Maulana Azad Museum (and Institute)
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a Muslim scholar and leader of India's independence movement. He supported the Caliphal movement (and jihad against the British) but then he strongly preached non-violence. As I learned from Mushiral Hasan who has written & spoke about him at the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, partition broke his heart, but he served as the first Minister of Education in the newly independent government.
I gave a paper at a conference on Trajectories of Modern islam at the MAKAIAS and then visited his home which has been turned into a museum and we saw a performance - apparently rather poetic and satirical in Urdu.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Dating with Khangchendzonga @ Sandakphu
Sandakphu is the highest point of West Bengal . You can reach there by trekking route or by Land rover. Our trek route was Kolkata->Maney Bhanja->Tumling(Nepal) ->Kaliphokri(Nepal)->Sandakphu->Samanding ->Srikhola ->NJP.
Most interesting part for this trek route is you will visit India and Nepal simultaneously. Tumling is a beautiful village with some good resort . Running water, Television , Phone all type of facilities are there. At Kaliphokhri we meet the cute and sweet child Nima Dolma Sherpa , I can remember her for the rest of my life. She was always ready for photo shoot and even more eager to see the photo . :)
As per our original plan we were supposed to go to Phalut , as the weather god was not happy with us we stayed at Sandakphu for 2 days.
Next day we started for Samanding, a small beautiful village surrounded by hill and jungle. We walked for almost 26 Km to reach there. We walked 16 kilometers on the same route for Phalut then the route divided from Sabargram . In the whole trek the jungle trekking for reaching Samanding was thrilling. Also Srikhola is a great place for a short trip. Even one can visit Srikhola ,which is reachable by car from NJP.
- Hiking and Walking
Wild Life at Tolly Club.
This club was built in the year 1896, that time it was a forest at the outskirts of the city. With time, they city grew leaps & bounds and there was a boundary wall. All the animals, who were in the forest remained there and survived. It's huge GOLF club , with two miles long area and full of green forest. At the moment there are only Foxes and Jackals as wild animal. There were many but as per the guard living there their number is around 40/50 who survive on the small animals such as cats, rats, Bandicoot, etc and the food provided by the guards, such as used meat.
They are now almost domesticated and do not attack the Golf players or the guards during the daytime. I captured them with my cell phone camera, while watching Golf. First, I thought, they were dogs and I tried to call them, then the caddies saw me calling them shouted at me and told to remain at a distance from them as they were foxes. But, I went close, dared their red eye and captured them. It was a nice experience capturing them , basking in the spring sun!
Take a tour of Kolkata's Muslim corner.
I get the feeling that this part of town sees few travelers, as before long I have a crowd of people following me. They jostle in position, push and shove in order to get a better view of the westerner in the midst. The braver ones approach me, asking me where I'm from and shake my hand.
After asking if it's alright to take a picture of an eye-catching Mosque, I soon have a group of street children acting as tour guides, showing me their neighborhood and practicing their broken English. They disregard a 'Do Not Enter' sign and show me their pride and joy, a larger than average aquarium, home to several species of fish. There is no light, so I can't quite make out all the fish that they are squealing excitedly about, but I feign a great deal of interest for their benefit. When it comes time to go, the kids ask me for an autograph. They extend their hands, and some even indicate their foreheads for my scrawl. I comply, bemused, but opt instead for paper and ink. I've never given out autographs before, so I don't know quite what to write, but their smiling faces and jubilant attitude tells me I have done well enough.
- Work Abroad
- Budget Travel
Tomb of Job Charnok- St John's Church
The tombs in the St. John's Churchyard have historical interest with octagonal shaped Charnock's mausoleum is said to be the oldest masoury in the city. Job Charnok came to Kolkata as a trader agent of East India co in 1690. He died at Kolkata in 1692. Many believed till a few years ago that he was the founder of Kolkata city. Whatever it is he has contributed a lot in development of the city. This place also houses mausoleum of many rich and famous British. Please see the new pictures.
The Mausoleum is located in the centre heart of the city in the main business district of Dalhousie and inside St.John's church and graveyard. The condition of the Tomb is pathetic. Lot of bushes and weeds have come out as a result of neglect. I found out from the church authorities who is responsible for upkeep of the church. I could not get the correct answer. But they do collect Rs.20/- per car and Rs10/- per visitor everyday for upkeep of the church property. They also rent out the their compound as parking space on weekdays and houses several cars. Besides they get handsome donation from the visitors as well from the feast and other rituals performed for the devotees. So the income is not less, why the upkeep is in thankless state? Somebody has to answer! I am planning to see the Bishop in one of these days as and when I get time from office.
