Kolkata /koʊlˈkɑːtɑː/(Bengali: কলকাতা) formerly Calcutta /kælˈkʌtə/(Bengali: ক্যালকাটা) is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly river, it is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while the Port of Kolkata is India’s oldest operating port and its sole major riverine port. As of 2011, the city had 4.5 million residents; the urban agglomeration, which comprises the city and its suburbs, was home to approximately 14.1 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area in India. As of 2008, its gross domestic product (adjusted for purchasing power parity) was estimated to be US$104 billion, which would be third highest among Indian cities, behind Mumbai and Delhi. As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Kolkata confronts substantial urban pollution, traffic congestion, poverty, overpopulation, and other logistic and socioeconomic problems.
In the late 17th century, the three villages that predated Kolkata were ruled by the Nawab of Bengal under Mughal suzerainty. After the Nawab granted the East India Company a trading licence in 1690, the area was developed by the Company into an increasingly fortified trading post. Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah retook Kolkata in 1756 after the Company started evading taxes and due to increasing militarization of the fort. The East India Company retook it in the following year, and defeated the Nawab of Bengal (Mir Qasim) in 1764 when he tried to squeeze them out of the region. Per the treaty signed between the company and the Mughal emperor after the battle, the East India company gained the right to collect revenue from the province, thus becoming the imperial tax collector. In 1793 the East India company was strong enough and to abolish Nizamat (local rule), and assumed full sovereignty of the region. Under the Company rule and later under the British Raj, Kolkata served as the capital of British-held territories in India until 1911, when its perceived geographical disadvantages, combined with growing nationalism in Bengal, led to a shift of the capital to New Delhi. The city was a centre of the Indian independence movement; it remains a hotbed of contemporary state politics. Following Indian independence in 1947, Kolkata – which was once the centre of modern Indian education, science, culture, and politics -witnessed several decades of economic stagnation.
As a nucleus of the 19th- and early 20th-century Bengal Renaissance and a religiously and ethnically diverse centre of culture in Bengal and India, Kolkata has local traditions in drama, art, film, theatre, and literature. Many people from Kolkata – among them several Nobel laureates – have contributed to the arts, the sciences, and other areas. Kolkata culture features idiosyncrasies that include distinctively close-knit neighbourhoods (paras) and freestyle intellectual exchanges (adda). West Bengal’s share of the Bengali film industry is based in the city, which also hosts venerable cultural institutions of national importance, such as the Academy of Fine Arts, the Victoria Memorial, the Asiatic Society, the Indian Museum and the National Library of India. Among professional scientific institutions, Kolkata hosts the Agri Horticultural Society of India, the Geological Survey of India, the Botanical Survey of India, the Calcutta Mathematical Society, the Indian Science Congress Association, the Zoological Survey of India, the Institution of Engineers, the Anthropological Survey of India and the Indian Public Health Association. Though home to major cricketing venues and franchises, Kolkata differs from other Indian cities by giving importance to association football and other sports.
The word Kolkata derives from the Bengali term Kôlikata (Bengali: কলিকাতা) [ˈkɔlikat̪a], the name of one of three villages that predated the arrival of the British, in the area where the city eventually was to be established; the other two villages were Sutanuti and Govindapur.
There are several explanations about the etymology of this name:
The term Kolikata is thought to be a variation of Kalikkhetrô [ˈkalikʰːet̪rɔ] (Bengali: কালীক্ষেত্র), meaning "Field of [the goddess] Kali". Similarly, it can be a variation of ‘Kalikshetra’ (Sanskrit: कालीक्षेत्र, lit. area of Goddess Kali").
Alternatively, the name may have been derived from the Bengali term kilkila (Bengali: কিলকিলা), or "flat area".
The name may have its origin in the words khal [ˈkʰal] (Bengali: খাল) meaning "canal", followed by kaṭa [ˈkata] (Bengali: কাটা), which may mean "dug".
