The bustling city of Kolkata never ceases to amaze with its old-world charm. Even after spending over two decades in the city, I can’t have enough of the dingy alleys, tramways, and grand colonial buildings that accompany the modern flyovers and skyscrapers. And, whenever I feel the pressure of urban life getting to me, I find my refuge at the verdant Prinsep Ghat (‘ghat’ is an Indian word that means ‘flight of stairs leading to a river’) in the heart of the city. There are very few places in the city that are as picturesque and calming as the Prinsep Ghat on the bank of the Hooghly River, with the Vidyasagar Setu, also known as the 2nd Hooghly Bridge, towering over it. The Prinsep Ghat has a little rustic railway station and the whistling sound of the trains passing by adds to the nonchalant allure of the place. Whenever you visit Kolkata and feel like savouring a breath of fresh air, far away from the maddening crowd of the city, there’s no place better than Prinsep Ghat to give you the much-needed peace and quiet.
Kolkata was formerly known as Calcutta and was the capital of British India from 1772 to 1911. Thereby, several significant monuments in the city have a colonial past, and Prinsep Ghat is no different. It was built in the memory of the brilliant researcher and scholar, James Prinsep. He set foot in the city on September 1819, after being appointed as the Assistant Assay Master at the Calcutta Mint. He had an illustrious career. James Prinsep deciphered Emperor Asoka’s rock edicts written in what has come to be known as the Brahmi script. However, his life was cut short by a brain disorder. He passed away in 1840 at a very young age of 41. In 1841, the Prinsep Ghat was built on the bank of the Hooghly River, and in 1843, W. Fitzgerald designed a memorial in the Palladian porch style, in his memory, a few feet away from the ghat. The memorial is painted in pristine white and is a rich instance of colonial architecture with an abundance of Gothic and Greek inlays.
The patch of green accompanying James Prinsep’s memorial is one of the best places in Kolkata to spend some leisure time. It is a great place to enjoy a picnic-style lunch while relishing the cool breeze blowing from over the Hooghly River. And then, you can go for a beautiful boat ride on the river. Boats leave from the Prinsep Ghat for 20-minute rides that cost around 300-400 INR. Watching the sunset from a boat on the river is a wonderful experience I swear by, and an illuminated Vidyasagar Setu in the background makes the sight even more ravishing! You can also embark on a short and scenic train ride from the quaint Prinsep Ghat railway station to Bagbazar. Sit by the window to enjoy the sight of the serene Hooghly River flowing beside the railway track. Or you can simply relax! Grab an ice-cream (really handy in the humid Kolkata weather) or a pack of jhalmuri (spicy puffed rice in Bengali), pick your place on the ghat or one of the many benches along the pathway leading to the memorial and indulge in a few idle hours!
Cities and their din can sometimes be overwhelming. Every city has a corner that people flock to in search of a few moments of quietude. In Kolkata, that place is certainly the Prinsep Ghat which remains open from 8 AM to 9:30 PM. It is located on Strand Road, right between the St. George’s Gate and the Water Gate of the Fort William. You can board a bus or a cab from any part of Kolkata to reach the place, or you can avail the Kolkata metro, Esplanade being the nearest metro station. Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll and savour a breath of fresh air, dig deep into the colonial history of Kolkata, or both, Prinsep Ghat is the place to be. The gentle wind, the lush greens and the stunning sights will make your visit worthwhile!
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