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The "Cultural Capital" of India

Facts about Kolkata

Area 187 sq. kms.
Altitude 5.8 meters.
Climate Summer- Max. 41.7, Min. 38.1.
Climate Winter- Max. 29.3, Min. 9.6.
Rainfall 158 cms June to Mid September.
Clothing Tropical. Languages Spoken: Bengali, English, Hindi.

Kolkata, on the Hooghly, retains the aura of days long gone, weaving the past and the present, the intense and the funloving into a charming fabric. Home to four Nobel laureates - Ronald Ross, Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen, Kolkata 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.

Kolkata is the gateway to Eastern India. A city with a rich heritage, bustling streets and bewildering variety of facets. From October to March, Kolkata wears a radiant look. Sunshine, mild winter, lights, colours, fairs, festivals, galas and excursions, the mood is infectious and spirit sweeping.

The city became famous in 1756, when Siraj-Ud-Dawlah, the last independent nawab of Bengal, captured the city. But the British regained their power in 1757 and the city was recaptured under Robert Clive.

Sight seeing in Kolkata

Victoria Memorial

This is one of India's most beautiful monuments built between 1906 and 1921 on the lines of white marble. It stands on the southern side of the maidan (ground) near Jawaharlal Nehru Road. All monuments of this memorial were designed in Italian Renaissance-Mughal style and build of white marble from Rajasthan. The memorial was the inspiration of Lord Curzon, who in 1901, felt that his lately departed Queen Empress, required a suitable monument to her memory. It took 20 years to build at a cost of 10 million rupees. The Prince of Wales formally inaugurated it in 1921. Set in beautiful garden grounds, the Victoria Memorial houses a large bronze statue of the Queen Empress Topped with a moving angel this memorial faces the Kolkata Maidan. The statues of Motherhood, Prudence, Learning, Art, Justice, Architecture and Charity are brought from Italy. It also has a 5 meter tall bronze winged figure of Victory, weighing 3 tons. It houses paintings, manuscripts, and other objects of historic value in its Museum and Art Gallery. Two regular sound and light shows are held in the evening. It is Open March to October from 1000 to 1630 and November to February from 1000 - 1530. Closed on Monday.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral is 3 km from BBD Bagh. The Cathedral measures 71m. in length 24m. in width the spire rising 60m. high. The interior has exquisite scriptural scenes. Above these are the two Florentine frescos. In the centre of the eastern sector is the magnificent alter piece. The massive gold-gilt plate presented by Queen Victoria to Bishop Wilson, and the western windows are of special interest. The candlelight service on Christmas eve is a moving experience.

Dakshineshwar Kali Temple

It is situated alongside the Vivekananda Bridge north of Kolkata, about 20 km. from BBD Bagh. It is famous for its association - with Ramkrishna who achieved spiritual vision here. Rani Rashmoni built this temple in 1847. The 12- spired temple with its enormous courtyard is surrounded by 12 other temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a world famous place of pilgrimage. It was here the famous religious thinker Rama Krishna Paramahamsa achieved his spiritual vision and preached the unity of all religions.

Howrah Bridge

It is considered to be an engineering marvel, which took six years to construct in the 1940s. Over 2,590 metric tonnes of high tensile steel make up this unique cantilever bridge that joins the main Railway Station (for Kolkata) and the industrial city of Howrah with the city of Kolkata. Supported by two piers, each nearly 90 meters in height above the road level, the bridge has a span of almost 500 meters (no pillars in the middle). It was opened in 1943 and today it is one of the busiest bridges in the world. It is the third largest bridge in the world, has around 2 million people crossing over it daily. Visible from many places in Kolkata, the bridge is called 'Rabindra Setu'.

