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Kolkata's luminous makeover adds to its pride & glory

Calcutta Illumination Project aimed to illuminate 500 structures in Kolkata to restore city's colonial buildings.

Neha Singh - Kolkata - UPDATED: July 12, 2024, 12:55 AM - 5 mins read

Calcutta Illumination Project aimed to illuminate 500 structures in Kolkata to restore city colonial buildings.

Kolkata's luminous makeover adds to its pride & glory

Before and after image of Royal Insurance Building in Dalhousie Square, Kolkata. (Image via Instagram)


Kolkata — The City of Joy — was somewhat missing out on its beauty, until Mudar Patherya took the initiative to light up the city’s skyline.

 

The only city, which was built from scratch by the Britishers is Kolkata. Hence the city’s architecture and heritage buildings are worth exploring. However, what led to the woes is the inability to experience the glory of the colonial buildings after the Sun was down.

 

Patherya — a prominent activist in the city — decided to illuminate the structures at night. He commissioned the idea to illuminate 500 structures in Kolkata under the Calcutta Illumination Project backed by Kolkata Restorers and Hind Lighting Studio.

 

Who is Mudar Patherya?

 

Besides being an activist, Patherya is the owner of Trisys, India’s oldest and one among the largest agencies of corporate financial communications.

 

He rose to fame by cleaning various urban water bodies.

 

Patherya inspired the creation of a philanthropic NGO called Kolkata Gives that mobilised nearly Rs 100 mn during the pandemic in cash and kind. 

 

Relevance of High Lighting Studio and Kolkata Restorers 

 

Hind Lighting is Kolkata’s biggest light vendor which has been operational since 1957. Tushar Bhala, the principal lighting designer at Hind Lighting, is the one who conceptualised the sequence between shadows and play of lights to foster the city’s newfound radiance.

 

Bhala consolidated light, design, vendorship, installation and delivery to work in tandem with Kolkata Restorers.

 

Mudar Patherya (left), who commissioned the Calcutta Illumination Project. Tushar Bhala, principal lighting designer at Hind Lighting Studio.
Mudar Patherya (left), who commissioned the Calcutta Illumination Project. Tushar Bhala, principal lighting designer at Hind Lighting Studio. 

 

Bhala, who completed his post-graduation in lighting design from Singapore, dreamt of illuminating St. Paul’s Cathedral— a church known for its Gothic architecture which is the seat of the Diocese of Calcutta. Thus, Patherya’s vision struck a cord with him. 

 

Kolkata Restore was a WhatsApp group, which enabled Patherya to connect with like-minded people, who are interested in working towards restoring the magnificence of the city.

 

How did it all start?

 

One morning in September 2023, when Patherya was driving across north Kolkata, he noticed the iconic dome atop Maniktala market. His first reaction was that it requires a coat of painting. He dropped a message on a WhatsApp group called ‘Kolkata Restore’, expressing his desire to get it painted.

 

Iconic Maniktala dome restored to its former glory owing to the Calcutta Illumination Project. (Image via Instagram).
Iconic Maniktala dome restored to its former glory owing to the Calcutta Illumination Project. (Image via Instagram).

 

Within minutes, former police commissioner Soumen Mitra connected him to Debasish Dutta, the officer-in-charge of Burtolla police station. With Dutta’s help, Patherya reached out to the market’s association and got the dome painted.

 

However, he was not entirely satisfied, as the freshly painted spot was not visible at night. That is ho the idea to illuminate it was born.

 

Patherya had borne the expenses of painting the building. But realised that a successful conclusion of the illuminating project would require crowd-funding. He got in touch with some high net-worth individuals and managed to secure adequate funds. Since then he never had to look back. The first phase was entirely funded by The Bhawanipur Education Society College (BESC).

 

Names of the illuminated structures

 

Prominent landmarks such as the Bible Society building, established in 1811; the Greek Orthodox Church, located in Kalighat tram depot and constructed in 1925; St. James’ Church on AJC Bose Road, constructed in 1862; St. Mary’s Church on Elgin Road, popularly known as the “Bangli Cathedral”; Maghen David Synagogue on Canning Street, the Port Clock Tower, the Auxilium Church and the Portuguese Church on Brabourne Road, founded in 1799, also known as the Cathedral of The Most Holy Rosary. It is the first Catholic place of worship in Kolkata.

 

Bible Society of India, Kolkata. (Image via Instagram).
Before and after image of the Bible Society of India, Kolkata. (Image via Instagram).

 

The other structures illuminated under the project include the Maniktala Market, on Vivekanand Road featuring dome painting;  historic Sree Sree Kalachand Ishwar Jiu Mandir on Ramdulal Sarkar Street; religious structures like the Kapalitola Kali Mandir at 42 Chittaranjan Avenue, the Sacred Heart Church of Lenin Sarani (underwent clock repair); Park Court at Park Circus junction; the Royal Insurance building, founded in 1845, that was designed by architects Edward Thornton and PWD architect William Banks Gwyther; the Royal Calcutta Turf Club, founded in 1847 in Calcutta, have also been illuminated by the group.

 

 

 

 

 

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