Kolkata and its street markets
Kolkata has a dark history from the days of it’s formation by the British East India company in the late 1600s to the early Bengal insurrections such as the Black Hole of Calcutta and the India freedom movement of Gandhi. The very essence of India’s nationhood stems from Kolkata’s intellectual class and their sense of independence. It was this fierce independence that led the British to move the capital from Kolkata to Delhi in 1911.
Modern-day Kolkata is a vibrant and confident city. The Hooghly River, a tributary of the massive Ganges River, is the sacred heart of the city with early morning offerings to Shiva along the banks of the Ghats that were built by well off Kolkata businessmen as gifts to the people of Kolkata. Whilst the cremation of the dead is now forbidden along the banks of the Hooghly, the river is still revered as the Ganga, the giver of life and the holiest river in all of India.
Adjacent to the Hooghly ghats is the Kolkata flower markets. A wild explosion of yellow and orange marigold wreaths, red roses and kum kums create a spectacular chorus of colour matched only by the wild cacophony of merchants bidding against one another. The massive bunches of flowers are delivered chaotically on the backs of men and women to be traded three times a day to ensure freshness and to keep up with the cities insatiable demand from the hundreds of Hindi, Buddhist and Jain temples. These should all be added to your Kolkata trip.
Further up from the flower markets are the Kolkata potters markets. They were in a lull period during our visit which was after the festival season when the potters are in full swing making life-size clay replicas of the Ganesh, Shiva, Krishna and Vishnu for street parades, festival ceremonies and offerings down at the riverside.
The artisans have specialised roles from forming the underlying base of the figure in weaved bamboo, through to the rough casting in cow dung to the final fine clay layers where detail is added to the deities before they are brightly painted, ready for the celebrations. Kolkata’s markets are the pulse of a throbbing city that is a visual and spiritual celebration of modern-day India’s cultural diversity. Our walking tours are the perfect way to experience Kolkata at it’s best and should be added to your itinerary for your trip to Kolkata.
Join Blue Dot Travel in November when our small group tour to Nagaland and North East India includes this wonderful city of Kolkata. Click here for details.