belur Math: The Ramkrishna mission established by Swami Vivekanand has its head Quarters here at Belur Math. The math was established in 1899. The Indian Philosopher Ramkrishna who preached unity among all the religions died in 1897 and his follower Swami Vivekanand (1863-1902) established the mission in 1938 to preach the teachings of his Guru. The mission was named after his mentor Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa (1836-1886).    
    St. John’s Church: The St. John’s Church which dates back to 1787 was built at a cost of 2 lakh Rupees. Located to the south of B.B.D. Bag, St. John’s Church was built by the grave of Job Charnock, the founder of Kolkata (Calcutta). Based on Greek architecture and designed by Lt. James Agg, the graceful Church is made entirely of stone. It has a number of monuments like the octagonal mausoleum of the founder of Kolkata (Calcutta), Job Charnock. The Church grounds also contain the graves of Charnock’s daughters. Admiral Watson, the hero of the 1757, who helped Lord Clive in retaking Kolkata (Calcutta) from Siraj-Ud-Daulla, is also buried here. The obelisk commemorating the Black Hole was moved from the GPO to a corner of the graveyard.  
  Metro Railway: In a city with 14 million people commuting from one place to other is a big problem. The narrow and tiled roads aggravates this problem. This problem was solved by the introduction of the underground railway in the city. Though tunnel railways are very popular in the Western countries but it was introduced for the first time in Calcutta in India. Today the Metro Railway covers a distance of 16 kms with 17 stations in 33 minutes. The Metro Railway was constructed progressively from 1972 to 1995, Phase-I a length of 3.04 kms from Esplanade to Bhowanipur having been completed in 1984. This rapid transport system has decreased the load on the surface transport and is also a major attraction for the tourists. The metro runs from Tollygunge in the Southern Calcutta to Dum Dum in the Northern region.    
  Jorasanko Thakurbari: The world famous poet Rabindranath Tagore was born and died in this house, now referred to as the Jorasanko Thakurbari. It was built in the 18th century by Prince Dwarkanath Tagore (Rabindranath Tagore’s grandfather). The complex has several buildings. 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.  
  Dakhineshwar Temple: The famous Dakhineshwar Temple, located in Dakhineshwar was built in 1847 and completed in 1855 by Rani Rashmoni (1793-1861). This temple is associated with one of India’s greatest religious philososphers - Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa (Gadadhar Chattopadhyay - 1836-1886). It is where he attained his enlightenment. The main temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali. The main temple is called the Navaratna Temple. Here there is a silver lotus with a thousand petals. The Kali temple is surrounded by 12 other temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Panchavati, a congregation of five ancient trees, is a spot for peaceful meditation.    
 
  Rabindra Sarobar: An artificial lake was built towards south of the city. Rabindra Sarobar or the Lakes as it is popularly named, is a large public park beside a lake in South Kolkata (Calcutta). It has several rowing clubs, a stadium a cultural complex, known as Nazrul Mancha, formerly known as Open Air Theater, and a children’s park Today this lake serves as venue for the hosting of various competitions in swimming and boating. Beside the lake is a sports complex which is meant for training sportsmen in various discipline. In the idyllic surroundings is set a Yoga centre for meditation and beautiful parks are meant for walks.  
  Alipore Zoo: Spread over an sprawling area of 45 acres the Alipore Zoo is perhaps the largest in the country. This zoo was established in 1876 as a private, voluntary society. It is the one of the oldest zoological gardens in India. The main attraction are the white tigers of Rewa. Also are famed the winter migration of birds to this zoo. The Alipore zoo has got a Reptile house which houses some of the reptiles found in India. The reptiles kept here includes King Cobra and the Crocodiles. An added attraction is the aquarium across the road, with its collection of over 1200 fish.    
  Nicco Park: Set up in Salt Lake, on the north-eastern fringe of Kolkata (Calcutta), this amusement park covers an area of 40 acres, and offers 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. There is also a food park where visitors can sample mouth-watering snacks.  
