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KOLKATA TOURS

KOLKATA TOURS

The city of kolkata  lies in a long strip, with the river to its west and the wetlands to its east. Along the river front, the Strand, is the city centre with the Maidan, a large 400-ha (988-acre) park where Kolkata’s residents play football, hold political rallies or enjoy the cool evenings. On the other side of the park is the city’s main thoroughfare, the Chowringhee or Jawaharlal Nehru Road with shops, hotels, offices and residential buildings. The southern part of the city has the middle-class residential areas, while north Kolkata is the older part of the city, its maze of narrow lanes crowded with houses, cheek-by-jowl with shops and offices.

ALIPORE

BEST DESCRIBED AS the city’s most fashionable address, the suburb of Alipore in south Kolkata is a sylvan world of tree-lined avenues, with palatial houses surrounded by well-kept lawns. Kolkata’s zoo, the Alipore Zoological Gardens, was established here in 1875. It has a large collection of birds and mammals, and one of its main attractions is a tigeon, a crossbreed between a tiger and a lion. Nearby, the Belvedere Estate, in a broad expanse of lawn, today houses the National library. This is the country’s largest library with over two million manuscripts and books. Built in the Italian Renaissance style, the original building, Belvedere, was the residence of the lieutenant governors of Bengal.

Further down are the lush gardens of the Agri Horticultural Society, founded in September 1820 by the missionary, William Carey to develop and promote agriculture and horticulture in India. In the first 40 years of its existence, seeds, bulbs and ornamental plants were imported from England, South Africa and Southeast Asia. Since then the Society has amassed a varied collection of rare flowering Drees and shrubs, ferns and medicinal herbs. It is also an excellent place to buy winter annuals and other plants.

Chowringhee

NOW CALLED Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Chowringhee was a fashionable promenade during the Raj. This busy thoroughfare derives its name from a fakir (holy man), Jungle Giri Chowringhee, who once lived here. At its northern end is the Oberol Grand one of India’s most elegant hotels. Established in the 1870s, and known as the Grand Hotel, it was considered “the most Popular, Fashionable and Attractive Hotel in India”.

Behind the Oberoi Grand is New Market built in 1874. This covered market, surmounted by a clock tower, has shops placed along many interconnected corridors. One of the oldest is the Jewish confectionery and bakery, Nahoum’s, which has a beguiling variety of cookies, fudge and spiced cakes.

At its southern end, on Park Street, is The Asiatic Society, founded in 1784 by Sir William Jones, a formidable Oriental scholar. He was the first to establish the common origins of Latin and Sanskrit, and called Sanskrit the “mother of all languages”. The Society’s Museum and library have a large collection of over 60,000 old and rare manuscripts in Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, as well as artifacts such as a 3rd-century BC stone edict, and 17thcentury folios from the Pad-shahnanaa, Abdul Hamid Lahori’s history of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s rule.

COLLEGE STREET

AS THE LOCATIONS of Kolkata’s elite educational institu tions, College Street is the heart of Bengali intellectual life. The pavements are crowded with stalls selling textbooks, exam guides, classics and second-hand books of all kinds– some people even claim to have discovered valuable first editions, Many of Kolkata’s best bookshops are also found here. The Presidency College, on this street, was established in 1817 and was then known as the Hindu College. Started as an institution for the city’s rich citizens who wanted their sons to receive a Western-style education, it boasts great scholars, scientists and writers such as the film director, Satyajit Ray (1922-92) and the economist Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998. Across the road is the dark, cavernous Indian Coffee House, the favourite haunt of the city’s intelligentsia since it opened in 1944. Even today, waiters in shabby cummerbunds serve endless cups of strong coffee to teachers, students, writers and poets. Down a lane opposite Presidency College is the Sanskrit College, founded in 1824 to promote the study of ancient Indian languages, history and culture. Its ground floor has a small display of medieval Hindu sculpture and palm-leaf manuscripts.

Next to Presidency College are the buildings of Calcutta University, founded in 1857. Today, the gracious 19thcentury main structure is dwarfed by modern high-rise additions, through which the old edifice, with its Ionic pillars and symmetrical proportions, is barely visible. On the ground floor, the Ashutosh Museum specializes in the art of Eastern India. The exhibits include a fine collection of terracottas, bronzes, coins, old manuscripts and some exquisite examples of kantha (a quilting technique) and Kalighat HEaintings, or pats .

