A time when innovation hails its presence and when technologies rule the world the erstwhile capital of British India, Kolkata stands tall with its colonial structures. In his book Land of Seven Rivers, Sanjeev Sanyal observed: “One of the positive consequences of its economic decline in the second half of the twentieth century, is that Kolkata is home to the finest collection of 19th-century buildings that have survived anywhere in the world.” The city has gone through a myriad of transformations both industrially and culturally. Despite that, the beauty of this city lies in its old world charm. Here are some of the epic structures that make this city worth the visit.
The epitome of British Architecture -The Victoria Memorial:
The Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, designed by the then president of the Royal Institute of British Architects William Emerson, is one of the major landmarks of the city. This grand Markana marble structure was erected between 1906 and 1921. On the demise of Queen Victoria, Lord Curzon desired to create a fitting memorial which would revive the marvels of the past. Apart from its appealing white facade, the gracefully manicured garden is also the perfect place to give up the mundane chaos of the city.
A Greek Delight- Metcalfe Hall:
Named after Sir Charles T. Metcalfe, the Governor-General of India, Metcalfe Hall is a brilliant instance of Greek architecture. Apparently inspired by the Temple of Winds of Athens, the majestic building stands as a symbol of Free Press Movement in India. Initially, the building housed the Calcutta Public Library collection. Nowadays, the ground floor houses the Asiatic Society’s rare foreign journals and manuscripts, while the first-floor houses offices, exhibition galleries and a sales counter of the Archaeological Survey of India.
A Roman Holiday- Kolkata Town Hall:
Built in the year 1813, Kolkata town hall with its Roman Doric style was considered an elite place to satisfy the jet set lifestyle of the Europeans. The building features two spacious porticoes as one of its charming traits. From being a property of the Calcutta Municipality in 1867 to an ideal venue for conducting exhibitions during the 19th century, this hall served many purposes.
Where history resides-Indian Museum:
Are you a history buff? Then the Indian Museum is the perfect place for you. The largest and oldest museum in India has a singular collection of antiques, armor and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies, and Mughal paintings. Indian Museum’s 4000-year-old mummy is the one of the best-preserved mummy in the country. This house of wonder truly lives up to its name. The simplistically designed building has been divided into several galleries depending on what they feature. The collection is so large that there are specimens scattered everywhere.
The House of Justice-Calcutta High Court:
This city is a perfect example of diverse architecture. The 13th-century Cloth Hall at Ypres, Belgium apparently inspired the architecture of India’s oldest high court. Calcutta High Court having jurisdiction over West Bengal, Andaman, and Nicobar Island was constructed 155 years ago. Philip Davies describes it as “the only significant secular Gothic building in the city”. It is the premier seat of some landmark decisions. Still not intrigued? Then how about some spooky stories that roam the old corridor. Court staff, clerks, peons and others have narrated their own share of horrifying experiences. Overall this place is a treat for everyone.
A Philatelist’s Paradise- General Post Office, Kolkata:
We may not be in the era of handwritten letters anymore but we definitely cannot forget the nostalgia it bears. GPO along with its Ionic-Corinthian pillars was built in the year 1864-1868. It is the central post office of the city and the chief post office of West Bengal. The northwestern corner of Dalhousie square, where Fort William originally located is the prime witness of the disputed incidence of the Black Hole Tragedy. A Postal Museum was annexed to the GPO in 1884. A Philatelic Bureau which is a stamp collector’s delight is located on the southwestern end of the building.
The Seat of Militia-Fort William:
This riverside citadel was named after King William III of England and Ireland and II of Scotland. East India Company’s robust expansionist ambition is evident from Fort William’s structure. In 1756 the fort was taken by Sirāj al-Dawlah, Nawab of Bengal. After the recovery of Calcutta (1757), this fort was demolished and a new one constructed by Robert Clive in the year 1758. At present, it is the Eastern Command of Indian Army while accommodating almost 10,000 army personnel.
Kolkata and its colonial heritage have much more to offer. So grab your tickets and come to experience the city’s imperial past.
Sompurna is in love with good food and good books. She learns from her favorite characters. She learned to break stereotypes from one of her favorite characters Elizabeth Bennet from “Pride & Prejudice”. She learned the true meaning of love from Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’ Hara from “Gone with the Wind”. She is head over heels in love with writing because of these books. And, one day, she dreams of creating her own library.