This city has always been my home. I have always prided myself on the way I know it, its streets and thoroughfares, its lanes and bylanes. The city also has so also much that is unknown and little known, much that I need to see and discover and it is of late that I have begun doing so. One such finding out about my city happened on a December morning as I joined a group of explorers to walk through and explore a part of my city.
The Tiretti Bazar area is like any crowded central Kolkata area, a busy thoroughfare for most of the day, an area that I travelled by many a times. This area is home to Kolkata’s Chinatown. Kolkata has been home to a Chinese population since the early nineteenth century. In the local imagination, the name Tiretti Bazar is associated with crowded streets, with business and with garbage lined up in its bylanes and its recycling business. Most people are aware of its association with the morning breakfast associated with the place. However, I was amazed to discover the Chinese temples in the area.
Dwarfed by tall buildings reaching high up is the Toong On Temple. The ground floor of this temple housed the Nanking restaurant that closed down in the 1970s. The temple, located opposite a huge garbage dump, is closed now.
Close by is the Sea Ip Temple. The ground floor houses a large space used for community meetings, a photo of Sun Yat Sen adorns a wall, the only Chinese newspaper still brought out sits on the huge table, a few pictures and calendars adorn the walls. The first floor that is accessible by stairs and a green railing houses the temple. Dedicated to Kwan Yin, the goddess of war, it is interesting to see that way small crowns adorn the heads of the deities, almost in the Hindu style and garlands too. There is a shrine dedicated to the earth god too. Wonderful wood work adorns the shrine and temple.
Located above a Chinese carpentry shop is Gee Hing temple. The temple also houses a club and we were delighted to see a game of Mahjong in progress.
Chung Dong Thien Haue temple is close by.
Nam Soon temple located at the end of Damzen lane is tucked up in a corner and is a spacious temple that is the best maintained of all the Chinese temples in the area. The temple has a large courtyard too and houses the idol of Kwan Yin, the goddess of war. It also houses the goddess of learning too apart from many other idols.
Sei Voi Young Leong Futh temple is located at Blackburn lane. The temple has a a community room that houses a charcoal portrait of Sun Yat Sen. There used to be a dormitory beside it which now has been converted into a restaurant.
As we walked through the lanes and bylanes, these treasures revealed to us the wonder of Kolkata, its past history and the sad state that most of its heritage is now in.