is a city that means many things to many people. For some, Calcutta
- Kolkata is the city of joy, while for others it is dirty, crowded,
and noisy. Once the greatest colonial city in the Orient, Calcutta-
Kolkata was later reviled as a cauldron of poverty, dirt, and
disease. Today, it ranks among the four major metropolis of India
along with Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai. A mere village in the 17th
century, Calcutta- Kolkata is not an ancient city like Delhi. Like
Mumbai and Chennai, it originated largely due to the expansionist
ambitions of the European powers, especially the British Raj. Little
wonder, Calcutta- Kolkata has some of the finest Raj edifices built
in a variety of styles.
Kolkata is not
an ancient city like Delhi, with its impressive relics of the past.
In fact, it's largely a British creation which dates back only some
300 years and was the capital of British India until the beginning
of this century. In 1686, the British abandoned Hooghly, their
trading post 38km up the Hooghly River from present-day Kolkata, and
moved downriver to there small villages - Sutanati, Govindpur and
Kailkata. Kolkata takes its name from the last of those three tiny
settlements. Much of the Kolkata's most enduring development took
place between 1780 and 1820. Latter in the 19th century, Bengal
became an important centre in the struggle for Indian independence,
and this was a major reason for the decision to transfer the capital
to Delhi in 1911. Loss of political power did not alter Kolkata's
economic control, and the city continued to prosper until after
The weather is very Indian,
slightly on the humid side. Summers are hot, the temperatures
fluctuating between max. 30c - 35c and a min. 14c - 25c. The rainy
season begins in the month of June and lasts up to October bringing
in moderately severe rains. The temperature is also moderate.
Attractions in Kolkata
It one of three bridges on the river Hooghly
and is the most famous landmark in all of West Bengal. This bridge
is a marvel of British engineering. Howrah Bridge is suspended on
pillars and never mind how old, it still stands as strong as ever.
- Birla Planetarium
Located at the top end of
Chowringhee, it is the only planetarium in the country whose dome
houses a collection of projectors and optical equipment imported
from East Germany. It is the largest planetarium in South-East Asia
and the second largest planetarium in the world.
The garden was founded in 1787 by the East
India Company and was formerly known as the Royal Botanical Garden.
It is famous for its huge collection of bamboos, orchids, palms and
the plants of screw pine genus. The garden spreads over 270 acres
and more than 1700 plant species can be found here. The Central
National Herbarium of the Botanical Survey of India is here and has
2,500,000 dried plants in its collection. A botanical's dream come
true for sure.
in the Eastern parts of India is evident from Chandernagore located
about 30 kms north of Calcutta, which was ruled by France between
1673 and 1952, who left their imprint of distinctive French
architecture. It has an interesting history as India got freedom in
1947; this small town was still under the governance of French,
being ruled from Pondichery.
- Dakshineswar Temple
in 1847 by Rani Rasmoni the place where Ramakrishna attained
spiritual vision while working as a priest of Kali temple, on the
banks of Ganges, north of Belur Math, is Dakshineswar Temple. The
presiding deity is Goddess Kali who is surrounded by 12 other
temples dedicated to Lord Siva. It is one of the famous places of
- St. Paul's Cathedral Church
of the most prominent churches in the city, it is located between
Birla planetarium and Rabindra Sadan. Constructed by Bishop Willson
in 1847, it is the first Episcopal Church of the East. The
Indo-Gothic style of this church is really impressive.
Kali Mandir, Kalighat
Kali temple of Kalighat continues to
attract a large volume of pilgrims, local, regional as well as from
all over India. A truly impressive sight, this temple is best
visited during the spirited Kali puja festivities.
One of the oldest museums in Kolkata, this
is a must see for anyone who visits the city.
- By Road
A few buses ply
from Orissa and Bihar to Calcutta. However, these are highly
uncomfortable and best avoided. Buses are also available to nearby
towns, especially if you wish to visit Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri
on your trip to Calcutta. Depending on which direction you're
heading in, buses could depart from the end of the Maidan near
Chowringhee Road, or the bus stand at Babu Ghat near Fort William. A
few tour operators have their own private bus stands, so do make
- By Air
Kolkata is well connected by air
to all major countries in the world, as well as to Indian cities.
The air carriers that have flights to and from the city include
Aeroflot, Air France, Air India, Biman Bangladesh, British Airways,
Cathay Pacific, Gulf Air, Indian Airlines, Japan Airlines, Jet
Airways, KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Royal
Nepal Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways International.
Trains are available from all parts of the country
to Calcutta. Most inward bound trains stop at Howrah, which is also
the station from which major trains to other cities depart. Most
trains heading to areas such as New Jalpaiguri and other provinces
in the north-east stop at the other station, Sealdah. Local trains
to nearby towns are available from both stations, depending on which
part of West Bengal you want to go to. Since Howrah and Sealdah are
not exactly a hop, skip and jump away from each other, do remember
to check which station you need you board your train from, when you
buy your ticket!
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