now Kolkata: Job Charnock, chief of East India Company's
factory at Hooghly, established a factory in Kalikata on 24 August
1690. This date is widely accepted as the foundation day of Calcutta.
today is the largest and most populous city in India. She was the
doyenne of British India and capital from 1772 to 1912. The headquarters
of many large British companies and the most prestigious social clubs
complimented the charm and grandeur of this majestic city. Rightfully
called the cultural capital of India, Kolkata has spawned countless
intellectuals in diverse fields such as literature, arts, cinema and
academics; naturally the city ensures a full plate for the ones smitten
by the romance of arts and culture. However, Kolkata is not just about
grand architecture, culture and religion. The city also has a good
measure of entertainment and fun by way of a nightlife, lively bars
and pubs, an excellent shopping scene and legendary street food as
well as many celebrated fine-dining establishments. A penchant for
good food and fondness for lively debates on food, books, sports,
politics, religion and cinema seem to be common interests of one and
all. After all, Kolkata is the ‘City of Joy.’
Through the ages,
Kolkata has inspired the best architecture from the British, and richly
steeped in the religious traditions of the Goddesses Durga and Kali,
Kolkata has some of the most deeply revered temples in the world.
Some of her famous landmarks include:
The name Calcutta is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat.
This 350-year temple is dedicated to Goddess Kaali the presiding guardian
deity of the city and one of the principal deities of Bengal. Ramakrishna
Paramahamsa, the second priest in-charge of this temple, was the guru
of Swami Vivekananda. Kalighat is regarded as one of the 52 Shakti
Peethams of India, where various parts of Shakti's body are said to
have fallen, in the course of Shiva's Rudra Tandava. The idol of Kali
is made of black stone and it is decorated with gold and silver, and
that of Lord Shiva is made in silver. Kalighat represents the site
where the toes of the right foot fell. Kalighat Temple is located
on the Kalighat by the side of Tolly’s Nullah on the banks of the
river Hooghly (Bhagirathi).
Loosely modeled on the Taj Mahal, the huge white marbled Victoria
Memorial was built in the memory of Queen Victoria. Situated amidst
beautiful gardens sprawling across an area of roughly 64 hectares,
the monument has an Indo-Sarcenic revivalist architecture and completely
bowls over the onlooker with its aesthetics.
With marble floors and walls, the aptly named nineteenth-century era
privately- owned Marble Palace Mansion is full of paintings by European
and Indian artists, Victorian furniture, Western sculptures and other
objects d’art. This three-storied building is a private property and
the owner’s family still lives here!
Named as the ‘cloud-kissing monument’ by Mark Twain, the 157 ft tall
Shaheed Minar was built in 1828 in the memory of Major General Sir
David Ochterlony but was later rededicated to the memory of the martyrs
of the Indian freedom movement. Shaheed Minar has an Egyptian style
foundation, a classical fluted column, a Syrian upper portion and
a Turkish dome.
Built from 1840 to 1844, the heritage building of Metcalfe Hall is
striking in its similarity to Greek temples. A majestic basement and
as many as 30 Corinthian pillars support this captivating 2-floor
monument. The ground floor serves as the annex building of the Asiatic
Society and the upper is home to a museum of the Archaeological Survey
Ram Mohan Roy Memorial Museum
The Raja Ram Mohan Roy Memorial Museum was the home of the father
of Bengal Renaissance, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, before it was turned into
a museum. Well stocked with old writings, period furniture and other
memorabilia, it offers fine glimpses into the gentleman’s mind.
Set attractively amid palms and manicured lawns, this religious centre
spread over 40 acres is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission,
inspired by 19th-century Indian sage Ramakrishna Paramahansa who preached
the unity of all religions. A dual-level museum charts Ramakrishna’s
life and the travels of his great disciple Swami Vivekananda. The
structure incorporates the architectural motifs of a Hindu temple,
a Buddhist chaitya, a Christian church and an Islamic mosque. The
windows and balconies are Islamic while the temple façade is
Hindu. The significance of religious fraternity in one homogenous
structure cannot be missed by the devotee.
