As for a city, I will not deny Kolkata has such a life that I haven’t seen so far in other parts of India, though there were instances when I saw lives of people just vanished in a gust; on the roadside, within the darkest miasma of politics, sometimes surrendered to the irresistible initial inertia, unable to break the self-created delusion of grandeur. I may imagine a time when, in the infancy of this city, it would be like a child who began the world, to some extent, and loved to stay out of the doors, even in wet and cold. The city opened to British Raj more openly than any other city in India. The decrepit architectural structures, British relics of erstwhile splendor cast a shadow of past on the present. Things have changed, however. The city has now secured itself into a cocoon that not allows the outside world to take certain inspirations.
There is an entirely a different facet of Kolkata. The city is not a despicable alternative but a precious tenement of those who nurture life from a different dimension. People aren’t the same way deal with daily life, as the emotions run riot and go beyond the regular struggle of survival. In a way, Kolkata is still saturated with imaginations, laughs from simple pleasures of life, strongly hold the past musing and let the future born out of the present. Despite every adversity the city bears, nobody can deny the simple fact that the city has this queer and irresistible charm that holds everything in a fine balance.
Everybody knows Victoria Memorials, Maidan, Dakhineshwar, Kali Temple etc. In all fairness, these are great places to visit, but many places visitors are not aware that actually reflect a lot about the city of joy.
Old Heritage Buildings in Kolkata
If you go through the lanes of old Kolkata, you find some amazing structures that take you to erstwhile era of British Raj. I am talking about heritage buildings, I call it heritage though most of them are residential houses where people live and celebrate life. If you research on these buildings you will find these were not created by architects like modern times, but built by anonymous builders. These buildings from the architectural point of view are extremely refined.
Modernity is a misleading conception. Unlike many people who think these structures are not modern or kirsch, somehow have a false sense of modernity. Kolkata is tremendously modern city, in fact when you stroll around North Kolkata, see those big houses, people living there and see how relax and content they are when they sit on the front porch, talking about stuff that many city dwellers are not even aware of.
There is a distinctive difference between south Kolkata and North Kolkata old buildings. South Kolkata building architecture is part European and part Bengali. For example, you will notice rock or the cemented ledge in the front of a house, long verandas, open terraces, slated windows, ventilators on the sides of buildings, sunrise motif grills, art deco and in some case sophisticated artwork.
Haunted Places in Kolkata
Kolkata has some interesting history, not just with historical figures but eternal entities. The city shares its own haunted places where many places including buildings and even metro station are alleged to brag about haunted past. Some people don’t believe it, some people even try to find rational among those haunted stories.
1) National Library
|National Library at Alipore|
The largest library in India has some haunted past. In early 19th century, British government ordered a renovation project where 12 labors lost their lives in an accident. Some people claim they still feel the spirits of these workers inside the building. National Library is a huge space and within this mammoth size, these types of stories are natural. In another story, it is said that an English student was killed in an accident while visiting for his research paper. It is believed and some eye witnesses said they saw paranormal activities in the library where letters were all scattered on the desks when they entered into the library in the morning.
2) Rabindra Sarobar Metro
The station is notorious for its suicides and infamously known as “Paradise of Suicide”. There are stories people claimed they saw eerie images of figures at around 10:30 pm, when the last metro reaches the station. There are also rumors that shadows move on the platform on late evenings.
3) Hastings House
There are stories where people witnessed footsteps in and around the Hastings House in the night. Warren Hastings, his wife and children all died mysteriously within this place. It is said that shadowy figures are seen within the campus. Playing inside the campus is strictly prohibited because in many cases young students were mysteriously suffered from terrible injuries while playing football.
4) Putulbari, the House of Dolls
|Putul Bari, Doll House at Sobhabazaar|
These old dilapidated building is located near Ahirotala Ghat. This is called doll house because of doll like monuments are mounted on the terrace. There is a notice of strictly prohibition to enter in the building. The building is itself beautiful and people say the upper storey is haunted. There are some inhabitants in the house but they don’t encourage people to enter into the house. The house was owned by wealthy owners in British era who sexually exploited young women and killed them. Deep in the night many eye-witnesses heard clinking of bangles and anklets.
5) South Park Street Cemetery
South Park Street Cemetery is the oldest burial ground built in 1767, also known for eerie occurrence. The story goes like this, when a few friends visited the place and clicked photographs, suddenly fell ill after a few days. Even one healthy guy had an asthma attack. There are also images captured where shadowy figures were moving, and even cameras were not working while clicking photographs. All of these incidences made the place amongst top haunting places in Kolkata.
Chinese Breakfast on Sundays
Kolkata has a Chinese connection. There are many Chinese families who came to Kolkata during world war and British era and permanently settled here. Their descendants are now Indian but they maintain their Chinese heritage. A large portion of Chinese families live around Tiretta Bazaar where you can find a few Chinese temples. Every Sunday a group of Chinese food sellers sell some delicious and sumptuous Chinese breakfast just behind the Poddar Court. The “breakfast market” starts at around 6:00 am and continues till 8:30 am.
|Photo Courtesy Ramble On|
You can find authentic Chinese snacks like pork dumplings, rice pudding seasoned with sesame seeds, noodle soup, sweet stuffed buns, ham choi (salted vegetables), red roast pork and many other delicacies.
Best Luxury Hotels in Kolkata
Many people discard Kolkata as a hubristic city that denies industry, commercial establishments and modernization. The fact is the city boasts of some of the top 5 star hotels in Kolkata and wedding venues. Some of the prestigious properties are located in the heart of the city with impressive architecture and state of the art dining and winning facilities. These are luxury paradise and some hotels like The Park, ITC Sonar Bangla, Novotel, Taj Bengal and others host regular business meetings, weddings and other occasions.
|ITC Sonar Bangla, Kolkata|
For example, ITC Sonar is a country’s top 5 Star luxury Hotel in Kolkata that is known for its sleek architecture. The best thing about ITC is the culinary experience that has earned awards from many worldwide hospitality forums.
Galiff Street Pet Market
People call it ‘Pakhir haat’ (flea market of birds). The market is not just bird lovers, but also for plants, fish, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, ducks and even chicks. The pet market starts early in the morning and continues till late afternoon. Many neighboring states also gather here to buy fishes, plants, pigeons and others pets. I particularly like aquarists and various types of fishes, aquarium plants and others. The price is cheaper than regular shops and most of the sellers are quite knowledgeable about their hobbies. You can find variety of flowering plants etc.
Howrah Bridge & Ganga Ghats
Howrah Bridge is the landmark icon of Kolkata, first cantilever bridge in India constructed without any nut and bolt. It took 6 long years to build this bridge and opened to public transport on February 03, 1943. It carries whooping 100,000 vehicles and possibly more than 150,000 pedestrians every day. This prestigious bridge is ranked 6th among all cantilever bridge in the world.
The ghats in Kolkata have rich history and significance. Like Varanasi, these ghats have special significance, for example, some ghats are exclusive for cremation, some ghats for pujas, some are for boatmen. The beauty of Hoogly River (Ganga) can be truly appreciated sitting on some ghat. If you go in the early morning, you can see people, even very old ones take their daily bath in the ghat. some people practice wrestling, some swimming, some just sitting idly. It’s a wonderful scenario and gives entirely a different perspective to this populated city.
Salt Lake Stadium and East Bengal Mohan Bagan Football Rivalry
|East Bengal v/s Mohan Bagan Derby 2015|
Kolkata is a football crazy city. If Brazil or Argentina lost in the World Cup, fans shed tears. However, nothing can beat the crazy rivalry between East Bengal and Mohan Bagan clubs. The Derby match between two clubs is considering as one of the classic derbies by FIFA. Salt Lake Stadium, the largest stadium by capacity in India holds almost 70,000 people, and during the match between these two arch rivals, you will never see one seat empty.
Mallick Ghat Flower Market
This iconic flower market is located near the southeast end of Howrah Bridge. The best time to visit the market is in the early morning when fresh flowers are brought by people on their heads and cycle vans. The flower market is photographers’ paradise where variety of flowers piles up on both sides of the road. The ubiquitous flower sold in the market is marigold. Other common flowers are roses, kum kum, rajnigandha and others.
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