Travel tips – Come and see my beautiful Kolkata – I

 

Kolkata

, formerly Calcutta

, is the capital of the Indian state ofWest Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly 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 Mumbai andDelhi.[12] As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Kolkata confronts substantial urban pollution, traffic congestion, poverty, overpopulation, and other logistic and socioeconomic problems.

Quick facts: Kolkata কলকাতা Calcutta, Country …

In the late 17th century, the three villages that predated Kolkata were ruled by the Nawab of Bengal under Mughalsuzerainty. After the Nawab granted theEast India Company a trading license in 1690,[13] the area was developed by the Company into an increasingly fortified mercantile base. Nawab Siraj ud-Daulahretook 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 sovereignty after Mughal governorship (Nizamat) was abolished. Under the East India Company and later under theBritish 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 ofcontemporary 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. Manypeople from Kolkata—among them several Nobel laureates—have contributed to the arts, the sciences, and other areas, while Kolkata culturefeatures 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, theAsiatic 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, the Botanical Survey of India, theCalcutta Mathematical Society, theIndian Science Congress Association, the Zoological Survey of India, theInstitution 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.

Etymology

The word Kolkata derives from the Bengali term Kôlikata (Bengaliকলিকাতা) [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 were Sutanuti andGovindapur.[14]

There are several explanations about the etymology of this name:

  • The term Kolikata is thought to be a variation of Kalikkhetrô [ˈkalikʰːet̪rɔ] (Bengaliকালীক্ষেত্র), meaning “Field of [the goddess] Kali“.
  • Alternatively, the name may have been derived from the Bengali term kilkila(Bengaliকিলকিলা), or “flat area”.[15]
  • The name may have its origin in the words khal [ˈkʰal] (Bengaliখাল) meaning “canal”, followed by kaṭa [ˈkata] (Bengaliকাটা), which may mean “dug”.[16]
  • According to another theory, the area specialised in the production ofquicklime or koli chun [ˈkɔlitɕun] (Bengaliকলি চুন) and coir or kata [ˈkat̪a] (Bengaliকাতা); hence, it was calledKolikata [ˈkɔlikat̪a] (Bengali:কলিকাতা).[15]

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.[17]

History

Main article: History of Kolkata

The discovery and archaeological study of Chandraketugarh, 35 kilometres (22 mi) north of Kolkata, provide evidence that the region in which the city stands has been inhabited for over two millennia.[18][19] 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;[20] in response to a public petition, the Calcutta High Court ruled in 2003 that the city does not have a founder.[21] The area occupied by the present-day city encompassed three villages: KalikataGobindapur, andSutanuti. Kalikata was a fishing village; Sutanuti was a riverside weavers’ village. They were part of an estate belonging to the Mughal emperor; thejagirdari (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, orzamindars. These rights were transferred to the East India Company in 1698.[22]:1

Chowringhee avenue and Tipu Sultan Mosque in central Calcutta, 1945

In 1712, the British completed the construction of Fort William, located on the east bank of the Hooghly River to protect their trading factory.[23] 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.[24] A force of Company soldiers (sepoys) and British troops led by Robert Clive recaptured the city the following year.[24] Per the 1765Treaty of Allahabad following the battle 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.[25] Declared a presidency city, Calcutta became the headquarters of the East India Company by 1772.[26] 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.[27] 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 WellesleyGovernor-General of East India company held territories between 1797 and 1805, was largely responsible for the development of the city and its public architecture.[28]Throughout the late 18th and 19th century, the city was a centre of the East India Company’s opium trade.[29]

By the 1850s, Calcutta had two areas: White Town, which was primarily British and centred on Chowringhee andDalhousie Square; and Black Town, mainly Indian and centered on North Calcutta.[30] 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 new babu class of urbane Indians, whose members were often bureaucrats, professionals, newspaper readers, and Anglophiles; they usually belonged to upper-caste Hindu communities.[31] In the 19th century, the Bengal Renaissancebrought about an increased sociocultural sophistication among city denizens. In 1883, Calcutta was host to the first national conference of theIndian National Association, the first avowed nationalist organisation in India.[32] Gradually, Calcutta became a centre for revolutionary organisationsassociated with the Indian independence movement. The temporary 1905 partition of Bengalalong communal lines resulted in widespread public agitation and a boycott of British goods by theSwadeshi movement.[33] 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.[34]

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.[33] Gradually Calcutta became an important hub for Indian Independence Movement, especially therevolutionary parties. The city and its port were bombed several times by theJapanese between 1942 and 1944, during World War II.[35][36] Coinciding with the war, millions starved to death during the Bengal famine of 1943 due to a combination of military, administrative, and natural factors.[37] Demands for the creation of a Muslim state led in 1946 toan episode of communal violence that killed over 4,000.[38][39][40] 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.[41]

During the 1960s and 1970s, severe power shortages, strikes, and a violent Marxist–Maoist movement by groups known as the Naxalites damaged much of the city’s infrastructure, resulting in economic stagnation.[42] TheBangladesh Liberation War of 1971 led to a massive influx of thousands of refugees, many of them penniless, that strained Kolkata’s infrastructure.[43]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.[44] 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 the Left Front, which was dominated by the Communist Party of India (CPM). It was the world’s longest-serving democratically elected communist government; Kolkata was a key base for Indian communism.[45][46][47] 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.[48]

