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Kolkata (Calcutta)

The capital of West Bengal and India's largest city, a seething mass of activity with a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Kolkata has become a busy & flourishing city, the center of cultural as well as political and economic life of Bengal. It isn't an ancient city like Delhi, with its impressive relics of the past. In fact, it's largely a British creation & was capital of British India� once referred to as "The Jewel in the Crown of the British Raj". No other city in India
enjoys such visible contras, as does the city of joy of Lapiere. The quaint little fishing village has grown up to become the most populated city of India bearing the scars of more than three hundred years. It is truly an enigma that defies any description. It is a city that throbs with vibrant life forces. It is an epitome of culture and creativity that nurtures and rejuvenates your thinking prowess. The city that displays stoical maturity during the most provoking situations and flies high the flags of communal harmony, behaves in the most erratic fashion over a game of cricket. It's THE place to make friends with, to be romantic, to taste rosogolla, to sing a song, to write a poem, to debate, to ride a bus, to walk in the rain, to shop, to play cricket, to watch football, to get refused by a taxi, to live in the warmth of your family, to have a golden heart and to be happy!

History

In 1690, Job Charnok, an agent of the East India Company chose this place for a British trade settlement. The site was carefully selected, being protected by the Hooghly River on the west, a creek to the north, and by salt lakes about two and a half miles to the east. There were three large villages along the east bank of the river Ganges, named, Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata. These
three villages were bought by the British from local land lords. The Mughal emperor granted East India Company freedom of trade in return for a yearly payment of 3,000 rupees. Calcutta before the British came was just a village, the capital city of Bengal was Murshidabad, around 60 miles north of Calcutta. In 1756, Siraj-ud-daullah, nawab of Bengal, attacked the city and captured the fort. Calcutta was recaptured in 1757 by Robert Clive when the British defeated Siraj-ud-daullah on the battle field of Plassy. In 1772, Calcutta became the capital of British India, and the first Governor General Warren Hastings moved all important offices from Murshidabad to Calcutta. Till 1912, Calcutta was the capital of India, when the British moved the capital city to Delhi. In 1947, when India gained freedom and the country got partitioned between India and Pakistan, Calcutta was included in the Indian part of Bengal, West Bengal. Calcutta became the capital city of the state of West Bengal.

Tourist Attractions

Belur Math, Botanical Gardens, Dakshineshwar, Fort Williams, Kali Ghat, St. Paul's Cathedral, Victoria Memorial, Bishnupur, Dimand Harbour, Digha, Gandhi Ghat, Ganga Sagar, Krishnagar, Murshidabad, Nabadip, Shantiniketan, Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, Trapith

The Literature, Kolkata

Around 7th-8th Century, a new Buddhist school of thought developed under the name 'Tantrayana'. It is believed by many that the Bengali Buddhist Acharyas were the founders of the Sahajayana. The views of Shajayanist have been written in 'Dohakosa' written in Apabhrangsha language of Tilopada, Sarahapada and Kahnapada. Those were written in the form of

Kolkata Cuisine

The Bengali fondness for good food is legendary. To experience the true taste of traditional cooking, it is best to befriend a Bengali. His hospitality will definitely include a meal! Sweets hold a position of pride for the Bengali. Cottage cheese based sweets like sandesh, rosogolla and chanar payesh are very popular all over India. Misti doi (sweetened curd) and Patali gur confectionery
(date palm jaggery) are must-try delicacies. Every district in Bengal has a special sweet of its own. Langcha and mihidana-sitabhog of Bardhaman, sharbhaja of Krishnanagar, chanabora of Murshidabad and so on. Chinese cuisine is next on the popularity chart available in the Old China Town, the walled city at Tangra and restaurants on Park Street. Restaurants specializing in Mughal cuisine (tandoori, kebabs, biriyani etc.) are located in the backstreets of New Market and Park Circus. North Indian and the more sedate South Indian cuisine are available in restaurants all over the city. Continental, Thai, Tibetian and Anglo-Indian cuisine are available in eating houses in and around Chowringhee and Park Street. Special mention must be made about kathi-rolls (kebabs wrapped in dough), a culinary delight of Kolkata.

Kolkata Shopping

The best place for bargain shopping is New Market (formerly known as Hogg Market). Others include Gariahat, Dakshinapan , Central Cottage Industries Emporium, brassware shops along Kalighat Road, near the Kali temple, shops and auction houses on Park Street, Russel Street, Little Russel Street and Free School Street, and the Bengal Home Industries showroom.There is plenty
to shop. A variety of local handicrafts are made from shola , pith and conch-shell. Terracotta figurines and horses (symbol of the Central Cottage Industries Emporium) are typical of Bankura. Painted clay plagues of Kalighat, silk sarees, stoles and scarves of Murshidabad and Vishnupur. Leather bags of Sriniketan , wood carvings and woollen garments of Darjeeling and handloom sarees of Dhaniakhali and Tangail are the most famous and found in various markets and shops spread around Calcutta.Calcutta also caters to the bold and beautiful. A bewitching range of gold, silver and diamond jewellery, intricately handcrafted, is available. Also , check out the latest fashion in leather - shoes , garments and accessories.

