Category Archives: Travel

Danish tavern decked up to start second innings in Serampore

Kolkata :

The double-storey Denmark Tavern, which was in a shambles till a couple of years ago, will soon turn into a lifestyle stay. The edifice on the banks of the Hooghly in Serampore will be Bengal’s second government-backed live-and-conserve endeavour after the St Olav’s Church project, which was restored last year and is in back in use for prayers and religious ceremonies.

Come February and CM Mamata Banerjee will open the doors of Denmark Tavern that has risen out of debris after being painstakingly restored by the National Museum of Denmark (NMD) in tandem with the West Bengal Heritage Commission. The NMD has funded the Rs 3.5-crore restoration and the state tourism department is paying another Rs 1.2 crore for the finishing. It will be running the cafe-by-the-river, which will have six overnight-stay rooms.

The Serampore riverfront, which looked picture perfect during the Danish rule, fell on bad times and the majestic structures were left to rot for decades. In 2012, things started changing with Serampore Initiative, the grand revival of the former Danish colony. The Denmark Tavern restoration is part of the big plans to bring back the old glory of the former Danish colony.

“We are extremely excited about the completion of the Denmark Tavern, which was the most challenging of the restoration work we have done in Serampore,” Bente Wolff, curator, National Museum of Denmark, told TOI from Copenhagen. Over last several months, Wolff has been flying in and out of Serampore to supervise the restoration work.

“This is the first public-private partnership in the heritage sector at this scale. This will give a fillip to the CM’s pet project of river cruise linking all the heritage towns along the Hooghly,” said Manish Chakraborti, the project’s conservation architect
Clearing the morass and rescuing the tavern was the most formidable task ever, said Suvaprasanna, chairman of the commission. “The challenge was in connecting history with architecture. For instance, the exact location of the tavern was not known. Finally, we found documents showing it was next to the SDO’s residence. It took one-and-a-half months to clear the debris,” he said.

“Denmark’s interest in reviving the remnants of the buildings first started in 2008 at the ethnographic department of the National Museum of Denmark,” added commission member Partha Ranjan Das. Archival and field studies were carried out between November 2008 and April 2009 by restoration architect Flemming Aalund and historian Simon Ranten, who produced an elaborate, report.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Ajanta Chakraborty / TNN / November 21st, 2017

How World War II cramped Kolkata airport runway

HIGHLIGHTS

Kolkata airport currently has a runway capacity of only 30 flights per hour

Airports Authority of India is considering a second airport for Kolkata.
________________________________________________________________________

Kolkata :

A decision taken during World War II has now come to haunt Kolkata airport’s growth prospects. The airport which currently has a runway capacity of only 30 flights per hour, could have handled twice the number of flights had there been a proper second runway at its disposal. But the plan to create a second cross runway in the east-west direction was junked and instead a parallel runway was built that cannot be used for simultaneous operations now because they do not meet safety parameters.

It is this runway constraint, coupled with lack of space for additional parking bays that is forcing Airports Authority of India to consider a second airport for Kolkata.

It was the Allied Forces’ fear of the airport at Dum Dum being bombed by Axis powers during World War II that led to the British opting for parallel runways instead of ones that cross each other. With Japanese bombers a constant threat, the Allied Forces felt that if a bomb was dropped at the point where the runways intersect, it would take out both runways. Instead, having them parallel would give them an opportunity to use the alternative runway if one was destroyed.

“Kolkata airport’s first landing strip dates back to the 1920s. It was later strengthened for use as taxiway and is still in use to taxi aircraft. Around 1932-33, a proper runway was constructed in the north-south direction. This is now the secondary runway at Kolkata airport. To cater to the increased requirement during WW II, it was decided to construct another runway around 1942-43. That is when the cross runway proposal was mooted and then dropped in favour of the parallel runway,” the source said.

