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|"The City of Joy"
From top going clockwise: Victoria Memorial, St. Paul's Cathedral, Downtown Kolkata, Howrah Bridge, Kolkata tram, Vidyasagar Setu Bridge
||22°34′11″N 88°22′11″E / 22.56972°N 88.36972°E
||Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya
• 27,462 /km2 (71,126 /sq mi)
|185 km2 (71 sq mi)
• 9 m (30 ft)
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
The name Kolkata and the anglicised name Calcutta have their roots in Kalikata
, the name of one of the three villages (Kalikata
) in the area before the arrival of the British.
"Kalikata", in turn, is believed to be a version of Kalikshetra
, "Land of [the goddess] Kali
"). Alternatively, the name may have been derived from the Bengali term kilkila
Again, the name may have its origin in the indigenous term for a natural canal, Khal
, followed by Katta
(which may mean dug).
Another theory is that the place used to specialize in quicklime (kalicun
) and coir rope (kátá
) and hence the place was called Kalikátá.
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.
This change has not always been reflected by overseas media, but news sources like the BBC have opted to call Bombay Mumbai
Kolkata, shown here in 1945, was an important port during World War II
The discovery of the nearby Chandraketugarh
an archaeological site, provides evidence that the area has been inhabited for over two millennia.
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.
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.
At that time Kolkata, under direct rule of the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah
, comprised three villages Kalikata
. 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
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
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
A force of Company sepoys
and British troops led by Robert Clive
recaptured the city the following year.
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
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".
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.
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).
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
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.
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
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
The city and its port were bombed several times by the Japanese
during World War II
the first occasion being 20 December 1942,
and the last being 24 December 1944.
During the War, millions starved to death during the Bengal famine of 1943
, caused by a combination of military, administrative and natural factors.
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.
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.
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.
In 1971, war between India
led to the mass influx of thousands of refugees into Kolkata resulting in a massive strain on its infrastructure.
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
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.
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.
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)
while the wind and cyclone
zoning is "very high damage risk", according to UNDP
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).
The Kolkata urban agglomeration (Kolkata Metropolitan Area
), however, is spread over 1,750 km2
(676 sq mi),
and comprises 157 postal areas, as of 2006.
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.
The suburban areas of Kolkata metropolitan district incorporates parts of the districts North 24 Parganas
, South 24 Parganas
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).
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.
Kolkata has a tropical wet-and-dry climate
(Köppen climate classification Aw
). The annual mean temperature is 26.8 °C
); monthly mean temperatures range from 19 °C (66.2 °F) to 30 °C (86.0 °F).
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.
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).
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
Rains brought by the Bay of Bengal branch of South-West monsoon
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.
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
Severe air pollution in the city has caused rise in pollution-related respiratory ailments such as lung cancer.
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
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.
Between the 1960s to the mid 1990s, flight of capital was enormous as many large factories were closed or downsized and businesses relocated.
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.
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.
For example, roadside hawkers
generated business worth Rs.
(around 2 billion U.S. dollars
) in 2005.
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.
In recent years there has been a surge of investments in the housing infrastructure sector with several new projects coming up in the city.
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.
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:
- Kolkata District,
- the Kolkata Police area,
- the Kolkata Municipal Corporation area ("Kolkata city"),
- "Greater Kolkata", which includes the KMC area and a few neighbourhoods adjacent to it, and
- 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.
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.
Parts of the city still lack sewage facilities leading to unsanitary methods of waste disposal.
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.
and private enterprises like Vodafone
, Reliance Communications
, Idea Cellular
, 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
services being available. Broadband internet
penetration has steadily increased with BSNL, Tata Indicom
, Airtel, Reliance and Alliance being the leading service providers.
Bengali language newspapers like Anandabazar Patrika
, Sangbad Pratidin
, Dainik Statesman
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
, Unish Kuri
. 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
Vernacular newspapers such as those in Hindi
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.
, a busy thoroughfare connecting the city with airport
Kolkata is the only Indian city with trams
is provided by the Kolkata suburban railway
, the Kolkata Metro
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kolkata Metro Railway and a number of new roads and flyovers have decongested the traffic to some extent.
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.
The sex ratio
is 928 females per 1000 males
– 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%
exceeds the all-India average of 80%.
Kolkata Municipal Corporation area has registered a growth rate of 4.1%, which is the lowest among the million-plus cities in India.
comprise the majority of Kolkata's population (55%), with Marwaris
communities forming a large portion of the minorities (20%).
Some of Kolkata's minor communities
. Major languages spoken in Kolkata are Bengali
According to the census, 70% of the population in Kolkata is Hindu
, 28% Muslim
, 1% Christian
and 1% Jains
. Other minorities such as Sikhs
constitute the rest of the city's population.
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
Kolkata reported 67.6% of total Special and Local Laws (SLL) crimes registered in 35 Indian mega cities in 2004.
Kolkata police district registered 10,757 IPC
cases in 2004, which was 10th highest in the country.
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.
area, with more than 10,000 sex workers
is one of Asia's largest red-light districts
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".
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.
The city has a tradition of political graffiti
depicting everything from outrageous slander to witty banter and limericks, caricatures to propaganda.
Bengali women commonly wear the shaŗi
as per tradition and global/western outfits. Among men, western dressing has greater acceptance.
is the most important and the most glamourous event in Kolkata.
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
, 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
Kolkata's schools are either run by the state government or by private (many of which are religious) organisations. Schools mainly use Bengali
as the medium of instruction
, though Hindi
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
, 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. Bengal Engineering & Science University
and Jadavpur University
are notable engineering universities. Calcutta Medical College
is the first institution teaching modern medicine
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
, a venue for cricket matches. 2nd Largest in the World
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