The city of bliss, standing out as among the most exemplary cities of India that has an idyllic mixture of both age old traditions and new, Kolkata is famous for its contribution in different domains like culture, dance, art, literary works and so on. It is one of those places that reminds of the colonial era and you can see the influence in its structural design and various buildings dating back to era of East India Company. It is nothing less than a paradise for many tourists who desire to explore the fusion of best of bygone time and modernity with presence of multi – cuisine restaurants, discotheques and night clubs and malls. Exploring here is like reliving with the smell of spices, display of vibrant colors, clamour of streets, meld of culture and sights that you can explore with closet ones or even by yourself.
Right now, I am sitting on my terrace with heavy heart…!!! I have no idea when will I be traveling to Kolkata again, and check out some BONGS as usual bustle in a political news with a glass of morning tea. Oh Gawd!!! I wish to be there soon….tea time gossip, Phuchkas… (and in Delhi we call it golgappe)… and then again the distinctive odour of incense sticks and cloud of smoke purged out from Dhunuchi during the Durga Puja festival. What can I say about Bengali people…..they have that zeal of festive mood… love for dance, music and literary works. The unique culture with a mixture of traditional purity in it is what makes Bengalis distinct from other ethnic groups in India. And they are said to be the real appreciator of flavor.
The main food of the Bengalis is fish curry that is cooked in different style. Knock any door and you will surely come across a dining table with a palatable fish curry preparation. Well, a typical bong meal will have dal, sabzi, deep fries and lastly a non – veg item, especially “a preparation of rohu fish”. Mustard oil is mainly used for the preparation for all the dishes and the ingredients that add a flavor to them are black mustard seeds, fenugreek, kalonji and cumin. And believe me there is no better place to try a yummy cuisine than in Kolkata. Shukto, Potol’er dorma, chingri Maacher malaikari and murigondo among the cuisine and misti dahi and rasgulla from the list of desserts will never disappoint you on your tour to Kolkata.
“Chiiii… I’m a holy vegetarian AND MACHLI???”
Hence I missed out the fun of the burping carnivores who were touring with me in Kolkata. But one thing I discovered that if you don’t lick each finger of yours after having lip-smacking dish then it is to be comprehended that you haven’t relished the meal. There are oodles of Bengali restaurant where you can relish delicious and yummy cuisine. Some of the notable Bengali restaurants are Bhojohori Manna, Sholo Ana Bangali, 6 Ballygaunge Place and Koshe Kosha. The following video of Mark Wiens reels you through a slurpy Bengali thali served traditionally with rice, Bhetki Kalia (a type of fish curry), Mochar Ghonto (a kind of vegetable dish), Jumbo Chingri Malaikari (a preparation of prawn), Murgir jhol (chicken curry) and Kankrar jhal (a preparation of crab).
[Video on Bhojohori Manna and Bengali non – veg thali]
Guys!!! I’m missing the charm really. Can you bring me back some moments of yours from Kolkata? Few more things that you must bring for me are rasgullas, mishti doi and sandesh. Born with a North Indian taste bud… I always preferred spicy street foods and never liked sweets that much. But after trying out some specific sweets I have changed my mind. You won’t believe I packed matkas of rasgullas and packets of sandesh on my way back to Delhi. One of the popular and oldest sweet shops in Kolkata is K. C. Das where you can try out variety of sweets. Check out the following video on K.C. Das, “a sweet tooth in Kolkata”, by NDTV Good Times.
[Video on sweets of Kolkata]
I truly admire the Bengali film industry. Although I’m not that fluent with the language but the fusion of cultural and classical montage, action packed dramas and fictions, mysteries and romance represented through array of Bengali motion pictures simply empathize me. An etymon to the Indian cinema, the Bengali film industry has gave a lot of notable personalities like Dhirendra Nath Ganguly, Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Rituparno Ghosh, Gautam Ghose, Aparna Sen and Sandip Ray amongst the directors AND Pramathesh Barua, Debaki Bose, Rabi Ghosh, Soumitra Chatterjee, Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen, Prosenjit, Tapas Paul and Debasree Roy amongst the actors and actresses.
On my tour to Kolkata during the International Film Festival last to last year I visited Nandan, which is a government sponsored film and cultural centre and inaugurated by Satyajit Ray in 1985. I felt as if I’m in the midst of souls of legends. Although it is a popular hangout place for several struggling artists (as you can spot many of them hovering) Nandan along with Academy of Fine Arts host several cultural programs, fine arts and photo exhibitions and film festivals. Worth to visit Nandan… if you are at the time of the International Film Festival. Further, Rabindra Sadan, Gorky Sadan and Kala Mandir are some of the nearby centres where you can watch over such cultural programs. Coming back to the Bengali film industry that dates back to 1932… it has gifted a lot of internationally famed movies like Seeta, Pather Panchali, the Apu Trilogy, Devdas, Feluda series, Aranyer Din Ratri, Charulata, Chokher Bali, Unishe April, Autograph, Baishey Shrabon and many more. Below here is a video uploaded by “NFDCCinemasofIndia’s channel” on a Bengali film directed by Satyajit Ray.
[Video on a Bengali film making directed by Satyajit Ray]
Close to Nandan is the Birla Planetarium, whose architecture is loosely created, based on the Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi. But guys this astronomical observatory presents educational and entertaining shows about stars, planets and other celestial bodies signifying the relative motion of the sky. Further, it hosts an astronomy gallery that maintains a huge collection of fine paintings and celestial models of renowned astronomers. Adjacent to the Birla Planetarium is the St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was initiated by Bishop Daniel Wilson in 1839 and was completed in 1847. The architectural structure resembles the Gothic Revival style having stained glass windows and two frescoes in Florentine Renaissance style. Close to the St. Paul’s Cathedral… standing in the midst of a lush green landscape is the magnificent Victoria Memorial Hall, a large marble building dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria that was built between 1906 and 1921. It is one of the major tourist attractions in Kolkata and today it is a museum that displays a gallery of arms and armors of Indian Maharajas and British leaders, portraits of national leaders, sculptures and paintings. The monument itself is a fine example of allegorical sculptures including art, architecture, justice, charity, motherhood, prudence and learning. After marveling at this slice of history of the colonial era, you can rent a horse cart that is easily available from the Queen’s Way overlooking the joggers’ green of Kolkata… Yes I’m talking about Maidan. The horse cart ride takes you around the Fort William entrance and the Maidan greens before disembarking at the starting point. Below here is a salient video by “istreamkairali” of Victoria Memorial Hall and horse cart ride.
[Video on Victoria Memorial Hall and Horse cart Ride]
When talking about the regal charm of horse-drawn carriages, don’t forget a ride on tramcars and hand pulled rickshaws. Walk down the quaint alleys of College Street arrayed with bookshops and you will get a feel as if you are standing on the porch/aisle of National Library. I’ll talk about the National Library bit later… lemme first share my experience of tramcar and hand-pulled rickshaw. Well… if the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway along with Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Kalka-Shimla Railway is listed as a Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site, then down in the plains the Kolkata Tramcars is listed on my travelopedia as another World Heritage Site. This is absolutely my own string of thought. So no bias!!! I really enjoyed the journey on the tramcar, leisure one that offered me a close, quaint and beautiful cityscape from its windows. It unfolded the rustic and grind chapters of this old town and presented the local ambiance as a motion picture… live in front of my eyes. I’m sure it will leave you longing for more and more glimpses of Kolkata. I was excited, rather I actually freaked out when I sat on the hand pulled rickshaw. But that was a lifetime moment when the puller lifted the rickshaw and I literally felt that I was about fall behind. Pheww!!! Let’s check out this video uploaded by “ro7477” (fictitious id) on primitive tram ride.
[Video on Tram ride in Kolkata]
Close to College Street is one of the most bustling hubs of Kolkata, Bahu Bazar, locally known as Bou Bazar, which is popular for its jewellery shops. It displays an assorted collection of gold and silver designed and crafted ornaments. Further, you can also step into shops dealing in wooden furniture, antiques, musical instruments and shoes. Approximately, 20 minutes from Bahu Bazar is the Marble Palace, which is a palatial mansion that was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick. It is one of the well maintained and most elegant houses in the city that reflects a quaint architectural fusion with both neoclassical style of construction and authentic Bengali edifice present in the main compound. Although it remains a private residence of the descendants of Raja Rajendra Mullick… still it is open for the tourists. The mansion houses a huge collection of western sculpture and Victorian furniture, paintings by European and Indian artists, and other artworks. Decorative objects include large chandeliers, clocks, floor to ceiling mirrors, urns, and busts of kings and queens. Adjacent to the palace is the Marble Palace Zoo that primarily serves as an aviary, including peacocks, hornbills, pelicans, storks, and cranes. It also contains monkeys and several species of deer.
I was simply awestruck when I visited the Jorasanko Thakur Bari located on Rabindra Sarani, formerly the home of poet and Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore and presently the Rabindra Bharati University. Built in the 18th century by Dwarkanath Tagore, Jorasanko Thakur Bari today maintains the Tagore museum that houses the history of the Tagore family including its involvement with the Bengal Renaissance and Brahmo Samaj. Little ahead is the heart of traditional potters’, Kumortuli. I will fall short of words to brief my experience on exploring the mud art alleys of Kumortuli… so let’s take a tour of Kumortuli from this below video by Jayanta Mandal. Ok!!! Let me brief you little about my experience of walking down in the midst of clay, bamboo sticks, hay and other traditional art elements… I smelt a flavour of the upcoming Durga Puja festival, which is usually held in October. I hope after going through this video you will also feel the essence of the true colour of culture in Kolkata.
