KOLKATA TOURISM GUIDE
Map: Kolkata Tourism, West Bengal, India
Location: West Bengal
First British Fort In The City: Fort Williams
Founded in: 1696 AD.
Known for: Its More Than 100 years Old Buildings
Kolkata, an ancient city which has seen history unfold itself in front of her. A city which has completed three hundred years of its establishment. Kolkata, which had the privilege of being the capital of British India before it was shifted to Delhi. Kolkata, a city which has adapted to the modern trends and techniques of the world but has not shed the leisurely life style and the calm which it has acummulated since ages. A city which till few years ago was the most densely populated city in the world. Kolkata has the country’s first Metro railway and also retains some of the building which is more than hundred year old. It is a city of enduring charm.
In 1696, the establishment of Fort Williams marked the birth of a new city, Kolkata. It derived its name from Kalikatta, one of the villages which were incorporated in the new settlement of Britishers. Kolkata has since developed from a fishermens’ village to become one of the largest cities in the world. Being the capital of the British till 1912, the architecture here is a medley of occidental and oriental styles. Today the city symbolises creativity and vibrance with all the modern amenities available.
Kolkata is a city with strong cultural, literary and religious flavours. This is the home of many of India’s leaders. Activities in the field of fine arts, music, dance, theatre and writing make the city a happening place. The calm of the Hooghly combined with the rush of people in the streets make Kolkata a city to visit. It is the city which acts as the gate way to the North East and has been coming up as a major commercial city in the nation.
SHOPPING IN KOLKATA
Kolkata one of the places which is famous as shoppers paradise. The markets of Kolkata are full of items which can be taken home as decorative pieces or gift items. Kolkata has been attracting the tourist attention for its handicrafts. The ‘Tant’ sarees are the speciality of West Bengal and Kolkata provides you the best market for the purchase these sarees. The Tant sarees are popular not only among the Bengali women but are liked all over India for their unique appearance and colours. Kolkata offers great bargains in items made from cotton and handloom. The famed Baluchari work is something which every traveller to this place looks for. The silk from West Bengal is a shopper’s delight.
Tantuja is the retail outlet for the West Bengal State Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society Limited which offers you a variety of handwoven classics. Though the real pleasure of shopping in Kolkata is on the road side shops which surprisingly come up with good stuff, there are the big names and showrooms which provide the customer with the latest fashion wears and dress material. The government owned emporiums give good offer in handicrafts and other decorative items. The Bankura Horse in Kolkata is easily identifiable and captures the imagination. Brass figurines can also be included in the shoppers list. The leather wears are very cheap and durable. Kolkata is also famous for the jewellery. There are very old as well as new shops in the heart of the Kolkata city which offer you good quality gold & silver jewellery and ornaments. The intricate work on the jewellery items attracts buyers far and wide. The China Town in Kolkata is famous for the Chinese (imported) goods. This place gives a Chinese experience if one walks down the lanes. The Fancy market of Kolkata is provides the Grey market in the city.
CLIMATE OF KOLKATA
Kolkata is located at a point where river Hooghly merges into the sea. In fact the whole region is part the great Gangetic delta. The climate of Kolkata is very much influenced by the sea. The daily tidal waves and the frequent rains accompanied by high velocity winds has now become a part of life in the city. Kolkata has a very tropical type of climate with the summers being hot and humid. The sweaty, sultry climate may cause dehydration and uneasiness. The temperature seldom crosses the 43 degree barrier and in winter rarely goes below 8 degrees. But it is raining through out the year. The best season to come to Kolkata is between September and March.
HOW TO REACH KOLKATA:
Kolkata – The former capital of East India company and at present the state capital of India is well connected and easily accessible from anywhere in India and abroad. The Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport (Dum Dum airport) serves domestic as well as the International needs of this region. This airport is not only connected to the major cities of India but is also the transit point for the South East Asian nations and Australia. All the major Airlines have their flights to this city.
Kolkata is well connected with all corners of the country. The two railway stations of Howrah and Sealdah serve all the needs of the city. From here one can board trains to Southern India upto Kanyakumari, Jammu in the North, Gandhinagar and Mumbai in the West and Guwahati in the North East. Apart from the long distance trains there are plenty of local trains which connects the Kolkata city with the nearby areas. Within the city there is a good network of tram system which is probably the oldest in India.
Just as the city is well connected by Air and by trains it also has good road communication with all corners of the country. The Grand Trunk road connects Kolkata with Amritsar. This national highway was built by Sher Shah Suri to promote and facilitate trade and commerce from the city with other parts of India. The purpose has been well served and till date the GT road acts as the back bone of the trade and commuting in India. Other national highways also connect the city with other areas. Kolkata has regular bus service from various places within the state as well as there are services to places in Bihar, Orissa and Assam. The bus services are run by the state transport as well as private operators.
