Kolkata (Bangla: কলকাতা, Hindi: कोलकता), is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal and was capital of British India until 1912. The city's name was officially changed from Calcutta to Kolkata in January 2001. Despite the new name being phonetically closer to the Bengali version, many people and organizations still refer to it as Calcutta. In Hindi, the city is referred to as Kalkatta.
Kolkata also refers to the name of the Kolkata administrative district of West Bengal that part of the city lies in. The urban agglomeration of Kolkata covers several municipal corporations, municipalities, city boards and villages and is the third largest urban agglomeration in India after Mumbai and Delhi. As per the census of 2001, the urban agglomeration's population was 13,216,546 while that of the city (Municipal Corporation of Kolkata) was 4,580,544. Kolkata city's population growth has been pretty low in the last decade.
The city is situated on the banks of the Hoogli River (a distributary of the Ganges). Some of the renowned engineering marvels associated with Kolkata include the bridges that span across this river to its twin city of Howrah (which is routinely considered as part of greater Kolkata): the Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu), Vivekananda Setu and Vidyasagar Setu.
- 1 History
- 2 Modern Kolkata
- 3 Geography
- 4 Ethnic communities in Kolkata
- 5 Festivals
- 6 Kolkata culture
- 7 Places of interest
- 7.1 Museums and libraries
- 7.2 British administrative offices
- 7.3 Historic hotels
- 7.4 City parks
- 7.5 Theatres
- 7.6 Art galleries
- 7.7 Statues and memorials
- 7.8 Sports venues
- 7.9 Markets and malls
- 7.10 Places of worship
- 7.11 Bridges of Kolkata
- 7.12 British-era clubs
- 7.13 British-era buildings
- 7.14 Educational institutes of academic and historical interest
- 7.15 Amusement parks
- 7.16 Walks
- 8 Education
- 9 Media
- 10 Sports
- 11 Transport
- 12 Kolkata in the media
- 13 Trivia
- 14 See also
- 15 External links
Kolkata's history is intimately related to the British East India Company, which first arrived in 1690, and to British India, which Calcutta became the capital of India in 1772. In the nineteenth century Calcutta was the epicentre of activity in the early stages of the national movement of independence. Kolkata remained in the forefront of Indian prosperity up to independence and for some more years afterwards before the population pressure on infrastructure and political disturbances led to a gradual decline. A violent and bloody Marxist Maoist movement known as the Naxal movement (after Naxalbari, the place where it first started) in the 1970s left the city badly bruised. The city's recovery process gathered steam after India's liberalization in the early nineties.
Kolkata is the main business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India. Kolkata witnessed an economic decline from the late sixties till the late nineties. The city's economic fortunes turned the tide as the early nineties economic liberalization in India reached Kolkata's shores during late nineties. Kolkata is a multicultural, cosmopolitan city. Apart from the diversity of India, the cultures represented are that of the Europeans (Including Germans, Armenians, and others), and other Asians (Including Chinese, Sinhalese, and Tibetans).
Since 1977, a "Left Front" coalition of communist and Marxist parties has continuously ruled the state. The Left Front regained control of the Municipal Corporation of Kolkata from the Trinamul Congress in the 2005 civic elections.
The 'Baboo' culture and the left rule had taken its toll, and by the early 1990s, there was a gradual realisation that things needed to change. This has led to wooing of foreign investment and control over the trade-union activism by the ruling Left establishement. In recent years the city has managed to attract a steady flow of investmemt from various private sector organizations. The landscape of the city is also fast changing with flyovers, gardens and new commercial establishments. The city itself has expanded into its suburbs, with Greater Kolkata stretching from Kalyani (in Nadia District) in the North to Diamond Harbour in the South (in the South 24 Parganas District).
The city's fortunes have looked up since the early nineties, coinciding with the liberalization of the Indian economy. Its economy has been amongst the fastest growing in the country. The new metro city is characterised by popular shopping malls, restaurants, coffee shops and entertainment complexes such as the City Centre, Nandan, Tantra, Barista, Sourav's Pavilion and Science City.
Kolkata is home to many industrial units, of large Indian corporations, whose product range is varied and includes - engineering products, electronics, electrical equipment, cables, steel, leather, textiles, jewellery, frigates, automobiles, railway coaches, wagons.
Several industrial estates like Taratolla, Kalyani, Uluberia, Dankuni, Kasba, Howrah are spread throughout the urban agglomeration. A huge leather complex has come up at Bantolla. An export processing zone has been set up in Falta. Specialized setups like the country's first Toy Park, and a Gem and Jewellery Park have also been established.
Kolkata is also becoming a major hub for the IT (Information Technology) industry. With construction underway of New Town at Rajarhat and extension of Salt Lake's Sector-V, Kolkata is rapidly turning into a preferred IT/BPO destination. More and more businesses are coming to Kolkata to set up their offices, including multinationals such as IBM, HSBC and ABN AMRO Bank. Leading the way in growth have been the Kolkata based companies such as Skytech, WDC, Vision Comptech amongst numerous others.
Kolkata is located in the eastern part of India at Template:Coor dm. It has spread linearly along the banks of the river Hooghly.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has an area of 185 square kilometres. The city proper today can be roughly divided into two sections along Mother Teresa Sarani (Park Street). North of Park Street is the more congested part of the city. South of Park Street is the slightly better planned section of the city.
The old Calcutta Business District (CBD) is where the seat of the West Bengal Government is located, along with many other government offices. Several banks have their corporate (Allahabad Bank, United Bank of India, UCO Bank) or regional headquarters (Reserve Bank of India, State Bank of India, Bank of India, Central Bank of India amongst many others) around the Bagh area. Many of Kolkata's older business groups have their main offices here. The area is a mix of multi-storeyed office blocks and colonial buildings.
The newer CBD is around the south of Park Street, Camac Street and AJC Bose Road. Several high-rise office blocks including some of Kolkata's tallest commercial buildings - like the Chatterjee International Centre, Tata Centre, Everest House, Industry House, CGO Building - are located here.
