You will be escorted from your hotel to Calcutta Medical College, the starting point of your walk. Close at hand is Haarkata Goli, a lane that was once home to businesses dealing in human bones collected from the nearby Calcutta Medical College and Hospital (CMC). While the 1835-established CMC, touted as the first such in Asia, inevitably lead to the demise of Ayurvedic research centers situated on College Street, it cemented the area’s reputation as the nerve center of education in Bengal—the Calcutta University, Presidency University, Sanskrit College and Hindu School are in the vicinity.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Kolkata was the epicenter of an intense social reform movement. Popularly called ‘The Bengal Renaissance’, this movement questioned existing orthodoxies, particularly with respect to women, marriage, the dowry system, the caste system and religion. Religious scholars, literary giants, journalists, patriotic orators and scientists came together during the Bengal Renaissance in a vibrant intellectual awakening.
Walk past College Square which has the Jahan Khan mosque, buildings of the Buddhist Maha Bodhi Society of India, the Bengal Theosophical Society, the Baptist Mission Church, the publication office of atheist Communist literature and the University Institute Hall, known for hosting radical political events—a true convergence of faith and belief in an area which hasn’t ever seen a single communal riot since independence.
With around 60-odd publishers and around 600 booksellers concentrated in the area, College Street is unique as a hub of knowledge. College Street or the ‘Boi Para’ (Colony of books) is the largest used book market in the world and offers a large collection of rare books. It is not uncommon to find original copies of rare masterpieces for a bargain.
Walk past another popular Kolkata landmark, the Coffee House. This large airy café has long been the traditional “adda” or hang-out where Calcutta’s intellectuals have gathered to discuss and debate every issue under the sun. Take a break from your walk to Relax and have a cup of coffee. Later you will be escorted back to you hotel.