  Science City: Asia’s only venture of the kind, the Science City of Kolkata (Calcutta) stands at the intersection of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and the Park Circus Connector. Here science and technology have been put to ingenious use to explain scientific principles. Natural phenomena such as earthquakes, quicksand and tornadoes have been simulated. Life size models of dinosaurs and a representation of the interior of a volcano are some of the many displays intended to create a scientific interest in the mind of the layman. There is also a large collection of live birds and insects. Other popular sections deal with travel through time and outer space. The Time Machine transports visitors across aeons, simulating past and future with sights and sounds. The main attraction is the Space Theatre - a circular auditorium with a dome-shaped ceiling which, from the interior, looks like an inverted bowl. Projections are cast on the dome by the novel Astrovision technology for a larger-than-life experience. The audience travels vicariously into the mysteries of space, into the darkness of some remote forest or into the blue oceanic depths. There is a toy train, a ropeway and a playground for children, complete with swings, jungle gyms, etc. A major attraction is the musical fountain, where coloured jets of water dance to the sound of music. The Science City also houses an auditorium.  
 
 
  Aquatica: An 8-acre water park has come up at Kochpukur, near Kolkata (Calcutta) on July 22, 2000. Known as Aquatica, this theme park in Kochpukur, Rajarhat, offers visitors a cool respite from the heat and grime of city life. Aquatica is the latest addition to Kolkata’s hangouts with its ability to host big events like fashion shows and Dandia parties. The park easily accommodates 5,000 people. An artificial river meanders through the park. Visitors are allowed to swim and wade in it. The river water is recycled every hour, keeping it crystal clear and welcoming. Aquatica features great rides and adventures such as the Black Hole, where one enters a dark hole from a great height and emerges at the ground level. The Aqua Dance Floor, where visitors can sway to non-stop music, is fitted with nozzles that spray the surrounding air with water. High, artificial waves have been created to make the Wave Pool. There is also a Kiddies Pool that exhibits a shipwreck. Tower No. 1 - a 100 feet structure of convoluted tubes - whisks your adrenaline as you slide past twists and turns at blinding speeds. Comic scenes will awaits one at Tornado - a smaller version of Tower No. 1 - with fewer turns and more inclines. One can also opt for the Slide, and enter the water from a great height after sliding down on special mats.  
Birla Mandir: Located adjacent to the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club, not far from Gariahat market, it is one of the latest addition to the city’s list of tourist spots. It took 26 years and 180 million rupees to build. The gates were opened to the public in 1996. Sandstone has been used on the exterior of the temple, and marble for the interiors. Traditional artistry, coupled with modern technology, has lent uniqueness to the architecture. Sculptors were brought in from Agra, Mirzapur and Muzaffarpur to execute the intricate patterns on the walls. There are artefacts made of silver and Belgian glass. Messages from the Bhagavad Gita have been carved on marble. Inside this 48.7m high temple are idols of Radha, Krishna, Shiva and Durga.    
    Raj Bhavan: To the west of Esplanade, stands the Raj Bhavan or the state governor’s official residence. Built between 1797 and 1803, it was designed by Capt. Charles Wyatt as a replica of Keddleston Hall, Lord Curzon’s ancestral home in Derbyshire. The architecture is neo-classical, with distinct baroque overtones. The large compound is accessible from all four sides through tall impressive gateways. Palm-fringed drives lead to the majestic building. The silver coloured dome lends an aura of elegant dominance to this splendid structure. It houses a rare collection of antiques, including Tipu Sultan’s throne, which was later confiscated by George V, and the glittering chandeliers in the ballroom. The first ever elevator of Kolkata (Calcutta) can still be seen ascending graciously.  
Police Museum: The exhibits have been collected with a great deal of painstaking effort. There are fragments from original letters from none other than Job Charnok himself, which are bold and bloody in dealing with the natives “should they offer any such thing we should cut their throats”, maps of the time, horrendous gadgets of torture as well as a whole host of pistols, country weapons and a historic book bomb! It is one of the first museums of it’s kind in the world, and certainly in India. The Police Museum brings back memories of an era the generation born in independent India never experienced. Looking at the exhibits in the museum, one can get an instant recap of the struggle for freedom. There are interesting written accounts to complement the highly unusual exhibits which include the tyre and damaged car door of the then powerful Commissioner of Police, Charles Tegart, the attack on whom must have set off shock waves through the European community when the incident occurred. The dramatic difference in the British and Indian viewpoints at that time can clearly be discerned. In the Garlick murder case for instance, Bimal Gupta writes in anguish, “Cursed be your courts, whose injustice condemned Dinesh Gupta to execution. Receive the reward for it”, before making his assassination attempt and then committing suicide. In stark contrast to the gory exhibits which belong to earlier times, current exhibits include lyrically beautiful antique stone sculptures which have been seized by the police when they were being smuggled out of the country. They are a pointer to the changing times and to the multiplicity of roles the modern day policeman must play.    
