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Kolkata with a population of about 5 million within city limits and more than 9 millions including the suburbs is India’s third largest metropolitan city in 2005. The city is located on the banks of Ganga River that is locally called Hugli in Kolkata. Until May 2006 Job Charnock, the agent of British East India Company, was considered as the founder of the Kolkata city and 1690 was believed to be the founding year of the city.
A public interest petition was filed in April 2005 by the Saborno Roy Chowdhury Parivar Parishad and nine other persons challenging the references to Job Charnock as the founder of Kolkata and also to the celebration of August 24, 1690 as foundation day of Kolkata. Division Bench of the Kolkata High Court, comprising Chief Justice Asoke Kumar Mathur and Mr Justice Jayanta Biswas heard this petition and ordered the establishment of an expert committee comprised of Dr Nemai Sadan Bose, former Vice-Chancellor, Visva Bharati, as chairman, and Dr Barun Dey, Dr Sushil Chowdhury, Dr Arun Dasgupta and Dr Pradip Sinha, historians, as members. Based on the research done by this expert committee, the high court issued its judgment on May 16, 2006 that Job Charnock will no more be named as the founder of Kolkata because the city had neither a founder nor a foundation day. The Division Bench directed the state government to immediately rectify all official documents pertaining to Kolkata’s foundation day as per the expert committee’s report and correct history books and other writings where Job Charnock has been named as founder of Kolkata. The High Court ruled that August 24, 1690, would no more be observed as the foundation day as Kolkata (Kalikata) existed much before the arrival of Job Charnock. The name of Kalikata was mentioned in the Monasavijay Kabya much before Job Charnock arrived in India. It was also mentioned in the land document of Ain-e-Akbari – the official history of Mughal Emperor Akbar, written by his friend and minister, Abul Fazl in 1596. The ancestral family of Sabarno Roy Chowdhury got the Zamindari (landlordship) of Sutani, Govindapur and Kalikata in 1608. The documents which the historians attached in support of their findings stated that Job Charnock landed in Sutani village on August 24, 1690 and died in 1693. The British received the tenancy right of Kalikata, Sutani and Govindapur on November 10, 1698. Mr Ajit Kumar Panja, MP, and Mr Smarajit Roy Chowdhury pleaded the case on behalf of the petitioners. The state Advocate-General, Mr Balai Roy, told the court that the government accepted the verdict in its entirety and requested one year’s time to rectify the mistake in history books, other texts and reference books since the academic session had already begun.
Kali Temple - Rani Rashmoni is believed to have been guided in a dream to build the Navaratna Kali Temple at Dakshineshwar in 1855. Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa lived and meditated in this temple. Across the Hugli River is the Belur Math. This is the main ashram of the monastic order of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. The architecture of the Belur Math is a very harmonious blending of Christian, Islamic and Hindu architectural features. The famous disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Paramhansa Mission in 1899. A boat ride on Hugli is the best way to visit both these temples.
Rabindra Bharati Museum was established in the 217-year old building Jorasanko Thakurbari on May 8, 1962 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India. This museum is the storehouse of memoirs of Rabindranath Tagore consisting of his original paintings, photographs, other valuable documents and manuscripts. The Tagore family history can be traced to Jayram Thakur. His father migrated to Calcutta from the district of Jessore that is now in Bangladesh and settled in Govindapur where the Fort William is presently located. Panchanan was a Brahman (belonging to priestly caste) and was popularly called Thakur. The subsequent association of the family with foreigners led to the transformation of their name into Tagore. Jayram Thakur and his family were displaced from their original ancestral home when East India Company acquired the land to build Fort William. The Thakur family moved to Pathuriaghata, where they built their new residence. Of the four descendents of Jayram, Nilmani Thakur secured a job with East India Company and lived in Cuttack in Orissa for many years. On his retirement when Nilmani Thakur returned to his home in Pathuriaghata, he had to leave the ancestral home due to a family property dispute. He built a new home for his family at Jorasanko on a plot of land gifted by Baishnab Das Sett in 1784. The merchant prince, Dwarka Nath Tagore, was a descendent of Nilmani Thakur. Shri Rabindra Nath Tagore was the grandson of Dwarka Nath Tagore. He was a prolific writer, artist and world traveler. In 1913 he was the first Nobel Prize winner of India for literature for his poetry collection, Gitanjali: Song Offerings. He became world famous and was invited to speak in societies, colleges and universities all over the world. In 1915 he received the knighthood but he surrendered it just four years later in 1919 to protest against the massacre of innocent civilians in Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar (Punjab) in which more than 400 people lost their lives. The Tagore family was a pioneer in the development of the Bengal modern school of art. Jorasanko has a very informative sound and light show in English language from November to January from 7 to 7.40 PM and from February to June from 8 to 8.40 PM. The show is not held from July to September because of Monsoon.
