The Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) 2016 is the first major literary initiative of the year. Expect an unusual array of new literary experiences! The seventh edition from 14-17 January 2016, with signature events at the city’s magnificent heritage sites and the iconic Oxford Bookstore Kolkata.
The prelude to the literary meet started with an unique Literary Heritage walk on 10th January, 2016 by Streets of Calcutta lead by noted Heritage Blogger and Wiki Expert Mr. Rangan Datta. What better place could be than College Street to start to begin the walk. Around 65 participants gathered in front of the iconic Coffee House at College Street. The scheduled time for meet-up was at 9:00 am on 10th January’16, but participants started gathering from 8:30 AM onwards. We covered the following spots within a time frame of around 3 hours and the team was dispersed at Swami Vivekananda’s house (now converted into a museum) with an AV show on the great personality. The walk ended with a Sweet savory session led by noted Food Blogger Indrajit Lahiri at “Girish Chandra Dey & Nakur Chandra Nandy” (popularly known as Nakur Sweet Shop).
Let’s go through the highlights of the walk:
The walk started on 9:30 am from in front of the iconic College Street Coffee House. Housed in the historic Albert Hall, the coffee house started operation only in 1942.
We walked passed the closed book stores (it was a Sunday) and made our way to the gates of the Sanskrit College.
The College was founded in 1842 and reached its pinnacle of glory under the principleship of Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.
The college houses two interesting museums named after Vidyasagar and Haraprasad Shastri, but they were both closed on Sunday and we were restricted to only the gates of the Sanskrit College.
After Sanskrit College we turned right into the Bankim Chatterjee Street and the corner was the University Institute.
Next was the Jahan Khan Mosque, named after the man who played a leading role in the spread of Islam in Bengal.
Next to the Jahan Khan Mosque is the house numbered 6 Bamkin Chandra Street (formerly 6 College Square) housing offices of a number of publishing house.
It was at this house the famous freedom fighter Aurobindo Ghosh spend a fee days after his release from prison till his departure to Chandannagar in 1910.
Next to the house is Bengal Theosophical Society, whose motto says “There is no religion higher than truth.”
The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 in New York due to the initiative of Russian born lady Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.
Later it moved to India and had a branch in Madras (Chennai). The Calcutta (Kolkata) branch was opened in 1882.
Immediately next door is the Mahabodhi Society, which was founded in 1911 by the Ceylonese Buddhist monk Anagarika Dharmapala.
Incidentally Anagarika Dharmapala was a co – participant of Swami Vivekananda at the parliament of World Religion in Chicago in 1893.
The building houses the head quarters of the society along with a Buddhist Temple on the top floor.
There is no entry restriction and the temple houses giant statues of Buddha and the walls and the ceiling have frescoes in bright colours depicting the life of Lord Buddha.
Few steps away is the Baptist Mission Church, which follows the Saracenic Style (a mix between Islamic and European architecture) of architecture.
Thus a Mosque, Buddhist Temple, Church along with the Theosophical Society creates an interesting mix of religion and philosophies at the eastern end of College Square.
The Memorial of the 49th Bengali Regiment stands at the eastern entrance of the College Square.
The memorial erected in 1924 has the names of the fallen soldiers of the 49th Bengali Regiment, who fought for the British army during the great war of 1914 – 19, later known as the First World War.
Next to the memorial is the statue of Anagarika Dharmapala. But the greatest attraction in college Square is probably the grave of David Hare, the noted educationist.
Back to College Street we made our way past the Calcutta University and Presidency College, on the left and Hindu School on the right.
At the entrance of the Presidency University (Formerly Presidency College), on the walls of the guard’s room stands a plaque in memory of Ram Eqbal Singh, durwan of the college, who died defending the college from rioters in 1926.
At the crossing of the College Street and M G Road stands the statue of Kristodas Pal, an eminent journalist, who was awarded the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.).
Sadly his statue is perennially covered with festoons and banners of book stores.
Next we headed northwards along the Bidhan Sarani (Cornwallis Street) and made our way past the College Street Market.
The old market is demolished and a new market is coming up in the place. The elaborately decorated entrance gate is kept intact because of its heritage status.
We made our way past the Sadharon Bramho Samaj Building and headed for the Vivekanada Road.
The walk ended with a tour of the Vivekanda Museum, which is housed inside his ancestral home.
The newly constructed museum has different galleries showcasing the life, teaching and philosophy of Swami Vivekanada.
The museum also runs a audio visual showing the details of the constructing of the museum.
Wonderful moments from the walk!