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West Bengal – 10 perfect heritage places to take you back in time

Exploring Heritage Sites in an ancient country like India is a great way to understand and enjoy the country. Every state in India has something to offer by truckloads. West Bengal is one such state that stands tall in terms of historic, cultural, educational, and traditional attractions.

So, if you are looking for an exciting and memorable family vacation, consider exploring the classic Indian heritage places in West Bengal. This region of India is full of fascinating sights to behold, with everything from colonial cafes and paddle boats to ancient temples and heritage sites to bustling city streets – making it a perfect destination for a diverse range of travelers.

From taking part in traditional activities like festivals to local food to taking a ride on hand-painted rickshaws, to sampling local flavours and immersing yourself in local culture, there are countless ways for the whole family to get an unforgettable experience here!

We bring you ten such classic Indian heritage places in West Bengal that transport you back in time.

THE BENGAL PADDLE

If you want an experience with a difference, you should visit the Bengal Paddle. It happens to be India’s longest surviving paddle steamer. This steamer, built in 1945, floats down Kolkata’s Hooghly river. It offers an experience of the river cruise that is incomparable. Most would not know that it was lying wasted at the Kidderpore Docks before being brought back to life & the old glory by The Barge Company. If cruising a mighty river is of interest, this paddle would be an option to witness the colonial past.

West Bengal - Bengal Paddle
West Bengal – Bengal Paddle

With around 500 people on board, the boat is a perfect option to see the river at its mightiest best. A unique feature like no other would be the one & only Riverine Museum curated in the steamer’s former broiler room. Witness the history of not just the river but also the various paddle steamers that cruised on it. With the steamer restored, you can check the top, middle & lower deck. It has an olden-time luxury tailored specially for visitors. Of course, there are indoor & outdoor F&B zones. They offer world cuisines for visitors to enjoy while absorbing the river’s beauty.

THE BHAWANIPUR HOUSE

If you want something quaint to see and have food while visiting West Bengal, you can visit The Bhawanipur House. This heritage bungalow has become a café that takes you back to the bygone era of the Raj.

The Bhawanipur House exhibits the age-old architecture and aura to let aficionados unwind for hours over the velvety textured teas, choicest coffees, and a wide menu of sumptuous savories and platters to decide from. 

West Bengal -  The Bhawanipur House
West Bengal – The Bhawanipur House

A window into the soul of the legendary city, the cafe has a classic colonial construction, contemporized with a curated design philosophy that induces visitors to spend hours with their friends, both old and new, over steaming cups of tea.

Telling you the tales of Calcutta’s heritage and stories of the past are The Bhawanipur House’s long-standing solid frames and walls that are typical of that period. Its state-of-the-art kitchen and elegant dining experience set the café truly apart as one-of-its-kind throughout the city.

Set to welcome patrons across ages with a diverse palate, The Bhawanipur House offers a plethora of dishes to choose from, be it the traditional Bengali or Continental, Oriental, or Pan-Asian, the warm, homely café has everything that you longed for.  

SHANTI NIKETAN

If you are in West Bengal, it is natural to go & visit the very popular and prominent Shanti Niketan. It is in West Bengal’s Birbhum district. This beautifully peaceful place is associated with the globally known Vishwa Bharati University, founded by revered Guru Rabindranath Tagore in 1921.

 West Bengal - Shanti Niketan
West Bengal – Shanti Niketan

It is a unique place for a university since classes happen out in the open. The university is an amalgamation of the education system that combines the best of the east and the west. The best part is the verdant surroundings that hone the educational spirit. If visiting, explore the vast premises. Have discussions with those living in the university. You will also find a mine of beautiful art created by the honourable Gurudev and other celebrated artists. 

Shanti Niketan in West Bengal has a long and rich history. Founded by Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize-winning poet, philosopher and composer who was born in Kolkata (Calcutta), the area of Shanti Niketan has served as a spiritual retreat for Tagore, as well as a center for education and literature.

