Kolkata

Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) 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. The word Kolkata derives from the Bengali term Kolikata, 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. Spread roughly north–south along the east bank of the Hooghly River, Kolkata sits within the lower Ganges Delta of eastern India. Kolkata is the main commercial and financial hub of East and North-East India and home to the Calcutta Stock Exchange. Bengali, the official state language, is the dominant language in Kolkata. Hindi and Urdu are spoken by a sizeable minority. Kolkata is home to many industrial units operated by large public- and private-sector corporations; major sectors include steel, heavy engineering, mining, minerals, cement, pharmaceuticals, food processing, agriculture, electronics, textiles, and jute. ITC Limited, Coal India Limited, National Insurance Company, Exide Industries and Britannia Industries rank among the companies headquartered in the city. The Tea Board of India and the Ordnance Factories Board of the Ministry of Defence are also headquartered in the city. The climate here ranges from a peaking high of 40°C in the summer to 12-15 °C in the winters and mostly experience a tropical wet-and-dry climate.

History: 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 under the company was formerly credited as the founder of the city. Later it was overruled by the Calcutta High Court saying 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 militarization 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 was abolished and East India company took complete control of the city and the province. 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. 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.

*(All the above information are from Wikipedia.)

Transport:

Kolkata: The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport at Dum Dum is the only airport in the city which is well connected to all major cities across India.

Rails: Kolkata is well-connected to the rest of India by extensive railway network of the Indian railways. Two divisions of the Indian railways – the Eastern Railway and the South Eastern Railway are headquartered in the city. The two major railway stations of the city are at Howrah and Sealdah. Kolkata was the first city in South Asia to have an underground railway system that started operating from 1984. It is considered to have the status of a zonal railway. It is run by the Indian Railways. The Circular Rail encircles the entire city of Kolkata and is at present being extended.

Road: Kolkata is connected to other parts of India by the National Highways 2, 6, 34 and 117. The Belghoria Expressway connects NH 34 with NH 2 and 6 via the Nivedita Setu while the NH 117 is connected to NH 6 by the Kona Expressway via the Vidyasagar Setu. There are multiple organisations running buses, a private organisation, and multiple government services like CSTC (Calcutta State Transport Corporation), CTC (Calcutta Tramways Company), WBSTC (West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation) etc. There are also various types of privately run buses which have extensive connectivity throughout the city.

Ferry and Waterways: Kolkata is also a major port and together with the Haldia dock systems, the Kolkata Port Trust has been amongst top performers in the country. Kolkata Port has regular passenger services to Port Blair from the Netaji Subhas Docks. Various ghats across the Ganges are connected by extensive ferry services.

Local: Hand pulled rickshaws, auto rickshaws and taxis are available for transportation within the city. Vehicles are available for online booking from Ola, Uber and other online car booking apps. Tour operators also provide vehicles for hire. Kolkata is the only city in India to have a tram network. Previously connected extensively now is restricted to certain areas.

Tourist Interest:

Victoria Memorial Hall: This monument was Lord Curzon’s brainchild as a memorial to the Empress of India and Queen of the United Kingdom, Queen Victoria after her death in 1901, the Victoria Memorial was modelled on the Taj Mahal and was commissioned in 1906. The memorial is set in extensive and beautiful lawns and is lit up at night. ‘Nike’, the Greek Goddess of victory, on the top of the museum is said to be haunted and has been prominently featured in many Kolkata stories and novels. It is regarded with pride and joy in Kolkata and colloquially referred to as the “Victoria”.

Indian Museum: This is the largest museum in Asia and the oldest in the Asia – Pacific region.

Science City: This is a complex near the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass featuring a lot of interactive science and live bioscience exhibits, as well as having Kolkata’s first OMNIMAX theatre.

Jorasanko Thakur Bari: It is the ancestral home of the Tagore family and was converted into a museum in 1961.

Howrah Bridge: The bridge is renamed as Rabindra Setu. It is a suspension bridge over the river Hooghly. It was commissioned in 1943.

Alipore Zoological Gardens: It was founded in 1875, inaugurated by The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII).

Sahid Minar: The Shaheed Minar or “Tower of the Martyrs”, (formerly Ochterlony Monument) was constructed on the northern fringe of the Maidan in honour of Sir David Ochterlony who commanded the British East India Company forces in the Gurkha War (1814–1816). It was renamed Shaheed Minar in honour of the fallen freedom fighters after Indian independence.

Princep Ghat: It is a Palladian porch in the memory of the eminent Anglo-Indian scholar and antiquary James Prinsep was designed by W. Fitzgerald and constructed in 1843. Located between the Water Gate and the St George’s Gate of the Fort William, the monument to Prinsep is rich in Greek and Gothic inlays.

Other places of interest are Outram Ghat, Rabindra Sarobar, Eden Gardens, Park Street, Kalighat Temple, Pareshnath Temple, Shyambazar Crossing, Maidan and many others. There is a host of amusement parks the most notable being Nicco Park and Millennium Park. Aquatica is the theme water park. Other important parks include Nalban and Captain Bheri Eco & Aquatic Hub.

Tour Planner:

This tour planner is made on the basis of the location of the destinations. One can make changes as per their interest, convenience and accessibility and duration of the trip.

Day 1: Planning the trip on direction basis Firstly the North Kolkata part. Parehnath Jain Temple, Shyambazar Crossing, ancient buildings in Bagbazar, Kumartuli (the famous Bengal pottery), Rabindra Bharati University, Jorasanko Thakurbari and various ghats by the river Hooghly.

Day 2: Moving to South Kolkata the places that can be covered in this day are Kalighat Temple, Industrial Museum in Gurusaday Dutta Road, Golpark Ramakrishna Mission, Sabarna Roy Chowdhury Private Mansion, Alipore Zoo and Rabindra Sarovar Lake.

Day 3: Now the central Kolkata attractions – Indian Museum, Victoria Memorial, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Birla Planetarium, Nehru Museum, Nandan, Sahid Minar, Outram Ghat, Princep Ghat, Maidan and Park Street in the evening.

Day 4: Other places in West Kolkata are Nakhoda Masjid, some shopping at Barabazar, Howrah Bridge (also known as Rabindra Setu) and Vidyasagar Bridge.

Two more days can be taken to see the other places of interest in and around Kolkata.

Hotels: Online booking is always preferable for discounts in tariff. Some hotels in Kolkata are The Oberoi Grand, The Peerless Inn, Vedic Village Resort, Fab Hotel, Jameson Inn, Treeboo Green View and much more.

Read my experience in Kolkata.