Geography

Main article: Geography of Kolkata

Kolkata Skyline

Spread roughly north–south along the east bank of the Hooghly River, Kolkata sits within the lower Ganges Delta of eastern India; the city’s elevation is 1.5–9 m (5–30 ft).[49] Much of the city was originally a wetland that was reclaimed over the decades to accommodate a burgeoning population.[50] The remaining undeveloped areas, known as the East Kolkata Wetlands, were designated a “wetland of international importance” by the Ramsar Convention(1975).[51] As with most of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the soil and water are predominantly alluvial in origin. Kolkata is located over the “Bengal basin”, a pericratonic tertiary basin.[52] Bengal basin comprises three structural unit: shelf or platform in the west; central hinge or shelf/slope break; and deep basinal part in the east and southeast. Kolkata is located atop the western part of the hinge zone which is about 25 km (16 mi) wide at a depth of about 45,000 m (148,000 ft) below the surface.[52] The shelf and hinge zones have many faults, among them some are active. Total thickness of sediment below Kolkata is nearly 7,500 m (24,600 ft) above the crystalline basement; of these the top 350–450 m (1,150–1,480 ft) is quaternary, followed by 4,500–5,500 m (14,760–18,040 ft) oftertiary sediments, 500–700 m (1,640–2,300 ft) trap wash of cretaceous trap and 600–800 m (1,970–2,620 ft)permiancarboniferous Gondwanarocks.[52] The quaternary sediments consist of clay, silt, and several grades of sand and gravel. These sediments are sandwiched between two clay beds: the lower one at a depth of 250–650 m (820–2,130 ft); the upper one 10–40 m (30–130 ft) in thickness.[53] According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, on a scale ranging from I to V in order of increasing susceptibility to earthquakes, the city lies inside seismic zone III;[54]according to a United Nations Development Programme report, its wind and cyclone zone is “very high damage risk”.[54]

Urban structure

The Kolkata metropolitan area is spread over 1,886.67 km2 (728.45 sq mi)[55]:7and comprises 3 municipal corporations (including Kolkata Municipal Corporation), 39 local municipalities and 24 panchayat samitis, as of 2011.[55]:7The urban agglomeration encompassed 72 cities and 527 towns and villages, as of 2006.[56] Suburban areas in the Kolkata metropolitan area incorporate parts of the following districts: North 24 ParganasSouth 24 ParganasHowrah, Hooghly, and Nadia.[57]:15 Kolkata, which is under the jurisdiction of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation ( KMC), has an area of 185 km2 (71 sq mi).[56] The east–west dimension of the city is comparatively narrow, stretching from the Hooghly River in the west to roughly the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass in the east—a span of 9–10 km (5.6–6.2 mi).[58] The north–south distance is greater, and its axis is used to section the city into North, Central, and South Kolkata.

Kolkata skyline from Chowringhee

Howrah Bridge links Kolkata to Western bank of Ganges

Vidyasagar Setu – River Hooghly

North Kolkata is the oldest part of the city. Characterised by 19th-century architecture and narrow alleyways, it includes areas such as Shyambazar,ShobhabazarChitpurCossipore,Sinthee, and Dum Dum.[59]:65–66 The north sub urban areas like Baranagar,BelghoriaSodepurKhardah up toBarrackpur are also within the city of Kolkata (as a metropolitan structure).

Central Kolkata hosts the central business district. It contains B. B. D. Bagh, formerly known as Dalhousie Square, and the Esplanade on its east;Strand Road is on its west.[60] The West Bengal SecretariatGeneral Post Office,Reserve Bank of IndiaHigh Court,Lalbazar Police Headquarters, and several other government and private offices are located there. Another business hub is the area south of Park Street, which comprises thoroughfares such as Jawaharlal Nehru RoadCamac Street, Wood Street, Loudon Street,Shakespeare Sarani, and A. J. C. Bose Road.[61] The Maidan is a large open field in the heart of the city that has been called the “lungs of Kolkata”[62] and accommodates sporting events and public meetings.[63] The Victoria Memorial and Kolkata Race Course are located at the southern end of the Maidan. Among the other parks areCentral Park in Bidhannagar andMillennium Park on Strand Road, along the Hooghly River.

South Kolkata developed after India gained independence in 1947; it includes upscale neighbourhoods such asBallygungeAliporeNew Alipore,LansdowneBhowaniporeTollygunge,Jodhpur Park, Lake Gardens, Golf Green,Jadavpur, and Kasba.[14] From south-west to south-east, outlying areas include Garden Reach, Behala, Thakurpukur, Kudghat, Ranikuthi,BansdroniBaghajatin, and Garia, along with the south sub urban areas like Narendrapur, Sonarpur, Baruipur, is within the city of Kolkata (as metropolitan structure). Two planned townships in the greater Kolkata region are Bidhannagar, also known as Salt Lake City and located north-east of the city; and Rajarhat, also called New Town and sited east of Bidhannagar.[14][64] In the 2000s, Sector V in Bidhannagar developed into a business hub for information technology and telecommunication companies.[65][66]Both Bidhannagar and New Town are situated outside the Kolkata Municipal Corporation limits, in their own municipalities.[64] Fort William, on the western part of the city, houses the headquarters of the Eastern Commandof the Indian Army;[67] its premises are under the jurisdiction of the army.

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