Kolkata

Kolkata (Calcutta) is a city in India, a center of the state West Bengal and is situated on the East bank of Hugli river. Its population is around 4,5 million, and together with the agglomeration is 14 million people as it consists mainly of Bengalis. The city was renamed to Kolkata in 2001.

The region around Kolkata (Calcutta) was populated since 2 thousand years. But the establishment of the city is connected with a British East Indian company, which built Fort William in 1699. The city has originated gradually around it. Kolkata, then Calcutta, has become a center of one of the three English territories in India. Years later the fort has been fortified, because of conflicts with France. In 1772 Calcutta became a capital of British India. But the East-Indian company assumed completely the management of the city no sooner than 1793, when the government of the local rulers was removed, called „ nabab“. The progress of the city has begun. The marshes have been drained only in several years and Calcutta has transformed into a „city-palace“.

Kolkata - Victoria memorial
On photo the Memorial of Queen Victoria in Kolkata.

During the 50’s of the 19 century was observed a fast industrialization, the textile industry and the processing of hide (leather) were developed. There had been built railways, post offices had appeared, in which there had already been a telegraph. Calcutta has become a cultural capital of India. The theatrical and art of cinema have developed, the city is a native place of several winners of a Nobel Prize. Even during this period Calcutta has become a center of the trade with opium in East India. Together with the flourishment of the city in all spheres of development, it has become also a center of the Indian movement for independence. The division of Bengal in 1905 led to protests and in 1911 the capital of British India was moved in Delhi. During World War II Calcutta and its port, which is one of the big river ports in India, have been bombed two times by the Japanese. The food was sent for the army, therefore in 1943 in Bengal occurred starvation. During the next years the city has declined, even the prime minister Rajiv Gandhi characterized it as a „dying city“ in 1985.

During the last years Kolkata gradually has restored its international positions as a basic business and financial center of East India and the North East Indian states. Here is located and the stock exchange of Kolkata – the second in size stock exchange in India. There are also big factories of famous Indian corporations, which production varies from electronics to jute.
The subway dated 1984 is the oldest in India, and the trams are the oldest operating electric tram system in Asia. The rickshas, drawn by people, are an attraction for the tourists. They have been forbidden many times by the authorities, but without a result – the rickshas continue to coexist with the modern automobiles and buses.
The international airport is at 16 km from Kolkata and is the only one in East India.

It is not a secret that more than 1,5 million residents of Kolkata live in ghettos. Namely because of this Mother Theresa has established the organization “Missionaries of mercy“, which engages with assistance of miserably poor people. In 1979 she received a Nobel Prize for peace and charity.
In the city of many millions the pollution of the air is a basic problem. The government strives to find a solution of this global problem and let us hope that in near future this impressive city shall look cleaner.

Landmarks in Kolkata

The main part of the landmarks of Kolkata is from the period of the British presence here. The most popular building in the city is the Memorial of Queen Victoria. This architectural masterpiece was established between 1906 and 1921, and the gardens, surrounding it, are magnificent.

The Indian museum, established in 1814 is the oldest museum in the country. City of Kolkata is proud of it. In it are accommodated big collections of paintings and objects, showing the Indian nature and arts.

The idea for the building of this construction is doctor Nathaniel Wallich’s, who gave the first exhibits in the museum. The construction of the enormous beautiful building is thanks to the Asian association in Bengal, and also to rich Europeans. The Indian collector Baba Ramkal Sen also gave a big part of his collection to the museum. In the beginning the museum had at its disposal only two sections – the one etiological and archeological and the second one – geological and zoological. After the collection of the museum had increased significantly, there was necessary to be built more premises in 1875. Today the enormous rectangular building with many arches and a fountain in the patio, is beautiful and impressive. The museum is divided in 6 sections with 35 galleries. Among the most popular exhibits is the ashes from the mortal remains of the very Buddha, skeletons of prehistoric animals, some very rare art of painting canvases and wonderful Tibetan thangkas-paintings with interesting lines.

The national library of India is located in Kolkata and it is leading in the country. The sophisticated white building with a magnificently shaped garden around it suggests tranquility and refinement.

One of the biggest tourist attractions in the city is the Kalighat Kali Temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Kali. It is located in one of the oldest residential areas of Kolkata-Kaliat. Many of the worshipers come here every day, in order to worship the goddess Kali, which representation is with a long tongue, elaborated out of gold. From the name of this temple derives and the name of the city – Calcutta. For this temple is spoken as early as 15 century, as then it was a small building. The present temple was built by family Sabisha Roy Chowdhury from Banisha in 1809 on the bank of Hugli river. But after some time the river has moved away and now the Kalighat Kali temple is located on the small channel Adi Gang, which connects the temple with Hugli river.

