, as the capital of undivided India
Calcutta was regarded as the second city of the British Empire
) and was aptly renamed "City of Palaces
" and the Great Eastern Hotel was regarded as the "Jewel of the East". During that bygone era, Calcutta was famous for its "Baboo Culture
" --- incidentally a cross -fertilization of English Liberalism
, European fin de siecle decadence
conservatism and indigenous revivalism inculcating aspects of socio_moral and political change. This culture was fostered in its wake by the Zamindari System, the Daebhaga System the Hindu Joint Family System, the Mitakshara System
, the Muslim Zenana System , the Protestant spirit of free capitalist enterprise, the Mughal inspired feudal system and the Nautch
. This also fostered the Bengal Renaissance
, literally an awakening of modern liberal thinking in 19th century Bengal, and which gradually percolated to the rest of India. Like the Italian Renaissance
, it challenged orthodox social convention to usher in an era of humanistic idealism.
The Age of De(con)struction
Calcutta remained in the forefront of Indian prosperity up to independence and for some more years afterwards before the population pressure on infrastructure and political disturbances led to a gradual decline. A violently disruptive Maoist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s and left the city badly bruised. Since 1977, a coalition of communist and Marxist parties has continuously ruled the state with various allegations of electoral malpractices being common. The Municipal Corporation of Calcutta however is presently controlled by a combine of parties opposed to them.
Abandoned British Colonial Building along Maidan (currently under renovation)
Calcutta is located in the eastern part of India at 22° 82' N, 88° 20'E.
The City of Palaces
Calcutta has a nickname, the "City of Palaces".
During the British colonial era in the period from 1700-1912, when Calcutta was the capital of British India, Calcutta witnessed a spate of frenzied construction activity of buildings largely influenced by the conscious intermingling of Gothic, Baroque, Roman, Oriental and Islamic schools of design. Unlike many north Indian cities, whose construction stresses minimalism, the layout in architectural variety in Calcutta owed its origins to the Occident. Thus it was possible to walk on a street in the European sector in Calcutta in the 1900s and confuse it for Saville Row, Southall or Pont des Artes.
The buildings were designed, and inspired by the tastes of the English gentleman around and the aspiring Bengalee Baboo (literally a nouveau riche Bengali who aspired to cultivation of English etiquette, manners and custom ).
The Howrah Bridge which spans the Hughli River, links Howrah
This spate of construction by the Bengalis to rival the English did not go unnoticed. It was fully appreciated and fostered by the British who went on to construct some of the most aesthetically visible monuments in the city.
Nirad C. Chaudhuri has remarked that the Victoria Memorial was the only original architectural design by the British in Calcutta and not, as is believed by the Bengalis, a copy of the Taj Mahal of Agra.
Calcutta's skyline was European in form; in content it was Indian; thus earning the appelation of the City of Palaces.
Government House, Calcutta, built in the early 19th century, is modelled on Kedleston Hall. The House was once the seat of the Viceroys of India; later, when the Government moved to New Delhi, it became the residence of the Governor of Bengal, a function that it fulfils to this day. While the basic features of Kedleston have been faithfully copied (the Palladian Front, the Dome etc.), Government House is a much larger, three storeyed structure. Also, the Government of India evidently did not have the funding constraints that forced the Curzons to leave their house incomplete: Government House has all four wings originally conceived for Kedleston. So today, a 'complete', brick built Kedleston, on a much grander scale, sits incongruously in its acres of gardens in the heart of the Calcutta business district.
The Eden Gardens cricket
stadium, seen in the distance, is currently the largest cricket stadium in the world.
The city is home to the National Library of India and famous in India for the grand book-fairs it hosts every winter. The oldest museum in Asia, the Indian Museum (established 1814), is also to be found in Calcutta. Other places to visit in the city are the Victoria Memorial, Calcutta High Court, Bankshall Court, Writer's Building, Jorasanko Thakur Bari, Marble Palace, Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Birla Temple, Rabindra Setu (previously called Howrah Bridge), Vidyasagar Setu (second Hooghly bridge), Nandan - Rabindra Sadan Cultural Complex, Shahid Minar (previously called Ochterlony Monument by the British), Kalighat, Bhoothnath, Science City , St. Thomas, Kolkata, Town Hall, Calcutta , Millennium Park promenade, Eden Gardens (a massive international cricket stadium), Whiteways and Laidlaw Building (currently known as Life Insurance Corporation of India building), Governor's House, Esplanade Mansion, Howrah Station, South Eastern Railway Headquarters, Calcutta Maidan and many more notable places.