Dakshineswar Kali Temple
Dedicated to Goddess Bhavatarini, a form of Goddess Kali, this beautiful
and vibrant riverside Hindu temple complex was built by Rani Rasmoni,
a pious lady from an aristocratic background. She purchased a huge
plot of land beside the Hoogly river and established the Kali temple
in 1855 in the traditional nava-ratna (9 spires) style of Bengal architecture,
at the heart of which is a cream-and-red Kali Temple shaped like an
Indian Sacré-Coeur. The site is where Shri Ramakrishna started
his remarkable spiritual journey and where he was head priest, and
his small room in the outer northwest corner of the temple precinct
is now a place of special meditative reverence. Along with the main
Kali temple, there are twelve temples of lord Shiva in his twelve
different names. The temple construction follows the typical architectural
pattern of Bengal.
Lord Sri Ramakrishna
was the famous priest of this temple, after his elder brother. He
resided here with his wife Sri Ma Sarada Devi and it was a place of
gathering for his devotees. This place is not just a temple, but a
place where a great spiritual revolution took place during the 19th
The Indian Museum
A renowned scholar, sir William Jones, established the Asiatic society
in Kolkata in 1784, with a view to promoting the growth of culture
and art. It became an enriched gathering of reputed scholars who wanted
to ensure the growth and preservation of the Indian culture. In 1808,
The Indian Museum first took shape through the earnest efforts of
the Asiatic society members. Now it is the biggest museum in India
and also in the Asia-Pacific region. The museum has different segments
of collections, to name, the Zoological, Archaeological, Geological,
Anthropological, Art and Culture and a few more segments. Locally
it is known as the ‘Jadughar’, and you need a whole day or even more
than one days, to cover the entire Museum.
It is one of the oldest historical tombs in Kolkata, dates back to
the seventeenth Century. There are the old fort and the new fort;
The East India Company built up the first fort in 1696. It was captured
by the then Bengal ruler Siraj Ud Daulah; the company built a second
fort in Maidan. The old fort was regained by the company in 1766.
The fort was named after the King of England and Ireland, King William
III. The brick and mortar fort is built in a geometric design. It
has six gates including the Chowringhee and the Treasury gate. Presently
it is owned by the Indian Army.
Called Rabindra Setu, it is the gateway to Kolkata. With 8 vehicular
ways and 2 footpaths, it is said to be the world’s busiest cantilever
bridge. The mammoth structure is the sixth longest bridge of its type
in the world and has become an integral symbol of Kolkata’s spirit.
Opened in 1767 and used until the 1830s, the South Park Cemetery is
an oasis of serenity in the heart of Kolkata’s bustle. The cemetery
was closed in 1840 due to lack of burial space and is now a heritage
site, preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The landscape
is quaint and serene with tall shady trees and many beautiful flowers
and bushes encircling the tombs. This 250 year old cemetery is the
resting place of some 1600 British settlers in Kolkata where the last
burial took place in 1931, stands out for its diversity of architecture:
European Gothic, Classical Antiquity and Indo-Saracenic styles of
opulent tombs and sarcophagi of various designs, some even resembling
Hindu temples. Some of the most notable tombs are those of Rose Aylmer,
William Jones , Henry Louis Derozio, Elizabeth Barwell and Major General
Charles Hindoo Stuart. Spread across an area of eight acres, it is
perhaps the largest 19th century Christian cemetery outside the US
and Europe and is the oldest British colonial burial ground.
This houses Mother St. Teresa’s Mission and Mother House, including
her tomb. Here experience the serenity of the place and learn about
her religious and philanthropic work. A small adjacent museum room
has her worn sandals and battered enamel dinner bowl on display. Her
starkly simple living quarters are also preserved at an upper floor.
