Have an early lunch & gear up for quite a bit of walking.
Drive to the Victoria Memorial Hall. The gardens & museum are open till 5 PM. So, take your time to see each & every artefact, & to roam around in the glorious gardens.
Walk to the Saint Paul’s Cathedral next door (~10 minutes). It is open till 6 PM.
Have dinner at any of the iconic restaurants in Park Street – Flury’s/ Mocambo/ Trincas/ Moulin Rouge/ Peter Cat (~15 minutes)
Call it a night at your hotel.
After an early breakfast, drive to the Mother House. It opens at 8 AM. Spend some time in meditation at the Mother’s Tomb.
Head to the Howrah Bridge (~30 minutes) & do an end – to – end walk on it. Enjoy the quintessential yellow taxis plying on the Bridge.
Take a lunch break.
Visit the Dakshineswar Kali Mandir (~45 minutes from Howrah Bridge). Take your time to complete the darshan & then see all the pilgrimage spots within the premises.
Make your way to the Belur Math by either boat or car (~15 minutes).
At Belur Math, spend some time meditating at the Sri Ramakrishna Mandir. Then, walk around the campus to see all the other temples & holy spots.
End your evening with some fun at one of the many bars in Kolkata.
Return to your accommodation.
After breakfast, drive to the Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore. It opens at 10:30 AM. Gurudev is the star of Bengal Renaissance. Spend at least two hours here to know more about Tagore’s life.
Take a lunch break.
Head to the Birla Mandir (~40 minutes from Jorasanko Thakur Bari). It opens at 4:30 PM. Enjoy seeing the magnificent architecture.
Visit the Prinsep Ghat (~25 minutes). Walk & click your way through the Prinsep Memorial & the Prinsep Ghat Station. Then work off that lunch by taking a long walk on the Prinsep Ghat. Closer to sunset, take a boat ride & enjoy the sun going down while you’re cruising on the Ganges.
Return to your accommodation & spend the night at leisure.
After breakfast, check out from your accommodation & drive to Gallery Sanskriti & Kaee Contemporary. These open at 11 AM. Spend time understanding the art on display.
Take a lunch break & then head to the airport.
Fairfield By Marriott
I’d a great time at Fairfield. The location was perfect – not far from either the airport or the heart of the city. All amenities were taken care of. Both Kava & Vertex were a foodie/ drinker’s delight. Sunipa at Kava took great care of me & arranged a special dinner too for me, so that I could taste Bengali cuisine.
My room had a first-class view of the Biswa Bangla Gate & the Newtown skyline. My only peeve was that the hotel allowed guests in the swimming pool without proper swimwear. I wanted to use to the pool but got disgusted seeing men in their underwear using the pool, instead of swimming trunks.
While we like to maximise our trips with as much sightseeing as we can, we don’t believe in overdoing it. We recommend the same – don’t treat sightseeing as a competition or a checklist.
So, even if you don’t manage to see a few of the above, it’s okay. It’s more important to enjoy yourself. Happy sightseeing!
You’ve read about my Day Three in Kolkata; now read a detailed account of my 4th & last day.
The Goddesses & Swamis wanted me to visit their abodes. The rain took a break & I made a voyage to the Dakshineswar Kali Mandir, a Hindu navratna temple.
From there, Alam bhai drove me to the Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission. After the hustle bustle of Dakshineswar Mandir, the Math was an oasis of calm!
As soon as I stepped out of Belur & sat in the cab, it began to rain again! I’d planned to visit the Eco Park but had to drop that. Instead, I headed back to the hotel, packed, partook of the lunch buffet & checked out.
On the way to the airport, I stopped at Mishti Hub (read review here). Lounging at the Vistara lounge & then being pampered in the business class brought to an end a fabulous trip!
Dakshineswar Kali Mandir
Dakshineswar Kali Mandir has a spiritual & a socio-political history. In the early 1800s, Dakshineswar was a small village before Rani Rashmoni, a devout believer of Goddess Kali, built the Mandir here.
The night before Rani Rashmoni was to leave for Varanasi to worship Goddess Kali, she had a dream. In her dream, the Mother Goddess asked her to build a temple near the river Ganges rather than going all the way to Varanasi.
And so, the Dakshineswar Mandir came into existence. The mystic sage and reformer Ramakrishna Paramahansa and his wife Sarada Devi are also associated with it.
Sri Ramakrishna’s elder brother, Ramkumar Chattopadhayay, was appointed the head priest. Sarada Devi stayed south of the music room, which is now a shrine dedicated to her.
Rani Rashmoni wanted the Kali Mandir to be open to people from all sects of the society, something that holds till date.
To enter the main Dakshineswar complex, I needed to deposit my cell phone & shoes. A nominal fee was charged for the same. I then got confused regarding the mask mandate because everyone I saw in the security line was wearing a mask.