JORASANKO

A MAJOR CENTRE of Bengali an A and culture in the 19th century, Jorasankoisthe ancestral home of Bengal’s favourite son, Rabindranath Tagore . Built in 1785, this simple threestoreyed, red brick structure housed the lively and cultivated Tagore family, many of whose members were prominent intellectuals and social reformers. The lane on which the house is located is named after Dwarkanath Tagore (1784-1846), the poet’s father and a wealthy entrepreneur. Today, the old house has been expanded and turned into Rabindra Bharati University, which specializes in the study of Bengali cultural forms. The house itself has been preserved as the Rabindra Bharati Museum. Beginning with the room in which Rahindranath Tagore died, it traces the history of the illustrious Tagore family with a large collection of art and memorabilia. There is an entire section devoted to paintings by Rabindranath.

KUMARTULI

LATERALLY , the “Area of the Potters”, Kumartuli is a maze of alleys, where images of various Hindu gods and goddesses are made. The best li me to visit is late August and early September as this is when potters create the idols or the ten-day-long Durga Puja. It is fascinating to watch them at work, moulding the clay, strengthened by straw and pith, to create images of the fish-eyed goddess Durga, her face often modelled on popular Hindi film actresses and her hair long and flowing.

Nearby is an ancient temple dedicated to Shiva, known as the Biro Shiva or “Old Shiva ‘Temple”. This is probably the only extant terracotta temple In the city, embellished with terracotta tablets in the frieze below the roof. Further away is Kolkata’s celebrated landmark, the giant Howrab Bridge (now called Rabindra Setu), an airy, elegant mesh of steel that appears to float above the turgid Hooghly river. The sunset behind the bridge is one of the loveliest sights in the city. Built in 1943 to replace the old pontoon bridge, this is the third longest cantilever bridge in the world, measuring 97 m (318 ft) in height and image 705 m (2,313 ft) in length. The bridge links Kolkata with Howrah (Haora), the city’s main railway station on the opposite hank, and is always clogged with traffic. To its south is the impressive Vidyasagar Setu. This massive cable-stayed suspension bridge was built in 1993 to connect South Kolkata with Shihpur and Hoorah station.

MAIDAN

IN THE HEART OF THE CITY, this 400-ha (988-acre) park stretches from the Hooghly river in the west to Chowringhee in the east, and contains several interesting areas and buildings. In the early 18th century, a dense jungle was cut down to build Fort William, after the earlier mud fort was destroyed in 1756. The present fort, a squat, irregular octagon, was completed in 1773. Today, it is the headquarters of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command and not usually open to the public.

To the north of the fort are the pleasantly laid out Eden Gardens, where international cricket matches are held. They were conceived and designed in 1841 by Emily and Fanny Eden, the sisters of the governor general, Lord Auckland. At the northern corner of the Maiden is the Burmese Pavilion set in a small lake. This was brought here by Lord Dalhousie from Prime in Myanmar in 1854. To its east is the Shahid Minar, literally “Martyrs ‘ Memorial”, originally called Ochterlony Monument. It was named after Sir David Ochterlony, one of the Raj’s daredevil soldiers, who had led the British armies to victory in the Anglo-Nepal War in 1916. The monument is a fluted Doric column, 48 m (157 ft) high with a cupola for a roof. To its south is the Maiclan’s most impressive building, the Victoria Memorial . A short distance from the Memorial is St Paul’s Cathedral. It was designed by Major WN Forbes in 1847 and its spire, modelled on Britain’s Canterbury Cathedral, was added in 1938 to replace an earlier one. Its grounds are lined with trees and the interior is notable for a superb stained-glass window, designed by Edward Burns Jones in memory of the viceroy, Lord Mayo. The Race Course is on the southwestern corner of the Mai- . Racing is Gan popular in Kulkata and races are held throughout the year. Polo is played here for a few weeks in the winter season. The city’s two famous football clubs, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, are based in the Maiden, as are clubs for golf and bowling. On Sunday afternoons, a lively fair with acrobats, magicians and jugglers takes place at the northern end of the Maidan. This is also the venue for large political rallies.

