Up the Hooghly
Serampore, on the Hooghly River, about 25km north of Kolkata, was a Danish trading centre until Denmark’s holdings in India were transferred to the British East India Company in 1845. Serampore College was founded in 1818 by the first Baptist missionary to India, William Carey, and houses a library that was once one of the largest in the country.
Known for its beautiful terracotta temples, Bishnupur flourished as the capital of the Malla kings from the 16th to the early 19th centuries. The architecture of these intriguing temples is a bold mix of Bengali, Islamic and Oriya (Odishan) styles. Intricately detailed facades of numerous temples play out scenes of the Hindu epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Nabadwip & Mayapur
Nabadwip, 114km north of Kolkata, is an important Krishna pilgrimage centre, attracting throngs of devotees, and is also an ancient centre of Sanskrit culture. The last Hindu king of Bengal, Lakshman Sen, moved his capital here from Gaur. Across the river from Nabadwip, Mayapur is the headquarters of the Iskcon (Hare Krishna) movement.
Gaur & Pandua
Rising from the flooded paddy fields of Gaur (355km from Kolkata) are mosques and other crumbling ruins of the 13th- to 16th-century capital of the Muslim nawabs of Bengal. Little remains from the 7th- to 12th-century pre-Muslim period, when Gaur was the capital of the successive Buddhist Pala and Hindu Sena dynasties.