The Asiatic Society was established on January 15, 1784 by Sir William Jones (1746-1794) at a time when most of the mysteries of the vast Indian sub-continent were still not researched. The texts in Brahmi script from all over India still could not be understood and comparative philology as a discipline or science was not yet born. The Asiatic Society became the most important institution of research of India’s antiquity. The Museum of the Asiatic Society was established in 1814 under the guidance of Dr. N. Wallich. Although most of its collection was given to the Indian Museum, the Asiatic Society still retains in its museum the Rock Edicts of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka from 250 BCE, copper plates, coins, sculptures, manuscripts and valuable archival records.
In a narrow lane off Chittaranjan Avenue is the Marble Palace. Raja Rajindra Mallick built it in 1855. It uses 90 different varieties of marbles imported from various countries in Europe. The Marble house is open to public only by obtaining passes from the Tourist Office.
Queen Victoria, the Empress of India died in January 1901. Lord Curzon was the Viceroy of India at that time. He proposed the building of Victoria Memorial in honor of Queen Victoria. The princes of India and other rich citizens contributed generously for its building. Sir William Emerson, President of the British Institute of Architects was the designer of this memorial. King George V, then visiting India as Prince of Wales, laid its foundation stone on January 4, 1906. Vincent Esch of the contracting company, Martin & Co. supervised its construction. It was opened to public in 1912. The building is 184 feet high up to the base of the majestic statue of Queen Victoria on top of its dome. The statue is 16 feet high. The statues on the north porch represent Motherhood, Prudence and Learning. The statues of Art, Architecture, Justice and Charity etc. surround the main dome. The memorial is set in the middle of a 64 acre plot. The memorial itself is 338 feet long and 228 feet wide. It is a beautiful white Makrana marble building that houses a museum with personal effects of Queen Victoria as well as a manuscript of the whole Quran hand written by the sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
The Indian Museum of Kolkata contains artistic antiquities from the Maurya, Bharhut, Gandhar, Kushan, Amaravati, Gupta art of Bhumara, Mathura and Sarnath; Pala-Sena art from Bengal and Bihar, Chandella art from Khajuraho, Pallava, Chola, Hoysala stone and metal sculptures. The corridor galleries have Orissan art, architecture gallery, plants in Indian art, animals in Indian art, Tridhara : sculptures from three major religions of India. There is an Egyptian Gallery that has a 4000 year old mummified figure of an ancient Egyptian man. Old and new stone age tools, seals, terracotta figurines and objects, painted potteries, weight and measurements, gamesmen, metal utensils of Harappan culture; Chalolithic weapons and utensils, Central Asian antiquities, ornaments, beads, earthen vessels, relic caskets of Buddha, highly polished capitals of Ashokan age from 2nd century BCE are some other attractions of this museum. The gateway and railings of the Bharhut Stupa carved in red sandstone, Buddhist Hellenistic sculptures from Gandhar region, exquisite stone sculptures of classical and medieval India, numismatic collections from 5th Century BCE to the present day, inscriptions, copper plates and manuscripts can all be viewed in this very important museum.
The other buildings in Kolkata are reminders of the period when British East India Company had its capital in the city. Writer's Building was once a row of plain barracks for the writers of the East India Company. It was later embellished with a Corinthian façade and now houses the State Government Offices. During the period of Governors Clive and Hastings, the First Church of St. John was built in 1787 on the model of St. Martins in the field.
Kolkata was the home of four Nobel laureates - Ronald Ross, Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen. The city contributed immensely in the freedom struggle of India from the British. Kolkata is also a major provincial center of film making which received international attention with Pather Panchali, Aparajito and the World of Apu among many other productions directed by the legendary Satyajit Ray.
Other important sites of interest in Kolkota are: B. B. D. Bagh, Jain Temple, Indian Museum, St. Pauls Cathedral, Zoo, National Library, Birla Industrial Museum, Nicco Park and Vidyasagar Setu, Botanical Gardens.
Kolkata has scheduled flight connections with New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and many other destinations in India. The Howrah Station of Kolkata has train connections with all major towns and cities of India.
The Oberoi Grand – 213 rooms
Taj Bengal, Kolkata - deluxe229 rooms
Hyatt Regency Hotel - 235 rooms
Sonar Kolkata – 238 rooms
MBD Airport Hotel – 152 rooms
The Peerless Inn – 122 rooms
The Kenilworth Hotel – 105 rooms
The Park Kolkata Hotel – 149 rooms
Lytton Hotel – 80 rooms
Fairlawn Hotel – 20 rooms
Fort Radisson Hotel – 61 rooms
Golden Park – 80 rooms
Tollygunj Club – 70 rooms
Heritage Hotel near airport - 20 rooms
Distance from Kolkata in Kilometers and Miles:
Shantiniketan: 212 Kilometers or 132 Miles
Bankura: 151 Kilometers or 94 Miles
Bhubaneshwar: 441 Kilometers or 274 Miles
Cuttack: 416 Kilometers or 258 Miles
Gaya: 489 Kilometeres or 304 Miles
Patna: 556 Kilometers or 345 Miles
Varanasi: 680 Kilometers or 422 Miles
Darjeeling: 665 Kilometers or 413 Miles
Gangtok: 628 Kilometers or 390 Miles