- Family Travel
The Last Supper by Johann Joffany at St. John's Ch
The painting worth millions was presented by German Painter Johann Zoffany to the church on 1787. Over the years, it remained unkempt and was subject to vandalism, who also slashed the great painting. About hundred years ago it was retouched and again in 1967, by unprofessionals. Recently Max Mueller Bhawan of German mission took interest of this priceless painting and got it totally restored by the professionals. It is now restored to it's glory. One can have a highly satisfying experience!
Johann Zoffany’s 1787 painting at St John’s Church unveiled:
The solemn beauty of Johann Zoffany’s painting of The Last Supper, which hangs in St John’s Church and is the city’s most prized artistic possession, stands revealed once again and was open to public view on 4th of July'2010.
It has been restored over five months at the church next to Raj Bhavan by a team of conservators from the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (Intach) headed by Renate Kant, a German painting conservator based in Singapore.
The 10ft x 12ft painting by Zoffany (1733-1810) was done when he spent six years in India. He was born in Frankfurt but is considered one of the founding artists of the British School of the 18th century who introduced the “conversation piece”. His works hang in the Tate Gallery, Uffizi and the Louvre, besides the Victoria Memorial Hall.
Zoffany presented the painting to the church on April 9, 1787, and it once served as an altar piece. It incurred the wrath of the people on whom he had modelled the Apostles, who are significantly larger than Jesus himself. The flaxen haired St John sits next to Christ.
Judas with a tortured visage was said to have either been modelled on a “certain English resident at the Court of Lucknow” or Tulloh, a well-known Calcutta auctioneer. In 1888, a newspaper correspondent noted with dismay the “shameful treatment” meted out to it, and “the torn frayed canvas, and the large hole near the nose of Judas Iscariot”.( Courtesy The Telegraph)
Rabindra Sarovar Lake of Ballygunje
This is one of the lungs of Kolkata city, but the condition of the lake and the environment is in dilapidated condition. The visit to the lake is highly refreshing but the slum dwellers settled all over the lake has made it an open air public toilet and washing lake. Any time of the day, one can notice that tons of clothes are being washed, people bath with soaps, the pathways are very dirty and smells badly. Though , there are several posh clubs located with in the lake, like Calcutta Rowing Club, The Lake Club, The University Rowing Club, The Anderson Swimming club no one has come forward to keep it clean. The lake is full of Hyacinth, the gardens are dirty, the seats are broken or fully occupied by vagabonds, rug pickers. In the evening time when the night falls, it turns out in to a den of criminals. There is no serious effort by Calcutta police or Kolkata Municipal Corporation to keep it clean or vice free. Only a hand picked of policemen are seen in the evening time, who continuously harass the couples either for sitting close or sitting late.
In the early 1920s, the Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT), a body responsible for developmental work in the Kolkata metropolitan area, acquired about 192 acres (0.78 km2) of marshy jungles. Their intention was to develop the area for residential use – improving the roads, raising and levelling some of the adjacent land and building lakes and parks. Excavation work was undertaken with the plan of creating a huge lake. Originally known as Dhakuria Lake, in May 1958, CIT renamed the lake as Rabindra Sarovar, as a tribute to the great Bengali writer and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.
- Family Travel
Indian Coffee House at College Street!
Situated at 15 Bankim Chatterjee St, Kolkata, India( Just opposite Presidency CollageThe most famous Coffee House branch in Kolkata is the one at the College Street, also known as the "Coffee House at College Street". It is situated opposite the Presidency College, Kolkata and has been for a long time a regular hang out for students (and ex-students) of the Presidency College, University of Calcutta, and other institutions in College Street.
The history of the Coffee House at College Street can be traced to Albert Hall, which was founded in April 1876. Later, the Coffee Board decided to start a coffee joint from the Albert Hall in 1942. Notable citizens, including Rabindranath Tagore and Subhas Chandra Bose, were frequent visitors to the place. In 1947, the Central Government changed the name of the place to "Coffee House". The place became a meeting place for the poets, artistes, literati and people from the world of art and culture. In 1958, the management decided to shut down the Coffee House, but it was re-opened the same year, after professors of Presidency College and Calcutta University rushed off a special petition to the government, to save the heritage place.
The place is also associated with many famous personalities of Calcutta and India. Some great personalities who were regular are Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Manna Dey , Aparna Sen and many many more.
In 2006 condition of the place was so dilapidated that many corporate house showed interest to renovate it. Finally it was renovated by Asian Paints in 2008/2009.
The place now has totally new look but without changing the aura of the place. Now it also has several paintings. Apart from genuine filter South Indian Coffee, they also serve lunch and dinner or just plain snacks ( See the menu and more pics in next tips). You can sit over there with a cup of coffee for entire afternoon, nobody really minds. We had our lunch there with Mix Chowmin and Garlic Chicken. It tasted great though not up to the mark of genuine Chinese food what is available in Mainland China. But who complains when the price is about a dollar per plate?
