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Arts and Culture in Kolkata - Vibrant Festivals, Heritage Buildings, and Contemporary Galleries

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With a rich Bengali tradition embracing poetry, music, theater, film, and art, Kolkata is known as the cultural and intellectual capital of India. You can visit galleries, explore heritage buildings, and enjoy films or musical performances. Consider timing a visit to coincide with Durga Puja, West Bengal's biggest religious celebration, or the annual international film festival held in November.

Religious festivities

 

West Bengal hosts major festivities throughout the year, but the best time to visit is during Hindu pujas (acts of worship), when Kolkata is lit by millions of lamps and pedestrians take over the streets. Huge clay statues are fantastically painted and clothed, then displayed in open pavilions called pandals. Durga Puja culminates with 5 days in September/October, followed by the smaller Kali Puja a couple of weeks later.

 

Durga Puja

 

One of India’s biggest and brightest festivals, Durga Puja celebrates the goddess Durga's victory over the evil demon Mahishasura. Join the crowds and go “pandal-hopping,” before the decorated statues are immersed in the Hooghly River on the final night.

 

College Square, 53 College Street, Kolkata 700073, West BengalTel: +91 33 22571410

 

Durga Puja website

Galleries and art venues

 

Kolkata’s numerous galleries and art centers are concentrated in the southern half of the city, and showcase ancient and modern works. Paintings, sculpture, and photography are all on display, as well as traditional woodcuts in the Bengali style. Both Indian and international artists are well represented, and the art market is thriving should you want to make a special purchase.

 

Birla Academy of Art and Culture

 

This cultural center has an permanent collection of ancient Indian sculpture on its first floor, showing exquisite examples of Buddhist and Hindu carving. The upper levels host temporary exhibitions of modern Indian art.

 

109 Southern Avenue, Kolkata, West Bengal . Tel: +91 33 24666802

 

Birla Academy of Art and Culture website

 

CIMA

 

The Centre of International Modern Art has a program of regularly changing exhibitions, presenting renowned contemporary artists from across India. There’s also an enticing gift shop with fabrics, ornaments, and jewelry for sale, alongside reproductions of artworks.

 

Second Floor, Sunny Towers, 43 Ashutosh Chowdhury Road, Kolkata 700019, West Bengal. Tel: +91 33 24858717

 

CIMA website

 

Museums and history

 

If you like to immerse yourself in a region’s history and heritage, Kolkata has several fascinating museums worth investigating. Head to the Indian Museum or the Victoria Memorial for extensive collections of artifacts backed by informative displays. You can also visit the Marble Palace in north Kolkata, close to MG Road metro. This bizarre and beautiful family mansion is full of impressive statues and faded paintings by old masters.

 

Indian Museum

 

The oldest Museum in India dates back 200 years and is housed in a colonnaded palace crammed with artifacts from all eras of history. The exhibition halls cover ancient sculpture, miniature painting, natural history, anthropology, and even Egyptian mummies.

 

27 Jawaharlal Nehru (Chowringhee) Road, Kolkata 700016, West Bengal. Tel: +91 33 22861702

 

Indian Museum website

 

Victoria Memorial

 

VM's exhibitions present late 18th-century lithographs by Daniells, alongside treasures and paintings from colonial times. The Calcutta Galleries span the city’s 300-year history, displaying fascinating old prints and photos, plus there's a life-sized diorama of a 19th-century street.

 

The Maidan, 1 Queen's Way, Kolkata 700071, West Bengal. Tel: +91 33 22235142

 

Victoria Memorial website

 

Theater, music, film, and dance

 

The Bengali cultural legacy rests on the shoulders of Rabindranath Tagore, whose songs and dance-dramas still influence music and theater today. His mansion in north Kolkata is now preserved as a museum. There are also several theaters in the city where you can enjoy music or dance performances that cross the language barrier. Like the rest of India, Kolkata is full of keen cinema-goers, with many venues showing western and Indian films.

 

Nandan Complex

 

Arthouse films are regularly screened at Nandan, next to Rabindra Sadan metro. Every November, the complex also hosts the week-long Kolkata International Film Festival, when you can watch diverse world-cinema releases.

 

AJC Bose Road, Rabindra Sadan, Kolkata 700020, West Bengal. Tel: +91 33 22231210

 

 

Kala Mandir Auditorium

 

Kala Mandir, in an accessible location near Park Circus, hosts 2 or 3 programs of music and dance each month. Both national and international artists perform on its stage.

 

48 Shakespeare Sarani (Theatre Road), Kolkata 700017, West Bengal. Tel: +9133 22823666

 

Kala Mandir Auditorium website