- Indian Museum
- Town Hall, Calcutta
- Marble Palace
- Gurusaday Museum, Diamond Harbour Road
- Jawahar Shishu Bhawan
- Birla Technological and Science Museum
- Science City
The Socio-Cultural Capital and Aesthetic Conscience of India
Calcutta has been regarded since ages as the cultural capital of India. It is famous for the book-fairs every winter.
Observers, Social Reformers and Commentators
Calcutta was also home to the Noble Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore, the Hindu social reformers Raja Ram Mohun Roy (founder of the Brahmo Samaj), Keshub Chunder Sen, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, David Hare (of Calcutta), Alexander Duff, Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, William Carey and Mutty Lal Seal. It has produced some great social critics, commentators on culture, religion, philosophy and scholars and writers (see Bengali language) like Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhuti Bhusan Bandyopadhyay, Amritalal Basu, Dinabandhu Mitra, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Dhan Gopal Mukerji, Syed Mustafa Ali, Saradindu Bandyopadhyay, Pramath Chowdhury, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, (linguist) Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay, (historians) Jadunath Sircar and Romesh Chunder Majumdar, (philosophers and presidents) Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, (novelists) Samaresh Majumdar, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Bimal Mitra, Dibyendu Palit, Purnendu Pattrea, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Rajashekhar Basu, Premendra Mitra, Syed Mustafa Siraj, Mahashweta Devi, Anita Desai, Sanjeeb Chattopadhyay, Bimal Kar, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Amitav Ghosh, Amit Chaudhuri, Ashapurna Devi, (poets) Buddhadev Bose, Subhas Mukhopadhyay, Jibanananda Das, Nirendranath Chakraborty, Annada Shankar Ray and Leela Majumdar. Calcutta was the birth place of the great English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray and noted litterateurs like Vikram Seth, German Nobel laureate Günter Grass. The renowned genetic scientist and Marxist commentator on society, culture and biology J.B.S. Haldane, spent his last days in his adopted homeland, in Calcutta.
Most Nobel laureates of India have been associated with Calcutta at some point of time. The city has produced five Nobel Prize laureates so far . They are (as chronologically awarded):
- Sir Ronald Ross (1902 Medicine),
- Rabindranath Tagore (1913 Literature),
- Sir C.V. Raman (1930 Physics),
- Mother Teresa (1977 Peace)
- Amartya Sen (1998 Economics)
Ramon Magsaysay Award Winners (incomplete list)
- Satyajit Ray
- Mahashweta Devi
- Samaresh Majumdar
Cinema, Theatre and other Performing Arts
The late film director Satyajit Ray, who won the Special Oscar for Lifetime Achievement or the Academy Honorary Award in 1992 lived in Calcutta and was defined by his capturing of the Bengali ethos on cinema. Considered by many film makers, Western and Eastern alike, to be among the four greatest directors of film history, he was lauded by greats like Kurosawa. Indeed, the Japanese legend of film said that to have not seen Ray's films was to have never seen the light of the moon and the sun.
In fact the tradition of non-commercial, artistic, impressionistic cinema is vogue in the cinema of Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak (d.1977), Buddhadev Dasgupta, Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen, Nabyendu Chatterjee among others.
In the domain of commercial or mainstream cinema, actors and thespian turned actors like Dhirendranath Ganguly, Devika Rani Roerich, Utpal Dutt, Pramathesh Barua, Pahari Sanyal, Robi Ghosh, Kali Bandyopadyay, Kanan Devi, Suchitra Sen, Uttam Kumar, Victor Banerjee , Dhritiman Chaterji, and Soumitra Chattopadhyay have won international acclaim.
