The Birla Planetarium in Kolkata is said to be the first planetarium established in India. Situated at Chowringhee Road (near the Victoria Memorial) in South Kolkata, it is the largest planetarium in Asia and the second largest planetarium in the world. Popularly known as ‘taramandal’, the planetarium was inaugurated on 2 July 1963 by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India.
The planetarium has an electronics laboratory for design and fabrication of science equipment, an astronomy gallery that maintains a huge collection of fine paintings and celestial models of renowned astronomers, and an astronomical observatory. It offers more than 100 astronomical projects dealing with various facts of astronomy, astro-physics, space science as well as myths concerning stars and planets. It can seat up to 6800 people. Daily programs are conducted in English, Bengali and Hindi. Programs are occasionally conducted in Oriya, Tamil and Gujarati, as well.
After closing down for 28 months for renovations work, it reopened to the public on 18 July 2017. The new system is called the ZEISS Hybrid Planetarium, with the STARMASTER, an optical-mechanical planetarium projector (also called ‘Starball’), which presents the most realistic starfield with superimposed images of constellation outlines, space objects like nebula and galaxies, planets and moons.