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Kolkata

KOLKATA

Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, it was the commercial capital of East India. The city proper has 4.5 million residents, and the metropolitan area, including suburbs, has a population of approximately 14.2 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area in India and the 13th-most populous urban area in the world. Kolkata is also classified as the eighth-largest urban agglomeration in the world. Kolkata served as the capital of India during the British Raj until 1911, when its perceived geographical disadvantages and a growing nationalism in Bengal led officials to shift the capital to New Delhi. The city is noted for its vibrant political culture. It was a center of the Indian struggle for independence and remains a hotbed of contemporary politics. Once the center of modern education, science, culture, and politics in India, Kolkata witnessed economic stagnation in the years following India`s independence in 1947. However, since the year 2000, economic rejuvenation has led to an acceleration in the city`s growth. Like other metropolitan cities in developing countries, Kolkata continues to deal with contemporary urban problems like pollution and traffic congestion. Despite such problems, it remains the dominant urban area of eastern India and the major economic, educational and cultural hub. Kolkata is located in the eastern part India, at 22°33`N 88°20`E in the Ganges Delta at an elevation ranging between 1.5–9 m (5–30 ft). It is spread linearly along the banks of the River Hooghly in a north-south direction. Much of the city was originally a vast wetland, reclaimed over the decades to accommodate the city`s burgeoning population.The remaining wetland, known as East Calcutta Wetlands has been designated a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. Kolkata has long been known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage. As the former capital of India, Kolkata was the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought. Kolkatans tend to have a special appreciation for art and literature; its tradition of welcoming new talent has made it a City of Furious Creative Energy.For these reasons, Kolkata has often been dubbed as the Cultural Capital of India or the Literary Capital of India. A characteristic feature of Kolkata is with the para or neighbourhoods having a strong sense of community. Typically, every para has its own community club with a club room and often, a playing field. People here habitually indulge in adda, or leisurely chat, and these adda sessions are often a form of freestyle intellectual conversation. The city has a tradition of political graffiti depicting everything from outrageous slander to witty banter and limericks, caricatures to propaganda. Kolkata has many buildings adorned with Gothic, Baroque, Roman, Oriental and Indo-Islamic (including Mughal) motifs. Several major buildings of the Colonial period are well maintained and have been declared heritage structures, while others are in various stages of decay. Established in 1814, the Indian Museum is the oldest museum in Asia and houses vast collections of Indian natural history and Indian art. Marble Palace is classic example of European mansion in the city.Netaji Bhawan is museum and shrine dedicated for honor of Netaji, Indian freedom fighter of second World War. The Victoria Memorial, one of the major places of interest in Kolkata, has a museum documenting the city`s history. The National Library of India is India`s leading public library. Academy of Fine Arts and other art galleries hold regular art exhibitions.

SUNDERBAN

Where the land meets the sea at the southern tip of West Bengal lies the Indian Sunderbans, a stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest of great size and bio-diversity. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sunderbans is a vast area covering 4264 square km in India alone. The Indian Sunderbans forms the largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in India. A paradise for birdwatchers, the list includes such rarities as the Masked Finfoot, Mangrove Pitta and the Mangrove Whistler. The Sunderbans are a part of the world`s largest delta formed by the mighty rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Situated on the lower end of the Gangetic West Bengal, it is also the world`s largest estuarine forest. The Sunderbans is criss-crossed by hundreds of creeks and tributaries. It is one of the most attractive and alluring places remaining on earth, a truly undiscovered paradise. The site lies south-east of Calcutta in the District of West Bengal and forms part of the Gangetic Delta, which borders on the Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans, covering some 10,000 km2 of mangrove forest and water, is part of the world`s largest delta formed from sediments deposited by three great rivers, the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, which converge on the Bengal Basin. The land is constantly being changed, moulded and shaped by the action of the tides, with erosion processes more prominent along estuaries and deposition processes along the banks of inner estuarine waterways influenced by the accelerated discharge of silt from seawater. About half of the Sundarbans is under water and the rest of the landscape is characterized by low-lying alluvial islands and mud banks, with sandy beaches and dunes along the coast. The Sundarbans is the only remaining habitat in the lower Bengal Basin for a great variety of faunal species. Some of this variety, however, has already been lost owing to the reclamation of the broad transitional belt of habitat for agriculture, combined with the higher salinity resulting partly from the large-scale irrigation schemes in the upper reaches of the Ganges. Species include the Javan rhinoceros and water buffalo, swamp deer and Indian muntjac. Similarly, gharial and narrow-headed softshell turtle became locally extinct within the last 100 years. The tiger population is the largest in India. High population density, relative to the availability of prey, and the relatively high frequency of encounters with local people is probably largely responsible for the notorious man-eating habits of the Sundarbans tiger. The only ungulates are wild boar, main prey species of the tiger, and spotted deer, which is plentiful and often seen in association with rhesus macaque. Aquatic mammals that frequent the tidal waters include the Ganges dolphin, Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin, Irrawaddy dolphin and finless porpoise The Sajnakhali area contains a wealth of waterbirds, noteworthy residents including Asian open-bill stork, black-necked stork, greater adjutant, white ibis, swamp francolin, white-collared kingfisher, black-capped kingfisher and brown-winged kingfisher. This area is important for waders, a rare winter migrant and marsh birds. The Sundarbans provide important habitat for a variety of reptiles.

