WORDS: AISHWARYA MENON
PHOTOGRAPHS: VINOBHA NATHAN
GREAT FROM: New Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Guwahati
GREAT FOR: History and art enthusiasts
When you wander down Kolkata’s overcrowded, bustling streets and look up at its grand old buildings and their architectural finesse, it’s easy to tell that the city has been witness to a rich, glorious past. Be it the legendary Writers Building and the ever-popular Victoria Memorial or lesser-known gems such as Star Theatre, which hosted the city’s first ever play, Kolkata acts as a living, breathing reminder of its opulent heritage. If you steer clear of the familiar and the popular, you’ll find plenty of lesser-known heritage spots that are equally worthy of your attention.
Start with a visit to the iconic Rabindra Bharati Museum. Walk through the rooms in which Rabindranath Tagore spent his youth and where he breathed his last. From his paintings and photographs to items of daily use, you’ll find everything related to Tagore’s past. Keep aside at least a couple of hours to go through all that’s on display . If museums interest you, stop by at Netaji Bhavan, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s ancestral house. Now converted into a museum, it houses a wide range of artefacts and documents related to the revered freedom fighter. The car he used back in the day is still on display on the premises.
Continue on your trail of lesser-known heritage spots of the city: visit Star Theatre, the city’s first theatre. Started way back in 1883, the theatre has, over the years, played host to numerous historical plays, watched by the who’s-who of the city’s art circles. Marvel at the rich exterior façade, but go one step further too: buy yourself a ticket to watch a contemporary Bollywood film inside; it will help you soak in all that history. The theatre also screens films during the annual Kolkata International Film Festival, and shares space in the building with an art gallery and the Noty Binodini Memorial Amphitheatre. Head next to Sovabazaar to discover the 250-year-old history of Sovabazaar Rajbari. Built in the 1700s, it’s one of the oldest houses in the city and has been home to Kolkata’s crème-de-la-crème over the years. The palatial house is also known for its annual Durga Puja celebrations.
If all the sight-seeing has brought on some serious hunger pangs, make a trip down to Tiretti Bazaar. Often referred to as China Town, for the large number of Chinese immigrants who’ve settled here over the years, the market is truly a foodie’s idea of paradise. From delectable chicken and fish dumplings and pork baos to flavoursome soups and a wide variety of momos – there’s a lot to choose from here. Do try the excellent prawn wafers as well. Open 7am onwards on Sundays only, the bazaar promises visitors some of the best Chinese food they’ll ever eat, provided they make it there before 8am, by when most of the food gets over. Next up, stop by the legendary Nahoum’s, which has been around for over a century. Known for its delish chocolate fudge and gooey brownies, this Jewish bakery in New Market also whips up some mouth-watering plum cakes, cheese sambusaks and challah bread. As you bite into one of the lovely, dense brownies and watch the trams trundling by, you’ll definitely find yourself wondering what other heritage spots Kolkata hides beneath her chaos and commotion.