Kolkata - Attractions and Activities 
Art & Culture

Academy of Fine Arts

The Academy of Fine Arts is one of the oldest and finest art societies in the country. The eight galleries on its ground floor together forming the largest gallery space in India, display exhibitions by artists and  groups from all parts of India and abroad. It is truly a delight for the eyes, walking through the galleries, viewing new worlds of creation by artists of all ages.

Above the spacious galleries in the ground floor, there is an extensive museum covering the entire first floor. It comprises a fine collection of different types of the arts.

The Gallery of Contemporary Art with paintings and sculptures of India from 1900 to the present day, has a good collection of Acharya Abanindranath Tagore and of his brother Gaganedra  Nath  Tagore,  who  was  the   first  to  introduce cubism  in India . Abanindranath's  famous disciples Nandalal Bose, Asit Kumar Haldar, Kshitin Mazumdar, Samar Gupta and their  disciples  like Benod  Behari  Mukherjee, Sarada Ukil, Sudhir Khastagir,  Ram  Kinkar Beij and others are  all  represented here.

The gallery of Old Textiles may be considered among the finer ones in India, with rare pieces of old textiles from many parts of India. The Gallery of Miniature paintings which has, among other works, a unique Ram –Sita series containing 18 fine miniature paintings given to Lady Ranu by her father,  Prof. Phani Bhusan Adhikari. This was presented to him by Benaras Hindu University. There is a Rag-Mala series comprising 33 miniature paintings. Two hundred miniature paintings, a family collection collected by Sir  R. N.  Mookerjee, were gifted by Sir Biren Mookerjee.

The Carpet Gallery is rare, as we do not think there is as yet in India a gallery exclusively for carpets -is from the Late T. L. Martin and other donors.

The Gallery of Engravings on  India  in  the 18th and 19th Centuries; eminent painters such as Zoffany  ,   Hodges, the Danniells, Sir Charles O D'oyly and others are represented there. There is also a Gallery of contemporary Graphics and Line Drawings.

To house the growing  collection,  a   new   wing   to the Museum has been added in 1982 in  the  third  storey. The wing  comprises galleries where the display is changed at intervals.The exhibits, in each gallery, are from the Academy's ever-growing collections of  well known painters of  India  and famous British Painters of the 18th and 19th Centuries. In the wing there is also a section for  renovation ,   fumigation and conservation , all essential items for museums,  as  well  as a section for selection and judging of art objects for the Museum and for the Exhibitions. The   Wing covers the entire front facade of the Museum. The Museum is growing with gifts and acquisitions every month. Amongst  our  activities , apart  from  organizing  exhibitions, we arrange lectures, and Symposia, publish bulletins, booklets ,   catalogues  and  literature on art matters. We also have an Art Library with a Librarian.

But  this  is  only a  part  of  the  life within  the   building.  Other  ancillary activities include sketching and sculpture studios, situated at  the  back  of  the   garden . Since the year 1957, the Academy has been running a  Studio-Cum-Sketching Club  for  the benefit of working  artists, where  live  models   and   other   facilities are provided, palpably fulfilling a need in this crowded metropolis, by ensuring a congenial atmosphere for artists to work after office hours and on holidays. The  Hon.  Secretary   is in charge of this section. There is a junior section of the studio, for those between 14-18 years of age,   where   similar   facilities   are   provided,  except   live  models.  There is also a children's  section from the age group  of  4  to 14  years.  To watch the tiny tots sketch or paint with such  ease  and  imagination is an education in itself. A reputed painter is  in   charge of   these  studios .  Many   visitors   come   to   see   our   children's  studio. Exhibitions of  the works of the various sections of the studios are held periodically.

A mobile Art Van gifted by the West Bengal  Government travels round  the districts of West Bengal with a  trained  Guide-Lecturer  accompanying it.  There  is  a  projection machine  inside  which shows  art  films. This has proved very popular.  On its maiden trip, it  carried  21  paintings  by  Nirode  Mazumdar on the various facets  of  Goddess "Tripurasundari".

The Academy has an attached air-conditioned auditorium at  the back of  the building which provides a stimulating venue not only for lectures, art films, symposia on art etc. but also as a popular stage for eminent performing   artists. Incidentally, its acoustics are among the best in the country.

There is a much needed small flat  for  guests , used by visiting  artists  and  friends. In a crowded metropolis like Calcutta the demand for this is great.

Website: http://academyoffinearts.orga.in/theacademy.php


Birla Academy of Art & Culture

Situated on what is popularly known as Southern Avenue, the Birla Academy is a veritable treasure trove for the art addict. It showcases the Indian modern art and gives an impetus to creativity and talent. Birla Academy of Art & Culture houses the paintings of the medieval period, woodcarvings, archaeological manuscripts, textiles and ancient Indian sculptures etc.

Website: http://www.birlaart.com/



Nandan is a government sponsored centre in Calcutta, India for facilitating film awareness and includes a few comparatively large screens housed in an impressive building. It shares its site with the Rabindra Sadan cultural centre. The complex, besides being a modern cinema and cultural complex, is a popular hang-out for the young and the aged.

