During the British colonial era from 1700–1912, when Kolkata (then known as Calcutta) was the capital of British India, Kolkata witnessed a spate of frenzied construction activity of buildings largely influenced by the conscious intermingling of Neo-Gothic, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Oriental and Islamic schools of design. Unlike many north Indian cities, whose construction stresses minimalism, the layout of much of the architectural variety in Kolkata owes its origins to European styles and tastes imported by the British and, to a much lesser extent, the Portuguese and French. The buildings were designed and inspired by the tastes of the English gentleman around and the aspiring Bengali Babu.
Today, many of these structures are in various stages of decay. Some of the major buildings of this period are well maintained and several buildings have been declared as heritage structures. Conservation efforts are patchy and are often affected by problems of litigation, tenant troubles, ownership disputes, old tenancy laws and a lack of funds.
Victoria Memorial was Lord Curzon’s brainchild as a memorial to the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India,Queen Victoria after her death in 1902, the Victoria Memorial was modelled on the Taj Mahal and was commissioned in 1906. Opened to the public in 1921, it was designed by the architects William Emerson and his protege Vincent Esch at the extraordinary cost of Rupees 10.5 million ($262,500), all of which was collected as voluntary donations, mostly from the British and Indian nobility. The memorial holds numerous paintings of the British royal family, miniature paintings of the Mughal School, oil paintings of the Company School (notably the uncle - nephew pair of Thomas Daniell andWilliam Daniell), historical artefacts like the throne of the Nawab of Bengal, many lithographs and documents of historical interest, and various post-Raj artefacts significant in the history of Kolkata (added to the collection after independence). The memorial is set in extensive and beautiful lawns, and is lit up at night. A laser audio-visual show is held on the lawns every evening. ‘Nike’, the Greek Goddess of victory, on the top of the museum is said to be haunted, and has been prominently featured in many Kolkata stories and novels. It is regarded with pride and joy in Kolkata and colloquially referred to as the “Victoria”.
Kalighat Kali Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas. Kalighat was a Ghat sacred to Kali on the old course of the Hooghly (Bhâgirathi) river in the city of Calcutta. The name Calcutta is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat. The river over a period of time has moved away from the temple. The temple is now on the banks of a small canal called Adi Ganga which connects to the Hoogly. The Adi Ganga was the original course of the river Hoogly (the Ganges). Hence the name Adi (original) Ganges.
The Dakshineswar Kali Temple is a Hindu temple located in Dakshineswar near Kolkata. Situated on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, the presiding deity of the temple is Bhavatarini, an aspect of Kali, meaning, ‘She who liberates Her devotees from the ocean of existence i.e. SaCsâra’. The temple was built by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and a devotee of Kali in 1855. The temple is famous for its
association with Ramakrishna a mystic of 19th Century Bengal. The temple compound, apart from the nine-spired main temple, contains a large courtyard surrounding the temple, with rooms along the boundary walls. There are twelve shrines dedicated to Shiva—Kali’s companion—along the riverfront, a temple to Radha-Krishna, a bathing ghat on the river, a shrine dedicated to Rani Rashmoni. ‘Nahavat-Khana’, the chamber in the northwestern corner just beyond the last of the Shiva temples, is where Ramakrishna spent a considerable part of his life.
Belur Mutt is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, a chief disciple ofRamakrishna Paramahamsa. It is located on the west bank of Hooghly River, Belur, West Bengal, India and is one of the significant institutions in Calcutta. The temple is notable for its architecture that fuses Hindu, Christian and Islamic motifs as a symbol of unity of all religions.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral of the Church of North India -a united church which is part of the Anglican Communion - in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. It is the seat of the Diocese of Calcutta, and the incumbent bishop is the Rt. Revd. Ashoke Biswas. The building itself stands on the “island of attractions” in Kolkata - beside the Victoria Memorial, Nandan, Rabindra Sadan theatre complex, and the Birla Planetarium.