[Video on Kumortuli]
The keen interest on my Kolkata tour was taking a boat ride on the Hoogli River and to travel on the Circular rail. Hence from Kumortuli I took the rickshaw to Ahiritola railway station to board the train. That was another amazing experience. The circular rail track, maintained by the Eastern Railway, goes along the bank of the Hoogli River and one can take hold of the riverside view and ghats, Howrah Bridge, Vidyasagar Setu and Kolkata Dock. I de-boarded at the Prinsep Ghat station. Prinsep Ghat is another popular hangout place in Kolkata and one of the oldest recreational spots. It maintains a Palladian porch that was constructed in the year 1843 to commemorate James Prinsep who was an English scholar, orientalist and antiquary. Well… one can have the spectacular view of the Vidyasagar Setu from Prinsep Ghat as well as take a boat ride on the Hoogli river. Here is a short video on Prinsep Ghat as uploaded by Rosy Razia.
[Video on Prinsep Ghat and glimpse of Vidyasagar Setu]
The hawk-eyed view of the Howrah Bridge from the middle of the Hoogli River was another most striking sight. Howrah Bridge, renamed as Radindra Setu, is a cantilever bridge that was commissioned in the year 1943 to reduce the increasing traffic across the Hooghly River. Standing as the 6th longest cantilever bridge in the world, today it carries a huge traffic of vehicles and pedestrians and you will be amazed to know that it was the 3rd longest cantilever bridge after completion of the construction. The video by “indiavideodotorg” below rolls a beautiful glimpse of the Howrah Bridge.
[Video on Howrah Bridge]
If you want to enjoy the timeless and constant view of Howrah Bridge then step inside the Hotel Floatel, which is one of the luxury hotels in Kolkata, located on Strand Road at the edge of the Hooghly River. It is the only floating hotel in Kolkata that maintains 49 graciously designed rooms, a multi – cuisine restaurant (The Bridge) and an authentic bar (The Anchorage Bar). Let us take a tour of the eco friendly hotel from the following video by “Calcalling”.
[Video on Hotel Floatel]
Well… another fine example of a luxury stay is at the Grand Hotel by the Oberoi Group, which is located right on the heart of the city… Esplanade. The building itself is a heritage having a marvelous architectural work. It maintains elegantly appointed rooms, equipped with all modern facilities blending uniquely with the colonial architecture, fine dining options, bars and discotheques. The video by NDTV Good Times below is a short documentary on the Oberoi Grand, Kolkata. Let us reel back to its history and interior from the following video.
[Video on Oberoi Grand, Kolkata]
Esplanade… Ah!!! One of my favourite localities in Kolkata that is jam-packed with crowd throughout the day. If you are a shopaholic then obviously it’s gonna be your favourite place too. It arrays from branded garments shops to vendors and also you can step into authentic restaurants OR try out some road side food. You cannot leave Esplanade without visiting the Hogg Market, popularly known as New Market. It rows shops of garments (traditional and western), confectionaries, leather and plastic products, and footwears and also maintains few tea and coffee parlours. Gariahat in South Kolkata is another locality that is popular for arraying shops of traditional garments like varieties of sarees, dhoti and kurtas. The Birla Mandir dedicated to Lord Krishna, is a popular tourist attraction in South Kolkata, nearby Gariahat. The construction of Birla Mandir was started in the year 1970 and completed in 1996. It also houses idols goddess Durga and Lord Shiva. Anyways… the following video by “istreamkairali” reels you a glimpse of New Market and Esplanade area.
[Video on Esplanade and New Market]
Close to Esplanade is the Indian Museum, which is another popular tourist attraction in Kolkata. The Indian Museum, established in 1814, is the largest and oldest museum in India that preserves rare collections of antiques, armour and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies, and Mughal paintings. Walking down the street from Esplanade to Park Street you will simply get a distinct contrast. Park Street is yet another popular hangout place in Kolkata that lays out numerous multi – cuisine restaurants, bars, cafés and discotheques. Well… being in the city for over a month I have tried out some authentic flavours (Indian, continental and European) from restaurants like Peter cat, Moulin Rouge, Oasis, Mags and Mocambo. Ah!!! Oly Pub… no one can forget such experience. I will say that’s a heritage bar in India. LOL!!! When you are in Park Street don’t forget to step inside Oly Pub and sip a glass of beer. Tantra… one of the popular discotheques in Kolkata, which is located inside the Park Hotel, is best place for you to rejuvenate with beats and bangs… spirits, beauties and hunks. The Roxy, Some Place Else and Trincas… are other places to hangout inside the Park Hotel, Kolkata, with your friends. The best time for the tourists to visit Park Street is during the Christmas and New Year’s time. Let us now reel through Park Street from the following video by “Jaywalkingandjazz”… also enjoy the fine retro music.