Commemorating the glorious heritage of the Film Society movement, the Government of West Bengal created Nandan, the West Bengal Film Centre in 1985. Inaugurated by Satyajit Ray, the centre started functioning from the year of its genesis. He designed the logo for the complex as well. It has astounded countless film lovers of all over the world because of its marvellous hanging architecture. Nandan is the symbol of art and culture in the city which is termed as the Cultural Capital of India.

Nandan has two cinema halls, namely Nandan-1 and Nandan-2.


Asiatic Society

On, at the intersection of Park Street-Chowringhee road, was home to the first modern museum in Asia, set up as far back as 1814. However, most of those exhibits  have  now been moved to the Indian Museum. A small collection remains - do check out the rare Tibetan thangkas, and the Ashokan Rock Edict, dating back to the ages of King Ashoka!

Website: http://asiaticsocietycal.com/


Gurusaday Museum

Gurusaday Museum showcases the rich folk art and crafts of Bengal. The brain behind this museum was a visionary art connoisseur Gurusaday Dutt who was mostly known for his interest and contributions to Bengal's folk art, folk dance and folk music. He started a number of organisations and societies aimed at preserving the elements of folk culture. Exquisite specimens personally collected between 1929 and 1939 by Shri Gurusaday Dutt, I. C. S. (1882-1941), while he was the District Collector in the remote parts of the then Bengal such as Kalighat paintings, patuas’ scrolls, embroidered kanthas, terracotta panels, stone sculptures, wooden carvings, dolls and toys, moulds used for making patterns on sweets or mango-paste etc. Most of the several thousand specimens of folk art and craft he collected, along with other folk artefacts, are on display at the Gurusaday Museum in Thakurpur in the suburbs of Kolkata. Presently the museum has a rich collection of over 3300 exquisite exhibits of folk arts and crafts, which amply reflect the vitality of the rural life and present a vivid picture of art and social traditions, religious beliefs, practices and motifs and cultural influences in undivided Bengal as well as in India.

The collections made by Shri Gurusaday Dutt are priceless and unique. No duplicate can be found in any museums in the world. The collections you will find here are, Kalighat school of painting, the wonderful Dhokra crafts, the Patachitras, terracotta works and the sarees of Bengal - Jamdani and Tangails.

Website: http://www.gurusadaymuseum.org/


Indian Museum 

One of the oldest museums in Asia, the Indian Museum was founded in 1814. One needs an entire day, or more, to fully enjoy the fossils, coins, stones, Gandhara art, meteors and much more that go to make up this museum. There is a 4,000-year-old mummy here as well. Also on display is an urn said to contain the Buddha's ashes. One just needs to ask anybody on the road for the way to the "Jadughar". The museum is closed on Monday.

Website: http://indianmuseumkolkata.org/


National library

The National Library is the largest library in India. It is under the Department of Culture, Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Government of India. The library is designated to collect, disseminate and preserve the printed material produced in India. The Library is the largest in India, with a collection in excess of 2.2 million books. Before independence, it was the official residence of Lt. Governor of Bengal.

The rare books section comprises of books, manuscripts that date back to the pre 1860 era. This library not only has a remarkable stock of books and articles but also such a medium which is used as a link for correspondence with the past generation. It is one of the heritage buildings too. The library has separate Indian language division for Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu Languages. Sanskrit language division also collects and process Pali and Prakrit books. English books published in India are also collected under D.B. Act.

Around 18 thousand readers daily gather here to accumulate knowledge on various subjects. The collection comprises about 20,00,000 books and 5,00,000 manuscripts. Its gigantic campus encompasses 130 acres of land. At present, the National Library is the 2nd largest public library in Asia for which several notable persons have donated their valuable collections at different times. Sadar-Ud-ddin, the Zaminder of Buhor, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, Surendra Nath Sen etc. are some famous donors. These have added to the value and content of books in this prestigious institution.

Website: http://www.nationallibrary.gov.in/


Nehru Children's Museum

The Nehru Children's Museum located at 94/1 Chowringhee Road is a marvellous gift to the children of Kolkata and India. The museum meant exclusively for children was conceived by a visionary statesman - Late Shri Jugal Srimal.

Website: http://www.nehrumuseum.org/


Rabindra Bharati Museum

Rabindra Bharati Museum was established in the two hundred and seventeen year old building "Jorasanko Thakurbari" on 8th May by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India. This museum can be considered as the storehouse of memoirs of Rabindranath Tagore consisting of his original paintings, photographs and other valuable documents which our country is proud of.

Heritage Buildings

Jorashanko Thakurbari

The rambling Thakurbari was built in the 18th century by Dwarkanath Tagore, the grandfather of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. This is also the place where Rabindranath was born and passed away. The Thakurbari has mostly been converted into a museum now. The Rabindra Bharati University is also situated inside this complex.

