Kolkata (Calcutta)

Kolkata (Calcutta)

Kolkata, also known as Calcutta, is the capital of West Bengal. It used to be the capital of British India during the early times of British rule. After the Partition in 1948, the influx of hundreds of thousands of Refugees from Eastern Pakistan (Bangladesh), caused widespread starvation and human horror. Nowadays it is India's intellectual capital and home to an important political and arts scene.

The Maidan is a huge open space that is used by the city's inhabitants for recreation, cricket, football matches, political meetings, as well as grazing ground for flocks of cows and sheep. In the expanse of the Maiden is Fort William, which is still in use nowadays and cannot be visited. The white marble Victoria Memorial, at the Maidan's southern end, was built in honor of Queen Victoria.

BBD Bagh, or Dalhousie Square is the center of Kolkata's administration. The Writers' Building on one side of the square is a huge administrative office. It is filled with piles of papers and documents no one is probably ever going to read. On the square's opposite side stands the GPO. Originally the site of the notorious 'black hole of Calcutta', where 140 British inhabitants were forced underground in 1756 and many of them suffocated.

The Kali Temple is an important place of pilgrimage. Every morning goats are offered there to satisfy Siva's wife, the goddess whose corpse was cut into pieces on the site of the temple. The Indian Museum is the largest museum in India. It is a bit neglected but nevertheless very interesting. Nearby are the Botanical Gardens, with an 18th century banyan tree that is claimed to have the world's second largest canopy (the largest is in Andhra Pradesh). The Howrah Bridge is thought to be the worlds busiest bridge. It is cantilevered and one of Kolkata's landmarks.

Kolkata has air, rail and road connections with numerous cities and towns in India, as well as many international destinations. The Esplanade bus station serves destinations throughout India. Buses that run inside the city are usually overcrowded and the tram system is dilapidated. Kolkata's metro is quite efficient though, but for short distances it is better to take a taxi, cycle-rickshaws, or even better, just walk. Most streets are so clogged with traffic that walking is the fastest way to get around. Trains to the city center leave from Howrah station on the west bank of the Hooghly River. On the opposite side is Sealdah station, where you'll find trains in the direction of Darjiling (Darjeeling).

There are countless hotels, hostels, dormitories, bars and restaurants in Kolkata. Many of the cheaper places are situated in Chowringhee, south of the Howrah Bridge. Kolkata has numerous cinemas, where international, as well as Bollywood productions are shown. The New Market is a lively place where you can find good bargains. It is north of Sudder Street. Most of Kolkata sprawls on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, some 1300 km southeast of Delhi.

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Latitude:    22 32 N
Longitude: 88 22 E
Elevation:  n/a

Population: 15,000,000
Cost-of-living compared to Washington D.C.: n/a

Hours from UTC: 5:30
Daylight savings time: n/a

City phone code: n/a
Country phone code: 91

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