A mere village in the 17th century, Calcutta thrived during the British Raj and became a leading centre for commerce and a port of call for east bound ships. Calcutta renamed as Kolkata today reveals the rich diversity of the Bengali artistic heritage. Patronised by wealthy and rich connoisseurs, Kolkata has become the social and cultural capital of India. Gateway to the Orient, Kolkata is where any journey to the East begins, locally regarded as the intellectual and cultural capital of the nation. Several of India’s great 19th- and 20th-century heroes were Kolkatans, including guru-philosopher Ramakrishna, Nobel Prize–winning poet Rabindranath Tagore and celebrated film director Satyajit Ray. Kolkata is a city with soul, which has been immortalized as ‘City of Joy’ by Dominique Lapierre.
Our sample tour ideas in Calcutta
The Victoria Memorial is the greatest landmark of the city and one of the most solid reminders of the Raj to be found in India. This huge piece of architecture is a strange combination of classical European architecture with Mughal influence. The portraits, statues, paintings and other artefacts here tell the story of British Empire in India at its peak.
On the west bank of the Hooghly River are the 109-hectare extensive Botanical Gardens. This 273 acre park was set up in 1787 by Col Kyd of the East India Company and played an important role in cultivating tea long before it became a household commodity. It has a variety of botanical specimens, a cactus house, palm collection, river-overlook and a boating-lake. The prime attraction of the park is a 200 year old Banyan tree, said to have the second largest canopy in the world
Missionary of Charity
Pilgrims arrive at the Missionaries of Charity’s Motherhouse regularly to pay homage at Mother Teresa’s large, sober tomb. Exhibits in a small adjacent museum include Teresa’s worn sandals and battered enamel dinner-bowl. Located upstairs, the ‘Mother’s room’ where she worked and slept from 1953 to 1997, is preserved in all its simplicity with a crown-of-thorns placed above her modest camp bed.
Walking tour ‘confluence of cultures’
Kolkata has witnessed many more cultures in its past than most others. The walking tour traces the origins and remains of the varied communities that hung their boots and called Kolkata home.
‘Footsteps of the Raj’ in a walking tour
Exploring the area around Dalhousie Square which is ringed by colonial British buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Exploring Kolkata’s bazaars
Visit Sovabazaar, the ever-vital hub of traditional Bengali culture; also explore Chowringhee, New Market and Park Street areas to get the real feel of the city.
Visit the potters’ community of Kumartulli
Kumartulli is home to more than six hundred families of clay model-makers. Navigate the maze of alleys in this densely populated area and meet these artists who create the idols for the ten day long Durga Puja (Kolkata’s favorite annual festival). If you have time, go on a full-day excursion to Vishnupur (152 km) and see the exquisite craftsmanship of the terracotta artisans in the temples of Vishnupur.