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Marble Palace

Situated in Chorbagan, in an artistically laid-out garden, the place is full of rare collection of antiques of immense artistic and historical value. Wonderful curios, China and a couple of paintings by Rubens are only a few to mention of the spectrum of attractions of the palace. This is a must see for all visitors. The house is basically Neoclassical in style, while the plan with its open courtyards is largely traditional Bengali. Adjacent to the court-yard, 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. The house contains large quantities of Western sculpture and Victorian furniture, paintings by European and Indian artists, and other objects 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 collection of art objects is lavish, though random. Genuinely valuable pieces of art share space with a lot of kitschy art objects of little value.


Shovabazar Rajbari

No visit to Calcutta is complete without experiencing the Durga Puja at the Shovabazar Rajbari. The Rajbari's tradition of publicly celebrating the festival goes back to 1757, to the time of Raja Nobokishan Deb. The first puja was held to celebrate the victory of Lord Robert Clive in the Battle of Plassey.



Town Hall

This historical hall had been the venue of public meetings and social gatherings. The construction of the hall was completed in 1814 in doric style of architecture at a cost of Rs. 7lakhs by means of public lotteries.Like many other heritage buildings, the Town Hall has recently been restored to its original form. Closely, the Kolkata Museum too has been ‘done up' with the addition of a library and an Archive.



Central Municipal Building

In 1872, the Justice of Peace decided to construct a suitable Municipal Office at a cost of Rs. 1 lakh exclusive of the price of the land.The present site was acquired for Rs.65,000/-. The building was designed by Mr. Osmond of Mackintosh Burn & Co; the total cost of construction of 1.98 lakh was met partly from the legacy left by Marcus and partly by Govt. grant.

Netaji Bhawan

Located on 38/2, Elgin Rd., Kolkata. Originally it was the house of Subhash Chandra Bose (The Netaji). The display in the museum includes large collection of photographs, personal belonging and letter of Netaji's.


Other Heritage Buildings in Kolkata

There are currently over 800 heritage buildings in the city of Kolkata that have been listed by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.These are buildings and monuments of a historical nature, architectural and socio-cultural significance. A first list of 84 buildings of exceptional importance compiled by the Corporation is given.


Victoria Memorial

Built in Italian Renaissance cum Saracenic style, Victoria Memorial was planned by Lord Curzon and opened by the Prince of Wales in 1921. This British attempt at building a second Taj Mahal, is dedicated to Queen Victoria and houses a fantastic collection of rare memorabilia from Colonial days. A light and sound show recreates history every evening.

To know more about Victoria Memorial, click here.


Writer's Building

It was first built in 1770 and served as the headquarters of the "writers" or junior servants of the East India Company. Today, the refurbished Writers' Building is the seat of the West Bengal government secretariat. It's situated in BBD Bag - a city square named after three martyrs of the freedom movement.



The Maidan (literally open field) is the largest urban park in Kolkata. It is a vast stretch of field and home to numerous play grounds, including the famous cricketing venue Eden Gardens, several football stadiums, and Kolkata Race Course. Maidan is dotted with several statues and pieces of architecture, most notable being the Victoria Memorial. It is home to the oldest golf club outside Great Britain - the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. Due to the freshness and greenery it provides to the metropolis, it has been referred to as the "lungs of Kolkata". Maidan is a property of the Indian Army, and hosts the Eastern zone high command of the Indian Army in Fort William. The Maidan stretches from as far north as the Raj Bhavan building in Esplanade and as far south as the National Library on Belvedere Rd. in Alipore. The wide field stretches from the Hoogly River on the west to the Victoria Memorial on the east. It is a historical and cultural center of Kolkata as well as a center of leisure and entertainment for the people of Kolkata. Maidan is a must visit for any tourist as it takes one in a roller coaster ride from the glorious past of Kolkata to the modern and trendy city.


Eden Gardens (stadium)

Eden Gardens is a famous cricket ground in Kolkata. It is the home of the Bengal cricket team and the Indian Premier League's Kolkata Knight Riders, as well as being a Test and One Day International ground. It is the largest cricket stadium in India by seating capacity. It is widely acknowledged to be the most iconic cricket stadium in the country and one of the most iconic stadiums in the world.


Today home to the best of cricket matches and witness to so many past grand matches, Eden garden has admirable achievements and tales of legends being made. This place was started in the year 1864, and has the capacity to hold more than 90,000 people. Eden Gardens has hosted 35 Test matches in India. There have been many renovations and the place has been made comfortable for the spectators. Today with the best of facilities, surroundings and conditions, Eden Gardens proudly occupies the position of the second biggest stadium in the whole world. Situated in a busy location called the Binoy Badal Dinesh Bag or simply known as the BBD Bagh area of Kolkata, the stadium finds its position between the majestic State Secretariat and the High court. The Eden Gardens complex is also home to the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Indoor stadium.


Alipore Zoo

Calcutta's zoo, the oldest in India and set up over a sprawling area, was the creation of Sir Richard Carnac Temple, the then Governor of Bengal from 1874 to 1877. It was opened on Jan 1st 1876, by the Prince of Wales. The 16 hectare ground houses a wide species of animals & birds including the rare white Bengal Tiger. There is a separate reptile house and a children's zoo. Migratory birds, even from Siberia, find a safe roosting place in the zoo every winter. The aquarium in front of the Zoological Gardens contains sea-fishes of exquisite varieties.

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