Calcutta (Kolkata), India

City in eastern India, capital of West Bengal State, on the Hooghly River, near the Bay of Bengal. One of the largest cities of India close to the border with Bangladesh

The hub of a populous metropolitan area, Calcutta is a major port and the chief commercial, financial, and manufacturing center of eastern India. The principal manufactures of the city include jute products, processed food, silk and cotton textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, electric and transportation equipment, and rubber goods.

One of the world's most crowded and colorful cities, Calcutta is located close to sea level in a formerly swampy area. It has a subtropical climate known for its high heat and humidity during the summer rainy season. The city's main business district centers on Dalhousie Square, situated just east of the busy waterfront. To the south is an area of parkland and elegant Victorian office buildings and residences, built during the long period of British control. Housing in Calcutta is in critically short supply, and thousands of people live on the streets or in crowded slums of mud huts lacking adequate sanitary facilities.

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Modern Calcutta was founded in 1690 by the British trader Job Charnock as a trading post of the British East India Company. Fort William was built to protect the post in 1696, and three older villages—Kalikata (later altered by the British to Calcutta), Sutanati, and Govindpur—were purchased from the Mughal emperor in 1698. The city became famous in 1756, when Siraj-ud-Dawlah, nawab of Bengal, captured it and stifled 123 British residents to death in a small guardroom—called the Black Hole of Calcutta—of Fort William. The city was recaptured by the British under Robert Clive in 1757. Calcutta then served as the capital of British India from 1772 to 1912, when it was replaced by Delhi.

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As the British expanded their control over the Indian subcontinent in the late 18th and 19th centuries, Calcutta developed as a busy port and industrial center. Millions came from other parts of India in search of greater economic opportunities. Unemployment and poverty, already major social problems in the early 20th century, became increasingly acute after the partition of British India in 1947, when large numbers of Hindus from East Pakistan sought refuge in Calcutta.

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The city's principal suburbs, some linked to Calcutta by a subway system built chiefly in the 1970s and expanded in the mid-1980s, are Haora (site of the region's main railroad station), Garden Reach, South Suburban, South Dum Dum, Bally, Baranagar, and Barakpur.

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