The Nakhoda Masjid is the principal mosque of Kolkata in the Chitpur area, adjacent to the business area of Burrabazar in Central Kolkata, on Rabindra Sarani. The mosque was built as an imitation of the mausoleum of Mughal Emperor Akbar at Sikandra, Agra by Kutchi Memon Jamat, a small community of Sunni Muslim community from Kutch. Abdur Rahim Osman, a leader of the Kutchi Memon Jama’at, who funded the building was a shipping prince: The mosque was named Nakhoda meaning Mariner. The foundation stone was laid on 11 September 1926.The mosque’s prayer hall has a capacity of 10,000. The masjid has three domes and two minarets which are 151 feet high. There are an dditional 25 smaller minarets which range from 100 feet to 117 feet high. The gateway is an ersatz of the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri. For this purpose granite stones were brought from Tolepur. Inside is a superb exhibition of exquisite ornamentation and artistic extravaganza.
The Howrah Bridge is a Suspension type Balanced Cantilever bridge that spans the Hooghly River in West Bengal, India. Commissioned in 1943, the bridge was originally named the New Howrah Bridge, because it links the city of Howrah to its twin city, Kolkata (Calcutta). On 14 June 1965 it was renamed Rabindra Setu, after the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore who was the first Indian and Asian Nobel laureate. However it is still popularly known as the Howrah Bridge. The bridge is one of the four on the Hooghly River and is a famous symbol of Kolkata and West Bengal. The other bridges are the Vidyasagar Setu (popularly called the Second Hooghly Bridge), the Vivekananda Setu and the newly built Nivedita Setu. Apart from bearing the stormy weather of the Bay of Bengal region, it successfully bears the weight of a daily traffic of approximately 100,000 vehicles and possibly more than 150,000 pedestrians, easily making it the busiest cantilever bridge in the world. The third longest cantilever bridge at the time of its construction, it is currently the sixth longest bridge of its type in the world.
Vidyasagar Setu, also known as the Second Hooghly Bridge, is a bridge over the Hooghly River in West Bengal, India. It links the city ofKolkata to Howrah. The bridge is a toll bridge for all vehicles. At a total length of 822.96 m, it is the longest cable-stayed bridge in India and one of the longest in Asia. It was built at a cost of Rs 388 crores and commissioned on October 10, 1992. Its construction was a joint fort of the Public Sector Undertakings and private firms, under the control of the Hooghly River Bridge
Commissioners. It was the second bridge to be built across the Hooghly River, after the Howrah Bridge (also known as Rabindra Setu) 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) to its north was built in 1943. The bridge is named after the 19th century Bengali educationist reformer Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.
The Indian Museum is the largest museum in Asia and the oldest in the Asia -Pacific region (est. 1814 at the location of the Asiatic Society). The Museum shifted to its present sprawling residence in 1875. Situated on Chowringhee Avenue, it houses perhaps the greatest collection of Indian natural history and an Indian Art collection to rival the Smithsonian Institution and the British Museum. Of specific note are the meteorite hall and dinosaur hall in the Natural History and Geology section, the numismatics section and the collections of Gandhara Art, Burmese woodwork, Mughal miniatures and Tibetan banner sections in the Indian Art section. The Anthropological Survey of India headquarters and the Government College of Art and Craft are housed in the same building. The Geological Survey of India headquarters moved from the museum to Bidhan Nagar recently.
The Indian Museum has a library of excellent historical value, with a special focus on the Raj and Kolkata.
The Marble Palace is a privately owned collection of eclectic sculptures, paintings and a small menagerie and aviary off Chittaranjan Avenue in North Kolkata. Built by Raja Rajendra Mullick in 1835, it houses, among other treasures two little-publicized Reubens and a Joshua Reynolds, not to mention over 50 varieties of marble which grace the interiors of this mansion.
Birla Industrial & Technological Museum on Gurusaday Dutta Road, was inaugurated in 1959 as the first popular science museum in Asia. Modelled on the Deutsches Museum, it has interactive popular science exhibits and a significant collection of historical industrial holdings in India. Its collection of
old gramophones, sound recorders, telephones, steam engines, road rollers and other industrial machinery of the period 1880–1950 is very significant. The museum sports a vintage model of the Rolls-Royce Phantom I make. It also actively organizes summer camps, awareness programs and stronomy observations for school children.
