Sunday, May 25, 2014

Vanga to Magadha: Part VII – Kolkata, Capital of the east

From Boat - SBI building on right side
Dhanbad Express was a bit late to reach Howrah. We booked a room in a hotel – the same hotel we used on last Thursday; and then started our journey.

Inside the boat

Crossing Hooghly in a Boat

This time our first destination was Prinsep ghat. From Howrah Jetty ferries are available to cross the river. Me and Antony bought tickets for one such boat to reach the other side. After some 5 minutes, our boat came. Slowly we crossed Hooghly – through the waters which carry the stories of thousands of kilometers and millions of people.

Rusting - keeping the memory alive
After a while we reached Babu Ghat. After having lemon soda mixed with Jal Jeera, we started walking towards Princep Ghat.

Prinsep Ghat

In memory of one of India's great historian
Before going further let me tell you something about James Prinsep (Prinsep Ghat is named after him). This person completely changed the way we, India's, understand our history. By profession he was an assay master. James Prinsep started his career at Calcutta mint. Later he moved to Banaras mint. In 1830, after the closure of Benares mint, he moved back to Calcutta and joint in Calcutta mint and later became an assay master there.
"In 1832 Prinsep succeeded H.H. Wilson as secretary of Asiatic Society of Bengal... contributed articles on chemistry, mineralogy, numismatics and on the study of Indian antiquities... Coins were Prinsep's first interest. He interpreted doing from Bactria and Kushan as well as Indian series coins, including "punch-marked" ones from the Gupta series. Prinsep suggested that there were three stages; the punch-marked, the die-struck, and the cast coins." - Wikipedia.
At Pricept Ghat

I think his most important contribution for India is the deciphering of Kharoshthi using bi-lingual Indo-Greek coins and Brahmi script.

"In a series of results that he published between 1836–38 he was able to decipher the inscriptions on rock edicts found around India. The edicts in Brahmi script mentioned a King Devanampriya Piyadasi which Prinsep initially assumed was a Sri Lankan king. He was then able to associate this title with Asoka on the basis of Pali script from Sri Lanka communicated to him by George Turnour. These scripts were found on the pillars at Delhi and Allahabad and on rock inscriptions from both sides of India, and also the Kharosthi script in the coins and inscriptions of the north-west. The idea of Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, a collection of Indian epigraphy, was first suggested by Prinsep and the work was formally begun by Sir Alexander Cunningham in 1877. His studies on inscriptions helped in the establishment of date of Indian dynasties based on references to Antiochus and other Greeks... Prinsep also delved into the early history of Afghanistan, producing several works that touched on archaeological finds in that country. Many of the collections were sent by Alexander Burnes." - Wikipedia.

Small caravans...
Palladian porch where we were standing in Prinsep Ghat, on the banks of Hooghly River and close to a suspension bridge across Howrah - was designed by W. Fitzgerald in 1843 and erected by citizens of Calcutta in memory of James Prinsep.

After sitting there for some time, watching floated iron structures in the river and vehicles moving across the bridge we left the ghat and reached main road.
A view from flyover - one of that big building in the background belongs to Tata Steel
Fort William

This historical building is one of the prime witness of British Rule in India. Unfortunately, this building is no more accessible to public.

Victoria memorial - Emperor and Empress
The last remains of a bygone era - Victoria Memmorial @ Kolkata
From Princep Ghat we moved towards Victoria Memorial – probably the most iconic building ruling the Kolkata Skyline.

“The building is 184 ft high upto the base of the figure of Victory, which is another 16 ft high. The groups of figures above the north porch represent Motherhood, Prudence and Learning. Surrounding the main dome are figures of Art, Architecture, Justice, Charity etc. The Memorial is situated on a 64 acres of land with the building covering 338 ft by 228ft…Curzon insisted that the Memorial should be built of white marble, and in the event the stone was brought from the same quarries in Makrana, Rajasthan, that supplied Shah Jahan.” -

St Paul's church
Calm and quiet - British era church - St. Pauls
From Victoria Memorial we walked towards St Paul’s church. This is one of the oldest and beautiful church in Kolkata. I liked the church from at the first sight itself.

We were hungry and thirsty after the long walk all the way from Babu Ghat through the sides of EdenGarden, Judges Ghat, Princep Ghat, Fort William and Victoria Memorial. Water from the tap in front of church tasted like nectar from heaven :).

We went inside. There were a lot of tablets pasted in the wall to honor British War Heros. After reading descriptions given in some of the tablets I walked towards the prayer room and sat in a table at one end. It didn't take much time for me to sleep. I never believed that I could sleep so quickly. While sleeping our entire journey from Bangalore, train, Kolkata, Patna, Pawapuri, Ragjir etc moved in front my eyes as a slow-motion movie. In between I woke up and looked towards Antony, he was sleeping - with his eyes wide open. I slept (in sitting mode) for some more time and then we left the church.

It was so calm inside - big building, some 10-15 people. Hardly anyone made sound, except a young girl in her late teens. Her friend, sitting next, was trying to console her. But that sad, fragile sobbing sound continued till we were thre.

Birla Planetarium
Where you can see the sky - Nabho Sparsham Deeptham
Planetarium is located right in front of the church. There was already a long queue, hence we didn't try our luck there. We walked forward. I was eager to reach Ho Chi Minn Sarani. You may be wondering why I am so eager to reach there. ok, let me tell you that story as well.

US Department's second oldest consulate is located in Kolkata, in an area called Harrington Street. Date goes back to November 19, 1792. When communist government came to power in West Bengal, they renamed the street to 'Ho Chi Minh Sarani', in memory of Vietnam National Hero... Ironically, mails to US Consulate in Calcutta during Vietnam War had to carry the address of their greatest nemesis.
An empress who ruled the world

Post-independence many roads and streets in Kolkata got new names.

Chowringhee Road became Jawaharlal Nehru Road; Park Street was renamed after Mother Teresa; Theatre Road was renamed after William Shakespeare (an exception!!! interestingly there wasn't any street named after Shakespeare during more than two century long British Raj; Harrington Street was renamed after the leader of the Vietnam independence movement, Ho Chi Minh. Camac Street has been renamed after great artist Abanindranath Tagore; Russell Street became Anandi Lal Poddar Street. Free School Street was renamed after the Urdu/ Persian poet Mirza Ghalib. Kyd Street was renamed Dr. Md. Ishaque Road. Lindsay Street was renamed after Nellie Sengupta so on and so forth (courtesy for data: Wikipeida)
After walking through Camac street we reach Park street and had Pizza from a near-by Pizza Hut.


Then we went to Park Street Station and took metro to reach Kalighat station. After passing through a number of stations, we finally reached Kalighat and climbed the steps to reach main road. After checking Nokia Maps again we started walking towards the temple. In front of a bakery we met one person who, without asking, told that the shortcut to the temple is on left side. I checked the map again, it showed a line which ends up somewhere. It may be a shortcut, we started walking through that road.

That guy also followed us, why? To get dakshina when we reach the temple? I developed a particular resistance against these type of practices after the incident on Hot Springs at Rajgir. So we tried to avoid him by walking fast, he too increased speed. So we walked slow and allowed him to overtake us. Interestingly he waited (for us?) at next turn. Finally we ignored him. Rest of the path to the temple was densely populated by small stores. After ignoring a lot of offers for easy darshan we finally reached the temple gate and I went inside.

There was not much crowd inside the temple. I reached sanctum and prayed in front of Kolkata Kali. Her face looked ferocious, deadly for enemies and friendly for allies.

From the temple we walked towards the next Metro train station. On the way we had ras malai as well, sweet and costly :) We had only limited time left in Kolkata, probably a couple of hours were there for our train to start the journey towards Bangalore. What to do next?
Poem in Marble
From there we got in another train to reach Dum Dum. A lot people came in and went out. Students going to home after spending day in school, college and outside. Ladies wearing a tiresome look after day long work and gentlemen carrying black leather bags were heading towards home to reunite with family. Finally we reach Dum Dum station, unlike other stations this particular station is an underground one.
Front end.

There was nothing much to see, or more specifically we didn’t had much time left. Hence quickly bought another ticket to MG Road Station. From MG Road to Howrah in a bus and then to Bangalore in ‘HWH-YPR’ Express.


Antony - at a distance

Here it is - beautiful gardens of Victoria Memmorial
From another angle

Edward VII - On top of horse

A view from other side, with Emperor

No comments:

Post a Comment