According to another theory, the area specialised in the production of quicklime or koli chun [ˈkɔlitɕun] (Bengali: কলি চুন) and coir or kata [ˈkat̪a] (Bengali: কাতা); hence, it was called Kolikata [ˈkɔlikat̪a] (Bengali: কলিকাতা).
Although the city’s name has always been pronounced Kolkata [ˈkolkat̪a] (Bengali: কলকাতা) or Kôlikata [ˈkɔlikat̪a] (Bengali: কলিকাতা) in Bengali, the anglicised form Calcutta was the official name until 2001, when it was changed to Kolkata in order to match Bengali pronunciation.
The discovery and archaeological study of Chandraketugarh, 35 kilometres north of Kolkata, provide evidence that the region in which the city stands has been inhabited for over two millennia. Kolkata’s recorded history began in 1690 with the arrival of the English East India Company, which was consolidating its trade business in Bengal. Job Charnock, an administrator who worked for the Company, was formerly credited as the founder of the city; In response to a public petition, the Calcutta High Court ruled in 2003 that the city does not have a founder. The area occupied by the present-day city encompassed three villages: Kalikata, Gobindapur, and Sutanuti. Kalikata was a fishing village; Sutanuti was a riverside weavers’ village. They were part of an estate belonging to the Mughal emperor; the jagirdari (a land grant bestowed by a king on his noblemen) taxation rights to the villages were held by the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family of landowners, or zamindars. These rights were transferred to the East India Company in 1698.In 1712, the British completed the construction of Fort William, located on the east bank of the Hooghly River to protect their trading factory. Facing frequent skirmishes with French forces, the British began to upgrade their fortifications in 1756. The Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, condemned the militarisation and tax evasion by the company. His warning went unheeded, and the Nawab attacked; he captured Fort William which led to the killings of several East India company officials in the Black Hole of Calcutta. A force of Company soldiers (sepoys) and British troops led by Robert Clive recaptured the city the following year. Per the 1765 Treaty of Allahabad following the battle of Buxar, East India company was appointed imperial tax collector of the Mughal emperor in the province of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, while Mughal-appointed Nawabs continued to rule the province. Declared a presidency city, Calcutta became the headquarters of the East India Company by 1772. In 1793, ruling power of the Nawabs were abolished and East India company took complete control of the city and the province. In the early 19th century, the marshes surrounding the city were drained; the government area was laid out along the banks of the Hooghly River. Richard Wellesley, Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William between 1797 and 1805, was largely responsible for the development of the city and its public architecture. Throughout the late 18th and 19th century, the city was a centre of the East India Company’s opium trade.By the 1850s, Calcutta had two areas: White Town, which was primarily British and centred on Chowringhee and Dalhousie Square; and Black Town, mainly Indian and centred on North Calcutta. The city underwent rapid industrial growth starting in the early 1850s, especially in the textile and jute industries; this encouraged British companies to massively invest in infrastructure projects, which included telegraph connections and Howrah railway station. 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, newspaper readers, and Anglophiles; they usually belonged to upper-caste Hindu communities. In the 19th century, the Bengal Renaissance brought about an increased sociocultural sophistication among city denizens. In 1883, Calcutta was host to the first national conference of the Indian National Association, the first avowed nationalist organisation in India.
The British moved the capital to New Delhi in 1911. Calcutta continued to be a centre for revolutionary organisations associated with the Indian independence movement. The city and its port were bombed several times by the Japanese between 1942 and 1944, during World War II. Coinciding with the war, millions starved to death during the Bengal famine of 1943 due to a combination of military, administrative, and natural factors. Demands for the creation of a Muslim state led in 1946 to an episode of communal violence that killed over 4,000. The partition of India led to further clashes and a demographic shift – many Muslims left for East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh), while hundreds of thousands of Hindus fled into the city.
