CALCUTTA, INDIA. Because of its position on the westernmost arm of the great Ganges River, Calcutta, the largest city of India and the capital of Bengal, has become one of the greatest clearing-houses of Asiatic trade. It lies about 80 miles from the Bay of Bengal on the left bank of the Hugli River. His tonically, Calcutta is intimately associated with the foundation of British rule in India. The first settle ment was made by Job Charnock of the East India Company in 1690, and the colony slowly prospered after the building of Fort William.
The chief episode in Calcutta's development cen ters about the " Black Hole" tragedy, following its capture in 1756 by Suraj-ud-Dowlah, the Nawab of Bengal. The 146 English prisoners were forced into a cell 18 by 14 feet on a hot June night. The next morning only 23 were alive. The city meanwhile was plundered and burned, and it was not until seven months later that an English army under Clive, from Madras, recaptured it. In 1757, exactly a year after the tragedy of the Black Hole, Clive defeated Nawab at Plassy, and the province of Bengal fell into British hands. Bengal may be called the entering wedge that was driven by the East India Company into the anarchy and confusion of India after the waning of the native Mogul authority at Delhi. In 1772 the great administrator 'Warren Hastings, first governor general of Bengal for the East India Company, moved the seat of government to Calcutta, where it remained until 1911, when the ancient Indian capital Delhi replaced it.
With its numerous docks and wharves Calcutta is not only a great center for ocean traffic, but also through the two great rivers the Ganges and Brahma putra it taps the fertile plains and valleys of northern India. The river traffic, chiefly carried on in small native boats, competes with the three great railways centering in Calcutta. Thus Calcutta is one of the principal outlets for the richest sections of India.
Bengal is itself a rich fertile province, producing most of the jute in the world, as well as rice, opium, cotton, and coal. Calcutta contains numerous jute and cotton mills, though they do not rival those of Bom bay in size and number.
Calcutta does not present the same magnificent and modern architectural prospect that greets the traveler in the newer city of Bombay. It recalls more readily the memories of men like Clive and Warren Hastings, who laid the foundations of British rule in India, as well as of those great English mer chants or " nabobs" of the 18th century, such as are described in some of the novels of Thackeray, who was himself born in Calcutta. Calcutta has peculiar pride in its parks, which were created on the sites of the dismal swamps that took such a heavy toll of lives in the past. The zoological and the Eden gardens, the Maidan or park, relieve the rows of monotonous business buildings. Across from the park the old houses of the wealthy merchants of the early 19th century have been converted into hotels, clubs, and business buildings.
Calcutta is an important educational center. Here are located a university and numerous colleges and high schools. There is also an art museum where many rare and beautiful relics of India's ancient glory are exhibited. The city is governed, like Bombay, by a general committee of 12 members, to whom many important matters are referred, and to which both Europeans and natives are elected. Popula tion, about 1,225,000.