SHANTINIKETAN

Santiniketan is a small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, India, approximately 180 kilometres north of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). It was made famous by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose vision became what is now a university town (Visva-Bharati University) that attracts thousands of visitors each year.Santiniketan is also a tourist attraction because Rabindranath wrote many of his literary classics here, and his house is a place of historical importance. Shantiniketan was earlier called Bhubandanga (named after Bhuban Dakat, a local dacoit), and was owned by the Tagore family. In 1862, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, while on a boat journey to Raipur, came across a landscape with red soil and meadows of lush green paddy fields. Rows of chhatim trees and date palms charmed him. He stopped to look, decided to plant more saplings and built a small house. He called his home Santiniketan (abode of peace). Santiniketan became a spiritual centre where people from all religions were invited to join for meditation and prayers. He founded an `Ashram` here in 1863 and became the initiator of the Brahmo Samaj. On December 22nd 1901, Devendranath`s son, Rabindranath Tagore started a school at Santiniketan named Brahmachary Asrama modelled on the lines of the ancient gurukul system. After he received the Nobel Prize which enhanced not only the pride of India but also the Prestige of Santiniketan the school was expanded into a university. It was renamed Visva Bharati, it`s symbolic meaning being defined by Tagore as `where the world makes a home in a nest`. The aim of this educational institute was the quest for truth, blending the methods of learning of the East and West. Visva Bharati, now more than a hundred years old, is one of the most prestigious universities of India with degree courses in humanities, social science, science, fine arts, music, performing arts, education, agricultural science and rural reconstruction. At Tagore`s behest, the annual Paus utsav became an important cultural event where students and teachers of his school took an active part. Paus Mela, therefore, becomes a meeting ground for urban people and rural folk. Rural artisans bring their wares like batik printed materials, the most famous Santiniketan Leather bags, earthen wares, paintings, etc, to the fair while urban relatives set up stalls so that rural people could buy the new industrially produced goods that was revolutionizing life in the cities. While it has not discarded its traditional value systems the educational system founded by Tagore thus proves to have also kept pace and evolved with changing times.

DARJEELING

Darjeeling is a Himalayan city in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is internationally renowned as a tourist destination, along with its tea industry and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is `hill town headquarters` of Darjeeling district with a partially autonomous status within the state of West Bengal. The town is located at an average elevation of 6,710 ft (2,050 m). The development of the town dates back to the mid-19th century, when the British set up a sanatorium and a military depot. Subsequently, extensive tea plantation was done in the region, and tea growers developed distinctive hybrids of black tea and created new fermenting techniques. The resultant distinctive Darjeeling tea is internationally recognised and ranks among the most popular of the black teas.The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway connects the town with the plains and has one of the few steam locomotives still in service in India. Darjeeling also has several British-style public schools, which attract students from throughout India and neighbouring countries. Darjeeling is a part of the Eastern Himalayan zoo-geographic zone.Flora around Darjeeling comprises sal, oak, semi-evergreen, temperate and alpine forests.Dense evergreen forests of sal and oak lie around the town, where a wide variety of rare orchids are found. The Lloyd`s Botanical Garden preserves common and rare species of plants, while the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park specialises in conserving and breeding endangered Himalayan species.The town of Darjeeling and surrounding region face deforestation due to increasing demand for wood fuel and timber, as well as air pollution from increasing vehicular traffic. Wildlife in the district is protected by the wildlife wing of the West Bengal Forest Department. The fauna found in Darjeeling includes several species of ducks, teals, plovers and gulls that pass Darjeeling while migrating to and from Tibet.Small mammals found in the region include civets, mongooses and badgers.work was in progress for setting up a conservation centre for red pandas in Darjeeling.

