Kolkata (Calcutta) Things to Do

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Best Rated Things to Do in Kolkata (Calcutta)

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    Glory of a bygone Era- Marble Palace

    by lynnehamman Updated Jan 14, 2009

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    THE MARBLE PALACE
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    Despite having read much about this 19th Century Palladium Marble Palace- which from the exterior is quite magnificent- we were amazed at what it contained inside. Very eccentric.
    More than a museum, it is also an art gallery and a private home.
    Built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullik for his descendants, it is still occupied by the Mullik Bahadur family.
    The Mullik family were avid collectors of art in every form- particuarly scultures (life-size).
    I counted over 100 statues of every description- Venus's were popular- but many were just, well, statues.
    Queen Victoria is represented in various forms- she seems also to have been popular with the Mullik family.

    Victorian furniture, paintings by European and Indian artists, and other objets d'art cover every square inch of space. Large chandeliers, clocks, floor to ceiling mirrors, and busts of kings and queens appear in every single room. It is quite bizarre.

    The house is said to contain two paintings by Rubens, "The Marriage of St. Catherine" and "The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian." There are also said to be two paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds, "The Infant Hercules Strangling the Serpent" and "Venus and Cupid". Other artists said to figure in the collections include Titian, Murillo, and John Opie.

    One is supposed to have an official permit to enter- but, as usual in India, a bribe to the guard at the gate worked, and we were shown around by an unofficial "guide"
    Photography inside is forbidden, and surprisingly, my offer of another bribe was refused.
    The gardens were carefully laid out and have been cared for.

    Located next to the palace is the Marble Palace Zoo, the first zoo opened in India, also by Raja Rajendra Mullick. It now primarily serves as an aviary, including peacocks, toucans, storks, and cranes.

    This place is definitely worth a visit wehn in Kolkata. It is vast, and needs about 1 hour to see everything.

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    Boat trip on the Hooghly River

    by lynnehamman Updated Jan 14, 2009

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    Riverbank- Hooghly River
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    We were taken by my VT friend Goutam and his family on on a boat trip along the Hooghly River, and I can recommend this, as it is peaceful, and one gets a different perspective of Kolkata from the river. Views of the Howrah Bridge are lovely, and the Belur Math Complex (headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission) can be seen.
    The great temple Dakshineshwar can also be seen from the river, with people bathing at the ghats.
    Also to be seen on the river banks are gracious old colonial houses, which were built during the Raj.

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    Ramakrishna Complex Belur Math

    by lynnehamman Updated Jan 17, 2009

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    The Main Building from the Hooghly River
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    Belur Math, the headquarters of Ramakrishna Mission, is situated to the north of the city across the Vivekananda Bridge from Dakshineshwar. The world-famous temple was built by a disciple Swami Vivekananda in 1938. Belur Math is situated on the west bank of the river Hooghly. It is a universal place of pilgrimage, visited by people belonging to diverse castes and creeds. There is a very tranquil atmosphere at this complex. We saw many birds, and a great variety of trees. The gardens were colourful and well maintained.
    Inside the complex are stalls selling religious artifacts, and there are also stalls selling cold drinks & snacks.
    There is accomodation available- but only with specialpermission from the board of Rama Krishna.

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    College Street Walkabout

    by lynnehamman Updated May 8, 2009

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    Bookshop in College Street
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    I found this to be one of the most interesting days that we spent in Kolkata. College Street is, of course, famous for its hundreds of bookstalls, and musty, dark bookshops- there are, however, treasures to be found in these shops.
    I found so many books that I loved that I had to buy a new bag in order to get them all back to Australia.
    What is amazing is that there seems to be no indexing facility, and there are no computers- but these wonderfully well spoken old gentlemen who run these shops know EXACTLY where to find the books that are requested.- within minutes, and they love to chat about the affairs of the world.
    Also along College Street are various buildings of historical importance- The Calcutta University, which is the Alma Mater of many famous Kolkatans, is here, and The Medical College is in College Street
    The famous Indian Coffee House is a good stop for a coffee and a chat. (see next tip)
    This street is in the very old part of Kolkata, and not easy to find- the streets and lanes are not marked. My map-reading ability is not so great- I am sure that it will be found by anyone more capable than me!( I have added a map in the photo section)