MOTHER HOUSE

THE CITY OF KOLKATA is inextricably linked to the name of Mother Teresa. At first a teaching nun at Loreto Convent, the death and devastation she witnessed in the city during the famine of 1943, and Partition of India in 1947 made her leave this cloistered world and dedicate her life to the poor. The Missionaries of Charity was a new order she formed in 1950, with the Mother House as its headquarters. This simple building is today also her final resting place. Her grave is on the ground floor in a hall. It has no ornamentation, only a Bible placed on it. On a hoard on the wall are two words, “I thirst”.

NILHAT HOUSE

ATEA AUCTION CENTRE, Nilhat House stands on the site of an indigo trading house (nil means indigo, while hat is market). It dates to 1886; only the tea auction houses in London are older. Tea has always played an important role in the state’s economy, especially in the colonial period. But even today, the bidding for teas from Darjeeling and the Dooars in northern Bengal and Assam is brisk. The auction prices are determined by the opinions of tea tasters, whose highly trained palates can immediately distinguish the type, plantation and year of each brew. Visitors can view and participate in these animated proceedings with prior permission.

NIRMAL HRIDAYA

MOTHER TERESA’S home for the destitute, Nirmal Hridaya (“Pure Heart”), is near the Kali Temple. The site was probably chosen as this holy place teems with poor and old people, who come here to die and attain noksha . A large, scrupulously clean hall is full of beds for the sick and dying who are cared for by nuns, in their characteristic white and blue saris. Visitors who want to work as volunteers must first register at Mother House.

TANGRA

THIS EASTERN SUBURB is the city’s new Chinatown. Chinese immigration to Kolkata began in the 18th century, and today large numbers of this still significant community have settled here. Tangra preserves the rich and varied culture of its immigrant population. A Chinese newspaper and journal are published from here, and there are many tiny restaurants, mostly extensions of family kitchens. “Tangra Chinese”, with its discernibly Indian taste, is today as distinct a cuisine as Szechwan and Cantonese. All the city’s leather tanneries are based at Tangra as, traditionally, the Chinese were involved with the very lucrative shoe trade.

THE CITY OF KOLKAIA lies in a long strip, with the river to its west and the wetlands to its east. Along the river front, the Strand, is the city centre with the Maidan, a large 400-ha (988-acre) park where Kolkata’s residents play football, hold political rallies or enjoy the cool evenings. On the other side of the park is the city’s main thoroughfare, the Chowringhee or Jawaharlal Nehru Road with shops, hotels, offices and residential buildings. The southern part of the city has the middle-class residential areas, while north Kolkata is the older part of the city, its maze of narrow lanes crowded with houses, cheek-by-jowl with shops and offices.

ALIPORE

BEST DESCRIBED AS the city’s most fashionable address, the suburb of Alipore in south Kolkata is a sylvan world of tree-lined avenues, with palatial houses surrounded by well-kept lawns. Kolkata’s zoo, the Alipore Zoological Gardens, was established here in 1875. It has a large collection of birds and mammals, and one of its main attractions is a tigeon, a crossbreed between a tiger and a lion. Nearby, the Belvedere Estate, in a broad expanse of lawn, today houses the National library. This is the country’s largest library with over two million manuscripts and books. Built in the Italian Renaissance style, the original building, Belvedere, was the residence of the lieutenant governors of Bengal.

Further down are the lush gardens of the Agri Horticultural Society, founded in September 1820 by the missionary, William Carey to develop and promote agriculture and horticulture in India. In the first 40 years of its existence, seeds, bulbs and ornamental plants were imported from England, South Africa and Southeast Asia. Since then the Society has amassed a varied collection of rare flowering Drees and shrubs, ferns and medicinal herbs. It is also an excellent place to buy winter annuals and other plants.

Chowringhee

NOW CALLED Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Chowringhee was a fashionable promenade during the Raj. This busy thoroughfare derives its name from a fakir (holy man), Jungle Giri Chowringhee, who once lived here. At its northern end is the Oberol Grand one of India’s most elegant hotels. Established in the 1870s, and known as the Grand Hotel, it was considered “the most Popular, Fashionable and Attractive Hotel in India”.