    Clown Town: Those who want more fun and enjoyment for a longer while, especially for the kids, may enter the Clown Town, which is about 9 kms away from Science City on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass off Bagha Jatin Railway Station. Very appropriately, it was thrown open to public on 14th November on the occasion of Children’s Day. Here the adults may rediscover the child in themselves while watching their children to enjoy the fun with ha-has and hi-his. True to the name of the place, clowns can be seen everywhere and they are of all forms - real clowns, hardboard cutouts and painted ones. Besides these clowns, there is much more to satisfy the kids and the adults alike. Apart from slides and swings, the tiny jeeps, cars and bikes have the irresistible attraction to the kids. Bungee runs, wall jumps, roller-skating on a 250 sq ft rink, assault zones and Cuddly Corner spreading over 40,000 square feet of well-designed landscape are some of the items allowing the kids to be lost in the paradise of amusement.  
Space Circle: A new-age family club, the first of its kind in Kolkata, has come up off VIP Road, about 2 kms from the Airport. It is The Space Circle. Classical games or new generation sports, modern leisure or traditional comforts - all is available under the same compound. Covering an area of 60,000 sq ft, and housed in a four-story building, the Space Circle features attractions like a four-lane bowling alley, artificial rock climbing (40 ft), roller blading, and the like. The virtual games arcade promises to give much delight to children, with sophisticated games for different age groups. It is the largest private indoor stadium with international standards in Kolkata with an enclosure of 7,000 sq ft. Being seated in a tiered arrangements, the audience is able to witness cultural shows of all kinds, be it music, dance or theatre. Certainly the unique feature of the club is it’s heated swimming pool where Kolkatans may dive at any time of the year. Well-equipped gymnasium motivate the members to keep themselves perfectly fit. Side by side, wide array of indoor games appease the outdoor haters. Karate room and discotheque are the main attraction for the younger generation.  

 
    Writer’s Building: This was, till the mid-19th century, the place of residence for the junior servants (who were called writers) of the East India Company. The original building was constructed in 1770 on the same site as the present one, but it was plain stuccoed and with no pretensions to architectural beauty. The present Gothic structure built during the tenure of Lt. Governor Ashley Eden (1877-1882), is much more imposing than the original ever was. Situated at the northern end of Dalhousie square, it now houses the Secretariat of West Bengal Government.  
Bonobithi: The Bonobithi, an artificial forestry project in Kolkata Maidan opposite to Indian Museum is now open to the public and is a star attraction to the stroller. The project also promises to construct landscapes, gardens, encourage afforestation, innovative illumination, fountains, fencing ornamental walkway along the stretch between Queensway and Jawaharlal Nehru Road.    
    Prinsep Ghat: Between the Water Gate and the St George’s Gate of the Fort William, on the riverbank is the Prinsep Ghat. It was constructed in 1843. James Prinsep was Mint Master in 1835 and also secretary of the Asiatic Society when he deciphered the Brahmi Script employed by Emperor Ashoka in his Edicts. The memorial is set in a square with Ionian columns holding up a 40-foot roof. The viceroy Lord Allenborough aboarded the ship from Princep Ghat in 1844 before abandoning this country. Before this, Chandpal Ghat was used by the British to aboard on ships. However, all the princes or the royal emissaries who came to Calcutta after Lord Allenborough, used the Princep Ghat  
Outram Ghat: This was named after General Sir James Outram. It is situated along the Strand to the south of Babughat. This used to be the main mooring for ships to Bangladesh and Burma. It now houses the Explorers Club, an association for marine adventurers. It also has a floating restaurant and you can find country boats for hire.      
