Winter in Kolkata is very enjoyable. This is a good time to visit Kolkata. The temparature varies between 10°C to 15°C and a good time for enjoying outdoor travel. We would also wait for the winter to come for a different reason. It was the time to visit ‘Chiriakhana’ (or Zoo) and a circus at Park Circus Ground in the evening. It became an annual affair for all of us. We just wanted to spend some time together. Most of the time, it was a family get together for my parents as well. We were so excited to meet some of our cousins that we couldn’t sleep much the night before. In the morning, we used to take a train to reach Kolkata and met others near the Metro Cinema at Esplanade for a day’s outing.
They took us to Zoo first as a routine. We, the children, were excited to see the tigers, lions, giraffes, elephants and didn’t want to come out. We used to run, play in the lawn and did everything what children are supposed to do. We took lunch with us, packed in few small tiffin boxes and at the end, sat in the lawn and ate. It was never anything fancy, Luchi, Allu Bhaja, Begun Bhaja, Alur Dum, Sandesh and tea in few flasks for the elders. But it was so much fun and it made us feel special. We didn’t even aware of the word ‘potluck’ that time. We shared stories and laughed together. After that, we used to go to Park Circus Maidan, which is the home to circus companies during the winter. I remember little things like this from my own childhood and those are the kind of memories I’d like my kid to have as well. So, even if it is not a winter season, during our recent visit, the two of us planned to show him the ‘Chiriakhana’ or ‘Zoo’ at Alipore. For the last four years we are visiting Zoo at Delhi, so zoo is not a new thing for him. However, he was excited to see the Aquariums, so are we, visiting there after 30 + years probably.
The Alipore Zoological Gardens is India’s oldest formally stated zoological park, apart from the royal and British menageries. It has been open as a zoo since 1876, and covers 18.81 ha (46.5 acres). It is probably best known as the home of the now expired Aldabra Giant Tortoise Adwaita, which was reputed to have been over 250 years old when it died in 2006.
Alipore Zoo Acquariums
The condition of the Aquariums are in is unspeakable. We were so disappointed to see the condition of the Aquariums that we thought why we brought him here. Was it better 30 years back? I really do not know. May be yes or may be I didn’t understand the meaning of good or bad that time. All I can say that it requires serious attention from the concerned authorities at the earliest. Don’t expect anything or I won’t recommend anyone to visit this place at all, till situation improves.
Alipore Zoological Gardens
We entered the zoo by 10:30 a.m. To our surpise, we were allowed to take biscuits & chocolates and there is no restrictions on items like Delhi Zoo. One can’t take food inside in Delhi Zoo and everytime, we saw mothers argued with the security men to allow them to carry something for their child. It happened many times with us as well and finally, she had to give up and we rush back to the car to keep the things. Both the points are valid and I don’t know which side I should take…anyway, the new entrance to the zoo itself is a good one. The first impression was good and due to the rains there was lush vegetation. It was drizzling. There were not much crowd in the morning and it was anyway the first day of the week (Zoo remains closed on Thursday).
The first interesting attraction was the chimpanzee but the guard cautioned us not to go too close. He was too far away to see properly. May be enjoying the weather with hand-made tea and pakora inside his home.
We then moved to Zebra, which is my son’s favourite. He used to visit Delhi Zoo only to see Zebra and every time come back home disappointed. The lone Zebra in Delhi zoo died few years back. He was very happy to see Zebra for the first time in his life.
We also saw Iguana. Iguana is normally found in Central & North America. A little walk later, we found the Bear, enjoying the lovely weather and was ready for a photo session.
A few steps further, there were few white fallow deer. They look so beautiful, so as the rest of the deers.
A little while later, we come across the enclosure of hippo, but they were inside the water for a long time, so as the crocodiles. The Rihno was playing in the water.
Then there was a prize catch. It is wonderful sight to see the dance of a peacock in the rain…and I had never seen it before.
We saw many animals and birds and went around the lake. It was drizzling since morning but this time it started raining heavily and we again took shelter under a big tree near the Giraffe’s enclosure. We were not carrying umbrella and drenched totally within few minutes. The rain stopped after some time and then we saw few swans in the lake. It looks so beautiful. The lake is also a paradise for migratory birds during winter.
We were in the last leg of the zoo, but where are lions, tigers and elephants. Did we miss them? However, very soon we saw the den of the lion, but unfortunately he didn’t seem to be happy to come out and could only see his back, so as the White Tiger. However, the Royal Bengal Tigers didn’t disappoint us and walking freely inside their caves. It was sheer joy to watch, as well as feel sorry for them.
Finally, we saw three big elephants near the entry/exit gate. They are in playful mood and children were very happy to see them.
