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West Bengal

New horizon, vibrant state, colourful people with their rapidly changing lifestyle, modernisation -- in one word metamorphosis – this is our new West Bengal. On one hand it has fascinating culture, rich history and heritage and on the other hand it has modern, techno-savvy, upwardly mobile people. The land of West Bengal has in it intricately woven stories of many civilisations and settlements which left their footprint here. With the memory of that rich history West Bengal boasts of different ethnicity, culture, religion and languages and most importantly the diverse landscape -flanked by the Himalayas as the top and decorated by the natural beaches and a unique biosphere, the Sunderbans in the south. Let us unfold the true Bengal – its history, its real nature, its culture - the canvas with all colours.

Places to Visit in West Bengal

Alipore Zoological Garden usually called as Alipore Zoo (Alipur Zoo) or Kolkata Zoo was completed 1875. It was opened for people from 6th May in 1876. Locally it is called as Alipur Chiriakhana (Bengali) in west bengal. This garden covers approximately an area of 45 acres.

The first Superintendent of the Zoological Garden of Alipur, Rai Bahadur Ram Brahma Sanyal had played an important role to develop it. Today, it is the main tourist attraction in Kolkata.

Alipur Chiriakhana (Chiria means – Animal and Khana means – down place) is the one of the most popular winter tourist attractions not only in Kolkata but also in India. You will found here a large number of crowd-pulling large animals like, the Royal Bengal Tiger, African Lion, Jaguar, Hippopotamus, One-horned Rhinoceros, Reticulated Giraffe, Grant's Zebra, Dromedary Camel and Elephant. Some attractive Kangaroo has taken recently from Australia. There have a collection of attractive rare species birds like, large parrots including Macaw species, Conures species, Lorie’s species and lorikeets species; Touracos and Hornbills; the Golden Pheasant, Lady Amherst's Pheasant and Swinhoe's Pheasant and some large flightless birds like the Emu, Cassowary and Ostrich.

Dakshineswar Kali Temple is situated alongside the Vivekananda Bridge north of Calcutta, about 20 km. from BBD Bagh. It is famous for its association - with Ramkrishna who achieved spiritual vision here. This temple was built by Rani Rashmoni in 1847. The 12- spired temple with its enormous courtyard is surrounded by 12 other temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is a world famous place of pilgrimage and it was here that the famous religious thinker Rama Krishna Paramahamsa achieved his spiritual vision and preached the unity of all religions.

Ramakrishna served as temple's head priest. From the first days of his service in the shrine of the goddess Kali, he was filled with a rare form of love for the Goddess known in Hinduism as maha-bhava. Worshiping in front of the statue of Kali, Ramakrishna would be overcome with such ecstatic love for the deity that he would fall to the ground and immersed in spiritual trance, lose all consciousness of the external world. Ramakrishna fully realized the infinite and all-inclusive nature of the divine.

Darjeeling is the hill station of West Bengal. This has been called the queen of hill-stations. 663 kms. from Calcutta. Altitude is 2134 m. or 7000 ft. It is a famous hill resort offering a breath taking sight of the numerous peaks of the majestic Himalayas. The clouds seem to whisper to one another here and from horizon to horizon stretches the Kanchanjunga, covered with snow from the head to foot all round the year. The views of Kanchanjunga and Mount Everest are particularly inspiring. And viewing Sun rise is wonderful from the famous Tiger hill. The Himalayan physiography of lofty mountainous terrain and cascading rivers, offers adventure sports trekking, mountaineering and river rafting.

Places to visit Batasia Loop -

Five kilometers from Darjeeling and three kilometers from Ghoom, the meter- gauge, toy train winds its way over this brilliant piece of engineering delight. It is a pleasant and delightful descent from Ghoom - the highest railway station in the world.

Dhirdham Temple

Himalayan Mountaineering Institute - A Training Centre for aspiring mountain climbers situated about 2 Kms from Chowrasta, on Jawahar Parbat. It also boasts of an unique museum displaying an array of items used by famous mountaineers.

• Padmaja Naidu Himalaya Zoological Park

• Natural History Museum

• Lloyds Botanical Garden

• Tibetan Self-help Centre

• Darjeeling-Rangeet Valley Passenger Ropeway

• Lebong Race Course

• Rope way

• Ghoom Buddhist Monastery

• Observatory Hill

Digha is West Bengal's most popular sea resort and tourist spot located south west of Calcutta. It is 187 km from Calcutta and Described as the 'Brighton of the East best for a holiday. Digha has a low gradient with a shallow sand beach with gentle waves extends 7 kms in length. In Digha sea starts about a mile away from the start of the beach. The scenic beauty of this place is charming and luring. The beach is girdled with casuarinas plantations along the coast enhancing the beauty of this place. These trees apart from beautifying the sands also aid in reducing the erosion on the dunes.

One can view both sunrise and sunset at Digha sea beach. The sunsets and sunrises reflecting off the salty waters of the Bay of Bengal are something straight off an artist's easel. The sea at Digha is calm and shallow for about a mile from the beach making it quite safe for swimming. Digha Originally known as Beerkul during Warren Hastings time was discovered in the late 18th century by the British. It is mentioned as the "Brighton of the East" in one of Warren Hasting's letters (1780 AD) to his wife.One can view both sunrise and sunset at Digha sea beach. The sunsets and sunrises reflecting off the salty waters of the Bay of Bengal are something straight off an artist's easel. The sea at Digha is calm and shallow for about a mile from the beach making it quite safe for swimming Also In 1923, an English tourist John Frank Smith was charmed by the beauty of Digha and started living here. His writings about Digha slowly gave exposure to this place. After independence, he convinced West Bengal's chief minister Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy to develop Digha as a beach resort.

‘The Lords of Asia’ & ‘the Mecca of Cricket’ – is this World’s second largest open-air Cricket Stadium (in seating capacity) and India’s largest cricket stadium - the most esteemed Eden Gardens in Kolkata city of West Bengal State in India. Located at 22°33′52″N 88°20′36″E, and situated along the banks of river Hooghly since 1864, Eden Gardens is a landmark by itself in this cricket-crazed city of this cricket-centred country.

You have not played cricket unless you’ve played in front of a packed Eden Gardens - this monstrous, lush green turfed stadium with high-intensity flood-lights and faced 1,30,000 anxious and boisterous spectators who fill up the stadium and the city with their loud passionate shouts and slogans of joy and pain and the unanimous Mexican waves with every boundary and duck and the likes and of course the deafening decibels of the screaming lakh-plus voices. Imagine playing in the centre of that? It’s nerve-wrecking! But some have managed to not only survive this ordeal…..they’ve aced it. Ask Kapil, Sunny, Sachin, Laxman, Azhar, Dravid, Harbhajan, Kumble, Bishen and Kolkata’s own Sourav Ganguly and they’d tell you how they’ve managed to ‘tame this shrew’!

Eden Gardens is known for its ‘spin-bowler-friendly’ emerald green pitch; the most technologically advanced cricket stadium - with a state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard, a fabulous pavilion (partly sheltered) and gigantic floodlit towers which emit million watts rays during day-night cricket matches and its large partisan and vociferous crowds. The best time to witness the euphoric and electrifying atmosphere of Eden Gardens is on any One Day International when the spectators in stands bring alive the whole stadium like nowhere else.

Standing with elegance with an incredible overview of River Hooghly, Howrah Bridge ranks high on the list of West Bengal’s attractions. Maintained by the Kolkata Port Trust, Howrah Bridge, also referred as Rabindra Setu, is a world-famous cantilever which was built with a total steel quantity 26, 500 tones.

The engineering magnificence of Howrah Bridge has received accolades from all constructional zones of India and abroad. While the central towers of the Bridge boast of a height of 280 feet, space between the centers of these towers is a record 1500 feet.

The middle beach is called Hawah. Each morning this beach acts as a base for the local fisherman. The northern most beach, Samudra, is least affected of all by the changing times. It is dotted with few rudimentary wooden fishing vessels.

In several other structural accounts, Howrah Bridge of West Bengal is considered unique. For instance, this suspension cantilever Bridge has arms measuring 468 feet and the deck is 71 feet long.

Howrah Bridge in Kolkata was established with the prime aim of making the transportation service smooth and easy for the state of West Bengal. Being equipped with two 15 feet wide footpaths, Howrah Bridge not only eases the traffic rush but also provides a safe walkway for pedestrians.

As a popular tourist destination, West Bengal is always buzzing with various people. Kolkata is one of the must-visit places of Bengal for all these tourists since it bears a rich and sophisticated heritage. Howrah Bridge of Kolkata has become an integral part of that very heritage which is respected and recognized over the entire world.

One of the oldest museums in Asia, the Indian Museum was founded in 1814. You'll need an entire day, or more, to fully enjoy the fossils, coins, stones, Gandhara art, meteors and much more that go to make up this museum. Don't miss the 4,000-year-old mummy here, whatever else you do! Also on display is an urn said to contain the Buddha's ashes. Just ask anybody on the road for the way to the "Jadughar" (literally, house of magic).

The Museum has six sections Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology, and Industry (Economic Botany).

The Art Section comprises Tibetan temple banners, metal images, enamelled wares, bidriwares, ornaments, silver wares, glass wares, pottery, ivory and bone work, wooden sculptures, leather objects, lacquered toys, articles in jade and crystals and rare textiles from all parts of the Indian sub-continent.

The Archaeological Section displays stone-age artifacts from India and abroad, pre-historic antiquities from Mohenjodaro, Harappa, ranging from 2500 B.C. to 1500 B.C. , sculptures belonging to all phases of history from the 4/5 century B.C. to the late mediaeval times; inscriptions on stones and copper, Indo-Muslim architectural pieces and a representative collection of Indian coins. Indian bronzes and the art and crafts of Bengal are also housed in two separate galleries. A special gallery, displays a large variety of various Indian musical instruments.

The Anthropological Section displays numerous objects of material cultures of both tribal and non-tribal peoples of India, large dioramas put up through considerable amount of research work.

The extensive Geological Section has over 80,000 specimens, displayed in four galleries showing varieties of meteorites, precious stones, ornamental building stones, rocks and minerals and fossils.

Established in 1941 for the protection of the Indian one-horned rhino, the Jaldapara Sanctuary covers 216 sq km, is a mosaic of woods, grasslands, perennial streams, sandy river banks and extensive belts of tall grass. It contains a great diversity of flora and fauna of mixed deciduous forest, grasslands and river banks. Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary, situated in Alipurduar Sub- Division of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal, is home to a wide variety of wild life, particularly the Great Indian One Horned Rhinos. The river Torsha flows through this rain forest sanctuary which is mostly covered with tall grasses, the sanctuary encompasses a luxuriant vegetation and a rich variety of wildife. The Malangi River also flows nearby from east to west. Riding elephants is the only way to move inside this forest.

The birds to be found here are the Crested bEagle, Pallas’s Fishing Eagle and shikra, besides Jungle fowl, peafowl, patridges, Bengal Florican and lesser Pied Hornbill. Python, monitor lizards, krates, cobras, geckos and about 8 species of fresh water turtles have also found

The wild life, in addition to the famous Great Indian One Horned rhinos, consists of Royal Bengal Tigers, wild elephants, deers, swamp deers, hog deers, wild pigs, bisons. Some rare species like the hispid hare and the hog-badger are also found here. Besides wildlife viewing, there is scope for unusual holiday activities like elephant riding and leisurely strolls through the towering grass.

Anthropological & Cultural Heritage

This is the land where the primitive “Toto” tribe holds its last stand – refusing to be swamped by the main stream of civilisation. Toto have their home in “Totopara ” – a village that lies to the north of the sanctuary. Their customs and culture have been the subject matter of great anthropological interest. This remote village has a small population of 950 . Bania ruins , the remains of an old fort and a big lake in Bania block, speak of the existence of an ancient settlement and culture. Locals believe that “Nala Raja” of the Epic lived here and the fort is called the “Nala Rajar Garh”. Besides, local excursions may be arranged to visit tea gardens to see the manufacturing of tea in the nearby tea gardens by prior arrangement with the authority.

Kalimpong is a quaint little hill station and is perfect for those trying to escape the chaotic city life for some peace and solitude in the hills. Kalimpong is set on a ridge that connects two hills - Deolo and Durpin Hills and is at a height of 4091 feet above the sea level. The snow-covered Mt. Kanchenjunga is visible from almost everywhere in Kalimpong. The Testa River that separates Kalimpong from the state of Sikkim, flows all along the highway as you drive up to Kalimpong from Siliguri through numerous hairpin bends and hillsides that are covered with tall, swaying green pine trees.

The hill station is dotted with Buddhist monasteries, temples and few churches that ooze old world charm. The weekly bazaars have been in operation since anybody cares to remember and hold surprises at every turn and shop. Kalimpong is the just the place to recharge your batteries but that does not mean that it lacks colour. The Buddhist festivals add a huge dose of colour as do the many fairs and they ensure that your holiday is bright, exciting and peaceful at the same time.

Raiganj Wildlife Sanctuary, popularly known as Kulik Bird sanctuary is no less than heaven to the bird watchers. This haven of a huge variety of birds is located near Raiganj in Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal. The sanctuary offers shelter to almost 164 species of birds and every year around 70,000 to 80,000 migratory birds visit the sanctuary. The sanctuary spanning an area of 1.30 sq km is often claimed as the second largest bird sanctuary across Asia. The Kulik Bird sanctuary has the shape of the English alphabet “U” and is connected with the River Kulik with an intricate network of artificial canals

Places to see in Kulik Bird sanctuary:

You will be amazed to see the wide array of colorful birds in the Kulik Bird Sanctuary. The resident birds include flycatchers, kites, owl, woodpeckers, kingfishers, drongoes and many more. Apart from this, a number of migratory birds also fly here every year from the coastal areas and South Asian countries. The major migratory species include egrets, open-bill storks, black crowned night heron, pond heron, Indian Shag, little cormorants and most importantly Asian Openbill.

Apart from birds, the exotic collection of flora and the wildlife of the sanctuary is also fascinating. The Kulik Bird sanctuary was first opened with some species of flora, which include Jarul, kadam, Sisoo and eucalyptus. Now, you will find some other trees like Simul, Siris, Khair, Akashmoni, Minigiri, Khadam, Lali and Sal. The beautiful and extensive swamp land on the river bank of Kulik is an added attraction of the tourists.

Nearby attractions of Kulik Bird sanctuary:

One of the major destinations near the Kulik Bird sanctuary is the Sap Nikla forest admired with a beautiful lake. This Mixed Deciduous natural forest offers a true visual treat to the tourists. You can also make a trip to the Temple of Goddess Bhairabi at Bindole, Temple of Goddess Kali of Baira, Mosque of Burhana Fakirs, Museum at Karnajora, Banabithi Resort at Barui, Park at Karnajora and Farm-House at Samaspur. The historical town of Gour famous for its mosques and temples is around 50 kms from Kulik on NH 34. Malda is 65 kms from Kulik. You can take day trips from Kulik to these destinations.

Kolkata offers you several wonderful excursions. One of the most popular amongst them is the Sagar Island, or Gangasagar, located approximately 150 km from Kolkata. It is an extremely charming tourist destination, which boats ofan unspoilt rustic charm. As an unhampered beach, on the estuary of the river Ganges, it offers you an enchanting view of silver sand and clear blue sky, along with easy going and tranquil sea by the side. It is the perfect destination for every kind of tourists.

Sagar Island is not only meant for fun and nature lovers, looking for a leisure trip. It is also equally popular amongst pilgrims and religious souls. Other than the rustic charm of nature it offers, this island is also the holy confluence point of river Ganga and the Bay of Bengal. The place is, thus, also considered to be sanctified. The ritual of taking a dip in this water on Makar Sankranti is considered auspicious. The place is also famous for the Kapil Muni temple near the beach, where people worship after taking a holy dip in the river.

Those tourists who are looking for an exquisite and exotic holiday can also head towards Sagar Island. The silver sand and the golden glittering sun rays make this place look like a virtual paradise at the dawn and dusk. Apart from this, the natural aura and clean atmosphere provides great refreshment, away from the crowded and polluted cities near by. October to April is the best time to visit this place. Sagardwip also witnesses one of the biggest fairs in West Bengal, called Gangasagar Mela, in January.

Sunderbans is the stretch of a mangrove forests located in the southern tip of West Bengal which touches the Arabian Sea. The site is declared as a forest reserve by UNESCO, and in the year 1989 Sundarbans area was declared as Biosphere Reserve. Initially a part of the reserve was known as Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary. The area of Sundarbans is about 4,110 square km out of which about 1,700 square km is occupied by rivers, canals and creeks.

The literal translation of the word in Bengalis is "beautiful jungle" or "beautiful forest". Many believe that the word "Sunderban" is taken from “sundari” and “ban”, which means "the forests of sundari" - referring to the large mangrove trees. It is the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India. It is a place for birdwatchers as the thick forest here is home to the rarest varieties of birds such as Masked Fin Foot, Mangrove Pitta and the Mangrove Whistler.

The national park is famous for its tiger population and it is home to more than 250 tigers. The famous Royal Bengal tigers have now adapted to the highly saline water and are great swimmers. This adventurous wild land is full of animals such as chital deer and rhesus monkey. It also conserves the rare Ridley Sea Turtle. There is a great variety of marine animals and reptiles such as fishes, red fiddler crabs, hermit crabs, king cobra, rock python and water monitor.

The trees here have a capacity to hold the high salinity, lack of soil erosion and daily inundation by high tides. The plants here have adapted to the changing ecosystem. The terrestrial and the aquatic life are maintained by the tidal forms and the mangrove vegetation in Sundarbans. There are endangered mammals like Genetic Dolphins which live within mangrove creeks lying close to sea. Also the national reserve is a home for Trans-Himalayan migratory birds. Apart from the natural abundance of the place in terms of flora and fauna, it also features the ruins of a 400 year old temple at Netidhopani.

 

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