As autumn leaves fall, winter is round the corner knocking at our doors and as the cool winds start to blow, out comes the Kolkatan’s picnic baskets, mats, badminton rackets and flasks of hot steaming cha. Picnics, winters and residents of Kolkata are synonymous with each other, with every family planning outdoor trips lasting from a day to the full weekend. A popular picnic spot in the city is Prinsep or James Prinsep Ghat, built during the British era, along the banks of the river Hoogly. Adding to its Ruskin Bondish charm is a quaint little railway station maintained by the Eastern Railway. With the sound of the trains whistling by along the river lapping up the ghats make a day out at Prinsep Ghat ethereal. Built in 1841 and named after James Prinsep, the Anglo-Indian scholar. Prinsep Ghat is a place sleeping in history with the monument Greek and Gothic inlays. In its initial years, all the royal British entourages used the Prinsep Ghat jetty for embarkation and disembarkation. Today, boat rides leave from Babu Ghat for 20 minutes rides for anything ranging between Rs.200 to Rs.400 with a minimum of four people on a boat rowed in an old fashioned way by the nabik. Ferry rides also leave for as less as Rs.5 per person but that is used more by daily commuters to cross the river Hoogly.
There is a jetty nearby called the Man-O-War jetty that belongs to the Kolkata Port Trust and commemorates the role played by the port in the 2nd World War. The jetty is mainly used by the Indian Navy.
Towering above is the Vidyasagar Setu which just adds to the charm of the Ghats. Evenings are a sight to behold with the Setu completely lit up in all its glory. Boat rides start early in the mornings and continues till evening. The pathways were rebuilt in 2001 and are now a favorite hotspot for morning walkers and joggers.
Many food stalls selling street food are setup along the length of the pathways which are also dotted with benches providing a scenic view of the Hoogly River with the Howrah Bridge in the background. The most popular food joint over there is scoop, a small eatery selling ice cream and snacks.
Prinsep Ghat is also a popular hangout place for students who go there for the boat rides, inexpensive food and scenic beauty. Re-renovated in 2012, a 2 km stretch of the beautiful riverfront from Prinsep Ghat to Babu Ghat was inaugurated on 24th May 2012.
It has illuminated and landscaped gardens and pathways, fountains and renovated ghats. But the ghats like all other historical monuments of the country have been defaced by writings on its ancient walls by tourists- a disgrace which adorns all monuments throughout. Prinsep Ghat is a must, on every Kolkata visitor’s itinerary and not without reason . Many a photography session is underplay almost daily and then there is the girl in her twenties who can be seen almost every other morning, freezing the beauty of the ghats.
Prinsep Ghat has that quality about it- buzzing with tourists almost at all times and yet you can find your own peace there. It is one of those places which makes Kolkata what it is, to the outside world and what makes this city so special- there’s something romantic and with an old world charm which could make the most stressed out soul breathe freely again.