A dollop of Bengal – Presidency College/University

P could have been Park Street – the food lovers paradise in the city, Peter Cat – the restaurant redefining Chelo Kabab, Poila Boisakh – Bengali New Year  celebrated on 15th April this year, Poush Mela – the annual fair marking the beginning of harvest season specially famous in Bolpur, Pranab Mukherjee – the ex President of India and Prasenjit Chatterjee – the fifty something reigning superstar of Bengali cinema. But I decided to feature one of the premier institutes in the country Presidency College – now University in today’s post.

Presidency College /University –

Presidency University Hindustan Times.jpg
Presidency College – Pic courtesy : Hindustan Times

Presidency University formerly called Hindoo College and then Presidency College is a public state university located in College Street, Kolkata. The ‘Hindoo College’, established in 1817 was transformed into the ‘Presidency College of Bengal’ in 1855. On 23 July 2010, the Government of West Bengal published the gazette notification completing all the legal formalities for Presidency to become a full university.

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A dollop of Bengal – Outram Ghat

O can be labelled as an important alphabet in Bengali vocabulary. The pronunciation of quite a few words alter under the strong influence of this alphabet. For example, Amitabh Bachchan is pronounced as Omitabho Bochchon, Sachin becomes Sochin and Arijit Singh is Orijit Singh. For the feature, Oudh 1590 – the famous Awadhi cuisine restaurant in Kolkata, Oshtomir Onjoli – the integral part of Pushpanjali on the morning of Durga ashtami, Oxford Bookstore with a coffee shop on Park Street were the few options that were being considered. But the one that makes it to the list is one of the famous ghats in the city – Outram Ghat.

Outram Ghat –

Outram Ghat.jpg
Outram Ghat

Outram Ghat is a ghat built-in memory of Sir James Outram during the British era, along the river bank of Hooghly (a distributary of Ganges river) on its bank of the Kolkata. During colonial era it used to be a key port and the main mooring point for ships to East Bengal and Burma.

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A dollop of Bengal – Nicco Park

N could have been Naxalbari in Siliguri famous for Naxalite – Maoist insurgency, Nabanna – the building in Howrah which is houses the state secretariat of Bengal, Narayan Debnath – the cartoonist attributed for the creation of characters like Bantul the great, Handa-Bhonda & Nonte Fonte, Nalban boating complex famously referred to as lovers paradise with some great options in food in their food park as well and Nandan, Rabindra Sadan – the film and cultural hub of Kolkata. However my pick up for the day is the largest amusement park in Eastern India also known as the Disneyland of Bengal – Nicco Park.

Nicco Park –

Nicco Park.jpg
Nicco Park – Salt Lake, Kolkata

Nicco Park is an amusement park located in Salt Lake City, Kolkata. Presently, the 40 acre park is home to over 35 different attractions. Sheroo – the tiger is the mascot of the park.

Nicco Park Sheroo.jpg
The mascot of Nicco Park – Sheroo

Rides –

Nicco Park has approximately thirty-five rides that include the Toy Train, Tilt-a-Whirl, Magic Carpet, Paddle Boat, Water Chute, Water Coaster, Carousal, Lazy river ride, Crazy Tea Party ride, Pirate Ship, River Caves, Merry go round, Sky Diver, Caterpillar, Flying Saucer, Cyclone and Moon Raker. The Giant Cyclone, added in 2003, is among Asia’s largest ride with 750 meters in length, has seven drops and goes as high as 55 feet.

Nicco Park crazy tea ride.jpg
Crazy Tea Party Ride

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A dollop of Bengal – Mandarmani and Motijheel

M is for the famous actor Mithun Chakraborty, the mouth-watering delicacy Mishti Doi (sweet curd), the writer and activist who gave voice to the plight of tribal population- Mahashweta Devi, the oldest underground train in Kolkata called Metro and the amusement park near Strand road overlooking Hooghly river in Kolkata – Millennium Park. But through M, let me take you to one of the most favorite beach destinations in the state – Mandarmani and the last site for Murshidabad Diaries – Motijheel.

