Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A short trip to Kolkata (Calcutta)



Kolkata, earlier known as Calcutta, was the capital of British India. Now it is the capital of West Bangal state and culture capital of India. Kolkata is also noted for its revolutionary history, ranging from the Indian struggle for independence to the leftist Naxalite and trade-union movements. Kolkata’s contribution towards art and literature is unequalled. It has been a home to many prominent people like, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Subhas Chandra Bose, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Satyajit Ray, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, etc…

Mine was a very short trip to Kolkata for three days, including one full day work and onward-return journey in rest two days. So I tried to visit as many places as could in this short plan of time.

Victoria Memorial Hall
The Victoria Memorial Hall is a magnificent marble monument. Representing the majestic British architecture, Victoria Memorial Hall stands today, as a veritable icon of the city of Kolkata. It was envisaged by Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of British India, as a memorial to the deceased Queen Victoria.

Free guided tours are offered through the museum galleries. So it is recommended to check the timing of tour, garden and gallery in advance and plan the visit accordingly.

More details --> Here


Park Street
Park Street is one of the happening places in Kolkata that is located in the center of the city. It is said that the Park Street never sleeps and is always bustling with activities. It is one of the major hangout places in Kolkata. It arrays with many multi-cuisine restaurants, pubs, discs, luxury hotels, shops, schools and colleges and offices. I think what Connaught Place is to Delhi, Park Street is to Kolkata.



Howrah Bridge
Located over the Hooghly (Ganga) river, Howrah Bridge (or the Rabindra Setu) is the main connection between Howrah and Kolkata. It is a cantilever bridge and is regarded as one of the busiest ones among them. The Howrah Bridge is one of the most popular bridges of India and has been shown in many movies. It is also known as the gateway of Kolkata. Because of its magnificence and majestic charm it has been the face of Kolkata for over a century.



Eden Gardens
Eden Gardens is also known as "Lords of Asia". It is India’s largest cricket stadium and the third largest stadium in the world, just after Melbourne and ANZ Stadium in Australia. In the cricket loving country India, nobody needs any introduction of Eden Gardens.

Shaheed Minar
The Shaheed Minar, formerly known as the Ochterlony Monument, is a monument that was erected in 1828 in memory of Major-general Sir David Ochterlony, commander of the British East India Company, to commemorate both his successful defense of Delhi against the Marathas in 1804 and the victory of the East India Company’s armed forces over the Gurkhas in the Anglo-Nepalese War. The monument was constructed in his memory. The Saheed Minar has political and historical significance in Indian history as many political meetings were held on this ground near to this monument.

However the place is not maintained well. Today the place is in total mess. Encroached by hawkers and myriad homeless people. Visit to Shaheed Minar can be skipped or it can be viewed from a distance from the road itself.


Prinsep Ghat
Prinsep Ghat, located on the banks of the river Hooghly, is a majestic structure famous for its Gothic inlays. With the magnificent Howrah Bridge in the background, watching the sunrise or sunset and taking a long walk on the banks of the river are some of the preferred recreation. The Palladian porch, which is the major attraction in Princep Ghat, was built in memory of the eminent orientalist James Prinsep. 



Kalighat Temple
Kalighat Temple, one of the 51 Shakti Peethas of India, is one of the most visited Kali temples in India. The spot is where the toes of Sati's right foot fell during Shiva's Rudra Taandav Nritya. Kalighat was a Ghat (landing stage) sacred to Kali on the old course of the the Hooghly 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.

Belur Math 
Belur Muth is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The entire campus of the headquarters is popularly known as ‘Belur Math’.  Sprawling over forty acres of land on the western bank of the river Hooghly (Ganga), the place is an hour’s drive from Kolkata city center. It is one of the noteworthy establishments in Kolkata. Belur Math is exhibiting Hindu, Christian and Islamic motifs as a symbol of unity of all religions.

More details --> Here

While going to Dakshineswar Kali Temple from Belur Math, or vice versa, taking ferry ride is highly recommended. It is a cheap, hassle free and fast option and cool breeze of the Ganga is added advantage.



Dakshineswar Kali Temple
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. Saṃsāra'. The temple was built in 1855 by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and a devotee of Kali. The temple is famous for its association with Ramakrishna.

It is one of the best temples I have visited so far. I only wish the temple compound was cleaner and people don’t litter such a beautiful place.

More details --> Here




Some other places I could have visited, if I had another day or two

  • Indian Museum
  • Fort William
  • Science city
  • Rabindra Sarovar
  • Nicco Park
  • Sundarbans

Tips:

  • Try to explore all means transportation in Kolkata; like Metro, Bus, Ferry, taxi, etc… It will not only save some money but will also save precious time
  • Use your bargaining skills for shopping and taxi fares
  • If you have time then try visit some places at night as well. Some of the monuments look even better at night due to elegant lighting
  • Checkout timings of Belur Math and Dakshineswar Temple before planning the visit




Monday, June 18, 2018

Neelkanteshwar Temple, Pune


Neelkanteshwar is one of the famous names of lord Shiva. It literally means the lord with blue throat, relating to the episode of Samudra Manthan. 

Unlike other Shiva temples, this one is not very old. However this temple is unique in its own way. There are hundreds of sculptures around this hill top temple. These sculptures depict various famous Hindu mythology scenes like, Samudra Manthan, Hanuman Sita Milan, Draupadi Cheer Haran, Sleeping Kumbhakarna, Krishna Killing Putana etc. Kids will certainly love these sculptures and will try to relate them with the epics - Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Located near Panshet dam, it requires a small hike of around 25 minutes from the basecamp to reach to the temple. The aerial distance between Neelkanteshwar temple and Lavasa or Panshet dam would be less than 20 km, so provides mesmerizing views from the hilltop. You can also take a brake near the river and get your legs soaked in the water, while coming back from the temple. This place is peaceful and has not become crowded yet. Space for vehicle parking (now paid) and a couple of small shops for snacks are available here.

How to reach:
Route: Hinjewadi (Pune) > Pirangut > Mutha (Don’t forget to a take left turn) > Bahuli > Neelkanteshwar

Route towards Lavasa/Temghar Dam is one of my favorites, so I suggest this route. However this temple can be reached from other side of Pune as well.

Alternative Route: Sinhgad Road > Nanded City > Khadakwasla > Donje Phata > Khanapur > Panshet > Varasgaon > Neelkantheshwar

My Verdict:
A perfect family outing place, good option for a half day trip from Pune. It is a great combination of short climb/hike, ghat, river and beautiful scenery. A must visit place for nature lover and kids.

Best time to visit:
Any time of the year. Roaming around Sahyadri ranges is a real treat to eyes in monsoon (Jul-Sep) and it applies to this place as well.

Places around:
Panshet Dam, Temghar Dam, Lavasa, Sinhgad, Khadakwasla

Tips:

  • Last patch of road around 10km-15km is not in a good condition, so good bikes or off-roading cars are preferable
  • Take extra care while riding during rainy season
  • Carry some snacks and a chatai (mat) with you and this could turn out to be memorable picnic for you and your family
  • Morning or Evening (before it gets dark) is a good time to visit this place, afternoon should be avoided in summer
  • Unless you are a true Shiva devotee and don’t mind the crowd, avoid going on Mondays of Savan month and Shivaratri


This place on map:

Pics: