We had recently written about the forgotten past of the city of joy i.e Kolkata. Our fascination with this city continues.In this section of Kolkata series, Inderjit, our friend and fellow blogger takes you on a Holy trip! We are talking temples, churches, Synagogues and Masjids. What makes these places truly divine is that they hold on their own in creating the history of this pulsating metropolitan city. There is also one lesson for all of mankind- religions and cultures are things to celebrate not draw dividing lines!
Many poets have often connected the name "Kolkata" with the goddess "Kali" but there is no conclusive evidence to this fact. This temple has been mentioned in many Hindu holy books like Mansar Bhasan and Kavi Kankan Chandi from ancient and medieval times. The temple was previously a small hut which was constructed by King Manasingha in 16th century on the banks of river Ganga (Now known as Adi ganga). The current structure was built in 1809 by Sabarna Roy Chowdhury of Behala. It is the busiest temple of Kolkata as people come here from all over the country to show their devotion to goddess Kali. Best time to visit this place is during Kali puja or Diwali.
How to reach
Kalighat is itself the name of the place located in southern part of the city. Nearest metro station is Kalighat.
This famous temple is also dedicated to goddess Kali located in outskirts of Kolkata. It was built by Rani Rasmoni, who was a well known philanthropist of 19th century. The construction style of the temple is "traditional nine spires of Bengali architecture". The Garba Griha (where the statues of gods are housed) has a statue of Kali called "Bhavatarini" which can be seen standing on a chest of Lord Shiva depicting a famous Hindu mythological story. Along with Kali there are twelve identical Shiva temples built in a "aat chala" style. There is also a temple of Krishna and Radha in Northeast corner. Best time to visit this place is during Kali puja and Annakuta festival.
How to reach
Best way to visit this temple is by Ferry service from Baboo Ghat. Bus routes are also very prevalent from Howrah and Esplanade.
This is indeed the most beautiful temple of Kolkata built by the Birla family. The architectural work is Dravidian style, which is prevalent in South India. The construction was started in 1970 and completed in 1996 under the supervision of Sompuras. It was inaugrated by swami Chidanandaji Maharaj on 21st february , 1996. Best time to visit this place is during Janmasthami festival, the birthday of Lord Krishna.
How to reach
Nearest metro is Jatin Das park. All you have to do is after reaching Jatin Das park, hire a cab and ask the driver to drop you at Birla Mandir. Bus stop halts right at Ballygung Birla Mandir Bus Stop.
St. Paul's Cathedral
It is the first Episcopal church of Asia and the seat of Diocese of Kolkata. It was built by the British in the year 1847 to cater for the need of a large cathedral for the exponentially growing European population in the late 19th century. The cathedral was built in Indo-Gothic revival style with a chapel, sanctuary, chancel and a tall 201 feet gothic spire. Following two back to back earthquakes of 1897 and 1934, the cathedral was rebuilt in a revised design. It is also the burial place of famous Bishop Daniel Wilson. The most enchanting part of this place is the long tranquil walk from the main gate to the church building.
How to reach
It is located right beside the southern walls of Victoria Memorial sharing the same ground with Birla Planetarium. Nearest bus stop is Rabindra Sadan and so is the metro station which is just 5-7 minutes by walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Magen David Jewish Synagogue
Kolkata was once the home to a thriving community of 6000 Jews. They donated money to built few religious places for the community. Although Kolkata has lost its Jewish community, the religious edifices remain as reminder of their culture. There are three such synagogues namely Neveh Shalome synagogue, Beth el synagogue and Magen David synagogue. Magen david is the youngest, largest and most beautiful among them. It is built in Italian renaissance style with chequered marble floor, stained glass painting and alternate floral pillar which were shipped from Paris. It is a very tall building with red brick finish. The interiors are beautifully designed and it also contains several Hebrew inscriptions along with other items related to Jewish settlements.
How to reach
It is located at the intersection of Brabourne road and Canning Street. There is no metro connectivity here but you can take a cab or bus to Brabourne road bus stop.