The Saint Pavel cathedral, also known as the English church, is one of the biggest landmarks of Kolkata. The construction of the Cathedral began in 1839 as per insisting of bishop Daniel Wilson and it continued 8 years. The cathedral was built on the analogy of the cathedral in town of Norwich in England. The white building, built in a Gothic style, popular during the time of the British government in India, is with an impressive tower with a clock, the windows are archlike, and the entrance is projected in front of the building. From the beautiful terrace above the entrance of the temple the visitor may enjoy the peace, silence and greenery of the garden. The central hall is with a rectangular shape, with a high vaulted ceiling. At the both sides are situated wooden chairs and benches for the worshippers. On the windows there are beautiful stained glasses. The Florentine fresco is interesting on one of the walls. There can be seen also paintings, depicting the apostle Pavel’s life. In the basement of the cathedral is located the tomb of bishop Wilson, the initiator for the establishment of the cathedral.

Harak bridge is the other landmark of Kolkata (Calcutta). It is one of the four bridges over Hugli river and it replaced the existing pontoon bridge, connecting the cities Hovrak and Calcutta. The Harak bridge is not only a symbol of Calcutta, but also the busiest cantilever bridge in the world. Its daily traffic is around 100 thousand automobiles and 150 thousand pedestrians. In the beginning the bridge bears the name New Howrah, but in 1965 it was renamed to Rabinda Setu, in honour of the great Bengal poet Rabindranat Tagor, the first Indian and Asian laureate of Nobel Prize. But the bridge continues to be called Harak.

The decision for the construction of the bridge was taken in 1906, but because of technical reasons, and then the outbreak of First and Second World Wars, the building of the bridge was delayed. It was finished not until 1943. In the project of the bridge there are not provided nuts and bolts, and only rivets for the whole construction. For the building of the bridge are used 27 thousand tons steel, as the bigger part of it is high-layer alloyed steel. The Harak bridge is type hung balanced cantilever with central scope 460m between the centers of the main towers, which are 85 m high. At both sides of the bridge are the pedestrian paths. The two halves of the hung chains are each with length 86m and weighing as per 2 thousand tons. For their lifting were used crawler cranes and 16 hydraulic jacks with capacity 800 tons. At the moment Harak bridge is the sixth such in the world.

In June 2005 at passing of a freighter happened a catastrophic destruction of a part of the bridge, which imposed an expensive repair. Great Britain provided the same steel, which had been used at the construction of the bridge. The repair was finished successfully in 2006.
Because of its interesting construction, Harak bridge is an arena for shooting of many films, such as „Bengal night“ from 1988, the American film „The city of joy“ in 1992, the Bengal film „The shadows of time“ and many others.

An interesting place for visit in Kolkata is the Botanical garden with the 250-year old Banyan tree.
The visit of College Street – the popular with the biggest market for antiquarian literature street, is a challenge. Here are located some of the institutes of Kolkata, and also the Indian house for coffee, a meeting place or the intellectuals of the city.

There are many holidays and festivals in Calcutta like in whole India. Durga Puja is one of the biggest Hindu festivals, dedicated to the goddess – warrior Durga, which is carried out not only in Calcutta, but in whole India on month October. Its beginning comes as early as 16 century, when the landowners from Malda and Dinajpur began to organize festivals, dedicated to the goddess-warrior. Gradually the festivals have developed into a popular festival, which continues and until nowadays. This is the most important event throughout the year in the state West Bengal, which has changed into an official holiday for India since 1910. Winning a victory over the mighty demon, the beautiful lass Durga has become a symbol for the Indians in their faith that the good shall win. Therefore, the preparation for this holiday begins months earlier. It is believed that during the six days of the festivals, Durga comes down among people and therefore she has to be welcomed properly. In Calcutta, and also in the whole country are built temporary temples -„pandalas“, the building of which is undertaken by temporary committees.

Their type varies from a tent with bamboo wands to more beautiful buildings depending on the donated resources. Clay figures of Durga are elaborated, as the clay is collected from the banks of the holy rivers and not until its sanctification it is delivered in the workshops, where they are elaborated. When they are ready, is proceeded with colouring of the clay figures. Before the eyes of the goddess are drawn, the artists keep the fast several days, as they take only vegetable food. Then the sculpture is decorated with jewelry and flowers and it is dressed in a saree, and in her hands are put the weapons of the goddess. She is put on a pedestal, around her are arranged images of a demon, goddesses and gods from the Indian ethnos. In front of the so arranged sculptures, the people present flowers, fruits, sweetmeats, water from the holy rivers and many other things, as they address prayers towards Durga. The priests sing hymns in honour of her. The festival continues several days, each one of which represents the time from the coming down of the goddess Durga to the people, when she is welcomed with music by flourishes and drums, until her departure. On the last day with a gala ceremony the statue of the goddess is brought to the river and is submerged there, as this is a symbolic returning in her home. A little before the statue to be brought out from the temporary temple, the married women of all ages sprinkle their hair with sindoor-powder in red colour or cover their face with it. They treat themselves with sweetmeats as they believe in the coming true of their wishes. This day with many flowers, many decoration, many goodies and much desire for a better life, is a day of the victory of good over evil.

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