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Head Out To West Bengal To Explore These 7 Historical Places

The hinterlands of West Bengal have such tales to share thanks to its magnificent historic monuments.

Team ZZ

Since time immemorial, Bengal has been at the epicentre of many of the Indian subcontinent’s historic moments. From being part of Chandra Gupta Maurya’s legendary empire and being a strategic point on the mighty Silk Route to being the landing port for Job Charnock, who led the way for the British East India Company to find its roots in India—Bengal has played a pivotal role in India’s history, especially the fight for independence against. For that matter, did you know: Bengal even finds a  mention in the Mahabharata? It is referred to as Vanga kingdom.

Modern day West Bengal is littered with markers of its glorious past in the form of palaces, temples, churches, promenades, and more. These historic monuments of West Bengal are beacons of the past that dot the future of the state. Unfortunately, they often don’t get the same spotlight as compared to their counterparts in other states of India. The heritage places of West Bengal, not only make for great travel explorations but also offer a glimpse into a bygone era.

Here are 10 must-visit historical sites in West Bengal that you must check out the  next time you’re in the eastern state: 

1. Hazarduari Palace, Murshidabad

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Steeped in history, Hazarduari Palace in Murshidabad is one of the iconic historical places in West Bengal. Commissioned by Nawab Najim Humayun Jah, a descendant of Mir Zafar, the palace—built in European style with Greek influence—has a thousand doors, as the name suggests, of which 900 are real. Hazarduari Palace is a museum today with an extensive display of the riches of the Nawabs of Bengal, their trade with distant lands, and priceless art. As a matter of fact, Murshidabad is home to multiple historical monuments in the state.

Best time to visit: Howrah Bridge is open to people all year round.

How to reach: Murshidabad is best accessed via train or road. Berhampore Court is the closest railway station. Take the National Highway 12 to Murshidabad from Kolkata.

Other historical monuments to see:  Nasipur Palace, Jahankosha Canon, Jafarganj Cemetery, Katra Masjid

2. Rasmancha Temple, Bishnupur

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Bishnupur in the Bankura district of West Bengal is famous for its terracotta temples. Constructed during the Malla dynasty in 1600 CE, Rasmancha is one of the most famous monuments of West Bengal and is the oldest structure in the temple town of Bishnupur. When literally translated, Rasmancha means a stage. It is also famously known to be a festival dedicated to Lord Krishna. The pyramid-shaped temple has a raised base, three rows of galleries, and detailed engravings on its walls of dancing men and women. When here, do try the dessert jolbhora talshaash,  a type of sandesh and a famous Bengali dish.

Best time to visit: Months from October to March are the best months to visit Bishnupur

How to reach: Bishnupur is best accessed via train or road. The town has its own railway station with frequent trains from Kolkata. Take State Highway 2 from Kolkata to reach Bishnupur.

Other historical monuments to see:  Jor Bangla Temple, Madan Mohan Temple, Dalmadal Canon, Acharya Jogesh Chandra Purakriti Bhawan-Bishnupur Museum

3.  Victoria Memorial, Kolkata 

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Built between 1901 and 1921, this palatial structure in the heart of Kolkata is one of the most historic monuments in West Bengal. Victoria Memorial was constructed as a memorial to Queen Victoria after her death. The white marble monument was always designed to be a museum and today, Victoria Memorial has 25 galleries that cover everything from Western art, numismatics, photography, manuscripts, and more.

Apart from the main building, Victoria Memorial is surrounded by 57 acres of gardens that are sprinkled with smaller structures as well.

Best time to visit: Months from October to March are the best months to visit Kolkata where the monument is situated. 

How to reach: Kolkata is best accessed via train or air. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport connects Kolkata to major international and domestic locations. Sealdah and Howrah Junction are the two important railway stations in Kolkata

Other historical monuments to see: Shaheed Minar, New Market, Esplanade, Jorasanko Rajbari, Writer’s Building

4.  Cooch Behar Rajbari, Cooch Behar 

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Built in the Renaissance style of architecture, the Cooch Behar Rajbari or palace is one of the most magnificent monuments in West Bengal. Also known as the Victor Jubilee Palace, it was commissioned by Maharaja Nripendra Narayan of the Koch dynasty in 1887. One of the biggest draws of this palace is its Durbar Hall, which is said to be inspired by St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. The hall with its 12 sides, cupola, and pillars is one of the best historical places to visit in West Bengal. Cooch Behar Palace is also famous for being the childhood home of Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur.

Best time to visit: Months from October to March are the best months to visit Cooch Behar.

How to reach: Cooch Behar is best accessed via train. The town has its own railway station that is well connected to Kolkata.

Other historical monuments to see: Madan Mohan temple, Rasik Bill

5. The Strand, Chandannagar

While Kolkata was a British colony, the town of Chandannagar was a French colony under the French East India Company. As a result, the town has various European-style structures with strong French influences forming a magnificent group of historical monuments in West Bengal. One such historic place is the Strand—a wide promenade with the River Hooghly on one side and trees on the other. The kilometre-long walking pathway also has a small pavilion or a viewing point with a path that juts out to the river, named Jora Ghat. 

Best time to visit: Months from October to March are best months to visit Cooch Behar.

How to reach: Chandannagar is best accessed via train or road. The town has its own railway station that is well connected with local trains from and to Kolkata. On road, take GT Road or Delhi Road from Kolkata to Chandannagar. 

Other historical monuments to see:  Liberty Gate, Sacred Heart Church, Patal Bari, Institut de Chandernagore, Nandadulal temple

6. Basilica of Holy Rosary, Bandel

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Further north of Chandannagar is another erstwhile colony—Bandel—which used to be under the control of the Portuguese. Basilica of Holy Rosary, built by the Portuguese, is one of the oldest churches in the country, therefore making it one of the must-visit historical places in West Bengal. Popularly known as Bandel Basilica or Bandel Church, it was first founded in 1599 but was burned down by Moorish pirates in the 1600s. A new church was built on the ruins in 1660 thus making it a historical and famous monument in West Bengal

Best time to visit: Months from October to March are the best months to visit Cooch Behar.

How to reach: Bandel is best accessed via train or road. Bandel Junction is the main railway station here. By road, take GT Road or Delhi Road from Kolkata to Bandel. 

Other historical monuments to see:  Hooghly Imambara, Aqua Marina

7. Santiniketan, Bolpur

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At the heart of Rabindranath Tagore’s philosophy and creative genius lays Santiniketan in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. It was originally built as an ashram by Tagore’s father, Debendranath Tagore—the famous stained glass Upsana Griha was a place where people could meditate irrespective of their religion. Tagore’s childhood was spent here, and it was the foundation of Viswa Bharati University that gave India various artists, sculptors, authors, and more. A trip here is enlightening and peaceful, making it a key historical place in West Bengal.

Best time to visit: Months from October to March are the best months to visit Shantiniketan.

How to reach: Santiniketan is best accessed via train or road. Bolpur is main railway station here. By road, take National Highway 19 from Kolkata to reach Santiniketan. 

Other historical monuments to see: Chhatimtala, Kala Bhavan, Patha Bhavan, Prakriti Bhavan, Sarkar Rajbari

Photo: Shutterstock
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