There are several tourist destinations in Asia and then there is Kolkata. Still known to many by its former name Calcutta, Kolkata never fails to affect the lives of people who come to experience it. The city has a lot to offer. There are so many significant landmarks that it is difficult to say where best to start. If you will visit just one landmark while vacationing in this mesmerizing city, make sure it is Maidan.
Kolkata is the capital and largest city in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is also the most progressive and iconic metropolis in the area and Bangladesh. Calcutta used to be the capital of British India, which explains the many museums and old European structures in the city.
Maidan used to be a part of an old British fortress, Fort William, which was named after King William III of England. The term “maidan” simply means “open field”, and this open field by the fort was very strategic in the eyes of the military. Guards would easily spot any advancing enemies.
While Fort William remains pretty much the same from how it looked like when it was completed in 1781, on the open field now stands the largest urban park in all of Kolkata. The park is now simply and aptly called, “Maidan”.
It is a vast area of land, so vast that it contains Eden Gardens, the largest cricket stadium in India by seating capacity and one of the biggest in the world. Also found within the park are important city landmarks such the Kolkata Race Track, Royal Calcutta Golf Club, which is the oldest golf club outside Britain, and the magnificent Victoria Memorial, considered by many as the second Taj Mahal.
This incredibly huge park also has playgrounds, a shopping center, swimming pool complex, cinema hall, restaurants, and a post office. Fortunately, despite the many modern facilities and structures, Maidan remains green and lush. It is so green and refreshing that it is referred to as the “lungs of Kolkata”.
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The park begins to the north at the Raj Bhavan building in the Esplanade and stretches to the south all the way to the National Library. To its west it reaches the Hooghly River and Victoria Memorial to the east. This is one public park you cannot walk from end to end in one afternoon.
Another special feature within the park is the many statues that may be seen everywhere. There are statues of important British officers such as Lord Curzon, the Earl of Minto, the Earl of Northbrook and Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, among many others. There are also images of historical personalities from India such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Curiously, a statue of Vladimir Lenin stands at the north-east corner of the Esplanade.
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Since this open field used to be a part of Fort William and Fort William was captured by the Indian Army, the public park today is a property of the army, specifically the Eastern high command.
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Yet, despite the fact that this huge park has a military history and is still owned by the military, it is open for all to enjoy as the city’s historical, cultural and entertainment center. Quite clearly, if you only have one attraction to visit while in Kolkata, make it Maidan for in it is everything else.