Bangalore may be known as the ‘city of gardens’ but Kolkata does not fare too badly either. ‘The tired masses of Kolkata yearning to breathe free’ have small but selective pockets of green scattered across the city; most importantly we have the Maidan, right at the heart of the city. This 400 hectare square field is unparalleled and unique to this city. Many of the later extension to the city in the 60’s, like Jodhpur Park and Bidhan Nagar (Salt Lake) have demarcated areas devoted to parks for its residents with playing areas for children,  were incorporated into the plan at the building stage. Other parts of the city too have specified park areas. These islands of tranquility bring about the much-needed relief to the skyline against galloping expansion plans. 

The Maidan

Its’ huge, its’ large, its’ green, its’ the Maidan - the large vista of green right in the heart of the city, is truly ‘the lungs’ of the most populated metropolis in the country. As it officially belongs to the Indian army for parades, no permanent structures are allowed within it, but numerous Sporting Clubs with their quaint makeshift club houses have made the green expanse around them their own. The Eden Gardens falls within its precinct, as does popular football stadia, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, representing the eternal Ghoti-Bangal banter.

The ground is basically reclaimed tiger-infested creek land. The topography has remained more or less the same over the centuries except for the sprouting of the architectural landmarks the city is known for; the Indian Museum, the Race Course, the former Ochterlony Monument (or Shahid Minar), iconic Victoria Memorial (VM), St Paul Cathedral to name a few. The area is dotted with several imposing statues of colonial India. There is also a captured Pakistani tank from the Bangladesh war of 1972. The main through fare here, Red Road served as a runway during WWII for fighter planes.

Apart from the sporting activities the Maidan is many things to many people, from washer-men to shepherds grazing their flocks. Horse-drawn carriages ply from the gates of VM for a joy ride on a summer eve, never mind the poor animals! Perhaps a better option would be a green ride in a tram from the BBD Bag Depot that cuts across the Maidan towards Hastings and Alipore. It is here too that the health conscious head for their morning ritual of a walk followed by a round of health drinks and eatables found only at that hour of the morning.

The Maidan is also known as the Brigade and the place for political rallies. The call “to brigade” resonates with ideological zeal few can resist!

Dhakuria Lake
Dhakuria Lake

Rabindra Sarobar/The Lakes/Dhakuria Lakes

Rabindra Sarobar, ‘The Lakes’ as it is locally referred to acts as a breather to the busy cosmopolitan hub of South Calcutta. During the early mornings it is the venue for joggers sprinting between the pathways, the yoga enthusiast, and members of the Kolkata Laughter Club rolling in mirth, and lately Salsa steps by Hitesh of ‘Dance Walking Kolkata’.

Earlier known as the Dhakuria Lakes after the adjacent areas, it includes 73 acres of water, pathways and gardens dotted with many large and old trees. Migratory water birds visit the area during winter while the lake is home to many species of fish. A number of rowing and swimming clubs use the water for their activities such as the Calcutta Rowing Club (CRC) which was established in 1858 making it one of the oldest clubs in the country. Then there’s the Bengal Rowing Club and Lake Club and the Indian Life Saving Society (formerly Anderson Swimming Club). There’s a sports stadium Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, an open air theater, Nazrul Mancha where the prestigious Dover Lane Music Conference of Indian Classical Music is held each year and a literary club, Chakra Baithak is housed in a quaint tiled roof house. The only Japanese Buddhist temple in Kolkata is close by.

Sothern Avenue

Time: 6am to 10pm

Central Park

What the Maidan is to the heart of Kolkata, Central Park is to Salt Lake. Situated opposite the Government offices in Sector III, it is the 2nd largest expanse of green after the Maidan in the entire city. Built around a huge water body with boating facilities, a picturesque bridge connects the main land to a lovely island. The lake is a sanctuary for a variety of water birds like lesser whistling duck, common moorhen, egrets, kingfishers and cormorants and you can even fish in the lake water for a fee. Winding pathways are neatly lined with hedges and intercepted with large shady trees including fruit bearing trees while seasonal flowerbeds border the lawn. The park is specially known for its rose garden, a large section is devoted to nurturing and growing a variety of this beautiful flower. Another attraction is the butterfly garden, with shrubs and trees congenial for caterpillar breeding. Popular among residents of Salt Lake, senior citizens use it for their morning walks as do children at the newly constructed ‘children’s park’ right besides the main entrance. Towards the back is the Bidhan Nagar Sports Complex with facilities for football and swimming.

