Kolkata, ‘the land of Goddess Kali’ is fated to go down in history as a city of historical importance and rich heritage. For a tourist’s eyes, Kolkata is a sort of a dream place where one can walk through the skeletal frame of history, smeared with blood and power. As most of us hail from places, where highest artificial civilizations are knocked down by technological innovations, Kolkata is a place that can remind you that earth, as a naturally phenomenon, still exists with all its beauty and of course, imperfections. The city, which was formerly known as Calcutta, is the capital of the Indian state West Bengal and is situated on the east banks of the Hooghly River. Kolkata, once known as the paradise of independent-intellectual filmmakers, today, like all other conurbation, stands as an IT hub and has played a prominent role in India’s growth in information technology exporting.
The Village And Its Metamorphosis To A Historical City
Kolkata’s history flags off with British colonialism. Prior to that, Kolkata was just a small, unimportant village with Murshidabad as the capital of Bengal. It was only in the year 1756, after Siraj-ud-daula attacked and captured Kolkata that the city raised to prominence. It is believed that Siraj-ud-daula didn’t favor the British politico-military presence in Bengal and wasn’t really happy with the fortification of Fort William. He also objected to British East India Company exploitation of trade privileges and was especially irked with the Company offering refuge to his traitor officers. Instigated by these motives, Siraj-ud-daula retaliated against the British and captured Kolkata. But within a year, the British struck back and recaptured Calcutta in the Battle of Plassey after defeating Sira-ud-daula and his French allies.
The Days of Imperial Rule
British officials announced Kolkata as their capital in 1772. However, Kolkata’s dream journey as ‘city of palaces’ kicked off during the times of Governor General Richard Wellesley, the visionary who led modern Calcutta to its present day splendor. The erstwhile splendor of Calcutta city can be well perceived in Miss Emily Eden’s description of the city as ‘bride-like’. However, with the oppression against imperial rule, Calcutta was divided into two halves- ‘black town’ that was relegated to Indians and was infested with poverty and exploitation and the other half was conferred to the imperialists.
Being An Opium Cave
East India Company had a monopoly on the production and export of opium from India. The rulers had farmers who worked hard to get them the stuff that was in its peak of usage and opium auctions were just a part of Calcutta city’s regular official rituals. Some smart cult rebelled and smuggled the drug to canton in China that slowly led to the infamous ‘Opium Wars’. There were two opium wars between Britain and China. The first one was fought between 1839 to 1842 and the second war took place between 1856 to 1860. In both the wars, China was defeated and was forced to tolerate the opium trade.
The City In Nineteenth Century
The hailed manipulators of the democracy, ‘the fourth estate’, took birth in Calcutta, in 1779 in the form of “Hickey's Bengal Gazette”. This kick-started the intellectual life of Calcutta of the Nineteenth Century. Sir William Jones founded ‘Asiatic Society of Bengal’, in 1784. He volunteered in translating rare and forgotten Indian texts into English. Interracial marriage between Europeans and Indians came into trend and laid the foundation for today’s Anglo Indian community in Kolkata.
Rise Of A Thought Named ‘Freedom’
Slowly, the native people started feeling cheated and exploited because of unjust taxation policies and other regulations on them. This stirred the thought of independence in people. The thought of freedom slowly got attached with culture and religion and people started congregating in large numbers to achieve the ultimate goal of their life - freedom. They formed many groups to rebel against colonizers and retrieve their rights. Jugantar, Anushilan Samiti and Hindu Mela were a few of them. Creative and intellectual people like Aurobindo,Swami Vivekandanda, Indira Devi Chaudhary and Bipin Chandra Pal came to the scene. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote ‘Vande Mataram’, which went on to become India’s national song later. Subhash Chandra Bose, one of the mightiest leaders of Indian independence, formed Indian National Army to fight for his motherland. India got independence in 1947, August 15. But with India-Pakistan partition, Kolkata became the home of thousands of refugees. They were known as ‘Vaasthu hara’ - The people who lost their possessions’.
Even though, the city faced a lot of trouble with naxalites and Maoists in 70’s, it is back in the list of India’s most growing cities, thanks to the IT services which have given a fresh breath to the Kolkata’s economy and the city is doing well in the manufacturing sector too. Its British name ‘Calcutta’ was changed to its real name ‘Kolkata’ in 2001. Today, it stands as a hot tourism spot with its historical prominence and antique structural beauty adding to the city’s splendor.