Ancient OriginsThough archaeologists believe that Kolkata has been inhabited for over two thousand years, its documented history begins only after the arrival of the British East India Company, in 1690. Ancient evidence suggests that Kolkata was an established trading hub much before the arrival of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals, the Portuguese, the French or the British. The city's origins date back to the Maurya and Gupta period. The city has also been mentioned in the ancient epic Mahabharata.
From Kalikata to KolkataIt is believed that Kalikata was the ancient name of the city and was derived from the Bengali word 'Kalikshetra', which means "Ground of Goddess Kali." There is also a belief that the city derives its name from the location of its original settlement on the bank of a canal (khal). The British gave the city, the name Calcutta, which is an anglicized version of the Bengali name Kalikata. In 2001, the Indian government renamed Calcutta to Kolkata.
Colonial EraIn 1690, Job Charnock, an agent of East India Company first came to the city and bought three villages (Sutanuti, Kolkata, Gobindapur) from the local landlord. In 1699, East India Company started developing the city as a Presidency city and named it Calcutta. The hold of British on Calcutta became powerful post its declaration as the capital city of British India, in 1772. The city underwent rapid industrialization. Richard Wellesley, the Governor General of Kolkata, worked diligently on the architecture of the city and developed it as the "City of Palaces". This was the era of a high British influence on the culture of Kolkata.
The Struggle for IndependenceWith the spread of education and westernization, began the phase of 'Renaissance' in Bengal. Many social reform movements were carried out, and the growing intellectual population started understanding the meaning of freedom and the city became the centre of Indian Independence struggle. All the tensions led to the transfer of the capital of British India to Delhi. Even after the transfer, Kolkata remained a major hub for trade and independence struggle.
History and CultureOwing to its expansive history and rich traditions, Kolkata has become the cultural and intellectual capital of India. Bengalis love to embrace poetry, music, theatre, film, and art. There are many art galleries, museums, heritage buildings and movies and musical productions in Kolkata. Durga Puja is the most extravagant religious celebration in the city when streets turn into dazzling kaleidoscopes and men and women immerse in the colours of Vermillion. Millions of lamps are lit on the streets, and vast and colourful clay statues of goddess Durga are displayed in open pavilions called pandals.
Architecture and StructureKolkata is home to many historic buildings and structures that have been declared as "heritage structures". The Victoria Memorial, Raja Ram Mohan Palace, Fort William, Belur Math and Writers Building are some of the most significant heritage buildings in the city. Many structures adorn the classic Indo-Islamic and Indo-Saracenic architectural motifs.
Today, Kolkata is a bustling metropolis having underground metro, high rise buildings, vibrant nightlife and large corporate offices. However, the city still masterfully maintains its status of being the cultural capital of India, with numerous mementoes of the city's Colonial past scattered across the length and breadth of the city.