This article is about the capital city of West Bengal, India. For the namesake district, see Kolkata district
Kolkata //, formerly Calcutta//, is the capital of the Indian state ofWest Bengal. Located on the east bank of theHooghly river, it is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while the Port of Kolkata is India’s oldest operating port as well as its sole major riverine port. As of 2011, the city had 4.5 million residents; the urban agglomeration, which comprises the city and its suburbs, was home to approximately 14.1 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area in India. As of 2008, its gross domestic product (adjusted for purchasing power parity) was estimated to be US$104 billion, which would be third highest among Indian cities, behind Mumbaiand Delhi. As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Kolkata confronts substantial urban pollution, traffic congestion, poverty, overpopulation, and other logistic and socioeconomic problems.
In the late 17th century, the three villages that predated Kolkata were ruled by the Nawab of Bengal under Mughal suzerainty. After the Nawab granted the East India Company a trading license in 1690, the area was developed by the Company into an increasingly fortified mercantile base. NawabSiraj ud-Daulah retook Kolkata in 1756 after the Company started evading taxes and due to increasing militarization of the fort. The East India Company retook it in the following year and in 1793 assumed full sovereigntyafter Mughal governorship (Nizamat) was abolished. Under the East India Company and later under the British Raj, Kolkata served as the capital of British held territories in India until 1911, when its perceived geographical disadvantages, combined with growing nationalism in Bengal, led to a shift of the capital to New Delhi. The city was the centre of the Indian independence movement; it remains a hotbed of contemporary state politics. Following Indian independence in 1947, Kolkata—which was once the centre of modern Indian education, science, culture, and politics—witnessed several decades of relative economic stagnation. Since the early 2000s, an economic rejuvenation has led to accelerated growth.
As a nucleus of the 19th- and early 20th-century Bengal Renaissance and a religiously and ethnically diverse centre of culture in Bengal and India, Kolkata has established local traditions in drama, art, film, theatre, and literature that have gained wide audiences. Many people from Kolkata—among them several Nobel laureates—have contributed to the arts, the sciences, and other areas, whileKolkata culture features idiosyncrasies that include distinctively close-knit neighbourhoods (paras) and freestyle intellectual exchanges (adda). West Bengal’s share of the Bengali film industry is based in the city, which also hosts venerable cultural institutions of national importance, such as the Academy of Fine Arts, the Victoria Memorial, the Asiatic Society, the Indian Museum and the National Library of India. Among professional scientific institutions, Kolkata hosts the Agri Horticultural Society of India, the Geological Survey of India, theBotanical Survey of India, the Calcutta Mathematical Society, the Indian Science Congress Association, the Zoological Survey of India, the Institution of Engineers, theAnthropological Survey of India and theIndian Public Health Association. Though home to major cricketing venues and franchises, Kolkata differs from other Indian cities by giving importance to association football and other sports.
The word Kolkata derives from the Bengali term Kôlikata (Bengali: কলিকাতা) [ˈkɔlikat̪a], the name of one of three villages that predated the arrival of the British, in the area where the city eventually was to be established; the other two villages wereSutanuti and Govindapur.
There are several explanations about the etymology of this name:
- The term Kolikata is thought to be a variation of Kalikkhetrô [ˈkalikʰːet̪rɔ] (Bengali:কালীক্ষেত্র), meaning “Field of [the goddess]Kali“.
- Alternatively, the name may have been derived from the Bengali term kilkila (Bengali:কিলকিলা), or “flat area”.
- The name may have its origin in the wordskhal [ˈkʰal] (Bengali: খাল) meaning “canal”, followed by kaṭa [ˈkata] (Bengali: কাটা), which may mean “dug”.
- According to another theory, the area specialised in the production of quicklime orkoli chun [ˈkɔlitɕun] (Bengali: কলি চুন) and coir or kata [ˈkat̪a] (Bengali: কাতা); hence, it was called Kolikata [ˈkɔlikat̪a] (Bengali:কলিকাতা).
While the city’s name has always been pronounced Kolkata [ˈkolkat̪a] (Bengali:কলকাতা) or Kôlikata [ˈkɔlikat̪a] (Bengali:কলিকাতা) in Bengali, the anglicised formCalcutta was the official name until 2001, when it was changed to Kolkata in order to match Bengali pronunciation.
