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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 July 2024

Group of more than 40 people on night walk to see illuminated facades

Tour of heritage sites where soft LED has replaced halogen lights

Debraj Mitra, Samarpita Banerjee Calcutta Published 16.06.24, 04:50 AM
(Clockwise) St James Church; The GPO building; New Market

(Clockwise) St James Church; The GPO building; New Market

More than 40 people toured Calcutta last Saturday night, stopping by the illuminated facades of some of its historic spots.

St Paul’s Cathedral, New Market, the GPO building, the Jewish Synagogue and the Portuguese Church were among the dozen stops for the group.

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While guided tours of heritage buildings are nothing new in Calcutta, night tours are not common.

Around 11pm, when the group visited New Market, it was nothing like usual. The chaos, the crowd, the noise and the jostling for space that New Market stands for were missing.

Instead, the iconic clock tower, the arched windows, the majestic facade and the red walls of the Victorian-Gothic style market pointed to Calcutta’s colonial past like it seldom does during the day.

The General Post Office, where the group reached before midnight, has virtually turned into a bus stop in the city’s office para.

But illuminated under the night sky, it looked different.

“The GPO building came up at the site of the old Fort William, which Bengal nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah destroyed during the Siege of Calcutta in 1756,” a guide told the visitors.

“The GPO was designed in 1864 by Walter B. Grenville (1819-1874), the consulting architect to the government of India from 1863 to 1868. This majestic building has two wings supported by tall Ionic-Corinthian pillars and crowned with a high domed roof rising over 220ft. Today, it operates as the central post office of the city of Kolkata and the chief post office of West Bengal and contains a philately department and a postal museum,” the guide said.

The other stops included the Royal Insurance Building and St John’s Church, in Dalhousie, and the Sacred Heart Church on Lenin Sarani in Esplanade.

Arnab Kumar Das, 53, who owns a pharmacy in Ganguly Bagan and is a travel enthusiast, was part of the group. “It was a unique experience. It was special because we saw these places at night. The slices of history almost came alive,” said Das.

The idea of the tour was to harp on that unique experience, said Kunal Guha, who organised the tour.

“Most of us have been to these places during the day. But they look completely different at night. The idea was to capture that unique experience,” said Guha, who owns a travel agency.

“Initially, most of these places had halogen lights. Now, they have been replaced by softer LED lights that lend a warm and different look to these places. We want to do such night tours on a regular basis.”

The tour was curated by Mudar Patherya, a communications consultant and heritage enthusiast. Since November last year, Patherya has embarked on a project to illuminate several city landmarks.

The project by The Kolkata Restorers has already covered more than 30 landmarks, a dozen of which the group visited on the night tour.

“There is now an opportunity for somebody to step out and drive through the city at night and admire some of the structures. The structures are grand, beautiful and sweeping. Almost everything related to tourism in Calcutta is during the day. Much of the tourism is between October and February. We want to change both,” said Patherya.

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