Kolkata was formerly known as Calcutta. It is a city within the state of west Bengal which is in turn located in India. The city of joy, the city of cosmopolite, the city of passion, that is how they define Kolkata.
All the religions reside here with equality, peace and harmony.
The city is of the large skyscrapers; the city is of the Gully Cricket; this city is the city of football fields; this city is the city of spiritual peace; the city of Art and artists; Kolkata is the city which will make its travelers feel like it has been their home city in some other incarnation.
Image Credit: Source (Kolkata flyover)
Starting from the gigantic shopping malls to the shabby little departmental stores, Kolkata has it all. But for our very own personal choice we stick to the bazaars scattered in every locality of the city.
You will get all sorts of fishes, vegetables, fruits and flowers inside the markets of Kolkata and undoubtedly, they are quite glamorous in their own way.
It was the first capital of India during the time when British inhabited this country. Later this capital shifted to Delhi. Before the British arrived in India, the Bengal that we know today was divided into three parts namely – Shutanuti, Kolikata, and Gobindopur.
Later Kolikata was made into Calcutta by the British and then in the year 2001, the official name of the city was changed to Kolkata.
Situated along the banks of the Hooghly River, the city stretches around 185square kilometers and is divided into 144 wards with a population of around 50 lakhs, which is extremely dense.
Kolkata was mostly and unplanned city and therefore we see buildings and roads in extremely zigzag and inter wound condition.
However just like in other parts of the world the city is expanding and growing its outer banks and grasping the underdeveloped areas which are now modernized and designed in a planned manner due to their inclusion within the city.
Few facts & figures of Kolkata
There are a few patents of this state like
- A fishing cat is the recognized animal of this state
- A white throated kingfisher is state bird
- A Nyctanthes arbor-tristis is the state flower
- Alstonia scholaris is the state tree
- ‘Rasgolla’ sweet dish is said to be the state sweet dish
Talking about some facts and figures we get to see that
- Kolkata itself has a population of 4.497 million roughly
- The urban agglomeration encompassed 72 cities and 527 towns and villages, as of 2006. Suburban areas in the Kolkata metropolitan area incorporate parts of the following districts: North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, and Nadia.
- Population of men- 2,356,766
- Population of women- 2,139,928
- One of the leading producers of tea, rice and jute.
History of Kolkata
Kolkata has two stories revolving about its creation. The city of Howrah located adjacent to Kolkata on the other side of Hooghly river was the commercial hub of west Bengal at that time.
It was a fertile land and high land. Hence many communities like the Portuguese and French set up their trading posts at this side of the river to earn profits.
The Armenians settled in the village of serampore (now developed into a city), the French settled in the city of chandernagar, the Portuguese settled in the village of Hugli- chuchura. Hence Howrah became the heart of West Bengal.
On the other hand, the opposite side of Hooghly river, that is Kolkata was mainly a very low and marshy land. It wasn’t even inhabited.
So, when the British came on to start their trade they didn’t get any place to set up their hub on the fertile parts of Bengal.
So, they had to occupy the marshy parts of the other sides. They filled in soil, made it better and started their settlement, this place came to be known as ‘Fort Williams’.
Why is the name so? Because when the British first started trading they started their first factory here. Then they started manufacturing arms in these factories and started expanding their domains.
They created a heavily fortified occupancy and guarded it with soldiers. And hence the name “fort’, and ‘williams’ is named after the officer in charge at that time.
They did this so that they can stop any other communities or invasions approaching towards the banks cannot reach them and they can safely maintain their domains.
Then from this place they started expanding their powers and finally ended up occupying the entire state!
The written records of Kolkata are history in date back to the late 17th century in the 1690s when the British East India company arrived at its port for conducting business operations.
Job charnock, a British administrator working for the company is often credited as the founder of the modern-day Kolkata that we see.
The area that we see today as mentioned earlier consisted of three villages out of which Kolkata was a fishing village because of its proximity to the river.
Most of the city actually belongs to the Mughal emperor in the early 16th and 17th century. In the year 1712, the British had completed the construction of Fort William which was located on the eastern Bank of the Hooghly river.
It was a literal fort and strong hold of the British army constructed to protect their trading factory. At the time the British arrived in India, the French had already made their mark and had established well settled territories of their own. Also, there were frequent attacks by the Dutch pirates in the ports of Kolkata.
The Fort William construction was an effort by the British to protect their interests within the city. Here we must note that the British at that time where solely traders in our country and had no other administrative authority whatsoever.
It was in the late eighteenth century that Nawab of Bengal, Nawab Siraj ud daula condemned the fortifications and military up gradation of the company.
He was also alarm to buy the blatant and shameless tax evasion practice by the company that was rampant within its hierarchy.