Today, the city’s 12 million population boasts about 20 individuals
of the Jewish faith, dwindled from a peak of more than 20,000 fifty
years ago. Most of the population left India when the British receded
in 1947, giving India her independence, and when Israel was born in
The founder of
Calcutta Jew’s community was Shalom Aharon Ovadiah Ha Cohen, born
in Aleppo in 1762 and left in 1789. He arrived in Surat in 1792 and
established himself there, trading as far as Zanzibar. In 1798 he
moved to Calcutta, and in 1805 he was joined by his nephew, Moses
Simon Duek HaCohen, who married his eldest daughter Lunah. Soon the
community was swelled by other traders and Baghdadis outnumbered those
from Aleppo. The first generations of Calcutta Jews spoke Judeo-Arabic
at home, but by the 1890s English was the language of choice.
the five synagogues, only two remain open for this meager population:
Neveh Shalome Synagogue established in 1825, the first Synagogue in
Calcutta and rebuilt in 1911 and the Magen David Synagogue, built
by Mr. Elias David Joseph Esra to perpetuate the memory of his father,
Mr. David Joseph Ezra who died in 1882. This is the largest Synagogue
in the East and is magnificent in architecture and design. More information
about the Jews
keeper of both these synagogues, the individual who is also the keeper
of the sanctum sanctorum, where the Torahs are kept, is a Muslim.
Only in India will you witnesses such a level of spiritual neighborliness
between two religions which seem to optimize violence to those living
in the West. And it could only be in India where Muslim
children go to Jewish schools!
Sound and Light Show at the Victoria Memorial
Enjoy a momentous sunrise at the sprawling gardens here or witness
a romantic sunset with a loved one to enjoy a Light and Sound Show
in the evenings! See the statues of Lord Curzon, King Edward Statue
and Queen Victoria come alive.
Countless effigies of deities are immersed in the holy river Hooghly
during Kolkata’s colourful puja (offering or prayers). Most have been
created in specialist kumar (potter-sculptor) workshops in this enthralling
district, where craftsmen are busiest from August to October, creating
straw frames, adding clay coatings and painting the divine features
for the Durga and Kali festivals.
Marked by a distinctive red-brick clock tower, this huge warren of
market halls dates back to 1874, but was substantially rebuilt after
a fire in the 1980s. Seek out Nahoum Bakery, where little has changed
since 1902 when its Jewish owners arrived from Baghdad. The little
teak cash-desk here is 80 years old.
Bridge & Flower Market
Howrah Bridge is one of the most enduring symbols of the city of Kolkata.
The sight of the rising sun in the backdrop of this majestic bridge
is one, which photographers have tirelessly captured over the years.
Walk beneath the east end of Howrah Bridge to Mulik Ghat – to watch
the amazing profusion of colourful blooms and the hustle bustle of
buyers and sellers at eastern India’s largest flower market.
the Art of Kantha Embroidery
Discover the fascinating Kantha or ‘stitch painting’ embroidery with
a visit to the elegant home of Mrs Shamlu Dudeja, who has helped to
revive this rural craft that was on the verge of extinction. Through
her efforts with SHE (Self Help Enterprise), Kantha is now a popular
technique for modern designers, and women around the world. Calcutta
Foundation headed by her also supports many welfare projects around
the city and beneath her quiet elegance is a dynamic woman who has
changed the lives of many in the city and beyond its boundaries in
a Textile Factory
Rangeen is the weaving, dyeing and printing unit for Weavers Studio
in Calcutta, famous for their high quality cotton and silk garments.
You will have a chance to watch the artisans at work weaving at their
looms, dyeing using diverse techniques such as tie and dye, batik,
Japanese Shibori and African Adire, block printing and stenciling
on fabric, as well as hand painting, mud and screen printing. The
Resource Centre also has a textile library and museum with a collection
of antique fabric from around the world. The history of the world's
most popular natural dye - Indigo - weaves its story into the visit
as well. Indigo has a huge connection with the history of Bengal,
and is thought to have played a major role in the start of the struggle
for a free India.
