Kolkata, West Bengal
The cultural capital of India, the city of Guru Ramkrishna Paramhans, national poet Rabindranath Tagore, Sitar maestro Pandit Ravishankar and legendary film maker Satyajit Ray, Kolkata is synonymous to culture, art, music and literature. The capital of the state of West Bengal, Kolkata has always held a significant place in the history of India. It is also known as the ''Gateway to Eastern India'' to explore the beauty of the eastern Himalayas, the beautiful Sunderbans and the tea capital of India Darjeeling. The mesmerizing city has many graceful and grand monuments built by the Britishers, beautiful gardens and temples. The crowded market places are the most interesting places to explore in the city.
Being the metro city of India Kolkata is well connected with all the major cities and towns of the country. The city houses an International airport, key rail junction and is connected by state transport road buses with all the key towns of the state of West Bengal.
The city of Kolkata bears a tropical climate which is extremely hot, wet and humid during the summers and cool and dry during the winters. So, the best time to visit Kolkata is from November to February when the weather is pleasant and cool.
The grand city of Kolkata has myriad options for sightseeing catering to all kinds of travelers. One of the must see places is Fort William where the black hole tragedy took place.
The largest museum in India, the Indian Museum is a complete delight to visit for lovers of art, history and artefacts. Spread over about sixty galleries the magnificent collection of the museum is dedicated to archaeology, anthropology, zoology, geology, botany and art. With the building of the museum dating back to 1875 the Indian Museum is also the ninth oldest regular museum of the world. The key highlights of the museum include the prized collection of some rare paintings, Buddhist art, an Egyptian mummy and a reproduction of Barhut Gateway which dates back to second century BC.
The key attraction of Kolkata is the Kali Mata Temple. Built about 350 years ago dating back to 1809 the temple is a key pilgrimage site with devotees visiting from not just across the country but the globe. According to the Hindu mythology one of the toes of Goddess Sati, wife of Lord Shiva, fell at this spot. People offer goat meat to the Goddess as Bali.
On the north side of Kolkata, opposite the Belur Math is the Dakshineshwar Temple again dedicated to Godess kali. Built in 1847 the temple has 12 smaller temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Krishna and Radha.
Founded in 1899 by one of the disciples of Ramakrishna Paramhans is the Ramakrishna Temple in Belur math. Ramakrishna Paramhans was an Indian philospher who preached the philosophy of unity of all religions. The place is the headquarter of Ramakrishna Mission and centre is a unique example of the combination of architectural styles of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. The ambience and complete atmosphere of the place is spiritual, peaceful and meditative.
At the south end of the city is the dome shaped huge building in white marble named the Victoria Memorial. One of the greatest landmarks of the city, Victoria Memorial is a classic combination of European and Mughal style architecture. Artefacts, coins, paintings, stamps, sculptures, arms from the British era and other historical relevance are showcased in the Memorial.
Benoy Badal Dinesh Bagh or BBD Bagh is a place of historical importance as it offers a glimpse of colonial history and architecture. It was earlier known as Dalhousie square but was renamed after the martyrs of Bengal during the freedom struggle.
Offering a serene environment is the House of Mother Teresa named the Mother House. Mother Teresa was the founder of the Missionaries of Charity and devoting her life towards the ill and outcaste people of Kolkata. One can see a small tomb, museum, bedroom where the Mother lived, her personal belongings, saris, sandals, spiritual letters, crucifix, etc. The place is ideal for meditation and contemplation.
To link the twin city of Howrah with Kolkata the Howrah Bridge was constructed on the Hoogly River. One of the longest bridges of its type in the world, Howrah Bridge has s ingle span with no pylons connecting it to the river bed. Officially named as Rabindra Setu the bridge was opened to public in 1943 and witnesses about 1.5 lac vehicles and close to 4 lac pedestrians using it daily. It is also known to be one of the busiest bridges in the world and crossing it on foot is an experience of a lifetime.
Formed about 300 years ago by a bunch of potters is Kumartuli, the potter locality. The locality was formed by potters who came in the area in search of a better livelihood. Today about 150 families are a part of Kumartuli and earn their living by sculpting idols for various festivals. The best and most busiest time is the 20-25 day period before the Durga Puja when the most action happens in the city.
If one wishes to feast on momos, dumplings, prawn crackers, fish ball soups, pork sausages, etc then Chinatown is the place to head to. There are two Chinatowns in Kolkata - the old Chinatown and the new Tangra. It was created by migrants from China who came to India in the 18th century.
Created in 1874 by the British is the oldest and popular shopping paradise called New Market. There are about 2000 stalls in the area which offer various types of goods.
One of the most popular places of worship of the Christians is the St Paul''s Cathedral. Originally constructed between 1839 and 1847, the Church has been rebuilt many times owing to earthquakes. The Church has an essence of Indo-Gothic architecture and contains a collection of antique books and paintings. The Church has an intricate work on its walls, mosaic panels, murals and florentine frescos.
A popular place to visit in Kolkata is the beautiful white marble building called the Marble Palace. Constructed in the 19th century the architecture of this building is extremely impressive and has a beautiful collection of statues, paintings, urns, clocks, mirrors and other exquisite items. There is also a Jagannath temple in the premises but can be accessed only by the family members and there i also a zoo, sprawling lawns and many other attractions within the palace.
Set amidst gracious gardens is the peaceful Park Street cemetery. It was first opened in 1767 when the burials took place after dark with the aid of torches. The cemetery has obelisks, pyramids and classical mausoleums and the founder of the city Job Charnock is buried here. The place houses a memorial dedicated to people who lost their lives in the ''Black Hole'' tragedy.
Built in 1864 is the second largest stadium in India the Eden garden Cricket Stadium. Eden Garden is second only to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia and can house about 1 lac people at a time.
The oldest botanical gardens in India are the Botanical garden of Kolkata which houses the two century old Giant Banyan Tree which is its key attraction.
The oldest zoo of India which was made operational in 1876 is the Zoological Garden in Alipore. The zoo is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, Great Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros, Indian Elephant, Jaguar, Reticulated Giraffe, African Elephant, Macaw, Golden Pheasant and Hornbills. There are also a variety of reptiles like Crocodiles and Snakes in the zoo.
Durga Puja is the key festival and attraction of Bengal or Kolkata where people worship the combination of three Goddesses Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
The trading hub of East India Kolkata is also a major shopping centre famous for its tant, or Bengal cotton and KNTH work saris, teracota artefacts, jewellery, silver ornaments. The Bengali cuisine is another key attraction for the visitors to this mesmerizing metro town of India.<
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