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Kolkata Culture and Monuments

Culture of Kolkata

It's the most laid-back city in the world. Yet, if you start your trip to Calcutta with a walk down the "lungs of the city" - the sprawling Maidan - as early as 5 in the morning, you'll find people walking, jogging, stretching, and catching upCulture and Monuments with one another.

It's the home of a mind-boggling array of sweets and dishes. Yet, it isn't out of place to find a Bengali enjoying his morning cuppa with a handful of humble puffed rice.

It's difficult to define the culturescape of Calcutta to a tourist, because it begins with the first sip of early-morning tea, poured out into a saucer and sipped noisily, with raucous exclamations of delight. Kolkata is a wonderful mirror of the Bengalis who call it home - volatile poets, sensitive artists and romantic men and women. It's the city of the artsy, the quaint, the intellectual - indeed, of anyone with an enormous zest for life.

For the traveler in Calcutta, the best way to enjoy the culture of the city is to find a friend there and sit down for an adda - local parlance for a chat session. This chat is conducted, not on dinky online messengers, but in the comfort of someone's living room, in the smoky confines of a coffee house, on the steps of a college, at the bus stop, at the corner of the daily market… just about anywhere two or more people can get together. And what do they talk about? Politics, sports, religion, books, art, films, music, the news, food… just about everything under the sun is worth talking about for the Calcuttan. Don't be stunned by arguments - though Calcuttans are passionate about most things, addas never end on an ugly note.

If you're traveling to Calcutta for the first time and want to experience the music here, you might find an aspiring singer in every home. A good evening of culture should see you soak in the spirit of Rabindranath Tagore, Uday Shankar, Jamini Roy and Satyajit Ray.

Food is Calcutta's greatest indulgence. Bengalis love to eat, and their great hosts. Every meal ends with the choicest of dessert, and Calcutta's range of sweets can leave you quite winded! Every district in the state has a sweet that is unique to it! Calcutta is also great for junk-food lovers, though a tourist in Calcutta would do well to avoid these.

Festivals are an intrinsic part of the city - more a socio-cultural phenomenon than a religious one. Besides these, Calcutta is also home to a variety of fairs, film fests, music conferences and folk fairs. It's also home to a cosmopolitan crowd - Marwaris, Parsis, Anglo Indians, Jews, a smattering of Armenians and the merry people of China Culture and MonumentsTown all call Kolkata their city of joy.

For the tourist, Kolkata holds a plethora of places to see. Museums, galleries, heritage buildings, amusement parks, temples, churches, synagogues - there's something for every kind of tourist in Calcutta.

Monuments

Bridge (or Rabindra Setu)

The Howrah Bridge, also known as the Rabindra Setu, is a bridge over the Hoogli River in West Bengal and was completed in 1941. It is so named as it links the city of Howrah, near Howrah Station, to its twin city of Kolkata. There are no supporting pillars bellow the bridge and therefore, it looks like a hanging bridge. The Howrah Bridge is believed to be the busiest bridge in the world. The bridge was constructed entirely by riveting, without any use of nuts and bolts. There are two sister bridges over the river namely the Vidyasagar Setu and the Vivekananda Setu.

Bridge: At a glance

  • Bridge type: Suspension type Balanced Cantilever
  • Central span 1500 ft between centers of main towers
  • Anchor arm 325ft each
  • Cantilever arm 468ft each
  • Suspended span 564ft
  • Main towers are 280ft high above the monoliths and 76 ft apart at the top
  • Bridge deck width 71 ft with two footpaths of 15 ft either side

 

Fort William
This fort is situated on the banks of river Hooghly and is named after King William III. The fort occupies five square kilometers of area and has six gates namely Chowringhee, Plassey, Calcutta, Water gate, St Georges and the Treasury Gate. The Arsenal inside, is worth visiting for which a prior permission is required from the CommandingCulture and Monuments Officer. This fort was built by Robert Clive in the year 1781.

Today this fort is the property of the Indian Army with a provision to accommodate 10,000 army personnel. The fort still stands as before, except the St. Peter’s Church which no longer exists. The fort is built in a shape of an octagon. A telephone office, recreation club, canteen, cinema hall, restaurant, swimming pool and wide moat surround it. A museum inside the fort consists of arms and armors, swords, muskets and machine guns kept on display for the visitors.

Victoria Memorial
Victoria Memorial is a splendid example of British Architecture exhibiting British artifacts. This domed classical structure was constructed by the then viceroy of British India, Lord Curzon. It represents a unique combination of classical European architecture and Mughal motifs. The magnificent structure was completed in the year 1921.

The monument is built entirely of white marbles which were supplied from Makrana (a town in Nagaur district of the Indian state of Rajasthan). This celebrated landmark was financed by the donations of Princes and high-society citizens of the country. The museum has two floors which accommodate 25 galleries of Indian and Western Paintings, manuscripts, postage stamps, Mughal miniatures, books that date back to the 1870's, statues and sculptures, arms and armaments, sketches and other objects of historic value.

Timings (for museum): 10.00 am to 5 pm on all weekdays (except on Mondays and public holidays)

Entry Fee: Rs.10/- (for Indians), Rs.150/- (for Foreigners)

Sahid Minar (Ochterlony Monument)

This is a 48 meter (218 steps) tall monument built in the year 1848 to commemorate Sir David Ochterlony's victory in Culture and Monumentsthe Nepal War (1814-1816). The column is a fine example of Turkish, Egyptian and Syrian architecture which are fused to give a distinctive shape to the monument.

In 1969, it was renamed as 'Sahid Minar' in memory of the martyrs of the freedom struggle of India. From the top, you can have a very beautiful view of the downtown Calcutta.

Timings: Monday to Friday (Monument pass required)
Calcutta High Court
A panoramic view of the city can be obtained from the corner turrets of the building of Judicature with a tower 54 meter high, taller than the Ochterlony Monument (Saheed Minar). The Calcutta High Court (formerly called the High Court of Judicature at Fort William) was formally opened on 1st July, 1862, with Sir Barnes Peacock as its first Chief Justice. It was the first High Court established in the Indian Union and one of the three chattered High Courts in India.

The structure was designed in Gothic styles by Walter B. Grenville. Portraits and busts of legal luminaries adorn the courtrooms and the corridors and the Bar Library is a treasury for the legal tomes. A prior permission is taken from the librarian for browsing. Visitors are allowed inside the court.

Vidyasagar Setu
It is known as the second Howrah Bridge that connects Kolkata with Howrah. This bridge was constructed in a special manner in which there are large networks of steel cables which balance the bridge. The bridge contains six lanes with a main span length of 457 meters and pylon height of 127 meters. It is a modern day engineering marvel and is the largest cable stayed bridge in Asia.

Marble Palace
This luxurious palace was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, a wealthy zamindar (land owner). His descendants still live inside the palace, but most of the house is open for the general public. The palace is built of 100 varieties of marbles that provides a glimpse into the life of a rich Bengali household.

The upstairs rooms are decorated with beautiful objects: mirrors and paintings cover the walls (including works by Reynolds, Rubens, and Murillo), gigantic chandeliers hang from the ceilings, and hundreds of statues and Far Eastern urns populate the rooms. The family temple is located in the courtyard, while the grounds have a rock garden and aviary, home to mynahs and macaws. Nowadays it has become a favorite place for film shooting.