It was difficult to leave the pleasant air and beaches of Goa knowing Kolkata was going to be hot and humid. However, Kolkata had a high emotional value quotient based on the fact that my mother was born there and spent the first 14 years of her life there, so there wasn’t a choice. We landed in Kolkata after an in flight stop at Bangalore.
I am not much of a history person, so my knowledge of Kolkata’s history is limited to knowing that originally named as Kolkata, it evolved to be “Calcutta” during the British period. Recently the name was reverted back to Kolkata, eh, the politicians need something better to pass their time. Anyhow, Kolkata is one of the those cities in India that can remind you of the British period even now, the biggest symbol being the Cable cars that are still in operation. The city has some of the best English speakers in the country, and is known for its literary achievements, not to mention Tagore and Swami Vivekananda.
Our first stop after getting settled in the hotel was Gangasagar. It is considered to be one of the biggest holy places to bathe at, as this is where the holy Ganges meets with the ocean. Due to off season, it was more managable to reach this place although I wouldnt call it a crowd free time. After you reach the port, you have to take a ferry to Sagar Island and then drive about 30 kms on the other side of the Island. The shore is full of priests ready to help you do the pooja and well, Dogs.
The biggest highlight of my time in Kolkata is visiting Belur Math, which comprises of Swami Vivekananda’s room, the tree under which he sat for penance and a museum with all his belongings including his study table from his room in Chicago. Belur Math is a MUST for all Kolkata vacationers I would say. Photography is strictly prohibited, so couldn’t get any pictures of the place. Well, that gave me enough focus to look at things rather than clicking.
The Victoria palace is a symbol of architecture a hundred years ago, and you will be amazed at how precisely the marble is cut, difficult to imagine how people did it without all the fancy machines in those times. Although I wasn’t very impressed with what’s inside the Victoria Palace which is the weapons that the British used in those times, some Viceroy’s life like figures and other details about how they attacked various forts and such. Call me emotional, but I wouldn’t keep anything that reminds me of injustice, in a museum for people to look at. Either way, the outside of the palace is remarkable to look at and I must say, Very Well Maintained.
The one thing Kolkata is famous for is Kali. And there are ample of Kali temples in and around the city. Again, no photographs allowed. This is the closest I could get to photograph the Dakshineshwar Temple.
Howrah looks more beautiful in movies and professional photographs. I guess the locals would know the best place to photograph it from. For now, I could only get on the bridge and take a few pics. Not very impressive to be on the bridge and click. It had the same chaos that the rest of the roads in India has. Hardly felt like I was on some legendary bridge.
There are so many places that I couldnt visit due to shortage of time. However, you dont need to visit all the places the feel the rustic beauty of this city. Just getting in a radio taxi and getting out on the road itself will do it for you. In all, Kolkata has this charm which is so unique and mystic. A must visit.