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Belur Math is an architectural beauty situated on the western banks of the Hooghly River. Marked by several domes placed in aesthetic harmony, Belur Math is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. The two institutions are dedicated to 'Vedanta', a Hindu philosophical sect, and strongly promote harmony across religions and boundaries. Ramakrishna Math, a monastic organization and Ramakrishna Mission, a society dedicated to philanthropic activities, together have 171 branches spread across India and other parts of the world. Inside Belur Math, temples honouring Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananda can be found, all melodiously reflecting different architectural styles and religious details. Swami Vivekananda, who oversaw the construction of the temple complex, used symbols from Christianity, Islam as well as Hinduism as reminders of Ramakrishna’s message. The 40-acre complex also houses the Ramakrishna Museum and a book store. Built-in 1938, Belur Math is the most important pilgrimage destinations in Kolkata and is usually visited along with Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, Path Bari and Kancher Mandir. You can visit all of these by using the Jetty service available outside Belur Math.
For years, it was the Howrah Bridge (or Rabindra Setu) on the river Hooghly that carried the sea of people that travel between Kolkata and its twin city Howrah. But considering traffic pressures, the idea for a second bridge over the Hooghly came into being. The Second Hooghly Bridge or the Vidyasagar Setu, as it is named after the Bengali philosopher and reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, is a 457 meter long cable stayed bridge and the second largest in India after the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai. Bicycles can roam free, but this is a toll bridge for all other vehicles. Built between 1978 and 1993, Vidyasagar Setu has since become an indispensable asset to the city. And of course, the bridge itself does make the Kolkata skyline a little more interesting!
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.
National Library, located at Alipore is one of the largest libraries of India. The brilliant white structure set against lush green gardens of the picturesque Belvedere Estate, is truly a magnificent sight. The collection of books within the library accumulated from libraries like Calcutta Public Library, Imperial Library and so on that were amalgamated over a period of time, is as exquisite as the scenery surrounding it. Books in local and foreign languages, research journals, official documents, historical manuscripts, maps and the list is endless. Pre-independence agreements of the East India Company, maps from the 17th Century undivided India, publications of United Nations and other materials are of utmost importance and beneficial to the students of history and political science. In 1988, with foray into computers, this library archived books published back in 1667, thereby preserving classics for the future generations. Spread over a vast area of approximately 62000 square meters, with over 24,02,579 books, National Library, is a must visit attraction, while in Kolkata.
Named after Swami Vivekananda, this is the northernmost of Kolkata's bridges and connects Dakshineshwar in Kolkata to the Bally area of Howrah. The setu is also known as Bally Bridge owing to its location, and Willingdon Bridge after the past Governor of Calcutta. Built in 1932, the multi-span steel bridge is 2887 feet in length and is adapted to support both, road and rail traffic. When it was declared to be unfit for regular functioning, a second Vivekananda Bridge was constructed to share the load. The second Vivekananda Bridge also called Nivedita Setu, is a cable-stayed bridge that runs exactly parallel to the original. If Dakshineshwar Temple and Belur Math are on your itinerary, you are bound to pass this architectural beauty at least once. The steel of the bridge combines with the muddy waters of the Hooghly River to form a striking visual. To view Vivekananda Bridge in its full glory, take a jetty from the Dakshineshwar Temple. Its sister bridges are the Rabindra Setu and Vidyasagar Setu that are on the same river.
Built to replace the old Floating Pontoon Bridge, the New Howrah Bridge was renamed as Rabindra Setu in 1965, honouring the illustrious Bengali poet and painter Rabindranath Tagore. However, it is still most popularly known as Howrah Bridge. Placed between the Vivekananda Setu and the Vidyasagar Setu, this cantilever bridge was the first of the three Kolkata bridges, and was completed in 1943. Easily one of Kolkata's busiest bridges carrying thousands of vehicles every day, Howrah Bridge plays a major role in epitomizing the increasingly-urbane, forward-looking vigour that envelops the city. Seamlessly spanning the mighty course of Hooghly River, this bridge is characterized by brilliantly-done latticework, and is a product of outstanding engineering prowess. The concentration of vehicles increases along the teeming Howrah Station, while scores pedestrians, hawkers, merchants and locals make it an essential part of the everyday life of Kolkata. An iconic structure steeped in an indelible history and heritage, Howrah Bridge, with all its people and stories, will always remain an emblematic jewel of the city.
During the colonial rule, the Britishers erected magnificent structures and palatial residences, that often replicated buildings and government offices back in England. Raj Bhavan is one of such splendid heritage landmarks in the city of Kolkata. Spread across 27 acres, the wrought iron gates and imposing lions atop, create a majestic allure to the whole place and draw a clear line of distinction between the powerful rulers and the powerless common man. It continued to be the official residence of Governor-Generals and Viceroy until Kolkata ceased to be the capital of India and Delhi came into prominence. It has many suites, the important ones being the 'Prince of Wales' suite, named in the honor of Prince Edward of Wales and 'Wellesly Suite', named after the Governor General, who commissioned the construction of Raj Bhavan. It also houses a library, that includes a wide range of books and official journals, simply left behind by the previous governors, right from pre-independence era. Apart from that, it also has a collection of rare manuscripts and photographs, which gets enriched with each passing year. Currently, the Governor of West Bengal resides here and it plays host to important foreign delegates, dignitaries and official meetings. Though due to security reasons, you will be unable to see the building from within, the beautiful exteriors are worth a visit.
The Prinsep Ghat monument was built in honor of the East India Company employee James Prinsep. Although appointed as the Assay Master of Calcutta Mint and Secretary for the Asiatic Society, James Prinsep was widely respected for deciphering the rock edicts of Asoka from the Brahmi Script. After his death in 1840, the people of Calcutta (now Kolkata) gathered resources to commemorate him through this piece of architecture. The signature white columns that make up most of the monument and the Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly Bridge) in the background make this quite a visual treat. In 2008, Prinsep Ghat was also used as the venue for the Prinsep Ghat Cultural Festival and seems to be a promising locale for more events in the future. Right next to it is the Prinsep Ghat Jetty stop from where you can navigate the Hooghly to reach Howrah.
Once you enter the Esplanade area, you're sure to notice this towering monument. The tallest in this part of Kolkata, Shaheed Minar peeps out through the criss-cross of tram cables that are all over the skyline. Built by the East India Company to celebrate its victory at the Gurkha War in 1816, it was earlier known as the Ochterlony Monument, honoring the Company's commander in chief David Ochterlony. It was later renamed as Shaheed Minar to commemorate those who lost their lives during India's freedom struggle. Around the minar, you will find a number of street hawkers that sell everything from puchkas (a local specialty) to nariyal pani (coconut water). The monument stands at a height of 158 feet and the top can be reached if you feel fit to climb the steep staircase. At night, the beautifully lit up tower vies for attention as you walk along some of the central roads.
Built by Colonel John Garstin in 1811, Town Hall has been one of the most prominent and beloved landmarks of Kolkata. The Neo-Palladian structure is a pristine white and is easily recognized by its signature white columns and Venetian arcs. Architecturally, this building is spectacular and is an attraction in itself. However, once you walk inside, you can see many small rooms and a large hall, all dedicated to the history of Kolkata. Kolkata Panorama which exists inside the landmark retells the story of Kolkata using interactive story-telling and state-of-the-art communication facilities. Whether you step inside, or view the building from outside, you’re witnessing history for sure! The Calcutta High Court is just minutes away.
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.