/kal kut"euh/, n.
1. a seaport in and the capital of West Bengal state, in E India, on the Hooghly River: former capital of British India. 7,031,382.
2. (sometimes l.c.) Also called Calcutta pool. a form of betting pool for a competition or tournament, as golf or auto racing, in which gamblers bid for participating contestants in an auction, the proceeds from which are put into a pool for distribution, according to a prearranged scale of percentages, to those who selected winners.

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Bengali  Kalikātā , officially  Kolkata 
  city, capital of West Bengal state, and former capital (1772–1912) of British India. It is India's largest city and one of its major ports. The city is located on the east bank of the Hooghly River (Hugli River), once the main channel of the Ganges River, about 96 miles (154 kilometres) upstream from the head of the Bay of Bengal; there the port city developed as a point of transshipment from water to land and from river to sea. The city proper has an area of about 40 square miles (104 square kilometres); the metropolitan area (Calcutta Urban Agglomeration) is much larger, however, consisting of about 533 square miles. A city of commerce, transport, and manufacture, Calcutta is the dominant urban centre of eastern India.

      The city's name is an Anglicized version of Kalikātā. According to some, Kalikātā is derived from the Bengali word Kālīkshetra, meaning “Ground of (the goddess) Kālī.” Some say the city's name derives from the location of its original settlement on the bank of a canal (khāl). A third opinion traces it to the Bengali words for lime (kali) and burnt shell (kata), since the area was noted for the manufacture of shell-lime. In 2001 the government of West Bengal officially changed the name of the city to the colloquial Kolkata. Pop. (2001) city, 4,580,546; urban agglom. 13,205,697.

Physical and human geography

The character of the city
      Fashioned by the colonial British in the manner of a grand European capital—yet now set in one of the poorest and most overpopulated regions of India—Calcutta has grown into a city of sharp contrasts and contradictions. Calcutta has had to assimilate strong European influences and overcome the limitations of its colonial legacy in order to find its own unique identity. In the process it created an amalgam of East and West that found its expression in the life and works of the 19th-century Bengali elite and its most noteworthy figure, the poet and mystic Rabindranath Tagore.

      This largest and most vibrant of Indian cities thrives amidst seemingly insurmountable economic, social, and political problems. Its citizens exhibit a great joie de vivre that is demonstrated in a penchant for art and culture and a level of intellectual vitality and political awareness unsurpassed in the rest of the country. No other Indian city can draw the kinds of crowds that throng to Calcutta's book fairs, art exhibitions, and concerts. There is a lively trading of polemics on walls, which has led to Calcutta being dubbed the “city of posters.”

      Yet for all of Calcutta's vitality, many of the city's residents live in some of the worst conditions, far removed from the cultural milieu. The city's energy, however, penetrates even to the meanest of slums, as a large number of Calcuttans sincerely support the efforts of those who minister to the poor and suffering. In short, Calcutta remains an enigma to many Indians as well as to foreigners. It continues to puzzle newcomers and to arouse an abiding nostalgia in the minds of those who have lived there.

The landscape
The city site
      The location of the city appears to have been originally selected partly because of its easily defensible position and partly because of its favourable trading location. The low, swampy, hot, and humid riverbank otherwise has little to recommend it. Its maximum elevation is about 30 feet (nine metres) above sea level. Eastward from the river the land slopes away to marshes and swamplands. Similar topography on the west bank of the river has confined the metropolitan area to a strip three to five miles wide on either bank of the river. Reclamation of the Salt Lake area on the northeastern fringe of the city demonstrated that the spatial expansion of the city is feasible, and further reclamation projects have been undertaken to the east, south, and west of the central area.

      The principal suburbs of Calcutta are Howrah (on the west bank), Baranagar to the north, South Dum Dum to the northeast, the South Suburban Municipality (Behāla) to the south, and Garden Reach in the southwest. The whole urban complex is held together by close socioeconomic ties.