Kolkata also has the distinction of having an inland water transport system. Though the Hooghly is a very badly silted river there are ferry and boat services from the nearby places but this service has been restricted mainly to carry goods. There has been a proposal to link Kolkata with Patna via the Hooghly and Ganga.
SIGHTSEEING IN KOLKATA
The Gardens – To consolidate their hold on Bengal and avoid any further attack on the trade establishments the British had built a fort which cost them an awesome 2 million pounds in those days. The forest around this fort was cleared to give a clear shot to the cannons. Today the fort stands as the reminder of first steps of British towards establishment of the Indian empire. The cleared area is now known as the Maidan and acts as breather for the, otherwise, congested city of Kolkata.
Lake – An artificial lake was built towards south of the Kolkata city. Today this lake serves as venue for the hosting of various competitions in swimming and boating. Beside the lake is a sports complex which is meant for training sportsmen in various disciplines. In the idyllic surroundings is set a Yoga centre for meditation and beautiful parks are meant for walks.
Victoria Memorial – A splendid example of British architecture, this building was built in memory of Queen Victoria and was inaugurated by Prince of Wales in 1921. The Memorial is based on architecture of the Taj and is built in marble.
Birla Planetarium – One the earliest planetariums in India, the Birla Planetarium in Kolkata is a major tourist attraction. The planetarium was opened in 1961 and the cost of completion came to about 2 crores. The capacity of the auditorium is 500 and there are daily film shows. These shows are in different languages. Inside the planetarium you can relax and gaze at the stars which are better seen here than in the polluted atmosphere out side. The planetarium gives complete information about the Universe and our solar systems. The models kept here are special attraction for the children.
Indian Museum – This museum in Kolkata was established in 1878. The museum is built in Italian architectural style and is considered as the largest museum in the country and one of the best in Asia.
Shahid Minar in Kolkata – A combination of Turkish, Egyptian and Syrian architectural elements, and this monument was built in 1828 and was named after Sir David Ochterlony who won the Nepal war of 1814. It was renamed as Sahid Minar and is located on Northern part of the Maidan. Height of the column is 48m. From the top of the Minar a good view of the city can be obtained but permission to ascend the tower has to be taken from the police headquarters in Lal Bazaar.
Kali Temple – The present temple was built in 1809 on the site of an ancient temple. It is also known as the Kalighat temple. It is on the name of this temple that English gave the place name Kolkata (Kolkata) which is anglicized form of Kalikata.
BBD Square – Right in the middle of the Kolkata (Kolkata) city is the place dedicated to three Martyrs of Bengal- Dinesh, Badal and Binay. This place is bustling with activity from morning till evening and is the commercial nerve of the city. This place is also known as the Dalhousie square. The place flagged by the Raj Bhawan, the Assembly house, the High Court and GPO (General Post Office). Towards the north is the Writers building (The Secretariat). Today where the GPO stands was the first citadel of the British. Near the fort was the infamous Black Hole where Siraj Ud Daulla put 146 people in a small room and only 23 were alive in the morning. Today nothing stands for the black hole only memories haunt the mind.
Eden Gardens – Named after the sister of Alexander, the Eden Gardens used to be lush area covered by trees and garden. Major part of the garden has been taken to construct one of the largest and beautiful stadiums of India- the Eden Garden or the Ranji stadium. The place still holds the charm to attract people who come here for a stroll and relax. The area also has a wooden pagoda.
Ravindra Gallery– the Lalit Kala Academy is located here. This gallery has some of the rare and fine pictures and manuscripts of Rabindra Nath Tagore. The paintings done are in Rabindra style and attract many curious visitors. This place is also the venue for many cultural programs and events.
Rabindra Setu (Howrah Bridge) – It one of three bridges on the river Hooghly and is the most famous symbol of not only Kolkata (Kolkata) but also West Bengal. This bridge is marvel of British engineering. Howrah Bridge is a suspended bridge on pillars. The bridge though very old is still holding good to reduce the traffic across the river. The newly constructed Vidya Sagar Setu is also a cable suspended bridge. This bridge is supposed to reduce the traffic on the old Howrah Bridge. The design of the new bridge very much similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Marble Palace – The marble palace was the private mansion of a Zamindar (Land owner) who had built this palace in 1835. Today this place has an incongruous collection of statues and paintings. There is also a private zoo.
St. John’s Church – The church which dates back to 1787 has a number of monuments like the octagonal mausoleum of the founder of Kolkata (Kolkata), Job Char nock. Admiral Watson, who helped Lord Clive in retaking Kolkata (Kolkata) from Siraj Ud Daulla, is also buried here. The obelisk commemorating the Black Hole was moved from the GPO to a corner of the graveyard.
Belur Math – The Ramkrishna mission established by Swami Vivekanand has its head Quarters here. The Indian Philosopher Ramkrishna who preached unity among all the religions died in 1897 and his follower Vivekanand established the mission to preach the teachings of his Guru.
