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Kolkatta (Eastern India) City Guide

Setting for Dominique Lapierre's "The City of Joy" - Calcutta, a mere village in the 17th century, is today the commercial hub of eastern India. It has a fascinating legacy of colonial architecture, which gives the city its distinctly British mould. Visit the most potent symbol of British supremacy in India, The Victoria Memorial built by Sir William Emerson, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In the centre of the pathway leading to the entrance is a statue of Queen Victoria by Sir George Frampton with excellent art Nouveau details. Note the British Lion beneath the Imperial sun on the reverse of the bronze throne. The rooms and galleries house a fine collection of paintings, artifacts, sculptures, books and manuscripts.

Calcutta, The largest metropolis in India, Calcutta is a vibrant city on the move, volatile and unpredictable. The Gateway to India, till 1912, and the capital of the Raj in India, it still bears the Victorian imprint on its streets and structures. A city just about ready to burst at the seams, Calcutta is home to more than 10 million people. It is the commercial nerve-centre of the East, with major industrial plants, textile mills and corporate units. Regal edifices, grubby alleys, bustling bazaars, elegant hotels, people from all walks of life - Calcutta has it all.

Access by Air:

Kolkatta is well connected to the main Indian cities. It has regular flights to all the major Indian cities. The international Netaji Subhash Airport (Dum Dum Airport) is 20 kms from the city. Most of the domestic airlines have direct services to and from Kolkata-Kolkata to other important cities of India such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Patna, Varanasi, Lucknow, Bangalore.

Access by Road:

Kolkatta's National Highway connects it to the major cities of India. The National Highway connecting Kolkatta is superbly made with long driving and motels in between kept while upgrading the highway for the welfare of the drivers in mind.

Access by Train:

Regular train services connect Kolkatta to all the major cities in India such as to Mumbai in Western India, New Delhi in North India, Cochin in South India, Chennai in South East India etc.

Sightseeing places in and around Kolkatta:

Howrah Bridge, across the Hooghly river, a huge cantilever structure, supported by two 270 feet high piers, greets the eye. Forming the green heart of the city is the great stretch of lawns called the Maidan, fringed on one side by the river, and on the other by an elegant boulevard, the Chowringhee.

Victoria Memorial, an imposing white marble edifice, a museum housing the relics of the British Empire . The Memorial which took 15 years to build, also has an Art Gallery within.

Botanical Gardens, Located 8 kms from Calcutta on the west bank of Ganga . The highlight of the Gardens is the 200 year old banyan tree, said to be the largest in the world. The tree is 26 meters high with a circumference of approximately 900 feet.

Excursion to Kali Temple (Dakshineshvara) & Belurmath : The famous Kali Temple is the holiest temple in the city and it is here that the animal sacrifices associated with the worship of Kali take place. The building is of plastered brickwork; the roof has curved cornices in two tiers in the indigenous Bengal manner. On the Right Bank of the Hooghly River, about five kilometres from the city centre lies the Ramakrishna Matha also known as Belurmath. The temple is revivalist in style, blending traditional Bengal features such as curved cornices and multiple dome-like towers and turrets, with Mughal columns, arches and balconies.

Serampore :

Serampore, situated 21 kilometers north of Calcutta, was a former Danish settlement of Fredricksnagar. Serampore became renowned for the work of the three-Baptist missionaries - William Carey, William Ward and Joshua Marshman - who resided in the Danish port to avoid the hostility of the English authorities in India. Visit the Government house that retains a fine entrance gateway (1814). It was once enriched with the monogram of Fredrik VI, set in a triangular pediment carried on paired Ionic pilasters, but much of the baroque details have been eroded. Also, visit the famous and beautiful Roman Catholic Church.

Shanti Niketan :

The Shanti Niketan or the abode of peace is the name chosen by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore for the site of the Vishwa Bharati University - a university conceived as a place where the whole world meets. Founded on idealism it has a distinct atmosphere and classes conducted under the shade of trees. There are facilities for the study of comparative religions, philosophy, Chinese and Indian classics and the fine art. There is a museum and art Gallery within the complex where Tagore lived. The university is open to visitors in the afternoon (on Tuesdays it can be visited only in the morning and on Wednesdays it is completely closed)

Bishnupur :

This interesting town of terracotta temple is a famous cultural centre. It flourished as a capital of Malla kings from the 16th to early 19th centuries. The Mallas were great patrons of the art which is reflected here. Since there is no stone in the area, the traditional building material for important buildings was brick. The facades of few of the temples here cover the ornate terracotta tiles depicting lively scenes from the Hindu epic. This town is famous for its pottery and silk.