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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in calcutta
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Calcutta's history is intimately related to the British East India Company, which first arrived in 1690, and to British India, which Calcutta became the capital of in 1772. In the nineteenth century Calcutta was the epicentre of activity in the early stages of the national movement of independence. 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 violent and bloody Marxist Maoist movement known as the Naxal movement (after Naxalbari, the place where it first started) in the 1970s left the city badly bruised.
Calcutta is the main business, commercial and financial hub of eastern India. Calcutta witnessed an economic decline from the late sixties till the late nineties. The city's economic fortunes turned the tide as the early nineties economic liberalization in India reached Calcutta's shores during late nineties. 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).
Since 1977, a "Left Front" coalition of communist and Marxist parties has continuously ruled the state. The coalition at one time renamed the street the American Consulate is on "Ho Chi Minh Street", in protest of American foreign policy at that time. The Left Front regained control of the Municipal Corporation of Calcutta from the Trinamul Congress in the 2005 civic elections.
Tha 'Baboo' culture and the left rule had taken its toll, and by the early 1990s, there was a gradual realisation that things needed to change. This led to wooing of foreign investment and control over the trade-union activism by the ruling Left establishement. Today, Calcutta is fast developing into a modern infotech city with various private sector setting up shop here. The landscape of the city is also fast changing with flyovers, gardens and newer commercial establishments. The Calcutta city itself has expanded into its suburbs, with the Greater Calcutta stretching from Kalyani (in Nadia District) in North to Diamond Harbour in South (in the South 24 Parganas District).
The city's fortunes have looked up since the early nineties, coinciding with the liberalization of the Indian economy. Its economy has been amongst the fastest growing in the country. The New Metro city is characterised by popular spots like Inox Multiplexes, Nandan, Tantra, Barista Coffee Shops, Sourav's Pavilion and Science City.
Calcutta is home to many industrial units, of large Indian corporations, whose product range is varied and includes - engineering products, electronics, electrical equipment, cables, steel, leather, textiles, jewellery, frigates, automobiles, railway coaches, wagons.
Several industrial estates like Taratolla, Kalyani, Uluberia, Dankuni, Kasba, Howrah are spread throughout the urban agglomeration. A huge leather complex has come up at Bantolla. An export processing zone has been set up in Falta. Specialized setups like the country's first Toy Park, and a Gem and Jewellery Park have also been established.
Calcutta is also starting to become a major hub for the IT (Information Technology) industry. With the formation of New Town at Rajarhat and extension of Salt Lake's Sector-V, Calcutta is rapidly turning into a pro-IT town. More and more businesses are coming to Calcutta to set up their offices.
Calcutta is located in the eastern part of India at 22°82? N 88°20? E. It has spread linearly along the banks of the river Hooghly.
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has an area of 185 square kilometres. The city proper today can be roughly divided into two sections along Mother Teresa Sarani (Park Street). North of Park Street is the more congested part of the city. South of Park Street is the slightly better planned section of the city.
The old Calcutta Business District (CBD) is where the seat of the West Bengal Government is located, along with many other government offices. Several banks have their corporate (Allahabad Bank, United Bank of India, UCO Bank) or regional headquarters (Reserve Bank of India, State Bank of India, Bank of India, Central Bank of India amongst many others) around the Bagh area. Many of Calcutta's older business groups have their main offices here. The area is a mix of multi-storeyed office blocks and colonial buildings.
The newer CBD is around the south of Park Street, Camac Street and AJC Bose Road. Several high-rise office blocks including some of Calcutta's tallest commercial buildings - like the Chatterjee International Centre, Tata Centre, Everest House, Industry House, CGO Building - are located here.
Maidan (open field) is situated between the river Ganges and J.L.Nehru Road (or Chowringhee).It is said to be the lungs of Calcutta.The lush green meadow also houses Victoria Memorial, Eden Gardens, and several other sporting clubs. Calcuttans simply love to stroll in the Maidan.
In an effort to relieve congestion in the main city, many government offices have shifted to high-rise office buildings lining Bidhan Nagar's (Salt Lake) Central Park.
