If you plan to go to the North East, you may easily fly over Kolkata or through Kolkata, provided you plan well ahead in time. However, if you decide to go north eastern extremities of the country just a couple of months (or lesser) in advance, you’ll end up spending 7-8 hours in Kolkata, waiting to catch your connecting train or flight.
We spent our free time exploring the city of joy. Our first stop was the West Bengal Tourism kiosk at the Kolkata Airport. Armed with our map/guide booklet and a hand towel (it’s really humid out there) each, we hired a prepaid taxi to Victoria Memorial.
The place is beautiful. It is surrounded by lush green lawns on all sides. Victoria Memorial was built between 1906 and 1921 in the memory of Queen Victoria. It’s foundation stone was laid by Prince of Wales(George V) on January 4th, 1906, and was inaugurated by Prince of Wales(King Edward VIII) on 28 December 1921. This majestic while marble palace is located in southern part of the Maidan. The area comprises of 64 acres of land with gardens, pool and walk trails. The building covers 338 feet by 228 feet of land and the highest point is about 184 feet above the ground with a black bronze angel holding a bugle in her hand. The statue is about five meters tall, weighs 3,500 kg and rotates when the wind speed is high enough. Currently the memorial building serves as a museum. The building has galleries with paintings, portraits of eminent personalities, documents witnessing the city’s history during the British period.
Our next stop was the planetarium. We were lucky to catch a 30 mins show there. Inaugurated in 1963, Birla Planetarium was the first of it’s kind in India. The Planetarium owns an astronomical observatory equipped with a Celestron C-14 Telescope. The central dome has a diameter of 27 meter. The building is modeled after the Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi. The central hall can accommodate 500 people and hosts daily shows in English, Hindi and Bengali.
The Princep Ghat was built in the everlasting memory of James Princep, a researcher and past Secretary of the Asiatic Society here. The Ghat was opened to public in the year 1843 and is one of Kolkata’s oldest recreation spot. In its initial years, all the royal British entourages used the Princep Ghat jetty for embarkation/disembarkation.
If you can ignore the crowd and the heat, you’ll be able to enjoy walking across the Howrah Bridge. It is an icon of erstwhile Calcutta.