KALIMPONG

Kalimpong is a hill station in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located at an average elevation of 1,250 metres (4,101 ft). The town is the headquarters of the Kalimpong subdivision, a part of the district of Darjeeling. Kalimpong is known for its educational institutions many of which were established during the British colonial period.It used to be a gateway in the trade between Tibet and India prior to China`s annexation of Tibet and the Sino-Indian War. Kalimpong and neighbouring Darjeeling were major centres calling for a separate Gorkhaland state in the 1980s.There has been a Rotary club in Kalimpong since 1993. Kalimpong, located on a ridge overlooking the Teesta River, is a tourist destination owing to its temperate climate and proximity to popular tourist locations in the region. Horticulture is also important to Kalimpong: it has a flower market notable for its wide array of orchids; nurseries, which export Himalayan grown flower bulbs, tubers and rhizomes, contribute to the economy of Kalimpong.Home to ethnic Nepalis, indigenous ethnic groups and non-native migrants from other parts of India, the town also is a religious centre of Buddhism. The Buddhist monastery Zang Dhok Palri Phodang holds a number of rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures. The area around Kalimpong lies in the Eastern Himalayas, which is classified as an ecological hotspot, one of only three among the ecoregions of India. Neora Valley National Park that lies within the Kalimpong subdivision and is home to tigers.Acacia is the most commonly found species at lower altitudes, while cinnamon, ficus, bamboo, cacti and cardamom, are found in the hillsides around Kalimpong. The forests found at higher altitudes are made up of pine trees and other evergreen alpine vegetation. Seven species of rhododendrons are found in the region east of Kalimpong. The temperate deciduous forests include oak, birch, maple and alder.Three hundred species of orchid are found around Kalimpong, and Poinsettia and sunflower are some of the wild species that line the roads of Kalimpong. The Red Panda, Clouded Leopard,Siberian Weasel, Asiatic black bear, barking deer, Himalayan Tahr, goral and pangolin are some of the fauna found near Kalimpong. Avifauna of the region include the pheasanta, cuckoos, minivets, flycatchers, maynas, orioles, owls, parakeets, partridges, sunbirds, swallows, swifts and woodpeckers. Kalimpong also has over forty-six nurseries which mainly cultivate gladioli which account for 80% of India`s production and orchids, which are exported to many parts of the world. The Rishi Bankim Chandra Park is an ecological museums within Kalimpong. Citrus Dieback Research Station at Kalimpong works towards control of diseases, plant protection and production of disease free orange seedlings.

GORUMARA NP

Gorumara National Park a Park in northern part of West Bengal, India. Located in the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills, it is a medium-sized park with grasslands and forests. It is primarily known for its population of Indian Rhinoceros. The park has been declared as the best among the protected areas in India by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the year 2009. The dry deciduous forest land interspersed with grasslands, harbors one of largest diversity of mega fauna in West Bengal. This Reserve Forest since 1895 was declared as a Wildlife National Park in 1949 comprising a small area of 2129 acres. In view of its great diversity of plants and animals it was declared as a National Park in 1994 comprising a total area of 79.99 sq.km. Further inclusion of 6 sq. kms. Major significance of this National Park is number of schedule I animals it harbours which are given maximum protection. Some of them are (1) Great Indian One horned Rhinoceros, (2) Indian Elephant, (3) Gaur (Indian Bison), (4) Leopard, (5) Rock Python, (6) Malayan Giant Squirrel. Gorumara National Park has approximately 48 species of carnivores and herbivores, 193 species of birds, 22 species of reptiles, 7 species of turtles, 27 species of fishes and other macro and micro fauna. The Park is a birdwatcher`s paradise with its rich bio-diversity reflected in its wonderful avi-fauna comprising Hornbills, woodpeckers, Green Pigeons, Cuckoos, Orioles, Babblers, Minivets, Pheasants, Mynas, Lbis, and of course our National Bird Peacock. Many migratory birds including the Brahminy duck, Teals are regular visitors to the National Park.

