For years it was known simply as Calcutta, until 2001 when the name changed back to the Bengali version, Kolkata. Situated on the banks of the River Hooghly in eastern India, this is one of largest cities in the country, and also one which has a distinct history marked with both tragedy and elation. The city was once one of the most important places in India, serving as the capital of the country during the British Raj era until 1911 as a center of cultural, educational, and political significance until the 1950s when things began to go downhill. It has only been in the 21st century that the city has seen a boost in economic regeneration, and these days it is a testament to what can happen when rapid growth hits a place. Urbanization is a problem here, with poverty, traffic congestion and pollution being three major concerns.
In many ways, Kolkata has been described as India's version of New York City. Mixed in with the squalid conditions of the poorer sections of the city are sections where wealth is on display in such opulent settings that one may find themselves somewhat taken aback. From places like Fort William, the Eden Gardens, the parkland known as Maidan, the famed market of Chowringee, the Nakhoda Mosque, the Parashnath Jain Temple, and more, Kolkata offers an up close look at Indian life over the past few centuries, and while it is true that the poverty of many of its residents is sometimes staggering in its proportions, it is possible to see the splendor of what the city once was, and how hard it is trying to climb back to that era. It may be a long road, but the changes made since 2000 have been significant enough that if you find yourself heading to India for any duration, Kolkata should definitely be on your agenda.