A city rich with intellectualism, poetry, art and music, the trade capital and a financial giant, Kolkata came to the attention of the East India Company in the late 17th century and was slowly sapped of much of its resources. However, it remained the seat of the Indian revolution and even today is recognised as the third largest city in the nation.
1. Durga Puja
The biggest festival of the year for most parts of Eastern India, also widely spread across every part of the country, Durga Puja is celebration of the Goddess Durga’s triumph over evil. Over the years, Durga Puja in Kolkata has expanded to an extent that some call it less of a religious festival and more of a massive art and cultural exhibition. More than 2000 pandals are set up all over the city. Men and women dress up in traditional garments and take part in the festivities, making merry to the backdrop of the dhaak. This festival is indeed a spectacle of faith and merrymaking.
2. Howrah Bridge
What used to be a pontoon bridge connecting Kolkata to Howrah across the Hooghly River was replaced by a cantilever bridge named as the Howrah Bridge. The sixth longest bridge of its kind in the world and the busiest in the world, the Howrah Bridge has become a popular symbol of Kolkata, having appeared in several stories, movies and books. In 1965, it was renamed Rabindra Setu as a dedication to renowned poet and Nobel-laureate Rabindranath Tagore, however, it is still recognised as Howrah Bridge by a majority of the locals.
3. Park Street
When we see sophisticated images of the nightlife enjoyed by wealthy, elitist Indian businessmen in Kolkata in the 1940s through the 1980s, we are most likely thinking of Park Street. This vibrant street houses some of the oldest nightclubs in India such as Mocambo, Trinca’s, Moulin Rouge and Blue Fox and even the famous Park Hotel. Even today, Park Street has retained its reputation as one of the most happening locales in town, with delicious local as well as national and international cuisines to select from as well as many pubs. The street itself is a beautiful walk through the merry making, ending in the South Park Street Cemetery, the largest non-church cemetery outside of Britain.
4. India Museum
Founded in 1814, the India Museum is home to a variety of rare artefacts in the fields of geology, art, anthropology, botany, archaeology and zoology. It is also known to be the oldest and the largest of all museums in India. Main attractions at the museum include the four-faceted lion that is now our national emblem, the ashes of the Buddha, various animal skeletons and fossils, meteorite samples and even an Egyptian mummy with the organs taken out and laid separately. The museum is credited with being instrumental in the founding of the Zoological Survey of India and the Archaeological Survey of India.
5. Victoria Memorial
Dedicated to the Queen Victoria after her death in the early 1900s, the Victoria Memorial is a great structure of white marble, designed by renowned architect William Emerson. Although the memorial borrows from various styles of architecture such as British, Islamic and Egyptian, its layout is said to have been greatly based on the Taj Mahal. The main attractions of the memorial are its two galleries, the Royal Gallery, dedicated to the Queen and British history and the Calcutta Gallery that was started later and is dedicated to the history of Kolkata.
6. Belur Math
The headquarters of the globally recognised Ramakrishna mission, the Belur Math was established by Swami Vivekananda himself in 1897 and is spread over 40 acres. It is known not only for its beautiful structure that combines and shows harmony between different sects such as Hindu, Muslim. Christian etc. but also for the great teachings and sense of peace and tranquillity inside it. Any visitors claim to feel inner peace when you arrive here.
7. St. Pauls Cathedral
Dedicated to St. Paul, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, St. Pauls Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral of the Church of North India. Built in the 1800s, the Cathedral is a mark of the British influence in Kolkata, as its architecture is done entirely in Western style combing Gothic Revival architecture with the Florentine Renaissance style.
Kolkata has a vast variety of delights to offer, many of which are sure to entertain and inform at the same time. Art dominates the very air, and very corner has more to explore than the last.