Metacalfe Hall… The first Public Library of Kolkata

Abhishek

Facing the beautiful Hooghly river bank in Kolkata ,at the junction of Strand Road and Hare Street, stands a majestic piece of architecture called Metacalfe Hall. It is located just near the Babu Ghat.You can reach it easily by taking one of the local buses or ferryboat to Babu Ghat and then walk towards it.The inter state bus terminal is also near, at a walkable distance.

While walking or travelling along the strand road, I had always admired this building.Though, I was never able to go inside it, because of some reasons.One day, While visiting the nearby GPO, I decided to take a stroll on the strand road and have a view of the hooghly river.While, coming to the strand road, I again came up to this building. I noticed a poster just outside the inner entrance depicting that some exhibition of Bengali Cinema was currently going on.I thought it would be a good chance to visit this place today.

Metacalfe Hall
Metacalfe Hall

I went inside from the main gate adjacent to Strand Road(Western side).You have to take some broad flight of steps to reach the gallery section on the ground floor which is on a 10 feet high ornamental,solid basement.The view of this 180 year old building is just awesome.It’s architecture is similar to Greek Temple of Winds at Athens.There are thirty massive thirty six feet high, Corinthian columns supporting a monumental entablature. Surrounding the buildings are massive columns and colonade.

This building was constructed in 1840-1844 on the basis of designs prepared by C. K. Robinson,the city magistrate.It was named after Sir Charles T. Metcalfe who was the Governor General during 1835-1836, honoring his efforts for a free press.Lord Metcalfe also formed the Calcutta Public Library collection and housed it inside this building.About 4675 volumes was transferred here from the Library of nearby College of Fort William.Initially, it ran on a proprietary basis. The Subscription charges for being a propertier was about Rs 300. Dwarkanath Tagore was the first proprietor of Calcutta Public Library.Nowadays,the library is shifted to Alipur near the zoo and this building lies in control of Archaelogical Survey of India and is used to host exhibitions.

I went inside the building.The gallery on the ground floor hosted the exhibition on Bengali films.Various pictures and paintings about Bengali films,actors and actresses of different era was displayed.I would say, The exhibition was very successful in depicting the richness of Bengali Cinema through the different art forms.Next to the Cinema exhibition gallery is a hall which had many pictures and details of the renovation works carried out in Metcalfe hall by the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI). Some old pictures of Kolkata like pictures of Howrah Bridge etc are also displayed.

Opposite to this hall was a room where a beautiful cart was displayed where the visitors could write some thoughts about Kolkata and leave it there in a basket which would be later displayed in the room in a beautiful pattern.

Inside Metacalfe Hall
Inside Metacalfe Hall

I then took the flight of stairs to the first floor.The walls of the stairs were decorated with beautiful posters of Bengali Cinema making the ambience mesmerizing.

Inside Metacalfe Hall
Stairs to first floor of Metacalfe Hall

On first floor, there are some more galleries.On entering, as a beautiful art form displayed in the form of a boat with beautiful lightning.The next room was full of eminent quotes by different personalities in 3D forms.Some different artforms can also be seen.

Moving inside, There were other pictures and art forms displayed with superb lighting effects.

Further, Facing Hooghly river was another Hall decorated beautifully in minimalist style.You can get good views from the windows.

I would say, The exhibition was very successful in depicting the richness of Bengali Cinema through the different art forms.

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