Kolkata’s twin city and also the second largest city of West Bengal, Howrah is one of the most preferred tourist destination. The history of this city dates back to almost 500 years ago. Also an industrial city, plan a trip to this place for your next vacation. There are many places of attraction that can explore in Howrah. Of all the sightseeing attractions, one of the most significant sightseeing spot is the Howrah Bridge that is a cantilever bridge. It is one of a kind and is also the sixth largest bridge in the whole world. It is 2150 feet in length with a suspending span that right above the Hooghly River. The bridge was commissioned in 1943 and was initially called as the New Howrah Bridge since it had replaced the pontoon bridge. It links two cities- both Kolkata and Howrah. In 1965, it was given another name called Rabindra Setu and this name was kept in honor of the renowned Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. But today it is popularly known as the Howrah Bridge. On your visit to West Bengal, this is one attraction that you must definitely not avoid visiting. It is no less than a magical wonder that the bridge stands with such grandeur.
The Howrah Bridge is a significant landmark of Kolkata. There are a total of four bridges namely- Vidysagar Setu bridge, Vivekananda Setu and the Nivedita Setu bridge that was built recently. It is said that the bridge carries traffic of 100,000 vehicles and 150,000 pedestrians. When this bridge was first constructed is was the third longest cantilever bridge and now it stands in the sixth position.
It serves as an ideal gateway to Kolkata and connects it to the famous Howrah station. In 1946, in a census carried out, it said that the bridge saw a daily traffic of 27400 vehicles and 12100 pedestrians. In fact ages ago the bridge had also carried trams that left from Howrah station terminus. However, it seemed like the bridge could not take the weight of the heavy weight and hence running trams on the bridge was discontinued. Currently, the bridge can bear the weight of 60,000 vehicles only but it still carried almost 90000 vehicles daily. The bridge also has a separate foot path for pedestrians to walk.
The maintenance of the Howrah Bridge is with the Kolkata Port Trust. The interesting and surprising fact about this bridge is that, it has suffered a lot of damage. And the damage is not only because of trams plying heavy load, but it is also because of human spit and bird excreta. Unbelievable, right? The corrosion on the bridge is because of prolonged chemical reaction that has occurred because of continuous bird droppings. The Kolkata Port Trust has ensured that they appoint contractors to clean up the mess regularly and the expense incurred to do this is 500,000. In 2004, the bridge saw a makeover and it was painted entirely under an expense of a whopping 6.5 million. They also covered the pillars at the base of the bridge with fiberglass so that human spit does not corrode them. The Kolkata Port Trust has also kept cameras under the bridge so that they track the movements of boats in the river and a high tech surveillance camera has been fixed to keep a check on the 705 mt long structure of the bridge. This helps in maintaining the bridge and the trust had so far done a good job. All the measures were undertaken in response to the many complaints received. This bridge has been seen in many movies and this is obviously because of its architecture and also the many interesting facts associated with it. When you visit the Howrah Bridge, you could also consider visit other attractions that are locate closely to this bridge. We have listed down some if the attractions that you must visit on your visit to Howrah.
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Sightseeing attractions near Howrah Bridge:
This is another popular bridge that you must visit on your trip. Vidyasagar Setu that is also known as the second Hooghly bridge is also built over the Hooghly river like the Howrah bridge. It is 822 long and it is also the one of the longest cable bridge that has been built in the country and in Asia it is also one of the longest bridges. The Vidyasagar Setu has been named after Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who was also a reformer in the 19th century and it cost 3.88 billion exact to build this bridge. The beautiful Vidyasagar Setu Bridge that you see today is thanks to the efforts put in by both public and private sectors that was managed by the HRBC- Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners. This bridge was once under a routine of toll collection done by the HRBC and at that time the total traffic numbers recorded were 28000 vehicles. But in 2002, the numbers fell to 30000 and this happened when the whole management of toll collection was given to a private firm. Since this change happened, the number of vehicles running on the bridge increased to 45000 in 2008 which was a minimum number and then it finally reached a maximum of 61000 vehicles. The reason why the numbers were less initially, as per many news reports was that corruption carried out by HRBC. They were criticized a lot for bringing loss of revenue and also for corruption.
There is an interesting story that says how this bridge came into existence. It is said that after Indi ago independence in 1947, the population of this nation along with commercial activities grew on a large scale. And in those times this bridge was the only link between Kolkata and Howrah because of which it saw a lot of traffic causing congestion. This is when the idea of building a new bridge across the Hooghly River occurred. It would also serve as a connection to other big cities of the country like Mumbai, Chennai and even Delhi. The Vidyasagar Setu Bridge took more than 22 years to be finally completed and the foundation stone of the same is believed to have been laid down by the Indira Gandhi in 1972 on May 20. The bridge was designed by Schlaich Bergermann & Partner and was later supervised by Bharat Bhari Udyog Nigam Limited and also Freeman Fox & Partners. You must visit this bridge to marvel at the architectural beauty and it looks even better at night then the bridge is lit up. The landscapes look stunning with bridge lit up. The longest cable stayed bridge in the country; you must visit the Vidyasagar Setu Bridge for must when in Kolkata. It will take approximately 26 minutes to reach this bridge from Howrah Bridge.