While airports around the world have parallel runways in which flights take off and land simultaneously, it is not possible at Kolkata airport because the two runways are too close to each other. “When they were built, there were Dakota and Fokker planes with small wing span. The separation between the two runways at Kolkata airport at 213 metres was sufficient then. But as aircraft dimension changed, the minimum distance criteria was revised. Today’s Boeing and Airbus with large wing spans require a minimum distance of 760 metre between parallel runways. There is no space at Kolkata airport to create that separation as the terminal building is located to the west and boundary wall to the east,” an official said.

At present, the primary runway is used for flight operations with the secondary runway coming into play when the primary runway is shut down for maintenance or other exigencies.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Subhro Niyogi / TNN / November 14th, 2017

Phulia creates 3km-long alpana in 10 hours

– Hundreds wield brush and paint to draw on road with four colours

Anit Thapa addresses the meeting in Kurseong on Sunday. Picture by Passang Yolmo

Phulia:

Over 800 people wielded brushes and paints of four hues and drew for around 10 hours to create a 3km-long alpana, which the organisers claim is the longest in the world.

The residents of Nadia’s Phulia woke up on Sunday morning to a splendid view of the alpana, which is a traditional motif drawn on the floor in Bengal and elsewhere in the country.

From 9pm on Saturday, 25 groups with 35 members each started drawing the alpana from Phulia bus stand and completed the entire 3km stretch of a road at Sabujpally around 7am on Sunday. To draw the alpana, 2,800 litres of acrylic paints of four different hues were used.

The artists were responding to a request by Junior 100 Foundation, a social organisation.

“Phulia’s 3km alpana is the longest in the world so far and we are planning to approach the Guinness Book of World Record for its inclusion on the list of extraordinary achievements,” said Abhinaba Basak, the cultural secretary of Junior 100 Foundation.

Debabrata Pal, 28, a graduate in fine arts from a government art college, who took part in the alpana drawing, said: “With such an initiative, people will experience the pleasant look of traditional motifs synonymous with our culture”.

In September, Before Durga Puja, Samaj Sebi Sangha Sarbojanin Durgotsav Committee in south Calcutta drew a 1.2km alpana. Over 320 government art college students took less than 24 hours to draw it.

Basak said: “Our aim is not to go for any competition rather to revive a passion to learn Bengal’s traditional art among the young generation. With this objective, we tried to make it as long as possible, which eventually became the longest one.”

Enthusiasts like Mousumi Biswas, 22, an MA second-year student and Arijit Debnath, 11, of Class V also took up the brush to draw the alpana. The initiative received cooperation from police who diverted traffic to facilitate the drawing.

source: http://www.telegraphindia.com / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> West Bengal / by Subhasish Chaudhuri / October 29th, 2017

Kolkata to Chandannagar: The French life

In Chandannagar, time flows as languorously as the Ganga beside it

The statue of Marianne, a national symbol of France, outside the Dupleix mansion. Photos: Ganesh Vancheeswaran

The rains had left the fields lush green, a vivid contrast to the dark brown soil at the base. This dual-colour canvas kept a tight grip on the sides of the road through most of the trip. Bustling villages and near skirmishes with traffic ensured there was never a dull moment on the drive from Kolkata to Chandannagar.

My decision to go to Chandannagar for the weekend had been an impromptu one, taken the night before. The fact that it was the only French colony in Bengal in the 17th century, at a time when the British were making determined inroads into the region, made me curious. And so, late one Saturday morning, I hopped into a taxi for the 53km ride. It was a swift and mildly disorienting transition from the crush of humanity in Kolkata. As we entered Chandannagar, my driver pointed to two pillars topped with urns. He said these were all that remained of the grand gate built by the French in 1937.

I asked him to take me to the Dupleix Museum, located in a large yellow mansion. It is one of the few in India that houses a collection of artefacts from French rule, which lasted more than 250 years. Chandannagar was a major trading and military hub for the French during the 18th and 19th centuries. And this mansion used to be the official residence of French governor generals. Apart from French memorabilia, the museum houses rare collections of statues, letters exchanged between freedom fighters, and news clips on the freedom movement in Bengal. With its colonnaded courtyard, broad slatted windows and high ceilings, it is a throwback to period architecture. Even today, French is taught at an institute that operates from the same premises.