      Calcutta has a subtropical climate with a seasonal regime of monsoons (rain-bearing winds). The maximum temperature reaches about 108° F (42° C) and the minimum temperature about 44° F (7° C). The average annual rainfall is about 64 inches (1,625 millimetres). Most of this falls from June to September, the period of the monsoon. These months are very humid and sometimes sultry. During October and November the rainfall dwindles. The winter months, from about the end of November to the end of February, are pleasant and rainless; fogs and mists occasionally reduce visibility in the early morning hours at this season, as also do thick blankets of smog in the evenings. The atmospheric pollution has greatly increased since the early 1950s. Factories, motor vehicles, and thermal-generating stations, which burn coal, are primary causes of this pollution, but monsoon winds act as cleansing agents by bringing in fresh air masses and also hastening the removal of water pollution.

The city layout
      The most striking aspect of the layout of Calcutta is its rectangular, north–south orientation. With the exception of the central areas where Europeans formerly lived, the city has grown haphazardly. This haphazard development is most noticeable in the fringe areas around the central core formed by the city of Calcutta and the suburb of Howrah. The bulk of the city's administrative and commercial activity is concentrated in the Barabazār district, a small area north of the Maidān (the park containing Fort William and many of the city's cultural and recreational facilities). This has encouraged the development of a pattern of daily commuting that has overburdened Calcutta's transportation system, utilities, and other municipal facilities.

      Calcutta's system of streets and roads reflects the city's historical development. Local streets are narrow. There is only one express highway—Kāzi Nazrul Islām Avenue, which stretches from Calcutta to Dum Dum. The main roads form a grid pattern primarily in the old European sector, but elsewhere road planning has a haphazard character. Part of the reason for this has been the difficulty of providing enough river crossings; and it is for the same reason that most streets and highways run from north to south. Nullahs (watercourses) and canals that require bridging have also been important factors in influencing the road pattern.

      The city has an acute housing shortage. Of the persons living in institutional shelters in the Calcutta Metropolitan District, more than two-thirds live in the city itself. About three-fourths of the housing units in the city are used for dwelling purposes only. There are hundreds of bustees, or slums, where about one-third of the city's population lives. A bustee is officially defined as “a collection of huts standing on a plot of land of at least one-sixth of an acre.” There also are bustees built on less than one-sixth of an acre (one-fifteenth of a hectare). The majority of huts are tiny, unventilated, single-story rooms, often dilapidated. They have few sanitary facilities, and there is very little open space. The government sponsors a bustee-improvement program.

      In contemporary Calcutta the skyline is broken in some areas by skyscrapers and tall multistory blocks. The cityscape has changed rapidly. The Chowringhee area in central Calcutta, once a row of palatial houses, has been given up to offices, hotels, and shops. In northern and central Calcutta, buildings are still mainly two or three stories high. In southern and south central Calcutta, multistoried apartment buildings have become more common.

      Western influence is dominant in Calcutta's architectural monuments. The Rāj Bhavan (the state governor's residence) is an imitation of Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire; the High Court resembles the Cloth Hall at Ypres, Belg.; the Town Hall is in Grecian style with a Doric-Hellenic portico; St. Paul's Cathedral is of Indo-Gothic-style architecture; the Writers' Building is of Gothic-style architecture with statuary on top; the Indian Museum is in an Italian style; and the General Post Office, with its majestic dome, has Corinthian columns. The beautiful column of the Sahid Minār (Ochterlony Monument) is 165 feet high—its base is Egyptian, its column Syrian, and its cupola in the Turkish style. The Victoria Memorial represents an attempt to combine classical Western influence with Mughal architecture; the Nakhoda Mosque is modeled on Akbar's Tomb at Sikandra; the Birla Planetarium is based on the stupa (Buddhist reliquary) at Sānchī.

      The West Bengal Legislative Council is a dignified building in the modern architectural style. The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, the most important example of postindependence construction, follows the style of ancient Hindu palace architecture in northwestern India.

The people
      The density of population is extremely high, about 85,500 persons per square mile (33,000 per square kilometre). Overcrowding has reached virtually intolerable proportions in many sections of the city. Calcutta has experienced a high rate of population growth for more than a century, but events such as the partitioning of Bengal in 1947 and warfare in Bangladesh in the early 1970s precipitated massive population influxes. Large refugee colonies have also sprung up in the northern and southern suburbs. In addition, a large number of migrants from other states—mostly from neighbouring Bihār and Orissa and eastern Uttar Pradesh—have come to Calcutta in search of employment.

