By Rahul Banerjee
When we talk about tourist destinations, India has been seen by many tourists as one of the most favoured destination spots for many international travellers. However, many tourists often are unaware of the importance of Kolkata as an important tourist destination in India. It is still the place which has played a vital and significant role in the struggle for independence. Also if you see historically, Kolkata was first made the capital of India in 1905, by British Vice Roy Lord Curzon. Well, we all know the cultural, historical, political and social heritage of Bengal, especially, Kolkata which has played a major part in the overall development of India as a nation.
Let’s take a look at what dazzling sights the city of Kolkata has to offer to tourists worldwide.
This is one of those areas of Kolkata that has been dubbed the street that never sleeps. Park Street has been renamed ‘Mother Teresa Sarani’ in recent years. This is one of the most famous streets of Kolkata since the 1940s. Many famous writers, singers, musicians, and artists have made this place immortal and internationally renowned with their creations. Park Street has for the last many decades been a popular hot spot for nightlife and is also famous for its iconic British-style architecture and other historical landmarks. This is all the more famous because it was here that the first time India’s first independent nightclub was opened. Since then it has been the place which has adopted and adapted to the cultural changes of time. That is from the melodious 50s to romantic 60s, and swinging 70s and 80s. And now the latest in Hip-Hop, Rock and Pop culture. It has moved and adapted according to the times. The most unique aspect of Park Street is that it has not lost its charm and significance since then. It is still as crowded and popular with all generations enjoying its glory and splendour as was the case decades ago.
New Market is one of the most famous and biggest marketplaces in Kolkata. Along with its vibrancy and ubiquitous excitement in the atmosphere, it has a significant historical background also. It was established in 1874 by the British and was formerly known as ‘Sir Stuart Hogg Market’. It was originally designed for upper-class British gentry but has gradually adapted itself to the classic Indian routine. New Market is also famous as it has more than 2,000 stalls displaying a wide range of products and catering to a variety of customers. This is one of the places that should be visited at least once in a lifetime.
Dakshineshwar Kali Temple
This is one of the Hindu Navratna temples and is situated on the banks of the Hooghly River in Kolkata. According to legends, it was established in the mid-nineteenth century by the young widow queen, Rani Rashmoni. This temple is dedicated to the presiding deity of Bhavtarini, an aspect of Goddess Kali. According to popular belief, this particular form of the goddess is responsible for the spiritual liberation of its devotees. Rani Rashmoni was a known spiritualist and was greatly influenced by the most renowned mystic of the time, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. This temple is the most visited temple throughout the year because of its unique architectural style. If you are looking for spiritual enlightenment in solitude by the banks of Hooghly; then this is the place for you to be spending your time in Kolkata.
If you wish to view one of the most modern engineering marvels in India; then you should pay a visit to the Howrah Bridge in West Bengal. Constructed in 1943, it is one of the longest bridges of its type in the world. Howrah Bridge or Rabindra Setu was renamed to honour one of the greatest poets and Nobel Laureate of India, Shri Rabindranath Tagore. The most unique thing about this is the fact that this bridge has a single span, without a single pylon connecting it to the river bed. This is an amazing feat in itself. Another unique aspect of this bridge is that every day more than 150,000 vehicles and over one million pedestrians cross this bridge to go over to Howrah; Kolkata’s twin city. This bridge has been one of the most visited places for many decades and is considered one of the top destination spots for tourists from all across the world. So the next time you are in Kolkata; don’t forget to visit this amazing bridge.
This is also another one of the grand architectural monuments built during colonial times. The most amazing aspect of this imposing structure is that it is completely made out of white marble. Historically, this monument has vital importance as it was built as a memorial to Empress Victoria of England. It was started in 1906 and completed in 1921, under the supervision of Lord Curzon, the then viceroy of India. It was only after independence in 1947, that this memorial was converted into a museum by the Indian government. The most amazing feature of this grand museum is that houses some of the most remarkable collections of ancient artefacts in 25 stunning galleries. Also, it has some of the most impressive paintings, sculptures and books in its galleries. Another attractive appeal of the monument is the most amazing and beautiful display of lighting that is put on during the evening and night time. This is one of the most favoured tourist destination spots in all of Kolkata and is visited by thousands of international tourists every year.
