Kolkata, the City of Joy was the capital of India before Delhi. The ghats on the Ganges in Kolkata take you to that by-gone era. This post is about Sovabazar Ghat in North Kolkata. If you are one for slow travel or want to live the history of the city, put this in your things to do in Kolkata list. The famous Kumartuli, Durga idol zone of Kolkata, is in the vicinity.
Ghats on Ganges, Kolkata
The Ganges in Kolkata plays more than a decorative role in the scheme of things for locals. The river is integral to their daily lives in so many different ways. The river water is used for bathing and washing clothes. Fishing is an important activity here. The water from Ganga is considered sacred and is used during daily worship in many households. Various rituals starting from marriages to funerals are held at the banks of the river.
Rituals for the biggest festival in West Bengal, Durga Puja, start and end in the banks of Ganga. On the first day of the Puja, a collection of 9 holy plants are worshipped and brought to the bank of the Ganga for bathing in the holy water. Thereafter, this is placed beside the main Durga idol and worshipped as Nabapatrika, the nature form of Goddess Durga. On the final day of Durga Puja, the idols are immersed in the Ganges as the culmination of the Visarjan ritual as the Goddess embarks on her divine journey back home to Mountain Kailash.
Not only the Goddess but also thousands of people in the city cross Ganga every day for their daily activities. No wonder the riversides have many embankments some of which are used for ferry services. One such embankment is the Sovabazar Launch Ghat. We had popped over last Sunday for a view of the sunset. If you want to know the real Kolkata with all its heritage, this could be a spot for you.
Sovabazar Launch Ghat
Prinsep Ghat is the more popular Ganga Ghat but Sovabazar Ghat is definitely among the offbeat places in Kolkata. The Sovabazar Ghat is located in the northern part of the city. This is the older part of Calcutta like Chandni Chowk is to Delhi. If you are coming to this side you would be welcomed with stucco decorated houses, intricate cast iron grills that are connected with colonial-style architecture and a host of sweet shops that defy the test of time.
A narrow lane here is lined with small temples with colourful idols of the Jagannath trinity as well as other deities. This is when you realise religion and commerce walk hand in hand. While we kept marveling at the temples, completed taken in by their kitschy beauty, we were suddenly facing the wide expanse of the water in front of us. The water was muddy green in colour but the setting sun had transformed that to a bluish hue. The skyline on the other side of the river made a pretty picture.
Any ghat in India has a common architecture. There would be a cemented space just off the roadside and then broad steps that would lead to the water. This style was adopted to help pilgrims bathe in the river. Additionally, there would be an enclosed changing area for women.
The Sovabazar Ghat is no different. There are broad cement steps that lead to the water. We found people bathing in the water and some boys were frolicking as well. A man was chanting mantras standing in the water. Many people just stood on the steps and filled containers with Ganga water presumably to be used for worship at home. A rowboat, traditional style, leisurely slid on the water. It was the ultimate picture of peace at dusk.
The steps leading to the water had people sitting on those smoking, sipping tea, speaking to each other or just looking at the water. This seemed to be one of the popular couple spots of Kolkata. Come to think of it, what could be a better place for seclusion than the bank of a river during sunset.
How to reach Sovabazar Launch Ghat
In addition, to be the first city in India to have metro railway, there is a Circular Railway network in Kolkata for transport within the city. Sovabazar Ahiritola railway station sits on this train network and is adjacent to the Sovabazar Ghat. If you are taking the metro, you can drop at Sovabazar metro station and walk the last bit. You can try the unique tramcar in Kolkata for coming here. Common radio taxi services like Ola and Uber run in Kolkata. Sovabazar Launch Ghat is available on their maps.
But we took our favourite mode of transport in Kolkata, the yellow taxi. The taxi driver was pat on point while dropping us!
What to eat at Sovabazar Launch Ghat
The Sovabazar Launch Ghat is lined with tea shacks just like any other place in Kolkata. You can have tea and very rustic cookies and maybe an omelette here. Lebu-cha or lemon tea also seemed to be a hot selling item. However, these places look rather dinghy. If you are not very enthusiastic about eating here, fret not. You are in Mecca for traditional food spots in India.
We would strongly recommend the Mitra Café. This place is more than 100 years old and their fish fries and vegetable chops are divine. If you want to taste the traditional style sweets of Calcutta, you should try Nobin Chandra Dass sweet shop in the vicinity. They are credited with inventing Sandesh, the very popular sweet from Bengal.
Other attractions near Sovabazar Launch Ghat
Kumortuli is the earliest sculptor’s zone in Kolkata. Thousands of clay artists have their studios here and this place is a photographer’s delight. Kumortuli is a short work from here.
That apart, you can visit Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s ancient home- Jorasanko Thakur Bari, Marble Palace, Thanthania Kali Bari, Rabindra Bharati Museum from here. This part of Kolkata still oozes a strong vintage charm and you can just potter around the lanes and by-lanes soaking in an earlier era.
Also read: Kolkata – The Weekend Getaway Portal
There are many other embankments on both sides of the Ganges. Babughat for example is very popular because this is where the Durga Puja visarjan is officially allowed. As and when we cover any such spot, we shall put up a post. Stay tuned!