The spirit of survival against extreme humid weather, traffic conditions on the road, and earning livelihood on day to day basis for common man on the street of Kolkata brings out the best. The city of Joy, signifies the undying spirit of human endurance. Kolkata presents a totally different picture underground inside the metro. One gets to travel faster without smoke pollution, traffic hinderance and reaches their destination virtually in a jiffy. The automatic door closure, announcement and low fare makes Metro travel real affordable. The ticketing system is advanced with swipe card facility, with one way travel. The metro is more refined to handle the volume with less staff. Checking by security is at the entrance itself, photography is restricted.
Ideal place for tourists to take a lodging is near Park street, Mirza Ismail street, Kyde Street, J.N. Road which is commonly known as the Esplande area. Chowringhee Lane, Shakespeare Sarin, New Market, Shahid Minar are all in the vicinity of the Esplande. There are plenty of options for tourists in terms of accommodation starting with YMCA, Peerless Inn ( star hotel ), Kennelworth, ( star hotel ) Empress DEE ( star hotel) and multitude of budget accommodation too.
Majority of the tourist destinations such as Shahid Minar, Indian Museum, Birla Planetarium, St Pauls Cathedral, Ravindra Sadan, Netaji Museum are all located in close proximity, literally walking distance from each other. On Mondays all these spots are closed for tourists, so better to avoid travel on Monday to Kolkatta. Sight seeing trips are arranged by West Bengal tourism @ Rs 200 per pax, from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm, which begins from Dalhousie. Taxis would charge Rs 600 to 800 per day depending on the no of spots to be covered.
Marble palace is closed on Monday and Thursday. It is enroute to Dakshineswar temple. Across the hoogly river the Belur Mutt of Ramkrishna Mission is located. One can cover by ferry boat across the river, with Rs 7 per trip per pax. Kalighat temple is on the metro track, it can be conveniently covered by Metro rail. There is a lovely Digambar Jain temple at Belagaichi station, just before the Dum Dum station.
Shopping : New Market, Chowringhee Lane etc are the ideal shopping places. There is an element of bargaining, one has to do it for realizing the best value for money. There are plenty of items which can be purchased, leather goods, jute products, cotton sarees, bangles, leather belts, cutleries, artifacts made out of bamboo, etc.
Cuisine : Sea food is the speciality of Bengali cuisine, there are lot of local varieties such as Hilsa, Rahu, Katla, which are all river water fish or pond fishes. The lobsters too are yummy. One of the best buffet is served at Peerless Inn. If one wants budget affair, one can try joints connecting to Mirza Ismail street, even Regent is a good option with reasonable rates. I tried a sea fish with less bones, with brinjal added to the curry, which tasted lovely. The hotel Radhuni is budget affair with foreigners too patronizing the joint. For vegetarians Gangaur is recommended. The best veg. thalis are available in an AC environs costing Rs 100 + taxes.
One of the favourite desert of Bengalis are Rosgulla, which is really a energy provider, it is advisable to consume the same in the morning so that one can be fuelled up for resisting the entire humid day. This I discovered when I was a bachelor. Misti Doi is another sweet yoghurt served in a earthen pot with different flavours, ideal for diabetics with low sugar content. There are other deserts such as kheer, ras malai, Srikand and various combos of milk products sold on the streets and exclusive counters. K.C. Das happens to be a branded seller in the segment.
Local travel : Kolkatta is the HQ of the famous Birla Ambassador car. Yellow taxis are seen all over Kolkata. The charge around Rs 8 per km, with traffic jams long distance meter is hiked by waiting charges at signals and traffic jams. Metro train is the most convenient and quickest means of travel in the city. Apart from these Tramway, Local buses, cycle rikshaws, etc are other popular means of travel.
HISTORY OF Kolkata : Mushirabad was originally the capital of W.Bengal, which is around 60 miles north of Calcutta. In 1690 Job Chamok an agent of the East India company selected Kolkata for trading centre. The three villages along the banks of the river Ganges namely Sutanuti, Govindpur and Kali Katta were selected as an ideal spot to set shop. These villages were bought from the local landlords and the Mughal emperor in turn gave the British freedom of trade for a sum of Rs 3000.
Fort Williams : This historic Fort was built by EIC under the supervision of John Goldsborough. The construction of the fort seems to have begun in 1695 in a phased manner with two separate enclosures planned. One to undertake trading activity another to house soldiers in the barracks. Old fort was completed in 1706 by several extensions. Currently the Fort is under the jurisdiction of the Indian army, entry is restricted.