JALDAPARA

Established in 1941 for the protection of the Indian one-horned rhino, the Jaldapara Sanctuary covers 216 sq km, is a mosaic of woods, grasslands, perennial streams, sandy river banks and extensive belts of tall grass. It contains a great diversity of flora and fauna of mixed deciduous forest, grasslands and river banks. Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary, situated in Alipurduar Sub-Division of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal, is home to a wide variety of wild life, particularly the Great Indian One Horned Rhinos. The river Torsha flows through this rain forest sanctuary which is mostly covered with tall grasses, the sanctuary encompasses a luxuriant vegetation and a rich variety of wildife. The Malangi River also flows nearby from east to west. Riding elephants is the only way to move inside this forest. The birds to be found here are the Crested Eagle, Pallas’s Fishing Eagle and shikra, besides Jungle fowl, peafowl, patridges, Bengal Florican and lesser Pied Hornbill. Python, monitor lizards, krates, cobras, geckos and about 8 species of fresh water turtles have also found The wild life, in addition to the famous Great Indian One Horned rhinos, consists of Royal Bengal Tigers, wild elephants, deers, swamp deers, hog deers, wild pigs, bisons. Some rare species like the hispid hare and the hog-badger are also found here. Besides wildlife viewing, there is scope for unusual holiday activities like elephant riding and leisurely strolls through the towering grass.

Jayanti & Buxa Tiger Reserve

The Jayanti forest range covers around 780 sq km. It is about 25km from Alipurduar Junction and 15km from Rajabhatkhawa, which is the forest gate. The dense forest has teak, sal, akasmoni and sirish. Animals like elephant, tiger, leopard, wild dog, barking deer and a variety of birds can be seen. We took a train to Alipurduar Junction and hired a car to reach Rajabhatkhawa. Autorickshaws are also available. A separate car took us to Jayanti forest. The distance between Alipurduar Junction and Rajabhatkhawa offers a beautiful view. Though most trains don’t stop at Rajabhatkhawa station, the view makes it worthwhile to take one of the few trains that stop there. The route is through the dense forests of Buxa. On one side of the Jayanti forest flows the Jayanti river. It is almost dry most of the year, but fills up in monsoon. One gets a panoramic view of the forest from the banks. Wild animals often cross the river. Near Jayanti forest are the green hills of Bhutanghat. Dolomite mines like the North Bengal Dolomite Ltd and Jayanti Dolomite Ltd were operational in the hills before but are now closed. Inside the forests is the cave of Mahakal, one of the 51 satipeeths. A village fair is organised here during Sivaratri. Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) lies in Alipurduar sub-division of Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. Its northern boundary runs along the international border with Bhutan. The Sinchula hill range lies all along the northern side of BTR and the Eastern boundary touches that of the Assam State. National Highway No.31 C roughly runs along its southern boundary. It is the eastern most extension of extreme bio-diverse North-East India & represents highly endemic Indo-Malayan region. The fragile `Terai Eco-System` constitutes a part of this Reserve. The Phipsu Wildlife Sanctuary of Bhutan is contiguous to North of BTR. Manas National Park lies on east of BTR. BTR, thus, serves as international corridor for elephant migration between India and Bhutan. To the south-west, the Chilapata Forests form an elephant corridor to the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.