Dhritiman began his acting career in Satyajit Ray's Pratidwandi (The Adversary) back in 1971, a film that still has a cult following. He's also worked with filmmakers like Mrinal Sen, Aparna Sen (36 Chowringhee Lane) and many of the younger directors in Kolkata. Never a part of mainstream "Tollywood", he's made an astonishingly small number of films. In recent years he's wandered to assignments with filmmakers as diverse as Jane Campion and the hugely succesful Mumbai director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He has also made a number of documentaries and pursued a succesful career in advertising and marketing.
The Bollywood cinema superstar Amitabh Bachchan started his career as a clerk for an insurance company in Calcutta. Bollywood action hero Mithun Chakraborty started his career in a non-commercial Bengali film directed by Mrinal Sen.
Despite its decline from the pre-eminent position of the cultural capital of India in recent times, it still retains a strong tradition in cinema and theatre. Renowned thespians include Utpal Dutt, Sambhu Mitra, Tripti Mitra, Rudra Prasad Sengupta, Shaonli Mitra, Usha Ganguli, Ashok Mukhopadhyay among others. Calcutta is the capital of the Hindi theatre stage in India and home to the nationally renowned theatre groups Rangakarmee, Padatik, Nandipaat and Ajantrik. Calcutta is host to several acclaimed mime theatre groups and mime artists, like Jogesh Dutt among others.
The Calcutta stage has time and again been inspired and enriched by the translated and transcreated oeuvres of William Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Guy de Maupassant, T. S. Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Alexander Pushkin, Maxim Gorky, Maurice Maeterlinck, Jean Paul Sartre, Sean O'Casey, J.M. Synge, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter, Ernest Hemingway, Lorraine Hansberry, Girish Karnad and Chinua Achebe.
Calcutta has produced talented vocal artists like Gaharjaan , Angurobala Dasi, Indubala Dasi, Dwijendra Lal Roy, Acharya Krishna Chandra Dey, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Kanan Devi, Feroza Begum, Kanika Bandyopadhyay, Suchitra Mitra, Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Manna Dey, Geetashree Sandhya Mukhopadhyay, Debabrata Biswas, Shyama Chattopadhyay, Krishna Chattopadhyay, Sarbani Sen, Robin Bandyopadhyay, Ramkumar Chattopadhyay and son Shreekumar, Arati Mukhopadhyay, Anjali Mukhopadhyay, Begum Akhtar, Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty, Usha Uthup , Indrani Sen, Haimanti Shukla, Shreekanta Acharya, Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta, Suman Chattopadhyay, Anjan Dutt, Nachiketa, Bengali bands Moiner Ghoraguli, Chandrabindoo, Cactus, Crosswindz and Bhoomi. The Bombay based (or Bollywood) film musicians Bappi Lahiri, Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet and Babul Supriyo started their careers in Calcutta.
Globally acclaimed instrumental virtuosos in Hindustani classical music like Dhruv Tara Joshi, Abdul Karim Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, late Ananda Shankar, late Bismillah Khan, late Enayet Khan and son late Vilayat Khan, Imdaad Khan, Imaraat Khan, Wahid Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Asifuddin Dagar, Amjad Ali Khan , Budhaditya Mukhopadhyay, Shahid Pervez, Grammy Awardee Bikram Ghosh, Tanmoy Bose, Louis Banks among others hail from Calcutta. The Dover Lane Music Conference held every September celebrates the tradition of Indian Classical music. It is also said that Calcutta has the finest connoisseurs of Western classical music in India.
Among the styles and traditions of vocal music in vogue in Calcutta are Nidhu Babur Toppa, Mujraah, Kheyaal, Kavi Gaan, Jatra Gaan, Rabindra Sangeet, Carnatic, Hindustani, Atulprasadi, Shyama Sangeet, Adhunik, Nazrul Geeti , Lok Geeti, Ghazals, Bhakti Geet, Jeebonmukhi, Pop, IndiPop, Rock and Roll, Santhal Lok Sangeet and Hindi film music .
