The Major Arterial road in New Town, Kolkata was my daily route to the office and back home. Then, a broad straight and mostly traffic free road stretched through the vast landscape of green grasslands frequented by large water bodies. The landscape changed in an unimaginable faster pace. More and more multi-storied buildings, commercial spaces and SEZs erupted here, there and everywhere. Within this surrounding, a huge area was the proposed site for the park then. It is now transformed to a beautiful sprawling park called the Eco Park or the Prakriti Tirtha.
The park is considered to be the largest of such kind in India with an area of 480 acres of land surrounded by 104 acres of waterbody which also has a beautiful island within it. The vision of this park is the preservation of the natural wetlands and the grasslands of the region and add an aesthetic value to the ever-developing urban landscape.
The concept of this park was ideated by the chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee and was also inaugurated by her in the year 2012. Since then I wanted to visit the Eco Park but I could not manage. With time more attractions were added to this park which I read about in the newspaper and heard from friends and relatives. Thus, it became an ever increasing urge to visit the park.
Finally, after such a long long wait I made a sudden plan with a close friend and set forward to Eco Park. Being away from Kolkata for few years I was not aware of the park timings, neither did I google it, just went straight to the park and to our surprise we were one and a half hour early before the gates open.
The summer (March to October) timings are 2.30 pm to 8.30 pm on weekdays and 12 noon to 8.30 pm on Sundays and holidays. The winter (November to February) timings are 12 Noon to 7.30 pm on weekdays and 11 am to 7.30 pm on Sundays and holidays. The park remains closed on Mondays.
It seems years of waiting was not enough we had to wait for hours too. 🙂 Even being a weekday large number of visitors, local as well as tourists queued up in front of the ticket counter. It was the early monsoon time and the humidity was high and people were seen profusely sweating in the line. A couple with a pair of portable mini fans became the cynosure of all eyes. But as the gates opened the weather-ly discomfort vanished in a moment.
The occasional gust of winds blowing across brought such a relief to the body and the bright green surrounding to our eyes and soul. Outside food is not allowed within this park so there are eating joints at various places within this park. After a refreshing coffee, we started exploring this vast area by foot.
Yes, by foot, as there are many other options to traverse through this huge park area. There are toy trains, battery operated vehicles known as eco carts, and even duo cycles to travel within the park. The charges are variable depending upon the time, and mode of transport. But being on foot is the best option to explore every attraction of the park.
As a spoiler alert, I must say that exploring every part of the park by foot, on the same day is a little difficult. There are too many places of attraction and many of these need a relaxed pace to be explored. So we took our own time and moved around at a relaxed pace.
The park has been broadly categorised into different ecological zones like wetlands, grassland and forests; areas with modern and urban recreations; and landscape gardens. These areas are further divided into other existing sections and many proposed sections. As per the proposed plan, there will be separate areas for the eco-resort and many other attractions yet to be added.
Slowly we walked by the beautiful areas of the rose garden, it is the early monsoon so the roses have already withered but the plants are fresh and healthy to flower again the next season. The tropical fruit garden had mango, jackfruit, litchi, banana and many other trees. Thus, we reached the mask garden. The mask garden is a designated area with masks resembling those from various regions across India and even other countries.
We entered the fern garden and nearby there was the butterfly garden. This is an enclosed area with a variety of butterflies fluttering within the wild flowering plants. Different species of butterflies formed clusters on various plants and thus, they made their own designated areas within the enclosure.
Leisurely walking past the butterfly garden, we suddenly stopped. A crab was crossing the road. I wanted to take a picture. I presume the crab read my mind and waited until I got the mobile out of my bag and clicked its picture from a close range. Then it slowly crawled out of sight.
We reached the area of the main attractions in the eco-park. It was the area of Seven Wonders of the World. I was so excited, to see the seven wonders in a place before I could travel the world to see them. Christ the Redeemer was visible from the main road and I could not wait to see the rest.
This area had a separate ticketing system. Although it is named as the seven wonders of the world it had some variations from the final list of the seven wonders and it includes some of the finalists in the list of the selection of the Seven Wonders of the World. This area of three acres is designated for the wonders of the world.
This area has miniature replicas of the famous monuments from across the world: the Taj Mahal of India, the Great Pyramid of Giza of Egypt, the Colosseum of Rome, the Great Wall of China, the Petra of Jordan, Christ the Redeemer of Brazil and Moai Statues of Easter Island.
This seemed to be the primary attraction for most of the visitors as well as the film and ad-filmmakers. Some ad-film shooting was taking place near the Great Sphinx while we entered the pyramid. The pyramid had a dummy mummy in it. According to my view, the Colosseum is the best build of all. It was fun to roam around these monuments. The night view with the lights would definitely add charm to these monuments but we were content with the day view for now.
Already tired, walking all the way from gate no 1 to gate no 4, more than half of the park was still to be explored. I wanted to go near the waterbody and relax by the shores enjoying the cool breeze. But again it was a long walk. We tried to get into the toy train that was standing near the replica of the Ghum station of Darjeeling (the highest railway station in India).
The passengers were busy taking pictures, we spoke to the conductor, he said there were no seats available as one generally books the ticket from any of the entrance gates and the train picks up and drops the passenger in the same spot after travelling through the entire park. Disheartened we resorted to walking and through some lovely gardens, we reached near the waterbody.
This was one of the water bodies among the many within this park. The cool breeze by the shores soothed our tired body. We sat there for a long and talked about the fast urbanisation of the surrounding areas. This is when multiple flocks of crane-like birds in the sky caught my attention. I badly missed my camera.
Then there was the Eiffel Tower on the other end of the waterbody. A couple of Kerala houseboats were also seen near the tower in the water. We were left with no more energy to walk that far. We decided to rest for the day and explore the other attractions on our next visit to Eco Park.
The other attractions in Eco Park are Glasshouse on Sabuj Sathi, the island within the huge lake inside the park, the large amphitheatre, the Promenade near the lakefront, the Rabi Aranya in resemblance of Tagore’s Shantiniketan, artist’s cottage, tropical garden, bamboo garden, food court, adda zone, musical fountain and many other activity areas. Recently Misti Hub has opened within the premises of Eco Park. This is an initiative facilitating the tourist from different parts of the country and outside to get the famous Bengali sweets of all renowned sweets shops from across Kolkata under one roof.
Eco Park is an excellent example of the preservation of nature and environment along with recreation and entertainment for people of all age and taste. After visiting eco-park I would personally recommend this place as a must visit for any tourist or visitor in Kolkata.