The residential buildings are mainly lowrise and comprise of older colonial buildings and numerous new four storey apartment blocks. Ten to twelve storey apartment blocks have come up in large numbers in south Calcutta. The city has relaxed its rules on high-rise construction recently and twenty storey buildings are becoming more common. The tallest residential towers of eastern India - the four thirty-five-storey towers of South City are under construction on Prince Anwar Shah Road.
Huge construction activity along the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass is changing the face of the city. Luxury hotels, a convention centre, speciality hospitals, condominium complexes, malls and multiplexes are coming up at a rapid pace.
The city's expansion in the eastern side is spearheaded by the construction of a huge new city called New Town adjacent to the well planned Bidhan Nagar. Located in Rajarhat, it is one of the largest planned urban developments in India.
The neglected western side of the urban agglomeration has got a boost recently with the signing of an agreement with an Indonesian company to build the West Kolkata International Township. Another huge new township is in the proposal state in Dankuni.
Slums and dilapidated structures exist in many pockets of the city proper and house over 25% of the city's population (Census 2001). Slum redevelopment schemes have helped improve living conditions to a slight extent but there is huge scope for improvement in this area. Efforts to shift slum dwellers to newer developments have often met with resistance and failure because many of the slums are in prime areas of the city and the slum dwellers who are integrated in the social structure of the neighbourhood do not want to shift.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport 1 (http://www.airportsindia.org.in/aai/kolkata/) connects Calcutta with South East Asia. Also the domestic terminal connects it with rest of India. Take a prepaid taxi from the airport to the city. It is about 20 km from the city. Expect to pay about Rs. 150-250 depending on your destination.
There are two major railway stations in Calcutta. These are Howrah ( not in Calcutta actually, its in the next city Howrah) and Sealdah. Also Calcutta boasts of the first metro railway in India. The metro is surprisingly clean and a the best way to beat the crowd. But in office time becomes too much crowdy.
NB: Although the staff are very helpful at the main stations, they are hindered by the lack of modern equipment. If you have just arrived from Bangalore or Mumbai, you will think that you have moved back in time.
If there is something you cannot miss in Calcutta, it is the ubiquitous bus. They ply from every nook and corner of the city. The fare is very nominal, though the comfort level leaves a lot to be desired. Overcrowding is a serious problem. Poor quality of maintenance is yet another issue.
The two major railway stations of the city are at Howrah and Sealdah. The Eastern and South Eastern Railways are headquartered in the city. The electrified suburban rail network of the SER and the ER is extensive and includes the Circular Rail. The city also has South Asia's oldest underground metro railway. Till mid 2005 it was the only underground metro railway in the Indian subcontinent.
Calcutta is the only city in India to have a tram network. Though decommissioned in some part of the city, electric trams are still one of the means of traveling between places within the city. They move slow on the laid tracks in traffic jammed streets, but they are environment friendly (no emission).
The city has an extensive bus network and taxis, autorickshaws and rickshaws are plenty in number. Do not try to board the buses! These are the cheapest option but not really comfortable. If you really like to board, look for the government run deluxe buses.
Shared Autorickshaws (Tuktuks in other places of Southeast Asia) are available from different points. They travel in fixed routes and the fare is fixed. They are suposed to take four persons, three in the back seats and one sharing the drivers seat!
As in rest of India, taxies are easily available and cheap compared to rest of world. The fare structure is cryptic to say the least. If you are confused (you will be) ask the driver for a fare chart.
Privately owned rental car places are available throughout the city. Rates depend on the make, model, size and comfort level of the car. Agreements are flexible, for example, cars can be rented even for couple of hours at an hourly rate. Most rental cars are accompanied with a driver from the rental agency. Here are contacts of a few rental car agents:
Calcutta being of the old British capital of India, have some old colonial style buildings. The best example is the Writers Building, where the government of West Bengal has office. It is not open to tourists but you can walk around. Victoria Memorial is another building dedicated to the old queen Victoria and now a museum. Also the Indian Museum is a good place to visit.
Birla Planetarium is one of the oldest Planetariums in India. The only planetarium in the country, whose dome houses a collection of projectors and optical equipments expensively imported from East Germany. It is the largest planetarium in South-East Asia and the second largest planetarium in the world.