  More than four-fifths of the population is Hindu. Muslims and Christians constitute the largest minorities, but there are some Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. The dominant language is Bengali, but Urdu, Oriya, Tamil, Punjabi, and other languages are also spoken. Calcutta is also a cosmopolitan city: other groups present include a variety of peoples from Asia (notably Bangladeshis and Chinese), Europeans, North Americans, and Australians. Calcutta was racially segregated under British rule, the Europeans living in the city centre and Indians living to the north and south. The pattern of segregation has continued in the modern city, although the distribution is now based on religious, linguistic, educational, and economic criteria. Slums and low-income residential areas, however, exist side-by-side with more affluent areas.

The economy
      Calcutta's position as one of India's preeminent economic centres is rooted in its industries, financial and trade activities, and role as a major port; it is also a major centre for printing, publishing, and newspaper circulation, as well as for recreation and entertainment. The products of Calcutta's hinterland include coal, iron, manganese, mica, petroleum, tea, and jute. Unemployment has been a continuing and growing problem since the 1950s. Unemployment in Calcutta is, to a large extent, a problem of the college-educated and of people trained for clerical and other white-collar jobs.

      Calcutta is the world's largest processor of jute. The jute industry was established in the 1870s, and mills now extend north and south of the city centre on both banks of the Hooghly River. Engineering constitutes the city's other major industry. In addition, city factories produce and distribute a variety of consumer goods—notably foodstuffs, beverages, tobacco, and textiles—other light manufactures, and chemicals. Calcutta's industries have been in a general decline since Indian independence in 1947. Major factors contributing to this decline have been the loss of the eastern part of Bengal at independence, an overall decline in Calcutta's industrial productivity, and the lack of industrial diversification in the city.

Finance and trade
      The Calcutta stock exchange plays an important part in the organized financial market of the country. Foreign banks also have a significant business base in Calcutta although the city's importance as an international banking centre has declined. In addition, the controlling agency for coal mines is in Calcutta. Jute mills and large-scale engineering industries are also controlled from the city; and the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Indian Chamber of Commerce are based there.

      That the city's economy is primarily mercantile is reflected in the fact that about two-fifths of the workers are employed in trade and commerce. Other important occupations include public-sector service in government departments, financial institutions, and medical and educational institutions. Private-sector services include the stock exchange, medical and educational services, legal services, accountancy and credit firms, chambers of commerce, and various utility services.

      The condition of the surfaced roads in the city is poor, although the traffic load is heavy. The mass-transportation system mainly depends on trams and buses. Trams are under government management. Buses are run by the government and by private companies. In 1986 the first section of a subway system—the first in India—was opened in the city.

      The connection between Calcutta and its hinterland to the west depends upon only a few bridges over the Hooghly (Hugli River)—the Howrah Bridge and, farther north, the bridges at Bally and Naihāti. The Howrah Bridge, Calcutta's main link with the hinterland, carries eight lanes of vehicular traffic, has two tramway tracks in the centre, and is one of the most heavily used bridges in the world. A second bridge between Howrah and Calcutta has been under construction since the 1970s.

      The Grand Trunk Road (National Highway No. 2) is one of the oldest road routes in India. It runs from Howrah to Kashmir and is the main route connecting the city with northern India. Other national highways connect Calcutta with the west coast of India, the northern part of West Bengal, and the frontier with Bangladesh.

      Two railway terminals—Howrah on the west bank and Sealdah on the east—serve the railway networks running north and south as well as those running east and west. Calcutta's major air terminal, at Dum Dum, handles international and domestic flights.

      The Calcutta port handles—in terms of volume—one-tenth of India's import cargoes and about one-twelfth of its export cargoes. Some decline in traffic has occurred, however, partly because of problems encountered in dredging silt from the river and partly because of labour problems. Transport, storage, wholesaling, and retailing requirements for exports and imports are concentrated in Calcutta and Howrah. The Calcutta port lost its position as India's preeminent cargo handler in the 1960s, but it and the port of Haldia (about 40 miles downstream) still account for a large portion of the country's foreign exchange.