Some of the most beautiful dance themes are based on the eternal songs, and song and dance based plays of Tagore like Chandalika, The Country of Cards (Tasher Desh), Red Oleanders (Rakta Karabi) among others. Prominent dancers and dance troupes of the city include late Uday Shankar and Amala Shankar, Indrani Rahaman, Manjushree Chaki Sircar, Ranjabati Sircar, Tanushree Shankar and group, Mamata Shankar Ballet Troupe, Madhuboni Chattopadhyay, Italian born Ileana Citaristi, American born Leela Samson, Sushmita Bandopadhyay, Gaudiya Nritya, Odissi Kala Kendra, Mallhar, Anurekha Ghosh and Company, The Nupur Dance Academy, Padatik Dance Centre, Durga Prasdee Sangeet Vidyalaya among others.
The different dance schools prevalent in Calcutta are Rabindra Nritya Natya, Adhunik, Bharatnatyam, Manipuri, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Santhal Folk Dance , among others.
Magic and Astrology
Calcutta is the magic capital of India and has produced internationally famous magicians and performers including P.C. Sorcar, P.C. Sorcar Jr., Manick Sorcar, and P.C. Sorcar Young. K Lal, Prince Seal and numerous nationally and internationally acclaimed astrologers. Calcutta hosts the headquarters of the All India Magic Circle.
Artists, painters and sculptors like those of the Tagore family (Gaganendranath, Samarendranath, Sunayani Devi, Rabindranath, Rathindranath), Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Ganesh Pyne, Bikash Bhattacharya, Paritosh Sen, Paresh Maity , Thankappan Kutty, Chintamoni Kar , Rathin Mitra and M.F. Husain have at some time in their careers, been associated with Calcutta. The Bengal School of Art, and Kalighat Pat are internationally acclaimed schools of Art.
Scientific greats of Calcutta include, in approximately chronogical order, the multifaceted geniuses W.B. O'Slaughnessy, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, Sir Prafulla Chandra Ray, the physicists Meghnad Saha, Satyendra Nath Bose, statistician Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, and genetic scientist Ananda Mohan Chakraborty. The first in_vitro fertilization (to produce test tube baby "Durga") in India (and second in the world) was performed by city doctor Dr. Subhash Mukhopadhyay on October 3, 1978.
Primary and Secondary
There are six systems of education catering to each --- the private English medium based convent school education, the central governmental or the Kendriya Vidyalaya system of education, the West Bengal governmental system of education, the London Edexcel / Cambridge Local Exam Syndicate education system, the Islamic Madrasah system of education and lastly the open school based education. Some of the most posh and expensive schools in Calcutta follow the convent and Cambridge system of education.
University and Professional Education
The seat of nine public universities, and numerous colleges, including at least four medical colleges, Calcutta still enjoys a prominent position in education, though it has slipped in national indexes in the recent past. The universities or autonomous institutions of national importance located in Calcutta are listed below:
- University of Calcutta,
- Jadavpur University,
- Rabindra Bharati University,
- West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences,
- Netaji Subhas Open University,
- Bengal Engineering & Science University (formerly Bengal Engineering College),
- West Bengal University of Health Sciences,
- West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences,
- West Bengal University of Technology,
and numerous colleges affiliated to some of the above mentioned universities.
Institutions of National Importance
- Asiatic Society
- Indian Statistical Institute
- Indian Institute of Management
- Marine Engineering Research Institute
- Indian Association for Cultivation of Science
- Indian Institute of Chemical Biology
- Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre
- Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics
- Inter University Consortium for Department of Atomic Energy Facilities (IUC-DAEF)
- Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute
- Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology & Applied Nutrition
Other Autonomous Institutes/Centres of Excellence
- The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture
- Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta
- Anthropological Survey of India
- Bose Institute
- Botanical Survey of India
- Central Glass & Ceramic Research Institute
- Central Inland Capture Fisheries Research Institute
- Central Research Institute for Jute & Allied Fibres
- Centre for Studies in Social Sciences
- Electronics Research and Development Centre of India
- Geological Survey of India
- Indian Institute of Information Technology
- Mining, Geological and Metallurgical Institute of India
- National Institute of Research on Jute & Allied Fibres Technology
- National Institute of Homoeopathy
- S.N.Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences
- Zoological Survey of India
- School of Tropical Medicine
- Central Forensic Science Laboratory
- Serampore College
- Presidency College
- Scottish Church College
- Bethune College
- Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management
- Max Mueller Bhavan _ Goethe Institut
- British Council
- United States Educational Foundation in India
- National Institute of Fashion Technology.