Kolkata Metro Railway
In a city with 14 million people commuting from one place to other is a big problem. The narrow and tiled roads aggravate this problem. This problem was solved by the introduction of the underground railway in the city. Though tunnel railways are very popular in the Western countries but it was introduced for the first time in Kolkata in India. Today the Metro railway covers a distance of 16 kms with 17 stations in 33 minutes. This rapid transport system has decreased the load on the surface transport and is also a major attraction for the tourists. The metro runs from Tollygunge in the Southern Kolkata to Dum Dum in the Northern region.
EXCURSIONS FROM KOLKATA
It the nearest sea beach from Kolkata (Kolkata). It takes a six hour bus journey to reach this place. Digha has been coming up as a major tourist center in the State. Digha is very close to Orissa border. The seven kilometer long beach is being developed as the “Brighton of the East. Digha has every thing which a sea loving traveller will require– good surf and sand. Just eight kilometer from Digha is the Chandaneshwar Siva Temple across the border in Orissa. Digha is 185 kms from Kolkata (Kolkata).
51 Km from the city is the old port of Kolkata. From here Hooghly turns south to merge into the sea. From here one can take launches to Sagar Island for the famous Ganga Sagar Fair.
This is the new port of Kolkata and is 96 km south of the city. This place was developed as port to avoid the silting problem in the Diamond Harbour. Today the Haldia Refinery has added value to the place. There are regular bus services to both the ports from Kolkata.
25 kms from Kolkata is a place which was the cantonment of the East India Company. Today not much is left of that cantonment but the place has acquired a historical significance. The gardens along the river bank are very nicely laid and are very charming. The Gandhi memorial attracts a large number of tourists. Barrackpore was one of the places which were transferred by the Danish settlement to the East India in 1845.
The French trading post was handed over to India along with Pondicherry in 1951. The French settled here in 1673 and made it their trade center. But they lost this place to the British in a conflict. Today this place along the river Hooghly has some buildings of the French era and is now famous for the artisans who make clay figurines. Chandernagore is 39 kms from Kolkata.
43 kms from Kolkata is a site of Portuguese church and monasteries which were built in 1599 and were destroyed in 1640 by Shah Jahan and were rebuilt.
Sunderban Wildlife Sanctuary
Towards the South of Kolkata River Ganga and Hooghly divide itself into many distibutaries and they form the famous Gangetic deltas. They provide an ideal atmosphere and environment for the Sundari trees to grow. Spread over an area of almost 10,000 sq kms which is now shared between Bangladesh and India, the Sunderbans are home to many exquisite animals and birds.
KOLKATA TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRES
West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (A Govt. of West Bengal Undertaking) – 3/2, B.B.D Bag East, Kolkata.
Government of India Tourist Office -Embassy, 4 Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
Government of India Tourist Office – 88 Janpath, New Delhi- 110001, India
FAIRS & FESTIVALS
Kolkata has always found its life in the fairs and festivals. Here almost every season carries one festival or other. The culmination of all fairs and festival takes place in the Durga Puja. Durga Puja is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. It is the worship of the ‘Shakti’ or power which governs the world. During the puja, which lasts for ten days, the whole city is decorated like a bride. These days are also meant for new attire and cloths which means shopping. The whole city looks like a big fair with shops full of customers and the streets dotted with Pandals. These Pandals are placed where the public worship is done. Ten days of festivity with different rituals mark the pujas. These Pandals are huge in size and are tastefully decorated and large amount of money is spent on their construction. The Durga puja is followed by the Kali puja another incarnation of Durga as a destroyer and Diwali the festival of lights.
Come spring and the city gears itself for celebration of the Vasant Panchami. On this day, the Goddess of Knowledge and music, Saraswati is worshipped. Apart from these, the city celebrates the festival of colour, Holi, with traditional pomp and gaiety. Holi is also known as the Dol Yatra in Bengal. The Poila Baishak or the Bengali New Year starts with the worship of the Lord Ganesha. The city is full of colours during the other festivals which are celebrated through India. Christmas and New Year celebrations are also observed with Pomp and pageantry, as is Id-ul-Fitr.
About 14 million People resides in this city.
Bengali, Hindi & English
A WORD OF CAUTION
Though the city has very simple life with no or very little night life. But the city is famous for the petty crimes which occur during night as well as during the day time. Tourists should avoid the railway stations and bus terminals at night. Be conscious about your valuables in market and crowded places. Beware of pickpockets.
NEAR BY CITY OF KOLKATA
Digha – 185 kms.
Barrackpore – 25 kms.
Bandel – 43 kms.
Shantiniketan – 213 kms.
Haldia – 96 kms.
Sunderbans – 131kms.
Chandernagore – 39 kms.
Siliguri – 606 kms.