Siraj-ud-daula had easily defeated the british in the first battle of plassey in 1756, where the famous incident of Black hole took place. The reasons for the Nawab’s anger against the British was they avoided paying taxes since they cited exports and not internal trade. British started intervening in internal affairs of the Nawab administration. The British fearing the French support started additional fortification without the consent of the Nawab. The British favoured Marwari businessmen instead of Bengali community which triggered the war. The divide and policy seems to have been discovered along with bribery of opponents most trusted general.
Black Hole incident occurred in June 1756, wherein an alleged 146 British Prisoners were crammed into an underground cellar measuring 18x15, and only 23 soldiers lived to tell the story of their imprisonment. 123 british soldiers died due to suffocation and starvation. This incident became the trigger for British to enhance its military presence in India and begin their colonial rule. The number of soldiers who died seems to have been exaggerated to bring in additional reinforcements from England.
The victory in the battle of Plassey was a fluke for the British, who were vastly outnumbered. A sudden thunderstorm took place on a hot and humid morning of 23rd June 1757, which left the French cannons exposed whereas the British covered the same. After the rainfall ceased, British fired the cannons in the midst of the Nawabs troops killing their Commander Mir Madan, which triggered off panic in the ranks of the Nawab’s army.
Robert Clive in his impeachment speech in 1773 on charges of corruption exclaimed “ An Opulent city lay at my mercy, I walked through the vaults which were thrown open to me alone, piled on either side were jewels and other precious metals, Mr Chairman alas By God….I stand astonished at my own moderation “
Kolkata was officially named the capital of the British empire in 1772. The growth of Kolkata was rapid during 1797 to 1805 with city being considered as city of palaces. Miss Emily Eden ( after whom Eden Gardens is known ) exclaimed “ Trust me, Calcutta is the finest place in the world, I know there are towns with far larger and grandeur buildings, but then they are not half as clean as Calcutta. It is so beautiful, just like a newly married bride( bride like city ) . I have been standing on the roof of the house for last half an hour for air, and, as it was midnight, had an opportunity of seeing all the gay company - returning from an entertainment at the government-house; and I assure you I never witnessed any thing that could compare with the splendour exhibited
VICTORIA MEMORIAL HALL : The monument was conceived on the lines of Taj Mahal to commemorate the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901. Lord Curzon placed before the public a proposal to have a fitting memorial in honor of Queen Victoria, by building a grand monument. The foundation stone was laid by King George V on January 4th 1906 and it was formally inaugurated in 1921. Sir William Emerson designed the building keeping in mind the architectural brief of building a huge monument, with grandeur and landscaped garden with lake. The entire building cost was accumulated on voluntary donations from the public, which amounted to 1 crore and 5 lakhs of rupees.
The initial plan of the Victoria Memorial was to ape the Taj Mahal, even the white marble stones were sourced from Makrana, Rajasthan. Emerson initially wanted the memorial to be designed on Italian architecture, but later was convinced that Taj Mahal type of monument would suit as an ideal memorial for the late Queen. The zeal with which Lord Curzon conceived the memorial fizzled out after his return in 1905 to England, with subsequent Governor generals in lieu of shifting of the capital from Kolkata to New Delhi in 1912.
“If the Memorial's impact was diminished by delay, it was still a splendid gesture. Emerson's design was much enhanced by the sympathetic ornaments added by others. Vincent Esch's major contribution was the redesign of the foundations on innovative principles for which he was renowned, but he also supervised the production of the allegorical sculpture groups over the entrances and designed the elegant bridge on the north side, and the gates to the gardens. The gardens themselves were laid out by Lord Redesdale and Sir David Prain; their spaciousness and restraint emphasize the building's majesty. In the central hall, scenes from the life of the Queen were painted by Frank Salisbury, and the marble statue of the young Queen is by Sir Thomas Brock. A more elderly Queen in bronze by Sir George Frampton, sits enthroned on Esch's bridge, between narrative panels by Sir Goscombe Jhon. In the paved quadrangles and elsewhere around the building, other statues were added to commemorate, Hastings, Cornwallis, Clive, Wellesley, and Dalhousie.Cornwallis, Clive, Wellesley, and Dalhousie.The Queen may have enjoyed their company, but whether these statues delivered an impartial history lesson, as Curzon had intended, successive generations may judge for themselves. Curzon himself seemed to consider impartiality achieved by the exhibition within, but equally approved the unambiguous message of the external ornaments.
Ack : Victoria Memorial official Website, West Bengal Tourism and Marg Publications