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    IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK-Indian Coffee House

    by lynnehamman Updated Nov 30, 2011

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    INSIDE THE COFFEE HOUSE
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    I have always known about the history of this Kolkata Institution. I was thrilled to actually sit here, have a coffee, and absorb the atmosphere.
    Famous sons of Kolkata, notably Rabindranath Tagore,Satyajit Ray and Subhas Chandra Bose frequented the 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 sent a special petition to the government, to save the heritage building. It has a very high ceiling, Punkah Fans, and a balcony upstairs.
    The exterior of the Coffee House does not look inviting- but do go in and feel the atmosphere. Its a must-see in Kolkata.

    Scholars, Poets, artists and writers like Tagore and Satyajit Ray would sit here and discuss & read their latest works. Several literary magazines owe their origin to the inspiration from the adda sessions at this coffee house.

    It was also the breeding place of several political and cultural personalities and movements.
    The fly-stained and faded walls have not changed or been upgraded. It must be exactly the way it always was. University students and scholars still frequent it. And the coffee is not as bad as some people might suggest. We met a delightful University Professor, and had interesting discussions with him for a few hours. Old photograph of Rabindranath Tagore looks down on the patrons approvingly.
    Basic snacks are available

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    Kalighat Temple

    by lynnehamman Updated Jan 15, 2009

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    Kalighat Temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali is situated in Kalighat. The right toe of Dakshayani is said to have fallen here. The temple is crowded every day by worshippers of Kali & Durga- and many pilgrims too. There are always long queues waiting to enter, and unfortunately, this offers great opportunity to beggers, sadhus and touts- who make a beeline for foreign tourists, offering a frontline pass in the queue in exchange for a donation to"Kali"
    The temple is huge- and impressive. The current structure was built in 1809- but it is believed to be the oldest site in Kolkata, and the probable source of Kolkata's name.
    There are stalls everywhere selling religious offerings and artifacts of every description. An almost festive atmosphere pervades.
    We stood in line for a long, long time- but eventually had to leave without entering. We were satified having seen the temple from outside, and its surroundings.
    The Mother Theresa Home for Dying People(Nirmal Hriday) is next toor to the temple.
    The Shanagar Burning Ghat is a short walk away.

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    Motherhouse- Mother Theresa Mission

    by lynnehamman Updated Jan 16, 2009

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    TOMB OF MOTHER THERESA
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    Definitely worth visiting this interesting place. The tomb of Mother Theresa is here, and all day long pilgrims of every nationality and religion visit to pay respects. The feeling of reverance is palpable- flowers bedeck the tomb, and people pray openly.
    There is also a small museum attached, documenting the life of this remarkable & brave little woman.
    Her worn-out sandals clearly show the shape of the feet that pounded the pavements of Kolkata, searching for souls that needed help-and letters that she wrote to the Government in protest of their refusal to give financial aid to her institution line the walls, along with letters of praise and encouragement that she recieved from world leaders.
    Her simple personal possesions are enclosed in glass cabinets- her reading glasses, her note book and pencils.
    Shoes have to be left at the door.

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    BOTANICAL GARDENS-A PEACEFUL RETREAT

    by lynnehamman Updated Jan 17, 2009

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    Water-Lilies
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    The Botanical Gardens offer a peaceful break away from the madness of the city.
    There is wide variety of exotic trees, shrubs and rare plants growing here. Shady trees have benches underneath them, and we spent time feeding the ducks floating on the ponds.
    There are lakes filled with exquisite pink water-lilies. The gardens were founded in 1787 by Colonel Robert Kyd,an officer of the British East India Cmpany,ostensibly to identify new plants of commercial value, and for growing spices for trade.
    It is believed, however, that the growing of tea-plants here caused the establishment of the tea trade in Assam and the Himalayas.
    Also growing in this garden are massive teak trees, and rare orchids.
    The Great Banyan, an enormous banyan tree that is reckoned to be the largest tree in the world, at more than 330 metres in circumference is without a doubt a highlight of a visit here. It is awesome.
    Clean and peaceful- I recommend a visit to this place.
    Do take a moment to look at the pictures- its a very pretty place