I contemplated taking back my shoes & returning to the cab to get my mask. While I was wandering around in the larger complex thinking my course of action, I realised that I was mistaken – there was no mask mandate!
Thus, after a security check, I entered the Mandir complex & immediately gasped at the spectacle in front of me. The main temple is glorious! I took my time walking around & admiring the brill architecture.
I queued up to enter the Dakshineswar Kali Mandir & after a bit of pushing & shoving Indian style, I was in front of the idols of Goddess Kali & Lord Shiva. They are standing on a lotus made out of silver.
Having bowed my head, I exited towards the 12 small Shiva temples facing the Dakshineswar Mandir. These are constructed in the typical Bengal architecture style. A Radha Krishna temple is also located here.
In spite of the chaos that usually surrounds Hindu temples, I manage to find my sense of calm in them. I roamed around the Kali Mandir premises & even in the middle of the hustle bustle, I felt alone. Alone, not lonely!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
There’s a convenient boat ride from Dakshineswar Kali Mandir to Belur Math. Boats ferry frequently & for a reasonable fee. But as I’d a dedicated cab, I went to Belur by that.
The Math is the core of the Ramakrishna movement & was an oasis of calm. Alam Bhai dropped me at the gate from where it was a nice, serene walk with different Math buildings on both the sides of the walkway.
Unfortunately, the Ramakrishna Museum was closed due to it being a Sunday.
Sri Ramakrishna Mandir
So, I proceeded to the Sri Ramakrishna Mandir which resembles a temple, a mosque, & a church, if seen from different angles. Its facade has Buddhist influences. The central dome has Renaissance architecture influence.
The Mandir is built of chunar stone. Inside, pillars in a line on both sides are in the Greek style. The hanging balconies are in the Mughal style. On top of the Temple is a golden kalash with a lotus below.
I sat inside & meditated for some time. Thoughts of my mausa (uncle) kept popping in my head. He used to be a follower of the Ramakrishna Mission; we lost him in 2021. He’s in the forever philosophical grounds; discussing ideologies with Sri Ramakrishna & Swami Vivekananda!
Swami Vivekananda Mandir
Going ahead, I came to the Swami Vivekananda Mandir which was undergoing a renovation. It stands on the spot where Swamiji’s mortal remains were cremated.
Swami Vivekananda died at the age of 39. Interestingly, he’d prophesized that he’ll not live to be forty-years old!
Holy Mother’s Mandir
The Mandir is over the area where Sarada Devi’s mortal remains were cremated.
Swami Brahmananda Mandir
The Mandir was built on the place where Swami Brahmananda (a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna) was cremated.
Belur Math conducts relief work, rural uplift work, spiritual & cultural activities, and more.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Kava is the all-day diner at Fairfield by Marriott. I demolished three breakfasts, one lunch & one dinner here! It’s an elaborate vegetarian & nonvegetarian buffet spread.
You can easily find international selections, street food, Italian, Indian & Asian fares here. At every meal, I was totally spoilt for choice. For me, one of the highlights was always the live counter. I specially loved it when they put together chaat for dinner & prepared Wai Wai for breakfast.
The other highlight, & this goes without saying, was the range of confectioneries & desserts. The lunch buffet I’d on my final day, I found Brownie & Poha Kheer to be so tempting! (In the same meal, the Fish Begum Bahaar was finger-licking.)
The atmosphere is appealing. The staff is resourceful. Sunipa, one of the staff members, seeing that I was dining alone, made me feel comfortable. For all my three breakfasts, she specially made Cold Coffee for me. On coming to know that I was in Kolkata for sightseeing, she arranged a special Bengali dinner for me. This included delights such as Begun Bhaja, Jhuri Aloo Bhaja & Kosha Mangsho.
I recommend Kava; it’s certainly an ultimate culinary getaway!
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Vistara Lounge/ The Irish House
I’d a business class ticket which meant that the formalities at the airport took barely a few minutes. I made my way to the Vistara Lounge which is located within The Irish House.
I grabbed a corner table & read a book. The décor is a typical The Irish House one. Everything, apart from alcoholic beverages, are complimentary. I packed away some Chiri Bhaja & Dry Jhaal Moori, more out of boredom than hunger.
The Irish House doesn’t have an ensuite toilet. You’ve to step out & walk along the corridor to get to the common facility.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Vistara Business Class
As of today, Vistara is the best airlines in India. Its economy class itself is first-rate. Hence, I knew I was in for a bosting time in the business class. I got priority handling for my luggage.
My seat was a window seat on the right side of the aircraft. The Italian leather seat was very comfortable, with generous leg room. I crammed down a gourmet vegan meal.
The hospitality was outstanding. I hope I get to take more business class flights in the future!
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Thoroughly restful – that was my last day in Kolkata. Back with an itinerary soon!
Definition: A nostalgic longing to be near something/ someone who is distant
The Howrah Bridge in the distance, putting up a show with its lights!