Belur Math

This shrine is situates at eh Belur Road, Howrah. Belur Math is the international headquarters of Ramkrishna Mission which is 16.5 km from Dakshineswar across the Ganga. It is founded in 1899 by Swami Vivekananda, the world famous yogi and disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. This International tourist attraction is located near Belur in Howrah district. Its sprawling prayer hall with a statue of Ramakrishna is remarkable. The Belur Math shrine represents a church, mosque and temple when viewed from different angles. Its peaceful and calm atmosphere is befitting the gravity of the place. Timing: 6.30 a.m. - 12 noon, 3.30-6.30 p.m. daily. Admission free.

Marble Palace

Marble Palace is located on C R Avenue in north Kolkata at Muktaram Babu Street. Raja Rajendra Mullick Bahadur constructed this palace in 1835. Italian marble was lavishly used to complete its construction. This palace set behind a large lawn has the sculptures of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, Hindu Gods, the Buddha and Christopher Columbus. A large pool near the small granite bungalow has ducks, peacocks and ostriches. The rooms have hundreds of statues and oriental urns. The walls of these rooms are covered with enormous paintings and mirrors. Gigantic chandeliers hang on its ceilings. The lamps on the stair cases are detailed creations. Entry - free (you must get a pass from the West Bengal Tourist office 24 hours in advance) Visit : on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Monday and Thursday are holidays. Opens from 1000 to 1600.

Indian Museum

It is about 2 km from BBD Bagh. It is a huge piece of Italian architecture on Jawaharlal Nehru Road, which was built in 1875. The largest museum in the country and is popularly known as Jadu Ghar (Magic House), this is the premier national collection in the subcontinent.

Writers 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 stuccoes and with no pretensions to architectural beauty. The present Gothic structure built during the tenure of Lt. Governor Ashley Eden (1877) 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.

Eden Gardens

Established way back in 1864 the Eden Gardens is the largest stadium in India as far as seating capacity is concerned. Situated in Kolkata this cricket stadium is considered as one of the finest in the world. Built during the colonial rule in India this stadium is named after the sister of the then governor general of Kolkata Lord Auckland. The idea behind building this huge expanse of lush green garden was to make a Garden of Eden that was just like the biblical reference. Situated along the banks of the river Hooghly the Eden Gardens is one of the prime tourist attractions in the city.

Dalhousie Square

It is locates just south of Howrah Bridge. Dalhousie Square, which is renamed after Three Martyrs of Bengal, Binay, Badal & Dinesh was created in the heart of the imperial capital of Kolkata. The tank in the centre, fed by natural springs, is said to have supplied Charnock with drinking water. There are many historical buildings, which surround the square. The northern side is occupied by Writers' Building. To the east are commercial houses and the West Bengal Government Tourist Bureau. On the southern side is Raj Bhavan, residence of the Governor. Beside that are the State Legislative Assembly House and the Kolkata High Court. St John's Cathedral, which close to Raj Bhavan is the oldest church in Kolkata. On the western side is the imposing white domed General Post Office, next to which is the Reserve Bank of India building. Netaji Subhash Road is the centre of the onetime English commercial houses, which today flourish in Indian hands. Lyon's Range stock exchange, behind Clive Street, is worth a visit for a glimpse of the frenzied dealing in shares, periodically erupting onto the street.

Flower Market

In the early morning this market fills with colourful flowers from the northern part of Kolkata. You can see flowers everywhere in this market on the ground, on people's head, in carts and trucks and on display. By 0700 hrs the market start winding down and by 0800 hrs the entire sale is over.

Kumartuli (Potter's Village)

The neighbourhood of Kumartuli is well known for its traditional image-makers and potters (kumors). Kumortuli is a traditionally potters’ quarter in northern Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta), the capital of the east Indian state of West Bengal. By virtue of their artistic productions these potters have moved from obscurity to prominence. This Kolkata neighbourhood, not only supplies clay idols of Hindu gods and goddesses to barowari pujas in Kolkata and its neighbourhoods, but a number of idols are exported.

Nakhoda Mosque

This mosque is at Mahatma Gandhi Road. Visit : Daily from Sunrise to 2000. Entry - free. Massive red sandstones were used to built this mosque. This huge mosque can hold upto 10000 worshippers. This mosque was built in 1926. It has two minarets 46 m high and an onion - shaped dome.

Mother Teresa Home

Mother House is where Mother Teresa began her work. It is where she is laid to rest.

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. 7lakhs 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.

St. John's Church (1787)

Close to Raj Bhavan, St.John's (among the Anglican Churches) is the successor to St. Anne's Church, built by the East India Company in 1709 and destroyed by Siraj-ud-Daulla in 1756.

Botanical Gardens

20 km from the BBD Bagh. It is founded in 1787 by the East India Company. They developed it for the collection of plants, indigenous to the country and for the introduction and acclimatization of plants from foreign parts. The main attraction of the 273-acre gardens being the banyan tree, the world's largest, having a circumference of 330m. These gardens are the biggest in Asia, and the second largest in the world. Visitors may drive across the bridge and through Howrah, the industrial extension of Kolkata or take ferry from Chandpal or Tekta Ghats to the gardens. Timings: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Asiatic Society

Asiatic Society is the first modern museum in Asia. It is a famous center of Indology, Literature and Scientific Research and is situated at 1, Park Street, Kolkata-16. The society started a public museum in 1814. The Library of this institution contains approximately 20,000 volumes inclusive of 8,000 rare Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian & Hindi manuscript. The archaeological relics, geological and ethnological specimens which the museum of this society possessed formed the nucleus of the Indian Museum. The society has a few pieces of sculpture, which includes an image of Brahma (12th century). The Barhut Asokan Rock Edict (BC 250) in Pali written in the Brahmi script is one of the most important exhibits.

Birla Mandir

It is located on Asutosh Chowdhury Avenue. It is the latest addition to the places of visit in Kolkata. It wad Build over twenty-two years of painstaking labour; it is an all-marble structure with very high quality rajasthani engravings. It attracts huge crowds and is splendid and imposing structure in white.

Zoological Garden

Kolkata's interesting zoo-the oldest in India-was the creation of Sir Richard Carnac Temple who was Governor of Bengal from 1874 to 1877. It was opened on Jan 1st 1876, by the Prince of Wales. The 16 hectare grounds house a wide species of animals & birds including the rare white Bengal Tiger. There is a separate reptile house and a children's zoo. Migratory birds find sanctuary on a small lake in the zoo every winter. It remains a favourite picnic spot during winter. Directly across the main zoo is an aquarium, with a variety of aquatic life from around the world. Entry by ticket. The gardens are open from 6 a.m. To 5 p.m. daily.

College Street

The College Street is most famous for its bookstores. Many bigwigs of the Bengali publication industry are situated here. The street is also dotted with countless very small book kiosks which sell old books. It is the largest second-hand book market in the world and collectively boasts of a collection of almost any title ever sold at Kolkata. One can buy rare books at throw-away prices and extensive bargaining take place.

Indian Coffee House

This is perhaps the best place to observe Kolkata's tradition of adda (casual meeting of friends to discuss every possible issue at hand and while away the time). That Bengalis love chatting more than any other social activity is evident from the scene that greets you when you enter the Hall. Coffee House is often crowded with so many people that you have to practically talk at the top of your voice to make yourself heard by your neighbour.

Jain Temple(1867)

Also known as the 'Jewel Box Temple of Calcutta' it is situated in the north-east of the city. The temple is dedicated to Sitalnathji, the 10th of the 24 Jain tirthankaras (perfect soul). Its structure has mirror-inlay pillars, the windows made of stained glass and the marble floor has a floral design. The dome of the temple is gilded. The chandeliers here were brought from Paris and Brussels in the 19th century. Its garden has blocks of glass mosaics and European statues, painted with silver paint.

Kalighat Temple

It is a great pilgrimage centre of the Hindus. The original temple is supposed to have built 350 years ago. Goats are ritually sacrificed each day to honour the goddess Kali, known for her destructiveness.