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Kolkata (Calcutta)
"The City of Joy"
From top going clockwise: Victoria Memorial, St. Paul's Cathedral, Downtown Kolkata, Howrah Bridge, Kolkata tram, Vidyasagar Setu Bridge
Kolkata (Calcutta)
Location of Kolkata (Calcutta)
in West Bengal and India
Coordinates 22°34′11″N 88°22′11″E / 22.56972°N 88.36972°E / 22.56972; 88.36972
Country  India
State West Bengal
District(s) Calcutta
Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya
5,138,208[1] (2010)
27,462 /km2 (71,126 /sq mi)
Official languages Bengali, English
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
185 km2 (71 sq mi)
9 m (30 ft)

About this sound Kolkata (Bengali: কলকাতা; IPA: [ˈkolkat̪a]), formerly About this sound Calcutta ) is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located in eastern India on the east bank of the River Hooghly.[3] When referred to as Calcutta, it usually includes the suburbs, and thus its population exceeds 15 million,[4] making it India's third-largest metropolitan area and urban agglomeration as well as the world's 8th largest agglomeration.[5]

Kolkata served as the capital of India during the British Raj until 1911. Once the centre of modern education, industry, science, culture and politics in India, since 1954, Kolkata has witnessed intense political violence, clashes and economic stagnation. Since the year 2000, economic rejuvenation has spurred on the city's growth. Like other metropolitan cities in India, Kolkata continues to struggle with the problems of urbanisation: poverty, pollution and traffic congestion.

Kolkata is noted for its revolutionary history, ranging from the Indian struggle for independence to the leftist and trade union movements.



The name Kolkata and the anglicised name Calcutta have their roots in Kalikata, the name of one of the three villages (Kalikata, Sutanuti, Govindapur) in the area before the arrival of the British.[6] "Kalikata", in turn, is believed to be a version of Kalikshetra (কালীক্ষেত্র, "Land of [the goddess] Kali"). Alternatively, the name may have been derived from the Bengali term kilkila ("flat area").[7] Again, the name may have its origin in the indigenous term for a natural canal, Khal, followed by Katta (which may mean dug).[8] Another theory is that the place used to specialize in quicklime (kalicun) and coir rope (kátá) and hence the place was called Kalikátá.[9]

While the city's name was always pronounced "Kolkata" or "Kolikata" in the local Bengali language, its official English name was changed from "Calcutta" to "Kolkata" in 2001, reflecting the Bengali pronunciation. Some view this as a move to erase the legacy of British rule.[10] This change has not always been reflected by overseas media, but news sources like the BBC have opted to call Bombay Mumbai[11] and Calcutta Kolkata.[12]


Kolkata, shown here in 1945, was an important port during World War II.

The discovery of the nearby Chandraketugarh,[13] an archaeological site, provides evidence that the area has been inhabited for over two millennia.[14] The city's documented history, however, begins with the arrival of the English East India Company in 1690, when the Company was consolidating its trade business in Bengal. Job Charnock, an administrator with the Company was traditionally credited as the founder of this city.[7] However some academics have recently challenged the view that Charnock was the founder of the city, and in response to a public interest litigation the High Court ruled in 2003 that the city does not have a specific founder.[15]

At that time Kolkata, under direct rule of the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah, comprised three villages Kalikata, Govindapur and Sutanuti. The British in the late 17th century wanted to build a fort near Govindapur in order to consolidate their power over other foreign powers—namely the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the French. In 1702, the British completed the construction of old Fort William,[16] which was used to station its troops and as a regional base. Calcutta was declared a Presidency City, and later became the headquarters of the Bengal Presidency.[17] Faced with frequent skirmishes with French forces, in 1756 the British began to upgrade their fortifications. When protests against the militarisation by the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah went unheeded he attacked and captured Fort William, leading to the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta incident.[18] A force of Company sepoys and British troops led by Robert Clive recaptured the city the following year.[18] Calcutta was named the capital of British India in 1772, and starting in 1864 during the summer months, the capital was temporarily shifted to the hill station of Shimla.[19] In the early 19th century the marshes surrounding the city were drained and the government area was laid out along the banks of the Hooghly River. Richard Wellesley, the Governor General between 1797–1805, was largely responsible for the growth of the city and its public architecture which led to the description of Calcutta as "The City of Palaces".[20] The city was a centre of the British East India Company's opium trade during the 18th and 19th century; locally produced opium was sold via auctions in Kolkata by a company called J. Thomas & Company Private Ltd. (which is still in existence at Kolkata and are at present, the largest auctioneers of tea in the world) , to be shipped to China.[21]

St. Paul's Cathedral was built in Calcutta during the British Raj

By the early 19th century, Kolkata was split into two distinct areas—one British (known as the White Town), the other Indian (known as Black Town).[22] The city underwent rapid industrial growth from the 1850s, especially in the textile and jute sectors; this caused a massive investment in infrastructure projects like railroads and telegraph by British government. 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, read newspapers, were Anglophiles, and usually belonged to upper-caste Hindu communities.[23] Throughout the nineteenth century, a socio-cultural reform, often referred to as the Bengal Renaissance resulted in the general uplifting of the people. In 1883, Surendranath Banerjee organised a national conference — the first of its kind in nineteenth century India.[7] Gradually Calcutta became a centre of the Indian independence movement, especially revolutionary organisations. The 1905 Partition of Bengal on communal grounds resulted in widespread public agitation and the boycott of British goods (Swadeshi movement).[24] These activities, along with the administratively disadvantageous location of Calcutta in the eastern fringes of India, prompted the British to move the capital to New Delhi in 1911.[25]

The city and its port were bombed several times by the Japanese during World War II,[26] the first occasion being 20 December 1942,[27] and the last being 24 December 1944.[28] During the War, millions starved to death during the Bengal famine of 1943, caused by a combination of military, administrative and natural factors.[29] In 1946, demands for the creation of a Muslim state led to large-scale communal violence resulting in the deaths of over 4,000 people.[30][31][32] The partition of India also created intense violence and a shift in demographics — large numbers of Muslims left for East Pakistan, while hundreds of thousands of Hindus fled into the city.[33] Over the 1960s and 1970s, severe power shortages, strikes and a violent Marxist-Maoist movement — the Naxalites — damaged much of the city's infrastructure, leading to an economic stagnation.[34] In 1971, war between India and Pakistan led to the mass influx of thousands of refugees into Kolkata resulting in a massive strain on its infrastructure.[35] In the mid-1980s, Bombay, now Mumbai, overtook Kolkata as India's most populous city. Kolkata has been a strong base of Indian communism as West Bengal has been ruled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M))-dominated Left Front for 32 years now — the world's longest-running democratically elected communist government.[36][37] The city's economic recovery gathered momentum after economic reforms in India introduced by the central government in the mid-1990s. Since 2000, Information Technology (IT) services have revitalized the city’s stagnant economy. The city is also experiencing a growth in the manufacturing sector.[38]


The Hooghly River with Vidyasagar Setu in background.
Kolkata seen from Spot Satellite

Kolkata is located in eastern India at 22°33′N 88°20′E / 22.55°N 88.333°E / 22.55; 88.333 in the Ganges Delta at an elevation ranging between 1.5 m (5 ft) to 9 m (30 ft).[39] It is spread linearly along the banks of the River Hooghly in a north-south direction. Much of the city was originally a vast wetland, reclaimed over the decades to accommodate the city's burgeoning population.[40] The remaining wetland, known as East Calcutta Wetlands has been designated a "wetland of international importance" under the Ramsar Convention.[41]

Like the most of the Indo-Gangetic plains, the predominant soil type is alluvial. Quaternary sediments consisting of clay, silt, various grades of sand and gravel underlie the city. These sediments are sandwiched between two clay beds, the lower one at depths between 250 m (820 ft) and 650 m (2,133 ft) and the upper one ranging between 10 m (33 ft) and 40 m (131 ft) in thickness.[42] According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, the town falls under seismic zone-III, in a scale of I to V (in order of increasing proneness to earthquakes)[43] while the wind and cyclone zoning is "very high damage risk", according to UNDP report.[43]

Urban structure

Kolkata cityscape.

Kolkata city is ranked as Gamma World City.It is the cultural capital of India as well. Kolkata city, under the jurisdiction of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), has an area of 185 km2 (71 sq mi).[44] The Kolkata urban agglomeration (Kolkata Metropolitan Area), however, is spread over 1,750 km2 (676 sq mi),[44] and comprises 157 postal areas, as of 2006.[45] The urban agglomeration is formally administered by several local governments including 38 local municipalities. The urban agglomeration comprises 72 cities and 527 towns and villages.[44] The suburban areas of Kolkata metropolitan district incorporates parts of the districts North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly and Nadia.

The east-to-west dimension of the city is narrow, stretching from the Hooghly River in the west to roughly the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass in the east, a span of barely 5 km (3.1 mi)–6 km (3.7 mi).[46] The north-south expansion is roughly divided into North, Central and South Kolkata. North Kolkata locality is the oldest part of the city, with 19th century architecture and narrow alleyways. South Kolkata grew mostly after independence of India and consists of posh localities such as Ballygunge, Alipore, New Alipore. The Salt Lake City (Bidhannagar) area to the northeast of the city is a planned section of Kolkata. Rajarhat, also called New Town, is a planned township being developed on the north-eastern fringes of the city.

Central Kolkata houses the central business district around the B. B. D. Bagh area. The government secretariat, General Post Office, High Court, Lalbazar Police HQs and several other government and private offices are located here. The Maidan is a large open field in the heart of the city where several sporting events and public meetings are held. Several companies have set up their offices around the area south of Park Street which has become a secondary central business district.


Monsoon clouds over Howrah Bridge.

Kolkata has a tropical wet-and-dry climate (Köppen climate classification Aw). The annual mean temperature is 26.8 °C (80.2 °F); monthly mean temperatures range from 19 °C (66.2 °F) to 30 °C (86.0 °F).[47] Summers are hot and humid with temperatures in the low 30's and during dry spells the maximum temperatures often exceed 40 °C (104 °F) during May and June.[47] Winter tends to last for only about two and a half months, with seasonal lows dipping to 9 °C – 11 °C (54 °F – 57 °F) between December and January. The highest recorded temperature is 43.9 °C (111.0 °F) and the lowest is 5 °C (41.0 °F).[47] On an average, May is the hottest month with daily temperatures ranging from a low of 27 °C (80.6 °F) to a maximum of 37 °C (98.6 °F), while January the coldest month has temperatures varying from a low of 12 °C (53.6 °F) to a maximum of 23 °C (73.4 °F). Often during early summer, dusty squalls followed by spells of thunderstorm or hailstorms and heavy rains with ice sleets lash the city, bringing relief from the humid heat. These thunderstorms are convective in nature, and is locally known as Kal baisakhi (কালবৈশাখী, Nor'westers).[48]

Rains brought by the Bay of Bengal branch of South-West monsoon[49] lash the city between June and September and supplies the city with most of its annual rainfall of 1,582 mm (62 in). The highest rainfall occurs during the monsoon in August—306 mm (12 in). The city receives 2,528 hours of sunshine per annum, with the maximum sunlight occurring in March.[50] Pollution is a major concern in Kolkata, and the Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) level is high when compared to other major cities of India, leading to regular smog and haze.[51][52] Severe air pollution in the city has caused rise in pollution-related respiratory ailments such as lung cancer.[53]


Cognizant Technology Solutions building at Salt Lake Sector-V, Electronics Complex
Vendors selling flowers in a market. Informal economy in the form of hawkers has traditionally been a major part of the city's economy

Kolkata is the main business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India and the northeastern states. It is home to the Calcutta Stock Exchange — India's second-largest bourse.[54] It is also a major commercial and military port, and the only city in the region to have an international airport. Once India's leading city and Capital, Kolkata experienced a steady economic decline in the years following India's independence due to the prevalent unstabilised political condition and rise in trade-unionism.[55] Between the 1960s to the mid 1990s, flight of capital was enormous as many large factories were closed or downsized and businesses relocated.[55] The lack of capital and resources coupled with a worldwide glut in demand in the city's traditional industries (e.g. jute) added to the depressed state of the city's economy.[56] The liberalisation of the Indian economy in the 1990s has resulted in the improvement of the city's fortunes. Until recently, flexible production had always been the norm in Kolkata, and the informal sector has comprised more than 40% of the labour force.[57] For example, roadside hawkers generated business worth Rs. 8,772 crore (around 2 billion U.S. dollars) in 2005.[58] State and federal government employees make up a large percentage of the city's workforce. The city has a large unskilled and semi-skilled labour population, along with other blue-collar and knowledge workers. Kolkata's economic revival was led largely by IT services, with the IT sector growing at 70% yearly — twice that of the national average.[38] In recent years there has been a surge of investments in the housing infrastructure sector with several new projects coming up in the city.[59] Kolkata is home to many industrial units operated by large Indian corporations with products ranging from electronics to jute. Some notable companies headquartered in Kolkata include ITC Limited, India Government Mint, Kolkata, Exide Industries, Hindustan Motors, Britannia Industries, Bata India, Birla Corporation, CESC Limited, Coal India Limited, Damodar Valley Corporation,Amconics International Ltd. United Bank of India, UCO Bank and Allahabad Bank. Recently, various events like adoption of "Look East" policy by the government of India, opening of the Nathu La Pass in Sikkim as a border trade-route with China and immense interest in the South East Asian countries to enter the Indian market and invest have put Kolkata in an advantageous position.[60][61]

Civic administration

The civic administration of Kolkata is executed by several government agencies, and consists of overlapping structural divisions. At least five administrative definitions of the city are available; listed in ascending order of area, those are:

  1. Kolkata District,
  2. the Kolkata Police area,
  3. the Kolkata Municipal Corporation area ("Kolkata city"),
  4. "Greater Kolkata", which includes the KMC area and a few neighbourhoods adjacent to it, and
  5. the urban agglomeration or Kolkata Metropolitan Area (Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) is responsible for the statutory planning and development of the metropolitan area).

Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC)- The governance of the city proper—the area within which KMC has a directly-elected council of 141 ward councillors who elect a council Chairman and an executiive Mayor. The Mayor, in turn chooses a Deputy Mayor and not more than 10 elected councillors to form the Mayor-in-Council which works like a cabinet. In addition, there is a Municipal Accounts Committee (MAC)of five to seven elected councillors, other than the MiC, chosen through proportional representation, to act like a public accounts committee (PAC), usually headed by the Leader of Opposition. The MiC was introduced in 1980 and the system has been replicated in other Municipalities and Panchayats as Mayor/ Chairperson-in-council during 1981-1991. No other state in India has introduced a system of political executive in local government.

The main functions of the KMC are water supply, drainage and sewerage, sanitation, solid wastes management, streets and public places, street lighting, and building regulation. Fire services are handled by a state agency- Kolkata Fire Brigade. Similarly, for the river port services, there is a Kolkata Port Trust, an agency of the central government.[62]

Other authorities: the Collector of the Kolkata District, the Kolkata Police, the Collector/District Magistrate (DM) of South 24 Parganas District, and the Superintendent of Police (SP) of South 24 Parganas District.[63] As of 2008, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M))-led Left Front holds the power in KMC. The city also has an apolitical titular post, that of the Sheriff of Kolkata.

As the capital of the state and the seat of the Government of West Bengal, Kolkata houses not only the offices of the local governing agencies, but also the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, the state Secretariat (Writers' Building) and the Calcutta High Court. Kolkata also has lower courts; the Small Causes Court for civil matters, and the Sessions Court for criminal cases. The Kolkata Police, headed by the Police Commissioner, comes under the West Bengal Home Ministry. The city elects three representatives to the Lok Sabha (India's lower house) and 21 representatives to the state Legislative Assembly.[64]

Utility services and media

VSNL tower of Tata Communications (previously known as VSNL), a major telecom service provider in the city

The KMC supplies potable water to the city, sourced from the River Hooghly. The water is purified and treated at Palta water pumping station located in North 24 Parganas. Almost all of Kolkata's daily refuse of 2500 tonnes is transported to the dumping grounds in Dhapa to the east of the town. Agriculture on this dumping ground is encouraged for natural recycling of garbage and sewer water.[65] Parts of the city still lack sewage facilities leading to unsanitary methods of waste disposal.[50] Electricity is supplied by the privately operated Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) to the city region, and by the West Bengal State Electricity Board in the suburbs. Frequent interruption of power supply was a problem until the mid 1990s; however the situation has since improved immensely with seldom power cuts occurring presently. The city has 20 fire stations (under West Bengal Fire Service) that attend to 7,500 fire and rescue calls on average per year.[66]

State-owned BSNL and private enterprises like Vodafone, Airtel, Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular, Aircel, Tata DoCoMo, Tata Indicom, Virgin Mobile and MTS India are the leading telephone and cell phone service providers in the city. Cellular coverage is extensive with both GSM and CDMA services being available. Broadband internet penetration has steadily increased with BSNL, Tata Indicom, Sify, Airtel, Reliance and Alliance being the leading service providers.

Bengali language newspapers like Anandabazar Patrika, Bartaman, Sangbad Pratidin, Aajkaal, Dainik Statesman and Ganashakti are widely circulated. Popular English language newspapers published and sold in Kolkata include the Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Statesman, The Telegraph and Asian Age. Some major periodicals are Desh, Sananda, Unish Kuri, Kindle, Anandalok and Anandamela. Being the biggest trading market in Eastern India, Kolkata has a substantial readership of many financial dailies including The Economic Times, The Financial Express, Business Line and Business Standard.[67] Vernacular newspapers such as those in Hindi, Gujarati, Oriya, Urdu, Punjabi and Chinese are also read by a minority. All India Radio (AIR), the state-owned radio broadcaster, airs several AM radio stations in the city. Kolkata has 12 local FM radio stations, including two from AIR. The state-owned television broadcaster Doordarshan provides two free terrestrial channels, while four MSO provide a mix of Bengali, Hindi, English and other regional channels via cable. Bengali 24-hour television news channels include STAR Ananda, Tara Newz, Kolkata TV, 24 Ghanta and Channel 10.


VIP Road, a busy thoroughfare connecting the city with airport
Kolkata is the only Indian city with trams
Vidyasagar Setu bridge connecting Kolkata with Howrah

Public transport is provided by the Kolkata suburban railway, the Kolkata Metro, trams and buses. The suburban network is extensive and extends into the distant suburbs. The Kolkata Metro, run by the Indian Railways, is the oldest underground system in India.[68] It runs parallel to the River Hooghly and spans the north-south length of the city covering a distance of 22.3 km. Buses are the preferred mode of transport and are run by both government agencies and private operators. Kolkata is India's only city to have a tram network, operated by Calcutta Tramways Company.[69] The slow-moving tram services are restricted to certain areas of the city. Water-logging due to heavy rains during the monsoon sometimes interrupts the public transport.[70][71]

Hired forms of mechanised transport include the yellow metered taxis, while auto rickshaws ply in specific routes. Almost all the taxis in Kolkata are Ambassadors. This is unlike most other cities where Tata Indicas or Fiats are more common. In some areas of the city, cycle rickshaws and hand-pulled rickshaws are also patronised by the public for short distances. Private owned vehicles are less in number and usage compared to other major cities due to the abundance in both variety and number of public vehicles.[72] However, the city witnessed a steady increase in the number of registered vehicles; 2002 data showed an increase of 44% over a period of seven years.[73] The road space (matched with population density) in the city is only 6%, compared to 23% in Delhi and 17% in Mumbai, creating major traffic problems.[74] Kolkata Metro Railway and a number of new roads and flyovers have decongested the traffic to some extent.

Kolkata has two major long distance railway stations at Howrah Station and Sealdah. A third station named Kolkata has been launched in early 2006.[75] The city is the headquarters of two divisions of the Indian Railways — Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway.[76]

The city's sole airport, the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport at Dum Dum to the north of the city, operates both domestic and international flights. Kolkata is also a major riverport in eastern India. The Kolkata Port Trust manages both the Kolkata docks and the Haldia docks.[77] There are passenger service to Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and cargo ship service to various ports in India and abroad, operated by the Shipping Corporation of India. Also there are ferry services connecting Kolkata with its twin city of Howrah.


Residents of Kolkata are called Calcuttans. As of 2001, Kolkata city had a population of 4,580,544, while the urban agglomeration had a population of 13,216,546. Current estimates for 2009 project the city's population to be 5,080,519.[4] The sex ratio is 928 females per 1000 males[79] – which is lower than the national average, because many working males come from rural areas, where they leave behind their families. Kolkata's literacy rate of 81%[80] exceeds the all-India average of 80%.[81] Kolkata Municipal Corporation area has registered a growth rate of 4.1%, which is the lowest among the million-plus cities in India.[82]

Bengalis comprise the majority of Kolkata's population (55%), with Marwaris and Bihari communities forming a large portion of the minorities (20%).[83] Some of Kolkata's minor communities include Chinese, Tamils, Nepalis, Oriyas, Telugus, Assamese, Gujaratis, Anglo-Indians, Armenians, Tibetans, Maharashtrians, Punjabis and Parsis. Major languages spoken in Kolkata are Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, English.

According to the census, 70% of the population in Kolkata is Hindu, 28% Muslim, 1% Christian and 1% Jains. Other minorities such as Sikhs, Buddhist, Jews and Zoroastrian constitute the rest of the city's population.[84] 1.5 million people, who constitute about a third of the city's population, live in 2,011 registered and 3,500 unregistered (occupied by squatters) slums.[85]

Kolkata reported 67.6% of total Special and Local Laws (SLL) crimes registered in 35 Indian mega cities in 2004.[86] Kolkata police district registered 10,757 IPC cases in 2004, which was 10th highest in the country.[87] The crime rate in the city was 71 per 100,000 against the national rate of 167.7 in 2006, which is the lowest among all the mega cities in India.[88] Kolkata's Sonagachi area, with more than 10,000 sex workers,[89] is one of Asia's largest red-light districts.


Kolkata is a centre of culture in India. Shown here is the National Library

Kolkata has long been known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage. As the former capital of India, Kolkata was the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought. Kolkatans tend to have a special appreciation for art and literature; its tradition of welcoming new talent has made it a "city of furious creative energy".[90] For these reasons, Kolkata has often been dubbed as the "cultural capital of India".

A characteristic feature of Kolkata is the para or neighbourhoods having a strong sense of community. Typically, every para has its own community club with a clubroom and often, a playing field. People here habitually indulge in adda or leisurely chat, and these adda sessions are often a form of freestyle intellectual conversation.[91] The city has a tradition of political graffiti depicting everything from outrageous slander to witty banter and limericks, caricatures to propaganda.

Kolkata has many buildings adorned with Gothic, Baroque, Roman, Oriental and Indo-Islamic (including Mughal) motifs. Several major buildings of the Colonial period are well maintained and have been declared "heritage structures", while others are in various stages of decay. Established in 1814, the Indian Museum is the oldest museum in Asia and houses vast collection of Indian natural history and Indian art.[92] The Victoria Memorial, one of the major tourist attractions in Kolkata, has a museum documenting the city's history. The National Library of India is India's leading public library. Academy of Fine Arts and other art galleries hold regular art exhibitions.

The city has a tradition of dramas in the form of jatra (a kind of folk-theatre), theatres and Group Theatres. Mainstream Hindi films are popular, as are films from the Bengali cinema industry, dubbed "Tollywood". Tollygunj in Kolkata is the location of Bengali movie studios. Its long tradition of filmmaking includes acclaimed directors such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha and Ritwik Ghatak to contemporary directors such as Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh.

Key elements of Kolkata's cuisine include rice and macher jhol (fish curry),[93] with rasagolla,sandesh and mishti doi (sweet yoghurt) as dessert. Bengal's vast repertoire of fish-based dishes includes various hilsa preparations (a favorite among Bengalis). Street foods such as beguni (fried battered eggplant slices), kati roll (flatbread roll with vegetable or chicken, mutton, or egg stuffing), phuchka (deep fried crêpe with tamarind and lentil sauce) and Indian Chinese cuisine from China Town in the eastern parts of the city are quite popular.[94][95]

Bengali women commonly wear the shaŗi as per tradition and global/western outfits. Among men, western dressing has greater acceptance.

Durga Puja is the most important and the most glamourous event in Kolkata.[96] It usually takes place in the month of October, although it can also fall in September or November, depending on the traditional calendar. Other notable festivals include Jagaddhatri Puja, Diwali, Eid, Holi, Christmas, poila boishak (new year), Saraswati puja, Rath Yatra and Poush parbon (harvest festival). Some of the cultural festivals are Kolkata Book Fair, Dover Lane music festival, Kolkata Film Festival and National Theatre Festival.

In the nineteenth and twentieth century, Bengali literature was modernized in the works of authors such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. The rich literary tradition set by these authors has been carried forward in the works of Jibanananda Das, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Manik Bandopadhyay, Ashapurna Devi, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Buddhadeb Guha, Mahashweta Devi, Samaresh Majumdar, Sanjeev Chattopadhyay and Sunil Gangopadhyay among others.

The city is also noted for its appreciation of Rabindrasangeet and Indian classical music as well as Bengali folk music such as baul. From the early 1990s, there has been an emergence of new genres of music, including fusions of Baul and Jazz by several Bangla bands, as well as the emergence of what has been called Jeebonmukhi Gaan (a modern genre based on realism) by artists like Kabir Suman, Nachiketa and bands like Chandrabindoo, Cactus.


The Indian Institute of Management, one of India's most prestigious business schools has a campus in Kolkata
The Birla Planetarium is the first planetarium in Asia

Kolkata's schools are either run by the state government or by private (many of which are religious) organisations. Schools mainly use Bengali or English as the medium of instruction, though Hindi and Urdu are also used. The schools are affiliated with the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), the National Institute of Open School (NIOS) and the A-Level (British Curriculum). Under the 10+2+3 plan, after completing their secondary education, students typically enroll in a 2 year junior college (also known as a pre-university) or in schools with a higher secondary facility affiliated with West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education, ICSE or CBSE. Students usually choose from one of three streams — liberal arts, commerce, or science, though vocational streams are also available. Upon completing the required coursework, students may enrol in general or professional degree programmes.

Kolkata houses nine universities and numerous colleges affiliated to them or to other universities located outside. The University of Calcutta (founded in 1857) has more than 200 affiliated colleges.[97] Bengal Engineering & Science University and Jadavpur University are notable engineering universities. Calcutta Medical College is the first institution teaching modern medicine in Asia.[98] Other notable institutions are Presidency College, St. Xavier's College, Bethune College (the first women's college in India) and Scottish Church College. Some institutions of national importance are the Asiatic Society, Bose Institute, S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, the Indian Statistical Institute, the Indian Institute of Management, the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre, the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, the Marine Engineering and Research Institute, the Rabindra Bharati University, the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, the S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, the Calcutta Mathematical Society, the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, and the National Institute of Fashion Technology.


Salt Lake Stadium, largest in the Indian sub-continent, 2nd largest in the world.
Eden Gardens, a venue for cricket matches. 2nd Largest in the World

Association football (sometimes referred to as 'soccer'), cricket and field hockey are popular sports in the city. Kolkata, a major centre of football activity in India and home of top national football clubs such as Mohun Bagan AC, Mohammedan Sporting Club and East Bengal, is known as Mecca of Indian Football.[99] Calcutta Football League, which started in 1898, is the oldest football league in Asia. Mohun Bagan AC, one of the oldest football clubs in Asia, is the only club to be entitled 'National Club of India'. Kolkata is also home to Kolkata Knight Riders IPL cricket team franchise.

As in the rest of India, cricket is extremely popular and is played throughout the city in its grounds and streets. Tournaments, especially those involving outdoor games like cricket, football, and badminton or indoor games like carrom are regularly organized on an inter-locality or inter-club basis. The maidan area hosts several minor football and cricket clubs and coaching institutes. Notable sports stars from Kolkata include former Indian national cricket captain Sourav Ganguly and Olympic tennis bronze medallist Leander Paes. Former football stars include Olympic medalist Sailen Manna, Chuni Goswami, P.K. Banerjee, and Subrata Bhattacharya.

The city is known for its large stadia. The Eden Gardens is one of only two 100,000-seat cricket stadiums in the world.[100] Salt Lake Stadium (also known as Yuva Bharati Krirangan)—a multi-use stadium—is the world's third largest capacity football stadium.[101][102] Calcutta Cricket and Football Club is the second-oldest cricket club in the world.[103] Kolkata has three 18-hole golf courses at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (the first golf club in the world outside Britain),[104] Tollygunge Club and Fort William. The Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) holds regular equestrian races and polo matches. The Calcutta Polo Club is now considered as the oldest polo club of the world.[105] The Calcutta South Club is the venue for some national and international tennis tournaments. From 2005, Sunfeast Open, a Tier-III tournament of Women's Tennis Association Tour, takes place in Netaji Indoor Stadium. The Calcutta Rowing Club hosts regular rowing races and training. Although it is a minor sport, Kolkata is considered the "capital" of rugby union in India. The city also gives its name to the name of the oldest international tournament in rugby union, the Calcutta Cup, which is of Indian workmanship.

Sister cities

Sister City Country
Long Beach United States United States of America
Odessa Ukraine Ukraine
Dhaka Bangladesh Bangladesh
Thessaloniki Greece Greece
Naples Italy Italy

See also


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  • Gandhi, R (1992), Patel: A Life, Navajivan, ISBN ASIN B0006EYQ0A 
  • Marcuse, P; van Kempen, R (2000), Globalizing Cities: A New Spatial Order?, Blackwell Publishers, ISBN 0631212906 
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External links

This article contains Indic text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks or boxes, misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Kolkata article)

From Wikitravel

Kolkata is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.

Kolkata (Bengali:কলকাতা) [1] (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of West Bengal and the second largest city in India (after Mumbai). If Bangalore is the Seattle of India, than Kolkata is the sub-contintent's New York. It is an 'in your face' city that shocks and charms the unsuspecting visitor. Abject poverty mix inexplicably with crumbling British Raj-era gems, sprawling gardens and historical colleges. Long known as the cultural capital of India, Kolkata continues to spawn generations of poets, writers, film producers and Nobel Prize winners. If your trip only allows for a visit of one or two of India's metropolitan cities, than definitely consider placing Kolkata on your itinerary. Love it or hate it, you definitely won't forget the city on the Hooghly.

The Victoria Memorial, a reminder of the Raj
The Victoria Memorial, a reminder of the Raj
  • Southern fringes — the rapidly mushrooming localities to the south of the city. Includes Behala, Jadavpur, Garia and Narendrapur. There are a number of educational institutes and lavish shopping malls in this area. This is a relatively newer part of the city where a lot of expansion is going on.
  • South Kolkata — the posher part of the city. Covers Ballygunge, Bhawanipur, Alipore, New Alipore, Rash Behari,and Tollygunge.
  • Esplanade — the colonial district is still the central business area and is considered the heart of Kolkata. Made up of Park Street, Mirza Ghalib Street (Free School Street), Dalhousie Square, Chandni Chowk, Barra Bazaar and Sudder Street.
  • Maidan — The area consisting of the huge park and its surrounding neighborhoods. Includes Fort William, Strand Road, Khidirpur, Dufferin Road, Hooghly Bank and Chowringhee.
  • North Kolkata — the older area of the city, a fascinating district dominated by narrow little lanes and hundreds of century-old bulidings. Includes Chitpur, Bagbazar,Belgachhia,Shyam Bazaar, Shobha Bazaar, Maniktala, Jora Sanko and the famous College Street area. Also situated here are the Sealdah station, one of the largest train hubs in India, and the newly built Kolkata station. Dum Dum being the prime communication hub of Kolkata having International Airport, Metro Rail, Circular Rail, Ground Rail.
  • Northern fringes — the large industrial area to the north of the city. Includes Kashipur, Dumdum, Belghoria, Khardah, Panihati, Titagarh etc. where there are a number of factories, including jute, paper, cotton, ordnance and chemicals.
  • East Kolkata — Rapidly developing, specially IT sector and home to India's largest mall. Encompasses Salt Lake City (Bidhan Nagar), Rajar Hat, Lake Town and the E.M. Bypass. Many five star hotels, theme parks, posh housing estates and techno parks are being built in this area.
  • Howrah — while technically its own city, Howrah is very much a part of the Kolkata metro area, and Howrah train station is where you'll arrive/depart from if connecting with anywhere north or west of Kolkata.



Kolkata's history is intimately related to the British East India Company, which first arrived in 1690, and to British India, of which Calcutta became the capital of in 1772. Job Charnock was widely known as the founder of Calcutta (Sutanuti, Govindapur & Calcutta) but in recent years a number of Indian historians have disputed this claim, arguing that Calcutta occupies the site of an older Indian city, centered around the ancient Kali temple at Kalighat. This claim has been accepted by the Kolkata High Court. The Court has dismissed the name of Job Charnock as the founder of the city and 24 th August as its date of birth. The historic Judgement was based upon an high level Expert Commitee findings. It has been proved that Kolkata had an highly civilized society for centuries before the Europeans first came here.

Whatever its origins, Calcutta flowered as the capital of British India during the nineteenth century, the heyday of the Raj. Calcutta University, the first modern Indian university was founded here in 1857. Calcutta became the center of Indian arts and literature, and the national movement for independence got its start here. However, with the transfer of the capital to Delhi in 1911, the pains of the partition of Bengal in 1947, and a violent and bloody Maoist movement (the Naxalite movement) in the 1970s, Calcutta has become synonymous with urban decay and poverty ("New York is deteriorating into New Calcutta," opined an editorial in The New York Times on Dec. 25th, 1988).

Modern Kolkata

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 economic liberalization in India during the early nineties reached Kolkata 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. This is reflected in street names and memorials in the city. For example there are streets like Lenin Sarani, Ho Chi Minh Sarani, etc.. The Left Front regained control of the Municipal Corporation of Kolkata from the Trinamul Congress in the 2005 civic elections.


Although the Govt claims that Kolkata is fast developing into a modern infotech city with various private sector companies setting up shop here, it seems the city is stuck somewhere in the 70's. The landscape of the city is also fast changing with flyovers, gardens and several new commercial establishments. Kolkata city itself has expanded into its suburbs, with the Greater Kolkata stretching from Kalyani (in Nadia District) in North to Diamond Harbour in 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 spots like Inox Multiplexes, Nandan, Tantra, Barista Coffee Shops, 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 and 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 starting to become a major hub for the IT (Information Technology) industry. With the formation of New Town at Rajarhat and extension of Salt Lake's Sector-V, Kolkata is rapidly turning into a pro-IT town. More and more businesses are coming to Kolkata to set up their offices.


Kolkata is in the eastern part of India at 22°82′ N 88°20′ E. 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 Central 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 B. B. D. 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. An even-newer CBD is now being set up in the Rajarhat (Newtown) area, lying between Salt Lake and the Airport.

Maidan (open field) is situated between the river Ganges and J.L.Nehru Road (or Chowringhee). It is said to be the lungs of Kolkata. The lush green meadow also houses Victoria Memorial, Eden Gardens, and several sporting clubs. Kolkatans 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 storied apartment blocks. Ten to twelve storied apartment blocks have come up in large numbers in south Kolkata. The city has relaxed its rules on high-rise construction recently and twenty storied 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.

Heavy 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 large 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 Chiputra, an Indonesian company to build the Kolkata West International City (KWIC). 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 by a small 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.

Opposition to the setting up of the Nano factory at Shingur, 50 Kms. away from Kolkata, where the Tata's plan to build the cheapest car in the world, threatens to take away a lot of the investments due to come to the state.

Get in

By plane

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport [2] (IATA: CCU) connects Kolkata with South East Asia and receives some flights from Europe but is surprisingly small for a city of this size and hasn't been refurbished since the 1950s, although it is expected to be updated by 2011. The domestic terminal, on the other hand, is among the best in India. It is undergoing a major face-lift and expansion to cope with the expanding bulk of air traffic and new airline companies popping up almost every month.

Take a prepaid taxi from the airport to the city. It is about 20 km from the city. Expect to pay about Rs. 150-250 depending on your destination. There is a new rail link connecting the airport to the Circular Rail station in Dum Dum, however very few trains actually operate on the line at present.

By train

There are two major railway stations in Kolkata - Howrah (not in Kolkata actually, it's in the adjoining city Howrah) and Sealdah. A new terminus station called 'Kolkata' has also started functioning since 2005, but presently it accommodates very few trains. Directly facing Howrah are ferries (Rs. 4) that can get you to the other side of the river either Babu Ghat or Fairlie Place from where you can arrange onward transportation with anything from taxis to public buses to human rickshaws. With the traffic situation this might actually save you time as well as money.

The Foreign Ticket Office is on Fairlie Place (with the main GPO on your left, take the next left - the office is a few minutes walk on the left) - very helpful and efficient service.

Kolkata is well connected by rail to almost all the big stations in India and also serves as the gateway to the North Eastern India. If you are coming to Kolkata by trains using Sealdah station, you may prefer taking a pre-paid taxi to enter the city. The pre-paid taxi stand is just outside the station's main entrance. The counter is under a tin shade. Pre-paid taxis are reliable and will save you money and also the bargaining hassle. However beware of touts who would claim themselves to be running pre-paid taxis. Always collect the receipt from the counter first. The receipt has two parts - one part is for your reference and the other part you will need to handover to the taxi driver only after you reach your desired destination. The Taxi driver will get his payment by submitting or producing this other part to the Pre-paid Taxi counter.

By car

You can find many cabs on the roads or you can always hire one from the numerous taxi stands strewn across the major cities. There are pre paid taxis also available at major railway stations and airports. You can also hire luxury vehicles from certain travel agencies.

By bus

To/from Bangladesh There are numerous bus options between Kolkata and Bangladesh. The most common way is the regular comfortable a/c buses from Dhaka to Kolkata via the Haridaspur / Benapole border post. Private bus companies Shohagh [3], Green Line [4],Shyamoli [5] and others operate daily bus services on this route. Govt. buses run under the label of the state owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation (WBSTSC) and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation [6] (BRTC). WBSTSC and BRTC both operate buses from Kolkata every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 5:30AM and 8:30AM, and 12:30PM while from Dhaka they leave on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:00AM and 7:30AM. The normal journey time is around 12 hours with a one-way fare of Rs550 or BDT600-800, roughly $8-12. If you're only headed to Haridaspur the fare is Rs86 (2.5 hours). The Shyamoli Paribahan ticket office is at 6/1 Marquis St (parallel to and one block south of Sudder Street, and just west of Mirza Ghalib St, next door to DHL), 2252 0693. Beware that several travel agencies around this area also sell tickets for these buses, but at very inflated prices. At the border it's best to change money on the Indian side, but count it carefully and double-check the math on their calculator. On the Bangladesh side you can catch a flat-bed cycle-rickshaw for Tk5 for the 2km trip to the bus stand for onward travel - or you can walk, but expect the hopeful rickshaw-wallahs to follow you at least half way.

To/from Eastern India via Bangladesh Bus travel to some points in Eastern India are faster via Bangladesh (please note that visas may be required for entry into Bangladesh as well as for re-entry into India). If you're heading to points in Eastern India (Tripura for example) beyond Bangladesh -- then there is a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, capital of India's Tripura state. Two BRTC buses leave daily from Dhaka and connect with the Tripura Road Transport Corporation vehicles, running six days a week with a roundtrip fare of BDT600 ($10). There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey. Call +880 2 8360241 for schedule. Other entry points to North-Eastern India through Bangladesh are Hili, Chilahati / Haldibari and Banglaband border posts through Northern Bangladesh and Tamabil / Dawki border post for a route between Shillong (Meghalaya) and Sylhet in North-Eastern Bangladesh, and some others with lesser known routes from north-eastern Indian regions. Although scheduled bus-services to Shillong/Meghalaya from Kolkata through Dhaka may not be offered at present -- it is still possible to get to those points via land routes going through Sylhet and then on to Tamabil/Dawki border outposts. Enquire at the Bus Service Counters for details.

Esplanade Bus Station is the Kolkata's main station for inter-state and inter-city buses.

Howrah Bridge, as seen from the Hooghly River
Howrah Bridge, as seen from the Hooghly River

The river Hooghly that runs through the west of the city offered one of the first reasons to the foundation of the British commercial settlement. The river continues to offer one of the less crowded but slow traffic medium. There are several points (popularly called Ghats and jetties) on the bank of the river from where you can board several regular routes of ferry services. Ferries can be fairly large launches to small improvised motorized boats. They are extremely safe though. Even if you don't get any exotic manual boats like you get in Varanasi, the river transport of the city lets you go to several old spots near the bank in a hassle-free manner with an additional dash of the view of decadent river front of the city.

Get around

By taxi

Kolkata just wouldn't look the same without the plethora of yellow ambassador taxis [7] that ply on its roads. They're easily available and relatively cheap, and will usually use their meters. The meters are, however, outdated.

The fare is 2 times plus Rs 2 the reading if the meter is inside, and 4 times the reading if the meter is outside. However, it is almost impossible now to find any meters outside. All Taxi meters are digital ones which are placed inside the cab. The Meter starts from Rs. 10, which means Rs. 22 actually. There is a "green taxi" which is red coloured (!) and charges the same. In case you are confused always ask to see the chart that the driver is supposed to carry with him. Expect to pay a bit more if you are going to the outskirts of the city or traveling at night. How much more that depends on your bargaining skills, but it should be at most Rs. 10-20 on top of the taxi meter. Unlike other metro cities in India, there is no 50%-100% surcharge for late night hires (10PM-11PM onwards).

If you are lucky enough you can catch an air-conditioned cab, but those are very few in number. Presently one may find 'Orix' or 'Megacabs' taxis on call. These are air-conditioned taxis and the fare about INR 15-20 per km travelled. The telephone numbers to call (once you are in Kolkata, of course) for these taxis are Orix - 44222222 and Megacabs - 41414141.

By metro

Metro Railway, Kolkata [8] was the first underground rail in India, yet it still has only a single route connecting the north and south of the city, from Dumdum to Garia Bazar. It is the cleanest, most reliable, least crowded and most efficient of all the transportation Kolkata has to offer. Trains run every 10-15 minutes and at Rs 4-8 it's very economical. At present work is on for extension of the Metro line from its southern tip - Garia Bazar, which will go further south till Garia. There is also a East-West line, the work of which is going on full swing. It will connect Salt lake to Howrah station. The two lines will meet at Central station.

Stops include Esplanade (for Chowringhee), Park Street, Maidan (for Victoria Memorial and Planetarium), Rabindra Sadan Nandan movie theater, Academy of fine arts, and other famous galleries, Kalighat for world famous Kali temple, and "Girish Park" for Jorashako Thakur bari, the residence of Rabindranath Tegore and other Tegore giants.

By tram

Calcutta Tramways [9] is the only tram service in all of India, and the oldest surviving electric tram network of Asia. Though decommissioned in some part of the city, electric trams are still one of the means of traveling between places within the city. They move slow on the laid tracks in traffic jammed streets, but they are environment friendly (no emission). Check their site for routes and schedules.

By train

The electrified suburban rail network of the SER and the ER is extensive and includes the Circular Rail.

By bus

The city has an extensive bus network (possibly the most exhaustive in the whole of India), and this is the cheapest, though not always the most comfortable means of transport. Among the buses that ply the city streets, the deluxe buses run by CSTC (Calcutta State Transport Corporation), CTC (Calcutta Tramways Company) and WBSTC (West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation) are probably the better option. A/C buses are also available to select destinations from near the airport.

By auto-rickshaw

Shared auto-rickshaws are available from different points. They travel in fixed routes and the fare is fixed. They are supposed to take four persons, three in the back seat and one sharing the driver's seat!

A human-pulled rickshaw
A human-pulled rickshaw
A human-pulled rickshaw
A human-pulled rickshaw

Long the world's only major metropolis where human-pulled rickshaws were still a major form of transport, a complete ban was supposed to be imposed in November 2006 - but with 35,000 union members who are unlikely to disappear overnight it was not implemented.

Hiring a car

Privately owned rental car places are available throughout the city. Rates depend on the make, model, size and comfort level of the car. Agreements are flexible, for example, cars can be rented even for couple of hours at an hourly rate. Most rental cars are accompanied with a driver from the rental agency. Here are contacts of a few rental car agents:

  • Kolkata Cab, +91 33 4422 2222
  • Travel Cars, +91 33 2249 4970 Queens Mansion, Garage No. 8, Park Street.
  • Time Cabs, +91 33 2247 9574 13, Camac Street.
  • Wenz, +91 33 227 8926, Oberoi Grand Hotel.
  • Hertz Pearl Carzonrent PVT Ltd, +91 33 3240-4000/5000 or 09830999555. 24 hour service.
  • India Destinations & Hospitalities, +91 9903887319
  • Chayan Travels, +91 9836654014


Being in Bengal, the native language of the people of Kolkata is Bengali. However, most educated people speak Hindi and English as well, and many others such as shopkeepers and taxi drivers would be able to communicate in broken English at the very least.

Kolkata is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

The city sprawls along the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, a tributary of the Ganges, which divides it from Howrah on the western bank. For travelers, the most relevant parts of Kolkata are south of the Howrah Bridge in the areas around BBD Bagh and Chowringhee.

Central Kolkata

South of BBD Bagh is the huge, lush, green, open parkland known as Maidan. Continuing south from here you will find

  • Eden Gardens (one of the most famous cricket stadiums in the world),
  • Akashwani Bhavan, All India Radio building
  • Indoor Stadium
  • Fort William, the massive and impregnable British Citadel built in 1773. The fort is still in use and retains its well-guarded grandeur. Visitors are allowed in with special permission only.
  • Victoria Memorial [10] Along St. George’s Gate Road, on the southern fringe of the Maidan, you will find Kolkata's most famous landmark , a splendid white marble monument (CLOSED MONDAYS).
  • Calcutta Racecourse
  • Chowringee, is the Market place of Kolkata. You will find shops ranging from Computer Periferals to cloth merchants. Even tailors and a few famous Movie theaters too. This place is a favourite pass time for local people.

Northern Kolkata

The Northern part of Kolkata houses the old buildings belonging to the Zamindars (Landlords), other rich Bengalis who used to trade with the British. It preserves the cultural heritage of Kolkata. The building structures give an impression of the royal people who stayed there. River Ganga is the hot spot for the development of the North along with Kolkata. It is generally crowded and has some interesting markets including the famous Posta, Burrabazar whole sale markets, College Street Book market where you can trace many out of print books with a little patience. While in College Street a visit to the College St Coffee House is a must. Also around the area are the Calcutta Medical College, the Presidency college and Calcutta University.

North of BBD Bagh you will find the

  • Nakhoda Mosque (the largest mosque in Kolkata) and the
  • Shobhabajar Rajbari the ancestral house of Rja Naba Krishna, one of the rich locals to side with Clive during his war with Nabab Siraj-Ud-Daula.

Further along you will find

  • Jorasanko Thakur Bari (Tagore Family residence).
  • Parashnath Jain Temple, near the Belgachia metro station.
  • Parashnath Jain Temple, at Gouribari, less visited, reachable from the Sovabazar Metro station (take an auto rickshaw).
  • Marble Palace, The marble palace was the private mansion of Zamindar (Land owner) Raja Rajendro Mullick, who had built this palace in 1835. It is situated on the Muktaram Babu Street in a congested part of the city. A real garden, of may be an acre with a Palladian Mansion set square in the centre. Today this place has an incongruous collection of statues and paintings. There is also a private zoo housing a collection of birds from different corners of the world.
  • The Howrah Bridge [11] spans the Hooghly River linking Howrah to Kolkata. It is said to be the busiest bridge in the world. No photos allowed.
  • Kali temple of Dakshineswar is to the north of the city on the banks of the Ganges, across from Belur Math.
  • Nicco Park

Southern Kolkata

Southern Kolkata is less congested and more modern. You will find more apartment blocks, more green spaces and more affluent homes.

  • The Tollygunge Club is one of the oldest clubs and a famous colonial relic housing a golf course, horse riding facilities, swimming pools, accommodation, etc. Its located in Tollygunge area.
  • Rabindra Sarovar is a large open lake and park area housing boating clubs, an open air theatre and eateries and comes under the Ballygunge area.
  • Birla Industrial & Technological Museum on Gurusaday Road in Ballygunge.
  • Royal Calcutta Golf Club is the oldest golf club in the world after St. Andrews in Scotland,located in Tollygunge.
  • Tollywood (the home of Bengali Films) and Television centre are also found in Tollygunge.
  • Ramakrishna Mission Institute in Golpark,at Ballygunge.
  • The Birla Temple is the largest in Kolkata and worth a visit.Its located on Ashutosh Chowdhury Avenue(Old Ballygunge Road) in Ballygunge.
  • National Library of India at Alipore.
  • The South City Mall at Lake Gardens, the biggest shopping mall of Eastern India.
  • The Kalighat Kali Temple, very famous to Hindus, it houses Kolkata's patron deity.
  • Mother Teresa's Hospital for the destitute is next door to the Kalighat temple.
  • China Town near Park circus houses some of the finest Chinese eateries.
  • Inox-Forum at Elgin Road near Rabindra Sadan -- multiplex movie hall along with a big shopping mall
  • Big Bazar on E. M. Bypass at Highland Park (Baghajatin)- here you can buy almost everything under the sun at reasonable price
  • Gariahat which comes under Ballygunge area.It is the biggest shopping district of Kolkata,where one can find shops ranging from branded showrooms and malls like Pantaloons,westside,Raymonds to numerous smaller shops.
  • Howrah Station
  • The Botanical Gardens at Sibpur.
  • Belur Math, a huge complex and the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission.
  • Kolkata has been nicknamed as the City of Joy. This comes from the numerous palatial mansions built all over the city. During the British colonial era from 1700-1912, when Calcutta was the capital of British India, it 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.
  • 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 in its acres of gardens at the heart of the Kolkata business district.
  • Indian Museum

See a variety of preserved specimens that you wouldn't see in the US museums. It is the largest and oldest museum of India. Located near Esplanade it is one of the most important landmark.

  • Town Hall
  • Marble Palace
  • Gurusaday Museum, Diamond Harbour Road
  • Jawahar Shishu Bhawan
  • Birla Industrial and Technological Museum
  • Science City
  • Sabarna Sangrahashala, Barisha.
  • Take a walk along the river. There is a good promenade near Eden Garden.
  • Take a stroll down memory lane at Princep ghat.
  • Take a boat cruise in small boats under the starlit sky at Outram Ghat.
  • Several modern cinemas are dotted around the city, including INOX [12] at the Forum Shopping Mall and the City Centre in Salt Lake, 89 Cinemas [13] at Swabhumi near Salt Lake City and Fame [14] at Metropolis Mall in Highland Park, RDB Adlabs [15] at RDB Boulevard, Near Infinity Building in Sector 5, Saltlake, all showing Indian and American blockbusters.
  • Nandan, 1/1 AJC Bose Road, (east of Rabindra Sadan metro station) +33 2223 1210. The symbol of art and culture in the city and the site of the Kolkata Film Festival every November.
  • Football (soccer) is a passion for many Kolkatans with the national clubs, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club [16] and East Bengal Club [17] being the best known teams.
  • The Kolkata Book Fair [18] takes place from the last week of January to the first week of February. This is the largest book fair in Asia and is a major event in the city.
  • Durga Puja, a festival honoring the Hindu goddess Durga, takes place in October. The biggest festival for Hindus in Bengal and Eastern India, Kolkata takes on an almost carnival like ambiance. Streets shut down for the construction of pandals, large stands that depict events from the Ramayana and crowds flock to the biggest and best ones. A great time to visit Kolkata (unless you have a fear of crowds!).
  • Calcuttawalks !, 9A Khairu Place (close to chandni metro station.), +919830184030, [19]. The only walking tour company of Calcutta. Also providing off beat and special interest tours. 1000.  edit
  • Tourism Department, Govt. of India, 4 Shakespeare Sarani, +91-33-2282-5813. They had a city bus tour but it is no longer offered.
  • West Bengal Tourism Development Corp (WBTDC), +91 33 2248 8271, [20]. Offers half and full day sightseeing tours around the city.
  • University of Calcutta, [21]. Established in 1857 it was the first modern university on the sub-continent.


Volunteering is a real option here with several options.

  • Mother Teresa's Mission accepts volunteers to help in its multiple projects around town. Enquire at the motherhouse.
  • Brother Xavier's New Hope Search the internet to find a website on this amazing home for orphans of Kolkata's red light district. A much smaller mission that Mother Teresa's which one man built from the ground up. Brother Xavier and the children always need volunteers and funds.

Kolkata is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

Kolkata is an important trading center for handicrafts produced in Eastern India. Bankura horses, saris from Shantiniketan, and leather goods top the list of Kolkata specialities. It is also famous for its rasgollas and a tin or two as a gift for the folks back home. New Market is probably the most famous place to go shopping but there are bargains everywhere.

  • Malls:
    • South City Mall (near Jadavpur Police Stn)
    • Metropolis Mall (near Highland Park)
    • City Center (Saltlake)
    • Mani Square Supermall (EM Bypass)
    • Metro Plaza (near British Embassy)
    • Vardaan Market
    • Orchid Point (Kankurgachi)
    • Forum (Bhowanipore)
    • Shreeram Arcade (New Market)
    • City Center2 (Newtown, Rajarhat)
  • Local Markets:

Maidan Market for all sport items at cheap price Chandni Market is famous for all small electronical items/gadgets & old reusable electronical products New Market for all kinds of Clothing,Toys,Collectible Shopping needs. Treasure Island is like a muti-storeyed market mainly fulfilling needs of Clothing demands & various other make-up & cosmetic items


(See district pages for restaurant listings.)

Kolkata was famous for having the best restaurants long before Indians in other cities learned to eat out. Many of the restaurants that line the streets in the Esplanade area have been around for more than a hundred years (unfortunately, many also show their age!). Flury's [22], on Park Street, was once considered the best English bakery in all of Asia and you can almost imagine Joe Stilwell and Lord Mountbatten arguing over who had command over the allied forces in Burma while enjoying tea, scones, and clotted cream!

But the joy of food in Kolkata is in its Indian foods. Nizam's, in New Market, is credited with the invention of the famous Kati Kebab roll and still serves up the best of the best. Street vendors selling egg rolls/chicken rolls abound and their freshly prepared kati rolls are safe to eat and enjoy. Mughali Paratha (a paratha stuffed with minced meat) is a Calcutta speciality and can be found in various 'cabins' off Chowringhee Road. 'Chops', a sort of deep fried ball stuffed with beet and veggies is another peculiarity that you won't find anywhere else in the world. Puchkas, the Calcutta version of paani-puri, is available on the streets but be wary of the water!

Bengali sweets are famous all over India. Rasagolla (cheese balls dipped in a sugary syrup), Pantua - a fried variant of the same, Rosomalai- the same cheeseballs dipped in creamy sweetened milk, Mishti Doi (sweet yogurt), Sandesh (several variations available). Try some shops like K.C. Das, Jugal's, Bhim Nag, Nakur Nandy, Sen Mahasoy, Ganguram and not to forget Mithai. These are cheap and should be eaten fresh.

Kolkata is also the home of Indian Chinese food (now making inroads in far-off New York!). Chinese restaurants are everywhere so try the Indian variant of hot and sour soup and the famous Indian chinese dish of chilli chicken.

Bengali food is centered around fish. Macher jhol, literally fish in curry gravy, is a watery fish curry available everywhere and goes well with rice, but Bengalis everywhere swear by the hilsa fish (a variant of shad). Hilsa, lightly marinaded in mustard and steamed is up there with the best fish dishes in the world.

"Oh! Calcutta!" on the fourth Floor of Forum Mall, Elgin Road, serves authentic Bengali food. The specialities are the boneless Hilsa Fish fillet, steamed in a bannana leaf and served with a Mustard Gravy. Many expats, yuppies and affluent Kolkattans frequent this restaurant. The food is great, though bordering on the expensive, and portions usually small. Makes for an interesting evening out, accompanied by the incessant Bengali chatter, so characteristic of Kolkatta.

While it can be difficult to find a restaurant serving authentic Bengali food, today Kolkata has of as many 10 Bengali restaurants. One of the most authentic is Kewpies, situated behind Netaji Bhavan at 2 Elgin Lane. Here, food is served on terra cotta plates with banana leaves. There's also "Aaheli" at Peerless Inn, or the more reasonably priced "Suruchi" at 89 Elliot Road. There is a wide choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes with an emphasis on local fish. Thalis (platters) are also available. Still, being invited back to a local's place for a home-cooked meal is the best way to sample Bengali cooking!

6 Ballygunge Place is stituated in South Kolkata and also offers an assortment of Bengali dishes. Bhjohori Maana has 6 outlets across the city. In South Kolkata, the Hindisthan Road outlet (Gariahat) is the best. Taroparbon is situated in Hindusthan Park, and has a large menu.

Kastur and Rahhuni are eateries, both offering Bangladeshi food and are situated off Free School Street, near Park Street.

Suruchi is an old eatery, which serves only lunch in simple surroundings, and is run by the destitute women of 'The All Bengal Women's Union' at Elliot Road, off Free School Street.

  • casa toscana, 56 chowringhee (opposite Nehru Children museum), 40034358. A rustic Tuscan Trattoria in the hustle & bustle of Chowringhee. Does great Italian food with authentic ingredient. Their signature dishes include rocket salad, wild mushroom risotto & thin crisp pizzas!!!!  edit
  • One should give a try to the taste of cold milk shakes with selected flavors of Green Mango, Rose, Vanilla, Coconut Water (locally called DAAB) available at Paramount Syrups & Shakes at College Square. This is dot opposite to Calcutta University, near to College Street. The place is well known for its wonderful shakes from Old age. It is a place that you would always like to return. The place is also well known for its famous crowd pulling essence mainly new dating couples
  • Shibuji's Soda Shikanji. A small non-descript store that is on Theater Road, just east of Camac Street. Shikanji is a mixture of pop/soda like Coca Cola or cream soda with special Indian spice mixture made of salt, pepper, lime and couple other common herbs. During the Holi Festival it's a good place to get thandai, a delicious sweet spicy drink made with milk, saffron, pistachios, and other nuts and herbs (including bhang on request).
  • Aqua Java, Elgin road,loudon street,wood street,mani square. Coffee And More..Each with a unique decor and food menu .  edit


For individual hotel listings, please see the the various district pages.

Kolkata has long had a concentration of budget backpacker hotels in the Sudder Street area and many of these are colonial era gems, albeit decaying ones. Budget hotels can also be found around the station in Howrah. Sudder Street is more centrally located but both are well connected by public transport.

There are numerous luxurious and big budget 5 star & 4 star hotels around town. Such as ITC Sonar (near Science city), The Oberoi Grand (Chowringhee), Taj Bengal (Belvedere Road, Alipur), Hyatt Regency (off EM Bypass), The Kenilworth (Russel St), Hotel Hindustan Internation (AJC Bose Rd), The Park (Park St).

British-era clubs such as Tollygunge Club, Calcutta Club (AJC Bose Rd), Saturday Club (Theatre Rd), Bengal Club (Russel St) have lavish rooms for rent. However, they only accept bookings through members. Tollygunge Club is the ideal place to chill out. Drink chilled draft beer, lie in the outdoor jacuzzi and dine in style at the Belvedere.

  • Hotel Aston, 3, Aston Road, Kolkata - 700 020, India, 091-33-24863145, [23]. Hotel Aston is strategically situated in the heart of Kolkata, India, close to the city center. It is 20 km from the Dumdum Airport and 6 km from the Howrah Railway Station. Designed to offer complete comfort without breaking your budget, Hotel Aston’s air-conditioned rooms are furnished with a television and telephone. Running hot and cold water is also provided. For anything else you might need, room service is available round the clock.  edit
  • Housez 43, 43, Mirza Galib Street, Kolkata - 700 016, India, +91 33 2227 6020 to 21, [24]. Housez 43 is a boutique hotel in Kolkata, India. It has 28 tastefully designed rooms that reflects fine aesthetics. Their dining room is cozy, and provides a perfect European experience.  edit
  • Hotel Samilton, 37, Sarat Bose Road, Kolkata - 20, India., 3051 - 7700 / 7777, [25]. The Hotel Samilton is in Sarat Bose Road, the commercial hub of Kolkata, West Bengal, INDIA. Kolkata is one of the major metropolitan cities of India.The Hotel Samilton offers all facilities of a Modern Hotel with homely comfort. The hotel is well equipped and provide the best of services. Rates start at Rs. 2595.00.  edit
  • Hotel Roland, 28A, Rowland Road, Kolkata - 700 020, (033) 30517600, [26]. Hotel Roland is Situated in Central Kolkata, and the Maxmuller Bhavan is near by. It is around a 45 minutes drive away from the airport.The Hotel is located 8 kms. from Netaji Subhash Airport, 3 kms. from Howrah Railway Station and 1 km. from Esplanade Bus Stand. Hotel Roland offers 25 Air-Conditioned rooms with attached modern baths. Rates start at Rs. 1895.00.  edit
  • The area dialing code for Kolkata is 33. From overseas dial +91 33 XXXX XXXX, from within India dial 033 XXXX XXXX. For mobile phones, dial +91 9XXXX XXXXX.

Kolkata is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

there are scores of interenet cafes that have sprung up in every nook and corner of the city. just look for them and you will find them.charges vary at around ~Rs.15 to 25 per hour.

  • Iway, [27] has a branch at 59 Park St opposite Music World with around 20 computers and fast connections. ~Rs 25/hour.

Cell phone coverage in the city is excellent. There are many service providers offering a wide variety of plans. Among them are Vodafone [28], Reliance [29], and Tata Indicom [30]. It might be a good idea to buy a cell phone and use one of those prepaid plans to get yourself connected while you are in the city.

Stay safe

Kolkata is reasonably safe, and in general the people are more friendly and helpful than in many of India's other large cities. One noted problem is the drug dealers around Sudder Street. However, as the dealers obviously do not want to draw undue attention to their activity, they are generally not persistent and rarely a threat.

  • Bangladesh Deputy High Commission, Circus Ave (Just east of AJC Bose Rd), +91 (0)33 2290 5208/5209, issues 15 day visas, ranging from Rs 500 (~$10) for Indians to a steep Rs 5000 (~$110) for American citizens. Applications are received at window #4 M-F from 9-11AM, and visas are generally ready the next afternoon. Bring 3 passport photos.
  • British Deputy High Commission, 1A Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Calcutta 700071, +91 (0)33 2288 5173-76, +91 (0)33 2288 6536 (After office hours)
  • German Consulate General Kolkata/Deutsches Generalkonsulat Kalkutta, 1 Hastings Park Road, Alipore, Kolkata 700027, +91-(0)33-2479 1141/ 1142/ 2150, 2439 8906. The origins of the German consulate in Kolkata can be traced to before the existence of Germany itself, to the establishment of the consulate of the kingdom of Hanover in 1851 and the consulate of Prussia in 1854.
  • United States of America, Consulate-General of the, 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, Kolkata 700071, +91-33-3984 2400. [ note that the ironic address was the result of a diplomatic snub by the then Marxist Bengal government during the period of the US war in Indochina] It is the oldest diplomatic post of the USA in India, and possibly the oldest continuously operating US diplomatic post in the world. Benjamin Joy was appointed the first American Consul to Calcutta by George Washington in 1792, upon the express recommendation of then Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. The office at 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani houses the Consulate General and the Office of Consular Affairs. The American Center, located at 38A Chowringhee Road, is home to the American Information Resource Center (formerly the American Library/United States Information Service), and the offices of the United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) and the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS).
  • The French Embassy, opening shortly in the Salt Lake area. Allaince Francais du Bengal, a cultural institute of France, offers French courses and has a vast library.
  • The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Kolkata

EC72,Sector 1, Salt Lake City, Kolkata-700064, West Bengal, India [31]

  • Vishnupur - famous for terracotta temples, clay sculptures, and silk sarees
  • Santiniketan - famous for the Ashramik School, and university founded by Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. the town is also known for its handmade leather crafts and kantha stitch sarees
  • Phuentsholing - Bhutan Government buses depart for this Bhutanese border town from the Esplanade Bus Station at 7PM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The journey takes around 18 hours and costs 300Rps. The buses are comfortable, but the roads through West Bengal are full of pot holes, so don't bank on getting much sleep on the way.
  • Beaches-The southerrn part of the State hosts several beach towns such as Digha, Sankarpur, Junput and Mondarmoni.Take a car or a bus that plies regularly from Esplanade to these serene beaches.
  • About 10 km from Kolkata in the village of Samukpota is a "Green Mall" which offers an extensive collection of palm tress plus other plants, gardening tools, yoga instruction, and South Indian food.
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



  • IPA: ['kal.ku.ta]

Proper noun


  1. Calcutta (capital of West Bengal)


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