Mandarmani-

In the last few years, Mandarmani or Mandarmoni in East Midnapore District has turned out to be one of the largest and fastest developing seaside resort village of West Bengal. Red crabs crawling around the 13 km long beach is a special attraction here. Trying to avoid the much crowded Digha, people have started moving to the more tranquil and serene Mandarmani beach.

Travel –

The distance between Kolkata and Mandarmani can be covered in 3.5 to 4hours by car (180 kms approximately). Roads are in quite good condition. Train options are available till Contai/Ramnagar/Digha and most of the resorts offer to arrange for a pick up from there. Sher-e-Punjab on the Kolaghat expressway is a great hotel to stop over for breakfast or lunch with aloo paratha being their speciality dish.

Aloo paratha at Sher E punjab
Aloo Paratha with Sabji at Sher – e- Punjab hotel

Stay –

While the town has ample options for stay and most of them are on or near the beach, Aqua Marina Drive Inn takes the cake away for being not only right on the beach but having rooms that lets one view the sea from both the room and balcony. For luxury stay, Rose Valley resort and Sana Beach resort are the best options.

Food – 

Variety of fish items like pomphret, prawns, hilsa etc along with crab dishes are a must try in this place. Most of the resorts have their own restaurants serving local Bengali cuisine that include a large variety of sea food. Tender coconut water is a great thirst quencher in this locality.

Sight seeing –

  • The beach – The beach is a great place to take a walk around and indulge in sea bathing.
  • The Delta or Mohana – This is the place where a river meets the sea. It is about 5-6 km from the main part of the beach and is beautiful with a scenic backdrop. On one side of the river there are dense pine trees, while on the other side is the fishing village.
  • Tajpur – Tajpur beach is barely twenty minutes from Mandarmani beach by car. It is being developed into a port now.
  • Shankarpur  – This beach is around ten minutes from the Tajpur beach. Sea waves get wilder in these beaches.
  • Water sports – While the Government has stopped paragliding after an accident, beach bikes are still available.

Best time to visit –

Mandarmani can be visited throughout the year. During monsoons,the water level goes very high and waves reach till the walls of the resorts.

Motijheel –

Motijheel Lake.jpg
Motijheel now

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A dollop of Bengal – Lyangcha and Lyadh

L could have been Lake in Dhakuria now known as Rabindra Sarobar – the rendezvous spot for lovers, Ledikeni – a variety of sweet named after Lady Canning, Lal bazar – the headquarters of Kolkata Police and Lava – the picturesque destination in Kalimpong district of North Bengal. However to re-introduce the fun quotient in the post, I have decided to feature two completely unrelated topics today – the sweet Lyangcha and the word Lyadh.

Lyangcha –

Lyangcha - bulk
Fresh from the oven – Lyangcha

Lyangcha or Langcha (a colloquial distortion of the word Langra or crippled in Bengali) is an Indian sweet made from flour and milk powder by frying it and soaking it into sugar syrup for a long time. It’s uniqueness lies in its shape which is cylindrical(more like a sausage) instead of being the usual round.

According to the local stories, the credit of lyangcha goes to a sweet maker named Lyangcha Dutta of Shaktigarh in Burdwan district. Another version of the story says that Lyangcha had travelled from Krishananagar in Nadia district to Shaktigarh through the matrimonial alliance between the royal families of Krishnanagar and Burdwan.

A different version of this story goes as follows : An invention of a certain Khudiram Dutta in Shaktigarh, it is supposed to have been named after a crippled, nameless Britisher who was mesmerized by the sweet at the first bite. Dutta went on to establish a sweet shop Langcha Mahal selling his trademark cylindrical shaped sweet.

Lyangcha
Lyangcha from Janani sweets-Berhampore

Shaktigarh is still the most famous region of Lyangcha with an array of shops selling these along NH 19. Here the lyangchas are black in color, fried more deeply and taste sweeter than the ones found in the other parts of Bengal. Tarapith and Kolkata also have quite a few well-known lyangcha shops.

Lyadh –

Lyadh - The Bong Sense
Lyadh – Image courtesy : The Bong Sense

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A dollop of Bengal – Katra Masjid and Kathgola Bagan

K is definitely for the city of joy – Kolkata. It also stands for Kalighat in South Kolkata famous for its Kali temple, the hill station Kalimpong in North Bengal and the area famous for sculpting of clay idols in Kolkata – Kumortuli. Since I have almost reached the end of Murshidabad diaries, the two places of interest that define K for me are Katra Masjid and Kathgola Bagan.

Katra Masjid –

Katra Masjid
Katra Masjid

Katra means market and since there was a local market near this mosque, this justifies the name Katra Masjid. It is a mosque and tomb of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan. Its importance lies not only as a great centre of Islamic learning but also for the tomb of Murshid Quli Khan, who is buried under the entrance staircase. The most striking feature is the two large corner towers having loopholes for musketry.

Side view of Katra Masjid
The side view of the masjid that shows a destroyed minar

The mosque stands on a square plinth. It is built with bricks and surrounded by double storied domed cells. The rooms can accommodate seven hundred Quran readers in total. Four big minars (pillar) stand at the four corners. The two towers or the minarets in front of the mosque are 70 feet high and 25 feet in diameter. The whole mosque is quadrangular in shape, has no pillar support but is supported by a raised platform instead below the mosque. After the earthquake in 1897, the mosque, its dome and two minars have been destroyed.

Dome of Masjid
The mosque and dome destroyed by the earthquake

The entrance to the mosque is by fourteen flight of stairs under which the Nawab has been buried. It is believed that he wanted his burial in such a place where the dust of the visitors would fall on his tomb as a way of seeking repentance for his sins. Born a Hindu Brahmin, Quli Khan was bought by Mughal noble Haji Shafi. Folk lore has it that once the Nawab had known about his Hindu lineage, he had approached the Hindu society seeking acceptance but had been marked as an outcast. Out of vengeance, he had rampaged a lot of Hindu temples. However the present Shiva temple in the premises stand as a testimony to his changed mindset of embracing both the religions in due course.

Shiva Temple
Shiva Temple inside the premises

Kathgola Bagan –

Kathgola Bagan Bari
Kathgola Palace

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A dollop of Bengal – Jatra & Jagat Seth’s House

From the iconic Jadubabur Bazar in Bhowanipore, Kolkata to one of the most important Bengali poets of this generation – Joy Goswami , the all-rounder National level cricketer Jhulan Goswami, the paradise of bird lovers situated in Alipurduar ditrict – Jaldapara National Park and the neighbourhood in North Kolkata fanous for being the home of the country’s pride Gurudev Rabindranath Tgore – Jorasanko, J had a magnitude of options. I decided to pick up two categories, one that is at the core of rural Bengal – Jatra and the other as continuation of Murshidabad series – Jagat Seth’s House.

Jatra –

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Jatra from rural Bengal – Source:Surendra Kumar Hota

Jatra or jatra pala is a folk theatre form still popular in rural Bengal. The word jatra means journey or going. The origin of jatra – intrinsically a musical theatre form is influenced from the ritual of songs and dance which formed part of the religious festivals in villages. It is traditionally credited to the rise of Sri Chaitanya’s Bhakti movement, wherein Chaitanya himself played Rukmini in the performance of Rukmini Haran. Dramatic elements in the compositions of these songs and dances like conversations among the various characters of the mythological stories on which they were based were given histrionic interpretations by the performers. Jatras were performed in a square or round area of flat ground with the audience sitting all rounds. There were reserved entry or exit points and the actors moved into the square from the midst of the audience. In the first half of the twentieth century, Swadeshi Jatra became very much important. Jatras were performed to make the people conscious of the British dominance over Indians. Quite a few times the role of a female character gets essayed by a male actor.

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Different Jatra Posters on a busy street- Souce:Wikimedia

The season of Jatra starts from September with Durga Puja being the starting point and ends when the monsoons are just about to come. The whole troupe travel to rural places to perform their play. These troupes are booked in advance by the organising committee and then announcements are done on a cycle rickshaw through microphone in different styles. The Jatra Pala in Bengal lasts for four long hours with full action packed dialogues. Six to seven songs are also performed in the play. These kinds of songs are known as Jatra Gaan. Jatra has also given birth to a popular actors who have gained fame in the medium of theatre and cinema eventually.

Jagat Seth’s house –

House of Jagath Seth - inside premises
The beginning of the premises – after entry

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