Maidan (open field) is situated between the river Ganges and J.L. Nehru Road (or Chowringhee). It is said to be the lungs of Calcutta.The lush green meadow also houses Victoria Memorial, Eden Gardens, and several other sporting clubs. Calcuttans simply love to stroll in the Maidan.
In an effort to relieve congestion in the main city, many government offices have shifted to high-rise office buildings lining Bidhan Nagar's (Salt Lake) Central Park.
The residential buildings are mainly lowrise and comprise of older colonial buildings and numerous new four storey apartment blocks. Ten to twelve storey apartment blocks have come up in large numbers in south Kolkata. The city has relaxed its rules on highrise construction recently and twenty storey buildings are becoming more common. The tallest residential towers of eastern India - the four thirty-five-storey towers of South City are under construction on Prince Anwar Shah Road.
Huge construction activity along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass is changing the face of the city. Luxury hotels, a convention centre, speciality hospitals, condominium complexes, malls and multiplexes are coming up at a rapid pace.
The city's expansion in the eastern side is spearheaded by the construction of a huge new city called New Town adjacent to the well planned Bidhan Nagar. Located in Rajarhat, it is one of the largest planned urban developments in India.
The neglected western side of the urban agglomeration has got a boost recently with the signing of an agreement with an Indonesian company to build the West Kolkata International Township. Another huge new township is in the proposal state in Dankuni.
Slums and dilapidated structures exist in many pockets of the city proper and house over 25% of the city's population (Census 2001). Slum redevelopment schemes have helped improve living conditions to a slight extent but there is huge scope for improvement in this area. Efforts to shift slum dwellers to newer developments have often met with resistance and failure because many of the slums are in prime areas of the city and the slum dwellers who are integrated in the social structure of the neighbourhood do not want to shift.
Ethnic communities in Kolkata
Kolkata, though comparatively young compared to the Indian city states like Delhi and Hyderabad, has nevertheless been a melting pot for international and Indian communities, even more so than the upscale and cosmopolitan Bombay and Delhi. Expatriate communities include:
Jews : Kolkata's Jews are mostly Baghdadi Jews who came to Kolkata to trade. At one point as strong as 6000, the community has dwindled after the formation of Israel to about 60. The first recorded Jewish immigrant to Kolkata was Shalon Cohen in 1798 from Aleppo in present day Syria. The most influential Jewish family in Kolkata was perhaps the father - son real estate magnates David Joseph Ezra and Elia David Ezra. They were behind such buildings as the Chowringhee Mansions, Esplanade Mansions and the synagogue Neveh Shalom. Ezra Street in Kolkata is named after them. The community has five independent synagogues in Kolkata, including one in Chinatown - some of which are still active today. The Jewish confectioner Nahoum's at New Market holds a special place in Kolkata confectionery. A Jewish wedding in Kolkata after a gap of 50 years in the 1990s received a lot of press attention.
Armenians : The Armenians followed the land route through Bactria to trade with India from ancient times. They were known as the "Merchant Princes of India", and some settled in Emperor Akbar's court. Some finally settled in Serampore and Kolkata, supposedly under the invitation of Job Charnock. Among notable Armenians, Sir A. Apcar was the head of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, and Arratoon Stephen built the Grand Hotel . The size of the Armenian community can be testified by the five Armenian cemeteries in Kolkata, including the one adjunct to the Chapel of Holy Trinity in Tangra. A gift of Rs. 8000 by Aswatoor Mooradkhan helped found the Armenian Philanthropist Academy in 1821, which later became the still running Armenian College. Armenian College has been instrumental in pioneering the game of rugby on the Maidan turf. The Armenians settled in a block close to Free School Street, which even to this day is called Armani-para ( the neighbourhood of the Armenians. They have mostly assimilated into the Indian population, and the community has now been reduced to a handful of houses.
Tibetans : The Tibetans were initially annual winter visitors to Kolkata, along with the Bhutias - vending woollens, while Afghans ( locally Kabuliwallahs ) - who used to vend spices and fruits. Post 1951, Kolkata became home to quite a few Tibetans who used the porous Sikkim-Tibet border to get to Kolkata. Winter sees large numbers of Tibetans set up winter garment streetside shops in the area around Wellington Square. The Tibetan community has also contributed to a large number of Tibetan restaurants serving ethnic Tibetan cuisine.Tibetan medicine is well accepted in Kolkata as alternative therapy to terminal illnesses.
Greeks : The Greeks emigrated to India after the Ottoman and Turkish invasions in the 16th century. Kolkata had a sizeable Greek community, mostly a close-knit clan of noble families from the Greek island of Chios, pursuing trade with the British. The firm of Ralli Brothers is perhaps the most common Greek name in Kolkata - the Rallis sold their firm in the 1960s after Indian independence and moved away, like most of the Greek community. The firm is presently known as Ralli India, under the Tata Group of companies. The Greek community was centred around Amratollah Street around the Greek Church of the Transfiguration(built 1782). The most famous Greek to hail from Kolkata possibly was the gifted violinist Marie Nicachi who embarked on a European tour in 1910 and played at the courts of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. She settled in her familial home of Corfu after the 1st World War. The Greek contribution to the city will be remembered by the pioneering social work at the Greek Orthodox Church and the Panioty Fountain in the Maidan after Demetrius Panioty - personal secretary to the "friend of India" Lord Ripon.
The Durga Puja festival, held in accordance to the lunar calendar of Bangabda around the first week of October, is the most vibrant time in Kolkata. This Hindu religious festival commemorates the mythology of Goddess Durga and her trusty lion steed overpowering and killing the demon Mahishasura ( Buffalo-demon ). The first ceremony takes place on Mahalaya - the day the Goddess was conceived, and ends on Bijaya Dashami ( the victorious tenth day ) - the day the Goddess finally kills the demon in battle. Puja is performed only on the sixth to the tenth day. Kolkata celebrates Durga Puja with elaborate pandal ( temporary decorative scaffolding serving the purpose of a temple ) constructions on virtually every street, crowds of people thronging the streets of Kolkata all night ( the number is purported to be a few million on the climactic eighth and ninth nights - possibly the second largest annual human conglomerate after the Haj) , the practice of giving gifts - usually new clothes in the latest fashion in Pre-Puja get togethers, and sweets at Post-puja get togethers ( Bijaya Sammelani ), and the commemoration of the festival by the publishing of Annuals ( Sharadiya or Puja Annual) by most Kolkata magazines and presses.
