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.
While other Indian metro cities in India like Mumbai are craving for green spaces, Kolkata is blessed with abundant parks, grounds and fair-grounds; Maidan being one among them. One of the largest open spaces across the State of West Bengal, it has a special place in the heart of Bengalis. It is home to famous structures and landmarks like Royal Golf Club, Victoria Memorial, Eden Gardens, Kolkata Race Course; the list is endless. Maidan also comprises statues of Britishers like Lord Curzon and Canning and notable Indians like Subhash Chandra Bose, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Chittaranjan Das, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The park has hosted political rallies, speeches, cultural events and expositions like Kolkata Book Fair. Maidan is an inherent and integral part of Kolkata and its inhabitants.
The Janus Art Gallery is one of the best art galleries in Kolkata and also in India. It has numerous collections of contemporary paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and illustrations. It has a committee of senior artists who help in getting authentication of works. This art gallery presents four exhibitions every year. It is primarily concerned with presenting visual art but sometimes hosts other activities as well. This art gallery takes a lot of pride in encouraging budding artists in order to get quicker recognition of their works. Visitors are also allowed to buy any of the art piece. They have a variety of options to choose from such as fine art, abstract art, landscape art, fantasy art and wall art.
Located right opposite Priya Cinema, this is one of the many maidans or parks that are found all over Kolkata. Although aesthetically it is not of any particular prominence, it remains an important venue for Durga Puja (Bengali festival) held every October. During the festival, the park is transformed into a colorful abode, where a pandal (makeshift temple) is constructed to carry the idol of the Indian goddess Durga. The park is also the grounds for local cricket and football practice. The large trees inside are quite comforting as a respite from the harsh Kolkata sun.
Although the name may imply so, Lake Kalibari is not actually a lake but an old temple devoted to the Indian goddess Kali; ‘Kalibari’ roughly translates to Kali’s residence. Established by Sree Sree Haripada Chakroborty more than 60 years ago, the temple is also known as Sree Sree 108 Karunamoyee Kalmatai Mondir after the deity it is dedicated to. It is also the site of the Panchamundi Ashan, a seat made with five skulls. The old temple is just a humble structure with an asbestos roof, but it is widely visited by devotees from all over the city. As a tribute, a large temple complex is planned to be built right behind the old facade. Apart from housing a temple devoted to Maa Kali, the new construction will have an auditorium for seminars and discussions, guest rooms and a number of other facilities.
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!