Since childhood, I have seen the New China Town in Tangra, Kolkata transform. When someone mentions Tangra, the first thing which flashes in my mind are the Hakka Chinese community and they tasty Chinese cuisine. Lines of restraurants dotting the roads and dishing out awesome food.
On a clear sunny Saturday morning, I decided to go on a walking tour of Tangra (The New China Town). At around 10am, I jumped onto bus 24A/1 which dropped me at Topsia for Rs 10/-. From Topsia I started walking towards China town. The skyline has changed over the years and there are tall high rises on all sides of the road. Taking a right turn into a by-lane, I started walking along passing restaurants Beijing, China Gardens, Big Boss and Hot Wok on the side of the road. The best way to get to know and learn is to ask the locals. On the way, I was guided by local tea stall owner, rickshaw-wala, a contractor overlooking a construction work, a senior citizen and many more. Many of the information in this blog were picked up from them.
SEA IP Cemetery
This cemetery is opposit to Hot Work restaurant. This cemetery located at 77, Christopher Road has a green coloured grill gate with large Chinese calligraphy. This is not well maintained and large trees provide shade for few graves. The wall has Chinese paintings which seem to have been recently done.
Kolkata Buddhist Temple (Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple)
Moving along the road, you come to Sing Cheung sauce factory where the road forks into two – one towards the right and one left. I first took the left hand road and around 2 minutes walk brought me to the gates of the Kolkata Buddhist Temple. The beautiful gate decorated in red, ping and golden is attractive. The iron gates were bolted from inside with a small gap in between. Through this gap I peeped in and saw the inmates busy moving around and doing their work. As I called out, one of the inmates arrived at the gate and I asked if it was possible to go inside. She smiled and welcomed me in.
The founder of Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan, Ven. Master Hsing Yun started to send his disciples to India for Dharma learning, Dharma propagation, Education and other missions. In February 1998, for the first time, Master organized the Int’l Full Ordination Ceremony specially for the Buddhist nuns from Theravada and Tibetian Tradition in order to restore the precept system which had lost more than a thousand years. This event had contributed to the estabilishment of Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple (Kolkata) near Dhapa Chinatown on 16th May, 1998.
At the gates of the temple, there are two milky white lions on either side. On entering the temple, there is a large courtyard with standing statue of Buddha. On either side there were rooms and cabinets with artifacts related to Buddhism. At one side, there are stairs which would take one to the upper floors. Then, there is a central prayer room which is a large room with a giant statue of Buddha. Looking at the golden statue of Buddha, one is mesmerized.
Unique aspect of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple is the food that it serves. This temple also acts as an eatery which is open from 11am to 6pm on weekdays only and serves vegetarian cuisines from China, Taiwan and Indonesia. There is no fixed menu and the ladies from the nearby household cook and bring food for the temple eatery.
Sadly, I did not know about this and only got to know about it when I returned back home. Some day, I will pay a visit again to taste the vegetarian snacks of this temple.
Chinese Kali Mandir
After coming out of the Buddhist temple, I took the other road on the right to arrive at the famous Chinese Kali Mandir of Tangra. Looking at the temple, it would appear to be like any other common temple in your neighbourhood. This Kali Mandir is famous for the bhog which is offered to the Goddess – Noodles and Chopsuey.
Local story goes, that around 60-70 years ago, there was nothing here except for an old tree and couple of back stones which the local people used to workship. Once a 10 year old Chinese boy fell ill and doctors could not cure him. His parents laid him in front of the tree and prayed day and night. Eventually, the boy recovered and this place became famous. The temple made of granite was built some 12-15 years back and the old stones and tree are still there. Traditional status of Goddess Kali were placed in the temple.
Toong On Cemetery
Walking along, at the next turn, one would arrive at the Toong On Cemetery. At the door of the cemetery is a make shift tea shop. I asked the tea-shop owner whether I can go inside. He said yes, and pointed me to a small trap door at the side of a huge iron gate. The trip door was small and I could just bend myself down and enter.
Inside, it was again not religiously maintained. The grass has outgrown everywhere. There were several graves, some beautifully decorated in red and golder and some had pictures and calligraphy.
Mary Immaculate Chapel
There are two churches in Tangra area. The larger and more well known is the Holy Trinity Armenian Church which is very close to Mathpukur area. I was not allowed to enter this church as the security guards dismissed me off saying that special permission is required to enter the premises. Sadly, I did not have any.
The other church is called Mary Immaculate Chapel which is at the other end of China town and is hidden. I had to roam around for at least 30 minutes asking several people. Finally, I arrived in front of a large iron gate which had no boards, no signs and nothing which could suggest it was a church.
Since the locals had pointed me to this place, I pushed the calling bell outside. An aged lady came out and the very first thing that I did was to confirm whether this was a “Girja” (Church). She said yes and moved and that is when I got a glipse of this Chapel sitting at the end of a courtyard with a school behind it. I asked her whether I can see around and take a picture. She was not sure and called her husband. A call was made to the authority to ask for permission and finally I told them to give me the phone and explained that I just wanted to take a picture and write about this place. Permission was granted only for outside photo.
The Mary Immaculate Chapel is relatively new and was started on 11th August, 1996 with blessings of Rev. Henry D’Souza, Archbishop of Calcutta. There is a statue of Mother Mary at one end of the compound.
Tangra Masjid (also known as New Tangra Masjid) is the place of worship for Muslims. This has become one of the most well known landmarks of Tangra and everyone seems to be knowing it. Set in a busy locality and just at the side of the road, this is one of the primary masjids in the Dhapa area.
Mother Teresa Shishu Uddan
Walk a few steps from Tangra Masjid and you will stand in front of a large statue of Mother Teresa right next to the Mother Teresa Shishu Uddan. This park made for
kids has everythign which you would expect in a park. There is large statue of Swami Vivekandanda and all around the park, there are sketches of famous personalities. This park is an oasis in the concrete jungle.
Baba Matheshwar Mandir
This temple seems to have been newly built. I happened to pass it on my way back towards the Mathpukur bus stand. Could not find any information about this temple anywhere and could not see anyone in sight whom I can ask.
The walk accross the length and breath of Tangra took me around 2.5 hours. All this while, as I moved along the narrow lanes and by-lanes of the New China Town, I could not but appreciate the diversity and uniqueness of this place.Tangra is an unique symbol of cross-cultural assimilation. I could find a tiny version of India. It is a place where people from different cultures, religions and beliefs combine in a melting pot and live happily. This is a true gem in the heart of the City of Joy.