(Last Updated on : 28/04/2010)
Kolkata was known as the "City of Palaces" in the colonial rule.The discovery of the Chandraketugarh, an archaeological site, proves the fact that the area has been populated for over two millennium. The city`s documented history, however, begins with the arrival of the British East India Company in 1690, when the Company was strengthening its trade business in Bengal. Job Charnock, an administrator of the Company eventually settled in Sutanuti after invading the Hijli Kingdom, was traditionally credited as the founder of this city. In 1699, the British completed the construction of old Fort William, which was used to station its troops and as a regional base.
Kolkata (then Calcutta) was declared a Presidency City, and later became the headquarters of the Bengal Presidency. Faced with frequent infantry with French forces, in 1756 the British began to upgrade their fortifications(military constructions and buildings designed for defense in warfare). When protests against the militarisation by the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah went unheard, he attacked and captured Fort William leading to the infamous Black Hole incident. A force of Company sepoys and British troops led by Robert Clive recaptured the city the following year. Kolkata was named the capital of British India in 1772. It was during this period that the marshes surrounding the city were drained and the government area was laid out along the banks of the Hooghly River. Richard Wellesley, the Governor General between 1797 - 1805, was largely responsible for the growth of the city and its public architecture which led to the description of Kolkata as "The City of Palaces".
By the early 19th century, Kolkata was split into two distinct areas one British, one Indian, known as `Black Town`. The city went through rapid industrial growth from the 1850s, especially in the textile and jute sectors; this caused a huge investment in infrastructural projects like rail roads and telegraph by British government. The merging of British and Indian culture resulted in the development of a new Babu class of urbane Indians, Asia`s first middle class whose members were often professionals, read newspapers, were Anglophiles(One who admires England, its people, and its culture) and usually belonged to upper-caste Hindu communities. Throughout the nineteenth century, a socio-cultural reform, referred to as the Bengal Renaissance resulted in the general uplifting of the people. Kolkata became the centre of the Indian independence movement, especially revolutionary organisations. The 1905 Partition of Bengal on communal grounds resulted in widespread public agitation and the boycott of British goods. These activities, along with the administratively disadvantage location of Kolkata in the eastern parts of India, forced the British to move the capital to New Delhi in 1911. The city`s port was bombed twice by the Japanese during World War II. As food stocks were being diverted to feed the British soldiers, millions of people starved to death during the Bengal famine of 1943. In 1946, demands for the creation of a Muslim state led to large-scale communal violence resulting in the deaths of over 2,000 people. The partition of India also created intense violence and because of this large numbers of Muslims left for East Pakistan, while hundreds of thousands of Hindus fled into the city. After the central government introduced economic reforms in India by the mid-1990s Kolkata gained economic stability. Since 2000, Information Technology (IT) services revitalized the city`s stagnant economy.
The metropolitan city of Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, situated on the Bay of Bengal coast.
As Kolkata is near the sea; the city has standardized temperature throughout the year. The temperature ranges from 12-27°C in the winter and 24-38°C in the summer. Annual rainfall is around 160 cm. The humidity level can be extremely high in the summer. Kolkata has a tropical climate. Summers are hot and humid and maximum temperatures often exceed 40 °C during May and June. Winter tends to last for only about two and a half months, with seasonal lows dipping to the 12 °C - 14 °C between December and January. The highest recorded temperature is 43 °C and the lowest is 5 °C. Often during early summer, dusty winds followed by spells of thunderstorm and heavy rains lash the city, bringing relief from the humid heat. These thunderstorms are convective in nature, and is locally known as Kal baisakhi (Nor`westers).
The southeast monsoon rains starts between June and September and supplies the city with most of its annual rainfall of 1,582 mm. The highest rainfall occurs during August. The city receives 2,528 hours of sunshine per annum, with the maximum sunlight occurring in March. Pollution is a major concern in Kolkata, and the Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) level is high when compared to other major cities of India, leading to regular smog and haze.
As per the 2001 census report, Kolkata city has a population of 4,580,544, and the sex ratio is 828 females per 1000 males. However, this is lower than the national average. The majority of Kolkata`s population, consist Bengalis with Marwaris and Bihari communities forming a large portion of the minorities. Besids, Chinese, Tamils, Marwaris, Anglo-Indians, Armenians, Tibetans, Maharashtrians and Parsis are also a notable part of Kolkata`s population.
Monuments in Kolkata
Victoria Memorial Hall
Built entirely of white marble, Victoria Memorial, one of India`s most beautiful monuments, represent a unique combination of classical European architecture and Mughal motifs. The domed and white marble museum sprawls over 64 acres and is set in a landscaped garden at the southern side of the Kolkata`s maidan (ground). Designed after the Taj Mahal in Agra, it has an enormous collection of pictures, statues, manuscripts, letters etc, relating to the Nawabi and British times in Bengal. The memorial was the inspiration of Lord Curzon, who in 1901, felt that his recently departed Queen Victoria, required a suitable monument to her memory. She was the first British monarch to be awarded the title of Queen-Empress of India in 1877.There are 3000 exhibits in 25 galleries in a chamber below the dome. Main entrance is from the north. A bronze statue of Queen Victoria sits enthroned in bronze at the entrance marble staircase wearing the royal Order of the Star of India. Above her, a black bronze angel known as Victory, holding a bugle in her hand was placed at the top of the dome above the Memorial and has always been regarded as a curious addition to the monument. The entrance dome is deeply graven with the text of Queen Victoria`s imperial declaration speech. Inside the memorial there is a remarkable collection of artifacts depicting British Imperialism statues of famous British figures including Robert Clive, General Stringer Lawrence, Lord Bentick, William Makepeace Thackeray, who was born here, Florence Nightingale, Queen Mary, George V and Queen Victoria etc. Many of British India`s Governors and Governor Generals are represented here in stone, dressed in Roman togas, like Clive, Warren Hastings, Cornwallis, Wellesley, and Dalhousie etc.
Excellent paintings such as, Burne-Jones`s portrait of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Zoffany`s portrait of William Hastings and his family, Macaulay, Bishop Heber and William Hickey, Verestchagin`s monumental depiction of the Prince of Wales making his grand tour of Jaipur in 1876, the works of the Victorian artists Thomas and William Daniells, paintings of Robert Clive, marriage of the Prince of Wales with Princess Alexandra are exhibited and a huge painting depicts King Edward VII entering Jaipur in a regal procession in 1876. French guns captured at the Battle of Plassey are on exhibit along with the black stone throne of the Nawab whom Clive defeated. Also on display are some Indians without discrimination. Among these are - Keshab Chandra sen, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore and his grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore. The memorial is famous for its exhibits of Indian and Western Paintings, manuscripts, postage stamps, Mughal miniatures, books that dates back to the 1870`s, statues and sculptures, arms and armaments, sketches and other objects of historic value in its Museum and Art Gallery. Today it is one of the main attractions for tourists in Kolkatta. Here, on weekends, people picnic, family`s meet, and transiting pilgrims bring flowers to the statue of "Maharani Victoria". Two regular sound and light shows both in English and Bengali are held in the evening.
Visit to Kolkata
Kolkata, referred, as the "City Of Joy" is the place where beauty, magic, charm and verve all unite to offer a harmonized dimension to the city. The land of dreams, fiestas, sweet dish and the abode of great intellectuals, Kolkata, with its rich heritage and tradition have revived the most tired traveler with her magnetism and lure.
The following are the important places in Kolkata:
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