Kali Puja is primarily a Bengali festival, held in accordance to the lunar calendar around the first week of November. The Goddess Kali is worshipped at night on one night during Kali Puja. Kali Puja is light-up night for Kolkata, corresponding to the North Indian festival of Diwali ( or Dipabali in Bengali ), where people light candles in memory of the souls of departed ancestors. This is also fireworks night, with local youth burning sparklers and crackers throughout the night. Kolkata had to pass legislature a few years back to ban fireworks which break the 65 decibel sound limit, as ambient noise levels were going upto 90 decibels and more in parts of the city.
Saraswati Puja - the puja of the Goddess of Learning Saraswati is celebrated with domestic pujas, and familial gatherings in Kolkata. The typical fare (bhog) which accompanies the Puja depends dramatically on whether the family is initially from West Bengal or ghoti) or from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) or bangal. Ghotis have vegetarian fare, while bangals partake paired Hilsa fishes.
Dol, corresponding to the North Indian festival of Holi, is celebrated on account of the god Lord Krishna, and is supposedly coincident with the coming of spring. The festival of colour involves powdered colour - aabir, and water colour - jal rang. Unsuspected passers by are often drenched by coloured water balloons, and celebrations often get rowdy with the men partaking the intoxicating drink of shiddhi (bhang), often laced with the stronger charas.
Ratha yatra : The symbolic movement of the chariot of Jagannath (source of the English juggernaut) is celebrated with much fanfare in Kolkata due to the huge chariot brought out by ISKCON. The destination of the idols are the Maidan. The idols are brought back after a week in the chariot in the festival of Ulto Ratha ( reversed ratha ) . The week is synonymous with numerous fairs ( Rather mela ) held all over Kolkata parks - known for their distinctive food, and carousels. Myth has it that it always rains on the day of Ratha yatra in Kolkata.
Eid - the two Eids Eid ul Fitr (the little feast) and Eid ul-Adha (the big feast) commemorate the passing of the month of fasting Ramadan and the willingness of Mohammad to sacrifice his son Ishmael for Allah. Kolkata being the gastronomic capital of Eastern India, the feasts are often lavish street affairs open to all, and restaurants specializing in Islamic cuisine like Shiraz, Nizam and Aminia offer special menus for the day.
Christmas was a big festival in Kolkata during the British Raj, but has slowly declined in importance since. The Anglo-Indian community stills celebrate Christmas in a big way, with a huge service at St.Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata and with the Park Street restaurant district and New Market decked out on the 24th and 25th. The multicultural nature of Kolkata becomes apparent as the most sought after confectionaries during this time were from the British confectioners Flury's and Jewish confectioners Nahoum's.
Bengali New Year
The Bengali New Year or "Poila Baisakh" ( the first day of the month of Baisakh) is celebrated around April 15 on the basis of the lunar calendar of Bangabda. Visitors to homes are greeted with sweets, and trade establishments offer free sweets as a goodwill gesture on this day. It is celebrated by cultural programmes throughout Kolkata.
The Dover Lane Music Festival is one of the most prestigious festivals of Hindustani Classical Music, showcasing maestros the world over and well as promising new talent. It has been held for the past 25 years in the January conglomerate holiday ( January 23 - January 26 ) period and comprises three all-night recitals. Initially held open air at Dover Lane in South Kolkata, due to the large crowds it is now held at the open air theatre Nazrul Mancha . It is held in conjunction with the Dover Lane Music Conference.
The Calcutta Book Fair or Kolkata Boi Mela is a very unique and the world's largest non-trade annual book fair. Held on the Maidan, this attracted over 600 stalls selling over Rs. 18,00,00,000 worth of books and attracting close to 150,000 visitors in 2005. Started in 1975 by the Pulishers' and Booksellers' Guild it has rapidly become one of the world's leading book fairs. It has a Monmarte with budding poets and artists, an annual theme country with authors like Gunter Grass and Richard Dawkins visiting the fair as chief guests, a fairground experience complete with candyfloss and hawkers, but most importantly it provides a place to view more than a million new and used book titles at one go - a larger book conglomerate than any Barnes and Noble or Borders superstore. It starts on the last weekend of January, and encompasses two weeks and three weekends.
The Calcutta International Film Festival is screened annually from November 10 - 17. The largest and most prestigious of its kind in India, it was started in 1995 and is affiliated to the International Federation of Film Producers’ Association (FIAPF) in Paris. Kolkata's strong ties to film-making ( through such icons as Satyajit Ray and more recently,Rituparno Ghosh ) has boosted the festival and it screens a large clutch of international critically acclaimed new films every year.
The National Theatre Festival is an annual event and the biggest event in the Indian theatre calendar. Kolkata is the theatre capital of India, and the festival is organized by the Nandikar group, one of the most dynamic and talented Indian theatre groups. It was initiated in 1984 to commemorate Nandikar's silver jubilee and has not looked back since.
Para, Adda, and "club" culture
Paras in Kolkata signify a neighbourhood with a strong sense of community, and are usually sharply defined on the basis of loyalties (like which households contribute economically to which public or "barowari" puja). Paras culture typically segregate Kolkata communities on the basis of origin ( West Bengal origin "ghotis" versus East Bengal origin "bangals" - there are paras which have names like "prothom bangal para" (first bangal para) ), occupation and sociio-economic status ( paras have names like "kumorpara" (potter para) ), and sometimes even politics and religion.
Typically, every para has its own community club, with a club room ("club ghar"), and often a playing field. People of a para habitually indulge in adda or leisurely chat in "rock"s or "rowacks" (porches) and teashops in the evenings after work. North Kolkata paras typically have more streetlife at late nights with respect to South Kolkata paras. Sports (cricket, football, badminton) and indoor games (carrom) tournaments are regularly organized on an inter-para basis.
