KOLKATA: The City Of Joy | Places, Food, Festivals and Life

To start with it’s my home town. So one would understand the biasing or the emotions that would flow out as the piece goes on!!

The real heart of the city lies in its people. As well cities are more than just concrete. I have heard all my friends say Kolkata is so congested, there  are people everywhere. I have only one thing to say to them. If you want a clean city go to Delhi, if you want a city full of rich and famous people go to Mumbai, if you want a tech-savvy city go to Bangalore but if you want a city with a soul you can’t look beyond any other city other than Kolkata. The city will embrace you and leave you with a bit of Kolkata in your heart. The people here don’t care about their city being called Bengali. It’s completely opposite with respect to other cities. Tell a Mumbaite he or she lives in a Maharashtrian city he or she will be completely offended. Tell a Delhite he lives in a Punjabi city they will give you an earful. Contrary to this people of Kolkata will smile if you call their city Bengali. People there take special pride in being a bong (as Bengalis are lovingly called). And pride is something which they have in abundance. Pure emotions, getting provoked at smallest of things, god like following for a person they love are some of the traits of the bongs. Just ask a bong what Sourav Ganguly is to them or what ‘Rabindro Sangeet’ means to them and you will come to know what I am trying to say.

Being a bong myself I know it’s pretty safe to say that most bongs are sports fanatics. They will try and follow each and every sport. And you know what, all of them will have an expert opinion. They will discuss about the game like they have mastered it. And when it comes to football, the fever is off the roof. Football capital of India- that’s an exact title to match my writing. Let there be a match in the salt lake stadium between any team there will be an assured crowd to watch the match. And next day you would be surely treating your eyes and ears to people standing in adda’s (small place where they gather) and talking football.  Bongs take particular pride in their language-Bengali. And why shouldn’t they? It has been recognised as being the sweetest language in the world by UNICEF.

Places to visit in Kolkata:-

FORT WILLIAM

Fort William is a must visit tourist attraction place of Kolkata. Situated at the banks of river Hooghly, it was named after King William III of England. Fort William of Kolkata, India, was established during the tenure of British Raj in 1696. It was the guardroom of this two-storied building, where the black hole tragedy took place. During the Plassey war in 1757, Siraj Ud Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal attacked on the fort and defeated the Britishers. This paved way for the construction of a new fort by British.

The new fort was initiated by Robert Clive, which got completed by 1780. The basic purpose of setting up Kolkata Fort William was to prevent attacks from Muslim invaders. The area that was cleared around the fort became maidan, where several exhibitions and fairs take place. The foundation of the old fort is still intact. Till date, it is a military area and the Arsenal inside it is worth watching, but for that prior permission of the commanding officer is required.

HOWRAH BRIDGE

Howrah Bridge, Kolkata

Howrah Bridge, located over the Hoogli River in West Bengal, India, is said to be the busiest bridge of the world. It got its name owing to the fact that it connects the city of Howrah to Kolkata. Hawrah Bridge in Kolkata, India, also known by the name ‘Rabindra Setu’, was set up in 1874. It stands on two 270 feet high pillars. Kolkata Howrah Bridge is a cantilever truss bridge that was constructed without using any nuts and bolts. Though, earlier it had a tram route, but presently, it is serving mainly as a Road Bridge. Howrah bridge has got two sister bridges also, namely, Vidyasagar Setu and the Vivekananda Setu that are situated at different points over the hoogly river. This bridge acts as an important symbol of Kolkata.

VICTORIA MEMORIAL

Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata
Image Credits : Desmond Lobo

Kolkata Victoria memorial hall is a fabulous museum that was established in the year 1921. The credit for designing and drawing the plan for this monument goes to Sir William Emerson, President of the British Institute of Architects. Victoria Memorial of Kolkata, India is a fantastic place that will take you into the world of past history, where you can view the photos and effigies of prominent personalities, who made an incredible contribution in the glory of India. Today, Victoria memorial is one of the finest art museums in Kolkata. It is a 184 ft tall edifice that was constructed on 64 acres of land. The museum houses a group of mind-blowing figures above the north porch that epitomize prudence, learning and motherhood.

