I was quite tempted to write on T for Tollywood – the Bengali movie industry located in Tollygunje. T could also have been Tajpur in East Midnapore district – famous for the sea beach which is now getting upgraded to a port, Tarapith in Birbhum district where the famous tantric temple is located, Tarakeshwar – a pilgrimage for the followers of Lord Shiva, Theatre – the collaborative form of fine art with a rich heritage in Bengal, Tipu Sultan Shahi Mosque in Kolkata – a relic of architectural and cultural heritage and Town Hall – one of the majestic heritage buildings. My pick for the day is an entity that has its roots in Kolkata and has long been considered synonymous with the city – Tram.
The tram system in the city of Kolkata initially operated by the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) is the only tram network operating in India since 1902. Today CTC owns 257 trams, of which 125 run daily. Each single-deck articulated car can carry 200 passengers (60 seated).
Tram can be considered as one entity that gives the city a charm of nostalgia. Series of transformations & renovations from horses to electricity could never deprive the Tram of its eco-friendly tag.
In the era of luxurious cars and bikes, Kolkata tram has managed to brave the odds and thrives in the roads of Kolkata bringing back memories of a safe and laid back lifestyle.
S had such an illustrious list of topics to be written about that it got quite difficult to pick up only one among them. From the cricketing legend Sourav Ganguly to the oscar winning cinema maestro and writer Satyajit Ray, spiritual leader and reformer Swami Vivekananda, revolutionary freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose, legendary movie actress Suchitra Sen, national award-winning actor Soumitro Chattopadhyay and one of the favorite tourist destinations Sandesh khali, there seemed to be no end to the options. However, the two subjects that made it to the featured list today are Science City and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Science City –
Science City, Kolkata, a unit of the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India and the largest science centre in India was opened on July 01, 1997. It consists of two facilities – the Science Centreand the Convention Centre.
The Convention Centre complex comprises of the Main Auditorium of 2232 seating capacity, one Mini Auditorium of 392 seating capacity and a Seminar hall complex consisting of 11 halls ranging from 15 to 100 seating capacity, an indoor (270sq.m.) and an open air exhibition ground (20000 sq. m). The Convention Centre of Science City is a major destination in the city of Kolkata for conventions, conferences, trade exhibitions and cultural programmes.
R offered a variety of options to talk about. From the social activist, writer and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore to sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, the pride of Bengal – Royal Bengal Tiger, the road famous for historic parades – Red Road, Governors official residence –Raj Bhavan, the weekend tourist destination – Raichak, the new tourist spot in Kalimpong sub division along Reshi river – Rishi khola and the national award-winning director Rituparno Ghosh, there were quite a variety of facets to talk about. But no write-up about Bengal would ever be complete without the featured topic for the day – Rosogolla.
The dessert is known as Rosogolla or Roshogolla in Bengali and Rasagola in Odia. Rasgulla is derived from the words ras (“juice”) and gulla (“ball”).
Rosogolla is made from ball-shaped dumplings of chhena or chhana (curds or cheese curds similar to cottage cheese) and semolina dough, cooked in light syrup made of sugar until the syrup permeates the dumplings.
Q ended up giving me sleepless night for the lack of options to write on. So I decided to feature one of the latest offerings of the city in tems of the mall cuture – Q for Quest Mall.
Quest Mall –
Located on Syed Amir Ali Avenue in Park Circus area of Kolkata, Quest Mall is a new addition to the city that already boasts of Forum Mall, Acropolis Mall, South City Mall, Mani Square and the two City Centre Malls. Yet what stands out in this luxury retail hub is the huge number of international brands that have launched their stores here. Its impressive facade is a mesmerizing interplay of solar-powered lighting against a modern and energetic asymmetrical structure – inspired by India’s varied culture and natural beauty. With a shopping area of 730,000 sq ft and parking for 1,300 vehicle, it is one of the largest malls in the city.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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 has approximately thirty-fiverides 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.