Belur Math Temple & Howrah, India

Best Time to Visit: October – December

Howrah is home to the biggest & busiest railway station in the eastern part of India & is the preferred station for anyone visiting the city of Kolkata (which lies just across the Howrah bridge). It’s an awesome place for railfans to spend hours looking at trains.

Outside of the railway station, Howrah has a small rail museum a 15 minute walk after exiting the station & going right. It has a few old engines & coaches as well as a toy train which may be fun for really young kids.

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India’s first electric rail engine

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Verdant oasis within Howrah

Belur Math Temple

Belur Math Temple (featured image) is located a few km from Kolkata on the banks of the river Hooghly & is the world HQ of the Ramakrishna Mission order. India is famed for it’s temples & there is pretty much one in every block. However there is a reason that this particular temple is featured by one of our favourite bloggers (Mark Wiens’ Kolkata post) and is highly rated on TripAdvisor. We’ll try to provide different reasons to visit this picturesque temple (although photos are not allowed in the complex) based on what may pique your interest.

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Belur Math from a boat on the Ganges

Reasons to Visit:

  • Getting in touch with your inner self: There is a group of travelers from outside India who want to visit the country to experience some form of spirituaity. Belur math is a good place for introspection as it’s very peaceful & the temple is quite large & airy which provides a comfortable place for meditation. We recommend attending the evening Arati (vespers) if possible, the temple is packed with devotees singing 3 hymns & the prayer hall reverberates for the entire 30 duration.
  • View some unique temple architecture: Just as travellers visit Cathedrals when visiting Europe, seeing some grand architecture can be a reason to visit Belur Math. What makes it unique is that elements from different faiths & religions were used as inputs to build this temple which makes it look quite different from other Indian temples. See if you can spot these different elements. There is also a small museum that shows the story behind the formation of the Ramakrishna Order.
  • Relax in the river breeze: The final major reason travelers & locals flock to the Belur Math complex is to picnic in it’s grounds. There is almost always a gentle river breeze blowing & the complex is like an oasis of greenery & relative peace compared to the chaos, traffic & crowds outside.

Food & Drink

The absolute best place for a meal in Howrah is the Food Plaza within the railway station itself. The food plaza in the Eastern Railway building complex (the right half of the station) has reasonably priced & quite tasty meals available. Mostly Indian cuisine but there is also some western food at Mio Amore & some Indian-Chinese (of course). Be aware that service might be slow during rush lunch hour. The upstairs seating is air-conditioned & comfortable.

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Paratha, Moghlai Chicken & Sweet Lime juice for INR 180 (£2)

Tip: As the food court is in the ticketed area of the station, if you do not intend to travel on a train but want to eat at the food court, make a 5 INR (6p) ticket to Bally station which gives you an hour to eat.

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