KOLKATA: the old and the new; together

Tripoto
1st Dec 2017
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya

I was visiting Kirnahar, a village in West Bengals' Birbhum district, to attend a friend's reception and had decided to take a trip to Kolkata which was just 160 km away.

After watching fish from the local pond being cooked (no I didn't eat it because of being a vegetarian; yes you can sigh), I and two other friends hired a taxi to Santiniketan. This is the place which Noble prize winning writer Rabindranath Tagore and his family converted from a forest patch to an innovative center for learning.

Away from the noise of Kolkata, once the capital of British empire, Santiniketan was meant to be an abode of peace for the poet to reflect and write. He built many small houses there, which were soon followed by the Viswa Bharati University. Tagore's house, far from being extravagant, were simple but had a touch of elegance.

Photo of Santiniketan, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Santiniketan, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

One of Tagore's car. He wasn't able to use it much as he was sick and passed away soon

Photo of Santiniketan, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Santiniketan, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Santiniketan, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Day 1

The huge complex is full of big trees and large grassy grounds. It comprises both of a school and the Viswa Bharati University. The school here is famed for conducting open classed under the tree.

The classes are held within these circles, surrounded by the trees

Photo of Visva Bharati Santiniketan Central Office, Santiniketan, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

Another areas for an open class, right in front a college building

Photo of Visva Bharati Santiniketan Central Office, Santiniketan, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Visva Bharati Santiniketan Central Office, Santiniketan, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Visva Bharati Santiniketan Central Office, Santiniketan, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

I was lucky to arrive the day an arts festival was being conducted by the University's Arts department. It was a pleasure to witness the students prepare installations, half built, yet to take their full form and meaning. Viswa Bharati is especially famous for its arts and literary courses.

Students from arts dept. taking rest in the middle of festival preparation

Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya

There is a large museum in Santiniketan, whose construction was commenced by Indian's first Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru after Tagore's demise. The museum talks about Tagore and his illustrious family, which produced numerous scholars and eminent personalities. The yellow painted museum building is breathtaking.

Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya

The drive from Santiniketan to Kirnhar was beautiful. As sun was setting, we drove miles right besides a canal and fields with harvested wheat deposited in beautiful and neat patterns.

Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya

After reaching Kirnhar, we attended's my friend's receptions and stuffed ourselves with delicious bengali food. Next day, early morning, I boarded a bus to Kolkata and arrived in the city within few hours at around 8:30 a.m. in the morning. The bus dropped me at the famed Park Street, a walking distance from my hotel at KYD street. My bengali friends had advised me to stay near Park Street as it was at the center and I could access many important sites from there.

I had booked a bed in the dormitory of the hotel for Rs 500 per night. The place was decent for the what is was worth. Without wasting time, I got freshened up and strapped on my backpack and camera to experience one of India's oldest metropolis.

Day 2

I first had breakfast at the highly awarded and affordable Kasturi restaurant near KYD street and then moved on to 'New Market', which ironically is the older market of Kolkata. Initially constructed by British to keep the natives our of their shopping experience, today the market is full of local crowds and hundreds of shops selling from baked cakes to meat.

Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of New Market Area, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

Kolkata is all about its streets and the lanes around Park Street are a treat for any walker. Old and new, luxury and poverty, all co-exist.

Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya

After walking in and around New Market, I took a long walk over the Esplanade that is lined with colonial era buildings that have still not lost their sheen. The walk ended with reach the Victoria Memorial -an architectural feat of its time. Photography is prohibited inside the structure but your eyes won't get enough of the gorgeous high dome and glass panels. The tour of the memorial ends with an amazing painting exhibition featuring restored paintings from several British era painters. The paintings shows the city as well as other political events of the time beautifully captured on the canvas.

Photo of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

The Victoria Memorial with a yellow tinge due to light from the setting sun during the evening

Photo of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

After enjoying the splendor of Victoria Memorial, I walked to nearby St. Paul's Cathedral and the adjacent Birla Planetarium. The full moon shining behind the Planetarium's dome gave a memorial end to my first full day in the city.

Photo of St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

As it got dark, I returned to the hotel and took some rest. Thereafter, I freshened up again and stepped to the brightly lit streets and walked to Park Street. On Park Street, I grabbed a dinner at McDonald's (instead I should have tried the local rolls on the Park Street) and then walked several paces to stop in front of the vintage OLYPUB.

What India Coffee House at College Street is for coffee, Olypub is for beer. The alcohol here is cheap and the bar has that old worn out Kolkata look but still hasn't crumbled. It's no wonder that one has to stand in a waiting line to get in. Being a loner, I got in within few minutes and gulped down two beers, still soaking the amazing first day of my city tour.

Day 3

Next day, I woke little lazily and walked to the Blue Sky cafe on Sudder Street for a nice, hearty breakfast comprising pancakes and coffee. Next, I boarded a bus to the famous Howrah Bridge, officially called Rabindra Setu, which is just next to the Howrah Railway Station. A friend had asked me to not just drive by the bridge, but to walk on it, look around, feel it trembling and gaze the ghats on both the sides. That's exactly what I did and walked from one end of the bridge to another end, which is home to the popular Mullickbazar flower market.

The market is a riot of colors, supplemented by an interesting crowed - especially for a photographer. That's the reason the place features on the Lonely Planet and attracts lot of camera equipped foreign tourists. Next to the market is a ghat which offers a panoramic view of the Howrah Bridge.

Howrah Railway station from the Howrah bridge

Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Howrah Bridge, Howrah, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

After looking around the flower market, I walked back to the other end of Howrah Bridge to reach the ferry platform. The Ferry rides from Howrah to the ghats give an amazing view of the bridge as well as old city ghats and the buildings on the Esplanade. I took the ticket for Baghbazar ghat, which is the longest route. You can, however, still take the ferry to Fairlie ghat - which gives the view of the Esplanade and various old buildings near the rives. Fairlie is the last ghat in that direction. Take the same ferry to come back to Howrah and then board another ferry to Baghbazar which goes into opposite directions, from below the Howrah bridge.

Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya

After de-boarding at Baghbazar Ghat, I walked to Kumartuli, near Chitpur road. The place is famous for its craft of making clay idols, which are used in Durga and Saraswati Pujas as well as various other functions and events. The artisans have been practicing this craft for centuries and generations.

Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Kumartuli, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

Kumartuli artists are very down to earth and you can freely explore the bylanes and numerous workshops of the area. After wrapping up Kumartuli, I took a yellow taxi to the BBD Bagh, previously known as Dalhousie Square. All the major government offices are located this square, which is also known for its street food consumed by the office crowd in the back lanes of these offices. It being a Sunday, all the offices were closed and the square was completely calm and empty. I was free to walk on the broad avenues around the square.

I had a free lunch at the back of Writer's building, where the Chief Minister of West Bengal sits. Walk around the square to admire its old heritage buildings.

Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of BBD Bagh, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

As I kept walking, I soon reached the St. John's church, which houses the grave of Job Charnock. A majority of historians consider Charnock to be the founder of Kolkata. It is who laid down the foundation of the fort in the middle of three villages. He, however, died soon before his project came to fruition. I didn't want to miss the burial site of the person who founded the city in the first place.

Photo of St. John's Church, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of St. John's Church, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of St. John's Church, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

The Greek tablet on Job Charnock's burial site

Photo of St. John's Church, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

Job Charnock's tomb in the St. John's church complex

Photo of St. John's Church, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

After basking in some silence, I took a taxi to Prinsep Ghat. The ghat offers beautiful view of the sunset with the Vidyasagar setu as the backdrop. Prinsep Ghat is one of the most romantic sites in Kolkata and couples roam around freely, enjoying the beautiful sunset.

Prinsep ghat was the last stop of my second day's tour. I took some rest in front of the Prinsep Memorial and hailed a taxi to my hotel. After resting my feet at hotel for an hour or so, I again got out to take a walk at the Park Street. It's most beautiful during the night and one should never miss a chance to roam around this street.

Photo of James Prinsep Ghat, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of James Prinsep Ghat, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of James Prinsep Ghat, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of James Prinsep Ghat, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of James Prinsep Ghat, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of James Prinsep Ghat, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of James Prinsep Ghat, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Day 4

Next morning being my last, I walked to the New Market again to buy the fruit cake from the Kolkata's famous Nahoum Bakery. I bought half kilo gram of cake and tried few pastries and tarts. With time running out and it being my last day, I hired a taxi to Mother's house, which is otherwise walkable too. This is where Mother Teresa, Nobel Prize winner, founded the Missionaries of Charity. Visitor's can visit Mother Teresa's room and access her articles and documents related to her life.

Photo of Mother Teresa house, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Mother Teresa house, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Mother Teresa house, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

From the peaceful environs of Mother's House, I left for another location which owes its existence to a similar aspirations. This was Gandhi Bhawan in Beleghata. During the partitions riots, when Hindus and Muslims were killing each other, Mahatma Gandhi came to Kolkata and stayed at this locations. Gandhi took a fast unto death in order to stop the madness in the city. Only after a gathering of hindus and muslims assured him about stopping the riots, Gandhi drank water and broke his fast. The location is now a peaceful complex called Gandhi Bhawan.

Photo of Gandhi Bhawan (Hyderi Manzil), Beliaghata Main Road, Beleghata, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Gandhi Bhawan (Hyderi Manzil), Beliaghata Main Road, Beleghata, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Gandhi Bhawan (Hyderi Manzil), Beliaghata Main Road, Beleghata, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Gandhi Bhawan (Hyderi Manzil), Beliaghata Main Road, Beleghata, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Gandhi Bhawan (Hyderi Manzil), Beliaghata Main Road, Beleghata, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

The peace ended at Gandhi Bhawan, as from I took an Ola Share to Poddar Court, where several Jewish Synagogues are located. I turned out to be unluck as all the three major synagogues were closed to visitors for maintenance. However, I didn't realize that the Synagogues were very near to BBD Bagh and today it being Monday, the area was crazily crowded. There were people and vehicles everywhere and barely any space to walk on the pavements. However, there was also a lot of street food options and I decided to have my lunch from the street stalls. Needless to say, the food was delicious.

From BBD Bagh I walked to the Central Metro Station and boarded the metro to Mahatma Gandhi metro station. The idea was to visit Tagore's old house and Marble Palace. Again, luck wasn't on my side as both of the buildings, very near to each other, were closed. Not wanting to waste my precious time, I hopped back on the metro to reach Esplanade and catch the highly recommended Tram ride from Esplanade to Kidderpore. The ride was mix of both sides of Kolkata. While one portion showed the green and clear 'Maidan' with locals relaxing in the evening, the other portion showed the crowded and bustling part of the city. I tried to capture both in my camera. Have a look.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BcY0Tb8DEmy/

After the tram ride, I got down at Esplanade and walked to check out some street food on the James Hickey street and ate at a recommended local restaurant Bhojohori Manna.

Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of KOLKATA: the old and the new; together by Kshitiz Goliya
Photo of Bhojohori Manna, Kolkata, West Bengal, India by Kshitiz Goliya

Sure of having gained several kilograms after the incessant eating, I took a taxi to my hotel and went for my last walk on the Park Street. That night I slept well, satisfied that the trip was completely worth it. Next morning, I woke up early and got into a taxi to catch my flight to Delhi. I don't know why but I have a strong feeling that since I loved the city so much, there would be many more visits to Kolkata.

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