Kolkata or Calcutta as it is still fondly called is the capital of India’s West Bengal state. Founded by merging three villages, it was an East India Company trading post and the capital of the British Raj in India. Although formerly called the ´Black Hole of Calcutta´, Kolkata is now known for its grand colonial architecture, art galleries, love for books, politics, and cultural festivals. That is not all and here are some interesting and Kolkata fun facts about the city:
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Kolkata Botanical Gardens
It is home to the largest and some of the oldest trees in the world. The great banyan tree at Botanical Gardens is the largest tree in terms of the area covered and it has been there for more than 250 years. It survived two cyclones in 1864 and 1867. However, in 2020 a cyclone hit West Bengal and severely damaged the tree’s peripheral stem and branches. In order to let the rest of the tree survive, botanists had to cut the 51 ft main trunk.
A city bursting its seams
The city of Kolkata has an estimated population of 4.6 million. Cities with populations of 1 million and above are known as Million Plus UAs or Cities. Kolkata’s metropolitan area has a population of more than 14.3 million. This makes it the third-largest metropolitan area in the world.
A very busy bridge
The Howrah Bridge of Kolkata is the world’s busiest cantilever bridge in the world. It spans the Hooghly River and was constructed by Braithwaite, Burn & Jessop Construction Co. They started building the bridge in 1936 and finished construction in 1942. The bridge was opened to the public in 1943 and in 1965, officials renamed the bridge the Rabindra Setu after the renowned poet Rabindranath Tagore. This bridge doesn’t have any nuts or bolts as it was formed by riveting the whole structure. With a span of 1,500 ft (457.2 m), it is the sixth-longest cantilever truss bridge in the world. The bridge carries both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Roughly 100,000 cars and more than 150,000 pedestrians cross the bridge daily, making it the busiest cantilever bridge in the world.
The old English love for polo
Established in 1862, the Calcutta Polo Club is the world’s oldest polo club in the world. It was started by two British soldiers, Captain Robert Stewart, and Joe Sherer. They got inspired after seeing a game called sagol kangjei played by locals on horseback in Manipur, a state in Northwest India. The Calcutta Polo Club hosts the oldest and first-ever polo trophy, the Ezra Cup, the first of which was held in 1880.
An old and crumbling tram network
Kolkata has the oldest operating electric tram network in Asia. The current network started operating in 1902 and even before that, the city had horse-drawn trams. The first horse-drawn tram operated between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street in 1873. Kolkata trams have been featured in many movies and even today, it is one of the fun things to do in the city.
The world’s largest book fair
Calcutta Book Fair is the world´s largest non-trade book fair. It is also the most attended book fair in the world. The first Calcutta Book Fair was held in 1976 and since then, each year, around 2.5 million people attend this large open-air literary event.
The City of Joy, is it?
Although the British called Calcutta ´The Black Hole of Calcutta´, Kolkata is known as the ´City of Joy´. The city got this name from Dominique Lapierre’s famous novel, “City Of Joy”: a book that tells the story of the city´s rickshaw pullers, their struggles along with the hardships faced by the slum dwellers in the city.
Book lovers´ Street
Kolkata´s College Street is every bookworm’s dream come true. It is the biggest second-hand book market in the world. People from all around the world go there to browse through a huge collection of books ranging from regular textbooks to rare archives, brand new books to second-hand treasures.
The National Library in Kolkata
This very impressive building is located just a few steps away from Alipore Zoo. Before independence, it was the residence of the Governor General of India and today, the National Library is the biggest library in the country by volume and public records.
Calcutta´s love for football
The love for football runs in Calcuttan´s blood. The rivalry between the city´s two football clubs – East Bengal and ATK Mohun Bagan – is famous throughout the country. This passion for the game started in 1911 when Mohun Bagan became the first Indian club to win the IFA Shield. The Indian team led by Shibdas Bhaduri played barefoot and defeated the East Yorkshire Regiment. It was a feat that made the entire British empire sit up and take notice and is considered a big part of India’s freedom struggle.
Follow the rest of the Calcutta series
- THINGS TO DO IN KOLKATA
- THIS IS KATHLEEN’S KOLKATA
- CALCUTTA THROUGH BRIAN’S EYES
- BRIAN’S CALCUTTA NOT KOLKATA
- THIS IS MY CALCUTTA
- CALCUTTA, MEMORIES OF A WAY OF LIFE
- CALCUTTA FOOD
- BOW BARRACKS CHRISTMAS OF CALCUTTA
- QUIRKS OF CALCUTTA
- KOLKATA’S UNSUNG MEMOIRS
- KOLKATA PHOTO ESSAY
- CALCUTTA LOVES TO READ: A PHOTO ESSAY
- WORKERS OF KOLKATA AND THEIR JOBS
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE