The Kolkata reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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A simulated-color satellite image of Kolkata taken on NASA's Landsat 7 satelliteEnlarge

A simulated-color satellite image of Kolkata taken on NASA's Landsat 7 satellite

Kolkata (before January 1, 2001, officially Calcutta) is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. It has always been called Kolkata in the native language of its people, Bengali, but was renamed 'Calcutta' by the ruling British.

Table of contents
1 Origins and History
2 Name
3 The City of Palaces
4 The Socio-Cultural Capital and Aesthetic Conscience of India
5 Scientists
6 Education
7 Sports
8 Ethnicity
9 Transportation Networks
10 Founder and date of foundation
11 Lastly...
12 Portals on Kolkata & West Bengal

Origins and History

Journey from British rule to Independence

Kolkata came into the possession of the British East India Company in 1690 and dates its beginnings as a city from the construction of Fort William in 1698. From 1858 to 1912, Kolkata was the capital of British India. From 1912 to India's Independence in 1947, it was the capital of all of Bengal. After Independence, Kolkata remained the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal.

Contribution to Independence movement of India

Historically, Kolkata was the epicentre of activity in the early stages of the national movement of Independence. The Indian National Congress was born here, as also many contemporary societies like The Hindu Mela and revolutionary societies like the Jugantar and the Anushilan groups. Among early nationalist leaders, the most prominent were Devi Chowdhurani, Sri Aurobindo , Bipin Chandra Pal , Kshudiram Bose and Surya Sen. The early nationalists were inspired by Swami Vivekananda, the foremost disciple of the Hindu mystic Sri Ramakrishna and helped by Sister Nivedita, disciple of the former. The first native president of the Indian National Congress Sir Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee and the first Congress president to advocate self rule by Indians, Sir Surendra Nath Banerjea (referred to by the British as "Surrender Not") were early eminent Calcuttans, who provoked and influenced Nationalist thinking in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of course, the rousing cry that awakened India's soul was penned by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, now the national song of the nation, an ode to the land of Bharat (India) as the Divine Mother, Vande Mataram.


The centre of Company control over the whole of Bengal from 1757, Kolkata underwent rapid industrial growth from the 1850s, especially in the textile sector, despite the poverty of the surrounding region. Despite being almost totally destroyed by a cyclone, in which 60,000 died October 5th 1864, Kolkata grew, mostly in an unplanned way, in the next 150 years from 117,000 to 1,098,000 inhabitants (including suburbs), and now has a metropolitan population of approximately 13.2 million. Kolkata was the most populous city in India until the 1980s, when it was overtaken by Mumbai (formerly Bombay under the British). The population increased further with the partition of India , in August 1947 , when it attracted Hindus refugees and other uprooted people and cross border infiltrators from the eastern part of the province of the formerly undivided Bengal, first included in Pakistan, later declaring independence to form the republic of Bangladesh in 1971.

The Baboo/Babu Culture and the Bengal Renaissance

During the bygone days of the British, as the capital of undivided India the city was regarded as the second city of the British Empire(after London) and was aptly renamed "City of Palaces" and the Great Eastern Hotel was regarded as the "Jewel of the East". During that bygone era, Calcutta was famous for its "Baboo Culture" --- incidentally a cross -fertilization of English Liberalism, European fin de siecle decadence, Mughal conservatism and indigenous revivalism inculcating aspects of socio-moral and political change. This culture was fostered in its wake by the Zamindari System, the Daebhaga System the Hindu Joint Family System , the Mitakshara System , the Muslim Zenana System , the Protestant spirit of free capitalist enterprise , the Mughal inspired feudal system and the Nautch. This also fostered the Bengal Renaissance , literally an awakening of modern liberal thinking in 19th century Bengal , and which gradually percolated to the rest of India. Like the Italian Renaissance , it challenged orthodox social convention to usher in an era of humanistic idealism.

The Age of De(con)struction

Kolkata remained in the forefront of Indian prosperity upto independence and for some more years afterwards before the population pressure on infrastructure and political disturbances led to a gradual decline. A violently disruptive Maoist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s and left the city badly bruised. Since 1977, a Marxist party has continuously ruled the state with various allegations of electoral malpractices being common. The Municipal Corporation of Calcutta however is presently controlled by a combine of parties opposed to them.


A lot of discussion is still going on how the city got its name. There are different views on the issue. The more popular one is that the city got its name from the Hindu goddess Kali. See also: Calicut

The City of Palaces

The city is home to the National Library of India, and is the cultural capital of India, famous for the book-fairs every winter. Other places to visit in the city are the Victoria Memorial, Jorasanko Thakur Bari, Marble Palace, Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Birla Temple, Rabindra Setu (previously called Howrah Bridge) , Vidyasagar Setu (second Hooghly bridge) , Nandan - Rabindra Sadan Cultural Complex , Shahid Minar (previously called Ochterlony Monument by the British), Kalighat, Bhoothnath, Science City, Town Hall, Calcutta, Millennium Park promenade, Eden Gardens (a massive international cricket stadium), Whiteway Laidlaw Building, Governor's House, Esplanade Mansion, Howrah Station , South Eastern Railway Headquarters and many more notable places.

The Socio-Cultural Capital and Aesthetic Conscience of India

Observers, Social Reformers and Commentators

Kolkata was also home to the poet Rabindranath Tagore, the Hindu social reformers Raja Ram Mohun Roy (founder of the Brahmo Samaj) , Keshub Chunder Sen , Henry Louis Vivian Derozio , David Hare (of Calcutta) , Alexander Duff , Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar , William Carey and Mutty Lal Seal. It has produced some great social critics , commentators on culture , religion, philosophy and scholars and writers like Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay , Bibhuti Bhusan Bandyopadhyay , Amritalal Basu , Dinabandhu Mitra, Michael Madhusudan Dutt , Syed Mustafa Ali , Saradindu Bandyopadhyay , Pramath Chowdhury , Nirad C. Chaudhuri , Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak , (linguist ) Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay, (historians) Jadunath Sircar and Romesh Chunder Majumdar, (philosophers and presidents) Dr. Rajendra Prasad , Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan , (novelists) Samaresh Majumdar , Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay , Dibyendu Palit, Purnendu Pattrea, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Rajashekhar Basu, Premendra Mitra, Syed Mustafa Siraj, Mahashweta Devi, Sanjeeb Chattopadhyay, Bimal Kar, Sunil Gangopadhyay , Amitav Ghosh , Amit Chaudhuri , Ashapurna Devi , (poets) Buddhadev Bose, Subhas Mukhopadhyay, Jibanananda Das , Nirendranath Chakraborty, Annada Shankar Ray and Leela Majumdar . Calcutta was the birth place of the great English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray and noted litterateurs like Sasthi Brata, Vikram Seth , Bharati Mukherjee , Raj Kamal Jha , Upamanyu Chatterjee , Jayabroto Chatterjee, Dr. Lali Chatterjee , Nalinaksha Bhattacharyya and for some time, the home of German Nobel laureate Gunter Grass . The renowned genetic scientist and Marxist commentator on society, culture and biology JBS Haldane , spent his last days in his adopted homeland , in Calcutta.

Nobel laureates

All Nobel laureates of India have been associated with Kolkata at some point of time. The city has produced five Nobel Prize laureates so far . They are Sir Ronald Ross (1899 Medicine), Rabindranath Tagore (1913 Literature), Sir C.V. Raman (1930 Physics), Mother Teresa (1977 Peace) and lastly Amartya Sen (1998 Economics) .

Cinema, Theatre and other Performing Arts


The late film director Satyajit Ray , who won the Special Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1992 lived in Kolkata and was defined by his capturing of the Bengali ethos on cinema. Considered by many film makers, Western and Eastern alike, to be among the four greatest directors of film history, he was lauded by greats like Kurosawa. Indeed, the Japanese legend of film said that to have not seen Ray's films was to have never seen the light of the moon and the sun.

In fact the tradition of non-commercial , artistic , impressionistic cinema is vogue in the cinema of Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak (d.1977) , Buddhadev Dasgupta, Goutam Ghose , Aparna Sen, Nabyendu Chatterjee among others .

In the domain of commercial or mainstream cinema, actors and thespian turned actors like Utpal Dutt, Pramathesh Barua, Tulsi Chakraborty , Kali Bandyopadyay, Kanan Devi, Suchitra Sen, Uttam Kumar, Victor Banerjee and Soumitra Chattopadhyay have won international acclaim.