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    Victoria Memorial

    by lynnehamman Updated May 8, 2009

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    Victoria- Empress of India
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    This grand, beautifully designed marble building is one of the finest in India. Its white dome soars above its many columns. and the grand staircase leading up to the entrance is majestic, and has a colourful flower stall at its base.
    Taking 20 years to build, to honour Queen Victoria, Empress of India, on her Diamond Jubilee in 1901, it is the most potent reminder of the Raj Era in India. Statues of British Royalty stand around with bored expressions.
    It therefore comes as a bit of a surprise to me that it is packed with Indian tourists and Kolkatans every day of the week. But then, it also houses a huge slice of the history of Calcutta (as it was then known). So one can understand the pride and interest that Indian people have when visiting here.
    In various halls, there are exhibits of photographs of old Calcutta- unrecognizable compared to the city today.
    Ancient manuscripts in Persian & Sanskrit are enclose in dusty glass cabinets.
    Records of book-keeping from the days of the Raj show the day to day cost of housekeeping in the Military Quarters. There is a Cannon on display, and various weapons from different eras.
    What most excited me most, though, was seeing the sword of the mighty Emperor Aurangzeb.
    It is tucked away in a cabinet in dark corner- we almost missed seeing it. I gazed at it with awe- how many men had been beheaded by this weapon?
    The artifacts in the museum are not very well displayed or documented. The place has a rather shabby and run down appearance. But the architectural brilliance of the actual building
    overshadows the interior dullness.
    The Gardens around the Memorial are beautiful. Green, well kept and filled with exotic trees , with benches to sit on and gaze at the perfection of the marbled Dome.
    The park is also a haven for birds- we spent a pleasant time just sitting there, watching birds of many species bathing in the puddles that had been left by the water sprinklers.

    Photography is forbidden inside the building.I suggest that you visit early in the day-the queues are always very long

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    ST JOHNS CHURCH

    by lynnehamman Updated Jan 15, 2009

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    Plaque in memory o fAnderson Family
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    St Johns Church is one of the oldest churches in Kolkata. This stone building was modelled on St. Martins in- the -Field in London. There is a famous painting by Zoffany of the Last Supper in the church.
    Also inside the church are beautiful old wooden pews, beautiful stained glass windows, and many marble plaques, in memory of English people living in Kolkata during the Raj. Famous Military figures like Admiral Charles Watson, and Lieut. Colonel James Achilles Kirkpatrick (resident at the Court, Hyderbad) also have marble plaques in their memory. Some were family of Military men- one poignant plaque is in memory of the family of one Capt. R.P Anderson. They died of starvation during the siege of Lucknow, during the Great Mutiny in 1857.
    Also in the grounds of the chuch is a obelisk dedicated to the men that died in the "Black Hole" at Calcutta, and the mausoleum of Job Charnock- who is referred to as the founder of Kolkata.
    DO TAKE A MOMENT TO LOOK AT THE PHOTOS- THE PLAQUE IS VERY MOVING.

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    Birla Planetarium

    by Kumarjit Updated Aug 17, 2005

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    The Birla Planetarium

    The Birla Planetarium in Calcutta is not only the largest in India, but also in South-East Asia. The planetarium holds shows about the different discovered and undiscovered planets and stars of the galaxy and the Milky Way. The shows are so nice that the spectators feel as if they are in space. A visit to this place is a must if you are coming to Calcutta.

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    Victoria Memorial

    by Kumarjit Written Aug 17, 2005

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    The Beautiful Victoria Memorial in Calcutta

    Calcutta is a big city and most of the citizens are always busy with their work. However, in the evening and during the winter months many people pay visits to The Victoria Memorial to relax and have a small picnic. The Victoria Memorial is a huge palace built by Queen Victoria during the British rule. The palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens and also has a pool where lotus blooms in autumn. It is a nice place to relax yourself and to have a picnic. It is one of the favourite hotspots of the tourists.

