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In the eastern region of India, the state of West Bengal is known for its unique Bengali folk music, cuisine, architectural sights, and natural scenic beauty. Stretching from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south, it is also famous for its annual Durga Puja, terracotta temples and sacred destinations. After the lockdown ends, we suggest you pack your bags and head to this state for a journey that will help you connect with your inner self. By Upasana Singh

1. Ramakrishna Belur Math

An hour’s drive away from Kolkata, Belur Math is the place where Swami Vivekananda, the foremost disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, lived the last years of his life. Located on the west bank of Hooghly River, the temple represents the heart of the Ramakrishna Movement. With its marvellous architecture that fuses Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist art motifs as a symbol of unity, it attracts thousands of pilgrims all year round. Besides its spiritual values, the campus of Belur Math also houses a museum that contains articles connected with the history of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.

Getting There

One can travel by air, train, road, or take a ferry service to the Math that includes temples dedicated to Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda, in which their relics are enshrined.

While there are several budget hotels near the site, we would recommend you to stay at a boutique guest house such as the Calcutta Bungalow to add to your authentic Bengali experience. The annual celebrations of Kumari Puja and Durga Puja are a must-see at Belur Math.

2. Old Ghoom Monastery

 

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Yiga Choeling, popularly known as the Old Ghoom Monastery is one of the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Often visited by locals, it takes about 30 minutes to reach the monastery by car from the Darjeeling town centre. From India’s highest railway station — Ghoom — it is about a 10-12 minutes’ walk that is worth taking as it offers some of the most picturesque views of the green hills.

Whilst the main attraction of the monastery is a 15-feet statue of the Maitreya Buddha, it also contains a large collection of Buddha’s manuscripts including the 108-volumes Kangyur— the Tibetan Buddhist Gospel. This is the perfect destination for those who love to meditate and achieve inner peace.

One of the best properties to stay at is Sterling Darjeeling that is located within walking distance from the Ghoom Monastery. With no entry fees, visitors can see this spiritual adobe at any time of the week from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm.

3. Kalighat Kali Temple

 

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Dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, the Kalighat Kali temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas, where the various parts of Sati’s body are said to have fallen during Shiva’s Rudra Tandava (a divine dance performed by the Hindu god). Although the history of the temple dates back to the 15th century, it is only about 200 years old in its present form. The Kali idol in the temple is also unique as it does not follow the pattern of other Kali images in Bengal.

Getting There

Situated in south Kolkata, you can visit this popular temple via the local metro or a taxi. The opening hours are 05:00 am to 02:00 pm and 05:00 pm to 10:30 pm, all days of the week. If you take part in the temple festivities during the Kali Puja that is celebrated in October, the world-class Taj Bengal is the place for you to relax and unwind after.

4. Nakhoda Mosque

 

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This is the principle and the largest mosque in central Kolkata’s Burrabazar business district. Built in 1926, around 10,000 devotees can perform their prayers at the same time in this splendid mosque. The entrance of the mosque is an ersatz of the Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri. And with three domes and two minarets which are 151-feet high, this place of worship is a sight to behold. Open from 06:00 am to 08:00 pm, attar (sweet fragrant water) is one of the delicacies of the mosque that is given outside every day, except on Sundays.

Getting There

Travelling by road, you can make your way to Jacquaria Street, close to the junction of Chitpur Road and Mahatma Gandhi Road, where the mosque is located. If you wish to stay in the city, the top-rated Lalit Great Eastern is one of the best luxury hotels near the site.

5. St Paul’s Cathedral

 

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Well-known for its Gothic architecture, St Paul’s Cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Calcutta and is the first Episcopal Church in Asia. It was the first cathedral that was built in the overseas territory of the British Empire in 1847 and is currently the largest cathedral in Kolkata. With its beautiful interiors carved with episodes of the life of St Paul, the cathedral displays many plastic art forms and memorabilia. The central tower inspired by the Bell Harry tower of Canterbury Cathedral in England, and the magnificent edifice that stands tall in all its white glory is so surreal in appearance. The grand organ of the church with its 41 stops, made by Henry Willis and Sons of London is also still in use.

Hop on a yellow cab or take the metro ride till Rabindra Sadan to visit the church. Housing tranquillity in every nook and corner, service is held regularly. Christmas is a special occasion when people in large numbers gather to participate in the festivities.

Getting There

Whilst the Oberoi Grand is our top luxury pick to stay near the church, there are several homey bed and breakfasts such as the Central Bed & Breakfast that is only 500 m away from St Paul’s Cathedral.

Related: Find Inner Peace By Following This Buddhist Circuit In India After The Lockdown