The Mysterious Sunderbans
A really fascinating place to visit while in Kolkata (if you have the time) is the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. It is the largest Mangrove Eco-System in the world.
There are various camps to stay at, and we liked the Sunderbans Tiger Camp. There are also various types of accommodation, including cottages, bungalows or tents.
It can be a challenge to get to the Sunderbans- bus for a few hours, then a boat trip of 2 hours. But it is so very worth going. One sees another side of rural life here- simple, village folk, who survive by growing their own vegs, and mostly by fishing.
The scenery is breathtaking. Boats will take you through the creeks, close to the Mangrove Forests. If you are EXTREMELY lucky, you may spot a Bengal tiger. Their numbers are declining, sadly. The bird-life is prolific. Best times to be in the water is early morning or sunset. An air of mystery surrounds the area, and legends abound here.
For more detailed information on the Sunderbans- visit my page WEST BENGAL
- Adventure Travel
Chinese Weekly Market & wonderful Breakfast.
We had these wonderful stuff on last Sunday as breakfast and brought home some of them. But we did not like the place as it has a very dirty atmosphere at the same time we wantede to experience with what was continuing since last 250 years. I am sure in glory days this market must be thriving with activity as mentioned in some magazines and some very old news papers.
Next to this place there was famous Chinese restaurant Nanking, which was once pride of South East Asia, very favourite of the Americans& British during the WWII. But it is now closed since 1960s, having resemblace of building directly from Harry Potter picture.
The Chinese breakfast did not disappoint us at all. I liked the fish ball, Chinese Bread roll, and Chicken Momos. We avoided the Pig intestines, though some people said it was delicious. No thanks!!
Chinese Weekly Market of Territy Bazar!
We had the knowledge but have never tried it. Traditionally BBD Bagh's Territy Bazar have been the home for the Chinese settled in Kolkata. They settled here in early 17th and 18th century. But slowly the wealthy moved to Tangra, in Eastern Kolkata to have their tannery. Those who remained in Territy had the business of shoe shop and eating joints. They never mixed with the local Bengalies but have been doing great business during British period.
They also had a weekly market, where they sell Chienese ingredients for making the delicious food, making purchases for their homes and also sell Chinese breakfast. That was simply wonderful. Today it also exists but minus the Europeans and Anglo- Indians. They place now has very few families selling Chinese merchandise, medicines and the place looks very dirty, with Chicken, Meat , Fish sellers sitting in open and making the place dirty. May be Kolkakata Municipal Corporation ( KMC) is totally ignorant of the place. The place smells dirty and foul.
Last Sunday 12th July we got up early and set for Territy Bazar to taste their wonderful food. We had done some shopping also including buying some Squid, Mangoes, Prawn Papad etc.
Beth El Synagogue
Beth El Synagogue, constructed in 1850-1856 by the famous Ezra family of Kolkata. The Ezra family led by Joseph Ezra left Baghdad ( Iraq) after the ruler King Daud Pasha ordered his forces to go after the Jews of Baghdad and Iran. There was a mass exodus of Jews from Iran and Iraq in the mid of 19th Century. Many of them settled in Calcutta, making it their home. Soon they found Calcutta was the right place for business and they grew their buisness in real estate ( Ezra family), Jute and gunny trade, salt trade and so on. The reign of the Ezras infused life into Jewish construction activities in Calcutta. Together with the setting up of the Ezra Hospital and the Ezra Benevolent Fund the city’s three Jew Synagogues were also engineered. Beth El was considered the most imposing synagogue in the East when it was built in 1850. The Maghen David (the last synagogue) indeed reshaped the city’s skyline at the close of the 19th century. Architecturally Italian, the towering floral-carved pillars of the Maghen were shipped from Paris by the Ezras.
The city of Kolkata has a road after Ezras in BBD Bagh ( next to my office at BBD Bagh, opp Tea Board). This Synagogue is located at Pollock Street, off Ezra Street. But the condition of Pollock is pathetic, with roadside eating places, open urinals, encroachments, in none word the narrow street has become narrower and very very dirty.
I request all my Jew friends to write to The Chief Minister and Mayor of Kolkata as how they can avoid their responsibility just by declaring the place as protected when the next door St Andrew's Church (opp.Writer's Building, where Chief Minister has his office) is fully renovated, properly lit, cleaned and declared as Heritage sight of Kolkata ( see picture)
Kolkata Book Fair 2009.