Behind the Oberoi Grand is New Market built in 1874. This covered market, surmounted by a clock tower, has shops placed along many interconnected corridors. One of the oldest is the Jewish confectionery and bakery, Nahoum’s, which has a beguiling variety of cookies, fudge and spiced cakes.

At its southern end, on Park Street, is The Asiatic Society, founded in 1784 by Sir William Jones, a formidable Oriental scholar. He was the first to establish the common origins of Latin and Sanskrit, and called Sanskrit the “mother of all languages”. The Society’s Museum and library have a large collection of over 60,000 old and rare manuscripts in Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, as well as artifacts such as a 3rd-century BC stone edict, and 17thcentury folios from the Pad-shahnanaa, Abdul Hamid Lahori’s history of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s rule.

COLLEGE  STREET

AS THE LOCATIONS of Kolkata’s elite educational institu tions, College Street is the heart of Bengali intellectual life. The pavements are crowded with stalls selling textbooks, exam guides, classics and second-hand books of all kinds– some people even claim to have discovered valuable first editions, Many of Kolkata’s best bookshops are also found here. The Presidency College, on this street, was established in 1817 and was then known as the Hindu College. Started as an institution for the city’s rich citizens who wanted their sons to receive a Western-style education, it boasts great scholars, scientists and writers such as the film director, Satyajit Ray (1922-92) and the economist Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998. Across the road is the dark, cavernous Indian Coffee House, the favourite haunt of the city’s intelligentsia since it opened in 1944. Even today, waiters in shabby cummerbunds serve endless cups of strong coffee to teachers, students, writers and poets. Down a lane opposite Presidency College is the Sanskrit College, founded in 1824 to promote the study of ancient Indian languages, history and culture. Its ground floor has a small display of medieval Hindu sculpture and palm-leaf manuscripts.

Next to Presidency College are the buildings of Calcutta University, founded in 1857. Today, the gracious 19thcentury main structure is dwarfed by modern high-rise additions, through which the old edifice, with its Ionic pillars and symmetrical proportions, is barely visible. On the ground floor, the Ashutosh Museum specializes in the art of Eastern India. The exhibits include a fine collection of terracottas, bronzes, coins, old manuscripts and some exquisite examples of kantha (a quilting technique) and Kalighat HEaintings, or pats .

JORASANKO

A MAJOR CENTRE of Bengali an A and culture in the 19th century, Jorasankoisthe ancestral home of Bengal’s favourite son, Rabindranath Tagore . Built in 1785, this simple threestoreyed, red brick structure housed the lively and cultivated Tagore family, many of whose members were prominent intellectuals and social reformers. The lane on which the house is located is named after Dwarkanath Tagore (1784-1846), the poet’s father and a wealthy entrepreneur. Today, the old house has been expanded and turned into Rabindra Bharati University, which specializes in the study of Bengali cultural forms. The house itself has been preserved as the Rabindra Bharati Museum. Beginning with the room in which Rahindranath Tagore died, it traces the history of the illustrious Tagore family with a large collection of art and memorabilia. There is an entire section devoted to paintings by Rabindranath.

KUMARTULI

LATERALLY , the “Area of the Potters”, Kumartuli is a maze of alleys, where images of various Hindu gods and goddesses are made. The best li me to visit is late August and early September as this is when potters create the idols or the ten-day-long Durga Puja. It is fascinating to watch them at work, moulding the clay, strengthened by straw and pith, to create images of the fish-eyed goddess Durga, her face often modelled on popular Hindi film actresses and her hair long and flowing.

Nearby is an ancient temple dedicated to Shiva, known as the Biro Shiva or “Old Shiva ‘Temple”. This is probably the only extant terracotta temple In the city, embellished with terracotta tablets in the frieze below the roof. Further away is Kolkata’s celebrated landmark, the giant Howrab Bridge (now called Rabindra Setu), an airy, elegant mesh of steel that appears to float above the turgid Hooghly river. The sunset behind the bridge is one of the loveliest sights in the city. Built in 1943 to replace the old pontoon bridge, this is the third longest cantilever bridge in the world, measuring 97 m (318 ft) in height and image 705 m (2,313 ft) in length. The bridge links Kolkata with Howrah (Haora), the city’s main railway station on the opposite hank, and is always clogged with traffic. To its south is the impressive Vidyasagar Setu. This massive cable-stayed suspension bridge was built in 1993 to connect South Kolkata with Shihpur and Hoorah station.

