The M. P. Birla Planetarium in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, is an iconic structure whose architecture is based on the famous Buddhist Stupa at Sanchi. Situated at 96, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, adjacent to St. Paul’s Cathedral and near Victoria Memorial, it is a landmark in the city of Kolkata.
The planetarium opened its door on 29th September 1962 and was formally inaugurated on 2nd July 1963 by the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. While inaugurating the facility, he stated that“ we tend to exaggerate the importance of our petty selves on this speck of dust. So this planetarium must serve a useful purpose, apart from gathering knowledge and imparting it. It gives us an idea of what we are and makes us think in a true perspective”.
When it was inaugurated in 1962 the M. P. Birla Planetarium was the first public planetarium in India. It is also one of the largest in the world in terms of its seating capacity. The planetarium has designed and presented more than 300 astronomical projects dealing with various aspects of astronomy, astrophysics, celestial and space sciences and even mythology concerning the stars and the planets.
After fifty two years of successful operation, with an opto-mechanical projection system supplied and installed by Carl Zeiss, the planetarium has been upgraded with the world’s best projection facilities and after a two year of exhaustive renovation and refurbishing, the planetarium was dedicated to the City of Kolkata on 18th July 2017 by the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamta Banerjee. The planetarium now boasts of its latest Carl Zeiss Hybrid Projection System with the advanced opto-mechanical projector StarMaster capable of showing the natural night sky as it is seen along with nine ultra high resolution “Velvet” digital projectors to create an immersive environment of the cosmos.
In addition to the sky theatre the planetarium has completely revamped its exhibition galleries and all public utilities for the enjoyment and comfort of the visitors. An extensive list of visual displays has been installed for the galleries at the planetarium. Interactive exhibits has also been introduced for the public. Keeping in tradition to its academic research the planetarium has a state of the art seminar hall and a classroom equipped with modern gadgets for teaching.