MARBLE PALACE

Marble palace of Kolkata, India is a must visit tourist attraction spot. Built in the year 1835 by Rajendra Mallick, it is an exquisite art gallery. Marble palace houses the marvellous objects of art, sculptures, pictures & oil paintings. Its major highlight includes the Reuben’s masterpieces. You can also find the original paintings of Rembrandt, Reynolds and Van Goyen etc. Kolkata marble palace is the one of its kinds and consists of exquisite pieces of art. It also has a zoo, where you can find different kinds of birds and animals. In fact, it has a rare collection of birds.

BIRLA PLANETARIUM

Birla planetarium of Kolkata, India is one of the largest museums in Asia. It came into existence in the year 1962 and the credit for establishing this wonderful centre of science, communication & environment goes to Birla Education Trust. It is situated at the Eastern metropolitan bypass of Kolkata.

Birla planetarium provides a parlance where astronomical presentations take place. It provides useful piece of information about our solar system, galaxies, life span of stars, space, planets and other heavenly bodies in the most interactive manner via audio video aids. Usually the lectures are given in English, Hindi, and Bengali and occasionally in Oriya, Tamil & Gujarati.

Kolkata Birla planetarium is a single storied circular edifice designed in the typical Indian style. It is a must see place for those interested in astronomy. Its astronomy gallery maintains a huge collection of fine paintings & celestial models of renowned astronomers. It enables you to explore science outdoors.

EDEN GARDENS

Eden garden of Kolkata, India is one of the major tourist attraction places of the city of joy. The Eden garden is basically a cricket stadium, where people have witnessed the history of Indian cricket. It is the oldest cricket playground in the country and also the finest one. Kolkata Eden Gardens Cricket Club came into existence in the year 1864. The first ever first-class match that took place in the Eden Gardens was in 1917-18 and the first test match to be played here was in January 1934 against Douglas Jardine’s MCC. It was in February 1987, when the first ODI match was hosted here. It has undergone a tremendous modernization and infact, today it boasts of its large accommodation that can capacitate about 1,20,000 persons. Eden gardens of Kolkata definitely falls into the category of must see places.

SAHEED MINAR

Saheed Minar, situated near Esplanade on the Kolkata Maidan, was initially known as Octerloney Monument. It was named after its founder, Sir David Ochterlony. This magnificent monument was established in the year 1848 so as to mark the founder’s victory in the Nepal War (1814-1816). The construction of Kolkata Saheed Minar follows an architectural variety. Its foundation is based on the Egyptian style, whereas the main Shahid Minar in Kolkata and its dome follow Syrian and Turkish designs respectively.

It was in 1969 that the Octerloney Monument got the name ‘Sahid Minar’. It was renamed in the honour of those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of our country. Presently, the political parties convene meetings over here. Various rallies and seminars also take place behind the Sahid Minar of Kolkata, India. The tradition of holding political meetings began in 1931, when Rabindranath Tagore presided over a convocation meeting held over there. If you stand at the top of the minar, you’ll get an excellent view of the hub city of Kolkata.

SUNDERBANS

Sunderbans

Situated south of Kolkata, Sunderbans is a very famous wildlife sanctuary of our country. It is the habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger and owing to this fact; it is also referred to as Sunderbans tiger reserve. In the Kolkata Sunderbans national park, you can find the estuarine crocodile, wild boar and several varieties of birds and snakes. It is located on the south of Kolkata, India and stretches till Bangladesh. Also, Sunderbans is the largest delta of the world formed by the unification of three rivers-the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna.

It is spread over an area of 2,585 square kms, out of which the core area of 1,330 square kms is formally declared as the world heritage site and a national park. Apart from the Bengal tiger, it also houses other wildlife animals like monkeys, herons, spotted deer, kingfishers, wild pigs and white-bellied eagles. Sundarbans wildlife sanctuary in Kolkata is just an apt destination for ornithologists and bird watchers.

BOTANICAL GARDENS

Botanical gardens of Kolkata, India are situated 8 kms away from the city, on the west bank of the Ganga, covering an area of about 273 acres. Laid out in the year 1787, Kolkata botanical garden is one of the oldest and largest botanical gardens of India. It contains about 12,000 living perennial plants and millions of dried out plants gathered from world over. The main attraction of the botanical gardens is the giant size banyan tree that is said to have the second largest canopy in the world. Over here, you can find a plethora of beautiful orchids and other colourful flowers. The garden also has a library, where you can find a valuable collection of books on botany. The botanical garden of Kolkata houses trees of rarest variety.

