Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Kolkata is a city that is fiercely passionate about its rich heritage – both colonial and Indian. You will discover that there's more to the city than the infamous 'Black Hole' and Dominique Lapierre's 'City of Joy'.
Mother House
The tomb of Mother Teresa is housed here along with a museum and an office of the Missionaries of Charity. The House is open between 08:00 – 12:00 hrs and again between 15:00 – 18:00 hrs. Closed on Thursdays.Phone: +91 33 2452277
Short and long term volunteering options also exist.
Victoria Memorial
Conceived by Lord Curzon as a tribute to Queen Victoria, this majestic building was completed in 1921. A 16-ft high statue called The Angel of Victory made in Italy, stands atop the dome. The must-sees at the museum are 'Company Drawings' of natural history, the Calcutta Gallery and paintings by the Daniells depicting Indian landscapes.
The gardens are open all days 05:30 – 19:00 hrs. The Museum is open all days except Mondays and other public holidays 10:00 – 17:00 hrs.
Maidan and About
Stroll through Kolkata's verdant Maidan (open grounds) to spot some of the most fascinating architecture from the era of the British Raj including Fort William, Shahid Minar (formerly known as the Ochterlony Monument), St. Paul's Cathedral and the Victoria Memorial. One of the oldest and largest cricket stadia in India, Eden Gardens, is right here.
The nearby BBD Bagh, also known as Dalhousie Square was the administrative center of the East India Company. The Writer's Building now houses the Secretariat of the West Bengal government.
South Park Street Cemetery

For those not intimidated by the morbidity of tombstones, there are poignant stories to be found here in the mossy cenotaphs and remnants from the the British Raj.
Marble Palace
A permit is required in advance from the West Bengal Tourism office, to see this magnificent residential building. A walk through the Marble Palace is a fascinating way of acquainting oneself with the ways of the opulent Bengalis of the 1800s. Since it is also a private residence, some areas may be off-limits.

Chowringhee Road and New Market just off it, are the places to go for shopping of all kinds. Buy terracotta crafts, Bengal cotton sarees and jute products. Be sure to bargain.
Dakshinapan on Ghariahat Road has handicrafts and handlooms at government approved rates. Be sure to visit Dolly's for tea.
Besides the usual Tandoori and upmarket multi cuisine restaurants, do try typical Bengali fare in restaurants like 6 Ballygunge Place, Oh Calcutta and Kewpie's.
Inmates of the destitute home run by The All Bengal Womens' Union create an authentic Bengali lunch for which their restaurant, Suruchi is renowned. Closed on weekends.
Over cups of coffee, participate in spirited intellectual conversations (also locally called 'adda') at the famed Indian Coffee House near the University. But for a relatively serene experience, head to Flury's on Park Street for tea and cake.
Ferry on the Hooghly
For a local experience during the day, take a ferry between Belur and the Dakhineshwar Kali Temple. At dusk, take a motorised ferry along the Hooghly and watch the illumination of the two bridges - Rabindra Sethu (Howrah Bridge) and the Vidyasagar Sethu (New Hooghly Bridge).
The Victoria Memorial hosts Son-et-Lumiere shows in English (all days except Mondays and Public Holidays) : October to February: 19:15 - 20:00 hrs, March to June: 19:45 – 20:30 hrs.
Contacts: West Bengal Tourism Center (Kolkata) Ph : +91 33 22437260 / 44012659-62 http://www.westbengaltourism.gov.in
(An edited version appeared in Culturama's December 2010 Issue)


Director: Girish Kasaravalli
Language: Kannada
At one level, Dweepa, a story by Norbert D'Souza, deals with the subject of displacement of natives near dam sites. At a deeper level, it depicts how different human facets come into play during a crisis. There is an underlying subtext of the Ramayana in the movie that will be of interest to those familiar with the epic.
Duggappa (M.V. Vasudeva Rao) is the custodian of a small temple for a local village deity at the base of a holy hillock. Duggappa's obedient son, Ganapa (Avinash) assists him in the appeasement rituals conducted for the villagers. Ganapa's wife, the industrious Nagi (Soundarya), constantly dreams of a better life for the family.
When the gates of the nearby dam are closed during the monsoon, there is a threat of the village being inundated. When the inmates are relocated to a nearby town, Duggappa adamantly returns along with Ganapa and Nagi to the deserted village, now rendered an island.
The ebullient Krishna (Harish Raju), an acquaintance, arrives to help them cope with rebuilding their lives. As the rains intensify, Krishna's constant presence creates a rift between Ganapa and Nagi. Ganapa presumes Nagi's attraction to Krishna, and is under the delusion that the two are to blame for the crisis unravelling around him. When Duggappa dies, Nagi senses that Ganapa holds her indirectly responsible for his death.
Fed up of the constant friction between Ganapa and Krishna, Nagi finally asks Krishna to leave. With Krishna gone, and Ganapa emotionally distancing himself from her, it is up to Nagi to safeguard her home from not only the dangerously rising water level but also a tiger foraging for a meal in the deserted village.
When the danger passes, Ganapa attributes their survival to benevolent temple spirits. Nagi's efforts go unacknowledged and her isolation mirrors that of Sita's in the Ramayana.