Administration and social conditions
      Government in the city proper is the responsibility of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation; the corporation's council is composed of one elected representative from each of the city's 100 wards. The council members annually elect a mayor, a deputy mayor, and a number of committees to conduct the activities of the corporation. A commissioner, the executive head of the corporation, is responsible to its elected membership. The city is also a part of the Calcutta Metropolitan District, an entity created to oversee planning and development on a regional basis. This district includes a large rural hinterland around the urban centres.

      Because Calcutta is the capital of West Bengal, the governor resides in the city in the historic Rāj Bhavan. The state Legislative Assembly is located in the city, as is the Secretariat, housed in the Writers' Building, with the state ministries in charge of various departments. The Calcutta High Court, exercising original jurisdiction over the city and appellate jurisdiction over West Bengal, is also located there. A number of national government institutions—including the National Library, the Indian Museum, and the Geological Survey of India—are also in the city.

      Filtered water is supplied from the main waterworks located outside the city at Palta, as well as from some 200 major wells and 3,000 smaller ones. The Farakka Barrage (dam) on the Ganges, 240 miles upriver from Calcutta, ensures a generally saline-free water supply for the city; but because existing water supplies are inadequate, salinity continues to be a problem during the dry months. In addition, unfiltered water, supplied daily for watering the city streets and for the fire brigade, is used by many residents for their daily needs. This circumstance was largely responsible for the former prevalence of cholera during the summer months, but chlorination of unfiltered water and cholera inoculation have reduced considerably the occurrence of the disease.

      Municipal Calcutta has several hundred miles of sewers and surface drains, but much of the city remains unsupplied with sewers. Accumulation of silt has narrowed many sewer channels. Unsanitary methods of human-waste disposal persist in the unsewered areas of the city. The system of removing garbage and of garbage dumping is also unsatisfactory.

      Calcutta is supplied with electricity by a variety of sources, including the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation; West Bengal State Electricity Board; Durgapur Projects, Ltd.; Bandel Thermal Power Station; Santaldih Power Station; and Damodar Valley Corporation Grid. There is still a gap, however, between generating capacity and potential demand, and temporary power interruptions occur on occasion.

      Administration of the Calcutta police force is vested in the city's commissioner of police, as is direction of the suburban police force. The city is divided into four police divisions. The fire brigade has its headquarters in central Calcutta.

      Smallpox has been completely eradicated from the city, and death from malaria and enteric fever has been brought under control. The incidence of tuberculosis has also declined. Hundreds of hospitals, private clinics, free dispensaries run by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and charitable trusts, and state-operated polyclinics serve the Calcutta region. The Order of the Missionaries of Charity, an organization founded (1948) by Mother Teresa (recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize of 1979), cares for the blind, the aged, the dying, and lepers in the poorest sections of the city. There are several medical colleges in addition to other medical research centres. The number of doctors per 1,000 persons is greater in Calcutta than in most parts of the country, but their distribution is uneven; and since the city is a medical centre for the northeastern region of India, its health-care facilities are always overcrowded.

      Education has long been a mark of higher social status in Calcutta. The city has been a centre of learning since the resurgence in Indian education that began in Bengal in the early 19th century. The first English-style school, the Hindu College (later called Presidency College), was founded in 1817.

      Primary education is supervised by the government of West Bengal and is free in schools run by the municipal corporation. A large number of children, however, attend recognized schools that are under private management. Most secondary schools are under the supervision of the state, but some are accredited through the national government and a few through the British educational system.

      Calcutta has three major universities: the University of Calcutta, Jadavpur University, and Rabindra Bharati University. The University of Calcutta (Calcutta, University of), founded in 1857, has more than 150 affiliated colleges. Besides these colleges, university colleges of arts (humanities), commerce, law, medicine, science, and technology specialize in postgraduate teaching and research. Jadavpur University has three faculties—arts (humanities), science, and engineering. Although the university has a small number of colleges affiliated with it, its main focus is on graduate and postgraduate instruction on a single campus. Rabindra Bharati University specializes in humanities and the fine arts (dance, drama, and music).

      Research institutions include the Indian Statistical Institute, the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, the Bose Institute (natural science), and the All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, which is a constituent college of the University of Calcutta.