Shanti Niketan has become an important tourist destination for those wishing to explore India’s rich cultural heritage. Visitors to the area can take part in various activities such as attending lectures at the Visva-Bharati University, exploring the Tagore museum, visiting nearby temples and monasteries, as well as taking a tour of Rabindranath Tagore’s house.

In recent years, Shanti Niketan has become increasingly popular with travelers from all corners of the globe. The area is full of historical and cultural sites, with a variety of things to do for visitors including trekking trips in the nearby Himalayan mountains, bird-watching excursions, and traditional Bengali dance performances. Shanti Niketan also offers many excellent restaurants serving authentic Indian cuisine and vibrant markets with colorful items to buy.

CHAMKATI MASJID CHIKA MOSQUE

West Bengal -  Chamkati Masjid Chika Mosque
West Bengal – Chamkati Masjid Chika Mosque

If you are on a spiritual journey, it would be good to visit the Chamkati Masjid. This mosque, located near Kolkata, is one of the oldest and most respected Islamic holy places in India. Not only is this mosque a place of pilgrimage for people hoping to find inner peace and spiritual insight but it’s also an incredible example of cultural heritage that has been passed down over generations. Whether you’re bringing your family here on vacation or just visiting to learn more about the history and architecture of this stunning religious building, it promises a memorable experience for all ages.

Built by Sultan Yusuf Shah in 1475, the Chika Mosque takes its name from the bats that would live here. Chika literally means bats in Hindi. While the striking architecture leaves visitors & worshippers mesmerised, the Arabic carvings found here are noticeable. The walls of the mosque are covered with intricate sandstone carvings depicting Islamic motifs, floral designs, and calligraphy.

Chika Mosque in West Bengal history carries a rich legacy. The structure of the mosque is unique with its central dome, representing the architectural style of Bengal Sultanate period. The Chika Mosque has been an important pilgrimage centre for Muslims from West Bengal since its inception. People from all over the state visit this place to offer prayers.

THE RAJBARI BAWALI

There are quite a few sites around West Bengal’s capital Kolkata. One of them happens to be Rajbari Bawali. It is situated around an hour and a half away from the city. It is another heritage home that is now a beautiful luxurious hotel and is one of the bests. It is a picture-perfect property that speaks of the graceful lavish lifestyle of the times of the Zamindars living in Bengal. You will notice it once you arrive here on the 4-acre property.

West Bengal - Rajbari Bawali
West Bengal – Rajbari Bawali

The grand palace has become an important historical landmark and popular tourist destination due to its unique architecture and deep cultural significance. Built by the Maharajas of Nadia district in the 18th century, it is one of the finest specimens of Rajput-Mughal architecture in the region.

The palace is renowned for its intricate stonework, courtyards, and decorated doorways. It also houses a variety of artifacts from the royal family, including weapons and jewelry. The palace grounds feature lush gardens, pavilions and lotus ponds that offer visitors a chance to soak up the grandeur of this magnificent monument.

The Rajbari Bawali is a must-visit for those who appreciate history and culture. Its rich past and unique beauty make it an ideal spot for sightseeing, photography, and simply relaxing in tranquil surroundings. Visitors can also explore the surrounding villages to get a better understanding of rural life in West Bengal.

Stroll around to seep in the beautiful sights and sounds of the place. The rooms inside the Rajbari Bawali still have the touch of luxury and comfort that makes you take you back into history. The finishing touch comes from the excellent food and drinks in the Piano Room.

NANDADULA TEMPLE

West Bengal - Nandadula Temple
West Bengal – Nandadula Temple

Those looking for some religious experience can opt to visit the Nandadula Temple. It is a Hindu temple devoted to Lord Vishnu. Situated in West Bengal’s Chandannagar, it owes its creation, some say to the king of the area – Raja Nandadula.

However, it appears that the temple was built in 1740 by Sri Indra Narayan Choudhury. The temple showcases one of the finest examples of ‘do chala’ or double-sloped roof temple of Bengal temple architecture.

