Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, Kolkata was the first British-era capital of the subcontinent. The centre of the Bengal Renaissance, with a stellar literary and artistic heritage, impressive Colonial architectural monuments and a diverse mix of vibrant local experiences makes Kolkata eclectic and intriguing.
If you’ve ever been curious about how Indian God and Goddess idols are sculpted, visit Kumartoli in the northern part of Kolkata.
A potter’s hub, Kumartoli has many skilled artisans, over thirty of which are women. Their expertise lies in transforming lumps of lifeless clay into beautifully sculpted idols of gods and goddesses which are then bought by the surrounding areas and even shipped overseas. The process is tough, intricate, and can be watched live as you walk along Kumartoli’s Banamali Sarkar Street. If you happen to visit Kolkata during Durga Puja, be sure to come by here – Kumartoli’s celebrations are not only popular, but also one of the oldest in the city.
The Indian Museum was founded in 1814. It is the largest museum not only in India, but also in Asia-Pacific. Globally, it has the prestige of being the 9th oldest museum. It is also known as ‘Jadu Ghar’ and is an epitome of art and culture in India.
The Indian Museum has many fascinating objects from history, culture and science, displayed across its 35 galleries that are divided into 6 sections – Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Botany. Get exposed to our diverse and rich history through exhibits of Egyptian mummies, ancient sculptures, antiques, fossils, ornaments, Mughal paintings, coin collections and a notable body of contemporary art.
An imposing, large marble building, Victoria Memorial was built in the early 20th century. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. The famous monument is a close replica of its namesake in London.
The Victoria Memorial was built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s 25 years of rule over India. Since then, it has been converted into a Museum. The building with its 21 gardens covers a total of 57 acres, houses over 28,000 artefacts and 3,900 paintings. It is a magnet for history buffs, because of its rare collections of old-style dresses, books and military weapons. Nature lovers will enjoy its lush gardens, decorated with statues and sculptures. Be sure to catch a delightful Sound & Light show that takes place in the evening, on the illuminated facade.
The Kalighat Temple is located on the banks of the Adi Ganga, a small canal that connects to the Hooghly River. This temple is regarded as one of the most important of the 51 Shakti Peeths spread across India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The presiding deity at Kalighat Kali Temple is ‘Kalikata’, from whom the city ‘Kolkata’ gets its name. The idol has three eyes, four hands and a long protruding tongue. The big eyes and tongue are made of gold. The idol itself was crafted from sandstone by twin saints Atmaram and Bhramananda Giri. Kalighat is said to be the site at which the right toe of Sati fell after she was immolated during Shiva’s Rudra Tandav, making it a Shakti Peeth. Apart from the main temple, the temple complex consists of a boon-bestowing sacred tank – Kundupukur, the Sosthi Tala altar, the Natmondir, the Radha-Krishna Temple and a sacrificial altar – Hari-Kath Tala.
Established in 1875, the Alipore Zoo is a major attraction for nature lovers who want to explore the diversity of India’s wildlife.
Covering an area of 46 acres, Alipore Zoo houses 108 species spanning mammals, reptiles, birds and primates such as the Jaguar, the King Cobra, the Sarus Crane and the Ring-tailed Lemur. It was among the first zoos in the world to breed the White tiger. The Manipur brow-antlered deer was brought back from extinction through the zoo’s breeding programme. Alipore Zoo attracts its largest number of visitors in the winter months of December and January. New glass-walled enclosures and aviaries have led to an increase in its popularity. Apart from the various animal houses, on your visit, do stop by the central water bodies inside Alipore; they attract migratory birds. Also look in on The Calcutta Aquarium. It is just across the street, and affiliated to Alipore Zoo.
The National Library is spread across 30 acres and has the largest collection of published material in both Indian and foreign languages, including rare Pali and Prakrit manuscripts plus official documents from the beginning of the British Rule, right up to the present day.
An evolution of the Calcutta Public Library that was founded in 1836, The National Library has the largest collection of books, journals, periodicals, manuscripts and newspapers by volume, in all of India! By law, it is one of the 4 designated libraries entitled to receive a copy of every publication published anywhere in the country. Besides material in Indian regional languages, its foreign language collection contains German, Slavonic and African divisions. Rare Books pre-date the 1860s. Over 2 million books, 86,000 maps and more than 3,200 manuscripts sit on 45+ kilometres of shelf space. The National Library Reading Rooms can each accommodate over 550 people at once. So, grab a book and settle down. There’s a lot of ground to cover.
St. Paul's Cathedral Church
St. Paul’s Cathedral Church criss-crosses between being an architectural marvel, a building of historical interest, a cultural artefact and a seat of high religious importance.
The first Anglican church outside of Great Britain, St. Paul’s Cathedral Church is the seat of the Diocese of Kolkata. It operates under the Church of North India (CNI). This colossal structure is awe-inspiring, and reminiscent of colonial times. The Indo-Gothic style of architecture, cascading white edifice, and a central tower inspired by the Bell Harry tower of Canterbury Cathedral, conjure up a surreal vision for the onlooker. Originally built to accommodate the growing Christian community in Kolkata, today the Church is admired by all for its Christmas holiday decorations, lights and festivities. You can view memorabilia in the cathedral complex and browse books in the Church library dating all the way back to 1847, when the Church was consecrated.
Built by the sheer determination and dynamism of widow Rani Rashmoni, the nine-spired, Hindu, navaratna Dakshineswar Kali Temple is presided over by deity Bhavatarini – the Divine Mother and Creatrix of the Universe.
Wealthy zamindar widow and philanthropist Rani Rashmoni built the Dakshineswar Kali Temple in 1855 on a 20-acre plot based on a dream she saw before starting on a pilgrimage to Benares. The temple compound has a large courtyard, 12 shrines dedicated to Shiva (Kali’s companion) along the riverfront, a temple dedicated to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat and a founder’s shrine. Famous Indian mystic Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, spent a lot of his life in the Nahavat-Khana on the temple premise. The nine spires of the temple create a stunning silhouette. It is said that visitors experience a lot of peace when they meditate at this magnificent, heritage Hindu temple situated on the banks of the Ganges River.
Eco Park holds something of interest for people of all ages, across its 3 major areas – the Ecological Zone, Theme Gardens and Open Spaces. Visitors can choose from an array of activities like paddle boating and cycling, rent out cottages or conference halls, or relax in any of the numerous gardens strewn across the 190 hectare park.
Also called ‘Prakriti Tirtha’, Eco Park was conceived as a recreational urban open space that functioned as a ‘living classroom’ where people could see first-hand how the region’s flora, fauna and wetlands benefit their city. Ecological regeneration apart, Eco Park is a place to relax. Visitors can use E-Bykes, hop on a floating pontoon, zorb on land or water, go kayaking, jump on trampolines, cycle, roller-skate, practice rifle shooting and go high-speed boating. There are more than ten gardens to visit ranging from the Butterfly to the Japanese to the Tea, Rose and Sculpture Gardens. The numerous themed areas include the Seven Wonders of the World containing replicas of the famed Seven Wonders like the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Egypt; a coconut-tree lined, Lake Front Promenade loved by morning walkers; and the Sabuj Sathi Island with a 2,800 sq. ft. glass house offering a 360° view of the Park through 3 open air viewing galleries. Eco Park is equipped with every convenience like Food Kiosks, Rest Rooms, Parking Lots and Eco Carts, to help you move around the vast urban green zone with ease.