Famous Places in Kolkata
If you’re travelling to India and Kolkata is on your itinerary then famous places I recommend you visit in Kolkata include the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Hooghly River and Victoria Memorial.
It seemed to take hours to get from my hotel, in the centre of town, out to the temple in the nearby town of Dakshineswar. But the drive was fascinating.
The Dakshineswar Kali Temple is one of the most important religious shrines for Hindus and large numbers of people, from around the world, visit the site on a daily basis.
Built in 1855 by Rani Rashmoni, a philanthropist and devotee of Kali, the Dakshineswar Kali Temple is famous for its association with the 19th Century Bengali mystic, Ramakrishna.
I enjoyed my time exploring the temple and its extensive grounds. I photographed a Yogi and had a truly wonderful experience photographing devotees in the waters of the Hooghly River right behind the temple at sunset.
The Majestic Victoria Memorial
I had a great time visiting the majestic Victoria Memorial in Kolkata and enjoyed photographing this most impressive structure.
A large marble building, built between 1906 and 1921, the Victoria Memorial is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria.
These days the building functions as a museum and is a major tourist site that’s well worth a visit. You’ll find a variety of vantage points from which to make great photos of the Victoria Memorial as you explore the site’s extensive gardens.
South Park Street Cemetery, Kolkata
During one of my photo walks around Kolkata I found myself in the South Park Street Cemetery. It was a relief to move off the streets of this dusty, densely populated city.
What I discovered inside the stone walls of the South Park Street Cemetery was a quiet and contemplative place that provided a fascinating link back to the days of the British Raj.
While the vestiges of empire still remain in some of the monuments left by the British, most of the local folk seemed to be going about their life at a very, very slow pace.
It is as though they've accepted the reality of their life, rather than pushing for a better one.
Clearly there are exceptions, it's just the feeling I got from walking around and observing the cities working men and women.
But that's not to say they're not hard working. I witnessed quite the contrary.
But from the moment I arrived at the airport it seems clear that Kolkata has missed out on the economic boom that has reached other major cities in India.
Yet despite the lack of infrastructure and the somewhat dilapidated condition of some of the city’s buildings there’s a quiet calm and serenity that pervades this once glorious city.
It’s my hope that, with time, Kolkata will emerge and, once again, become a grand beacon of Indian progress alongside cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.
Hooghly River Rapture
I'm also aware that Kolkata has long been considered the cultural capital of India. I'm merely commenting on what I perceived as the rather forlorn way by which ordinary, everyday people seemed to go about their daily life during my visit.
Yet, despite this initial impression, I found plenty of joy and an abundance of beauty every time I interacted with local people.
What’s more I was really happy with a number of portraits I made of locals in and around their own neighborhoods.
I really enjoyed exploring some of the cities backstreets. It’s where I experienced the most interesting interactions and also where I made my favorite portraits.
The photo of a man undertaking ritual bathing in the waters of the Hooghly River was made from the gats (i.e., river landing stairs) at the back of the Dakshineswar Kali Temple.
After a hot and hectic day the gentle sunset light transformed the environment into a gentle and contemplative realm that was perfect for the mood explored in this photo.
It is a deep and profound experience of life that so many of us crave. And it’s that level of experience that I believe is explored in this photo of a devotee in the waters of the Hooghly River.
I hope you like it as much as I do.
It’s probably fair to say that Kolkata does not offer the natural beauty of Kashmir or Rajasthan; the sublime grandeur of Agra; the laid back lifestyle of Goa or the buzz of Mumbai.
Nonetheless Kolkata remains a great place to meet and photograph everyday Indian people in a country undergoing rapid change.
Kolkata is a holy city with a rich and proud cultural heritage. Yet change is coming to this massive and diverse city.
Let’s hope that Kolkata is able to retain much of its unique character while allowing the local people to embrace many of the advantages promised by a more modern and technological based lifestyle.