KOLKATA - The word Kolkata derives from the Bengali term Kolikata, the name of one of three villages that predated the arrival of the British, in the area where the city eventually was to be established.
Located on the east bank of River Hooghly, Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is also the commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while the Port of Kolkata is India's oldest port as well as its sole major riverine port.
The city's documented history begins with the arrival of the English East India Company in 1690, when the Company was consolidating its trade business in Bengal. Under the East India Company and later under the British Raj, Kolkata served as the capital of India until 1911, when its perceived geographical disadvantages, combined with growing nationalism in Bengal, led to a shift of the capital to New Delhi.
Kolkata has long been known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage. As the former capital of India, Kolkata was the birthplace of modern Indian literary, artistic and scholastic thought. The people of Kolkata tend to have a special appreciation for art and literature; its tradition of welcoming new talent has made it a "city of furious creative energy".
For these reasons, Kolkata has often been dubbed as the Cultural Capital of India or the Literary Capital of India.
Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is often first choice as a base for travelling in Eastern India. The capital of West Bengal, the city has a fascination all of its Victoria Memorialown. imperial edifices, teeming bazaars, clubs and golf courses, museums, elegant hotels and the River Hooghly winding through the city are all part of its charm. A good time to visit is during the Durga Puja in October I November, when the city is decked and decorated and is alive with good cheer and celebration.
Many of Kolkata's imperial buildings are located around the Maidan, a large expanse of lawns that forms the heart of the city. They include the Victoria Memorial, an imposing structure in white marble that has a collection of paintings, manuscripts and memorabilia ; Fort William, the Raj Bhawan, St Paul's Cathedral and the Town Hall built in the Doric style.
Fur a memorable journey from Kolkata, take the train to the famous hill station of Darjeeling, where you can gaze at some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas. Afterwards, do go onwards to Gangtok the attractive capital of Sikkim and through the lush Brahmaputra Valley to Assam. Explore the verdant, unspoilt beauty of the hill states of the north east: Meghalaya, Arunchal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur. There are both exciting trekking trails and colourful cultures to encounter and enjoy.
Shopping in Kolkata
If you love a good bargain. Then Kolkata is the place to. shop. Formerly known as Hogg Market, (if you try hard you might spot a faded sign or two) New Market is the best place to begin your bargain hunting in Kolkata; from intricately bejewelled clips to crockery and candles, there is something for everybody to purchase here. Allocate at least an hour to get acquainted with the market, bearing in mind when shopping the only rule to follow is haggle, haggle and haggle!
To avoid the hot streets in during Kolkata's boiling summer, walk into AC Market on Shakespeare Sarani. As the name suggests, this market is for the privileged, blessed with the modern technology of the air conditioner. Relatively smaller in comparison to New Market, AC Market was initially reserved for Kolkata's elite upper class, but with fresh competition from the cities more recent and luxurious shopping malls has moved away from its on display; bargaining is more than welcome here ton.
If books are what you're looking for, then for rows and rows of shops that sell nothing but, head to College Street in North Kolkata, internationally renowned for its bookstores, where it is possible to buy rare books for next to nothing and bargain for the cheapest book prices around India; be it Tagore or Yeats. The largest second-hand bookstore market in the world, the street is also home to many of the Bengali publication houses. Once you approach College Street, make the rest of your journey through the street on foot, thus avoiding the traffic of trams, buses, rickshaws, cow and dogs. This year, College street was featured as one of the famous landmarks of India, in Time Magazine's 'Best of Asia' list.
The Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission. The Ramakrishna Temple; which looks like a church, mosque or temple; depending from where it is viewed, is a building of unique architecture that symbolizes the unique faith of its congregation. Swami Vivekananda started his relegious journey to take India to a new socio-cultural revolution from here and this is his tribute to his guru - Sri RamaKrishna.
These are situated on the west bank of the Ganga, covering an area of about 273 acres. Laid out in the year 1787, it is one of the oldest and largest botanical gardens of India. It contains about 12,000 living perennial plants and millions of dried out plants gathered from world over. The main attraction of the botanical gardens is the giant size banyan tree that is said to have the second largest canopy in the world.