Later with the advent of Wellesley as the governor general and the president of Fort William, the company started constructions almost at every corner of the city and also made Kolkata’s centre of their opium trade which was the company’s Monopoly in the Eastern part of the world.
It was also near Kolkata that the initial classes and mutiny against the British rule was started by Mangal Pandey.
Climate- How Does it Feel in Kolkata?
Since Kolkata is situated in the tropical zone. Hence it does not experience an extreme climatic condition. The weather here is more or less moderate due to the presence of the sea of Bay of Bengal nearby. The soil of west Bengal is fertile.
Thanks to the rich alluvial soil brought down by the river ‘Hooghly’ or ‘Ganga’. The soil is clayey hence highly suitable from producing paddy.
- The annual mean temperature is 26.8 °C (80.2 °F)
- Summers (March–June) are hot and humid, with temperatures in the low 30s Celsius; during dry spells, maximum temperatures often exceed 40 °C (104 °F) in May and June.
- Winter lasts for roughly two-and-a-half months, with seasonal lows dipping to 9–11 °C (48–52 °F) in December and January.
- The highest recorded temperature is 43.9 °C (111.0 °F), and the lowest is 5 °C (41 °F)
- The winter is mild and very comfortable weather pertains over the city throughout this season. Often, in April–June, the city is struck by heavy rains or dusty squalls that are followed by thunderstorms or hailstorms, bringing cooling relief from the prevailing humidity. These thunderstorms are convective in nature, and are known locally as kal bôishakhi
Best Paces to Visit
Kolkata attracts quite a huge number of tourist population every year. It has a rich cultural heritage and a great history.
Almost all sorts of communities have lived here in harmony and left back their marks. It is interesting to see how one city can have so many colors and origins
- Victoria memorial– it is a large marble building which was built between 1906 and 1921. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and is now a museum and tourist destination
- National library– Calcutta Public Library was established in 1836 which now turned into national library.
- Alipore zoo – started on 1st may in the year of 1876 and started with a collection of 1266 animal
- Botanical garden– The gardens were founded in 1787 by Colonel Robert Kyd, an army officer of the British East India Company, primarily for the purpose of identifying new plants of commercial value, such as teak, and growing spices for trade.
- Mothers wax museum– Established in November 2014, MWM is known as the first wax museum in India
- Eco tourism park-established in the recent years it has become a great hub of Kolkata as well as tourist crowd
- Indian museum– established in 1814, a dedicated museum to preserve the history and ruins and being the one of its kind.
- Eden gardens– Eden gardens is a huge cricket stadium in Kolkata established in the year 1864 with a sitting capacity of 68000. It was established by the British.
- Science city– this institute is providing 19 years of its dedicated service to science
- St Paul’s cathedral – established in year 1864 is a perfect example of gothic architecture
- Birla planetarium
- Marble palace
- Metcalfe hall
- Dakshineshwar kali temple
- Shaheed minar
- Jorasankho Thakur Bari
The way too heart passes through the stomach and the people of Kolkata know it better than anyone else. Coming to food, only one word describes Kolkata and that is Pioneer. Kolkata is the hub of all sorts of foodie activities that goes around in the country.
This is one of the very few places in the entire nation where you can get all sorts of cuisines and dishes not only from all over the country but also from all over the world just in every corner restaurant in the street.
It is also one of the very few cheap places in the country and their food is extremely low priced and affordable.
There are also a few signature dishes like the famous Kolkata biryani which is made with potatoes eggs and chicken. There is a very interesting story behind the invention of this new technique of putting potatoes into biryani.
Legend has it that when Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Awadh was sent on an excellent to Bengal because of his opposition to the British government, this signature dish was found.
During his tenure in exile in Bengal, he had Limited funds at his disposal in order to run his day to day expenses.
As a result of this stringent budget he decided to use potatoes instead of meat in the biryani. And then the rest is history.
There are other dishes to and accompanying stories. The one that cannot be omitted from this list is the famous sweet rasgulla.
We pride ourselves in the invention of this amazing spongy sweet delicacy that Government of India has even granted a geographical identification status that it belongs to Bengal.
The story goes on like this, during the pre-independence era there was a sweet maker who was preparing his daily sweets with Indian cottage cheese.
During this activity a British official had come into his shop and due to fright and nervousness the sweet maker accidentally dropped a dollop of the cheese in to the sugar syrup.
While later he discovered that the ball of cheese had imbibed all the sugar syrup and had turned into a sponge ball which was amazingly tasty and sweet.
And now it is one of the most liked sweets not only throughout the country but also around the world.
It seems that the city of joy never ceases to amuses with its food and the stories associated with it. Kolkata is one of the few places in the entire nation which house is a significant Chinese population.