Leaving the museum, I headed to a stall nearby for a leisurely mutka (earthen cup) of tea. I was in no mood to rush from place to place. Already, I could feel my heartbeat settling into a slower rhythm. Chandannagar has that effect on you.

The interior of the Sacred Heart Church.

Continuing my journey into the past, I walked up to the lovely Sacred Heart Church, close to the Dupleix Museum. This church, designed by French architect Jacques Duchatz, was inaugurated in 1884. Stepping into its cool portals, I was transported back to the 19th century. The stained glass, old furniture and colourful murals along the nave are largely intact. Later, I walked through the restored graves and tombstones in the cemetery adjoining the church. Buried here along with other nobles is the long-forgotten French commander Duplessis, one of the town’s founding fathers.

Exploring the streets that evening, I saw a number of rambling bungalows from the French period. The structures, still intact, exuded an air of genteel neglect. There was an abundance of greenery. Traffic was sparse and slow-moving. Passing through the local market, I was struck by the absence of the hoarse cries one normally finds in Indian markets. Even the haggling was absent. It seemed as if the entire town loathed anything loud or frenetic.

Wending my way to the strand, I sat on a bench. A few others had colonized benches to read the newspaper or chat. In front of me, the Ganga, known in these parts as the Hooghly, flowed gently, with barely a murmur. Boats ferrying locals were the only traffic. And quiet descended as soon as the day’s activity wound up with the setting sun.

Fortified by some luchi-aloo dum the next morning, I sallied forth again. This time, to the stunning Nanda Dulal temple with its cream-and-vermillion exterior. This temple is built in the do chala (double sloping roof) style native to Bengal, but is, surprisingly, devoid of the terracotta work that is typical of buildings in this district. I learnt from the priest that this temple, which houses a deity of Lord Krishna as a child, was first built in 1740, destroyed and then rebuilt.

I was tempted to join the boys playing volleyball in front of the temple. In keeping with the mood, however, I decided to return to my room to curl up and read.

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @theholehog.

source: http://www.livemint.com / Live Mint / Home> Leisure / Ganesh Vancheeswaran / November 09th, 2017

Centuries-old temples unearthed in West Bengal A parish anticipating relic tourism

ASI members inspecting the temples in Bhuri, a village near Burdwan

Less than 130 kilometres from Kolkata, in an area at East Burdwan’s Bhuri village, two temples emerged while local workers were digging. The initial inspection and predictions tell that the temples could be centuries old.

Unprecedented and to the dismay of the local workers were digging a section of the land as a part of the Village Panchayat’s cleaning programme aiming to set up a park, two masts of 1.4 metres each came out. The masts resemble the architecture of temples and the primary observation reveals that the temples could be centuries old. Some of the locals also believe that these are Lord Shiva temples that were built during the early British empire.

The land lies beside a canal that connects the River Damodar that was dug years ago to divert water from the village and prevent flood during the monsoons. Whether it was flood or earthquake that led to the demolition and the extinction of these two temples is still a mystery.

Growing anticipation
A team of three from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) visited the site where the temples were discovered. According to one of the members of the team who requested a privacy of identity said, “We can’t say anything as of now, it’s very strange that this part of the country had temples like these. We have to dig another 20 odd feet to unearth the reality and the exact identity of these temples. I would my team to prepare the report as soon as possible.”

The ASI team met the local authorities and explained their expectations regarding the security of the place how to neutralise the local excitement. The village head and local police station were instructed to cover the area and stop any kind of further digging. The temples have already got few dents due to the unprofessional digging and the ASI officials stressed on putting a barricade to stop further damage.

While it was just a park that was on the cards, the local authorities are now expecting a tourism spot revolving on the historical aspects of these two temples. For the time being, they are keeping a close watch on the area and have also managed to set up lights during the night to make sure that there is no unnecessary loss of information.