Despite its decline from the pre-eminent position of the cultural capital of India in recent times, it still retains a strong tradition in cinema and theatre. Renowned thespians include Utpal Dutt, Sambhu Mitra , Tripti Mitra, Rudra Prasad Sengupta, Shaonli Mitra, Usha Ganguli , Ashok Mukhopadhyay among others. Calcutta is the capital of the Hindi theatre stage in India and home to the nationally renowned theatre groups Rangakarmee, Padatik , Nandipaat and Ajantrik. Kolkata is host to several acclaimed mime theatre groups and mime artists, like Jogesh Dutt among others.

The Calcutta stage has time and again been inspired and enriched by the translated and transcreated oeuvres of William Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Guy De Maupassant, T.S Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Alexander Pushkin, Maxim Gorky, Maurice Maeterlinck, Jean Paul Sartre , Sean O'Casey, J.M. Synge , Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett , Arthur Miller , Harold Pinter, Ernest Hemingway, Lorraine Hansberry , Girish Karnad and Chinua Achebe.


Calcutta had produced talented vocal artists like Gaharjaan, Angurobala Dasi, Indubala Dasi , Dwijendra Lal Roy , Acharya Krishna Chandra Dey, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Kanan Devi, Feroza Begum, Kanika Bandyopadhyay, Suchitra Mitra , Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Manna Dey, Geetashree Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Debabrata Biswas, Shyama Chattopadhyay, Krishna Chattopadhyay, Sarbani Sen, Robin Bandyopadhyay, Ramkumar Chattopadhyay and son Shreekumar , Arati Mukhopadhyay, Anjali Mukhopadhyay, Begum Akhtar, Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, Usha Uthup , Indrani Sen, Haimanti Shukla , Shreekanta Acharya, Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta, Suman Chattopadhyay, Anjan Dutt, Nachiketa, Bengali bands Moiner Ghoraguli , Chandrabindoo , Cactus, Crosswindz and Bhoomi. The Bombay based (or Bollywood) film musicians Bappi Lahiri, Kumar Sanu , Abhijeet and Babul Supriyo started their careers in Calcutta.

Globally acclaimed instrumental virtuosos in Hindustani music like Dhruv Tara Joshi, Abdul Karim Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, late Bismillah Khan, late Enayet Khan and son late Vilayat Khan , Imdaad Khan, Imaraat Khan , Wahid Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Asifuddin Dagar, Amjad Ali Khan, Budhaditya Mukhopadhyay, Shahid Pervez, Grammy Awardee Bikram Ghosh , Tanmoy Bose, Louis Banks among others hail from Calcutta. The Dover Lane Music Conference held every September celebrates the tradition of Hindustani music. It is also said that Calcutta has the finest connoisseurs of Western classical music in India.

Among the styles and traditions of vocal music in vogue in Calcutta are Nidhu Babur Toppa , Mujraah , Kheyaal , Kavi Gaan, Jatra Gaan, Rabindra Sangeet , Carnatic , Hindustani , Atulprasadi , Shyama Sangeet , Adhunik , Nazrul Geeti , Lok Geeti, Ghazals , Bhakti Geet, Jeebonmukhi , Pop , Indipop , Rock 'n Roll , Santhal Lok Sangeet and Hindi film music .


Some of the most beautiful dance themes are based on the eternal songs , and song and dance based plays of Tagore like Chandalika , The Country of Cards (Tasher Desh) , Red Oleanders (Rakta Karabi) among others. Prominent dancers and dance troupes of the city include late Uday Shankar and Amala Shankar , Indrani Rahaman , Manjushree Chaki Sircar, Ranjabati Sircar, Tanushree Shankar and group, Mamata Shankar Ballet Troupe , Madhuboni Chattopadhyay, Italian born Ileana Citaristi , American born Leela Samson , Sushmita Bandopadhyay, Gaudiya Nritya, Odissi Kala Kendra, Mallhar , Anurekha Ghosh and Company, The Nupur Dance Academy, Padatik Dance Centre, Durga Prasdee Sangeet Vidyalaya among others.

The different dance schools prevalent in Kolkata are Rabindra Nritya Natya, Adhunik,  Bharat Natyam ,  Manipuri,  Kathak,  Kuchipudi, Santhal Folk Dance , among others.    

