The name Calcutta is said to have been derived from the word Kalighat. Kolkatta was then subsequently anglicized into Calcutta. Today the city has reverted to its original name.
After breakfast, we depart at 9 am and begin with a two hour walking tour called Heritage Walk of Dalhousie Square, now a World Heritage Site. The walk takes place in the morning so that you can leisurely take in the architecture and history of the city’s many unique and spectacular buildings without any traffic on the roads. We begin at The Flower Market on the River Hoogly – where it really “all” began. The walk then starts at the site of the terrible ‘Black Hole,’ takes you past the famous Writer’s Building, the former HQ of the infamous East India Company, around the square to, among others, the magnificent Governor’s House and the almost forgotten Charnock Mausoleum. The whole experience takes you back to the 18th and 19th century when the British ruled the entire subcontinent from Calcutta – at that time the most fashionable city in the world after London.
After the walk, we will go to Indian Coffee House on College Ave (a lively local area) for a short break and from here to Kumartoli village, the home of the kumars or potters who make the life size deities that are worshipped throughout the year at festivals and pujas. The village is a unique open-air workshop where gods and goddesses are molded by hand, traditionally using dust from the thresholds of nearby brothels. Kali, the patron goddess of Calcutta, is usually seen in her bloodthirsty form, garlanded with skulls. A variety of artisans set up along Chitpur Road: makers of traditional perfumes, embroidered tunic sellers, purveyors of wigs, a row of musical instrument shops (at N. N. Mondal’s, Yehudi Menuhin got his violin repaired in 1952) and Chinese shoemakers.
We shall stop for lunch at the Ivory Restaurant.
After lunch, we visit Sishu Bhavan, one of Mother Theresa’s many homes for the underprivileged and Victoria Memorial another landmark in the city that marks the British reign in India. A combination of Italian renaissance and Mughal architecture, the white marble architecture was the British attempt to replicate the Taj Mahal and is a monument to Queen Victoria and a museum dedicated to the Raj. Afterwards we go to Kalighat temple, the main Kali temple (Durga) in Calcutta, for evening ceremony. Kali temple is located on the banks of the river Hooghly (Bhagirathi). The temple in its present form is only about 200 years old, built in 1809 on the site of a much older temple, although it has been referred in Mansar Bhasan in the 15th century, and in Kavi Kankan Chandi of the 17th century.
Kali is regarded as one of the principal deities of Bengal. There are other temples to Kali -Sahasrabhuja Kali, Sarvamangala, Tarasundari and Simhavaahini. Kali is alternately regarded as the destroyer or liberator and is depicted in a fearful form. Despite the terrifying visage, she is considered to deliver bliss to worshippers. The Kalighat temple is considered one of the 52 Shakti Peethams of India, where the various parts of Sati’s body are said to have fallen, in the course of Shiva’s Rudra Tandava. Kalighat represents the site where the toes of the right foot of Shakti or Sati fell. The temple attracts thousands of devotees throughout the year.
Legend has it that a devotee discovered a luminescent ray of light coming from the Bhagirathi riverbed, and upon investigating its source came upon a piece of stone carved in the form of a human toe. He also found a Syayambhu Lingam of Nakuleshwar Bhairav nearby, and started worshipping Kali in the midst of a thick jungle. This shrine grew to its present form over a period of time, thanks in particular to the Sabarna Roy Chowdhury family of Bengal. This family is also said to have built the Chitreswari Kali temple at Chitpur. It is believed that there was a pathway through the jungle between Chitpur and Kalighat, and this pathway is said to have become the Chitpur road of Calcutta.
Kalighat is also associated with the worship offered to Kali by a Dasanami Monk named Chowranga Giri, and the Chowringee area of Calcutta is said to have been named after him.
Return to the hotel for dinner at the Aaheli restaurant, one of the best in Calcutta.