Take a trip down historic lane with The Dharamtalla Street Walk on July 7
Amitabha Gupta's The Dharamtala Street Walking Tour will take you through the lanes and bylanes of Dharamtala and educate you about the old relics of cultural and religious importance
IF YOU’VE LIVED in Kolkata even for a few days, you know that the region of Dharamtala is in many ways a handbook to the city’s psyche; a walk through Chowringhee and Janbazar is perhaps the best history lesson you can ever hope for. Over the last few years, heritage trails have emerged as the most effective way for Kolkattans to re-connect with their city, and for tourists to learn more about this cultural haven. And there’s no better way to do that than to take a guided walk through one of the city’s oldest territories, chaperoned by one of the most distinctive heritage and travel writers.
Amitabha Gupta, an acclaimed travel blogger is set to conduct The Dharamtala Street Walking Tour, presented by Break Free Trails, which is a three-hour hike through some of the oldest and most historically significant areas in the city. The tour will be held on July 7 and will start by 6.45 am in front of the ever-familiar KC Das outlet at Esplanade. Participants will be provided with breakfast and a bottle of mineral water.
“We are starting from the Dharamtala crossing, where we have the Tipu Sultan Mosque, built by Prince Ghulam Mohammed (the Sultan’s youngest son) in 1842, and we’ll walk towards Moulali, and we’ll take some detours to some important bylanes, like the lane in Janbazar which houses the residence of Rani Rashmoni. Another important spot is the office of JF Madan at 5/3 Dharamtala Street, who was a theatre and film magnate. He built Madan Theatres which later merged with the Elphinstone Picture Palace, currently known as Chaplin Cinema; the latter is, of course, closed now. You can still see parts of the theatre there, maybe you can even find a signboard if you look for it!” Amitabha tells us.
Amitabha, whose walks have become a huge favourite among heritage enthusiasts, reveals that he tries to do at least three to four trails a month; though the unseemly summer had put a temporary stop to these walks, now as the monsoons approach, Amitabha was pursued to bring them back by popular demand. Of course, a huge focus of The Dharamtala Street Walk is to rediscover some forgotten relics and locations of cultural and religious significance.
For instance, close to Rani Rashmoni’s Janbazar residence, you will find some of the city’s oldest churches lined up. “The Sacred Heart Church at Lenin Sarani was built in 1834 as a Roman Catholic Church for the Portuguese community; then it was renovated in the 1970s, which has sustained the structure till date. There’s also the Thoburn Memorial Methodist Church at Lenin Sarani, which is a Protestant church; there’s also a house near Indian Mirror Street, which used to be the residence of the iconic Hindustani Classical artiste Malka Jaan, more popularly known as Gauhar Jaan,” Amitabha informs us.
The Dharamtala Walk will also take you to some of the historically relevant commercial hubs from the colonial era, most of which have found places in your favourite literary reads. Like the now-defunct offices of the Bourne & Shepherd photo studio on SN Banerjee Road, which has found its way to Satyajit Ray’s Feluda novels. The walk will stop at the Metropolitan Building, which used to be a famous departmental store during British Raj, and was known as the Whiteway Laidlaw department store.
“I still remember reading about the Whiteway Laidlaw store in a Byomkesh Bakshi story named‚ Pother Kanta, where Ajit (Byomkesh’s assistant) was asked to wait near the departmental store to receive a letter. This building, which is now the Metropolitan Building was built by Robert Laidlaw who was a philanthropist and industrialist. Incidentally, the Bourne and Shepherd office, which got burnt down, is obviously very familiar to us, but there are many people who are not aware of these sites,” Amitabha reveals. The tickets to the walking tour costs `650 per person.
— Ujjainee Roy