Travel Through the Land of West Bengal

by - September 23, 2017

We travel to West Bengal with a remarkable variety of destinations and experiences. West Bengal, quoted in the Mahabharata by the name of Vanga has a long history. The land stretches from the coast along the Bay of Bengal to the Himalayas. In the 3rd century BC, it was part of the Mauryan empire.

For 300 years from the 9th century, Pala dynasty ruled a territory from Orissa, Bihar, and Bengal. At the end of the twelfth century, Bengal came under Muslim rule by Qutb-Uddin, the first Sultan of Delhi. Following the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, Bengal became an independent state. In 1698, the British created a commercial station in Kolkata that thrived. In 1764, after the battle of Buxar, the British finally took control of West Bengal.

The capital of West Bengal is Kolkata, or Calcutta, as it used to be in the past. The second city of India evokes images of a lively capital. Kolkata is the cultural and intellectual center of the country. Many of the great Indian heroes of the 19th and 20th centuries were from Kolkata. From Ramakrishna to the Nobel winner Rabindranath Tagore and the director Satyajit Ray.

There are dozens of spaces where Bengali dance, poetry, art, music, cinema, and theater go in the scene. There are English clubs, horse races at Calcutta Racecourse and golf courses. As a former capital of British, Kolkata retains a lot of colonial buildings. Many of them are in poor shape and constitute an ideal photographic subject. Kolkata has many shopping centers and some of India's finest restaurants.

The Fort William is at the center of the city. You cannot visit the interior unless you have a special permit. The area around the fort is the Maidan and is the green lungs of the city. This long expanse has sports facilities, lakes, trees, and the most picturesque walkers. You can also see performances of different types of the musical fountains.

Nearby is the Eden Gardens stadium that also has a Burmese pagoda inside located in the middle of a lake. The Victoria Memorial is the most spectacular building of the British Raj.

To the west is the Strand Road and the Calcutta Polo Club. The Calcutta Polo Club is the oldest polo club in the world. In Cathedral Road rises the St. Paul's Cathedral. Built in the neo-gothic style it is one of the most important churches of the country. Nearby is the Academy of Fine Arts, with an excellent display of modern art. In Rabindra Sadan, cultural performances get held throughout the year. Also nearby is the Birla Planetarium, one of the largest in the world.

To the north of the Maidan rise the 48 mt high Sahid Minar or Ochterlony Monument. In the Indian Museum, you can see meteorites, fossils, and art from different eras.

Along the river are various official British buildings such as Raj Bhavan. There is the Town Hall, built in Doric style, High Court, and the Assembly. Walking to the right stands the Writers Building.

If you want to make any kind of shopping, Calcutta offers a great variety of bazaars. The Tiretta Market features a small Chinatown.

You can admire the Fire Temple of the Parsis, the Jain Temple, and three synagogues. In the surroundings, you can visit the Armenian Church of Our Lady of Nazareth.

The Nakhoda Mosque is the main center of Muslim worship with a capacity for 10,000 people. Built in red sandstone it has two minarets of 46 mt height and a dome of vivid colors.

Other places of interest are Jorasanko, where stands out the home of Tagore that seems out of a story.

Kumartuli is the neighborhood, where clay models of gods get crafted by artisans.

Among the temples is the 500-year-old Kali Temple at Kalighat.

To the south of the city is the National Library, and the Alipore Zoo.

The Botanical Garden, created in 1786, has the great banyan tree with 200 years of antiquity.

You cannot forget the Mullickghat flower market, housed below the famous Howrah Bridge.

Nearby are the Kali Temple in Dakshineshwar and Ramakrishna Mission in Belur Math.

The visitor at the end of the day can immerse in the Indian Coffee House in the literary hub of College Street. Enjoy the nightlife in the buzzing Park Street.

To the south of Kolkata is the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. An extensive network of channels opens between semi-submersible mangroves. It is part of the largest river delta on the planet. The Royal Bengal tigers hide in impenetrable depths of forests.

Nearby Calcutta is Diamond Harbor, the former port of the East India Company. It is a place appreciated by residents for outings, as is Sagar Island, the coasts of Bakkhali and Digha. In the tropical South, the seaside village of Mandarmani is worth a visit. The other points of interest include the Shiva temple of Tarakeshwar.

Heading north to Kolkata, is Serampore and Chandernagor, a former Danish colony. All the possessions of Denmark in India got transferred to the of the East India Company. After Serampore, you should head to Bishnupur, a city that is far richer in attractiveness.

The settlement is, in fact, famous for its beautiful terracotta temples. There are daring combinations of Bengali, Islamic and Oriya style. On the facades of many temples are scenes of Indian epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The most impressive buildings are those of Jor Bangla, Madan Mohan, Ras Mancha and Shyam Rai.

Towards the north from Calcutta, 200 Km away, are the nine Ganges Islands that make up Nabadwip in Nadia. Nearby is Mayapur, home of the ISKCON.

Other cities to visit in the vicinity are Shantiniketan, Murshidabad, Malda, and Nabadwip. The best time to visit Shantiniketan is during Holi. Here the Basanta Utsav get celebrated. In Joydev Kenduli, in mid-January, the Bauls recite their works. Bakreshwar has sulfurous hot springs. Tarapith is home to the Kali temple.

Moving north you reach the Himalayan ranges. Here stands the twin cities of Siliguri and New Jalpaiguri. They are the ideal starting point for Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Sikkim. It is also the entry points to Nepal and Bhutan. One of the most interesting destinations in the region is Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. As also Buxa Tiger Reserve, the Gorumara National Park, and Singalila National Park. The Darjeeling-Himalayan Railway runs between Siliguri and Darjeeling.

Very beautiful is also Mirik, a small hill station nestled at 1,760 meters near the border with Nepal. A wavy mosaic of tea plantations, orange groves, cardamom fields and cedar surround it. From the top of the hills, you can admire the first dawn lights in the Mount Kangchenjunga. It is the third-highest mountain range in the world.

Darjeeling is nearby on a steep ridge. It has fine tea plantations, beautiful Himalayan peaks, and unspoiled nature. There are beautiful churches, well-preserved colonial buildings, Hindu temples and Buddhist temples. Darjeeling's narrow streets straddle with colorful souvenir and craft shops.

Another city nearby is Kalimpong. It is a lively center surrounded by a ridge landscape overlooking the Teesta River. Surrounded by tea plantations, beautiful panorama of Himalayan peaks are behind it.

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