Flanked by River Hooghly, ‘The City of Joy’, as Kolkata is called, blew my imagination with its own brand of charm. Extremely helpful and friendly people personify the soul of this city. Arguably India’s best spot for cheap and scrumptious food, Kolkata also teems with numerous attractions – old and new.
Curious about the Raj days? Visit the grand Victoria Memorial with its opulent display of Moughal and European architecture and colonial artefacts. Another Raj remnant is The Botanical Gardens, founded by the East India Company. Largest in India, this garden is an oasis of peace amid Kolkata’s bustle. The Park Street Cemetery, where Kolkata’s founder Job Charnock rests along with British martyrs invokes nostalgia for a rich past.
The bygone era’s sinfully rich nawabi splendour assails one at the Marble Palace, where priceless antiques, including Joshua Reynolds and Rubens masterpieces adorn the walls. Shoppers have a tough time deciding where to go. Options are many – Park Street with its age old food joints and shops, Swabhumi, Central Cottage Industries Emporium and Dakshinapan to name a few. Culture throbs at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Nandan Complex.
Hindu religious fervour reaches crescendo at Kalighat’s Kalibari and at Sagar Island’s Gangasagar Mela. The highly acclaimed St. Paul’s Cathedral, Belur Math and Dakhnineshwar Temple also offer an intoxicating religious high but in a much more relaxed manner. Kolkata is probably among the last few places in the world where hand pulled rickshaws and trams still ply.
An unforgettable highlight of my trip was the visit to Sunderbans Delta, a natural habitat of man eating tigers. Exploration and sightseeing during the day, followed by an electrifying nightlife or an evening of downing drinks at a bar with garrulous locals makes you fondly reflect on the phrase that Kolkata is a city of joy.