Dakshineswar Kali Temple
The construction of this fabulous temple was initialized in the year 1847 and got completed in 1855. Located on the bank of the Ganges, it is dedicated to Goddess kali. It is a spacious temple covering an area of about 25 acres. It is famous for its association - with Ramkrishna who achieved spiritual vision here. It is a world famous place of pilgrimage.
Dalhousie Square, renamed Binoy Badal Dinesh Bagh (also BBD Bagh) is the hub of West Bengal's administration and commerce. This is the site of all the important government institutions of the state. On the north side of the square stands the huge Writers' Building, which dates from 1880. The East India Company's writers have now been replaced by modern-day ones employed by the West Bengal state government, and this is where all the quintuplicate forms, carbon copies and red ink come from. Also on BBD Bagh is a rather more useful place, the Kolkata GPO, and on the eastern side of the square is the West Bengal tourist office.
In the Northwest corner of the Maidan are small & pleasantly laid out Eden Gardens. The gardens were created in 1840 and named after the sister of Lord Auckland, the former governor general. The idea was to make a Biblical - style Garden of Eden in India. The expanse dotted with beautiful trees and shrubs is intersected by winding paths and there is a large artificial lake. Alongside the gardens, is the world famous Eden Gardens cricket stadium. The stadium is supposed to be the largest in Asia with a seating capacity of more than lakh spectators. Near the gardens you can take a pleasant walk along the bank of Hoogly River.
Excursion to Gangasagar
Krishnagar is located approximately 100 Kms from Kolkata. The town on the banks of the Jalani River, is famous for its toy and clay models. The Krishnanagar Palace and the Roman Catholic Church are worth seeing.
Excursion to Krishnanagar
the excursion to Krishnanagar. Krishnagar is located approximately 100 Kms from Kolkata. The town on the banks of the Jalani River, is famous for its toy and clay models. The Krishnanagr Palace and the Roman Catholic Church are worth seeing.
Excursion to Shantiniketan
Shantiniketan (212 Kms from Kolkata) is mainly known for Vishva-Bharati University, that provides a platform for the convergence of western and eastern culture. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore laid its foundation. The best part about this international university is that it exhibits the Indian tradition in the most modest manner, while simultaneously incorporating the best of other cultures. An interesting feature of Shantiniketan consists of the awesome sculptures, mural paintings and frescoes of Rabindranath, Nandlal Bose, Ramkinkar, Bindobehari Mukhopadhyaya and others.
Excursion to Vishnupur
Today enjoy full day excursion to Vishnupur (160 kms from Kolkata), it is famous for its temples, terracotta artwork and metal work, Baluchari sarees and school of Vishnupore gharana classical music. Most of the temples are built of bricks and some of the latterite stones. Clay and latterite are the only building materials available in this region besides wood and bamboo. The bricks were not plastered but ornamented with terracotta (baked clay), reliefs of Gods and Goddesses and scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata on the entire surface. The architecture is molded on the pattern of Bengal huts built of Bamboo and Mud with thatched roofs. There are over a dozen Hindu temples, most of which are dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha. All temples in the town are very interesting notable, Shamrai, Jod Bangla, Radha Shyam and Kalachand.
After breakfast starts from city hotel for Vishnupur. It takes about 03 hrs to reach. Visit temples and back in the evening.
Flower market underneath Howrah Bridge is one of the Asia's largest wholesale flower markets. Thousands of people gather here daily to buy and sell flowers and plants. The vivid orange and yellow garlands make for a spectacular splash of color.