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The Belur Math is one of the biggest temples of the country and it is situated on the west banks of Hooghly River in Belur. This is one attraction that you must definitely not miss out on visiting after you have visited both the beautiful bridges. Located at a distance of just 30 minutes from the above mentioned attractions, the Belur Math has temples that were built in dedication to Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi and also Swami Vivekananda. Spread across 40 acres of land you will also find a museum inside the premises that has articles written about the Ramakrishna Math and Mission and its history. This math is also one of the biggest attraction for tourists from all over and also a pilgrimage spot for devotees. India’s former president Abdul Kalam had also described Belur Math to be a place of heritage and national importance. It serves as the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission which was an institution founded by Swami Vivekananda who was also Ramakrishna’s most important and revered disciple. The temple is another famous and one of the most significant institutions in the state.
One of the many reasons why you must visit the Belur Math is because of its architecture that is said to fuse motifs of all faiths- Hindu, Christian and also Islam. This is to symbolize religious unity and if you notice, the Ramakrishna Math looks different from every angle. From one side it looks like a church, while from a different angle it looks like a mosque and a temple from another side. Such is the beauty of this institution that has been built with so much thought and with an intention of spreading a good message of unity through the many symbols and their architectural steel.
It is also true that Sarada Devu and Swami Vivekananad who were the disciples of Ramakrishna, along with other disciples have visited the math and dtayed here for quite some time. In fact it was here that Swami Vivekananad attained mahasamadhi and the room till this very date has been secured and preserved. Swami Vivekananda had founded this monastery with an aim of training young men who wished to become sansyais of this institution.
Two of the most important festivals that are celebrated with much pomp and joy in Belur Math are Durga Puja and Kumari Puja. Once you enter the premises, the lush greenery and lawns and trees will give you a feeling of peace. Even non- believers are bound feel peaceful ad soulful here. The temple of Ramakrishna has a Buddhist style architecture, where as the windows and balconies that are inside the temple look like an architecture inspired form the Rajput and Islamic style. You will also find a dome at the centre that is European architecture and the ground is in the shape of a cross. The temple stands tall at 112 feet and is built of chunar stone. If you observe, you will also find a replica of a lingam. Any architecture buff is sure to be stunned with the diverse styles used here. The decorations have been done keeping the Meenakshi Temple, Tamil Nadu in mind.
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Howrah Railway Station
Now railway stations may not necessarily be a place of interest for many. But in this case it should be since the Howrah Railway bridge is the largest and also the oldest railway complex in the whole of India. The railway junction was inaugurated in 1854 and the first train that started from here was a train to Pandua. In fact it is also the very first railway station which started its operations in the eastern part of India. The station also has accommodation options for travelers and tourists. One of the busiest railway stations, you must be here only for its history, unless you are traveling by train.
Where to stay:
A visit to Howrah Bridge and the nearby attractions can be possible only when you have a comfortable stay in a hotel that is located close to all the sightseeing spots. Because Howrah Bridge is located in Howrah and links the city of Kolkata, it is recommended that you look for stay options in these cities. We have listed down some of the best stay options for you that are located close to the places of interest so that you can also save some time on traveling within the city.
Floatel(033 2213 7777, Tariff- Rs 5200 approx) like the name suggests literally floats on the Hooghly river. This is a hotel with modern amenities and facilities provided. Situated at 2 km from Howrah Bridge, this hotel has luxury suites and also standard rooms. The views form the rooms are breathtaking. You also get a complimentary breakfast and with a 24 hour open restaurant and bar, your stay is going to be a fulfilling one. They also have a separate room where you can exercise too.
The Taj Bengal (033 2223 3939, Tariff- Rs 9200) is a luxury hotel and if you can afford to stay here, this will be one of your best choices. This hotel is everything royal with one of the best and luxurious services. Cofeemaking machines, mini bars, yoga mats, spacious and neatly done rooms, club lounge and also butler services- they have it all. They also have suites of different types and the most luxurious one has a terrace with a huge living area and some really beautiful artworks. The Taj Bengal has a whopping eight restaurants that serve cuisines like Mediterranean, Chinese and also India. And for some much needed rejuvenation they also have a spa.
Where to Eat:
If you want to relish some really tasty food when you on an exploring spree in Kolkata, you must definitely visit these restaurants. There are many options of eating out and we have listed down few for you.
The Thakur Mahal Restaurant is where you should be if you want to eat vegetarian food. They serve one of the best Marwari foods and this restaurant is located at 0.5 km from Howrah Bridge. The services are prompt and the prices are pocket friendly. Good food at cheap prices is there anything more that you can ask for.
Another famous eating out joint is the Tewari Brothers that is popular for Bengali sweets. When in Kolkata, the one thing that nobody should ever miss is Bengali cuisine. So visit this restaurant for the delicious Bengali sondesh and Rosogulla that they serve. You could also try their samosas and kachoris apart from the sweets. Located in Bora Bazar, go there for a quick bite. The prices are very pocket friendly and you can relish on too many sweets and snacks without having to burn a hole in your pocket. You have to cross the Howrah Bridge to reach this joint.
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