The discovery and archaeological study ofChandraketugarh, 35 kilometres (22 mi) north of Kolkata, provide evidence that the region in which the city stands has been inhabited for over two millennia. Kolkata’s recorded history began in 1690 with the arrival of the English East India Company, which was consolidating its trade business in Bengal.Job Charnock, an administrator who worked for the Company, is traditionally credited as the founder of the city; in response to a public petition, the Calcutta High Court ruled in 2003 that the city does not have a founder. The area occupied by the present-day city encompassed three villages:Kalikata, Gobindapur, and Sutanuti. Kalikata was a fishing village; Sutanuti was a riverside weavers’ village. They were part of an estate belonging to the Mughal emperor; the jagirdari(a land grant bestowed by a king on his noblemen) taxation rights to the villages were held by the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family of landowners, or zamindars. These rights were transferred to the East India Company in 1698.:1
In 1712, the British completed the construction of Fort William, located on the east bank of the Hooghly River to protect their trading factory. Facing frequent skirmishes with French forces, the British began to upgrade their fortifications in 1756. The Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, condemned the militarization and tax evasion by the company. His warning went unheeded, and the Nawab attacked; he captured Fort William which led to the killings of several East India company officials in the Black Hole of Calcutta. A force of Company soldiers (sepoys) and British troops led by Robert Cliverecaptured the city the following year. Per the 1765 Treaty of Allahabad following thebattle of Buxar, East India company was appointed imperial tax collector of the Mughal emperor in the province of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, while Mughal-appointed Nawabs continued to rule the province.Declared a presidency city, Calcutta became the headquarters of the East India Company by 1772. In 1793, ruling power of the Nawabs were abolished and East India company took complete control of the city and the province. Beginning in 1864, the hill station of Shimla served as administrative capital during summers. In the early 19th century, the marshes surrounding the city were drained; the government area was laid out along the banks of the Hooghly River.Richard Wellesley, Governor-General of East India company held territories between 1797 and 1805, was largely responsible for the development of the city and its public architecture. Throughout the late 18th and 19th century, the city was a centre of the East India Company’s opium trade.
By the 1850s, Calcutta had two areas: White Town, which was primarily British and centred on Chowringhee and Dalhousie Square; and Black Town, mainly Indian and centered on North Calcutta. The city underwent rapid industrial growth starting in the early 1850s, especially in the textile and jute industries; this encouraged British companies to massively invest in infrastructure projects, which included telegraph connections and Howrah railway station. The coalescence of British and Indian culture resulted in the emergence of a newbabu class of urbane Indians, whose members were often bureaucrats, professionals, newspaper readers, and Anglophiles; they usually belonged to upper-caste Hindu communities. In the 19th century, the Bengal Renaissance brought about an increased sociocultural sophistication among city denizens. In 1883, Calcutta was host to the first national conference of the Indian National Association, the first avowed nationalist organisation in India. Gradually, Calcutta became a centre for revolutionary organisations associated with the Indian independence movement. The temporary1905 partition of Bengal along communal lines resulted in widespread public agitation and a boycott of British goods by theSwadeshi movement. These activities, along with the administratively disadvantageous location of Calcutta on the eastern fringes of India, prompted the British to move the capital to New Delhi in 1911.
Bengali billboards on Harrison Street. Calcutta was the largest commercial center in British India.
Rashtraguru Surendranath Banerjeeorganized a national conference at 1883. This was the first political party in India in the nineteenth century. In 1905, Calcutta protested the partition of division of Bengal and boycotted all the British Goods.Gradually Calcutta became an important hub for Indian Independence Movement, especially the revolutionary parties. The city and its port were bombed several times by the Japanese between 1942 and 1944, duringWorld War II. Coinciding with the war, millions starved to death during the Bengal famine of 1943 due to a combination of military, administrative, and natural factors. Demands for the creation of a Muslim state led in 1946 to an episode of communal violence that killed over 4,000. The partition of India led to further clashes and a demographic shift—many Muslims left for East Pakistan, while hundreds of thousands of Hindus fled into the city.
During the 1960s and 1970s, severe power shortages, strikes, and a violent Marxist–Maoist movement by groups known as theNaxalites damaged much of the city’s infrastructure, resulting in economic stagnation. The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 led to a massive influx of thousands of refugees, many of them penniless, that strained Kolkata’s infrastructure. During the mid-1980s,Mumbai (then called Bombay) overtook Kolkata as India’s most populous city. In 1985, Rajiv Gandhi dubbed Kolkata a “dying city” in light of its socio-political woes.After independence in the year of 1951 and 1956 the Corporation act was amended. Lastly in 1980 West Bengal Governmentamended this act. In 1984 a revised new law was effected. In the period 1977–2011, West Bengal was governed from Kolkata by theLeft Front, which was dominated by theCommunist Party of India (CPM). It was the world’s longest-serving democratically elected communist government; Kolkata was a key base for Indian communism.The city’s economic recovery gathered momentum after the 1990s, when India began to institute pro-market reforms. Since 2000, the information technology (IT) services sector has revitalised Kolkata’s stagnant economy. The city is also experiencing marked growth in its manufacturing base.
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