Murshidabad

Murshidabad was reputedly founded by the Mughal emperor Akbar in the 16th century. In 1704, the nawab Murshid Quli Khan (following Aurangzeb`s orders) moved the capital there from Dacca and renamed the city Murshidabad. The reign of Siraj-ud-daula marked the entry of Great Britain into the subcontinent`s affairs. The nawab, peeved by the persistent British defiance of his wishes, marched to Calcutta and drove the British out of Fort Williams to their ships offshore. What followed was the `Black Hole` incident, in which numerous English captives died of suffocation in a jail cell. Months later, the British, led by Robert Clive, retook Calcutta and plotted with Mir Jafar, Siraj-ud-Daula`s general, to overthrow and assassinate the nawab in 1757 after the battle of Plassey (now Palashi). Murshidabad remained the capital under the British until 1790 and is still the seat of the descendants of the nawabs of Bengal. The city, lying just east of the Bhagirathi River, is now an agricultural trade and silk-weaving centre. The Hazarduari Palace, or the palace with a thousand doors is the chief tourist attraction of Murshidabad. This three-storey palace was built in 1837 by Duncan McLeod for the Nawab Najim Humaun Jah, descendent of Mir Zafar. It has thousand doors (among which only 900 are real) and 114 rooms and 8 galleries, built in European architectural style. The total area of Hazarduari Palace is 41 acres. It is now a museum and has an exquisite collection of armoury, splendid paintings, exhaustive portraits of the Nawabs, various works of art including beautiful works of ivory (Murshidabad school) of China (European) and many other valuables. The Armoury has 2700 arms in its collections of which only few are displayed. Swords used by Shiraj-ud-Daulla and his grandfather, Nawab Alivardi Khan, can be seen here. The other attractions in this floor are Vintage Cars and Fittan Cars used by the Nawabs and their families. Around the palace are other attractions like the Wasef Manzil (the New Palace) by the bank of the Ganga, Tripolia Gate, the Dakshin Darwaza, the Chak Darwaza, the Imambara, the Gharighar (the Clock Tower), the Bachchawali Tope (a canon) and the Madina, the only surviving structure built by Siraj-ud-Doula. The Bachchawali Tope (canon) was made between the 12th and the 14th century, probably by the Mohammedan rulers of Gour, and requires about 18 Kg of gun powder for a single shelling.

Bishnipur (Bankura)

Bishnupur (or Vishnupur) was the capital of the Mallabhum kingdom, once the most important Hindu dynasty in Bengal (founded in the 8th century CE and lasting until the early 19th century). Surrounded by old fortifications, the town has more than a dozen terracotta temples. The 16th-century Jor Bangla and stepped Ras Mancha are excellent examples of brick temples of the Bengali style and are covered by ornate terracotta tiles that depict scenes from the Hindu epics. The dhrupad school of music was founded (16-17th cent.) there under royal patronage. The town is also known for its silk and the stylized Bankura horse. Bankura has gained much popularity among the tourists hailing from different places in India. The place has a rich cultural and traditional heritage. It is famous for its paintings, music and other forms of arts. It has gained lot of popularity among the tourists from all over India due to the beautiful locations and some historical destinations. The place has contributed great deal towards modern Bengal art and architecture. You can see the beautiful terracotta art and architecture in Bankura. The other places to watch are Susunia hills and Beharinath hill. Jairambati and Bishnupur temples can also be visited from Bankura. Durgapur barrage, Koropahar are also near Bankura which offer excellent tourists sites. To the south of Bankura there are places like Mukutmanipur, Sutan, Jhilimili, ECO Park at Taldangra, Panchmura. Susunia hill is a famous trekking spot which the trekkers from all over India visit. Terracotta is characteristic of Bishnupur. Apart from the temples, terracotta pottery, artifacts and even jewellery made in this very traditional material is famous. The potters here derive their inspiration from the glorious history of kings, soldiers and wars. Bishnupur is also known for its silk (tussar), particularly the Baluchari Sarees. Woven on Jacquard punch-card looms, these sarees have episodes from the Mahabharata woven into the border and pallu. Bellmetalware, conch-shell jewellery is also available here.

Ayodhya Pahar (Purulia)

Ajodhya Hills located in the Purulia district of the state West Bengal, India. It is a part of the Dalma Hills and extended part of Eastern Ghats range. Highest peak of Ajodhya Hills is Gorgaburu. The nearby populated town area is Bagmundi. Located on the Dalma hills, at the border of Jharkhand in the Purulia District, Ayodhya Hills (2000 ft ) is an attractive tourist spot. This place is associated with the epic Ramayana. It says that while going to Dandak, Shree Ramchandra and his wife Sita Devi passed through the Ayodhya Hills. On it east lies Sirkabad and on its west lies Baghmundi. Dense forest and waterfalls are an important feature of Ayodhya hills. Bamni and Turga are the two most prominent waterfalls of this area. Animals like cheetah, deer, elephant, bear and reptiles like python are found in these dense forests. The highest peak of Ayodhya hills is Gorgaburu. Tribal villages surround these hills. On the night of Baisakhi Poornima, hunting expeditions are carried out in the forest by the local tribes.

 
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