Kolkata, Dec 8(ANI): The Kolkata Maidan, five square kilometres of greenery in the heart of Kolkata city, is not just the lung of this teeming metropolis, but also the nerve centre for social and sporting activities.
For the common man, it's not the nightclubs, restaurants or amusement parks, but the venue for a day's outing with the family.
The significance of the Maidan becomes glaringly obvious with the coming of winters, as from the toddler to the octogenarian there is something for everyone at the Maidan. From morning to evening walks for the health conscious, picnics on the green to cricket, football or badminton against the Kolkata skyline, the Maidan experience is a fond memory for any true blue Kolkatan, whichever part of the world they are in.
"It has great importance in our life. It has an open area, and the trees and all the fresh air in this Maidan area. We come here every fortnight. Basically, the city we are living is congested and surrounded with buildings and there sis no clean air and environment, that is why we come here," said Niraj Banka, a local resident.
Horse riding is a favourite pastime here, as are camel rides. Performing monkeys add to the attraction as families munch on chips, while many come with packed lunches to enjoy the afternoon sun and the fresh air.
Buggy-rides along tree-dotted avenues around the Maidan, and past the magnificent Victoria Memorial and the Racecourse, add to the charm of this huge open space.
"The Indian Army is the custodian of the Maidan, looking after it on the basis of guidelines laid down by the Calcutta High Court to safeguard the greenery. In keeping with the rules, no permanent structure is allowed to come up on the Maidan," said Wing Commander, Mahesh Upasani, CPRO, Ministry of Defence.
According to Kalyan Mazumdar, General Secretary, East Bengal Club, the Maidan has made tremendous contribution to Indian sports, starting with the likes of Leslie Claudius, whose Maidan forays took him to the national hockey team at the Olympics, to being the genesis point for famous footballers like Chuni Goswami, P K Banerjee and Baichung Butia.
"This Kolkata Maidan is unique for Kolkata people. It is the heart of Kolkata. All inter-state activities, sports, cultural, administrative and commercial activities take place in this Maidan. The topography of the Maidan is such that it also works as the lungs of the city so," Mazumdar added.
The geographical location of the Maidan, in the heart of the city, just about ten minutes from Howrah and Sealdah stations, makes it convenient for footballers and spectators alive to come there for practice and the matches.
That's why after the football match venue shifted to Salt Lake Stadium off the Eastern Bypass, the number of spectators went down, said Mazumdar.
The Kolkata Maidan is a landmark institution for the city, which has a psychological, social, physical and environmental attachment to it.
The locals are very attached to the place and are keen to safeguard the Maidan for posterity. (ANI)