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Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is also the commercial capital of East India, located on the east bank of the Hooghly River. The city of Kolkata has 4.5 million residents, and the metropolitan area, including suburbs, has a population of approximately 15.7 million, making it the third most populous metropolitan area in India and the 13th most populous urban area in the world. The city is also classified as the eighth largest urban agglomeration in the world.
Kolkata, the ‘Paris of the East’ is a medley of moods, styles, cultures, politics, industry and commerce. The city remained the capital of British India till 1912 and continues to be a major industrial and cultural center.
Today, Kolkata is a kaleidoscope of various contrasts, unseen any where else in the world. It is a unique blend of ancient and anon, occidental and oriental styles, skyscrapers and Victorian edifices and a haven of rich as well as poor. Kolkata symbolizes creativity and vibrancy and is the city of intellectuals, where artistic endeavor is held in higher esteem than political or economic success. The rich cultural, literary and religious flavors are exquisitely exhibited in its fine arts, writing, music, dance and theater. It is the home of four Nobel laureates – Ronald Ross, Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen India’s quest for freedom from the British also began in this city of rich heritage.
The best time to visit Kolkata is between October and March when you will conveniently miss the sweaty, humid and suffocating Bengal summer. You will also be in time for the frenzied celebrations of Durga Puja the worship of the goddess of strength, symbolising good over evil. It is a ten-day ritual held in the month of October.
Kolkata has a whole variety of things to do and see for her visitors -- wonderful sights of historical landmarks, architectural wonders, Botanical Gardens, a boat ride on Outram Ghat or a leisurely stroll by the river. Kolkata’s lungs are the vast expanse of lawns called the Maidan, bordered by the Hooghly River at one end and the elegant boulevard, Chowringhee, at the other. Towering over the northern end of the Maidan is the Shahid Minar, 48m column erected in 1828 in an intriguing combination of Turkish, Egyptian and Syrian architectural styles. You can go to watch Kolkata’s historical landmarks like the magnificent Fort William, St. John’s Church, the Royal Calcutta Turf Club and Eden Gardens, which has a cricket stadium to seat 100,000 persons - a site where many a great sporting battle has been contested.
• The National Library in the stately Belvedere House, the erstwhile residence of the Lieutenant governor of Bengal, has the largest collection of books (one million) in India.
• The Botanical Gardens in Howrah were laid out in 1786 on the west bank of the river. There is a great variety of carefully classified flora and fauna.
• Howrah Bridge is an engineering marvel of its day and a vital link across the river Hooghly. The third largest bridge in the world has around 2 million people crossing over it daily (be prepared for the crowds.