Nandan: A modern cinema complex, a unique cultural centre without a parallel in the country. It was inaugurated by Satyajit Ray in 1985. It is the symbol of art and culture in the city which is termed as the Cultural Capital of India.
Marble Palace: The marble palace was the private mansion of Zamindar (Land owner) Raja Rajendro Mullick, who had built this palace in 1835. It is situated on the Muktaram Babu Street in a congested part of the city. A real garden, of maybe of an acre with a Palladian Mansion set square in the centre. Today this place has an incongruous collection of statues and paintings. There is also a private zoo housing a collection of birds from different corners of the world.
The Kali temple of Kalighat is very famous to Hindus but in a congested place. Another option is to visit the Kali temple of Daksineswar. It is by the bank of the Ganges River. The opposite side of the river is the ?Belur Muth?, the head quarter of the Ramkrishna Misson.
Some of the new attraction of Calcutta is the Nicco Park consisting of some amusement rides, Science city and the Millennium Park by the Ganges.
But sites aside, the things to see in Calcutta are the events. In the month of October, the Durga Puja happens. It is the festival of the Bengalis. I do not say Hindus as now the religion takes a back seat in the festival. The population of Calcutta increases three folds in that time and the people remain on the street for the whole day and night to see the ?Puja pandels?. If you can bear the crowd, this is the time to visit Calcutta. In the last week of January to the first week of February, the Kolkata Book Fair happens. This is the largest book fair in the world where the book publishers from across the globe interact with the readers. All the roads of Calcutta then turns to the fair ground!
Calcutta been nicknamed the City of Palaces. This comes from the numerous palatial mansions built all over the city.
During the British colonial era 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 of much of the architectural variety in Calcutta owes its origins to European styles and tastes imported by the British and, to a much lesser extent, the Portuguese and French.
The buildings were designed, and inspired by the tastes of the English gentleman around and the aspiring Bengali Babu (literally a nouveau riche Bengali who aspired to cultivation of English etiquette, manners and custom as such practices were favourable to monetary gains from the British).
Today many of these structures are in various stages of decay. Some of the major buildings of this period are well maintained and several buildings have been declared as heritage structures. Conservation efforts are patchy and are often affected by problems of litigation, tenant troubles, ownership disputes, old tenancy laws and a lack of funds.
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, is located in its acres of gardens at the heart of the Calcutta business district.
The Howrah Bridge which spans the Hooghly River, links Howrah to Calcutta.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 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, Howrah Bridge (also called Rabindra Setu), Vidyasagar Setu (second Hoogli bridge), Nandan - Rabindra Sadan Cultural Complex, Shaheed Minar (previously called Ochterlony Monument by the British), Kalighat, Bhoothnath, Science City, St. Thomas, 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.
Museums and Galleries
Indian Museum Town Hall, Calcutta 1, 2, 3 and 4 Marble Palace Gurusaday Museum, Diamond Harbour Road Jawahar Shishu Bhawan Birla Industrial and Technological Museum Science City
* Tourism Dept. of Govt. of India has 1 day tour starting at 8:00AM daily except Monday (check the rate & timings Ph: 22825813). The bus departs from 4, Shakespeare Sarani. * The West Bengal Tourism Development Corp.(WBTDC) has a tour ( call 22488271 ) * WBTDC Weekly boat tour to Sunderban Forests 2-3 day trip .
Football (soccer) is a passion for many Calcuttans with the national clubs, Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and East Bengal Club being the best known teams. The current, and most successful, cricket captain of India Sourav Ganguly is a Calcuttan.
Calcutta has also produced several Olympic medallists.
This city has been ruled by Communists for long, due to which it has significantly suffered economically. However, it boasts of very highly qualified professionals. IT is one of the industries the present government is trying very hard to tap.
Not to be missed: Bengali sweets like Rasagolla (cheese balls fried and dipped in a sugary syrups), Mishti Doi (sweet yogurt), Sandesh (A large variety and types areavailable). Try some shops like K.C. Das, Bhim Nag, Nakur, Sen Mahasoy, Ganguram. These are not costly but should be eaten fresh.
Many budget hotels are located on or around Sudder Street.