Kolkata, or Calcutta (also Cal), is a kaleidoscopic melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. There's quite possibly no Indian festival that the city doesn't celebrate with glorious hoopla. Each month sees small festive marquees popping up at every corner of the street and come October, throngs of women enwrapped in silk sarees and red bindis convene around the city, undeterred by the ever-present rains. This celebration alone is reason enough to travel to Kolkata. From the glut of vibrant attractions, the city also holds a rich vehicular heritage ranging from the big yellow taxi that floods both parts of the city (Calcutta and Howrah) divided by the reticent river Hoogly, to the hand-pulled rickshaws and rickety trams meandering the roads. Tourists will hardly ever run out of things to do in Kolkata. Starting from Kumartuli, a traditional potters’ quarter, famed for its sculpted idols of gods and demons, to the architectural spectacle, that is the Howrah Bridge, Kolkata city will engulf you with its sights, sounds and scents. Calcutta’s biggest, most prismatic wholesale flower market on Mullick Ghat, Victoria Memorial, the old Chinatown Tiretta Bazaar, the magnificent Nakhoda Masjid and Jorasankho (Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral home) are few of the most picturesque places to visit in Kolkata.
The largest and the busiest city in Bangladesh, Dhaka may seem like a regular, commercial city to you in the first glance but it's much more. It's a place that grows on you with time, and when it does, it's difficult to forget its many experiences. If this is your first visit here, you can choose among the many Dhaka day tours. The tours will help you see the city in its entirety and one can also choose customised tours according to individual preferences. Lal Bagh Fort, Liberation War Museum and Ahsan Manzil are some of the must-visit spots in Dhaka. Do include Baitul Mukarram Mosque in your itinerary. It is the 10th largest mosque in the world and is a sight to behold. Sonargaon is another wonderful place to include in your itinerary. An erstwhile administrative centre of Bengal, the site makes for an interesting visit outside Dhaka. Sitara Mosque is named so because it is decorated with a million stars and is a delight to explore. There are a number of options to stay in Dhaka and you can choose one according to your budget or preference.
As the name suggests, the history and significance of this place revolves around the Bodhi tree which is actually a peepal tree. The original name of the place is Gaya and the Bodhgaya is the combination of the two words Bodhi and Gaya. This is the tree under which Gautama Buddha had attained enlightenment and became Buddha- The Enlightened one. The main attraction of this place apart from the history of the Mauryan Empire is the Mahabodhi Temple. This is the oldest seat of Buddhist worship and dates back to the 2nd or 3rd Century. The initial temple structure was built by Emperor Ashika when he visited this place after he had left violence and adopted the path of peace and love. What we see at present is not at all the temple the Chinese Ambassador Fa Hien had mentioned in his account. This is a beautiful ornate temple and monastery with a beautiful spire and a large complex. What Fa Hien had mentioned was just the Bodhi Tree surrounded by brick walls. No doubt this was the forst brick Buddhist temple in the country, but presently it is much more beautiful and the magical sense of inner peace you recieve on visiting this place cannot be explained in words.
Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, is known for its gushing waterfalls and umpteen temples. Another place that attracts tourists is the unique Muta Crocodile Breeding Farm – a rare existence in India. Perfect for a leisurely holiday, this rapidly growing city overlooks the Chhota Nagpur plateau. If you are interested in learning about the various tribes here and their culture, the Tribal Research Institute and Museum will help you understand and explore their rituals, customs and way of life while also offering intriguing souvenirs to take back home! The mighty Hundru Falls, Jonha Falls, Panchghagh Falls and Dassam Falls must definitely be on your list for an adventurous, action packed holiday. For the spiritually inclined, the Jagannath Temple, Angrabari and Pahari Mandir are worth exploring for their architectural brilliance and faith.
One of the most important cities of North Bengal, Murshidabad comes with a rich history. Once a stunning example of grandeur, power, culture and beauty, the erstwhile centre of the nawabs was from where the revenue of the whole state of West Bengal went to the king in Delhi. Till date, Murshidabad and its historical monuments are a tourists' delight and the local communities welcome everyone with warmth. This place is also one of the most important Jain pilgrimages with the four most important jain temples of Bengal situated here. These are the Sri Chintamoni Parshwanath Bhagwan Temple in Azimganj, Shri Shambavnath Bhagwan Temple in Jiyaganj, Sree Adinath Bhagwan Temple in Katgola and other one is in Murshidabad itself. You can also visit Hazar Duari Palace, a palace with over 100 doors. Now a museum, the palace is definitely worth visiting. The intricate art work in the museum is a delight for art enthusiasts. Another lovely spot is Katra Masjid. Go during visiting hours for a memorable experience.
Mallarpur is a little town that lies somewhere between Bolpur and Rampurhat, in the district of Birbhum in West Bengal. It's a little over 200 kilometers away from Kolkata. But this story is not going to be about Mallarpur, it is going to be about a tiny, tiny village called Garia, which you won't find on GoogleMaps. It takes about an hour by car to get to this village from Mallarpur, which is the nearest town. Garia is perhaps typical. Typical in the sense that there are hundreds of villages like Garia scattered throughout the state of West Bengal, throughout India, in fact. For someone like me, born and bred in a metropolis, visits to this place were unique experiences. The village can be covered on foot in a couple of hours. There is nothing to see. There is nothing to do. But there are vast, open fields. There are mountains in the distance. There are people waiting to become friends.
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