Faith Walk in Calcutta – Knowing the city through its various cultures

During British Raj Calcutta was divided into three parts – white town where the British established their offices and residence, black town or north Calcutta where Indians were forced to move to and grey town where Cantonese, Portuguese and Jews lived. As racist as the whole setup sounds, this sadly was the reality of the then India. While the divide doesn’t exist anymore, you can see a difference of culture, lifestyle and architecture. A walk through various faiths and cultures of Calcutta was my second heritage walk with Navpreet (FunOnStreets) during my trip last month.

Also Read: Colonial Walk in Calcutta
Buddhist Temple, Bow Barracks, Calcutta

We met early morning near Bow Barrack and started our walk with a visit to city’s first Buddhist temple. Bow Barracks were built during World War II to house the army. These barracks were later given to the Chinese and the Anglo Indians who still live here. The area still has no water connection and they have to rely on water guys or bhishtis to wash the roads. We spotted a bhishti with a traditional leather water bag on his back. Navpreet also told me that Christmas is massive in these areas and the whole street turns into a dance floor and party hub.

Bhishti with his leather water bag, Bow Barracks, Calcutta
Small Church at Bow Barracks, Calcutta
Bow Barracks, Calcutta
Me in front of a typical Anglo-Indian house at Bow Barracks, Calcutta

Next stop was Tiretti – the region populated by Cantonese who came to Calcutta in the 18th Century when Tong Achew came to India to start a sugar factory. It’s said that the concept of refined sugar came to India with the Chinese and hence called cheeni, owing to the people who brought it. The are originally had plenty of Chinese temples out of which only one remains. The Sea Ip Church was established in 1905 where Goddess Kwan Yin (Chinese deity of peace) is worshiped along with the god of war. Tiretti bazaar was once known for early morning Chinese breakfast where the locals would set up stalls selling dimsum, soup, sticky buns etc. There’s not much left of the market now.

Tiretti Bazaar, Calcutta
Tiretti Bazaar, Calcutta
Sea Ip Church, Calcutta
Sea Ip Church, Calcutta
Sea Ip Church, Calcutta

Calcutta once had a large Jewish community and while most of them have moved out of India, there Synagogues still stand tall. The Beth El and Magen David Synagogues are under construction as of now and slated to open for public in 2017-18. However, during the walk Navpreet took me to the first Synagogue which was built inside a house.

Beth El Synagogue, Calcutta
Magen David Synagogue, Calcutta
Calcutta’s First Synagogue

The Holy Rosary Cathedral, also known as Portuguese Church was founded in 1797. The then chapel was later replaced by a church in 1799 which is now used as a cathedral.

Portuguese Church, Calcutta
Portuguese Church, Calcutta
Portuguese Church, Calcutta

The Armenian Church is also the oldest church in Calcutta and was built in 1724 after the original wooden structure was burnt down (that was built in 1707)

Armenian Church, Calcutta
Howrah Station

We wrapped up our walk with a visit to Calcutta’s famous flower market and a spectacular view of the iconic Howrah Bridge.

Howrah Bridge
Calcutta Flower Market

If you’re planning a trip to Calcutta, do get in touch with Navpreet Arora (FunOnStreets) and go on one of her heritage walks.

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