Kolkata Cuisine

It’s common for people in India to associate Kolkata cuisine to fish. It’s the first thing that pops up in their minds. And they are not to blame. It is the staple food there. And be assured that you will get the best fish you will ever eat in your life here. You will be able to eat fish in every nook and corner of the city.

But Kolkata is not only about fish. There is a whole lot more you can indulge into. Kolkata will never disappoint food lovers. In Bengal, Chinese cuisine is in demand. North Indian and south Indian food can be found virtually in any restaurant. Other cuisines that Bengalis are fond of include Continental, Thai, Tibetian and Anglo-Indian. If you wish to savor the taste of these cuisines, you can visit some eating-houses in and around Chowringhee and Park Street. When it comes to the cooking specialty of Kolkata, Kathi rolls (kebabs wrapped in dough) truly deserve a special mention.

Bengali sweet dishes are famous all over India. Bengal boasts off its cottage cheese based sweets like sandesh, rosogolla and chanar payesh. Other must try delicacies consist of Misti doi (sweetened curd) and Patali gur confectionery (date palm jaggery).

Kolkata Festivals

If you happen to visit Kolkata during any one of these festivals you are in luck and if you are not then I would advise you to plan your visit to clash with one of the festivals. The people of Kolkata celebrate each of their festival with fun and frolic.

DURGA PUJA

Puja of Ma Durga is a major festival of Bengalis, for which they keep waiting the whole year. Kolkata Durga Puja festival is celebrated on a large scale with great pomp and gaiety. It is celebrated to worship mother Durga, the Goddess of power (Shakti). It celebrates the victory of ma Durga over the demon Mahishasura. Durga Puja of Kolkata, India usually takes place during the autumn period from September-October. The weather is pleasant, giving air a festivity touch. Though the festival of Durga puja is celebrated throughout Bengal, but it is special in Kolkata. Durga puja involves the performance of a long series of rituals. Every day starting from the day of the Mahalaya, the days of Sashthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami or Bijoya Dashami has its own set of rituals. Durga puja is a time for socializing with friends, family and relatives. People dressed in their new clothing, visit pandals, eat mouthwatering food and enjoy the drumbeats. It is truly the best time to catch up with your old friends. Indians abroad send gifts to Kolkata in large number and the locals also distribute sweets and exchange gifts with the loved ones.

LAXMI PUJA

Lakshmi puja festival falls in the month of October, about 5 days after Mahadashami. Laxmi Puja of Kolkata India is an important occasion, in which prayers are offered to Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, peace and prosperity. The puja of Ma Laxmi gives an opportunity to people to invite the Goddess of luck and prosperity to their homes. One or two days before the celebration of the festivity of Laxmi puja, the local markets of Kolkata are beautifully decorated. The shops get flooded with the idols of Laxmi seated on a lotus.

KALI PUJA

Kolkata Kali Puja festival is another important occasion that takes place two weeks after the celebration of Laxmi puja. Kali puja is performed in the honour of Kali, the Goddess of destruction. People worship Goddess Kali with the belief that she will protect them from evils. Also, she symbolizes strength. Puja of Ma Kali is conducted at midnight on the day of the new moon in the month of Kartik. Kali Puja of Kolkata India usually coincides with Diwali. It is celebrated with splendid grandeur. People light candles, burst crackers, dress up in good clothes and offer prayers to mother Goddess Kali.

SARASWATI PUJA

Saraswati puja is one big occasion in Kolkata that takes place during the period between late January and early February. In fact, the day when puja of Ma Saraswati is done is declared as a state holiday. Kolkata Saraswati puja festival is celebrated with great pomp and show. It is on this day that the youngest female of the family is asked to dress up in yellow clothing.

Saraswati puja is conducted in almost every locality of Kolkata. People of the locality get together and assemble at the pandal to celebrate the festivity. Kids are really enthusiastic about the puja. It is during this puja that children pray to the goddess for their academic success. It is usually the pundit who performs the puja. After the puja is over, prasad is distributed to all.

I think I have given reasons to convince you to come and visit Kolkata. The former capital of India will embrace you like none and other and it’s taken that after being here you will take a bit of Kolkata with you where ever you go. You are sure to fall in love with this place. For a soul-refreshing visit Kolkata is the place for you!!!!!

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