From Calcutta to Kolkata
From Calcutta to Kolkata

From Calcutta to Kolkata: How the First Capital of India has Evolved?

Kolkata is the capital of the north-eastern state of West Bengal in India. It was formerly known as Calcutta, the first capital of the British Indian Empire from 1772 to 1911. The city is the heart of Bengal where peoples of several races, religions and castes lived together happily. It is the motherland of culture, creativity and intellectuals. The 300-year-old city has been rich in cultural diversity for centuries. It is the land of Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa, and Swami Vivekananda, whose knowledge, generosity and talent enlightened not only India but the entire world.

Geographical distribution of Kolkata


Kolkata or Calcutta (before 2001), is situated along the eastern banks of the Hooghly river (Gangas). It has an area of 205 square kilometres and it is 80 kilometres west of the border of Bangladesh.

Where does the city name come from?

There are several theories that state how the city was named so.

According to the first one, the Calcutta name originated from the Bengali word kalikata, where kali means lime and kata means burnt shell. At that time, the city was famous for manufacturing shell lime.

Durgapuja in Kolkata

The second theory describes the city as the ground of maa Kaali (Mahakali) or Kalikshetra. From Kalikshetra the name kalikata originated.

Another theory says that as the city is located at the banks of Ganga, the banks were called at that time canal or khal. From the word khal (means canal) the city was named so.

Bengalis always called the place Kolkata but the British called it Calcutta.

How did the British raj take over Bengal?

From a fisherman’s village to the cultural capital of India. The radical transformation of the place began when Governor-General Warren Hastings, decided to make Calcutta the first capital of the British Indian Empire. 

Kolkata, West Bengal

It all started with the rise of the British East India company. It was an English commercial enterprise that came to trade in the Indian subcontinent. The trading products included Cotton, silk, indigo dye, sugar, salt, spices, etc.

Around the 1700 century, the company became so powerful and besides trading, it started occupying different areas under its control. In 1757 they defeated the last independent Nawab of Bengal Siraj ud-Daulah at the battle of Plassey. After the battle of Buxar in 1764, they took over Bengal under the control of the British East India Company. After that in 1772, Governor-General Warren Hastings decided to make Calcutta the first capital of the British Indian Empire.

Foundation of Kolkata formerly Calcutta

Job Charnock, known as the founder of Calcutta, units three villages Sutanuti, Gobindapur and kalikata and established Calcutta on 24th August 1686. After that, it became the capital of the British Indian Empire.

Calcutta, the first capital of the British Indian Empire

After declaring Calcutta as their capital all British government offices moved from Murshidabad to Calcutta. The city became the cultural and rural centre of the British Raj. In 1774 the Highest court (that time) of British India, the supreme court was established at Fort William. After that in 1780, James Hickey established the first newspaper Bengal Gazette. Sir William Jones established The Asiatic Society.


After that in 1804, Raj Bhavan was built. Fort William College, Hindu College, University of Calcutta, etc all are formed one by one. In 1875 the Indian Museum was created. India’s first electric tram car ran from Esplanade to Khidirpur in 1902. That is the golden era for Calcutta city.

How did the capital shift to Delhi?

But in the meanwhile, the revolutionary groups became very active in Bengal. Revolutionary groups like Anushilan Samiti organized several campaigns against British rule. Several revolutionaries like Khudiram Bose, Prafulla Chaki, Jatindranath Mukherjee, etc carried out anti-English conspiracies.


At last, when the viceroy of India at that time, Lord Curzon tried to partition Bengal the whole of Bengal became vocal against the British, and they decided to shift their capital to Delhi.

In 1911 the capital of British India shifted to Delhi from Calcutta.

In this way, having been the capital of British India for so many years, samples of the British era can be seen in every corner of Kolkata today. This is how the Bengali culture merged with British culture.

From Howrah Bridge to the high court, from the University of Calcutta to Calcutta Medical College, from Marvel palace to the Indian museum everywhere in Kolkata the British culture remains. 

From Calcutta to Kolkata

On January 1, 2001, Calcutta has officially renamed Kolkata. That is how Calcutta to Kolkata, the first capital of British India, evolved.

To know more about Kolkata read our article on A trip to KolkataGuide To Belur Math and Dakshineswar

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About Piyali Das

I am Piyali Das, a content writer. I am a travel freak and want to express my passion for travel into my contents.

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