[Video on Park Street, Kolkata]
My fellow FOOD LOVERS… you must also visit China Town, located in Tangra, which is popular for ranging several Chinese restaurants. Some of the noted ones are Kim Ling, Beijing, Big Boss and Dan Sin Quin. The must try outs at the Big Boss restaurant are Dragon Chicken, Lobsters, Singapore Paneer, Hakka Paneer and Kung Pao Paneer. Close to Tangra is another popular tourist attraction… Science City, which is the largest science centre in India. It maintains several galleries namely the Dynamotion Hall, Earth Exploration Hall, Space Odyssey and Maritime Centre. The outdoor Science Park allows you to enjoy your visit where you can go for Caterpillar Ride, Gravity Coaster, Road Train, Cable Car, Monorail cycle. It also maintains Musical Fountain, butterfly nursery and several exhibits on physical and life sciences and a maze set up in a lush green ambience. From the below video by Suket Dedhia you will get a panoramic view of Science City. Let us check it out.
[Video on Science City]
In contrast to everything what I revealed on Kolkata, the city offers a deep spiritual aroma with several myths and culture. I must say it is the best way to see the true culture and picture of Kolkata. Experiencing it in realism was very unique when I stepped inside the Kalighat Temple. It is regarded as one of the 51 Shakti Peethas of India, where the various parts of Sati’s body are said to have fallen, in the course of Shiva’s Rudra Tandava. What strikes most of the tourists is the unique image of goddess Kali, which does not follow other Kali images in Bengal. The present idol inside the Kalighat Temple is having three huge eyes, long protruding tongue made of gold and four hands, which all are made of gold too. Visit the Kalighat Temple during Kali Puja… if you seek to experience the strange ritual practices. Hmm… I must say after visiting the Dakshineswar Temple, which is also dedicated to goddess Kali, I was adhered spiritually… with several myths and legends. On the other hand… I recollected some notable names like Ma Sarada Devi, Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. The Dakshineswar Temple that is located in North Kolkata, is one of the prominent religious sites in India that preserves twelve shrines dedicated to Shiva, a temple to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat on the river, a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni and a chamber where Ramakrishna spent a considerable part of his life. Here is nice video on Dakshineswar Temple presented by “Bharat Mata Films”. The video also reels the morning spirit at Hoogli River and glimpse of Vivekananda Setu that connects Dakshineshwar with Belur.
[Video on Dakshineswar Temple]
Now if you are looking for a break from the city tour… visit Nicco Park, which is an amusement park in Kolkata, spread over 40 acres of land. It provides a green environment and hosts 35 different attractions including rides like Toy Train, Tilt-a-Whirl, Magic Carpet, Paddle Boat, Water Chute, Water Coaster, Flying Saucer, Pirate Ship, River Caves, Cyclone and Moonraker. To me the Giant Cyclone was TRAUMATICALLLY TERRIFIC. Close to Nicco Park, Nalban Boating Complex is another attraction where you can spend some ideal hours. Further… for more FUN and AMUSEMENT drive to Aquatica in Rajarhat, which is a water theme park and provides exciting rides and attractions like the Black Hole, Wave Pool, Niagara Falls, surf racer, Tornado and Aqua Dance Floor. There is a GoKarting track adjacent to Aquatica for the die-hard karting lovers. Let us now splash into one of the rides from the following video on Aquatica as shot by Niru Mathur.
[Video on Acquatica]
Before I conclude on Kolkata Best Travel videos … bringing up the festive mood of the BONGS during the Durga Puja festival is “bantaaa hi to hai!!!” (Must to mention). From houses to darkest corners of the streets, rich and poor… the Durga Puja festival ablaze each and every face with smiles and days with new and colourful clothes. Moreover, it is the time of get together when friends and family members from other cities and countries pay their visit. It is also the time to try out some authentic street flavours. Durga Puja in Kolkata usually continues for four days that starts from Saptami and ends on Vijaya Dashami… but the locals nowadays starts their celebration from the day of Panchami. Hence the Durga Puja Festival in Kolkata has become a weeklong extravaganza and rendezvous. The intrinsically decorated pandals offering a theme based structure, creative idols of goddess Durga and other deities like Lord Ganesh, Lord Kartik, Goddess Lakhsmi and Goddess Sarswati, sound of Dhaak and smoke from Dhunuchi… street lightings… everything is so unique. After exploring gleaming Kolkata during the Durga Puja festival… I truly discovered the meaning of my name… Twinkle.
[Video on Durga Puja and glimpse of Kolkata city by WildFilmsIndia]