    Millennium Park: It is situated on the banks of the Hooghly. Previously a riverside park was present along the strand road. Recently a two and half kilometer stretch of landscaped gardens along the river was presented to the city. Christened the Millennium Park, it has come up at the site of the old abandoned Calcutta Port Trust warehouses.  
  Agri-Horticultural Gardens: Agri-Horticultural Gardens is situated in Alipore, adjacent to the Zoological Garden. Established by William Carey in 1820. It has a flower garden, greenhouses, a research laboratory and a library. This garden has a significant collection of botanical varieties with facilities for gardeners and plant/flower lovers. The horticulture gardens in the heart of the city is a famous avenue for the flower and other exhibitions. It is particularly famed for the display of seasonal flowers. It organizes annual flower shows and imparts training in horticulture.    
  Armenian Ghat: Manvel Hazaar Maliyan was of Armenian origin. In 1734, he had constructed the bell-room and tower atop the Armenian Church. This Ghat was built by him and accordingly named. The Calcutta Station and Ticket reservation Room of East Indian Railways was in Armenian Ghat from 1854-1874. Passengers used to buy tickets from there and then the launch or steamer of the Railways which used to ply from there to Howrah took them to Howrah. The passengers used to board the train from the platform at Howrah. This system was no longer in vogue since the construction of Howrah Bridge. Horse-pulled trams used to ply from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat regularly. At present, Armenian Ghat has transformed into a store-house of the Port Commission.  
  Nakhoda Masjid: This mosque has been built in imitation of the mausoleum of Mughal Emperor Akbar at Secundrabad by Kuchhi Memon Jamat, a sect of the Muslim community of Kolkata (Calcutta). A second school of opinion suggests that Abdur Rahim Osman, a Kachha resident was its founder. The foundation stone of this mosque weas laid on 11th September 1926. The total cost incurred for making it was Rs. 15 lakhs. About 10,000 men can perform the ‘Namaaz’ in the stupendous prayer hall of the mosque. In between is a dome and two monors or pillars 151ft high. There are 25 smaller pillars which are 100ft to 117ft tall. The gateway of this mosque is an ersatz of the Buland Darwaza at Fatachpur Sikri. For this purpose granite stones were brought from Tolepur, inside is a superb exhibition of exquisite ornamentation and artistic extravaganza.    
  Swabhumi: Conceptualized on the lines of Dilli Haat of Delhi, the 6-acre Swabhumi’s facade is that of a village haat, but with modern amenities. Stilt-walkers, bauls (folk singers) and paan-waalas offer an authentic ethnic experience. Swabhumi is a joint venture of the Bengal Ambuja group and Calcutta Municipal Corporation. The theme of Swabhumi is ‘khushi’ - happiness and relaxation. A vast courtyard encircled by a building reminiscent of old Calcutta has been recreated, complete with red brick and green shutters. There is an Artisan’s Court where you can watch the village craftsmen at work. One can buy a copper Durga, Dokra work, beautiful terra cotta, exquisite Kantha work, silk tussar and sarees. Of course no complex would be complete without a food court. ‘Angaan’ serves Rajasthani thalis in a village ambience; the ‘Santushti’ food court has ‘Purba’ for eastern food, ‘Paschima’ for Western food, ‘Uttara’ for northern food and ‘Dakshini’ for southern.  
Pareshnath Jain Temple: Exquisite in design and construction, the Pareshnath Jain Temple is a beautiful temple in Kolkata. Built in 1867, the temple is laid out amidst a very beautiful and attractive garden.    
    Nalban: Located in the heart of Salt Lake, just 12 kms away from Central Kolkata, Nalban is a beautiful picnic spot for families who would want to spend a few hours amongst the quiet greenery, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s serene and unpolluted environment offers a soothing effect to the visitors. The main attraction of this place is a picturesque lake spread over 400 acres. Various kinds of boating facilities like paddle boats, shikaras, etc are available here. A unique added attraction is the newly installed hovercraft. Forthcoming attractions of this place are various water sports like water scooter, para sailing etc. Houseboats and a floating restaurant will add to the splendour of this paradise in the near future.

HISTORY    CITY    MAP     ATTRACTION     QUINTESSENTIAL    HAWRAH