Kolkata Book Fair is the largest Non- Trade Book Fair in the world about 2 million people visit this fair and buy books.It is the world's third largest annual conglomeration of books after the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair. Many Calcuttans consider the book fair an inherent part of Calcutta, and instances of people visiting the fair every day during its duration is not uncommon. The fair also has a typical fairground experience with a book flavour - with the presence of picnickers, singer-songwriters, and candy floss vendors on the fair premises. With a total footfall of over 2 million people, it is world's largest book fair by attendance. This year the Theme was Scotland.
Over the years it has now become part of life for Calcuttans, who wait for one full year for this fair. The fair traditionally starts on the last Wednesday of January, and ends on the first or second Sunday of February (to ensure that the duration is always 12 days). It was initially a week-long event but popular demand forced authorities to extend the duration to 12 days in 2005. Even though there is usually an extended holiday in Calcutta during the period of January 23 (Netaji's birthday) to January 26 ( Republic Day of India) the fair is held at the beginning of February to overlap with the payday of most Calcuttans.
The fair typically overlaps with the Hindu festival of Saraswati Puja. Saraswati is the Goddess of Learning, and hence many Hindu households observe the day by worshipping books on that day and not touching books for any other purpose. This practice causes a lower footfall on the corresponding day in the book fair.
We visited the fair twice in 12 days and many books were purchase for Munu, who is a great book lover. We missed our Australian VT friend Lynne, who visited Kolkata in January but missed the fair but managed to get some books from Collage Street of Kolkata.
I am dedicating this tip and video clips to my dear friend Lynne Hugo Hamman Lynnehamman in VT)of Sydney. I am putting more pictures of book fair in Kolkata Travelogue.
Little Oasis - Watching Migratory Birds in Kolkata
Gone are those days when you could watch those Siberian cranes, Teals, Ducks, Open Bill Pochards, Flamingos in the backyard of your house! Like any other city Kolkata too has become very large and a concrete jungle! There is hardly any space to brethe. Calcutta has become dirty and with poisonous gases emerging out from the vehicles and factories discharging untreated waste has made living very difficult for these beautiful creatures of God. Though the hunting has stopped but people yet to realize the importance of preserving the nature. Our local govt. too has filled up many marshy land and handed over to big land developers ( Real Estate businessman), it was done thru' corruption and one is sure that lot of money changed hands. So there is no land available in Kolkata.
We visited this place Santragachi (The place is about 30kms from my home), yesterday 9th December'07 ( We visited last year also) to see the birds. Since it is not very cold now in Northern part so there are only few birds but they will come in large nos once it is colder and snowfall starts in Nothern Part. We shall visit again in the later part of the month. Sorry no better pictures as I dont have a SLR with zoom but a compact one. I am planning to buy one but I have two digital compacts and one handycam. Probably my friends will suggest me how should I proceed?
Now please enjoy the birds like we did.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887)-II
Pursuing his passion for the arts, Wajid Shah built the specatcular Kaisarbagh Baradari palace complex which came alive with music, dance-dramas, Rahas, Jogiya Jashan and Kathak performances, making Lucknow an attractive cultural centre, as made famous by the earlier Nawab rulers of the state. It was during his era that several reputed musicians, poets, composers, and dancers enhanced their repertoire, along with the enriching the light classical form of thumri, the grand revival of the Kathak dance form, and the rise in popularity of Hindustani Theatre. After his deposition to Calcutta, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah longed to keep the pomp and splendor of his beloved Lucknow alive. In his exile in Matiaburj, on the banks of the River Hooghly, Wajid Ali Shah once again used his wealth to relive his former glamorous lifestyle. The adorned walls of the Darbar Hall of Matiyaburj bear witness to the numerous musical assemblies held there, being visited by music-lovers, including great personalities from Calcutta's music circuit such as Aghorenath Chakravarty, Sajjad Mohammad, Dhirendranath Bose, Shyamlal Goswami and Rai Chand Boral.
Wajid Ali Shah's self works included numerous poems, prose, ragas, playwrights and ghazals under his pen name of 'Qaisar'. While his compositions include his famous Bhairavi thumri named 'Babul mora Chhooto jaay' sung by many singers, his ragas (titled Jogi, Juhi, Shah-Pasand etc.), dramatised poems (such as Darya-i-Tashsq, Afsane-i-Isbaq, and Bhahar-i-Ulfat) and ghazals (in the 'Diwani-Akhtar', 'Husn-i-Akhtar'), his great works have inspired many artistes and playwrights alike. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah's personal front was also as ambitious as his passion for the arts, as he took advantage of the Shia Law of Muta to marry an astonishing 359 times. Besides the Nawab's immense contributions to India, one of his wives, Begum Hazrat Mahal was known to be a great Indian freedom-fighter who played a major role during India's First War of Independence (1857-58) against the British.
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