After the factory, visit Weavers Studio, where you can have a look
at the finished products, as well as Weavers Studio for the Arts that
the dynamic Darshan Shah set up to encourage young and upcoming talent
by showcasing local culture and art ranging from ceramics, photography,
sculpture, handicrafts, textiles and the performing arts.
Much as Carnival transforms Rio or New Orleans, Durga Puja brings
Kolkata to a fever pitch of colourfully chaotic mayhem as the city’s
biggest festival sets out to celebrate the maternal essence of the
divine. For 5 days around October people venerate gaudily painted
idols of the 10-armed mother goddess Durga and her entourage displayed
in ornate and elaborately decorated pandals (temporary shrines) that
dominate yards, block roads and fill little parks to capacity. At
the festival’s climax, myriad Durga idols are thrown into the sacred
Hooghly River amid singing, water- and colour- throwing, and fireworks.
at the Calcutta Races at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club
With its panoramic views of Victoria Memorial and the River Hooghly
it is one of the oldest and grandest clubs in India and the ambience
is positively 'Raj'. Guests are entertained by hosts closely associated
with the Club and lunch and tea are served in a Member's Box. Betting
before, and meeting the jockeys, trainers and horses after, is all
a part of the glorious afternoon. Lunch is brought to the box itself,
but is mainly ‘snacky’ in nature. (From noon to 5pm on specific days)
Visit a local tea connoisseur for a private tea tasting session. India
is one of the largest producers and consumers of tea. Some of the
best tea in the world comes from Darjeeling, the Himalayan region
that is situated in the Northern part of the state of West Bengal.
You will visit the office of a renowned tea connoisseur where you
will learn all about the origins of Indian tea, the ever-growing nature
of the tea industry in India, the processes and production steps taken
to create this tea and of course an exclusive tea tasting session
where you will sample some of the finest teas of this region.
ONE HAS TO EAT ……..
Flurys at Park Street
Kolkata’s legendary tea room located on Park Street was established
under the British Raj in 1927. It offers an old-world atmosphere and
a glimpse of the Kolkata of another era with a lavish spread of luxurious
cakes, indulgent pastries, rich puddings and, a special Flurys pride,
some of the best single-origin chocolates outside of Europe. Just
as stylish and chic today as it was 90 years ago, it is the perfect
location to catch up over a traditional English cream tea or grab
a refreshing break from the summer heat with an iced coffee with ice
cream. Flurys is also the place to go in Kolkata for weekend brunch,
serving its popular English breakfast all day.
and Sons at New Market
A long-standing Kolkata icon, the bakery was first established by
Nahoum Israel in 1902, an Iraqi-Jew who immigrated from Baghdad to
Kolkata, during the British Raj. In the early half of the century,
anywhere between 3,000 to 5,000 Jewish people sought refuge in this
bustling city where they set up their own schools, synagogues and
newspapers and brought with them traditional Jewish foods. Now, only
a handful of Jewish people — an estimated 20-25 — remain, yet their
influence is still evident in the city’s few Jewish bakeries, none
more beloved than Nahoum and Sons confectionery. The Jewish baking
tradition is carried on by Isaac, the brother of David Nahoum, and
visitors to the city’s New Market area can find stacks of brownies
and rum balls as well a rich selection of cakes, biscuits, pastries
and breads fresh from the oven.
at New Market Area
The King of the Kathi Roll, Nizam’s claims to be the inventor of the
famous kathi roll, which has become one of the must-try dishes in
Kolkata. A true comfort food, Nizam’s kathi roll is a fried paratha
packed with fried egg, spicy meats, onions and chillies, all of which
is rolled up and served like a burrito. Such is the fame of Nizam’s
kathi roll that celebrity chef-traveller Rick Stein has called the
kathi roll ‘the perfect street food’.