Calcutta, or Kolkata, has always held a place in my heart. I’d traveled to KOL a few times but always for work or when passing by. But, in my heart of hearts, I was always desirous to holiday in the City of Joy to grasp what my longing had been for.
Yes, KOL had been my Saudade.
So, when it was time for me to make a solo expedition, I chose KOL, in spite of questioning looks from family & the disheartening weather forecasts. Thus, here I’m, P, sharing my story of traveling to Calcutta, the business hub of Eastern India.
See the color color color of the sky!
(A detailed account of each day will follow in subsequent blog posts.)
Friday, 22 July 2022 – NCR to Kolkata
A first-class blue sky from my IndiGo flight, a transformed Kolkata airport & a friendly Bharat Taxi cabbie made up the first half of my Day 1. A room with a fantastic view at Fairfield by Marriott & a Chinese meal at Chowman prepped me for a peaceful slumber.
Jagannath Panda’s art for When The Other Stares Back
Evening was all about art at the Kaee Contemporary. It was the opening night for a new exhibition called When The Other Stares Back. In one word, thought – provoking! Noshing on kebabs & biryani followed at The Bridge, Polo Floatel with my cousin SD.
Saturday, 23 July 2022 – Central Kolkata Sightseeing
The day my tryst with rain began. All was sunny till I entered the Saint Paul’s Cathedral. As I sat admiring the stained-glass windows & the memorial engravings, at some point of time, it started raining.
Bougainvilleas adding beauty to an already magnificent structure!
I waited for 30 minutes for the rain to cease but when it didn’t, I made my way in the drizzle to the Victoria Memorial. Irrepressible Subhas, an exhibition on Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was ongoing on the ground floor while on the first floor of the Memorial was the Biplobi Bharat Gallery.
Those who know me know that I read every single exhibit but the wealth of information here overwhelmed even someone like me. (Still raining when I stepped out of the Victoria Memorial!)
Kolkata was my one saudade, the other being Flurys. I don’t even remember since when I’ve wanted to visit this iconic café. My wish got fulfilled on this excursion. (& finally, the rain ceased!)
Cola Float at Flurys
Lunch was followed by a solemn, humbling drive to The Mother House of The Missionaries of Charity. How does a person be so selfless? Similar thoughts kept churning in my head as walked later on the Princep Ghat, a promenade on the river Ganges.
With my heart so full, I needed to loosen up & Soul – The Sky Lounge in the Park Street Area provided the perfect spot for this. As the dusk sky turned pink, I reminded myself that maybe we can be both – fun-loving & selfless, & that not all of us can be Mother Teresa, but can try to be good human beings!
Sunday, 24 July 2022 – North Kolkata Sightseeing
Keep walking… On the Howrah Bridge!
What a generous breakfast spread at Kava, the Fairfield restaurant! It set me up for a walking & sightseeing day ahead. First up was the Howrah Bridge. My nemesis, the rain, had begun to fall again in a milder format; that emboldened me to walk the length of the Bridge & feel history exude from its every joint!
Apart from the Victoria Memorial, I’d been quite eager to see the Jorasanko Thakur Bari, the ancestral home of Rabindranath Tagore. My eagerness was fully satiated at this typical Bengali mansion of the older days with its striking green & red colour, & the countless galleries holding invaluable information about the Nobel Laureate.
Some more family time followed with lunch with SD & her parents, my uncle & aunt. I wanted to visit the Science City but the rain had finally dampened my spirit. I wasn’t in a mood for more knowledge – gathering.
I made a brief halt at the Birla Mandir in Ballygunge. I was lucky to be there at the time of the evening aarti.
The rest of the evening was spent at Vertex, the lounge at Fairfield, listening to Pratham Kar, & then at Kava munching on a special Bengali dinner.
Monday, 25 July 2022 – Wrapping Up On A Divine Note
A throng of devotees against a backdrop of the Dakshineswar Mandir
The Goddesses & Swamis wanted me to visit their abodes! The rain took a break & I made a voyage to the Dakshineswar Kali Mandir, a Hindu navratna temple. From there, Alam bhai drove me to the Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission.
After the hustle bustle of Dakshineswar Mandir, Belur was an oasis of calm! As soon as I stepped out of the Math & sat in the cab, it began to rain again! Ha ha! I’d planned to visit the Eco Park but had to drop that.
Instead, I headed back to the hotel, packed, made short work of the lunch buffet & checked out. On the way to the airport, I stopped at Mishti Hub to buy Sandesh & Baked Rasgulla. Lounging at the Vistara lounge & then being pampered in the business class brought to an end a fabulous trip!
Why have I made such a brief blog post? 😀 Because I intend to write detailed posts for each of these days. This blog post was to give an overview of how a long weekend KOL trip can be planned.
Stay tuned for more posts on Kolkata, once the premier centre of Indian culture!