Toong On Chinese Church
It is the first Chinese church of Kolkata and is dedicated to the warrior god Kwan-ti. It shares the roof along with Nanking restaurant in the same structure. It is a two-storey colonial style building built in the year 1924. The area in which the temple stands was once home of Chinese communities who lived in Kolkata. The Nanking restaurant was once a popular hangout place for many Bollywood superstars like Dilip Kumar , Shammi Kapoor , Sunil Dutta etc. Today due to lack of social attention, the temple is standing on a stage of dilapidation and the doors are closed to public eyes. If you are making a visit towards Central Avenue, do visit here because Toong On is still worth a good look and part of Kolkata’s colourful history!
How to reach
It is located in Black burn lane, a small lane on Sun Yat Sen street. Nearest metro station is Central Avenue.
This is one of the most beautiful heritage mansions and the largest mosque of Kolkata. It was built in the year 1926 by a small Muslim merchant community- Kutchi Memon Jamat. Abdul Rahim Osman, the leader of the community was a shipping prince. The community was mainly engaged in trading of spices, rice and cotton to South-East Asian countries. The prayer hall has a capacity of 10,000 on two floors. On the ground floor there is a beautiful holy water body where worshippers go for purification before prayers. It has three domes and two minarets that are 151 feet high. The mosque is named "Nakhoda" which means "Mariner" in Arabic.
How to reach
It is located on Zakaria street between CR avenue and Rabindra Sarani. There is a big gate over CR avenue which serves an an entrance to this mosque. Nearest metro station is CR Avenue
Parshwanath Jain Temple
The famous Jain temple of Kolkata was built in 1867 by Rai Badridas Bahadur Mookim. The complex is divided into four temples - Shaitalnath ji temple , Chandraprabhu ji temple , Mahavir swami temple , Dadawadi. The temple is dedicated to Parshwanath , 23rd tirthankara of Jainism. The temple is visited by Jains from distant part of India and world. The last temple inside the complex is dedicated to Lord Mahaveera , who was the last Tirthankara (Divine teacher) of Jainism. It is an impressive structure consisting of mirror-inlaid pillars and windows that have made of stained glass. The outdoor part has a large and beautiful garden with variety of flowers and a fountain. The floor is paved by classy marbles which makes this structure all the more stunning. With sparkling light of Jhar bati on magnificent paintings of renowned artists, this temple is a rare and divine beauty.
How to reach
It is located near Belgachia tram depot on R G Kar road. The bus would take you to RG Kar Medical.
This is indeed the oldest church of Kolkata which is still standing today surrounded by the busy stalls of Burrabazar. Originally this church was built in 1688 but it was destroyed in fire as a result of which in 1708 East India Company built a small wooden church in the south-east corner of the present location for the Armenian community of Kolkata. In 1724 an Armenian entrepreneur Aga Nazar raised money from the community members to erect this magnificent edifice. Behind the church there is Armenian cemetery and on the left side of the church there is memorial of Armenian Genocide.
How to reach
It is located on Old China Bazar Street and is a few yards away from Magen David Jewish Synagogue. You can take a bus to Brabourne Road to get here.
St. John’s Church
It served as the Anglican Cathedral of Kolkata till 1847, when it was transferred to St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. John’s Church was modelled according to the St Martin-in-the-Fields of London. The land for building of the church was donated by Raja Nabakrishna Deb who was the founder of Sovabazar Rajbari in Kolkata. The architectural design of the church is Neoclassical , the foundation was laid by Warren Hastings, the then British Governor of India. The structure was erected over an old graveyard in the year 1787 and hence there are many memorial tablets, plaques of early British governors and businessmen who laid the foundation of Bengal Presidency. It is the third oldest church of Kolkata after Armenian Church and Old Mission church.
How to Reach
St. John’s Church is located near BBD Bag area and nearest Bus stop is Raj Bhavan. If you are walking then take the first left turn after crossing the Raj Bhavan and walk straight for 10 minutes to reach St. John’s Church.
Hope you liked this post. We are not done with this vibrant city though. In our next instalment, thanks to Inderjit, we bring you best of food and shopping destinations of Kolkata. All you foodies and shopaholics out there, stay tuned. A few words about our treasure trove of information on Kolkata: Inderjit. Inderjit Lal hails from Kolkata, age 23, professionally an engineer and deeply passionate about traveling and journalism.He loves solving riddles and digging deeper into historical events. Owner of the blog - serialglobetrotter.wordpress.com.