It was formerly known as Calcutta and derives its name from Kalikata, one of the three villages that comprised the area before the arrival of the British. The city was ruled by the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah. In the early eighteenth century, The East India Company began fortifying the troops in the area. Unhappy with this development, the Nawab declared war on them in 1757. The British defeated the Nawab and captured the city. In 1772, Calcutta was named the capital of British India.
By the 1850s, the city underwent rapid industrial growth and saw huge investments in infrastructure projects like railroads and telegraph. Then came the period of socialcultural reform, also known as the Bengal Renaissance. Gradually Calcutta became a centre of the Indian independence movement, especially revolutionary organisations. In 1905, Bengal was partitioned by the British along communal lines. This led to widespread public agitation and the boycott of British goods. Finally, in 1911, the British moved the capital to New Delhi.
Present day Kolkata has a population exceeding 15 million, and is the third most populous metropolitan area in India. It is the business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India. A unique feature of Kolkata’s economy is that the unorganised sector accounts for more than 40% of the labor force. In fact, roadside hawkers generated business worth Rs. 8,772 crore in 2005! Kolkata is home to many industrial units which manufacture products ranging from electronics to jute. Many national and international giants have their headquarters in Kolkata including ITC Limited, Exide Industries, Hindustan Motors, Britannia Industries, Bata India, Birla Corporation, Coal India Limited and many more.
Kolkata is also known for its literary and artistic heritage. It is home to many famous writers, artists, musicians, dancers and theatre personalities. On the cultural front, Durga Puja is the biggest festival in Kolkata. It usually takes place in the month of October, and is celebrated on a grand scale. The city comes alive during this time and a trip to the city during this time is highly recommended. Some of the other important cultural festivals are Kolkata Book Fair, Dover Lane music festival, Kolkata Film Festival and National Theatre Festival. Bengali is the primary language and English is widely spoken. While here, don’t forget to sample Kolkata’s legendary cuisine especially Machher jhol (fish curry) and mishti dohi (sweet yoghurt)!
Kolkata has a tropical wet-and-dry climate. Summers are hot and humid with temperatures in the low 30's. The city receives abundant rainfall during the monsoon. Winters are pleasant with the temperatures ranging between 9 °C – 11 °C. December and January are the best months to visit the city.
Victoria Memorial: Built in the early 20th century in memory of Queen Victoria, this is the biggest landmark of Kolkata. This monument is an architectural wonder with its stately bronze statue of the queen, the brass canons, wrought iron street lamps, manicured lawns, lush gardens and winding pathways. The 'Fountain of Joy' facing the memorial building adds to its charms.
Eden Gardens: Created in 1840 and named after the sister of Lord Auckland, this is a popular tourist spot. The lush green gardens dotted with beautiful trees and shrubs and a large artificial lake make for a wonderful sight. Alongside the gardens, is the world famous Eden Gardens cricket stadium. One of the largest in Asia, it has a seating capacity of more than one lakh spectators.
Indian Museum: Established in 1878, this is one of the largest museums in the country and one of the best in Asia. It has six sections - Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, Geology, Zoology and Industry (economic botany).You will find some of the greatest archaeological treasures in the world here: from the Egyptian mummy to the skeleton of a whale; a collection of meteorites to the fossil collection of prehistoric animals. A must-see for art and history buffs!