Calcutta Travel Guide



get there and around

Public transport is provided by the Kolkata suburban railway, the

Kolkata Metro, trams and buses. The suburban network is extensive and

extends into the distant suburbs. The Kolkata Metro, run by the Indian

Railways, is the oldest underground system in India.[65] It runs

parallel to the River Hooghly and spans the north-south length of the

city covering a distance of 16.45 km. Buses are the preferred mode of

transport and are run by both government agencies and private

operators. Kolkata is India's only city to have a tram network,

operated by Calcutta Tramways Company.[66] The slow-moving tram

services are restricted to certain areas of the city. Water-logging due

to heavy rains during the monsoon sometimes interrupts the public


Hired forms of mechanised transport include the yellow metered taxis,

while auto rickshaws ply in specific routes. Almost all the taxis in

Kolkata are Ambassadors. This is unlike most other cities where Tata

Indicas or Fiats are more common. In some areas of the city, cycle

rickshaws and hand-pulled rickshaws are also patronised by the public

for short distances. Private owned vehicles are less in number and

usage compared to other major cities due to the abundance in both

variety and number of public vehicles.[69] However, the city witnessed

a steady increase in the number of registered vehicles; 2002 data

showed an increase of 44% over a period of seven years.[70] The road

space (matched with population density) in the city is only 6%,

compared to 23% in Delhi and 17% in Mumbai, creating major traffic

problems.[71] Kolkata Metro Railway and a number of new roads and

flyovers have decongested the traffic to some extent.

Kolkata has two major long distance railway stations at Howrah Station

and Sealdah. A third station named Kolkata has been launched in early

2006.[72] The city is the headquarters of two divisions of the Indian

Railways — Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway.[73]

The city's sole airport, the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International

Airport at Dum Dum to the north of the city, operates both domestic and

international flights. Kolkata is also a major riverport in eastern

India. The Kolkata Port Trust manages both the Kolkata docks and the

Haldia docks.[74] There are passenger service to Port Blair in the

Andaman and Nicobar Islands and cargo ship service to various ports in

India and abroad, operated by the Shipping Corporation of India. Also

there are ferry services connecting Kolkata with its twin city of






Kolkata has long been known for its literary, artistic and

revolutionary heritage. As the former capital of India, Kolkata was the

birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought. Kolkatans

tend to have a special appreciation for art and literature; its

tradition of welcoming new talent has made it a "city of furious

creative energy".[87] For these reasons, Kolkata has often been dubbed

as the "cultural capital of India".

A characteristic feature of Kolkata is the para or neighbourhoods

having a strong sense of community. Typically, every para has its own

community club with a clubroom and often, a playing field. People here

habitually indulge in adda or leisurely chat, and these adda sessions

are often a form of freestyle intellectual conversation.[88] The city

has a tradition of political graffiti depicting everything from

outrageous slander to witty banter and limericks, caricatures to


Kolkata has many buildings adorned with Gothic, Baroque, Roman,

Oriental and Indo-Islamic (including Mughal) motifs. Several major

buildings of the Colonial period are well maintained and have been

declared "heritage structures", while others are in various stages of

decay. Established in 1814, the Indian Museum is the oldest museum in

Asia and houses vast collection of Indian natural history and Indian

art.[89] The Victoria Memorial, one of the major tourist attractions in

Kolkata, has a museum documenting the city's history. The National

Library of India is India's leading public library. Academy of Fine

Arts and other art galleries hold regular art exhibitions.

The city has a tradition of dramas in the form of jatra (a kind of

folk-theatre), theatres and Group Theatres. Mainstream Hindi films are

popular, as are films from the Bengali cinema industry, dubbed

"Tollywood". Tollygunj in Kolkata is the location of Bengali movie

studios. Its long tradition of filmmaking includes acclaimed directors

such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha and Ritwik Ghatak to

contemporary directors such as Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh.

Key elements of Kolkata's cuisine include rice and macher jhol (fish

curry),[90] with rasagolla,sandesh and mishti doi (sweet yoghurt) as

dessert. Bengal's vast repertoire of fish-based dishes includes various

hilsa preparations (a favorite among Bengalis). Street foods such as

beguni (fried battered eggplant slices), kati roll (flatbread roll with

vegetable or chicken, mutton, or egg stuffing), phuchka (deep fried

crêpe with tamarind and lentil sauce) and Chinese food from China Town

in the eastern parts of the city are quite popular.[91][92]

Bengali women commonly wear the shaŗi as per tradition and

global/western outfits. Among men, western dressing has greater


Durga Puja is the most important and the most glamourous event in

Kolkata.[93] It usually takes place in the month of October, although

it can also fall in September or November, depending on the traditional

calendar. Other notable festivals include Jagaddhatri Puja, Diwali,

Eid, Holi, Christmas, poila boishak (new year), Saraswati puja, Rath

Yatra and Poush parbon (harvest festival). Some of the cultural

festivals are Kolkata Book Fair, Dover Lane music festival, Kolkata

Film Festival and National Theatre Festival.