Magic and Astrology

Calcutta is the magic capital of India and has produced internationally famous magicians like P.C Sorcar Sr, P.C. Sorcar Jr, Manick Sorcar , P.C Sorcar Young , K Lal , Prince Seal etc. and numerous nationally and internationally acclaimed astrologers. Calcutta hosts the headquarters of the All India Magic Circle.


Artists, painters and sculptors like those of the Tagore family (Gaganendranath , Samarendranath, Sunayani Devi, Rabindranath , Rathindranath) , Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Ganesh Pyne, Bikash Bhattacharya, Paritosh Sen , Paresh Maity , Thankappan Kutty , Chintamoni Kar , Rathin Mitra and M.F. Husain have at some time in their careers, been associated with Calcutta. The Bengal School of Art, and Kalighat Pat are internationally acclaimed schools of Art.


Scientific greats of Kolkata include, in approximately chronogical order, the multifaceted geniuses W.B. O'Slaughnessy , Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray, the physicists Meghnad Saha , Satyendra Nath Bose, statistician Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis , and genetic scientist Ananda Mohan Chakraborty. The first in- vitro fertilization (to produce test tube baby "Durga") in India (and second in the world ) was performed by city doctor Dr. Subhash Mukhopadhyay on October 3, 1978.


Primary and Secondary

There are six systems of education catering to each --- the private English medium based convent school education, the central governmental system of education, the West Bengal governmental system of education, the London Edexcel / Cambridge Local Exam Syndicate education system, the Islamic Madrasah system of education and lastly the open school based education. Some of the most posh and expensive schools in Calcutta follow the convent and Cambridge system of education.

University and Professional Education

The seat of nine public universities, and numerous colleges, including at least four medical colleges, Kolkata still enjoys a prominent position in education, though it has slipped in national indexes in the recent past. The universities or autonomous institutions of national importance located in Calcutta are listed below:


1) University of Calcutta ,

2) Jadavpur University ,

3) Rabindra Bharati University ,

4) West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences,

5) Netaji Subhas Open University,

6) Shibpur University (formerly Bengal Engineering College) ,

7) West Bengal University of Health Sciences

8) West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences .

9) West Bengal University of Technology,

10) Open University of Alternative Medicines,

11) The Open International University For Alternative Medicines (Charter Of Indian Board Of Alternative Medicines),

and numerous colleges affiliated to some of the above mentioned universities.

Institutions of National Importance

1) Asiatic Society,

2) Indian Statistical Institute,

3) Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta ,

4) Marine Engineering Research Institute ,

5) Indian Association for Cultivation of Science

6) Indian Institute of Chemical Biology

7) Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre ,

8) Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics ,

9) Inter University Consortium for Department of Atomic Energy Facilities (IUC-DAEF)

10) Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute

11) Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology & Applied Nutrition

Other Autonomous Institutes / Centres of Excellence

1) The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture ,

2) Anthropological Survey of India,

3) Bose Institute,

4) Botanical Survey of India,

5) Central Glass & Ceramic Research Institute,

6) Central Inland Capture Fisheries Research Institute,

7) Central Research Institute for Jute & Allied Fibres,

8) Centre for Studies in Social Sciences,

9) Electronics Research and Development Centre of India

10) Geological Survey of India,

11) Indian Institute of Information Technology ,

12) Mining, Geological and Metallurgical Institute of India,

13) National Institute of Research on Jute & Allied Fibres Technology ,

14) National Institute of Homoeopathy ,

15) S.N.Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences,

16) Zoological Survey of India ,

17) Bishop's College ,

18) School of Tropical Medicine,

19) School of Forensic Sciences

20) Serampore College,

21) Max Mueller Bhavan --- Goethe Institut ,

22) British Council,

23) United States Educational Foundation in India


24) National Institute of Fashion Technology.

Other public universities or institutions which operate in Kolkata or conduct courses in affiliated colleges or institutes are Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur ,  Visva Bharati University ,   Vidyasagar University ,  University of Kalyani ,  Aligarh Muslim University ,  Himachal Pradesh University,  Madurai Kamaraj University,  Indira Gandhi Mational Open University and the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad .   Foreign and private universities like the  University of London, University of Cambridge  (Local Exams Syndicate) , Troy State University,  Ashington University,  TAFE Australia ,  Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra,  Xavier Labour Relations Institute (Jamshedpur), International Management Institute (Delhi), Rai University  , EIILM University, Sikkim Manipal University  , Wigan and Leigh College, UK also operate in Calcutta.