Howrah Bridge, located over the Hoogli River is said to be the busiest bridge of the world. It got its name owing to the fact that it connects the city of Howrah to Calcutta and is the lifeline of the city. Howrah Bridge is a cantilever truss bridge that was constructed in 1939 with 26,500 tons of steel without using any nuts and bolts and was opened to traffic in 1943. It stands on two 270 feet high pillars and acts as an important symbol of Kolkata. Popularly known as the Rabindra Setu, after Rabindranath Tagore- a great poet and the first Indian Nobel laureate, the eight-lane cantilevered bridge carries a steady flow of more than lakh vehicles and 2 million commuters every day. It is an engineering marvel.
Howrah Railway station
The second oldest Railway terminal in India is a Massive Colonial building having 21 platforms inside. These are used to allow 3 trains in every 5 minutes during the pick hour.
The temple is dedicated to Pareshnath, who was the 23rd Jain Tirthankar, and was built way back in the year 1867. Ever since its inception, this temple has been the primary place of worship for the burgeoning Jain community of Kolkata. It is not an ordinary run-of-the-mill temple. In the sanctum sanctorum, the deity of Lord Shitalnathji is seated and his diamond studded forehead draws visitors from far and near. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, there is a lamp which has been been perpetually burning ever since the temple's inception in the year 1867.
It is the ancestral home of the famous Tagore family. The great poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore was born and died here. The Rabindra Bharati University is devoted to dance, drama, art and music. The Rabindra Bharati Museum deals with the life and times of the great poet.
The Kalighat Temple, situated on the banks of river Hoogly is about 200 years old. Kalighat is regarded as one of the 52 Shakti Peethams of India, where the various parts of Sati's body are said to have fallen, in the course of Shiva's Rudra Tandava. Kalighat represents the site where the toes of the right foot of Shakti or Sati fell.
Kolkata Panorama: (closed on Mondays):
This is a Multi media museum housed in the old Kolkata town hall. It contains an interesting collection of models and interactive exhibits covering the last 500 years of Bengali history and culture.
Kumartuli is India's only potter's town. Every lane and by lane of Kumartuli will have houses which have been converted into platforms where artists work round the clock to develop clay idols of the deities of the Hindu pantheon like Durga, Kali, Saraswati, Ganesha etc.
This private mansion was built in 1835 by a Bengali zamindar. The palace houses an incongruous collection of curious standing alongside significant statues and paintings. There's a private zoo here too, but the inhabitants are only slightly more animated than the marble lions gracing the palace lawns. It opens daily except Monday and Thursday.
Mother Teresa House
Nirmal Hriday is the first institution established in 1950 by Mother Teresa under her own Organization Missionaries of Charity. This is the home for dying people. Later she established many other homes in Kolkata like Orphanage, old age people etc. Kolkata is the worldwide Head Quarter of Missionaries of Charity
St. John's Church
Consecrated in 1787, this was the church built on the land donated by Raja Nabakrishna as a goodwill gesture to Waren Hestings. In the church compound one can see several historical monuments on the graves of famous Europeans such as Job Charnok (said to be the Founder of British Calcutta). Admiral Waston, who supported Clive in retalking Kolkata from Siraj-ud-daula, is also buried here.
St. Paul Cathedral Church
St.Paul's Cathedral is built on the Indo-Gothic style of architecture. Major W.N Forbes of East India Company built it in the year 1847. The height of the Cathedral is 201 feet. This Cathedral has the rare distinction of being the 1st Episcopal Church of the East.
Swami Vivekananda Ancestral House
Ramakrishna Mission restored Swamiji's ancestral house without changing any of its original architectural features. It houses Swamiji's birthplace, meditation hall (first floor) and museum, where some of the articles used by Swamiji, his father, mother and brothers are preserved.
A splendid architectural structure was built in the early 20th Century in memory of Queen Victoria by Lord Curzon between 1906 and 1921 and was formally inaugurated by the Prince of Wales. The Victoria Memorial blends the best of the British and Mughal architecture. It is interesting to note that the Victoria Memorial was built without British government funds. Today it is a museum having an assortment of Victoria memorabilia, British Raj paintings and other displays. At present it has notable collection of weapons, sculptors, paintings, maps, coins, stamps, artifacts, textiles etc.