Kolkata Fairs And Festivals

Fairs and festivals are celebrated with traditional gaiety and fervor to invoke divine blessings as well as for the sheer joy of living. A celebration of life at its best.

Calcutta book fair

The Mecca of publishers, book lovers and students, the Book Fair held in early February is a place that every family in Calcutta makes a beeline for. The fair showcases the best of not just Indian publishers, but also bookseller, writers and bibliophiles from all corners of the globe. Great discounts are offered on a mind-boggling array of titles as visitors to the fair wend their way in and out of the colorful stalls, stopping every now and then to grab a bite, get their portraits painted or just listen to the music filtering through the fair grounds

Travel and Tourism Fair

Held in August, the Travel and Tourism Fair moves away from the much-favored Maidan to the Netaji Indoor Stadium. Discounts on booking, trade and travel deals, holiday packages, business deals in the industry - all these are more can be picked up under the same roof at this congregation of the big and small players of the trade and travel industry.

Lexpo

Held in December-January, Lexpo is a fair that showcases the products and technology of the leather industry. It's a fair for not just big players, but also for small scale industry participants to exhibit their ware.

Poush Mela

This three-day fair celebrates the founding day of Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketan. Held in late December, the fair is marked by prayers, cultural fests, crafts bazaars and folk performances. Poush Mela is a good occasion to explore the cultural facets of Shantiniketan, and attracts a large number of tourists. The last day of the fair is marked by prayers for the deceased who were associated with Shantiniketan.

Rathyatra

Travel along with the Lord of Puri, Jagannath, as his chariot takes him to his midsummer vacation. Legend has it that Jagannath, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, goes on this vacation with his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra. Religious fervor runs high and the streets of Calcutta turn into a m�lange of colors. Devotees take turns to pull gigantic chariots bearing idols of the three divinities through the narrow bylanes of the city. Do check out the Rathyatra in Mahesh in the nearby Hooghly district - it's the oldest in the state. The Mahesh Rathyatra of 1875 is also special as it provided the inspiration for Radharani, a famous novel by Bengali poet and author Bankim Chandra Chatterjee.

Poila Baisakh

The first month of the Bengali calendar, Baishakh, marks the beginning of the crop cycle in Bengal. A lot of Bengali weddings are held in this month, and new businesses started. The first day of this month is called Poila Baisakh is celebrated as the Bengali new year. Chances are, if you step into a shop in Calcutta on this day, you'll be offered sweets and maybe the odd gift or two. Traders start the new year by inaugurating new accounting books.

Kali Puja

A festival to propitiate the dark goddess Kali, Kali Puja is held in the dark of a new moon night. With her blue-black skin, blood-smeared face, terrifying third eye, Kali wears little other than necklaces of snakes and skulls. In her four hands, she bears weapons and blessings for her followers. This is one festival that is seldom performed within a home, and is often marked by animal sacrifices.

Durga Puja

For four days in September-October, Calcutta comes to a standstill as almost everyone in the city throngs its streets, visiting the pandals dressed in their festive best and f�ting their taste buds with food from the stalls that spring up on the roadsides. Incense, drumbeats, chants, laughter, the sizzle and smell of food characterize this festival dedicated to Goddess Durga. Durga Puja is a chance to meet old friends, rub shoulders with the young and eligible, buy new clothes, walk the streets of the city till the wee hours of the morning, and, of course, admire the oeuvre of idol makers who craft beautiful idols of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik out of bamboo, straw, jute, clay and paint.

Dol Purnima

A festival of spring, Dol Purnima is marked by people merrymaking on the streets, smearing each other with color, drinking milk laces with marijuana (locally called bhang) and ambushing unsuspecting passers-by with water balloons. Some of the celebrations can get pretty rowdy and some of the colors can get pretty artificial, so stay in your room if your skin's sensitive.

How to Get There

By Air

Kolkata is well connected by air to all major countries in the world, as well as to Indian cities. The air carriers that have flights to and from the city include Aeroflot, Air France, Air India, Biman Bangladesh, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Gulf Air, Indian Airlines, Japan Airlines, Jet Airways, KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Royal Nepal Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways International.

By Train

Buy Trains are available from all parts of the country to Calcutta. Most inward bound Buy Trains stop at Howrah, which is also the station from which major Buy Trains to other cities depart. Most Buy Trains heading to areas such as New Jalpaiguri and other provinces in the north-east stop at the other station, Sealdah. Local Buy Trains to nearby towns are available from both stations, depending on which part of West Bengal you want to go to.

By Road

A few buses ply from Orissa and Bihar to Calcutta. However, these are highly uncomfortable and best avoided.