The Geological Survey of India , and the National Council of Science Museums have their headquarters in Calcutta. Financial institutions like ICAI,  ICWAI , ICFAI  and technological institutions like ICE(I) , IE(I),  NIIT , APTECH  have branch offices in Calcutta. 


The Games and the Players

Football or soccer is a passion for many Kolkatans with the national clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal being the best known teams. Calcutta has produced summer Olympic medalists like Norman Pritchard (Athletics --- 1900) , Richard James Allen, Leslie Claudius Field Hockey (1924, 1928, 1936) , Gurbux Singh, Dr. Vece Paes Field Hockey (1980) , Leander Paes (Men's singles Tennis 1996) . The current, and most successful, cricket captain of India Saurav Ganguly is a Kolkatan.

Other sportspersons who have won laurels for Calcutta are Gobor Goho (World Amateur Wrestling Championship USA 1900-2, Manotosh Roy (former Mr Universe ) and Manohar Aich (former Mr. World)(both in the 1950s) , Mihir Sen (Guiness Record holder of being the first person the swim across the English Channel in 1948 and the seven straits across all major continents) , Jyotirmoyee Sikdar ( 1998 Asian Games Gold medallist in four events in racing) , Leander Adrian Paes ( Wimbledon and French Open Men's Doubles , with Mahesh Bhupathi and Mixed Doubles Champion 1999 and Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Champion 2003 , with ace Martina Navratilova ) , Arjun Atwal (PGA Golf champion 2003), Dibyendu Barua and Surya Sekhar Ganguly (current FIDE Chess Grandmasters) and trans-continental wizards Mohd. Salauddin and wife Neena , who were first team to race across the world in their 'Contessa Classic' 1989 car in 1993 and in a Nissan jeep in 1998 -- in the shortest possible time --- a record acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Another noteworthy Calcuttan associated with sports is the former president of the International Council of Cricket and current president of the Board of Control of Cricket in India , Mr. Jag Mohan Dalmiya.

The Amphitheatres

Kolkata has a world-class football stadium in the 'Yuva Bharati Krirangan' (also called Salt Lake Stadium) and a 100,000-capacity stadium, mostly used for cricket, called the Eden Gardens. Calcutta boasts of one of the largest race courses of its kind in Asia , the finest golf courses of its kind in the world (Royal Calcutta Golf Club) and one of the most beautiful tennis courts in the world (South Club) . The Eden Gardens Stadium is the largest stadium of its kind for the game of cricket. Today they reflect remnants of a thriving sports culture based on the British inspired love for cricket , golf, tennis and racing.


Calcutta is a multicultural cosmopolitan city. Apart from the diversity of India , the cultures represented are that of the Europeans (Germans, Armenians, Jewish etc.) , Asians (Chinese, Sinhalese, Tibetan etc.).

Transportation Networks

The two major railway stations of the city are at Howrah and Sealdah with the latter having a more local character. The city has an international airport at Dum Dum and it is called Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport. Kolkata is the only city in India to have a tram network and till 2003 , the only underground metro railway in the Indian sub-continent .

Apart from that...

Calcutta and Bombay are the only two cities in India to have the honorary designation of the Sheriff.

Founder and date of foundation

The city High Court recently gave a ruling that  Job Charnock  is not the founder of the city and Kolkata has no birthday. According to the Court, the city owes its genesis in the  Maurya  and  
Gupta period and it was an established trading post much before the Slave Kings of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals , the Portuguese , the French or the British established a modern township there. References to the existence of an ancient riverine port exist in the travel journals of Chinese scholars and Persian merchants dating from the time preceding the birth of Christ. The Hindu epic Mahabharata , lists the King of “Vanga” , as having fought alongside the Kauravas in the great Mahabharata war .


Calcutta is also a gambling term; see 
Calcutta (gambling).

Portals on Kolkata & West Bengal

Check out these web-sites 

BOTN , BOL, BW, WBC, CW , The Statesman , The Telegraph , BL

to get all information about West Bengal and Kolkata.