at Park Street
For many locals, Arsalan is the cure for a biryani craving as it is
distinguished for its exquisite spread of various types of biryanis
including mutton, Hyderabadi, chicken and lots more. In addition to
this, other favourites include Arsalan’s chicken chaanp and its many
Bengalis have a distinct love for sweets and the true specialty of
West Bengal is sweets, confectioneries and desserts, many of which
are made using sweetened chhena, or curdled milk. Nag’s is a legendary
confectionery offering a wide variety of sweets like shôndesh
(sandesh) to rôshogolla, laung lata, and mishti doi to name
Place at Ballygunge
Housed in a hundred-year-old bungalow decorated with pictures of old
Kolkata, ‘6 Ballygunje Place’ provides the perfect ambience for a
multi- course Bengali meal. Featuring a menu that caters to every
taste, from vegetarian to meat lovers, its highlights include the
kasha mangsho, a traditional Bengali spicy mutton curry dish and the
daabchingri, prawns cooked in mustard (a favourite amongst Bengalis)
and cooked inside of a hollowed-out coconut.
at Old Ballygunje
Chef Joy Banerjee’s restaurant is indeed bohemian, both in looks and
in what it feeds you — free spirited in nature. Banerjee uses traditional
Bengali ingredients to craft unconventional dishes, portraying a contemporary
take on Bengali food. In each dish, the local ingredients take centre
stage. The fusion menu at his restaurant includes the likes of Firangee
Mutton Roast with Spinach and Coconut Jus, Cauliflower and Mustard
Pudding with Coconut and Darjeeling Chillies, and a Chital Steak in
the fish section. A must visit.
at New Market
Situated in the New Market area and serving authentic Dhakai Bangladeshi
cuisine, award- winning Kasturi is an inexpensive but delicious option,
and although the décor is rather uninspiring, the food is what
Kitchen at Elgin Road
With the ambience of a traditional Bengali home, Kewpie’s Kitchen
is a true family affair headed by chef Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta which
seeks to prepare authentic home-cooked Bengali food in an eclectic,
relaxed dining environment. Using recipes passed down from her chef-mother
Kewpie’s Kitchen serves traditional Bengali cuisine including the
thali platter with a mix of small dishes served in terracotta pots.
Although the service can be uneven, Kewpie’s Kitchen remains a great
restaurant to experience authentic Bengali food and culture.
at Elgin Road
Bengali cuisine is renowned for the abundance of fish, from freshwater
catches including varieties of carp from the region’s fertile rivers,
lakes and ponds of the Ganges Delta, to prawn and saltwater fish like
ilish. Elegantly decorated with a fine-dining ambience, Oh! Calcutta
is a wonderful place to start your Bengali culinary journey, serving
the mainstays of traditional Bengali cuisine. Menu favourites include
the smoked boneless hilsa and smoked bhekti, which is marinaded with
mustard paste and green chillies then wrapped in banana leaf and steamed.
Finish off your meal with some of Kolkata’s famous sweets, including
mishti doi, a traditional Bengali sweetened yoghurt or the homemade
date palm jaggery ice cream, which Oh! Calcutta patrons rave about
for its excellent flavour.
Ganguram Sweets at Bou Bazaar
This venerable sweet shop set up in 1885 serves both traditional Bengali
sweets and innovative variations based on old favourites. Serving
Kolkata’s Favourite Mishti Doi as well as a huge variety of sandesh
flavours including mango and strawberry, milk chamcham, rasmadhuri
and kesharia rasmalai, Ganguram Sweets has built up a loyal following
amongst Kolkatans. In particular, locals come here for their perfectly
balanced mishtidoi, which is often cited as the best in Kolkata.