The city is also noted for its appreciation of Indian classical music

as well as Bengali folk music such as baul. In the nineteenth and

twentieth century, Bengali literature was modernized in the works of

authors such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutt,

Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

The rich literary tradition set by these authors has been carried

forward in the works of Jibanananda Das, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay,

Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Manik Bandopadhyay, Ashapurna Devi,

Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Buddhadeb Guha, Mahashweta Devi, Samaresh

Majumdar, Sanjeev Chattopadhyay and Sunil Gangopadhyay among others.

From the early 1990s, there has been an emergence and popularization of

new genres of music, including fusions of Baul and Jazz by several

Bangla bands, as well as the emergence of what has been called

Jeebonmukhi Gaan (a modern genre based on realism) by artists like

Kabir Suman, Nachiketa,Anjan Dutta, and bands like Chandrabindoo,

Cactus, Lakkhichhara, Fossils and Insomnia. The first proper Indian

band, Mohiner Ghoraguli, was from Kolkata


is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is
located in eastern India on the east bank of the River Hooghly. When
referred to as Calcutta, it usually includes the suburbs, and thus its
population exceeds 15 million, making it India's third-largest
metropolitan area and urban agglomeration as well as the world's 8th
largest agglomeration.

Kolkata served as the capital of India during the British Raj until
1911. Once the centre of modern education, industry, science, culture
and politics in India, Kolkata has witnessed intense political
violence, clashes and economic stagnation since 1954. Since the year
2000, economic rejuvenation has spurred on the city's growth. Like
other metropolitan cities in India, Kolkata continues to struggle with
the problems of urbanisation: poverty, pollution and traffic

Kolkata is noted for its revolutionary history, ranging from the Indian
struggle for independence to the leftist and trade union movements



The discovery of the nearby Chandraketugarh, an archaeological site, provides evidence that the area has been inhabited for over two millennia.[12] The city's documented history, however, begins with the arrival of the English East India Company in 1690, when the Company was consolidating its trade business in Bengal. Job Charnock, an administrator with the Company was traditionally credited as the founder of this city. However some academics have recently challenged the view that Charnock was the founder of the city, and in response to a public interest litigation the High Court ruled in 2003 that the city does not have a specific founder.

At that time Kolkata, under direct rule of the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah, comprised three villages Kalikata, Govindapur and Sutanuti. The British in the late 17th century wanted to build a fort near Govindapur in order to consolidate their power over other foreign powers—namely the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the French. In 1702, the British completed the construction of old Fort William, which was used to station its troops and as a regional base. Calcutta was declared a Presidency City, and later became the headquarters of the Bengal Presidency. Faced with frequent skirmishes with French forces, in 1756 the British began to upgrade their fortifications. When protests against the militarisation by the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah went unheeded he attacked and captured Fort William, leading to the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta incident. A force of Company sepoys and British troops led by Robert Clive recaptured the city the following year.[16] Calcutta was named the capital of British India in 1772, and starting in 1864 during the summer months, the capital was temporarily shifted to the hill station of Shimla. In the early 19th century the marshes surrounding the city were drained and the government area was laid out along the banks of the Hooghly River. Richard Wellesley, the Governor General between 1797–1805, was largely responsible for the growth of the city and its public architecture which led to the description of Calcutta as "The City of Palaces".The city was a centre of the British East India Company's opium trade during the 18th and 19th century; locally produced opium was sold at auction in Kolkata, to be shipped to China.
St. Paul's Cathedral was built in Calcutta during the British Raj

By the early 19th century, Kolkata was split into two distinct areas—one British (known as the White Town), the other Indian (known as Black Town). The city underwent rapid industrial growth from the 1850s, especially in the textile and jute sectors; this caused a massive investment in infrastructure projects like railroads and telegraph by British government. The coalescence of British and Indian culture resulted in the emergence of a new Babu class of urbane Indians — whose members were often bureaucrats, professionals, read newspapers, were Anglophiles, and usually belonged to upper-caste Hindu communities. Throughout the nineteenth century, a socio-cultural reform, often referred to as the Bengal Renaissance resulted in the general uplifting of the people. In 1883, Surendranath Banerjee organised a national conference — the first of its kind in nineteenth century India.Gradually Calcutta became a centre of the Indian independence movement, especially revolutionary organisations. The 1905 Partition of Bengal on communal grounds resulted in widespread public agitation and the boycott of British goods (Swadeshi movement). These activities, along with the administratively disadvantageous location of Calcutta in the eastern fringes of India, prompted the British to move the capital to New Delhi in 1911.