Relic tourism
The eastern region of India especially West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, and Jharkhand have seen a plethora of religious as well as ethnic diversity since centuries. From the Buddhist settlement in Bodh Gaya and their gradual spread in and around eastern India to the likes of Vaishnavas and various sects of Hinduism practised their culture here. The likes of Moghalmari in West Midnapore district of West Bengal where almost three decades of excavation revealed a Buddhist settlement also adds another hue to this mysterious finding.

History lovers and story seekers have always found their way to dig the reality out of these unique discoveries. While the eastern state is aiming to promote itself as a one-stop destination for all kind of tourists, the unearthing of these two temples near Burdwan definitely has a positive prospect for West Bengal’s tourism industry.
Keep an eye on this space to follow the updates from the unique hamlet nearby the railway station Galsi that recently witnessed the emergence of these two shaman relics.

source: http://www.mediaindia.eu / Media India Group / Home> Tourism / by Sudipto Roy / Kolkata / October 27th, 2017

The Calcutta Chromosome

An empathetic look at a heartbreaking city

The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta Kushanava Choudhury (Bloomsbury Circus 241 pages; Rs 499)

Calcutta is personal. And the front flap blurb contains all the trigger words: immigrant, Princeton, British Raj, mosquitoes, hawkers, fish-sellers. Would this be another book balancing nostalgia with wide-eyed wonder? Or would it hit the road running in one more case of parachute authoring? Or, worse, would it be a supercilious outsider’s take on a city that is easy to love, easy to hate, but hard to know?

Calcutta, that most storied of cities, has been subjected to all kinds, right from Geoffrey Moorhouse’s 1971 work to Amit Chaudhuri’s Two Years in the City (2013). In recent years, it has been best served by Strangely Beloved: Writings on Calcutta (2014), a compilation of essays and excerpts that, by virtue of its format, held up special-interest mirrors to facets of the city, from the Eastern Calcutta wetlands to the soundscape that birthed India’s first rock band. The flipside is the academic undertone that robs the city of some of its joy, and the nostalgia shoehorn that depletes some immediacy.

Superficially, The Epic City has none of those problems: Kushanava Choudhury spent some of his childhood years in Calcutta and then comes back to work in the city as a reporter at The Statesman (peeve: the article is part of the masthead, so why lose it?) at the turn of the millennium as a fresh Ivy League graduate. “Like the revolutionaries of my parents’ generation, I wanted to change things…My best hope for making a difference was to work at a newspaper.” To translate those efforts to “make a difference” into a book would be a straight card into disaster zone. Where Choudhury scores emphatically is in twinning his heart, mind and soul — his own story — with the city’s to forge a work that is as gritty as the Beleghata canals, as wondrous as Kumortuli, as determinative as the Partition.

Groomed in the shoe-leather reporting The Statesman was once renowned for (the newspaper’s decline is an obvious parallel for the city), Choudhury lends depth to his observations with lightly worn erudition to produce one of the most readable accounts of a world city. Casual chats with relations, friends, colleagues merge seamlessly with purposeful conversations with trade unionists, little magazine archivists, impoverished scions of Calcutta’s oldest families, descendents of refugees, small publishers, idol sculptors. Underlying it all is an understanding of cultural crosscurrents — Satyajit Ray, of course, but more (and more powerfully) Ritwik Ghatak, Michael Madhusudan Dutt but also Mujtaba Ali — and an instinctive sense of history that burrows into unarticulated spaces, uncomfortable silences.

Cleverly constructed and utterly relevant as each of the 14 chapters of the book is in conveying Choudhury’s clear-eyed vision of the city, two, in my mind stand out. In ‘College Street’, the essay that opens the core section, the author uses a favourite trope for all city chroniclers to eviscerate one of its most fondly held myths: Of Calcutta as a centre of learning. Traipsing through the portals of little magazines and past “rainwater and dog shit” of university avenue, Choudhury trains his guns on the “notes business”, which finesses the education system to ensure intellectual stagnation more effectively than the much-reviled brain drain ever could.

The mood of The Epic City grows darker as it investigates the methodical de-industrialisation of Calcutta — the old factories in the southern reaches memorialised only as bus-stops such as Bengal Lamp and Usha — the rarely acknowledged Hindu-Muslim divide (including at The Statesman, as cosmopolitan as the city likes to think itself to be) and, in ‘Russian Dolls’, it culminates in a familial account of the run-up to Partition and its aftermath.

Weaving together the devastating sequence of the World War II in Europe, the Churchill-directed Bengal famine, the consequences of Direct Action Day with his own grandparents’ displacement from East Pakistan and pitching forward to the rise of the Communists and the Naxal rebellion to his father’s decision to migrate, Choudhury creates a stunning, tight fabric of continuum. Always empathetic, mostly sharp and frequently insightful, this is a heart-full work on a heartbreaking city, notwithstanding the gaping hole of the post-2011 Mamata Banerjee years. While it might even impress the resident Calcuttan, it is definitely recommended for anyone else ever touched by the city.

Sumana Mukherjee is a writer in Bengaluru

source: http://www.indianexpress.com / The Indian Express / Home> Lifestyle> Books / by Sumana Mukherjee / October 07th, 2017

This video by a Cuban filmmaker turns Kolkata into a dizzying roller coaster ride

‘During my trip to Kolkata, I could only think of one word.’

Ever since City of Joy, Kolkata has been a foreign filmmaker’s joy, its dizzying roll of sights, faces, sounds, and activities offering exciting possibilities to documentary-makers in particular.

Cuban-born, Netherlands-based filmmaker Yuribert Capetillo Hardy aptly summed up the feel of Kolkata in the title of his short film – Roller Coaster. “During my trip to Kolkata, India, I could only think of one word: rollercoaster,” he wrote in the film description. “This film rollercoaster is the visualisation of my feelings, fears and emotions.”

Hardy’s film moves just like a rollercoaster, swooping low and soaring high to create an exhilarating collage of scenes from the city. He shot his film in just one week, while on assignment for a Dutch non-profit organisation, 1000Children. “The one thing that stays on my mind was a little baby sleeping alone in the streets, which made me think of my own daughter who grows up protected and loved,” Hardy noted.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.

source: http://www.video.scroll.in / Scroll.in / Home> Around The Web / by Scroll Staff / October 14th, 2017

Project to revive lost glory of Kolkata-Puri pilgrim route

Kolkata :

A team of researchers has taken up a project to revive the lost glory of Jagannath Sadak — the ancient trail from Kolkata to Puri used by travellers and pilgrims before the railways came. The project was launched by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), Bengal chapter on November 19, 2015.

Titled, “Listing and Documenting the Monuments of the Jagannath Sadak in West Bengal”, the compiling of heritage sites dotting this coastal route between Odisha and Bengal is now an elaborate three-volume document that informs about the precious structures lost in oblivion and also those which can still be protected. It will be released at the Indian Museum on Sunday. Anil Dhir, chief coordinator of the project, told TOI, “We have traced 200 remnants in Odisha, but only 100 in Bengal.

Many of the monuments don’t exist any more, but some structures, such as a Gurudwara at Chandrakona, a Jagannath temple at Dantan, a Kali temple at Bagnan and the Nandagopal temple at Mellock near Panskura, are still there.”

Travellers would cover the 516 km stretch in bullock carts, palanquins, horses, camels and elephants. Many walked.

Three years ago, Dhir took a bullock cart to traverse the entire stretch. “For the documentation, three different routes were taken in Bengal. They culminated at Dantan on the Odisha border,” explained Dhir. The route taken by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was through Tamluk, Mahisadal, Kanthi and Mohanpur while Guru Nanak took the route through Chandrakona, Midnapur and Narayangarh.

