A dollop of Bengal – Wedding

W could have been the iconic Writers’ Building with a historical and political significance, Waldorf – one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Park Street or the Walking Tours that give a glimpse into the heritage and history of the city.  But I couldn’t let go of an opportunity to cover an interesting topic that is essentially all about the Bengali culture and rituals – Wedding (biye in colloquial Bengali).

Wedding (Biye) –

Wedding - biye
Wedding rituals

A host of deep, meaningful rituals seeped in culture and tradition are performed amidst colorfully elegant and immensely creative decorations. The Bengali weddings are celebrations of colour, camaraderie and beauty . They are elaborate affairs with celebrations spanning for 2-3 days from morning till night. The rituals and their executions are subtly different among the two main subcultures in Bengal, the Bangals (Bengalis with roots in Bangladesh) and the Ghotis (Bengalis with roots in West Bengal).

Pre-Wedding Rituals –

Paka Katha or Pati Potro – Generally applicable in arranged marriages, this is a formal meeting between the family members of the bride and groom to agree upon the various aspects associated with the marriage. Paka Dekha is the term used by the Ghotis while Pati Potro happens among the Bangals.

Ashirvaad – The bride and groom are blessed by the elders of the family along with gifts pertaining to jewellery, saree and other items. This is followed by an elaborate feast. For certain households, ashirvaad happens only on the evening of the wedding.

Wedding - Ashirvaad
Ashirvaad

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A dollop of Bengal – Victoria Memorial

V could have been Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly bridge) – one of the longest cable stayed bridge in Asia connecting Kolkata with Howrah or Vivekananda Setu (Bally Bridge) – the multi-span steel bridge linking Bally to Kolkata . But the one that deserves to be featured is the heritage monument that has been a representation of the city for age – the gorgeous Victoria Memorial.

Victoria Memorial –

Victoria Memorial_Sunset
Victoria Memorial during sunset

Victoria Memorial is a large marble building in Kolkata, built between 1906 and 1921 dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901). Located on 1 Queen’s way, it is now a popular tourist destination. Representing the resplendent and majestic British architecture, Victoria Memorial Hall stands as a veritable icon of the city of Kolkata.

History –

Victoria Memorial_Lions
The lions at the entry gate

The Victoria Memorial Hall was built in memory of the Queen Victoria by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. The memorial celebrated the 25 year reign of the Queen over India. Lord Curzon wanted to demonstrate his gratitude by dedicating a monument to her.Along with the memorial, Curzon had plans for a museum within the premises. The historical museum  was intended to be a standing record of history.

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A dollop of Bengal – Uttam Kumar

U had only a handful of options. It could have been Upendra Kishore Ray Chowdhury (grandfather of Satyajit Ray) – the eminent writer and entrepreneur , Uttarpara – the second oldest municipality in Bengal, University of Calcutta –  the first institution in Asia to be established as a multidisciplinary and secular Western-style university and Utpal Dutt – the renowned actor, director, writer-playwright. However it wouldn’t be justified to complete this series without a post dedicated to the man who is considered as the greatest actor of Bengali cinema till date and one of the best actors ever in the Indian movie industry – Uttam Kumar.

Uttam Kumar –

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Mahanayak Uttam Kumar – Source :News18

Uttam Kumar (3 September 1926– 24 July 1980), born as Arun Kumar Chatterjee was an Indian film actor, director, producer, singer, composer, and playback singer.  Through his career he earned commercial as well as critical success and remains as an Indian cultural icon even today. Uttam Kumar was especially adored for his effortless naturalism in front of the camera and a distinctively urbane charisma that broke free from the prototypical Bengali screen hero of the past.

He was a recipient of many awards over his lifetime, including National Film Award for Best Actor. Actor Rajesh Khanna once said about Kumar, “He is the perfect ambassador of Indian cinema. No one carries Indian culture in a Kurta and Dhoti as well as he does.”

More than three decades after his demise, Uttam Kumar still remains in the hearts of countless Bengalis.

The journey – 

Uttam’s first release was Drishtidan though he worked in an earlier unreleased film called Mayador. Then he acted in about four to five films, all of which were flops. His breakthrough film was Agni Pariksha in 1954 that began the success of the all-time romantic pair of Uttam KumarSuchitra Sen, though they had been first paired in Sharey Chuattor (1953).The film ran for 65 weeks and established Uttam in the industry.

Uttam Suchitra telegraph
Uttam Kumar – Suchitra Sen in Saptapadi – Source: The Telegraph

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A dollop of Bengal – Tram

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.

Tram –

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The tram journey – Source:CultureBowl

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.

History –

Tram History
History of trams and Calcutta Tramway Company(CTC) – Source: CTC official website

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A dollop of Bengal – Science City & St. Paul’s Cathedral

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 –

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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 Centre and 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.

Science city - Dinosaur & flowers
The entrance to the exploration Hall

Science Centre attractions –

1.Earth Exploration Hall –

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A dollop of Bengal – Rosogolla

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.

Rosogolla –

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The tray of Rosogolla at Annapurna Sweets

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”).

Preparation

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.

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A dollop of Bengal – Quest Mall

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 –

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Quest Mall exterior view- Pic Courtesy : Official Website

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.

Quest Mall entrance.jpg
The lighting effect on fountain at the entrance of the mall

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