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Calcutta (present name ‘Kolkata’) is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal and one of the principal cities of the country. Situated on the bank of river Hooghly, the city along with its suburbs has a population of around 14 million (figure 1). Calcutta’s recorded history began in 1690 with the arrival of the English East India Company. Since its inception and until 1911, Calcutta remained the capital of British India and was termed the ‘second city of British Empire’ (figure 2). During the 19th and early 20th century, Calcutta was the hub of the Bengal Renaissance, much in line with the Italian Renaissance. The tremendous cultural, social, intellectual and artistic movement in Bengal greatly influenced the rest of India. Among the many famous personalities the city produced were the Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore and the polymath Jagadish Chandra Bose, one of the fathers of radio science.
Even after the partition of India in 1947, Calcutta remained the industrial engine of India until the late 1950s. But because of political and social unrest spanning over several decades, the city has suffered deindustrialisation and has lagged behind other Indian metropolitan cities. Nonetheless, the Bengalis (natives of Calcutta) are a spirited lot who are proud of their creative ability, culture, language and also of their famed sweetmeats such as ‘sandesh’ and ‘misti doi’. They are warm, friendly and helpful and …
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed. This paper was reviewed by Colin Mumford and Tim Soane, Edinburgh, UK.