The film won a Golden Lotus for Best Film in the National Film Awards, 2002.

 (An edited version appeared in Culturama's December 2010 Issue)

Friday, November 12, 2010

24 BY CITY - Udaipur

It's not hard to imagine why much of the Bond thriller, Octopussy, was picturised here. There is history in the bylanes and tales of valour in the palaces. Reflection takes on a whole new meaning in the Lake City of Udaipur.
Gangaur Ghat
Most of the sights you will see, overlook Lake Pichhola or one of the many lakes of Udaipur. And what better way to start the day than to step on to one of the banks and absorb the sights and sounds of a city coming awake. Gangaur Ghat is a bank on the Lake Pichhola with an ornate gateway. Rest a while on the banks and enjoy the rippled reflection of the landscape and structures around the lake.
Bagore Ki Haveli
This Haveli or Traditional Residence, located at Gangaur Ghat, on the banks of the Lake Pichhola, runs a museum under the aegis of The West Zone Cultural Centre. On display are every day items used by the aristocracy. The Haveli Museum is otherwise open between 10:00 hrs – 19:00 hrs.
City Palace Complex
If there is one place that will dominate your visit to Udaipur, it would be the City Palace Complex. Originally built by Maharana Udai Singh in 1553, the complex has lofty archways, ornate balconies and resplendent halls built in both Mughal and Rajput architectural styles. The museum (09:30 hours to 16:30 hours) houses a fine collection of miniature paintings, royal clothing, accessories and armour. Do visit the Mor Chowk with its intricate mosaic work featuring peacocks. Thematic trails and registered guides are also available. There is a 4-in-1 special package that includes the City Palace Museum, a boat ride and some refreshments.
There are two more palaces in the complex - The Fateh Prakash Palace and the Shiv Niwas Palace - both luxury hotels now. The former has a magnificent Darbar Hall and a Crystal Gallery (09:00 hours to 19:30 hours) that are open to public and well worth a dekko.
The complex also has The Vintage & Classic Car Collection (09:00 hours to 17:00 hours), showcasing twenty cars owned by the Maharanas of Mewar including a 1924 Rolls-Royce 20 hp.
Lake Palace
Seemingly floating on the Pichhola Lake, the Lake Palace is called Jag Nivas. It was built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1743. It is now a luxury hotel. Enjoy a meal at their restaurant and relive the grandeur of a bygone era.
Saheliyon Ki Bari
With its lush greenery, fountains, pavilions and walkways, Saheliyon Ki Bari (literally, 'Handmaidens' Garden') is a medium-sized park that brings alive visions of handmaidens at leisure. Don't miss the statue of the standing Indian woman in one of the fountains.
The best meal you can have in Udaipur would be at any of the restaurants that are part of luxury properties that were once palaces. Among Rajasthani delicacies, do try the Daal-Baati-Churma. There are also any number of cafes and eateries serving world cuisine.
Buy Mojris (footwear) - these are tough leather shoes, beautifully embellished with embroidery and zari work. Also pick up embroidered fabric, miniature paintings and antique jewellery. If you are a seasoned bargainer, the shops around the main sights would be perfect to pit your bargaining skills against seasoned shopkeepers who know a gullible tourist when they see one.
Shilpgram is a crafts fair just 3 kms from Udaipur. It showcases traditional architecture of the common people of different regions of India. Crafts from these regions are also on display. 11:00 hrs – 19:00 hrs all days.
Catch the Son et lumiere show at the City Palace. It is called ‘The Legacy of Honour’ and the English version runs from 19:00 hours to 20:00 hours between October and March.
Bagore Ki Haveli hosts a cultural program called Dharohar every evening between 19:00 and 20:00 hours.
There are many festivals celebrated in Rajasthan and chief among them, is the Mewar Festival that is uniquely Udaipur. It is a spring festival and is held around March every year. Do check the RTDC website for the exact dates.
A ten-day annual festival called Shilpgram Utsav is held at Shilpgram in December to celebrate the cultural diversity of India along with an exhibition of regional crafts and folk art forms.
Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC)
Fateh Memorial, Suraj Pol. Tel.: 0294-2411535, 2521971/1364
Dabok Airport. Tel.: 0294-2655433 Tourist Information Counter Railway Station
trcudaipur@rajasthantourism.gov.in , www.rajasthantourism.gov.in
More details on the City Palace Complex here: http://www.eternalmewar.in/User/Travel/Regal_Visit/City_palace_Museum.aspx
(An edited version appeared in Culturama's November 2010 Issue)