Other public universities or institutions which operate in Calcutta or conduct courses in affiliated colleges or institutes are IIT Kharagpur, Visva Bharati University, Vidyasagar University, University of Kalyani, Aligarh Muslim University, Himachal Pradesh University, Madurai Kamaraj University, IGNOU and the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad. Foreign and private universities like the University of London, University of Cambridge (Local Exams Syndicate), Troy State University, Ashington University, TAFE Australia, Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, XLRI Jamshedpur , International Management Institute (Delhi), Rai University , EIILM University, Sikkim Manipal University and Wigan and Leigh College, UK also operate in Calcutta.
The Geological Survey of India, and the National Council of Science Museums have their headquarters in Calcutta. Financial institutions like ICAI, ICWAI, ICFAI and technological institutions like ICE(I), IE(I), NIIT, APTECH have branch offices in Calcutta.
The Games and the Players
Football or soccer is a passion for many Calcuttans with the national clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal being the best known teams. Calcutta has produced summer Olympic medalists like Norman Pritchard (Athletics --- 1900), Richard James Allen, Leslie Claudius Field Hockey (1924, 1928, 1936), Gurbux Singh, Dr. Vece Paes Field Hockey (1980), Leander Paes (Men's singles Tennis ,1996). The current, and most successful, cricket captain of India Saurav Ganguly is a Calcuttan.
Other sportspersons who have won laurels for Calcutta are Gobor Goho (World Amateur Wrestling Championship USA 1900-2), Manotosh Roy (former Mr Universe) and Manohar Aich (former Mr. World) [both in the 1950s], Mihir Sen (Guinness Record holder of being the first person to swim across the English Channel in 1948 and the seven straits across all major continents), Jyotirmoyee Sikdar ( 1998 Asian Games Gold medallist in four events in racing), Leander Adrian Paes ( Wimbledon and French Open Men's Doubles, with Mahesh Bhupathi and Mixed Doubles Champion 1999 and Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Champion 2003, with ace Martina Navratilova), Arjun Atwal (PGA Golf champion 2003), Dibyendu Barua and Surya Sekhar Ganguly (current FIDE Chess Grandmasters) and trans-continental wizards Mohd. Salauddin and wife Neena, who were first team to race across the world in their 'Contessa Classic' 1989 car in 1993 and in a Nissan jeep in 1998; in the shortest possible time, a record acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Another noteworthy Calcuttan associated with sports is the former president of the International Cricket Council and former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Mr. Jag Mohan Dalmiya.
Calcutta has a world-class football stadium in the 'Yuva Bharati Krirangan' (also called Salt Lake Stadium) and a 100,000-capacity stadium, mostly used for cricket, called the Eden Gardens. The Eden Gardens Stadium is the largest stadium of its kind for the game of cricket. Calcutta boasts of one of the largest race courses of its kind in Asia, the finest golf courses of its kind in the world (Royal Calcutta Golf Club) and one of the most beautiful tennis courts in the world (South Club) . Together they reflect remnants of a thriving sports culture based on the British inspired love for cricket, golf, tennis and equestrian events.
Calcutta is a multicultural cosmopolitan city. Apart from the diversity of India, the cultures represented are that of the Europeans (Including Germans, Armenians, and others), and other Asians (Including Chinese, Sinhalese, and Tibetans).
The two major railway stations of the city are at Howrah and Sealdah with the latter having a more local character. The city has an international airport at Dum Dum and it is called Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport. Calcutta is the only city in India to have a American diplomacy as one of the oldest American Consulates anywhere in the world, and the oldest in India Link (http://calcutta.usconsulate.gov/wwwhmhis.html).
- Calcutta and Mumbai are the only two cities in India to have the honorary designation of the Sheriff.
- Calcutta and Bombay were two of the main export destinations for British beers, which would go stale and sour during the sea voyage. So the IPA (India Pale Ale) style of beer was created specifically to withstand the rigors of the sea between London and these Indian ports. Link (http://www.brewingtechniques.com/library/styles/2_2style.html)
- Calcuttaweb.com (http://www.calcuttaweb.com) - Lots of information about Calcutta