If you are a cricket or football fan; then Eden Garden is the right place for you. Ideally described as the answer to the ‘colosseum of the ancient classical West’, Eden Gardens is the third-largest stadium in the world after Sardar Patel Stadium and Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was built in 1864 by the then Governor-General of India, Lord Auckland and is named after the Eden sisters of Lord Auckland. This is one of India’s oldest and largest stadiums in the world. Eden Gardens is more famous because of the iconic cricket matches for so many decades. It has gained more popularity since the beginning of the IPL League and is also famous for many significant inter-league matches between Kolkata Knight Riders and other teams. One of the most significant facts about this stadium is that before 1987, it had a capacity of 40,000; and this was increased to 94,000. Another important thing to note here is that Eden Gardens has been most beautifully maintained and every year hundreds of matches are played here. This is also one of the most visited places by tourists across the globe and has been considered a matter of National Pride for India.
M.P. Birla Planetarium
Birla Planetarium is one of the most iconic and famous structures in India, whose architecture is based on the famous Buddhist Stupas at Sanchi. It was officially inaugurated in 1963, by the then Prime Minister of India, Shri Jawaharlal Lal Nehru. This is historically more significant as it was opened after independence and has been an integral part of the learning and promotion of scientific and astronomical knowledge in India. One of the most important aspects of this planetarium is that it has designed and presented more than 300 projects which deal with various fields of astronomy, astrophysics, celestial and space sciences, and even mythological aspects related to planets and comets and other celestial objects. Moreover, it is considered to be one of the largest planetariums in the world concerning its seating capacity. It has outfitted itself with all the latest in electronic and other scientific equipment, including the Carl Zeiss optomechanical projection system. The planetarium has been known to consistently upgrade itself in the last 50 years and was officially dedicated to the city of Kolkata in 2017 by Chief Minister, Mrs Mamta Banerjee. Other significant aspects of this planetarium are that it has an extensive list of visual displays in its galleries, and it has also added many new features to maintain the comfort zone of its visitors. This is also one of the most visited places in Kolkata and is considered one of the most favourite tourist destinations in the city.
Who doesn’t like to visit a zoo? If you are an animal lover, then it would be interesting for you to know that the Alipore Zoo is India’s oldest zoo. It is located in Kolkata, West Bengal. It was officially opened to the public in 1876. Here is another interesting tidbit of information, it was the home of the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, named Adwaita, and it died in 2006, after having been reputed to have a long life of 250 years! Did you know that the early animals to be kept in this zoo were gifts from people from all over the world and in India? Carl Louis Schwendler, a German electrical engineer, who was posted to India to study the feasibility of providing electricity to all the railway stations in India, was also the first caretaker of Alipore Zoo. He is also said to have contributed animals from his private menagerie. That’s why he is also referred to as the ‘father of the Indian Zoo’. The first Indian superintendent of Alipore Zoo was ‘Ram Brahma Sanyal’. Alipore Zoo has a varied species of animals and is a big crowd puller throughout the year. Some of the major attractions are the Asiatic Lion, Jaguar, Hippopotamus, The ‘Great One-Horned Indian Rhinoceros’, Reticulated Giraffe, Grant’s Zebra, Emu, The Indian Elephant, and of course the main attraction, ‘The Royal Bengal Tiger’. It also contains a Reptile House, Primate House, an Elephant House and a Panther House. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Kolkata. The best seasons to visit Alipore Zoo are December and early January. Every year, Alipore Zoo attracts a large number of tourists and animal lovers. The highest attendance, according to records has been 110,000 visitors in January alone in 2018. So the next time you visit Kolkata be sure to visit Alipore Zoo.