When exploring Kolkata's rich architectural heritage, it's easy to get swept away by iconic landmarks like the Victoria Memorial or Howrah Bridge. However, hidden among the bustling streets of this vibrant city are lesser-known monuments that deserve a place on every traveller's checklist. These hidden gems not only showcase Kolkata's architectural brilliance but also provide a glimpse into the city's rich cultural tapestry.
Bengali War Memorial
Located in College Square, this marble memorial honours the 49th Bengali Regiment, who served in Mesopotamia during World War I. In August, 1916, the British government had announced that they were looking for recruits for a Bengali Double Company or BDC (later renamed 49th Bengal Infantry Regiment, or 49th Bengalee). Look for this monument at College Square's east gate entrance.
Nafar Kundu Memorial
Not all heroes die on the war fields. This small structure in Chakraberia Road was built in memory of an ordinary citizen, Nafar Chandra Kundu. In May 1907, 26 year old Kundu risked his life to save sewage workers trapped in a manhole. Look out for the pillar which has details of the incident inscribed on it. The masonry pillar was built with funds raised by public subscription.
McDonell Drinking Fountain
Located on the grounds of the West Bengal State Legislature (near Town Hall and the High Court), this Neo-Gothic monument has been built to honour Sir William Fraser McDonell who was a member of the Indian Civil Service. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for "great coolness and bravery" for rescuing 35 British soldiers from "incessant enemy fire" on their boat during the retreat from Arrah. You will find the Victoria Cross at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery of the Imperial War Museum in London. The base of the drinking fountain is made of bronze, and the spout is shaped like a lion's head.
Colesworthy Grant Memorial
This one is in memory of a gentle soul who was an artist and an animal rights activist. Arriving in Calcutta in the middle of the 19th century, Colesworthy Grant worked for his brother who was in the clock industry. But Grant was a talented artist who was later known for publishing a collection of sketches titled Rural Life in Bengal. He also started the Calcutta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1861. Among other things, he would help street animals get water from a fountain on the northeast corner of Lal Dighi. In his honour, this memorial obelisk (and an animal watering well) was built in front of the Writers' Building.
Not many know that the Anglo Indian neighbourhood of Bow Barracks in Kolkata is home to a historic drinking fountain constructed in memory of a Greek in Kolkata. Lord Curzon had this built in 1895 to honour a Greek man, Demetrius Panioty, who worked for the Bengal Secretariat and later rose to the position of Assistant Private Secretary to both Governor General Ripon and his immediate successors. Located close to the Curzon Park bus stop, the Mughal-style fountain is difficult to locate due to overgrowth. Look out for the exquisitely crafted designs made on marble from Jaipur.