Kolkata, India, formerly known as Calcutta, the capital of the state of West Bengal and one of the nation's largest cities. It lies on the east bank of the Hooghly River, one of the western branches of the Ganges. The Bay of Bengal lies about 70 miles (115 km) to the south. The climate is hot and humid. Annual temperatures average about 79º F. (26º C); annual rainfall is about 66 inches (1,680 mm).
Kolkata lies at the mouth of the fertile Ganges River Valley and is a commercial center for much of eastern India. The city handles a large portion of India's foreign trade, dealing in both agricultural and manufactured products. The center of India's jute industry is in Howrah, a suburb. Other industries in or near Kolkata include shipbuilding and the manufacturing of cars, paper, chemicals, and textiles. Many of India's motion pictures are made in Kolkata.
Kolkata's main thoroughfare is Jawaharlal Nehru Road. Along here are many of the city's shops, restaurants, and hotels. Also here are the Indian Museum, which has a large collection of ancient Indian artifacts, and the Birla Planetarium, one of the largest planetariums in Asia. Nearby, covering more than 985 acres (400 hectares), is the Maidan Park. Among the park's attractions are Fort William and the Victoria Memorial Hall, a massive white marble monument and museum. The museum houses exhibits pertaining to British rule in India.
Kolkata has many mosques, temples, and churches. The city's largest mosque, Nakhoda Mosque, was built during 1926-42. With 12 spires, the Kali Temple is one of Kolkata's most impressive Hindu temples. St. Paul's, an Anglican cathedral, was built during 1839-47. Mother Teresa's tomb is located at Mother House, headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order she founded in 1950. The Durga Puja, the most important Hindu festival in Bengal, is celebrated throughout the city every September and October.
The University of Calcutta (founded 1857) is the city's leading institution of higher education. With a collection of nearly 2,000,000 volumes, the National Library is India's largest library.
Along the river are extensive wharves for ocean vessels. The city has an international airport and is served by several railways and highways, including the Grand Trunk Road, which links Kolkata with Delhi and upper India. India's first subway was opened in Kolkata in 1984.
Through the end of the 20th century, much of Kolkata was overcrowded and lacking in sanitary facilities; slums were a serious problem. Flooding in 2000 left more than 50,000 residents homeless.
Kolkata was founded in 1690 by Job Charnock of the British East India Company. In 1756 the city was captured and sacked by Siraj-ud-Daula, a native ruler of Bengal. The city was recaptured by Robert Clive in 1757. Fort William was built by the British during 1758-81. From 1772 to 1912 Kolkata was the capital of British India.