The para culture is fast waning, for good or bad, with the rise of apartment complexes, and the rise of the cosmopolitan nature of Kolkata.
Graffiti was used not for vandalism per se, or counterculture art, but mainly for political propaganda. Walls were "captured" for fixed numbers of years, and graffiti overpainting was tantamount to political transgression. Generations of political graffiti artists have been at work on Kolkata's walls, producing slander, witty banter and limericks, caricatures and propaganda. However, such acts being clear cases of defacing private property, the Calcutta High Court ruled to ban political graffiti from private properties without express consent of the property owner. Graffiti lives on in "club" walls, unclaimed property walls, and the occasional flouting of the order.
Traffic and commuter culture
Calcuttans are aggressive commuters, but with a sense of humour. The local and suburban rails and buses, as well as the underground Kolkata Metro railway are usually packed during office hours. The practice of "reserving" public seats by daily passengers is widespread. Share taxis are a common occurrence for travel to and from railway stations and such. The practice of car pools is also growing after the construction of the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass and the emergence of the CBD in Bidhan Nagar.
Baro ghori (big clock): The large clock at Howrah Station
Victoria: Victoria Memorial
Dalhousie: B.B.D. Bagh or Dalhousie Square
Nullah: Tolly Nullah
Lake: Rabindra Sarobar
Paach Mathar Mor (five point crossing): The Shyambazar five point crossing
Objects and concepts
Load Shedding: A power failure of any sort
Auto (Taxi): Auto Rickshaw
Goldar : The weather bureau, headed by Dr. Goldar
Places of interest
Kolkata been nicknamed the City of Palaces. This comes from the numerous palatial mansions built all over the city.
During the British colonial era from 1700-1912, when Kolkata was the capital of British India, Kolkata witnessed a spate of frenzied construction activity of buildings largely influenced by the conscious intermingling of Gothic, Baroque, Roman, Oriental and Islamic schools of design. Unlike many north Indian cities, whose construction stresses minimalism, the layout of much of the architectural variety in Kolkata owes its origins to European styles and tastes imported by the British and, to a much lesser extent, the Portuguese and French.
The buildings were designed, and inspired by the tastes of the English gentleman around and the aspiring Bengali Babu (literally a nouveau riche Bengali who aspired to cultivation of English etiquette, manners and custom as such practices were favourable to monetary gains from the British).
Today many of these structures are in various stages of decay. Some of the major buildings of this period are well maintained and several buildings have been declared as heritage structures.Conservation efforts are patchy and are often affected by problems of litigation, tenant troubles, ownership disputes, old tenancy laws and a lack of funds.
Museums and libraries
Born as Lord Curzon's brainchild as a memorial to the Empress of India Victoria II after her death in 1902, the Victoria Memorial was modelled on the Taj Mahal and was comissioned in 1906. Opened to the public in 1921, it was designed by the architects William Emerson and his protege Vincent Esch at the extraordinary cost of Rupees 10.5 million ($262,500), all of which was collected as voluntary donations, mostly from the British and Indian nobility. The memorial holds numerous paintings of the British royal family, miniature paintings of the Mughal School, oil paintings of the Company school (notably the uncle - nephew pair of Thomas Daniell and William Daniell), historial artefacts like the throne of the Nawab of Bengal, many lithographs and documents of historical interest,and various post-Raj artefacts significant in the history of Kolkata (added to the collection after independence). The memorial is set in extensive and beautiful lawns, and is lit up at night. A laser audio-visual show is held on the lawns every evening. The banshee on the top of the museum is said to be haunted, and has been prominently featured in many Kolkata stories and novels. It is regarded with pride and joy in Kolkata and colloquially referred to as the "Victoria".
The Indian Museum is the largest museum in Asia and the oldest in the Asia - Pacific region (est. 1814 at the location of the Asiatic Society) . The Museum shifted to its present sprawling residence in 1875. Situated on Chowringhee Avenue, it houses perhaps the greatest collection of Indian natural history and an Indian Art collection to rival the Smithsonian and the British Museum. Of specific note are the meteorite hall and dinosaur hall in the Natural History and Geology section, the numismatics section and the collections of Gandhara Art, Burmese woodwork, Mughal miniatures and Tibetan banner sections in the Indian Art section. The Anthropological Survey of India headquarters and the Government College of Art and Craft are housed in the same building. The Geological Survey of India headquarters moved from the museum to Bidhan Nagar recently. The Indian Museum has a library of excellent historical value, with a special focus on the Raj and Kolkata.
The Marble Palace is a privately owned collection of eclectic sculptures, paintings and a small menagerie and aviary off Chittaranjan Avenue in North Kolkata. Built by Raja Rajendra Mullick in 1835, it houses, among other treasures two little-publicized Reubens and a Joshua Reynolds, not to mention over 50 varieties of marble which grace the interiors of this mansion.
Birla Industrial and Technological Museum on Gurusaday Road, was inaugurated in 1959 as the first popular science museum in Asia. Modelled on the Deutsches Museum, it has interactive popular science exhibits and a significant collection of historical industrial holdings in India. Its collection of old gramophones, sound recorders, telephones, steam engines, road rollers and other industrial machinery of the period 1880 - 1950 is very significant. The museum sports a vintage model of the Rolls Royce Phantom make. It also actively organizes summer camps, awareness programs and astronomy observations for school children.
The Jorasanko Thakurbari is the ancestral home of the Tagore family and was converted into a museum in 1961. The huge sprawling brick mnsions were the cultural hub of Kolkata for close to a century and was a major force in the women's liberation movement. It hosted the first Brahmo wedding and was an important center in the Independence movement. The museum has three large galleries - one of the life and works of Rabindranath, a second gallery about his close relatives such as father Debendranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore and others, and a third gallery on the Bengal Renaissance in general.
