Howrah - A tete a tete with the city :
Originally known as : Buttor, Bator, Haora
Location : Eastern part of India, West Bengal, Howrah district
Founded in : 5 centuries back
Best time to visit : September to April
Local Transport : Private taxis, cars, buses, rickshaws.
Places to see : Howrah Bridge, Belur Math, and Botanical Gardens
Souvenirs : Handloom materials, terracotta articles
Howrah - The Tale of the city :
Howrah district has a tale to relate which is around 5 centuries old. It was earlier the great Bhurshut kingdom. Ceasare de Federici a Venetian explorer in his travelogue has mentioned about Buttor which was a dock used for loading and unloading stuff. It is very resemblant of present day Howrah. Even the great Mansamangal poem in Bengali which Bipradas Pipilai has written speaks about Bator. In the year 1713, the British and the Mughals had a treaty by which five villages on the western bank of the River Hooghly and thirty three villages on the eastern side were settled. One of the western bank villages was Bator or Howrah of today. The western bank never went to the British instead came under the zamindari of Burdwan or Muhammad Aminpur. Then the Battle of Plassey happened after which Howrah which was under Burdwan was controlled by the East India Company. Till 1843, Howrah and Hooghly district were all together. In 1854, the Howrah Railway Terminus came into being. Then there were flour mills, jute mills which came here. By the year 1914, Howrah was in great demand and got connected to all the cities.
Howrah - Down the Ages :
Today Howrah, or Haora as it is known, is a great industrial place. It is a municipal corporation and is also the headquarters of the same district. Howrah is also the main headquarters of Howrah Sadar division. Down the ages, Howrah is regarded as the twin city of the metropolis of Kolkata. The two cities are connected by the Rabindra Setu or the famous Howrah Bridge, the Vidyasagar Setu or the second Hooghly Bridge, the Vivekananda Setu or the Bally Bridge and the Nivedita Setu or the Second Vivekananda Setu. The station in the district Howrah is the main railway station for the Eastern Railway and also the South Eastern Railway.
The name came from the word Haor - Bengali word for a wetland, which is typically a depression where water and mud accumulates. Haora was used mostly by the eastern part of Bengal which is today Bangladesh than the western part.
Howrah - A Rendezvous :
The name Howrah comes from the Bengali term for a wetland, Haor. This district is a low lying area with a lot of accumulation of mud and water. Today this place has a literacy of 77% which surpasses 59% which is the national literacy average. The population is around 84,000 and today the city is flourishing with a lot of industrial and agricultural activity. Howrah is a city that brings Kolkata and culture together. Thus Howrah, the headquarters of the Howrah district, holds a very important place in the history of West Bengal. When one comes here, the simplicity of the people with the tradition and culture intact lures the tourist.
Howrah - Travel kitty :
West Bengal is famous for the best kind of handloom materials. The local shops here that vend all kinds of stuff are famous for calling out to the “didis” or “mashima” or “boudis” as the women here are referred as per age. Didis are young girls, mashima meaning aunty is a middle aged lady and boudi is for the married women. Terracotta items and clay idols are famous here. One also gets the very popular Pola bangle and also the shell bangles. Howrah is famous for the roadside food like the Puchka, jhal mudi etc. These all form a major source of travel kitty.
Howrah - Joie de vivre in the city :
With a great history to boast of, Howrah hold a great position in the history of West Bengal. The joie de vivre here isto understand that even simple places with simple people could be great sources of attraction for tourists. A great way to enjoy this city is to just wear a local handloom kurta and pyjama which is the common dress of the people here and have a long shoulder bag. A person coming here gets to see the following :
Howrah Bridge : A trip to West Bengal would be incomplete without the famed Howrah Bridge which is the prime attraction of any person coming here. This suspension bridge is actually a balanced cantilever and has a central span of 1500 ft between the two main towers. It is today maintained well by the Kolkata Port Trust. This structural marvel is today India’s biggest bridge and is also the busiest bridge in the entire world. It has the longest single span and is the third longest cantilever bridge in the world. History says that in the 17th century, Kolkata was found by the British. They combined three villages, Sutanati, Gobindapur and Kalikata. These villages lay on the other side of the River Hooghly. Sir Bradford Leslie built a floating bridge to connect these three villages with Howrah on the other side. This is how the bridge came into being. It looks like a fantasy in the night with the illumination and the small vehicles rolling in. It has around 1, 50000 vehicles and 4, 00,000 pedestrians on it every day.
Belur Math : this is a great religious monument in memory of Ramakrishna Paramahansa. It was started by his disciples. The Math as it is called was in a place called Baranagar before. Then Swami Vivekananda brought the monastery to Belur in 1899. Situated on the banks of the River Hooghly, this math exudes a lot of peace and is a great religious centre. The magnificent architecture of this structure is a great tourist attraction.
Botanical Gardens : This huge green verdant expanse in Howrah is a world famous tourist spot. Known by the name Royal Botanical Gardens before, today this place is world famous for the great Banyan tree. This has the largest canopy across the world. The tree is around 250years old and measures around 51feet in thickness and is around 257 feet in diameter. The aerial roots of this tree are found scattered all over the garden. It is unbelievably large and one can’t figure where it begins and where it ends. This huge garden has the best kind of flora and these plants aren’t seen anywhere else in the world. There is an artificial lake which shelters a lot of marine species of different types. It was established in the year 1876 by the British and is located at Shibpur.
Howrah Railway Station : Anyone who comes to Howrah or Bator would not forget the lovely Howrah Railway Station. It has the longest platforms in the world. The facilities available are also nice and the history is that in 1854, this station started and the first train went to Pandua. This is the first railway station of Eastern India. There are two terminals here - the old and the new. The new terminal has trains leaving to the rest of India and the old terminal connects to the east and the south east part of India.
Ramrajtala Rama Temple : This is a place where Lord Rama is worshipped for as long as four months. The worship starts from Rama navami. There is also a big fair here annually. Pilgrims come here to worship during this time.
Santragachi Jheel : This is a lovely beautiful lake that is a great migratory spot for birds. The most common bird found here is the Lesser Whistling Duck.
Gadiara : this is a small village which is today a great tourist attraction for it is the meeting point of the River Damodar and the River Roopnarayan and the River Hooghly. It is a popular picnic spot and tourists like to come here and relax.
Mornington Fort : One can see the Fort here which was built by Lord Clive and there is a lighthouse also which a popular attraction is. Built at the meeting place of the Rupnarayan River and the Bhagirathi River it was built to protect from the ships.
Thus with such a great historical past, the city of Howrah is a beautiful city to visit.
As one leaves this place he thinks “If wishes were horses, I would have climbed the Howrah Bridge.”