The popular and shorter route through Uluberia, Panskura, Debra and Belda. G M Kapur, convener, Intach’s Bengal chapter, said, “We will approach the Bengal and Odisha governments and the ASI to notify these 315 structures as protected monuments and help in their conservation.” With the advent of the railways, Jagannath Sadak was abandoned.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Kolkata News / by Ajanta Chakraborty / TNN / October 21st, 2017

Sculpture garden inaugurated in Kolkata on Wednesday

Kolkata :

A sculpture garden on the history of Bengal will be inaugurated by minister Firhad Hakim at New Town’s Eco Park on Wednesday.

The garden will have 12 murals that will focus on important individuals and their contributions to the country and society, as well as on different phases of the history like Shri Chaitanya, Battle of Plassey, Raja Ramohan Roy, renaissance in Bengal, Bankimchandra, the awakening of Bengal in India, Swami Vivekananada and his activities, Santhal rebellion, Indigo Movement, Subhash Chandra Bose and the Azad Hind Fauz, Shri Arobindo, Lalan Fakir, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rabindranath Tagore and the Visva Bharati movement, Satyajit Ray and his world of films

The garden will also have 52 portraits, including Shri Chaitanya Mahapravu and Begum Rokeya and will have a light and sound show explaining the story in each of the relief panels.

The show will keep the audience moving from one panel to another in groups. There will also be benches for the elderly and children.

source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News / by Suman Chakraborti / TNN / September 21st, 2017

Henry’s Island: A quaint getaway in West Bengal Spending a laid-back weekend close to Kolkata

Long, white beaches and a clear blue skyline is Henry’s Island’s distinct feature

Among the numerous beach destinations close to the eastern Indian metropolis, Kolkata, Henry’s Island is an offbeat choice for those looking for tranquillity.

In a lazy, white sand beach, where red crabs crawl, one could expect to find solitude and solace. Located at a distance of around 130 km from the bustling city of Kolkata, Henry’s Island is home to one such place. An area where government fisheries can be found, this tranquil destination is located close to another popular beach spot, Bakkhali.

Henry’s Island is still undisturbed and unspoilt by the markers of human civilisation – plastic packets, blaring sound systems or abandoned bottles. Pristine white sands are often hued by shifting tinges of red, owing to the crawling crabs, with the occasional fisherman walking by – this is the image that Henry’s Island leaves behind. The entrance to the beach involves a walk through a swamp of sorts, with a line of trees that hides the beach from the rest of the world.

For the traveller, who is looking for an experience that doesn’t involve heavy activity, Henry’s Island plays a welcome host. A watch tower, above one of the two guest houses on the location, is what visitors to nearby destinations frequent most. Views on a clear sky showcase the Sunderbans mangrove, which are located very close to the beach destination. One could also opt to walk around the beach and villages nearby.

Henry’s Island is also a great place to sample some seafood, which is locally grown and acquired. Locals are used to guests coming in to try the food at the Sundari Canteen, which offers the fresh catches. The Fisheries Department of the Government of West Bengal uses area for pisciculture and also takes care of forest conservation.

Getting there

Located some 130 km away from Kolkata, one would expect to reach the place in a matter of a short time. However, the journey by road takes much longer, owing to a change through a ferry which crosses the Hatania-Doania creek, which involves a long wait. There are also direct buses available, but since these buses ply once a day from Kolkata’s Esplanade bus depot, it is better to enquire a day in advance for seats and timing. To save some time, a local train can be taken from the Sealdah station in Kolkata, with a stop at Namkhana station. After this, a boat ferry, which costs a mere rupee or two per person can be taken, and on the other side, buses are available to drop at a location close to Henry’s Island, or one can opt for vans.

Getting to Henry’s Island is a slow journey, yet it provides the perfect window of transition from the busy city into the tranquil paradise. As a spot to unwind, relax, catch up on some reading or simply a chance to spend some time by yourself, Henry’s Island is a weekend getaway from Kolkata that reinvigorates the senses.

source: http://www.mediaindia.euc/ Media India Group / Home> News-India & You> Tourism / by Mehk Chakraborty / May 08th, 2017