After the initial disappointment at Aquariums, we spent a very good time in the zoo. We had heard a lot about the cramped living condition of the animals in Alipore zoo, somewhat true compared to Delhi’s large & open Zoo, but a walk through the jungle atmosphere, nature and wild animals did have a soothing effect. A place where children can learn and get to know various animals. It is not as big as Delhi Zoo (the only other zoo, I visited till date), but it is not bad either. Till the time existing zoo shifts to a new place i.e. Sonarpur (as heard from a long time now though by when noone knows), it will still attract children and people at all ages and a must visit place in the city in favourable condition.
The day ended with a nice lunch at Rang Mahal restaurants at Park Street.
Ticket: Rs.20/- for Zoo (including children) and Rs.5/- for Aquariums
The Zoo is closed on Thursday.
Best Time to visit: November to February
Thanks for showing the photographs of zoo. I always like to see animals but it is delightful if we see them in their home (Jungle). It is strange first people destroyed the place of animals and killed the animals for their benefit and now they spend the money for visiting their place only for seeing the animals & natural beauty of jungles.
Thanks for sharing the post.
None would like to be caged…However, the role of a zoo changes in every century…from personal collection in 19th Century to Zoological Parks in 20th Century to Conservation Centres in 21st Century and it’s a great educational importance for the kids. Not many are fortunate to go to the jungles and see them in person…
Regarding the second part, that’s the irony…and we just can’t help.
I have looked at a white deer for the first time. :-) I didn’t know that such a creature exist. Thank you. Short and lively post.
Even we were surprised too…not aware of white fallow deer.
Due to some work at home over the weekend, couldn’t find time to complete.
Just prepared the post this morning and deferred the schedule by 4 hours.
Amitava , same observation as that of Nandan Ji, white deer for the first time and that photo of zebra crisscrossing is marvellous.
Same with me too…
Thank you Prof.
Thanks Amitava for putting up this post. You have inspired me of putting up posts about places to visit in Kolkata and tell people what treasures my city holds for everyone. Its only we fellow citizens who are the best tourism promoters.
Wonderful, if you start writing more about the city…since you stay in the city, you can explore more & present it to us.
We look forward to those posts.
If Delhi zoo is refusing to bring in food items inside then it is a good step. People will not feed animals in the city so that they scavange the garbage dumps. But they will definitely feed animals in zoo. I love us Indians!
We all know what we do when we have kids and food in monuments and zoos! I have written to Purana Qila people to prohibit food here also.
Thanks for reminding me. I need to go to Delhi Zoo to take photo of the Humayun gate from inside the zoo! I was lucky to catch a peacock dancing in the wild last monsoons.
I am sure your kid enjoyed the zoo just as much we did. Nice photos too.
Yeah, it’s a good step indeed.
However, when I assess the situation from a parent’s point of view – it seems to be totally uncalled for.
Zoo is basically for children. Take an example of Delhi Zoo…you need at least 3-4 hours (min.) to see the entire zoo. How can a child stay such a long time without any food…what they can do is to impose huge penalty / punishments…and put the entire area under surveillance…even just a noticeboard ‘You are under surveillance’ will be just enough for the people with bad intention in mind. Restriction is good, but there must be some alternatives available inside, may be creating a separate zone…just selling ice-cream or cold drinks at various stalls won’t be of any help…Not everyone or every child are irresponsible…there will be a handful of people and everyone suffers due to them.
Even you can take good photos of ‘Purana Qila’, once inside. It was so wonderful to see the dance of a peacock…he enjoyed the trip very well… Thank you.
You know what ? Alipore Zoo, as far as I can say, has a very typical trait unlike any other Zoo – Description of all the visitors (or at least the Bong visitors, who are of course in majority) inevitably include part animals behind the cages and part…. well, food that would have been enjoyed idling around in the area (luchi/alu bhaja and the stuff). No story of the zoo is ever complete without this essential element. A zoo visit, therefore, is more nostalgic for us Bongs, vis-a-vis those who go to zoo merely to see animals -)
Another angle is that we tend to get very philosophical when narrating our visit to Alipore Zoo ( have observed this in my as well as Sharmi’s parents/ elders) – is it the effect of that mighty library just across the road, which the Bengalis hold in sincere awe ?
Nice post – thanks for rekindling memories.
Yeah, I am on the same page with you…it’s difficult to understand us! Even when we saw a family with two kids in the zoo…it was the same old story of ours’…and it didn’t take a long time to travel to those days…it’s an instant flash back reaction of several years…
Just once I went to National Library with one of our neighbours, working in the Statesman…that too long time back…I really don’t have any memory of the Library.