Cultural life
      Calcutta is the most important cultural centre of India. The city is the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought and of Indian nationalism, and the efforts of its citizens to preserve Indian culture and civilization have no parallel in the rest of the country. The blending of Eastern and Western cultural influences over the centuries has stimulated the creation of numerous and diverse organizations that contribute to Calcutta's cultural life. In addition to the three universities, these include the Asiatic Society, the Bengal Literary Society (Bangiya Sahitya Parishad), the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Birla Academy of Art and Culture, and the Maha Bodhi Society.

Museums and libraries
 Greater Calcutta has more than 30 museums, which cover a wide variety of fields. The Indian Museum, founded in 1814, is the oldest in India and is the largest museum of its kind in the country; the archaeology and numismatic sections contain the most valuable collections. The exhibits at Victoria Memorial trace Britain's relations with India. The Asutosh Museum of Indian Art in the University of Calcutta has exhibits of the folk art of Bengal among its collections. Valuable library collections are to be found in the Asiatic Society, Bengal Literary Society, and the University of Calcutta; the National Library is the largest in India and contains a fine collection of rare books and manuscripts.

      Calcuttans have long been active in literary and artistic pursuits. The literary movement spawned there in the mid-19th century through exposure to Western forms sparked a cultural renaissance throughout India. The best exponent of this movement was Rabindranath Tagore (Tagore, Rabindranath), winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature of 1913, whose remarkable creativity in poetry, music, drama, and painting continues to enrich the cultural life of the city. Calcutta remains at the vanguard of artistic movements in the country, and several artists' societies present annual shows.

      Calcutta is also a centre of traditional and contemporary music and dance. In 1937 Tagore inaugurated the first All-Bengal Music Conference in Calcutta. Since then, a number of classical Indian music conferences have been held every year. The home of many classical dancers, Calcutta was also the location of Uday Shankar's experiments at adapting Western theatrical techniques to traditional dance forms. The school of dance, music, and drama founded by him has been in the city since 1965.

      Professional drama got its start in Calcutta in the 1870s with the founding of the National Theatre. Modern dramatic forms were pioneered in the city by such playwrights as Girish Chandra Ghosh and Dirabandhu Mitra. Calcutta is still an important centre of professional and amateur theatre and of experimental drama. The city has also been a pioneering centre of motion-picture production in India. The avant-garde film directors Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen have achieved international acclaim. There are scores of cinemas in the city, which regularly show films in English, Bengali, and Hindi.

      More than 200 parks, squares, and open spaces are maintained by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. There is, however, very little open space in the overcrowded parts of the city. The Maidān, about two miles in length and a mile in width, is the best-known open space; the major football (soccer), cricket, and hockey fields are located there. Adjacent to the Maidān is one of the oldest cricket fields in the world, Ranji Stadium, in the Eden Gardens; Netāji Stadium, for indoor events, is also in the vicinity. The Salt Lake Stadium, built to the east of the city, can seat 100,000 spectators. There are two racecourses and two golf courses within the city, and rowing at the Lake Club and the Bengal Rowing Club is popular. The Zoological Gardens are spread over an area of some 50 acres (20 hectares). The Indian Botanical Gardens (Indian Botanic Garden) are located on the west bank of the rivers; the herbarium there contains about 40,000 species of plants.


The early period
      The name Kalikātā was mentioned in the rent-roll of the Mughal (Mughal Dynasty) emperor Akbar (reigned 1556–1605) and also in the Manasā-maṅgal of the Bengali poet Bipradās (1495). The history of Calcutta as a British (British Empire) settlement dates from the establishment of a trading post there by Job Charnock (Charnock, Job), an agent of the English East India Company, in 1690. Charnock had previously had disputes with officials of the Mughal Empire at the river port of Hooghly and had been obliged to leave, after which he attempted unsuccessfully to establish himself at other places down the river. When the Mughal officials, not wishing to lose what they had gained from the English company's commerce, permitted Charnock to return once more, he chose Calcutta as the seat of his operations. The site was apparently carefully selected, being protected by the Hooghly River on the west, a creek to the north, and salt lakes about two and a half miles to the east. Rival Dutch, French, and other European settlements were higher up the river on the west bank, so that access from the sea was not threatened, as it was at the port of Hooghly. The river at this point was also wide and deep; the only disadvantage was that the marshes to the east and swamps within the area made the spot unhealthy. Moreover, before the coming of the English, three local villages—Sutānati, Kalikātā, and Gobindapore, which were later to become parts of Calcutta—had been chosen as places to settle by Indian merchants who had migrated from the silted-up port of Satgāon, farther upstream. The presence of these merchants may have been to some extent responsible for Charnock's choice of the site.