Manna at Star Theatre
This family restaurant attempts to endorse the old world with its
concepts.The menu is handwritten on a whiteboard with the season,
the weather conditions, and the celebrations and certainly the raw
material obtainable on that specified day. The most famous dishes
with amazing ingredients are mochar ghonto; sauce made typically from
banana flowers curried with spices, mustard oil, and ghee. Jumbo Chingri
Malaikari; prawns cooked in a skinny and flavorful coconut based curry
Restaurant at Royd Street and AJC Bose Road junction
This eatery dishes out exclusive Bengali cuisine and has stuck to
its roots, serves only lunch and is run by All Bengal’s Women Association.
This all-women affair is managed and run entirely by women – from
cooks to those who serve and do the billing as well. Suruchi endeavours
to give one a taste of Bengal without all the excess pomp. The thalis
come loaded with luchis and rice with an array of vegetable preparations.
You can choose between a vegetarian, chicken, mutton or fish thali.
The people of Bengal like to eat fish and you must try the muri-ghonto
and hilsa fish in a mustard paste. (Open from 11 am - 3:30 pm)
Cat at Park Street
A posh restaurant from the times of British Raj is famous for its
sizzlers and Chelo kebab, and hard to miss. The menu comprises Indian,
Mughlai and continental dishes. Piping hot sizzlers fly out of the
kitchen with a hissing sound that never fails to turn heads. The Chelo
kebab is a dish of buttery rich kebab served with poached egg.
Joy Restaurant at Tangra
This restaurant finds place on the list of top restaurants in Kolkata.
Authentic Chinese fare is dished out here and its almost always catering
full to capacity, despite having seating coverage for around 450 people
at a single sitting. Nothing is overdone here – the food, ambience
and service rendered simple and yet out of the world. Try their chilli
garlic pepper chicken and chicken wrapped in noodles and fried in
a tempura batter. Their thick chicken and mushroom soup is a crowd
Courtyard at Hazra, Bhowanipore
A gorgeous colonial house that was last inhabited in 1904 has been
converted into a boutique hotel. Sitting amidst all this prettiness
is also a fairly contemporary restaurant. The global menu offers a
jumble of flavours: you can dip Potato Wedges in Cheese Fondue with
Sundried Tomatoes, or have Beet-flavoured Hummus, Honey glazed grilled
Chicken paired with Bengali Mustard and even grilled Shrimps tossed
in a Chocolate sauce. It is one of those places that you must visit
to soak in the ambience yet come back having managed a light and cosmopolitan
Kitchen at Elgin Road
Quality ingredients, freshly prepared Italian food, painstaking commitment
and a knowledgeable and alert service staff are the reasons for its
success. Signature dishes like Black Pepper Chicken, Al Aglio, mixed
fried Seafood, all Vegetable Pizza and the rich Tiramisu are superb.
at Ganesh Chandra Avenue
This restaurant is run by 4th generation Huang family and specializes
in excellent home cooked Hakka Chinese food. Meet Josephine and her
son Joel who talk about the Chinese food and the history of Chinese
culture during the settlement in India. Calcutta’s large Chinese community
once thrived and made a substantial mark on the city. The first Chinese
immigrant is said to have settled in the Hooghly district around the
17th century. In recent years, the community has shrunk in numbers
although they have retained their influence over the city’s cuisine
in a big way.
& Dinner at Bomti’s
Bomti’s charming flat is located in one of the city’s most historic
buildings. With his private collection of Bengali Art, and delicious
home hosted Bengali meal with an Art Collector. A presentation and
talk on The Story of India, culminating in the city of Calcutta as
we know it today, rounds off the evening.
The Bengal Club, founded 187 years ago and is reckoned amongst the
oldest clubs in the world along with famous London Clubs such as Oriental
(1824), The Athenaeum (1824), and Oxford and Cambridge (1830), The
Garrick (1831), The Carlton (1832) and The Reform (1837). Dine at
the Club (dress code applies), starting with drinks and followed by
a sit-down meal comprising Raj specialties like Mulligatawny Soup,
Prawn Cocktail, Grilled Bekti and Baked Alaska.