Kolkata is the culture capital of India. Kolkata city means- communist stronghold; cricket crazy; Kolkata- Lapierre and Collin's City of Joy and Mother Teresa's karmbhoomi is overcrowded, vibrant, volatile, exciting, snobbish, academic and erudite, all that and it still has a charisma that is unbeatable and a personality that is hard to resist.
It was said that, what Bengal thinks today, India will think tomorrow and of course what Bengal thinks today, Kolkata or Calcutta already thought yesterday! The bastion of Bengali bhadralok, Kolkata is the city of the bespectacled jhola slung intellectual and is India’s cultural capital.Today’s Kolkata is a little tired, overwhelmed by the burden of too many people and not enough civic infrastructure.
However, Kolkata city is the nerve centre of trade and industry in eastern India, and the most important city in the region. Look beyond the squalor and you will find that Kolkata retains a certain something that is sepia tinted, elegant and charming. Call it Calcutta, or call it Kolkata- you either hate it or love it, but you can never be indifferent to the city founded by Job Charnock way back in the 17th century.
How to Reach Kolkata?
By Air : Kolkata has an International Airport that has regular flights to Europe, the United States of America and the Orient. Major cities in India are connected to Kolkata by domestic flights. The Dum Dum Airport is only 17 km away from the city centre. There are taxis, airport buses and public minibuses to get you to the city centre from the airport. The best way to get into the city is to take a prepaid taxi to your destination in town, or to have a rented car meet you at the airport.
By Rail : Howrah on the west of Hooghly River and Sealdah to the east of the river are the two rail stations and both are very crowded and frenetic with activity. All trains to India’s north-eastern region originate and end at Sealdah and trains to west, central and south India operate from Howrah. One needs to be careful against pickpockets at the stations. Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Nagpur, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad and other major Indian cities are connected with Kolkata.
By Road : It is possible to get to Kolkata by road. One can drive or take a bus from anywhere to Kolkata, be it Delhi, Bombay or Guwahati. Gas stations dot the routes and there are numerous options for eating and resting along the way. Distances are however great and it is better if one opts the rails or the skies.
Best Time to Visit Kolkata
The best time to visit Kolkata is between October and March when you will conveniently miss the sweaty, humid and suffocating Bengal summer. You will also be in time for the frenzied celebrations of Durga Puja the worship of the goddess of strength, symbolising good over evil. It is a ten-day ritual held in the month of October.
Things to do in Kolkata
Kolkata has a whole variety of things to do and see for her visitors -- wonderful sights of historical landmarks, architectural wonders, Botanical Gardens, a boat ride on Outram Ghat or a leisurely stroll by the river.
Revel in the colonial past of the city as you admire the beauty of buildings built during the reign of Lord Curzon. For those who appreciate music, play, or dance performance can head to any of the theatres in the city. Take a trip to couple of beach resorts near the city or savour the street food delicacies like jhal muri and puchka. Shop to your heart’s content for the beautiful Bengali sarees here or sandesh.
If you are looking for holidays that are soaked in culture, and cricket then this is an ideal destination for you. So come and explore the charms of the capital city of West Bengal.
Places Near Kolkata
There are many tourist places around Kolkata. you can visit the Diamond Harbour that is 51 Kms south of Kolkata is a beach resort. Take a boat to Sagar Island (SagarDwip). It is also possible to go by bus. The island is considered the point where the Ganges meets the ocean. Every year during Makar Sankranti, which is held in mid January, hundreds of thousands of people throng here for a dip in the waters and a visit to the Kapil Muni Temple. The festival held at this time is called the Gangasagar Mela and is the largest fair in West Bengal.
Digha, some 185 kms South-west of Kolkata, is also a popular beach resort. 8 km from here, across in the state of Orissa is the Chandeshwar Siva Temple.
Sunderbans Delta is just 131 km away and is home to spotted deer, wild pigs, monkeys, herons, kingfishers, white bellied eagles and almost 250 Bengal tigers.
Chandanagar, situated 39 km north of Kolkata was one of the French enclaves in India. It was finally handed over to India in 1951. It has dilapidated structures of the French era.
Nabadwip,114 km north of Kolkata is an ancient center of the Sanskrit culture. Mayapur across the river from Nabadwip has a ISKCON temple. On the banks of the Bhagirathi river, 221 km south of the city isMurshidabad, a trading town today formerly the capital of Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah. It has the Palace of a Thousand Doors, the ruins of Katra Mosque, Moti (Pearl) Lake and the Parswanath Temple of the Jains.
Bishnupur 152 km away from Kolkata was the capital of the Malla kings and is famous for the terracotta temples, classical music (Bishnupur Gharana) and Bankura pottery. It is also famed for the Jhapan festival held in mid-August which is a prayer to Goddess Manasa, the goddess of snakes. A great snake show is held here and the town is thronged with snake charmers, believers and curious onlookers. In case you are staying over, there is a small rest house – do try and make bookings before you go.
Shantiniketan a sylvan retreat is 213 kms away, far from the madding crowd of Kolkata. Rabindranath Tagore’s concept of nature being conducive to learning is upheld even today and classes are still held under shady trees. Splendid frescos, murals and paintings adorn the walls and the campus of the Vishwa Bharti University. Shantiniketan can be reached by rail (Bolpur is the nearest railhead 2 km away) or by road.
Between October and May one can go the Jaldapara Sanctuary home to one horned rhinos, Royal Bengal tigers, elephants, deer, boars, birds etc. River Torsha runs through this forest. Fly or take a train from Kolakata to Bagdogra and take a bus or taxi to the Sanctuary.
Hotels in Kolkata – Choice is Yours
There are numerous hotels in Kolkata ranging from 3-star, 4-star and 5-star deluxe to budget hotels.