      By 1696, when a rebellion broke out in the nearby district of Burdwān, the Mughal provincial administration had become friendly to the growing settlement. The servants of the company, who asked for permission to fortify their trading post, or factory, were given permission in general terms to defend themselves. The rebels were easily crushed by the Mughal government, but the settlers' defensive structure of brick and mud remained and in 1700 came to be known as Fort William (William, Fort). In 1698 the English obtained letters patent that granted them the privilege of purchasing the zamindari right (the right of revenue collection; in effect, the ownership) of the three villages.

Growth of the city
      In 1717 the Mughal emperor Farrukh-siyar granted the East India Company freedom of trade in return for a yearly payment of 3,000 rupees; this arrangement gave a great impetus to the growth of Calcutta. A large number of Indian merchants flocked to the city. The servants of the company, under the company's flag, carried on a duty-free private trade. When the Marāṭhās from the southwest began incursions against the Mughals in the western districts of Bengal in 1742, the English obtained permission from ʿAli Vardi Khan, the nawab (ruler) of Bengal, to dig an entrenchment in the northern and eastern part of the town to form a moat on the land side. This came to be known as the Marāṭhā Ditch. Although it was not completed to the southern end of the settlement, it marked the city's eastern boundary.

      In 1756 the nawab's successor, Sirāj-ud-Dawlah, captured the fort and sacked the town. Calcutta was recaptured in January 1757 by Robert Clive (Clive, Robert, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey), one of the founders of British power in India, and by the British admiral Charles Watson. The nawab was defeated shortly afterward at Plassey (June 1757), after which British rule in Bengal was assured. Gobindapore was cleared of its forests, and the new Fort William was built on its present site, overlooking the Hooghly at Calcutta, where it became the symbol of British military ascendancy.

      Calcutta did not become the capital of British India until 1772, when the first governor-general, Warren Hastings (Hastings, Warren), transferred all important offices to the city from Murshidābād, the provincial Mughal capital. In 1773 Bombay and Madras became subordinate to the government at Fort William. A supreme court administering English law began to exercise original jurisdiction over the city as far as the Marāṭhā Ditch (now Āchārya Prafulla Chandra and Jagadish Chandra Bose roads).

      In 1706 the population of Calcutta was about 10,000 to 12,000. It increased to nearly 120,000 by 1752 and to 180,000 by 1821. The White (British) Town was built on ground that had been raised and drained. There were so many palaces in the British sector of the city that it was named the “city of palaces.” Outside the British town were built the mansions of the newly rich, as well as clusters of huts. The names of different quarters of the city—such as Kumārtuli (the potters' district) and Sankaripara (the conch-shell workers' district)—still indicate the various occupational castes of the people who became residents of the growing metropolis. Two distinct areas—one British, one Indian—came to coexist in Calcutta.

      Calcutta at that time was described as a pestilential town. There were few good roads. In 1814 a Lottery Committee was constituted to finance public improvement by means of lotteries, and between 1814 and 1836 it took some effective measures to improve conditions. The corporation was established in 1841. Cyclones in 1864, 1867, and 1870, however, devastated the poorer, low-lying areas.

      By successive stages, as British power extended over the subcontinent, the whole of northern India became a hinterland for the port of Calcutta. The abolition of inland customs duties in 1835 created an open market, and the construction of railways (beginning in 1854) further quickened the development of business and industry. It was at this time that the Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta to Peshāwar (now in Pakistan) was completed. British mercantile, banking, and insurance interests flourished. The Indian sector of Calcutta also became a busy hub of commerce and was thronged with people from throughout India and many other parts of Asia. Calcutta became the intellectual centre of the subcontinent.

