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The Land - Places of Interest

Bengal , which is largely unexplored by tourists offers a feast of scenic and spiritual splendors. Calcutta is a relatively new city as it was created only after the British came here. One could breeze through its monuments, buildings and temples in two or three days.

Calcutta does offer something other than buildings though-its teeming life and ambience, which is enough to wear one down in two days or excite and entice one to want more. One can start the day getting the feel of Calcutta’s heart, B.B.D Bagh and then take a taxi to the museum at Rabindra Bharati University Museum to see Bengali-school paintings.

From there, one can walk to the Jain Paresnath Temple and the Nakhoda Mosque for a view of the crowded surrounding streets and then continue to the Marble Palace before taking a taxi upto the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple. Farther north and close to the river Hooghly, one can visit Kumartuli, where thousands of potters work to model clay images for religious festivals.With a taxi, one can cross over the Howrah Bridge and drive south along

he bank of the Hooghly river to cross back over the river on the second Hooghly bridge also called the Vivekananda bridge, to the suburb of Howrah and head south along Belur road for one mile to visit the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, the Belur Math Shrine, or otherwise can enter the Maidan to get some fresh air before going on a shopping spree. One can then take a taxi down to Nirmal Hriday to visit the late Mother Teresa’s first charitable home and then, for contrast in spirit, one can walk over to the Kalighat Kali Temple.

One needs to take a taxi from there to the Victoria Memorial, housing an array of memorabilia from days of the British Raj, and two hundred yards to the east along Queen’s Way, to St. Paul’s Cathedral, from where one can walk over to Chowringhee and up to the Indian museum, India’s oldest museum, and then detouring a few blocks to Park Street to read colonial history from the headstones in South Park Street Cemetery.

From there, one can go ahead and explore the Calcutta Maidan, the lungs of the city which stretches from the Strand to Chowringhee and from Esplanade to the Race Course, and can also visit Fort William, the East India Company’s main and strategic defense in the city, and the Eden Gardens which has a photogenic Burmese pagoda.

One needs to take a taxi and cross the Vidyasagar Bridge to visit the Indian Botanical Gardens, across the Hooghly river in the southern part of Howrah. One can also visit the Birla Planetarium near Shakespeare Sarani, which has daily shows on astronomy, and Diamond Harbour, 30 miles down the Hooghly from Calcutta, which was a former stronghold of the Portuguese pirates.

The best time to visit these places is from October to March. One should surely visit Dakshineswar, 12 miles north of Calcutta, where stands the 9th century Kali Bhavatarini Temple complex containing a central temple to Kali, one to Radha-Krishna and 12 small temples to Lord Shiva. Another most important place one should definitely visit is Darjeeling, the jewel in West Bengal’s crown.

Facing the mighty Himalayas and surrounded by coniferous covered hills, Darjeeling is perched at a height of 7000 feet in the shadow of the world’s third-highest peak, Kanchenjunga. A maze of steps and terraces, studded with exotic little bazaars, villas, forests and gardens, the town stands in the middle of the evergreen gardens that produce the world-famous Darjeeling tea.

It is the largest hill-station in the east which is reached by a 55 mile journey on a toy train from New Jalpaiguri, that provides dramatic Himalyan views and steaming cups of home-grown tea. Mid-April to mid-June is the best time to experience the beauty and aura of Darjeeling.

The Sunderban swamps, a marshy mangrove jungle, home of the man-eating Royal Bengal Tiger, formed by the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta and extending across the northern shore of Bay of Bengal, two-thirds of which lies in Bangladesh, is one of the most wonderful places of attraction for adventurous people and wildlife lovers.

On the west coast of the Bay of Bengal, 150 miles south-east of Calcutta is Digha, the only seaside resort with proper hotel accommodation in Bengal. Other important places to be visited are Shantiniketan, Shri Rabindranath Tagore’s school,85 miles west from Calcutta; Kamarpukur, birthplace of religious philosopher Shri Ramkrishna Paramhansa, 37 miles west of Calcutta; Tarakeshwar temple, Bengal’s most active pilgrimage centres built around a black stone lingam of Tarakeshwar Babu, an avatar of Lord Shiva, 35 miles west of Calcutta and Tarapith, a small village dominated by a temple to Tara, an avatar of Goddess Kali, whose third eye is said to have landed here.

There are so many places to see in Calcutta and in West Bengal,as a whole,that it is very tough to cover all the details in one page.You can check out the links on this page as well as in the Resources page to know more about these wonderful places.