It is because of these people that we have the well-known Indian Chinese food that we find everywhere in the country today from Hakka noodles to schezwan to Manchurians.
And of course, how can we not talk about fish and Kolkata in the same line. The people of Kolkata love fish and most of them have a special place for fish in their daily diet.
No matter how a person earns, she tries to buy fish within his reach and have it almost on a daily basis.
All sorts of sweet; chaats and rolls are there to lure us and spoilers totally with the ultimate happiness to our taste buds. The true color of the city is truly caught in the varied flavor of the foods.
The street foods of the city are as flavorful and colorful as the spirit of the people of Kolkata.
Books and the Famous College Street
The old College Street area is aromatic with the smell of old sepia pages. Everyone over here is a voracious reader as well as a writer. Obviously, the popular area of a book shopping in Kolkata will always be the college street. It is a 1.5 km long Street located in Central part of Kolkata.
It derives its name because of the presence of many colleges around the area and also because of the books.
It also houses the Indian Coffee House which has been a popular spot for the ideological elites of the city for generations.
It is considered one of the largest book markets in the world and it is said that if a book is not available there it has probably never been published.
Even then there are a little decorated and branded shops Like the Oxford book store.
Kolkata maybe one of the few cities which consists of the maximum amount of book shops and therefore it proves that it does not matter whether there are eBooks for tablets, the people over here will never stop chasing the feel of the pages turning with their fingers.
Here we must mention about the intellectual heritage of the city and the pro it played in the Indian National Movement.
At the time of the British rule as well as the Indian struggle for independence, Kolkata was the hub of the intelligentsia of the nation and they met and presided over various meetings and important gatherings in order to promulgate on the terms for the demolition of the foundation on which the British colonial used venation for almost 200 years.
Great Statesman and politicians have been gifted by Kolkata to the nation. A few prominent ones of them would include Surendra Nath Banerjee, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, and many more.
Besides this there is of course the iconic yellow colored taxis of Kolkata which are the old Ambassador cars manufactured by Hindustan Motors. And of course, there are uncountable numbers of cars and motorcycles as well as cycles in the streets.
Kolkata is an extremely well-connected city with various modes of transport. This is primarily because it served as a capital for the British Colonialized India in the 18th century.
It has an abundance of tramways and railways. The two major Railway junctions include Howrah and Sealdah which connect the city to the entire country.
Also, there are local trains for intra city travel. Another worthwhile mention here is the tramways of Kolkata which, by now, has acquired a heritage status and just like the Bengali nostalgia, we are unable to label it defunct even today.
Talking of nostalgia, it must be mentioned here that Bengalis don’t just live in the past. The first underground metro rail in India was started in Kolkata. Then other cities like Delhi followed suit. Other than this, the amazingly designed Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport connects the city to the whole world.
Inspite of all this, still today, in the streets of North Calcutta and even near College Square, we will easily be able to spot hand pulled rickshaws.
Global Recognition And Education
Kolkata is also not far behind in the Global Sphere for recognition. It has a total of 5 Nobel laureates that had lived and worked in Kolkata. It includes
- Sir Ronald Ross who was awarded the 1902 Nobel Prize for medicine.
- The great poet and play writer Rabindranath Tagore who was also the first Asian to win Nobel Prize in the year 1913 for his extraordinary contribution to literature in a collection of poems called the Gitanjali.
- CV Raman won the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physics while working in Kolkata.
- The great saint Mother Teresa was a permanent resident of Kolkata after she arrived in India from her hometown and was awarded the 1979 Nobel prize for Peace for her charitable works to uplift the downtrodden in the City.
- Also, the great economist Amartya Sen was also born in Kolkata and won the 1998 Nobel Prize for economics.
Kolkata also has one of the best Institutions for imparting knowledge to the upcoming generation of the country.
The Calcutta medical college is the second largest institution in Asia for providing modern medical knowledge and teaching.
Kolkata afternoons are burdened down with yellow nostalgia. The streets are empty with the hint of nature’s own song. Empty streets, oldest of old architectures, standing still are just perfect for taking you to a Time Travel experience.
The beautiful silent afternoons of the city would make you love to listen to your inner soul. There is an abundance of both colonial as well as ancient architecture scattered around the city in bits and pieces which will never cease to amuse you.
Ganga also known as the Hooghly on the Ganges is located nearby. Esplanade was the name given to the northern portion of the Jungle which later formed the Maidan.
The Victoria Memorial is a large marble building in Kolkata and was built between 1906 and 1921. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria and is now a museum and tourist destination under the ministry of culture.
The memorial lies on the ground by the bank of the river Hugli near the Jawaharlal Nehru Road.