10th of January 2016 was the first event of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival 2016 (AKLF). As a part of this event a Heritage Walk was organized at College Street by Streets of Calcutta and this was conducted by a good friend of mine and a very renowned heritage blogger Mr Rangan Dutta.
We were to meet at 9 AM in front of the famous Coffee House, being Sunday the coffee joint was closed but nevertheless it was a very nostalgic moment for me as I used to frequent this coffee shop during my university days. By the time I reached the spot there were already nearly forty participants who had turned up. The organizers were initially expecting around thirty participants but the final count stood to nearly double of that to sixty.
Our first stop was Sanskrit College which is diagonally opposite to Coffee House. Considered as one of the prominent institute for the study of Sanskrit language this institution also saw the footsteps of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who was also the principal of this college. Apart from Sanskrit other subjects such as Hinduism, Philosophy, History etc. are taught here.
The next stop was Jahan Khan Mosque on Bankim Chatterjee Street. This mosque is named after Jahan Khan who is considered as one of the pillars when it comes to Islam in Bengal.
Right next to the mosque is a plaque which marks the house where Sri Aurobindo stayed after his release from prison. He stayed in this house No. 6 till his departure to Chandannagar in the year 1910.
A few steps from this is the Bengal Theosophical Society. Established in the year 1882 in India originally the main society was formed in the year 1875 in New York by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge etc. Then main objective was to believe in the universal brotherhood of humanity. In India this was the second establishment with the first one being in Madras (Chennai)
Right next to it is the Mahabodhi Society Temple. This also serves at the society headquarters. Along with this building there is a Buddhist temple attached, one needs to just enter their details in the register and go to the second floor. The temple has a huge statue of Buddha with beautiful paintings on the wall and ceiling.
A few steps from this building is the Baptist Mission Church, this building has a beautiful Indo Saracenic Architecture, and notable are the beautiful arches over the doors and windows.
In this short stretch of road we have seen a Mosque, Buddhist Temple and a Church, not to forget the Theosophical Society which calls for a unity of all human race.
After this we walk straight into College Square to see the Bengalee War Memorial. Very few know that there was a dedicated Bengal Regiment and this regiment had fought the Great War (World War 1). This memorial has also inscribed the names of soldiers who had fallen during the battle. An interesting fact is to be noted here is that Subhas Chandra Bose had also applied for joining this regiment but was denied due to poor eye sight.
Right next to the war memorial is the statue of Anagarika Dharmapala, he was a Buddhist revivalist and along with Swami Vivekananda was a participant at the Parliament of World Religion in Chicago 1893 representing Buddhism.
Up ahead was the grave of David Hare, he started his carrier as a watchmaker and the clock made by his father still can be seen atop Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth. He was a philanthropist and set us Hindu and Hare school. He was also one of the key person in the foundation of Presidency College.
We then walked out of college square towards the University of Calcutta campus followed by Hare School and Presidency College. All famous institution in the history of Bengal and its education. What was missing was the Senate Hall which I guess is an irreplaceable loss for the heritage of this country.
Up ahead in the college street crossing is a statue of Rai Kristodas Pal Bahadur, he was awarded Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.) by the British for his service to the society.
We walk straight to Vivekananda’s house which takes around 10 – 15 minutes of walk. Here we saw his ancestral house and a newly constructed museum which has a detailed display of his life and teachings.
The walk ended here but some of us went ahead to the famous Girish Ch Dey & Nakur Ch Nandy sweet shop. Being Kolkatans we can never be far from tasting few sweets and sandesh and since it was already 1 PM I was really hungry thus ended the walk on a sweet note.