Gurusaday Museum, on Diamond Harbour Road, is the outcome of a lifetime of collection of traditional Bengal folk arts in undivided Bengal by Sir Gurusaday Dutt. On his death in 1941, the collection was handed over to the Bratachari Society founded by Sir Gurusaday Dutt to preserve and protect Bengal folk arts. It was opened as a museum to the public with the help of the Government of India in 1963. It contains, among other fine handicrafts, terracotta panels, kantha or folk quilt work, and patas ( or hand painted scrolls of the late 1900s), notably of the Kalighat school. The Asutosh Museum of Indian Art, on College Street , is the other museum specializing in Bengal folk arts, but with significant archaeological holdings from sites in West Bengal and Bihar like Chandraketugarh and Tamluk. The first university owned museum in India, it is run by the University of Calcutta and is named after its famous vice chancellor Sir Asutosh Mukherjee.
Jawahar Shishu Bhavan is named after Jawaharlal Nehru, whose love for children was well known. The museum has a collection of dolls and toys from across the globe, and has a doll - based retelling of the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Established in 1972 close to the Victoria Memorial, and commonly referred to as "Nehru Children's Museum", this museum is aging awkwardly fast.
Kolkata also has some other small museums like the Maritime Museum, and the Police Museum.
National Library of India located in Alipore is India's leading library and a public library. It was inaugurated in 1836 by the Governor General Lord Meltcalfe by transferring 4675 books from the College of Fort William. Public donations were the main source of books for the library, and by donations of Rupees 300 from proprietors. Dwarakanath Tagore was the first proprietor of the library. The library was initially only partially public, as poor students could use the library for a limited period of time. The Imperial Library was founded in 1891 by merging several libraries like those of the East India College and East India Board. Governor General Lord Curzon initiated the merger of these two libraries into a single Imperial Library in 1903 at the Metcalfe Hall. The goals of the library were to collect every book written about India at any time. The Assistant Librarian of the British Museum John Macfarlane was the first librarian and was succeeded by the first Indian librarian Harinath De. The library was moved to its present quarters in Belvedere Estate, Alipore and renamed the National Library. It is a fully public library which co-ordinates the activities of all other Indian public libraries. True to its goal, any book published in India today has to send one copy to the National Library, Kolkata in the spirit of the Library of Congress, United States.
The other popular Kolkata libraries include the Ramkrishna Mission Library, maintained by Ramkrishna Mission, Kolkata which has a special children's section, as well as the large consulate-based libraries of British Council, Kolkata and of the United States Information Service, Kolkata. The Calcutta Club library has a historically significant collection, including the fully furnished and book-stocked reading room of Nirad C. Chaudhuri. The other historically significant libraries are those of Asiatic Society, Indian Museum, Presidency College, Scottish Church College, and St. Xavier's College, Calcutta.
British administrative offices
Raj Bhavan or Government House, Kolkata, built in the early 19th century, is modelled on Kedleston Hall. The House was once the seat of the Viceroys of India; later, when the Government moved to New Delhi, it became the residence of the Governor of Bengal, a function that it fulfils to this day. While the basic features of Kedleston have been faithfully copied (the Palladian Front, the Dome etc.), Government House is a much larger, three storeyed structure. Also, the Government of India evidently did not have the funding constraints that forced the Curzons to leave their house incomplete: Government House has all four wings originally conceived for Kedleston. So today, a 'complete', brick built Kedleston, on a much grander scale, is located in its acres of gardens at the heart of the Kolkata business district.
General Post Office
South Eastern Railway Headquarters, Garden Reach
The Great Eastern Hotel was born Auckland Hotel in 1841, at the crossroads of the Old Courthouse Street and British India Street, founded by confectioner David Wilson and named after the current Governor General Lord Auckland. It grew from strength to strength over the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Locally known as "Wilson's Hotel", it was also known as "Auckland Hotel and the Hall of Nations" in the 19th century, and was referred to as the "Japani Hotel" ( Japanese Hotel ) colloquially in the 20th century, due to the large number of Japanese tourists there. The hotel was extremely elite, referred to as the Jewel of the East and "the best hotel East of the Suez" by Mark Twain on his voyage along the Equator, and described by Rudyard Kipling in "The City of Dreadful Night". It had notable board members like the author Parry Chand Mitter and stockholders like W. C. Bonnerjee - president of the Indian National Congress. The hotel was famous for its new year parties thrown by Maharajahs ( like the Maharajah of Cooch Behar ) uptil the 1950s. It has been host to such notables as Queen Elizabeth II on her India visit, Nikita Khruschev's delegation in the 1950s, and visiting international cricket teams. The hotel kitchens, manned by the legendary Baruahs of Chittagong ( now in Bangladesh ), was the talk of Kolkata. It steadily progressed downhill since the 1970s, and was taken over by the Government of West Bengal in 1975 on grounds of insolvency. Labour union problems caused the hotel to worsen until a sensationalist news campaign by The Telegraph exposed the sorry state of the hotel in the 1990s. As of November 2005], the Government of West Bengal is in the process of privatizing the hotel by the year-end with the help of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The Grand Hotel had humble beginnings as Mrs. Monte's Boarding House at 13, Chowringhee Street. Acquired by the Armenian real-estate baron Arrathoon Stephen, it turned into a 3-story 500-room hotel. Acquired by Mohan Singh Oberoi in 1938, it became the Oberoi Grand. The hotel got a major lift during World War II when about 4000 soldiers were billeted there, and would party regularly. Events like the U.S. Marines' Ball at the hotel remind visitors of such times.
Maidan means "field" in Hindi and Bengali. The Kolkata Maidan was once a vast uninterrupted field, right down to the edge of the Hoogli, but is being encroached upon by the city and is fragmented by roads. The Maidan has nurtured sports like Polo, and has been the home of equastrianism, horse racing, football, cricket and rugby in Kolkata. It houses numerous clubs including the "big three" of Indian football - Mohun Bagan Athletic Club, East Bengal Football Club and Mohommedan Sporting Club along with their respective home stadiums. The arterial Chowringhee Avenue, Eden Gardens and the waterfront Millenium Park border the Maidan. The Maidan abounds with monuments and statues, the most famous of them being Shaheed Minar and the statue of ace footballer Gostho Pal.
Rabindra Sarobar or "The Lake" is an artifical lake and urban park in the spirit of Central Park, New York City. The park has a lake and an island with a footbridge, an open air amphitheatre ( Nazrul Mancha ), a sports stadium ( Rabindra Sarobar Stadium ) , a children's park and the rowing clubs of Calcutta Rowing Club and Lake Club.
The Shibpur Botanical Gardens, spread over 270 acres, was founded in 1786 and is the oldest "botanics" in India. Housing 50,000 species, the Botanical Survey of India and one of the world's most historically relevant herbariums, it is famous for its 250 year old 98 feet tall banyan tree - which has the largest girth of any banyan tree ever recorded (1300 feet) . Alipur Zoological Gardens was founded in 1875, inaugurated by Edward VII, then Prince of Wales. Initially started from the personal menagerie of the then Governor General Schwendler, it grew based on gifts from British and Indian nobility - like Raja Suryakanta Acharya of Mymensingh in whose honour the open air tiger enclosure is named the Mymensingh Enclosure. The zoo was ill-reputed because of cross breeding experiments between lions and tigers to produce strains like tigons, ligers, and litigons. The most famous specimen in the zoo is probably the Aldabra Seychelles Giant Tortoise gifted to the zoo in 1875 ( brought by British seafarers to Lord Clive's menagerie from Seychelles ) , and over 250 years old now. The other success story of the zoo was a live birth of the rare Sumatran Rhinoceros in 1889. The zoo is presently downsizing to meet animal comfort requirements laid down by the Central Zoo Authority of India. The zoo is also on the flyway for several migratory birds like the Sarus Crane.
Chitpur Jatra District
Nandan - Rabindra Sadan Complex
Academy of Fine Art
Statues and memorials
The Shaheed Minar or "Tower of the Martyrs", (originally Ochterlony Monument) was constructed on the northern fringe of the Maidan in honour of Sir David Ochterlony who commanded the British East India Company forces in the Gurkha War of 1816 and the Nepal Wars in 1846. It was renamed Shaheed Minar in honour of the fallen freedom fighters after Indian independence.
Kolkata is full of statues celebrating British heritage and the Indian Renaissance and freedom movement. The Maidan is a particularly good place for statue-hunting. A few of the more notable landmarks:
A comprehensive list of Kolkata statues can be found at http://www.catchcal.com/kaleidoscope/statue.asp .
Eden Gardens presently one of only two 100,000 seater amphitheatres for the game of cricket (the other being Melbourne Cricket Ground) was initially an extension of the Maidan under the supervision of Governor General Lord Auckland, and looked after by the Eden sisters of the Auckland family. The gardens house a transported burmese pagoda of exquisite design. The pavilion was built in 1871 and the 1st first class match played in the season of 1911-12. It has since hosted many international test matches, one day matches and tournaments, including the final of the Cricket World Cup in 1987. Its exalted status in cricketing history comes from the lush outfield, stellar performances ( like V.V.S. Laxman's 281), and not least the intense crowd support. The stadium has a history of crowd violence - involving riots in the stands in 1967 (when the stadium burnt), 1996 and 1999.
Yuva Bharati Krirangan, also called the Salt Lake Stadium, is a 122,000 - strong amphitheatre used for soccer matches and concerts. It is purposely not a home stadium for any soccer team. It hosted the bulk of the 3rd South Asian Federation Games in Kolkata in 1987.
The Netaji Indoor Stadium, adjacent to the Eden Gardens, is a 120,000 seater air-conditioned indoor stadium, having hosted internationally significant events like the last rites of Mother Teresa in 1997. Constructed in 1975 to host the World Table tennis Championships, it also has the Kshudiram Anusilani Kendra - a smaller auditorium without gallery facilities for training purposes.
The Calcutta Cricket and Football Club (originally the Calcutta Cricket Club) is the second oldest cricket club in the world, after the Marleybourne Cricket Club. Founded in 1792 as the Calcutta Cricket Club, it merged later with the Calcutta Football Club (founded 1872) to become the Calcutta Cricket and Football Club, and is located on Gurusaday Road. It has arguably the most picturesque cricket ground in Kolkata. Recent evidence in the form of an article in Hicky's Bengal Gazette, suggests the club existed in 1780 - which would make it the oldest cricket club in the world.
The Royal Calcutta Turf Club is the oldest turf club in India, and one of the most beautiful and largest in the world. Encompassing a significant area of the Maidan, it was founded in 1847, and is distinguished for its "Monsoon Track" - one of the fastest draining tracks in the world. It was conferred the epithet "Royal" by George V in 1912.
Kolkata is one of the few cities in the world to boast of three beautiful 18 hole golf courses within city limits - at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, Tollygunj Club and Fort William. The Royal Calcutta Golf Club, founded in 1829, is the oldest golf club outside the British Isles. It was variously located in Dum Dum and Maidan, but finally settled down in Tollygunj and was conferred the epithet "Royal' by George V at the Delhi Durbar in 1911.
Kolkata is home to the world's oldest active polo club, the Calcutta Polo Club. Situated on the Maidan, the club was founded in 1862 and is the second oldest polo club in the world. Kolkata has yet another polo club in the Fort William Polo Club. The CPC polo grounds are located in the maidan and maintained jointly with the RCTC.
Markets and malls
New Market is Kolkata's historic shopping district. Opened in 1874, it was named Hogg Market after the commissioner Sir Stuart Hogg. The beautiful fountain and benches at the market no longer exist, but the popularity of the market has not waned, and the beautiful gothic clock tower recalls the British heritage of the market. It was renamed New Market after Independence. ***
New Market led the way for Christmas and New Year festivities with confectionary shops like Nahoum's putting up a special spread. The market is organized on the basis of merchandize. It burnt down partially in 1985 but has been restored and expanded with a new building since.
Kolkata has seen a spurt of shopping malls with the rise of the buying power of the Kolkata populace. Shopping arcades like Shoppers' Stop and Emami Shoppers' City in Central Calcutta have brought international brands from Swarovski to Godiva to the city, breaking the city's dependence on the older market complexes like A.C. Market and Vardhaan Market, which were mainly Chinese import dependent. Swabhumi has been modelled as an ethnic shopping arcade near the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.
Places of worship
Dakshineshwar Kali Temple
Tipu Sultan Mosque
St. Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata stands on the "island of attractions" in Kolkata - beside Victoria Memorial, Nandan - Rabindra Sadan theatre complex, and the Birla Planetarium. It was completed in 1847, after being in construction for 8 years. Major William Nairn Forbes, with the assistance of C.K. Robinson designed the cathedral, modelling the tower and spire upon the Norwich Cathedral. The tower was rebuilt along the lines of Bell Harry Tower in Canterbury Cathedral following the 1834 Calcutta earthquake. The Bishop's House across the street is also a very impressive piece of architecture.
St. John's Church
Greek Orthodox Church
Bridges of Kolkata
Howrah Bridge or Rabindra Setu
The Second Hooghly Bridge or Vidyasagar Setu
Bally Bridge or Vivekananda Setu
In Calcutta,the word "club" stills means a watering hole and not a discotheque. Calcutta has a number of clubs that hark back to the Raj days but have modernised over time without sacrificing its traditions.Most clubs have bakeries,dining facilities and accommodation at reasonable prices.They also have reciprocal arrangements with clubs in different countries.The most noted clubs are:
The Bengal Club (www.thebengalclub.com)
Royal Calcutta Golf Club
The Saturday Club
The Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC)
The Dalhousie Club
The Outram Club
The Bowling Club
The Ordnance Club
S. E. Railway HQ
Calcutta Medical College
Educational institutes of academic and historical interest
University of Calcutta
Scottish Church College
Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta
Indian Association for the Cultivation of Sciences
St. Xaviers' College
David Hare Training College
Sanskrit Collegiate School
Park Circus has been the location for all big tops in Kolkata since the last century. This distinction earlier went to the Auckland Circus Gardens ( now Eden Gardens ) but shifted to Park Circus (at the end of Park Street) at the turn of the century. Recent fiascos, including a circus fire in 2005, and animal atrocity charges, have left the circus industry down in the dumps, and Park Circus now hosts more winter fairs than circuses.
A host of new amusement parks have sprung up in recent times - the most notable being Nicco Park - the first modern amusement park in Kolkata and Aquatica - the theme water park, both in Bidhan Nagar.
The College Street walk involves a walk down Kolkata's most academic street - with historical institutions like Presidency College, Calcutta Medical College, Bethune College, Scottish Church College, the University of Calcutta and India Coffee House. The sidewalks are overrun with pedestrians, and the streets with vehicles, but the ambience of the street comes from literally hundreds of used book stores on either side of the street selling a potpourri of literature and text books. Operation Sunshine - Kolkata's drive to remove street hawkers, had a special clause ruling out hawkers on College Street. College Square at the heart of College Street, has a square pool. Bookstores of repute include Dasgupta's and those of publishing houses Chuckerverty, Chatterjee and Sons and Rupa and Co.. Putiram's Cabin is a much-loved snack and sweet shop on College Street.
The Free School Street walk between Park Street and New Market involves a walk past Kolkata's best budget hotels in the Free School Street - Sudder Street area. The used book and record shops sport an eclectic collection due to trade with generations of budget travellers the world over. The street also has the house William Makepeace Thackeray was born in, the Calcutta Fire Services headquarters, and one of the best places to buy cold cuts is at Kalman's, a shop of Hungarian origin. Free School Street dining can be eclectic, with Shamiana - offering cheap Mughlai cuisine, Prince and Princess cheap Bengali cuisine, and Mocambo upscale continental dining, to name a few . Free School Street ( now called Mirza Ghalib Street) is Kolkata's answer to New York City's Hell's Kitchen, and is not particularly safe after dark.
The Southern Avenue walk takes one past Kolkata's artificial lake and urban park - the Rabindra Sarobar, and numerous playgrounds. Early morning walks make for excellent people and dog watching as well as nature watching and cricket watching. At end of Southern Avenue lies Gol Park with some of the best sweet shops in Kolkata like Ganguram's and the used book store alley, and the shopping district of Gariahat.
The Chowringhee Avenue walk between Elgin Road and B.B.D. Bagh takes one past the St. Paul's Cathedral, Bishop House, Birla Planetarium, Kolkata's prominent eyesore oof a highrise Chatterjee International, Tata Centre, the Indian Museum, Asiatic Society, the Maidan, the Esplanade, Grand Hotel, and the historic Metro theatre, once the first point of release in the Eastern Hemisphere for Metro Goldwyn Mayer films. Fine dining at the Grand Hotel, the home of the essentially Kolkata snack - the "roll" - Nizam's, the authentic sherbet shop Paragon and New Market are all a stones throw away.
The Office Para (Office district) walk around features the British seat of administration in India - within a few blocks lie the Writers' Building, Raj Bhavan, Calcutta High Court, the General Post Office and B. B. D. Bagh. The express streetside lunch providers make for a delicious, cheap, unbelievably quick and dubiously hygienic meal which has to be eaten to be believed.
A ramble through the Maidan takes one past clubs of every description from football clubs to the Press Club (Kolkata), stadiums of the big three football clubs and Eden Gardens, the Victoria Memorial, Chowringhee Avenue, Fort William, the Shaheed Minar, the Royal Calcutta Turf Club and a whole host of statues. Cricket, soccer, horse races and even the occasional rugby game can be watched at leisure on the Maidan. Horseback tours through the Maidan, and horse drawn tours around it, are quite popular.
The Strand Road walk is the riverside walk past the "ghats" or piers, the palatial State Bank of India headquarters, the Kolkata Maritime Museum and the promenade in Millenium Park. The Hoogli makes for excellent riverboat and people watching, and the Haora skyline is ramshackle but interesting. A look up and down the river shows the famous Howrah Bridge and Vidyasagar Setu. Kolkata's best ice cream joints, not to mention the occasional "floatel" are on Strand Road.
The Park Street walk goes down Kolkata's foremost dining district with noted restaurants and eateries like Shiraz, Flury's, Trinca's and Hot Kati Roll joints. Kolkata's nightlife revolves around Park Street's nightclubs, pubs and coffee houses. Park Street has famous buildings like the Asiatic Society, St. Xavier's College, Calcutta and the Church of the Seventh Day Adventists, and the South Park Street Cemetery has cenotaphs and tombs of the who's who of the British Raj and the Kolkata Armenians. One end of Park Street links up to Chowringhee Avenue and the Maidan while the other end goes to Park Circus.
- See also Education in Kolkata
Kolkata has many schools, colleges and universities, as well as technical institutes and national centres of excellence, used in education. Schools in Kolkata can be administered by the West Bengal state, the National government, or can be independent. The independent schools can be private or religious (usually Christian or Muslim).
Kolkata also has 9 universities (including those affiliated to the state of West Bengal), as well as numerous colleges affiliated to them. Various other polytechnics cater to vocational training. Finally there are many autonomous institutions and centres of excellence in Kolkata.
Kolkata has a thriving and independent media culture with many eminent and respected newspapers and television production houses.This city can also claim a widespread argumentative culture that adds to its reputation as being one of the best centres for journalism in India. A few of the widely circulated newspapers are as follows:
- Anandabazar Patrika
- The Statesman
- The Telegraph
- Sambad Pratidin
Football (soccer) is a passion for many Calcuttans with the national clubs, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and East Bengal Club being the best known teams. The current, and most successful, cricket captain of India Sourav Ganguly is a Calcuttan.
Kolkata has produced summer Olympic medallists such as:
- Norman Pritchard (Athletics - 1900)
- Richard James Allen
- Leslie Claudius (Field Hockey - 1924, 1928, 1936)
- Gurbux Singh
- Dr. Vece Paes (Field Hockey - 1980)
- Leander Adrian Paes (Olympic Bronze medallist at singles tennis in 1996 Olympics; also Wimbledon and French Open Men's Doubles champion, with Mahesh Bhupathi; and Mixed Doubles Champion 1999 and Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Champion 2003, with ace Martina Navratilova)
Other sportspersons who have won laurels for Kolkata include:
- Gobor Goho (World Amateur Wrestling Championship USA 1900-2)
- Manotosh Roy (former Mr Universe - 1950s)
- Manohar Aich (former Mr. World - 1950s)
- Chandra Hirjee (1958 winner of the inaugural World Amateur Snooker Champinship held at Kolkata. Also Indian Open Billiards Championship winner in 1946, 47, 56 and 58, runner-up in 1952, 54, 55, 57 and Indian Snooker Championship runner-up in 1952, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58)
- Mihir Sen (Guinness Record holder of being the first person to swim across the English Channel in 1948 and the seven straits across all major continents)
- Jyotirmoyee Sikdar (1998 Asian Games Gold medallist in four events in racing)
- Arjun Atwal (PGA Golf champion 2003)
- Dibyendu Barua and Surya Sekhar Ganguly (current FIDE Chess Grandmasters)
- trans-continental wizards Mohammed Salahuddin Choudhury and his wife Neena, have the acknowledgment of the Guinness Book of World Records for the first and fastest circum-navigation of the world by car – under the rules applicable in 1989 (in a 'Contessa Classic' 1989 car) and 1991 (in a Nissan jeep), and thereby embracing more than an equator's length of driving (40,750 km or 24,901 road miles) in 69 days, 19 hours and 5 minutes in 1989 and in 39 days and 20 hours in 1991 respectively.
The two major railway stations of the city are at Howrah and sealdah. The Eastern and South Eastern Railways are headquartered in the city. The electrified suburban rail network of the SER and the ER is extensive and includes the Circular Rail. The city also has South Asia's oldest underground metro railway. Till mid 2005 it was the only underground metro railway in the Indian subcontinent.
The city has an extensive bus network and taxis, autorickshaws and rickshaws are plenty in number.
Kolkata is also a major port and together with the Haldia dock systems, the Kolkata Port Trust has been amongst top performers in the country.
Kolkata in the media
Calcutta: The Living City (ed. Sukanta Chaudhuri)
Bourne and Shepherd Studios
George Eastman Studios
India Exchange Photo Gallery Kolkata Cityscape
- India has 5 Nobel Prize winners to date and all of them are connected to Kolkata
- Kolkata has an eminent place in the history of American diplomacy as one of the oldest American Consulates anywhere in the world, and the oldest in India Link.
- Kolkata and Mumbai are the only two cities in India where the honorary designation of the Sheriff still exists.
- Kolkata and Mumbai were two of the main export/import destinations for British beer, which would go stale and sour during the sea voyage. So the IPA (India Pale Ale) style of beer was created specifically to withstand the rigours of the sea between London and these Indian ports. Link
- South Point High School, Kolkata entered the Guinness Book of Records (from 1984 to 1992) as the school with maximum student enrollment.
- The Indian Botanical Gardens at Shibpur, near the Bengal Engineering College, is home of the largest banyan tree in the world (the banyan tree with the biggest girth), according to the Guinness Book of Records.
- Kolkata is home to the oldest golf course outside the British Isles at The Royal Calcutta Golf Club.
- Kolkata was the original headquarters of IBM Corporation in India before shifting to Bangalore on its return to operations in the country.
- Kolkata based physician Subhash Mukhopadhyay was the second doctor to perform a successful in-vitro fertilization in the world leading th the birth of Kanupriya Agarwal, alias Durga.
- Kolkata based accountant Amitava Banerjee is the first single man in India (and South Asia) to father an in-vitro fertilised baby.
- Calcutta's revival
- Not the City of Joy
- Calcuttaweb.com - Lots of information about Calcutta
- History of Calcutta on calcuttaweb.com
- History of West Bengal and Calcutta - Bengalweb.com's effort to compile historical information with photographs
- The Statesman
- The Telegraph
- Kolkata Beckons
- Calcutta photos
- Calcutta: City of Palaces
- Consulate of the United States of America
- Calcutta - Calcutta Global Forum
- Jobs in Kolkata
- National Club of India, Situated at Kolkata
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