MAIDAN

IN THE HEART OF THE CITY, this 400-ha (988-acre) park stretches from the Hooghly river in the west to Chowringhee in the east, and contains several interesting areas and buildings. In the early 18th century, a dense jungle was cut down to build Fort William, after the earlier mud fort was destroyed in 1756. The present fort, a squat, irregular octagon, was completed in 1773. Today, it is the headquarters of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command and not usually open to the public.

To the north of the fort are the pleasantly laid out Eden Gardens, where international cricket matches are held. They were conceived and designed in 1841 by Emily and Fanny Eden, the sisters of the governor general, Lord Auckland. At the northern corner of the Maiden is the Burmese Pavilion set in a small lake. This was brought here by Lord Dalhousie from Prime in Myanmar in 1854. To its east is the Shahid Minar, literally “Martyrs ‘ Memorial”, originally called Ochterlony Monument. It was named after Sir David Ochterlony, one of the Raj’s daredevil soldiers, who had led the British armies to victory in the Anglo-Nepal War in 1916. The monument is a fluted Doric column, 48 m (157 ft) high with a cupola for a roof. To its south is the Maiclan’s most impressive building, the Victoria Memorial . A short distance from the Memorial is St Paul’s Cathedral. It was designed by Major WN Forbes in 1847 and its spire, modelled on Britain’s Canterbury Cathedral, was added in 1938 to replace an earlier one. Its grounds are lined with trees and the interior is notable for a superb stained-glass window, designed by Edward Burns Jones in memory of the viceroy, Lord Mayo. The Race Course is on the southwestern corner of the Mai- . Racing is Gan popular in Kulkata and races are held throughout the year. Polo is played here for a few weeks in the winter season. The city’s two famous football clubs, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, are based in the Maiden, as are clubs for golf and bowling. On Sunday afternoons, a lively fair with acrobats, magicians and jugglers takes place at the northern end of the Maidan. This is also the venue for large political rallies.

MOTHER HOUSE

THE CITY OF KOLKATA is inextricably linked to the name of Mother Teresa. At first a teaching nun at Loreto Convent, the death and devastation she witnessed in the city during the famine of 1943, and Partition of India in 1947 made her leave this cloistered world and dedicate her life to the poor. The Missionaries of Charity was a new order she formed in 1950, with the Mother House as its headquarters. This simple building is today also her final resting place. Her grave is on the ground floor in a hall. It has no ornamentation, only a Bible placed on it. On a hoard on the wall are two words, “I thirst”.

NILHAT HOUSE

ATEA AUCTION CENTRE, Nilhat House stands on the site of an indigo trading house (nil means indigo, while hat is market). It dates to 1886; only the tea auction houses in London are older. Tea has always played an important role in the state’s economy, especially in the colonial period. But even today, the bidding for teas from Darjeeling and the Dooars in northern Bengal and Assam is brisk. The auction prices are determined by the opinions of tea tasters, whose highly trained palates can immediately distinguish the type, plantation and year of each brew. Visitors can view and participate in these animated proceedings with prior permission.

NIRMAL HRIDAYA

MOTHER TERESA’S home for the destitute, Nirmal Hridaya (“Pure Heart”), is near the Kali Temple. The site was probably chosen as this holy place teems with poor and old people, who come here to die and attain noksha . A large, scrupulously clean hall is full of beds for the sick and dying who are cared for by nuns, in their characteristic white and blue saris. Visitors who want to work as volunteers must first register at Mother House.

TANGRA

THIS EASTERN SUBURB is the city’s new Chinatown. Chinese immigration to Kolkata began in the 18th century, and today large numbers of this still significant community have settled here. Tangra preserves the rich and varied culture of its immigrant population. A Chinese newspaper and journal are published from here, and there are many tiny restaurants, mostly extensions of family kitchens. “Tangra Chinese”, with its discernibly Indian taste, is today as distinct a cuisine as Szechwan and Cantonese. All the city’s leather tanneries are based at Tangra as, traditionally, the Chinese were involved with the very lucrative shoe trade.

 

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