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Planning a Trip to Kolkata? Here”s Your Guide!

Posted on January 26, 2010 in Travel

Moumita Pramanik:

Kolkata, is a city of Joy and Love, Grandeur and Glory. Kolkata earlier known as Calcutta is full of life and bustle, verging on the excellence as traditional occupations rub shoulders with ultra modern industries. Kolkata is India’s second largest city and the capital of West Bengal, spread on the river Hooghly in north-south direction. Formerly the capital of British India (1772-1912), it is a scintillating city for its imperial monuments, culture made this city incredible.

Evolution of Kolkata

Historically speaking, Kolkata has been occupied for over 2,000 years, but the city’s documented history begins in the late 17th century with the advent of the British East India Company. Back then, Kolkata was made up of three villages: Kalikati, Govindapur and Sutanati. In 1702, Calcutta was declared a Presidency city, i.e. an administrative unit of the British Empire. In 1772, it was named the capital of British India, but in 1911 it lost the title to Delhi.

Kolkata has long been known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage. As the former capital of India, Kolkata was the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought. Kolkatans tend to have a special appreciation for art and literature; its tradition of welcoming new talent has made it a “city of creative energy”. For these reasons, Kolkata has often been registered as the “cultural capital of India”. Kolkata is the hometown of world-renowned personalities like Mother Teresa, Satyajit Ray and Amartya Sen, to name a few.

Have you ever wondered what keeps the Kolkata populace blissfully, even if the entire nation succumbs itself to a bout of stress-related symptoms? The “public of Kolkata”, the Bengalis, who prefer to call themselves Bangali, constitute the majority of the population in the city. However, Kolkata has a strong cosmopolitan flavour, with a recognised number of people from all parts of the country made the city their home. Punjabis, Gujaratis, Marwaris, Biharis, Anglo-Indians, Oriyas, South Indians, Chinese, Nepali,and Parsis add colour to Kolkata demographic region.

If you want to delve in sight-seeing, there are ample places for that. The Victoria Memorial, the Indian Museum, Marble Palace, Jorashanko Thakur Bari (the house of Rabindranath Tagore), and Birla Temple are the places to visit. If you’re looking for fun, there are places like Nicco Parks, Swabhumi, Botanical Gardens, Alipore Zoo, Shahid Minar, Eden Gardens, Dhakuria Lake and Science City. And the streamer ride on Hoogly is an incredible experience. If you want to visit the outskirts of Kolkata, Belur Math (where Swami Vivekananda lived); Dakshineshwar Kali Bari; Shantiniketan, where Rabindra Nath Tagore established a university; Tarapith, the famous Kali Temple in the district of Birbhum; Joirambati and Kamarpukur in Hooghly district, the birthplaces of the saint Ramakrishna and his wife Sharada Devi; these are great options! The other beautiful districts to visit are Bakura and Bishnupur, made famous by their traditional handicrafts; Musirdabad and the beeches of Digha and Sankarpur.

When, it comes to food, then it’s the right place to visit. It is the city of delicious cuisines. There is an immense variety of fishes and vegetables to savour with the touch of hot rosogollas and misti-dhai. And street food is surely one such element. It all started here with the Marwaris and Gujaratis looking for a quick bite after their hectic shopping episode at the AC Market. This is the Bombay-style mixture of chana, sprinkled with chilli powder and lime, pav bhaji, “chana jor garam”, chillas and moong dal vadas with pudina and chilli-garlic chutney, chop, and rolls are a specialty of street foods. Also, the papri chat and batata puri are amust for any food enthusiast.

For main course food, move to Dalhousie, where you can find a long list of delicious cuisines at a very reasonable rate. If you want to have the best puchkka’s in town then visit the famous Russell Street. The tamarind water-filled balls are mouth mellowing and they make you come back for more.

Kolkata has tropical-wet-dry-climate. Summers are hot and humid in temperature and generally last from May to August. Winters, in the month of December to January are quite cold. But the best time to visit Kolkata is in October, to experience the elaborate Durga Puja. One of the best and most celebrated festival in Kolkata and known all over the country. Durga, the invincible Goddess, mounted on a lion, residing in the cold folds of the Himalayas and the warmth of the love of her husband Lord Shiva, is worshipped as their daughter in every Bengali household. She comes to her father’s house once a year, riding amongst the autumn clouds and walking through the carpeted horizons of “Shiyuli Phul”. Durga puja is a social festival of the Hindus. The festival of Durga Puja starts with Mahalaya, in Aswin. The inauguration of the Goddess idol starts on Mahashasthi. The main puja is for three days – Mahasaptami, Mahaastami, Mahanavami. Three days of Mantras and Shlokas and Arati and offerings — the whole atmosphere is filled up with a festive mood.

The writer is a Kolkata based correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz