I have made a decision people.
Since our West Bengal tourism department sucks at marketing – they try, bless their little Bangladesh loving hearts, but they suck nonetheless – I, your lovable Fat Uncle Cheapo am going to take the responsibility of promoting this beautiful state.
This was my first effort
Disclaimer- The state is beautiful; the people are not; stay away from Bongs if you value your sanity; stay away from Bangladeshis if you value your dignity
That being said, Bongs are very good in short doses – you know you can ask us for directions and stuff without any worry – we are very helpful and approachable that way.
As you saw, my first tourism marketing blogpost was more of a holistic thingummybob.
Now, I am going to highlight individual assets.
And I shall start with the Marble Palace in Kolkata – the city of palaces, rosogolla, football, Durga Puja and the abomination upon man that is East Bengal football club.
City of Palaces huh?
Yes good people yes.
You see, in the 18th and 19th centuries the Britishers slowly started to conquer Asia. And their base of operations – Fort William.
And Calcutta grew up around the Fort.
North Kolkata was the native quarter – thats where the Bong zamindars (landowners) and merchants lived.
South Kolkata (currently central) was the European quarter, us brown skins weren’t allowed there.
Some of the Bong zamindars and merchants were quite rich. Naturally, they were quite irritated with the racist snobbery – and with a stick it to the man attitude, started building big ass palacesque houses.
Quite a few of those are still standing – and the most majestic one of them all is the Marble Palace.
The Palace was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick. He was a wealthy Bengali merchant with a passion for collecting works of art.
The house currently contains large quantities of Western sculpture and Victorian furniture, paintings by European and Indian artists, and other objets d’art. Decorative objects include large chandeliers, clocks, floor to ceiling mirrors, urns, and busts of kings and queens. The house is said to contain two paintings by Rubens, The Marriage of St. Catherine and The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian. There are also said to be two paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds, The Infant Hercules Strangling the Serpent and Venus and Cupid. Other artists said to figure in the collections include Titian, Murillo, and John Opie.
The house is basically Neoclassical in style, while the plan with its open courtyards is largely traditional Bengali. Adjacent to the courtyard, there is a thakur-dalan, or place of worship for members of the family. The three-storey building has tall fluted Corinthian pillars and ornamented verandas with fretwork and sloping roofs, built in the style of a Chinese pavilion.The premises also include a garden with lawns, a rock garden, a lake and a small zoo.
And this Marble Palace Zoo happens to be the first zoo opened in India. Raja Rajendra Mullick opened it.
Nowadays, it has a number of birds including pelican, storks, peacocks, some monkeys and some deer.
This is a must see in a visit to Kolkata. Its within walking distance from the MG Road metro station. Once you come up, take the 2nd left lane keeping the Mahajati Sadan on your right.
Admission is free, but before arriving you need to get a permission note from West Bengal Tourism or India Tourism . That office is in BBD Bagh and quite a bit of a hassle.
This is India, so not to worry. Unless you look like a hippy or a Bangladeshi, entry is easy.
You can just turn up at the place and tip the moustachioed guard INR 50 or 100 to enter the premises.
The building will be just in front of you, the zoo on your right.
You have to then sign in to the register and take off your shoes to enter. One of the security/housework guys will come with you to “act as a guide” but to basically ensure that you do not behave like a Bangladeshi and vandalize stuff.
You need at least an hour to an hour and a half to appreciate everything. However, photography is prohibited inside the building.
Its a definite must see.
Its easy to reach and the combination of art and aviary makes it one of the unique places of Kolkata.