Calcutta in the 20th century
      The 20th century marked the beginning of Calcutta's woes. Lord Curzon (Curzon, George Nathaniel Curzon, Marquess, Viscount Scarsdale, Baron Ravensdale), viceroy of India, partitioned Bengal in 1905, making Dacca (now Dhākā) the capital of eastern Bengal and Assam. Insistent agitation led to the annulment of this partition, but in 1912 the capital of British India was removed from Calcutta to Delhi, where the government could enjoy relative calm. The partition of Bengal in 1947 was a final blow.

      As Calcutta's population grew larger, social problems also became more insistent, as did demands for home rule for India. Communal riots occurred in 1926, and, when Mahatma Gandhi called for noncompliance with unjust laws, riots occurred in 1930. In World War II, Japanese air raids upon the Calcutta docks caused damage and loss of life. The most serious communal riots of all took place in 1946, when the partition of British India became imminent and tensions between Muslims and Hindus reached their height.

      In 1947 the partition of Bengal between India and Pakistan constituted a serious setback for Calcutta, which became the capital of West Bengal only, losing the trade of a part of its former hinterland. At the same time, millions of refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) flocked to Calcutta, aggravating social problems and increasing overcrowding, which had already assumed serious proportions. Economic stagnation in the mid-1960s further increased the instability of the city's social and political life and fueled a flight of capital from the city. The management of many companies was assumed by the state government. Particularly in the 1980s, large-scale public works programs and centralized regional planning contributed to the improvement of economic and social conditions in the city.

      Since the 1990s, large-scale manufacturing companies have been mostly replaced with small-scale assembly, commercial, and other service-sector economic firms. Militant trade unions have slowed the introduction of new technology and deterred entrepreneurial activity and investment. A subway system has been built to supplement the existing network of buses, trams, and suburban commuter trains, but a rapid increase in the number of privately owned vehicles has produced severe traffic congestion.

      Although Calcutta is not as economically dynamic as some of the other major Indian cities, it continues to be the cultural, artistic, literary, and intellectual centre of the country. It is home to a vibrant tradition of Bengali drama and an independent movie industry internationally famous for its high-quality films. The city was dealt a major blow in September 2000 when floodwaters inundated parts of the city and left hundreds of people dead and tens of thousands homeless.

Additional Reading

Physical and human geography
S. Banerjee, “Spatial Pattern of Population Density in Calcutta, 1981,” in Nageshwar Prasad, Swapna Banerjee, and G.K. Dutt (eds.), Modern Geographical Concepts (1985), pp. 111–118, discusses the geography of the city. Sivaprasad Samaddar, Calcutta Is (1978), chronicles the city's historical growth. Economic aspects are dealt with in United Nations Dept. of International Economic and Social Affairs, Population Growth and Policies in Mega-Cities: Calcutta (1986); Harold Lubell, Urban Development and Employment: The Prospects for Calcutta (1974); and T.B. Lahiri, “Calcutta,” in R.P. Misra (ed.), Million Cities of India (1978), pp. 43–72. Government is described in Ali Ashraf, The City Government of Calcutta: A Study of Inertia (1966); and Keshab Choudhuri, Calcutta: Story of Its Government (1973).

Historical works include Walter Kelly Firminger, Historical Introduction to the Bengal Portion of the Fifth Report (1962; the Fifth Report is dated 1812); A.C. Roy, Calcutta Atlas & Guide: Comprehensive Handbook of Calcutta & Its Suburbs (1965); Kathleen Blechynden, Calcutta, Past and Present, new ed. edited by N.R. Ray (1978); Alok Roy (ed.), Calcutta Keepsake (1978); Binaya Krishna Deb, The Early History and Growth of Calcutta (1905, reissued 1977); Nilmani Mukherjee, The Port of Calcutta: A Short History (1968); S.N. Mukherjee, Calcutta: Essays in Urban History (1993); A.K. Raha and Swadesh Basu, Evolution of Calcutta Customs: A Study in History (2000); and Parimal Ghosh, Colonialism, Class, and a History of the Calcutta Jute Millhands, 1880–1930 (2000). Sukanta Chaudhuri (ed.), Calcutta: The Living City, 2 vol. (1990), a collection of essays, explores Calcutta's past, present, and future. A useful periodical is Bengal Past & Present (semiannual), the journal of the Calcutta Historical Society.N.K. Sinha Swapna Banerjee-Guha Ed.

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