From historical monuments to palaces, churches to memorials and museums, Kolkata, the cultural capital of India, is a home to some of the ancient heritage sites that have been a witness to the city’s glorious and dramatic history. While there are plenty of heritage places in the city that will teleport you back in time, there are some that aren’t as famous as others but are just as rich in history. Here are 10 such rare heritage places in Kolkata that you may not have visited yet.
‘Lascar’ is a Persian word, which refers to the seamen of the Indian Ocean. The Lascar Memorial, inaugurated on 6th February 1924 by the then Governor of Bengal, Lord Lytton, was built in the memory of 896 Lascars who laid down their lives during the world war one fighting for the British Navy.
The Memorial, designed by William Ingram Keir in Indo-Mughal style, is a tall white tower located at the southern end of the Maidan on Napier Road in the Hasting area. The memorial is close to the historic Prinsep Ghat and can be spotted from the second Hooghly Bridge.
Toong On Church and Nanking Restaurant
Now overshadowed by towering structures, the two storied Toong On Church is a magnificent colonial architecture with red brick exteriors. The Chinese church, dedicated to the Chinese War God Kwang Ti, is located at Chatawala Galli, also known as Tiretta Bazar Street.
The heritage building, later in 1924, housed the famed Nanking Restaurant on its ground floor. Nanking Restaurant has a special place in Kolkata’s history as it has been a hub of various cultural activities since the city’s early days. Notably, it is also the first Chinese Restaurant in Kolkata as well as in India.
Calcutta Police Museum
The Calcutta Police Museum, situated at 123 Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road, was formerly the family residence of Raja Rammohan Roy. The residence was later converted into Sookeas Street Police Station during the British era.
The police museum, established in 1996 by the state government, houses a fascinating collection of guns, bullets, artefacts, and history. The door and wheel of Charles Tegart’s car, which was bombed by the revolutionaries, is also exhibited in the museum.
Robertson’s Monument, North Park Street Cemetery
Robertson’s Monument is the only surviving tomb of the demolished North Park Street Cemetery. The historic Cemetery was a family burial ground of the well-known Robertson Family whose male members served the British police for three generations.
The North Park Street Cemetery, built in 1797, contained the grave of Lieutenant Colonel James Achilles Kirkpatrick, made immortal by author William Dalrymple in his best-selling novel, White Mughals.
The Belgachia Rajbari is situated inside the Belgachia Milk Colony in North Kolkata. The Palace, during the 18th century, was a popular outhouse for the rich and famous of Calcutta. The venue was frequented by Prince Dwarakanath Tagore and other notable names like the Dutch Prince of Orange Henry and the King Edward VII.
The Belgachia Rajbari also housed a theatre hall, where some of the famous Bengali plays have been staged. The much-acclaimed play, Ratnabali, was first staged in this Rajbari in the presence of literary luminaries like Michael Madhusudan Dutt.
Shree Digambar Jain Pareswanath Temple
Located next to the Belgachia Bridge, is the spectacular Shree Digambar Jain Pareswanath Temple, a holy place of worship for the Digambara Jain community in Kolkata.
The temple, built in 1914, is dedicated to the 23rd Tirthankara Pareswanath. The interior of the temple is decorated with magnificent structures, fountains, flower beds, and landscaped rock gardens.
Kolkata Dock System’s 118-year old Swing Bridge
The 118-year old Swing Bridge was built by London-based West Wood Baillie & Co in 1890 after the then Secretary of State approved the Kidderpore site for new docks. The Swing Bridge, an engineering marvel, connects the main Kidderpore Dock No. 1 with the tidal basin. The state-of-the-art bridge moves on a central vertical pivot, swinging open on either side to allow shipping to pass.
The bridge, after remaining closed for nearly two years, is now being recommissioned by Jessop & Co. Previously, the bridge had a roadway of 23.33 ft for moving traffic, but no more. Today, vehicles are no longer allowed on the historic Kolkata Dock Swing Bridge.
St. John’s Church
Basically, a cathedral, the St. John’s Church in Kolkata’s Dalhousie Square is one of the oldest public buildings built by the East India Company after Kolkata became the capital of British India. The beautiful Church, located in the heart of Kolkata, was erected in 1787 using funds raised through a public lottery.
St. John’s Church, considered as the first Parish Church of Bengal, became the primary Cathedral of Kolkata in 1815 and it continued to remain so until the consecration of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1874.
Marble Palace is the home of the renowned Mullick family of Kolkata. The palace, built in 1840 by Zamindar Raja Rajendralal Mullick, is an architectural splendour. Situated in the northern part of the city, it still has a private zoo and a museum that houses a spectacular collection of curios and paintings including artworks of celebrated painters like Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Joshua Reynolds.
The majestic Town Hall, located close to the city centre, stands as a witness to several historic gatherings and debates that had a huge impact on the political and socio-economic landscape of British India. The heritage building, erected in a Palladian style, was designed by French military engineer Colonel Gastin. The Hall was made open to the public in 1814.
The Town Hall, which is currently in the midst of a restoration process, accommodates a museum known as Kolkata Panorama, and a library that houses research works and personal collections of noted historian P.T. Nair.
Kolkata has a deep repository of memories in the folds of its photogenic heritage places that have tremendous historical importance. But unfortunately, many of these sites are in a dilapidated state due to lack of maintenance, and very soon they may be reduced to nothing but ruins.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation, along with other relevant Municipalities, have formed a Municipal Heritage Conservation Committee to identify ailing heritage buildings so that they can be recommended to the West Bengal Heritage Commission for renovation and restoration. While the state government is making attempts to restore and preserve the city’s heritage sites, more attention needs to be paid to these sites that may not be very famous but are steeped in the rich history of the city.