Visitors to this temple can take part in rituals like puja (worship), havan (fire sacrifice) and homa (medicinal plant offerings). They can also witness fascinating myths, legends, and folk tales that are associated with this temple.

Nandadula Temple is a great place to learn about the history, culture, and traditions of West Bengal. The temple complex is open daily from morning till evening, A crowd of pilgrims visits this sacred place each year. It will also attract those looking for some spiritual awakening.

RASMANCHA

Rasmancha is another temple that attracts devotees in large numbers. Built-in Bishnupur in 1600 AD by King Hambhir, it was a place specially kept to showcase the local idols for public viewing in the ‘Ras Festival’. I

    West Bengal -  Rasmancha
West Bengal – Rasmancha

It is on a unique squarish raised pedestal with a pyramid-shaped megastructure. It is a stunning architecture with the upper part constructed from bricks. The base is from laterite stone. What you witness is an upper section looking like a pyramid. The middle section looks like the Bengali huts around. The lower area has been inspired by the Islamic art style.

VICTORIA MEMORIAL

Every postcard of Kolkata and West Bengal starts with a picture of the grand white marble structure of the Victoria Memorial. It is situated on a huge land complete with well-maintained gardens and landscaping. The large marble building built between 1906 and 1921 was dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and is now a museum and tourist destination under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture.

   West Bengal -  Victoria Memorial
West Bengal – Victoria Memorial

It was a concept of the then-viceroy Lord Curzon. It was brought to actuality by Sir William Emerson, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The palace created from white Makrana marble gives the place pristine touch.

The memorial lies on the Maidan (grounds) by the bank of the Hooghly River, near Jawaharlal Nehru Road and was built in Italian Renaissance-style architecture. It covers an area of 64 acres and is surrounded by lush green lawns. It houses a museum, which is a treasure trove of coins, maps, paintings, and more. It includes numerous paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts related to the history of British India.

The main attraction at the Victoria Memorial is its grand dome, which measures 190 feet in diameter and rises to a height of 184 feet from the ground. The memorial also boasts a library with over 2.5 lakh books and manuscripts, an art gallery that exhibits the works of many famous artists, and a theatre for screening documentaries related to Indian history.

The Victoria Memorial also serves as a venue for lectures, seminars, and other educational activities related to the rich cultural heritage of India.

BELUR MATH

The spiritual-natured can head to the famous Belur Math. It is the centre of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. The temple in Math is the heart & soul of the Ramakrishna movement.

West Bengal -   Belur Math
West Bengal – Belur Math

The Math got founded by Swami Vivekananda and is on the banks of the Hooghly. The architecture is very noteworthy and has taken inspiration from all religions. A railway station began here in 2003.

Its history and architecture, along with its significance for the Hindu faith, attract devotees from throughout India and the world.

The temple complex is composed of three white marble temples in a row. The first temple is dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna, decorated with intricate carvings depicting scenes from his life. The second temple is dedicated to his wife Sarada Devi and the third temple is dedicated to Swami Vivekananda. The temples are surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens, with a large pond in the centre, which adds to its serene atmosphere.

Belur Math also houses several other museums, galleries, and libraries that serve as repositories of spiritual knowledge. Every year on 12th January (the anniversary of Ramakrishna’s passing) and on 19th March (the anniversary of Sarada Devi’s passing), thousands of devotees visit the temple complex to perform the pilgrimage.

A noteworthy feature of Belur Math is its propagation of Vedanta philosophy, which focuses on promoting peace and harmony among all religions.

JORASANKO THAKUR BARI

West Bengal -   Jorasanko Thakur Bari
West Bengal – Jorasanko Thakur Bari

Another attraction in Kolkata connected to the Tagore family is the Jorasanko Thakur Bari. Visitors flock to the ancestral home of a culturally important Bengali family. Rabindranath Tagore was born in this beautiful mansion. This stunning heritage mansion was also the home of Gaganendranath & Abanindranath Tagore, who founded the prominent Bengal School of Art.

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