Kolkata (kôlkŭt´ə), formerly Calcutta (kălkŭt´ə), city (1991 pop. 10,916,272), capital of West Bengal state, E India, on the Hugli River. It is the second largest city in India and one of the largest in the world. Ten of Kolkata's suburbs—Haora, South Suburban City, Bhatpara, South Dum Dum, Kamarhati, Garden Reach, Panihati, Baranagar, Hugli-Chinsura, and Serampore—have well over 100,000 people each. The area of the Kolkata metropolitan area is 228.5 sq mi (591 sq km), extending more than 40 miles along the Hugli. Kolkata is the major seaport (see Haldia) and industrial center of E India; jute is milled, and textiles, chemicals, paper, and metal products are manufactured. Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu are the main languages. The city has terrible poverty, chronic unemployment, overcrowding, inadequate transportation, and resultant social unrest.
Kolkata was founded c.1690 as Calcutta by the British East India Company. In 1756 the nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daula, captured Kolkata and killed most of its garrison by imprisoning it overnight in a small, stifling room, known as the notorious "Black Hole." Robert Clive retook the city in 1757. From 1833 to 1912, the city was the capital of British India.
The Univ. of Calcutta (founded 1857), Jadavpur Univ., and the Indian Museum, which houses one of the world's outstanding natural history collections, are in the city. The Maidan, a large river-front park, is Kolkata's most attractive section. A subway through the central section of the city opened in 1986. The city was officially renamed Kolkata (its name in Bengali) in 2001.