If you are entering Kolkata via train, then most likely this will be your first stop as Howrah Railway Station is one of two major railway stations in Kolkata. And, to reach your hotel or destination from the station, you would necessarily have to cross over this cantilever bridge popularly called Howrah Bridge, which, by the way, is the world’s busiest cantilever bridge. This bridge, one of the icons of Kolkata, was opened to public on 3rd February, 1943, and was initially called the New Howrah Bridge. However, on 14th June, 1965 it was renamed as Rabindra Setu, after the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, who was not only India’s first, but also Asia’s first Nobel Laureate.
Howrah Bridge a.k.a Rabindra Setu is the first of the two bridges over Hoogly River, the second one being Vidya Sagar Setu. The bridge is the sixth-longest bridge of its kind in the world, however, at the time of its making, it was number third. Several attempts were made and ideas proposed since 1862 before the first Howrah Bridge Act was not passed until 1871. Several parts of the bridge were constructed in England and then brought to Kolkata. Unfortunately, the bridge didn’t last long and was demolished by the great cyclone that hit on 20th March, 1874. Reconstruction began again later that year and the pontoon bridge was opened to the masses on 17th October the same year. The construction of the bridge received more footfall than anticipated which led the government to plan for a new improved and stronger bridge and the planning for the same started in 1905. After inspecting all the details, it was decided that the new bridge to be constructed would be a floating bridge, however, the outbreak of World War I delayed the procedure. Finally, in 1936 the construction of the New Howrah Bridge began and it was opened to public in 1943.
The first ever vehicle to use the New Howrah Bridge was a ‘solitary tram’.
Howrah Bridge is not only the gateway to Kolkata and the long-standing link between Kolkata and Howrah, but also has a very strong cultural influence over Kolkata and its people. Rudyard Kipling highlighted the bridge in his short story City of Dreadful Night: “Why, this is London! This is the docks. This is Imperial. This is worth coming across India to see!”
The bridge has been featured in many regional, national, and international movies and documentaries. Till date, most travel shows, when depicting Kolkata, show Howrah Bridge as their opening shot.
The bridge is spectacular in its sense that IT DOES NOT HAVE ANY NUTS AND BOLTS like that of the other bridges built so far. It consumed about 26,500 tons of steel. Now, isn’t that amazing!
The day view of the bridge is that of an enormous structure carrying thousands of pedestrians, motor vehicles, and commercial vehicles, however, come evening, the structure is lit beautifully in different colors and is a different view altogether. It’s worth coming here in the evening to click a few pictures or in the day to see life pass you by every second of every minute.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose is the main international airport in Kolkata which is well connected to all major cities in the country and abroad such as Bangkok, Doha, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, and Paro.
If travelling within India, there are regular trains connecting Kolkata's Sealdah Railway Station and Howrah Railway Station to all the major parts of the country.
Getting around within the city is very easy as the city offers multiple transport options - metered taxis, shared auto rickshaws, normal buses, AC buses, Metro, and Suburban Trains.