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.
54 Bose Road is one of the most famous addresses in Kolkata and an important stopover for every tourist visiting the city. The building aptly called Mother House is the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa's vision to spread hope and love to the despair. Even today, Mother Teresa’s sisters of charity, clad in their trademark blue-bordered saris, continue to carry forward her legacy. Visitors can pay their respects at the Mother's tomb and visit the museum displaying objects from her routine life – sandals and a worn-out bowl that stand as true reflections of her simplicity. Invoking peace and a range of different emotions, this place allows you to catch a glimpse into the life of one of the finest human beings to have ever lived.
When you stand in front of the building, you are bound to wonder why the academy needs such a high-storied structure to operate from. But once you step inside, any such questions are rightfully and aesthetically, laid to rest. Established in 1967, the Birla Academy of Art & Culture has been a staunch proponent of the arts in Kolkata. The museum within the academy has a number of collections including Indian, international and contemporary paintings as well as sculptures. However, most of its eleven floors are usually occupied by interesting temporary exhibitions and fairs. The library is well-equipped with a number of resources on various forms of art and culture. Apart from this, the academy also frequently organizes cultural events as well as educational lectures, seminars and summer classes on art. An annually held event called Kala Mela is aimed at showcasing upcoming local artists. Located right next to Lake Kalibari, you will always find something that piques your interest at this art hub!
The Indian goddess Kali is a quintessential part of Kolkata and its people. One of the most religious sites in West Bengal, the Dakshineswar temple complex is marked by a traditional Bengali Navaratna, or a nine-spire style devoted to Kali and her many manifestations, specifically Bhavatarini. Skirting the resplendent shrine is a troupe of several other, smaller temples, including the nine Shiva Temples and the Radha Krishna Temple. Shades of red and yellow define the Dakshineswar Kali Temple and the colorfully-clad pilgrims make it quite an intense and interesting palette. Also known to have been a spiritual leader and mystic Rama Krishna Paramahansa's abode for a certain period of time, the temple also shelters a white shrine, comprising the statue of Rani Rashmonin Devi (who was responsible for building the temple), in its courtyard. The temple, at once, strikes as an elegant, palatial structure, and is home to a large parking lot that accommodates the regular flow of devotees. The waters of the Hooghly River and the Vivekananda Setu form the backdrop of the temple which is well-renowned for its deeply-entrenched fondness for the revered yogi and mystic Ramakrishna. Standing proudly on a pedestal which is led by a flight of stairs, the temple is visited by a number of pilgrims everyday and remains crowded most of the time.
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.
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.
A pristine canopy sheathed in liberal swathes of white, the opulent Marble Palace is an embodiment of elegance and a beauty that transcends the very existence of space and time. A stunning relic of the 19th Century, the palace was built by Raja Rajendra Mullick, and is characterized by a tapestry of walls, flooring and sculptures which are brilliantly-clad in marble. Awash in spectacular semblances of Neoclassical architecture, the palace harbors several collections of western sculpture, artifacts and antique treasures such as clocks, urns and chandeliers, along with paintings by well-known artists such as John Opie, Titian and Murillo. Cloaked in unabashed grandeur, the magnificent interior of the palace spills into rolling, open courtyards which are much reminiscent of the Bengal which once was. Having been responsible for largely shaping the historic and cultural landscape of Kolkata, this timeless palace is adorned with jubilant fountains, glorious sculptures, a string of picturesque Corinthian columns, a serene lake, a rock garden and the Marble Palace Zoo, which shelters a troupe of delightful birds and animals like monkeys and diverse species of deer.
As Kolkata took its place as the capital of British India, infrastructural changes and reforms saw the need for a new body that could be held solely responsible for the development of Kolkata. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (now Kolkata Municipal Corporation or KMC) was thus formed in 1976. The building with the brilliant red facade that you see today is testimony to Kolkata’s development over the years. It stands on a road called Surendranath Banerjee Road, which was so named in the honor of Surendranath Bannerjee who was responsible for introducing a number of important changes as the first minister for local self-government in Bengal. And to think Kolkata has come this far from being just a collection of villages marked by mud huts and open drains, is quite impressive! Corporation Building (KMC Building) is a landmark that is best viewed from the outside at any time of the day. It houses the office of KMC, call for office timings.
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.
Located near the Dalhousie Square, neither the ruined exterior structure nor the minuscule name plate of the West Bengal Tourism Office is on par with what is expected of a center that represents an entire state. The staff is not very helpful when it comes to giving information, however, the exhaustive brochures, tours programs, pamphlets on offer are worth a visit. Kolkata being the land of art and festivals, has events throughout the year all over the city and you can get a sorted list along-with the venues. It also has various tours that take you in and around Kolkata. Also, you will get a rough idea on the best transport option; for example, for attractions like Belur Math and Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, jetty services are apt rather than traffic infested roadways. Armed with such a detailed travel material, you will surely have a safe and fun Kolkata tour.
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!