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    The Beautiful Maidan - don't miss!

    by Kumarjit Updated Jan 27, 2006

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    The Beautiful Grounds of Maidan, Kolkata.
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    As you already know, Calcutta is a very big city, and the people are always busy with their work. However, there should be some place in the heart of the city to rejuvenate the citizens after a hectic day. Definitely there is one such place - the Maidan.
    The Maidan is a vast stretch of open land in the heart of Calcutta, opposite to the Victoria Memorial, where many people go to have picnic, play light outdoor games and to get a ride on horseback. The Maidan is so green and so huge, that it is refered to as the ' Lungs of Kolkata( Calcutta )'. No other metropolitan city in India is having such sprawling acres of open space in the heart of the city.
    It is best if you visit the Maidan in the evening. Many families visit the place in the evening to relax, to play games and just to walk in some open space. On one side you can see the Taj of The Raj - Victori Memorial, while on the other side you can see the row of skyscrapers standing tall. It is one of the most wonderful places in the city and is sure to leave you bewildered about the beauty of Calcutta and its contrasts (click on the pictures to get better views).
    Not only that, there is a dancing fountain in the Maidan, which dances to the tune that is played in the background. It starts in the evening. The fountains are so colourful and the way they dance to the music being played in the background is truly breathtaking. You will definitely enjoy your visit to this place irrespective of whether you are a foreigner or an Indian.

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    Botanical Gardens.

    by goutammitra Updated Mar 29, 2007

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    The Great Banyan Tree.
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    The extensive Botanical Gardens, on the west bank of the Hoogly river, stretch forever 1 km along the river and occupy 109 hectares. The gardens were originally founded in 1786 and administered by Colonel Kyd. It was from these gardens that the tea now grown in Assam and Darjeeling was first developed. Trees of the rarest kinds, from Nepal, Brazil, Penang, Java and Sumatra can be found here. There are towering Mahogany trees, an avenue of Cuban Palms and an Orchid House. Mango and Tamarind trees shade the grassy lawns. But the main attraction of the garden is the 200 year old Banyan Tree, claimed to have the second largest canopy in the world. It is the world's largest, having a circumference of 330m.
    The Palm House in the centre of gardens is also well worth a visit. The gardens are over the Howrah Bridge, 19Km by bus from Chowringhee. The gardens are open from sunrise to sunset, and although they tend to be very crowded on Sunday, on other days they are peaceful and make a pleasant escape from the hassles and crowd.

    We revisited this place again on 18th March 2007. It was a a great learning for Munu.

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    MARBLE PALACE OF RAJA RAJENDRA MULLICK!!!

    by goutammitra Updated Jul 12, 2007

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    The Marble palace of Raja Rajendra Mullick.
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    On Muktaram Babu St, a narrow lane off Chittaranjan Ave, this private mansion was built in 1835 by a Bengali Landlord called Raja Rajendra Mullick. The palace houses an incongruous collection of curious standing alongside significant statues and paintings. There's a private zoo here too, but the inhabitants are only slightly more animated than the marble lions gracing the palace lawns. It's open daily except Monday and Thursday from 10 am to 4 pm, and entry is free with a permit from the Government of India tourist office.

    Photography is not allowed but we did take some snaps from ouside. This property is run by a private trust and the up keep of the palace is extremely poor. It has turned into a mini jungle with weeds, parasites, and wild parthenium bushes. One cannot imagine the palace of Raja Rajendra Mullick is in shambles. The West Bengal govt should immediately take interest over this property and help the Trust to make it a proper place of tourist interest as it is the perfect example of the glorious past of Bengal, Bengali culture. The govt of West Bengal at least do some maintenence of the palace and the surrounding area!
    The Palace houses masterpieces from Rubens, John Opic, Raja Ravi Verma, Sebastian X, Murillo ete. I must visit place for anybody who is genuinely interested in Kolkata and Bengal!
    Recently, I had the opportunity and meet the current owner and chief custodian of the Palace Mr.Hirendro Mullick( grandson of Raja Rajendra Mullick) Who explained how difficult it is for him to maintain this large palace and keep the artefacts in proper condition. The museum room where the paintings of the famous painters are kept along with other articles needs immediate renovation and restoration as this place is not only a land mark of Kolkata but with it Bengali nostalgia is involved. A lot of tourist from India and abroad visit this Palace almost every day are also of the same view that we must preserve our Heritage!

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