Near Karunamayee, Salt Lake, Kolkata 700095,

Ticket: Rs 25/-

Time: 5am to 5pm

Agri Horticultural Society of India
Agri Horticultural Society of India

The Agri-Horticultural Society of India

On June 1800 Rev William Carey, a British Missionary landed at Sreerampore with the singular intention of converting heretic natives to the faith; but went on to do a lot more. Carrey, an Indologist translated the Bible into Sanskrit amongst other commendable tasks. He also found this huge garden (24 acres) at Alipore - the Agri-Horticultural Society in 1820 with the idea of developing agriculture and horticulture in the country.

What strikes you once you enter India’s oldest Agri-Horticultural garden is the tranquility of the place. Winding pathways, surrounded by trees, shrubs and plants it’s a breather to the busy area of Alipore, contributing to the price escalation of property in the area. It has a flower garden – flowers from the nursery are sold every morning, orchards, ferns and medicinal plants, orchid and cactus houses, research laboratory and a library.

The Society offers special courses for professional and hobby gardeners as AHSI certified gardeners are much sought after. The grounds are popular amongst walkers for which you need passes, you can also subscribe for membership to the Society.  Each year as a prelude to spring the garden comes alive with its ‘annual flower show’ a much sought-after event in the city.

No.1, Alipore Road, Kolkata - 27

Time: 7 am to 11 am and 3 pm to 5 pm daily, except Wednesday

Ticket: Rs20/-

Millennium Park

A millennium gift from the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority to the city on the eve of the 21st century, and a part of the city’s ‘Riverside Beautification Project’ the Millennium Park stretches for 2.5km along Strand Road near Fairlie Ghat. A beautifully landscaped garden, the Park is a wonderful freeway from the madding chaos of the city and a perfect place for a day out with your family and friends. A place where one can easily romance with the Ganges as well as along it, as is evident by the blissful look of young couples who finds the Park a safe sanctuary from prying eyes. Kiddie rides like the Dragon Train, Ferries Wheel, and swings and typical ethnic “Nagordola” rides of the village Mela or the “The Moon Style” Roller Coaster are hugely popular here. It also has some pocket-friendly eateries and snack counters to tickle your taste buds. The Howrah Bridge and the Vidya Sagar Setu spans on two sides of the Park. As it is close to Fairlie Place ferry Ghat a launch ride on the Ganges is recommended, better still try out the smaller boats for a languid sail along the river front.

Strand Rd

Time: Every Day - 11am & 8pm.

Free entry but rides are chargeable

Nicco Park
Nicco Park

Nicco Park

Often referred to as the Disneyland of Bengal, Nicco Park located in Salt Lake area was a self gift to the city on its tercentenary in 1991. A 40 acre space, it houses about 35 games and rides including one of Asia’s largest Roller Coasters, “The Giant Cyclone” - you need a strong heart and a stronger stomach to survive a ride on it! Other popular adrenal-pumping rides built using the latest technology are The River Caves, Tilt-a-Whirl, Magic Carpet, Water Coaster, Flying Saucer and the mind-blowing Moonraker. As the Park intents to educate as well as entertain, the entrance to every ride explains the science behind the working of the rides. For the quaint experience take a ride on the Toy Train incorporated from old Jhilmil Park in the same precinct, and for a sky view, there’s the cable car and The Eiffel Tower.

Wet-O-Wild, the water park, provides you that cool splash on a hot summer day. Slide down the water chute and right into the pool before you head for a cooler and a bite at the restaurant-cum-bar, Bowlers Den with an adjacent Bowling Alley. For your retail therapy there’s Sheroo Bazaar, after the Park’s mascot for souvenir shopping.

Nicco Park brings alive the child in you.

Sector IV, Salt Lake City, Kolkata - 700106

Time: 10:30 am to 7:30pm

Basic Entry Fee - Rs. 200/- (includes 12 specified free rides)

Elliot Park

Close to Victoria Memorial on Jawaharlal Nehru Rd, Elliot Park is a blissful refuge for the tired office-goers who often frequent it as it’s located in the heart of the busy office area of Chowringhee. Intercepted with green trees, flowers and water bodies, the well-paved tracks are punctuated by nice broad benches. Just take a walk or simply sit back and relax. It’s heartening to watch the Park inhabitants of small animals and birds continue their fight for survival of nibbling and bathing in spite of the roaring traffic around them. The Park is maintained by Tata Steel.

Time: 6 am to 10 pm

Entry: Free

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