During the 1960s and 1970s, severe power shortages, strikes, and a violent Marxist–Maoist movement by groups known as the Naxalites damaged much of the city’s infrastructure, resulting in economic stagnation. The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 led to a massive influx of thousands of refugees, many of them penniless, that strained Kolkata’s infrastructure. During the mid-1980s, Mumbai (then called Bombay) overtook Kolkata as India’s most populous city. In 1985, prime minister Rajiv Gandhi dubbed Kolkata a "dying city" in light of its socio-political woes. In the period 1977–2011, West Bengal was governed from Kolkata by the Left Front, which was dominated by the Communist Party of India (CPM). It was the world’s longest-serving democratically elected communist government, during which Kolkata was a key base for Indian communism. In the West Bengal Legislative Assembly election, 2011, Left Front was defeated by the Trinamool Congress. The city’s economic recovery gathered momentum after the 1990s, when India began to institute pro-market reforms. Since 2000, the information technology (IT) services sector has revitalised Kolkata’s stagnant economy. The city is also experiencing marked growth in its manufacturing base.
A resident of Kolkata is referred to via the demonym Calcuttan or Kolkatan. According to provisional results of the 2011 national census, Kolkata district, which occupies an area of 185 km2, had a population of 4,486,679; its population density was 24,252/km2. This represents a decline of 1.88% during the decade 2001–11. The sex ratio is 899 females per 1000 males – lower than the national average. The ratio is depressed by the influx of working males from surrounding rural areas, from the rest of West Bengal, and from neighbouring states, mainly Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Orissa; these men commonly leave their families behind. Kolkata’s literacy rate of 87.14% exceeds the all-India average of 74%. The urban agglomeration had a population of 14,112,536 in 2011.
Bengali Hindus form the majority of Kolkata’s population; Marwaris, Biharis and Muslims compose large minorities. Among Kolkata’s smaller communities are Chinese, Tamils, Nepalis, Odias, Telugus, Assamese, Gujaratis, Anglo-Indians, Armenians, Greeks, Tibetans, Maharashtrians, Konkanis, Malayalees, Punjabis, and Parsis.:3 The number of Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and other foreign-origin groups declined during the 20th century. The Jewish population of Kolkata was 5,000 during World War II, but declined after Indian independence and the establishment of Israel; by 2013, there were 25 Jews in the city. India’s sole Chinatown is in eastern Kolkata; once home to 20,000 ethnic Chinese, its population dropped to around 2,000 as of 2009 as a result of multiple factors including repatriation and denial of Indian citizenship following the 1962 Sino-Indian War, and immigration to foreign countries for better economic opportunities. The Chinese community traditionally worked in the local tanning industry and ran Chinese restaurants.
Bengali, the official state language, is the dominant language in Kolkata. English is also used, particularly by the white-collar workforce. Hindi and Urdu are spoken by a sizeable minority. According to the 2011 census, 76.51% of the population is Hindu, 20.60% Muslim, 0.88% Christian, and 0.47% Jain. The remainder of the population includes Sikhs, Buddhists, and other religions which accounts for 0.45% of the population; 1.09% did not state a religion in the census. Kolkata reported 67.6% of Special and Local Laws crimes registered in 35 large Indian cities during 2004. The Kolkata police district registered 15,510 Indian Penal Code cases in 2010, the 8th-highest total in the country. In 2010, the crime rate was 117.3 per 100,000, below the national rate of 187.6; it was the lowest rate among India’s largest cities.
As of 2003, about one-third of the population, or 1.5 million people, lived in 3,500 unregistered squatter-occupied and 2,011 registered slums: 92 The authorised slums (with access to basic services like water, latrines, trash removal by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation) can be broadly divided into two groups – bustees, in which slum dwellers have some long term tenancy agreement with the landowners; and udbastu colonies, settlements which had been leased to refugees from present-day Bangladesh by the Government.:5 The unauthorised slums (devoid of basic services provided by the municipality) are occupied by squatters who started living on encroached lands – mainly along canals, railway lines and roads.:92:5 According to the 2005 National Family Health Survey, around 14% of the households in Kolkata were poor, while 33% lived in slums, indicating a substantial proportion of households in slum areas were better off economically than the bottom quarter of urban households in terms of wealth status.:23 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding and working with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata – an organisation "whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after".
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