Kolkata is the largest metropolitan city of India. At the beginning of this century Kolkata was the capital of British India. But, unlike Delhi and Mumbai, Kolkata is not an ancient city by any means. In fact Kolkata is really a British invention dating back 300 years.
Legend has it that in the year 1686, Job Charnock, a servant of the British East India Company abandoned Hooghly in order to escape the wrath of the then Nawab, having committed the crime of looting the city. Later on he sailed along the Ganges river and finally reached the fishing village of Sutanuti in the year 1690.
Job Charnock died on 10th of January 1692 and in the year 1698, the British East India Company bought three villages - Kalikata, Sutanuti and Gobindapur from the Barisha Jamindars (landlords) for a sum of Rs. 1300. In the following years the East India Company were desperate to consolidate their position in Bengal and thus bought a further 38 bighas (hectares) of property.
Since 1698, Kolkata grew steadily until 1756 when emperor Siraj-Ud-Daula, the Nawab of Murshidabad attacked the town and captured it. But, early in 1757, the British under Lord Clive retook Kolkata and made peace with the Nawab. In the year 1772, the British Parliament permitted Governor General Warren Hastings to close down the British headquarters at Murshidabad and made Kolkata the capital of the British empire in India.
Much of Kolkata's most enduring developments took place between 1780 and 1820. Later in the 19th Century, Bengal became the center point of India's freedom struggle and this was the primary reason for the decision to transfer the capital to New Delhi in 1911.
Today, Kolkata is a captivating city and extremely catholic. It has the unique culture of making even outsiders close and intimate. There used to be a time when the very word Kolkata conjured up images of squalor and poverty. But not anymore. Kolkata and West Bengal is now increasingly being referred to as a resurgent, vibrant and a tourist friendly state. No trip to India is complete without a visit to Kolkata. Kolkata has places of sheer magic - the ethereal Hooghly river, the mesmerizing sweep of Maidan, the graceful Victoria Memorial, the swanky City Center at Salt Lake to name just a few.
Being the cultural capital of India, Kolkata has produced outstanding personalities like Nobel Laureates Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen. Renowned Film maker Satyajit Ray and Sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar too have a Kolkata connection.
Kolkata came into prominence when the internationally best selling author Dominique Lapierre's book - "The City of Joy" took the entire literary world by storm. Lapierre found more heroism, more love, more sharing and ultimately more happiness than in many a city of the affluent West. Commenting on "City of Joy", The Daily Telegraph, London had this to say - "An extraordinary story, an epic in its own terms, of resilience and faith, loyalty and hope, dedication and an unquenchable thirst for festivity .The most important message M. Lapierre brings is that the saintly woman (Mother Teresa) is not alone".
What distinguishes Kolkata from any other metropolitan city is the element of safety. According to Dominique Lapierre - "Fewer violent crimes are committed each year in the vastly over populated capital of Bengal then are committed in downtown Miami alone. Fear is by and large a stranger to Kolkata's streets. A young girl can walk Chowringhee Road or any of the city's other main through fares in the middle of the night without the slightest fear of being attacked.
Kolkata is an enigma and a visit to "The City of Joy" will make you aware about the triumphs of the human spirit in acts of kindness, generosity and sharing.
Last Updated On: 2011/07/30