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Kolkata (kôlkŭtˈə), formerly Calcutta (kălkŭtˈə), city (1991 pop. 10,916,272), capital of West Bengal state, E India, on the Hugli River. It is the second largest city in India and one of the largest in the world. Ten of Kolkata's suburbs—Haora, South Suburban City, Bhatpara, South Dum Dum, Kamarhati, Garden Reach, Panihati, Baranagar, Hugli-Chinsura, and Serampore—have well over 100,000 people each. The area of the Kolkata metropolitan area is 228.5 sq mi (591 sq km), extending more than 40 miles along the Hugli. Kolkata is the major seaport (see Haldia) and industrial center of E India; jute is milled, and textiles, chemicals, paper, and metal products are manufactured. Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu are the main languages. The city has terrible poverty, chronic unemployment, overcrowding, inadequate transportation, and resultant social unrest.

Kolkata was founded c.1690 as Calcutta by the British East India Company. In 1756 the nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daula, captured Kolkata and killed most of its garrison by imprisoning it overnight in a small, stifling room, known as the notorious “Black Hole.” Robert Clive retook the city in 1757. From 1833 to 1912, the city was the capital of British India.

The Univ. of Calcutta (founded 1857), Jadavpur Univ., and the Indian Museum, which houses one of the world's outstanding natural history collections, are in the city. The Maidan, a large river-front park, is Kolkata's most attractive section. A subway through the central section of the city opened in 1986. The city was officially renamed Kolkata (its name in Bengali) in 2001.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in India located in the Ganges River delta, on the Hooghly River, one of the Ganges’ distributaries, at a distance of 140 km from the shore of the Bay of Bengal. It is one of the country’s most important economic and cultural centers and also the administrative center of the state of West Bengal.

The historical center of Calcutta is its fortress, Fort William (constructed in the 18th century), on the eastern bank, in Mai-dan Park. The fortress divides the city into two parts: in one there are the European quarters, with mansions, government buildings, and a university; in the other there are industrial and commercial enterprises and the workers’ quarters.

Calcutta proper (with a population of 3.1 million in 1971) is the core of a large conurbation that continues to grow rapidly. By 1971, Greater Calcutta, with an area of 425 sq km and a population of 7 million, had the largest population of any city in the country. This conurbation includes several dozen cities (among them Howrah, which is connected with Calcutta by a bridge, Behala, Bhatpara, Garden Reach, Kamarhati, and Baranagar) that are merging into a narrow belt for a distance of 100 km (3-4 to 15-20 km in width) along both banks of the Hooghly. Greater Calcutta is the most important center in India for migrants, who come pouring into the city in search of work. Native inhabitants are less than half of the population. More than one-third of Calcutta’s population is non-Bengali—these people are mainly Bihari, but also Hindustani, Oriya, Rajas-thani, Telugu, and Punjabi.

Calcutta was founded by the British East India Company in 1690; the city was built around the company’s trading post and Fort William. From 1773 to 1911, Calcutta was the principal center of British colonial administration in India. (From December 1911 until 1947 the center was Delhi.) Calcutta was the chief port through which British colonial trade was carried on with India. In the mid-19th century, large factories (primarily jute factories) and plants were built. Calcutta became an important center of the workers’ and left-wing democratic movement. The workers of Calcutta played a large role in the national liberation struggle, which led to India’s winning independence in 1947.

Calcutta’s exceptionally favorable economic-geographic location (as the focus of the territory of the Ganges basin) has fostered the overall economic growth of the city. Calcutta is a transportation terminus and the country’s second largest seaport, after Bombay (in exports it occupies first place), with a cargo turnover of 9-10 million tons. The satellite port of Haldia was built in 1970 on the Hooghly River below Calcutta. There is an international airport at Dumdum.

The main branch of industry in Greater Calcutta is jute production (nine-tenths of the total Indian production and almost half of the world output). Metalworking and various kinds of machine building have also developed (approximately one-fourth of India’s total output, including the production of industrial equipment, electrical instrument building, shipbuilding and ship repair, and the manufacture and assembly of automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and machine tools). There is also production of plastic and rubber articles, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, dyes, paints, cotton textiles, knitwear, glass, and leather footwear. There is a printing industry and a diverse food-processing industry. Calcutta is a major scientific and cultural center. It has numerous educational institutions, including a university and a number of other higher educational facilities. Scientific research institutions include the Indian Statistical Institute. The National Library (founded in 1902) has more than 1.2 million volumes; there is also the Indian Museum (1814) and the Victoria Museum (1906). On the bank of the Hooghly River in Howrah there is a botanical garden.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a port in E India, capital of West Bengal state, on the Hooghly River: former capital of the country (1833--1912); major commercial and industrial centre; three universities. Pop.: 4 580 544 (2001)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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