Kolkata, or the erstwhile Calcutta, is known as ‘The City of Joy’! Rightfully so, for never have I seen a place so enriching for a traveler’s soul. It is an experience that lingers on in your senses long after you leave it behind.
The city showcases contradictions co-existing in perfect harmony with each other. The architecture pulls you back to the colonial era and you feel the high of time travel. The busy roads and honking vehicles bring you back to the present day and you look out at towering skyscrapers that make the place look like a concrete forest. Poverty stares you in the face in the narrow lanes while the Royal Calcutta Turf Club shines in rich resplendence. You have the option of haggling in New Market and manage some great steals or spend your money on branded items in the Malls. Riding the hand-pulled rickshaw (about to be banned now), the tram or the ferry across Hooghly are one-of-a-kind experiences that you will hardly find at the same place beside Kolkata!
Must do things:
- Attend Durga Puja if you are visiting somewhere around October. It is the time when the city comes alive.
- Ride the tram. It is nothing like riding a metro, do it!
- Shop for genuine leather bags, shoes and other items at great prices in the New Market.
- Gorge on the street food of Kolkata. Aloo kabli, kathi rolls, Puchka…they are mouth-watering!
- The place is a fish-lover’s delight.
- Bengalis have a sweet tooth, or should I say the sweetest? Enjoy delicious desserts like sandesh, mishti dhoi and rasgulla to name a few. You will even love the way they are pronounce in Bengali!
Must visit places:
- Victoria Memorial, the most popular tourist attraction of the city.
- Science City, the largest science centre in India.
- Indian Botanical Garden, brimming with a wide variety of flora and fauna.
- Sunderbans, if you are looking for adventure and wildlife interests you.
- Dakshineshwar Temple, a Hindu temple on the banks of the river Hooghly.
- Birla Mandir, built by the renowned Birla family of India.
- Eden Gardens, the cricket ground of the city which has hosted many matches.
- Armenian church in the Old China Bazaar.
Out of the ones listed above, two of my favourites are the Victoria Memorial and Dakshineshwar Temple.
The Victoria Memorial is a visual treat with the incorporation of British and Mughal styles of architecture in the creation of this marvel. Queen Victoria, whose memory it was built in, can be seen adorning the throne in front of the Memorial. The museum is a must-visit for a peep into the life of royalty and the British Empire. Awe-inspiring!
This 19th-century Hindu temple of the Goddess Kali stands on the banks of the River Hooghly and is a fine example of the ‘Navratna’ or nine-spired design typical to Bengali architecture. Photography is not allowed inside the temple complex, so you carry the images in your heart and trust me, they are hard to forget!
Traveling to the temple in a boat is an experience in itself. The vastness of Hooghly comes alive in front of your eyes and the serenity of the calm lends a spiritual touch to the pilgrimage.
I came back from the place long back but brought something of it along for it stays on in me and fills me with nostalgia every time the place is mentioned. A voice in me asks me to revisit, may be I left a part of me behind too!