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Situated on the corner where Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Dharmatala Street (now Lenin Sarani) meet, Tipu Sultan mosque is so central that you are bound to cross it a few times while you're in Kolkata. The green domed structure is a landmark hard to forget, and often helps a stranger navigate the the center of the city. The mosque was built by Prince Ghulam Mohammed in 1832 who named it after his father, Emperor Tipu Sultan. Inside, beautiful architecture struggles against poor maintenance, yet the old walls and archways along with the shelves of Quran render a serene sense of peace to this beautiful monument. Although the mosque is on the main road, its entry is from a narrow lane behind. Don't forget to cover your head before you enter this holy abode.
One of the most opulent imprints of the East India Company, Writers' Building has become an intrinsic part of Kolkata's vast history. It is so named because it was originally conceived in order to house the Company's writers. After the first structure collapsed, a second one was built on the site now occupied by the Kolkata G.P.O. What you see today in BBD Bagh or Dalhousie Square is the third and final construction that stands on the same grounds as the original Writers' Building. Designed by Thomas Lyon, this majestic red facade is best classified as a Neo-Renaissance structure. Just like the Britannia statue at the top of the building signifies the past, the Indian emblem projects its current standing as the house of the Secretariat of West Bengal. Owing to its political importance, the building is also known as Mahakaran in Bengali. Visit Writers' Building before the city wakes up, so you can take in its history and architectural beauty in solemn silence. And retain it, since photographing the landmark is strictly prohibited. Further details can be obtained from the West Bengal Tourism website.
The names may have changed over the years, but its political significance has stood the test of time. B.B.D. Bagh, as it is known today, is named after Bengali freedom fighters Benoy, Badal and Dinesh who were responsible for assassinating N.S. Simpson, the Inspector General of Prisons in 1930. The fact that it is still occasionally referred to as Dalhousie Square underlines its status as the nerve-center of the East India Company. Time may have weakened its splendor, but it is still marked by significant buildings like GPO, Writers' Building (the Benoy, Badal, and Dinesh statues can be seen outside this landmark), St. John's Church, Raj Bhavan, and the Calcutta High Court. With a number of banks and important offices in the vicinity, it continues to function as the commercial center of Kolkata. Visit B.B.D. Bagh in the calm of the morning, because the chaos begins after 9 a.m!
Built on the site of the old Fort William, the GPO is the office of the Kolkata Postal Service. The building itself is defined by tall white columns, a towering dome and a clock on its facade. The pronounced structure has become an important landmark in the city center. Located close to Writers' Building in BBD Square, it also houses a postal museum and a philatelic library that are worth visiting. An interesting fact about the building is that it is said to be the site of the Black Hole of Calcutta, where British prisoners were held after the Fort was captured by Siraj-ud-Daulah. In spite of being around for years, the building is a pure, flawless white structure that stands out among its surroundings.
Built between 1884 and 1887, St. John's Church was designed by Lieutenant James Agg and was intended to be a replica of the St.Martin-in-the-Fields in London. Although the exteriors fail to match the original's grandeur, the interiors bear a closer resemblance. Various portraits and particularly, Zoffani's Last Supper add more to the sense of peace that you feel as soon as you enter this church. Located close to Writers' Building and Kolkata GPO in BBD Bagh, the church complex holds Job Charnock's Tomb (Job Charnok is popularly regarded as the founder of Kolkata), and also the graves of those killed in the 'Black Hole of Calcutta'. One of the earliest constructions of the East India Company, this Anglican church is a peaceful oasis in the heart of this busy city.
The Calcutta High court is one of the most strikingly beautiful constructions you will see in Kolkata. Modeled after the Belgian Stadt Haus, the building is situated in an enclave of sorts, with buildings on both sides. The main building is a striking red with a number of arches and columns which is a pattern that is continued in the hallways inside as well. Designed by Walter Granville, it looks rightfully regal as the country’s oldest High Court. Established on 1st July 1862 after the High Court’s Act 1861, it also has a circuit Bench in Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Although Calcutta is now officially known as Kolkata, Calcutta High Court retains its old name.
As soon as you step inside South Park Street Cemetery, you will be transposed to the colonial times, away from the hustle-bustle of the 21st century. Built in circa 1767, this cemetery was built for the members of the British community who couldn't withstand the intolerable climatic conditions of the Indian peninsula. Most of the graves at the Park Street Cemetery are home to the souls of soldiers who lost their lives in wars, sailors dead during shipwrecks, British women who couldn't survive due to their fragile health and infants and kids who lived barely for a few months/years. The South Park Street Cemetery is home to the graves of such notable figures as Sir Thomas D'Oyly, Colonel Kyd, Sir William Jones and several others who played an influential role during the British Raj. If you wish to acquaint yourself with the history of the city, do not forget to pay a visit to the cemetery.
After the Nawab of Bengal Siraj Ud Daulah conquered the first Fort William in 1756, the British East India Company planned to build a second invulnerable fort. Spearheaded by Robert Clive, the Company reconquered the Fort. Later in 1780, the New Fort was constructed on its current site and the surrounding green space came to be known as Maidan. Named after King William III, the Fort stretches across a total area of 532 bighas and has six different gates. Today, the massive construction remains largely unchanged and is used as the military headquarters for the Eastern Command. Situated close to the banks of the Hooghly, the main structure has an irregular octagonal shape and is surrounded by a 9 meter deep and 15 meter wide moat. Inside, the fort is equipped with its own golf course, post office, auditorium, stadium, swimming pool and gym. It also houses the Command Museum and Library. Civilians are only allowed inside the premises on presenting an official approval from the Commanding Officer. On the eastern end of the Fort William are monuments like Victoria Memorial and St. Paul's Cathedral Church.
An angelic-white canopy crafted purely from Makrana marble, the iconic Victoria Memorial buildings lies nestled amid rolling lawns and groves of swaying palms. Built as a tribute to Queen Victoria of England, this magnificent edifice is one of the best landmarks that grace the city of Kolkata. This majestic building is steeped in a long-standing history - Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, decided to set up a memorial as grand and royal as the Queen herself. Nestled along the banks of the Hooghly River, the memorial comprises beautiful gardens, emerald pools, a museum, statues and busts of Britishers and Indians as well. An important fact to be noted is that Indian princes and citizens contributed generously to the Victoria Memorial funds and the total construction cost was approximately INR 1,05,00,000. Huge, carved pillars, intricately-patterned marble domes and tall towers speak volumes about the craftsmanship of the Indian artisans who played an integral role in executing the building to reality. The galleries and museum house British memorabilia including paintings, sculptures and artifacts that chronicle important events of the Queen's life; right from her coronation ceremony to her residence. Apart from that, it has the sword of the brave prince and warrior Tipu Sultan and cannons reminiscent of the Battle of Plassey. Words or a camera frame do not do justice to the sheer opulence and grandeur of Victoria Memorial, a site which has captured the hearts, souls and imaginations of many.