Monday, April 2, 2007

Fly me to the moon...

So this time, I decided I absolutely must check out the Planetarium. I have the absolutely faintest memory of going inside and seeing the show, when I was tiny, and every time I passed the mouth of Theatre Road, where you can see that great big dome looming out of the foliage, I was always sorely tempted to go by. So I went ahead a day before with Premankur, checked out the show timing for the next day, and there I was, standing in line. Camera in tow. :)

For anyone not in the know, Calcutta's MP Birla Planetarium was built in 1962 - Asia's largest and first planetarium, and coming only a few years after the world's first in London. And thes days, apart from the shows and the lectures, the Planetarium also offers post graduate diploma courses and a M.Phil in astronomy.

Before entering the main exhibition hall, however (show tickets: Rs 30 for English, at 1.30 pm), I explored the gallery around it. It's got all these great charts and drawings and photographs, plus the mandatory gift shop, but what I found most interesting were the Hindu depictions of the planets. So I snapped up Earth (the Vishnu Varaha avatar rescuing Earth-mother Bhumi from the ocean-bed, as in the legends), and the red-skinned god of Mars. And yes, Mars is sitting on a goat. :)

AS for the mail hall itself - it's got this avst hemispherical domed ceiling, plush leather seating arranged in a circle around the centre of the room, where the projection equipment is. The rim of the walls has frescoes of the Calcutta city skyline, and this is an amazing touch, when the show delves on the Calcutta night sky. It's seriously a fantastic sight, when the dome gets pitch black, and covered in goregous twinkling stars, and when they etch out the constellations one by one.

Aa, but cameras are not allowed inside, when the show is on or about to start. I clicked the pic above surreptitiously, but put it away when the show started. As for the show itself, it wasn't too bad on the knowledge and the light-show fronts, but the droning voice of some Old Mother Hubbard-wannabe talking about the stars/ planets wasn't very engaging. And then, when she suddenly starts shouting in the middle of the show - "You were told to put off your mobile phones! Am I not speaking proper English? Why can't you do as you're told?!" - I burst out laughing at the Headmistress Act. :)

All in all, a fun afternooon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I have relocated to Kolkata, about two years back, from Mumbai and I have loved your posts on Kolkata. I am just discovering all of these places.

Though I am not particularly fond of this city, but I guess there is some old world charm about all the places that you have discussed in your blog.

Good work. Keep writing...:)