Science City is a complex near the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass featuring a lot of interactive science and live bioscience exhibits, as well as having Kolkata’s first OMNIMAX theatre.
The Jorasanko Thakur Bari is the ancestral home of the Tagore family and was converted into a museum in 1961. The huge sprawling brick mansions were the cultural hub of Kolkata for close to a
century and was a major force in the women’s liberation movement. It hosted the first Brahmo wedding and was an important center in the Independence movement. The museum has three large galleries - one of the life and works of Rabindranath, a second gallery about his close relatives such as father Debendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore and others, and a third gallery on the Bengal Renaissance in general.
Jawahar Shishu Bhavan is named after Jawaharlal Nehru, whose love for children was well known. The museum has a collection of dolls and toys from across the globe, and has a doll - based retelling of the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Established in 1972 close to the Victoria Memorial, and commonly referred to as “Nehru Children’s Museum”, this museum is aging awkwardly fast.
National Library of India located in Alipore is India’s leading library and a public library. It was inaugurated in 1836 by the Governor General Lord Metcalfe by transferring 4675 books from theCollege of Fort William. Public donations were the main source of books for the library, and by donations of Rupees 300 from proprietors. Dwarakanath Tagore was the first proprietor of the library. The library was initially only partially public, as poor students could use the library for a limited period of time. The Imperial Library was founded in 1891 by merging several libraries like those of the East India College and East India Board. Governor General Lord Curzon initiated the merger of these two libraries into a single Imperial Library in 1903 at the Metcalfe Hall. The goals of the library were to collect every book written about India at any time. The Assistant Librarian of the British Museum John Macfarlane was the first librarian and was succeeded by the first Indian librarian Harinath De. The library was moved to its present quarters in Belvedere Estate, Alipore and renamed the National Library. It is a fully public library which co-ordinates the activities of all other Indian public libraries. True to its goal, any book published in India today has to send one copy to the National library in the spirit of the Library of Congress, United States.
Calcutta High Court - It is the oldest High Court in India. It was established as the High Court of Judicature at Fort William on 1 July 1862 under the High Courts Act, 1861. It has jurisdiction over
the state of West Bengal and the Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The High Court building is an exact replica of the Stand Haus in Ypres, Belgium. It is
recorded that when the original Stand Haus burnt down, a blue print of Granville’s
Calcutta High Court had to be consulted before rebuilding it. The court has a
sanctioned judge strength of 63. Despite the name of the city having officially changed
from Calcutta to Kolkata in 2001, the old name is retained by the court as it is an
Town Hall - In Roman-Doric style, this building was built by the architect Col. John Garstin in 1813 with a fund of Rupees seven lakhs raised from lottery to provide the Europeans with a place for social gatherings. At first, the hall was placed under a committee, which allowed the public to use the hall under such terms and conditions as were fixed by the Government. The public could visit the ground floor hall to see statues and large size portrait paintings but they were not allowed indiscriminate access to the upper storey. Applications for the use of the upper storey were to be made to the committee. In 1867 Town Hall came under the custody of the Calcutta Municipality (later on Kolkata Municipal Corporation). In the year of 1897 the Town Hall had been partly renovated. After political
independence in 1947, Indiscriminate interference with the structure inevitably took its toll. That, at last, has been prevented in 1998 by timely intervention. The town hall was featured on the 6th leg
of The Amazing Race 18, when the teams had to compete in a tea-drinking roadblock.
The Indian Botanical Garden, spread over 270 acres (1.1 km2), was founded in 1786 and is
the oldest “botanics” in India. Housing 50,000 species, the Botanical Survey of India and one
of the world’s most historically relevant herbariums, it is famous for its 250
year old 98 feet tall banyan tree - which has the largest girth of any
banyan tree ever recorded (1300 ft).
The Shaheed Minar or “Tower of the Martyrs”, (formerly Ochterlony Monument) was
constructed on the northern fringe of the Maidan in honour of Sir David Ochter lony who
commanded the British East India Company forces in the Gurkha War (1814–1816). It was
renamed Shaheed Minar in honour of the fallen freedom fighters after Indian