Kolkata is a city that has been home to different cultures right from the beginning. It is these colours that have painted the city bright and lively as it is today. This confluence of cultures has reflected in the food, festivals and most importantly, the architecture of the city. Kolkata is home to a variety of interesting structures that not many people know of. These structures are not only delightful to look at, but they also have rich historical and cultural significance. Listed below are a few structures Kolkata would always be proud of.
Anybody who has visited Kolkata would have seen, or at least heard of Victoria Memorial. Built between 1906 and 1921, this famous structure was dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. The design is in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style which uses a mixture of British and Mughal elements with Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani and Islamic architectural influences. In design, it is much similar to the Taj Mahal, also being built of white Markana marble. Presently it serves as a museum and tourist destination.
The Indian Museum is the largest and oldest museum in India. Designed by famous British architect Walter Granville, this building in Kolkata partly resembles the British Museum. This Italianate palatial structure has a colonnaded courtyard, and enormous halls inside. This magnificent neo-classical style building is one of Kolkata’s greatest landmarks.
Designed by Thomas Lyon in 1777, the Writers’ Building is the first building to be constructed in Kolkata. It was the seat of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers till 2013, after which it was closed down for renovations. This famous building has a Greco-Roman look in elevation, and is almost rectangular in shape with colourful Minton floor tiles and Corinthian columns. The Writers’ Building is a glorious structure whose magnificence lies not only in its beauty, but also in its historic significance.
Driven by his passion for collecting works of art, rich Bengali businessman Raja Rajendra Mullick built this beautiful house in 1835. Having marble walls and floors, this palatial building is one of the most elegant and well preserved buildings of the nineteenth century. Built in a neoclassical style, this three-storey building comprises of tall Corinthian pillars and traditional Bengali open courtyards. The zoo situated within the premises, is the first zoo of India.
To commemorate both his successful defense of Delhi against the Marathas in 1804 and the victory of the East India Company’s armed forces over the Gurkhas in the Anglo-Nepalese War, Major-general Sir David Ochterlony, commander of the British East India Company erected this monument in 1828. After independence, it was renamed ‘Shahid Minar’. Various architectural styles have been used in the construction of Shahid Minar, making it a unique structure. The foundation is Egyptian in style, with a classical fluted column which has a Syrian upper portion and a Turkish dome. A beautiful view of the city can be seen from the top of the monument.
JORASANKO THAKUR BARI
This famous tourist spot in Kolkata was the home of India’s first Noble laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Jorasanko Thakur Bari is a place of reverence for the Bengalis and lovers of Tagore all over the world. It was built in the year 1785 and is spread over 35000 square meters. A seat of culture, this building now houses Rabindra Bharati University, and also serves as a museum dedicated to Tagore’s life and works.
Located in the busy area of Burrabazar, Nakhoda Masjid is the principal mosque of Kolkata. It was erected under the patronage of Kutch resident, Abdar Rahim Osman in 1926, and is much alike the structure of Akbar’s mausoleum in Agra. The entrance of the mosque resembles the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri to a great extent. The mosque, which is the largest in Kolkata, can accommodate about 10,000 devotees at a time.
Considered an architectural wonder of Kolkata, St. Paul’s Cathedral is the largest church in Kolkata and the first cathedral that was built in the overseas territory of the British Empire. Built using Gothic Revival style of architecture, the cathedral was reconstructed to an Indo-Gothic style to suit the Indian climatic conditions after two major earthquakes in 1897 and 1935 threatened to destroy the structure. St. Paul’s Cathedral is a popular tourist destination in Kolkata owing to its religious, cultural and historical significance.
GENERAL POST OFFICE (GPO)
General Post Office is the central post office of the city and the major post office of the state of West Bengal. Famous British architect, Walter Grenvile designed this iconic building. The most striking feature of this structure is its towering Corinthian pillars that support the building’s white dome with a huge clock. GPO also houses the Philatelic Bureau.
Dakshineshwar Temple is not only one of the largest temples near Kolkata, but also the most sacred, devoted to Goddess Kali. It is said to be the place where religious thinker Ram Krishna Paramhamsa attained spiritual vision. Architecturally, this temple is one of a kind, built in the traditional ‘Nava-ratna’ or nine spires style of Bengal architecture. The upper portion of the temple goes as high as 100 feet. Dakshineshwar Temple is famous among pilgrims all over the world, especially during the Kali Puja.
CALCUTTA HIGH COURT
Established in 1862, the Calcutta High Court is the oldest High Court in India. The building has a grand gothic exterior with a series of pillars with triangular arches. A tower situated at the centre of the south front stands as tall as 180 feet. The lawn inside the premises increases the beauty of the area. The Calcutta High Court has been modeled on the Clothes Hall in Ypres, Belgium.
Built between 1840 and 1844, Metcalfe Hall was named after Sir Charles Metcalfe, the Governor-General of India. The architectural design is notably Greek, with thirty huge Corinthian pillars on a very strong base. Initially, the Metcalfe Hall used to be a conference hall, but later was transformed to a library. Presently it has offices and exhibition galleries of the Archeological Survey of India.
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY
This magnificent structure is regarded as the first public library in India and is the largest library in the country. Initially constructed to be a royal house, The National Library was traditionally the house of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. It is a grand structure, Italian in style, and has a beautiful park that enhances the beauty of the place. National Library is not exactly a well- known tourist spot, however its extraordinary architecture and stunning interiors would not only make an attractive tourist spot, but also a stimulating experience for any book lover. Interestingly, this 250 year old building is also considered to be haunted.
This building was originally built by the British for public meetings, balls, receptions and other social gatherings involving the Europeans. Completed in 1814, this fine structure was built in the Palladian Neo-classical Doric style of architecture with a magnificent portico in front, and a central marble hall in the ground floor. Post independence, this building fell into disuse and was handed over to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation in 1998.
The list wouldn’t be complete without the mention of the iconic Howrah Bridge, which has been come to be a landmark and symbol of Kolkata. This bridge connects Kolkata to the Howrah Station, the most important station of the city. Opened for public use from 1943, the Howrah Bridge is one of the busiest cantilever bridge across the globe. It is considered an engineering marvel since the structure of the bridge does not include a single nut or bolt. The bridge is around 1528 feet long with a width of about 7 feet which bears a traffic load of 90,000 vehicles.
Many of these structures are in bad shape today. It is the foremost duty of the people and the government to ensure that these structures be protected, so that people may cherish them for many more years to come.