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To these structural reasons, we must add a more temporary factor, the disorganization of public administration in a period of rapid political change and turmoil.

The Four Preps - Calcutta (1961)

Three points need to be emphasized. The first one is the particularly savage manner in which the killings were executed. Not only were victims brutally killed, they were also grotesquely mutilated. Secondly, most accounts mentioned cases of rape, which were not part of the usual gamut of communal riots in India, but were to figure prominently in accounts of communal violence around the time of Partition, which in retrospect, makes the Great Killing a sad harbinger of horrors still to come.

Though women and children figure among the victims, they were not as prominently represented as it was the case in the Punjab massacres a year later, however, and most of the Great Killing victims were adult males. This links with a final, very important point: according to most accounts the majority of the victims were Muslims; however, due to the absence of reliable figures this can never be demonstrated. Since most Muslims in Calcutta were poor, there seems to be a certain coincidence between the religious and the social content of the massacre.

Few rich Hindus or Muslims appear to have been targeted, although Muslim crowds attacked the houses of some rich Hindus, from which their owners had absconded. Thus, the massacre could be described as the combination of one large pogrom against poor Muslims by Hindu toughs, with one smaller pogrom against poor Hindus by Muslim toughs. A number of people must also have been killed in the crossfire between the two communities, and quite a few killed by police and Army fire, adding to the complexity of the massacre.

Many people witnessed the massacre, but there are few reliable testimonies on which to draw. Although the commission interrogated many witnesses, its conclusions were never published. These findings have nonetheless been widely used by a Bengali historian Das, The memoirs of Lieutenant General Sir Francis Tuker, then in command of British and Indian forces in the Eastern sector of India, provide a fairly detailed, although heavily biased, first-hand account Tuker, These memoirs embody a British view of the events which tends to distribute blame more or less equally between the two communities, but nevertheless displays a slight pro-Muslim and a strong anti-Congress bias.

A few other British witnesses have left written accounts. There is a wide array of personal reminiscences by inhabitants of Calcutta who witnessed the events, published in Bengali, but they have not been the object of a systematic study. Apart from the official enquiry report that was never published, no effort seems to have been made at collecting testimony from direct witnesses. It is not too difficult to understand why.

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With regard to the British, they faded from the scene after August If you were a Muslim, you tended to adopt a discourse of victimization and to point to the fact that most of the victims were Muslims, hinting at a dark Hindu plot to wipe out Muslims in Calcutta.

After independence and partition, when the two communities had perforce found a way of living together more or less peacefully since few Muslims left Calcutta for East Pakistan , a heavy silence descended on the event, and it remained buried in that silence for decades. In a paradoxical way, one could say that on the one hand, the Great Calcutta Killing is very much an object of living memory; narratives are handed down from one generation to another within practically all the families who lived through it. On the other hand, it is conspicuously absent from the official memory of Bengal, particularly on the West Bengal side, but also, in a more surprising way, on the Bangladeshi side.

The disjunction between private memory and public and official memory is not unique to this particular event. This disjunction occurs with most traumatic events. For example, the Holocaust in the immediate post-war period, before the outset of the era of commemoration in the s, is a case in point. Given the lack of study on this aspect, one can only point to some of the possible reasons for the absence of an official memory of the Great Killing.

On the Indian side, political expediency is the most plausible. Following independence, dwelling on past events was seen as a diversion from the task of building a new country, free from colonial shackles. Besides, as already mentioned, most Muslims stayed in Calcutta after Partition; only some rich merchants and middle-class people emigrated to East Pakistan; the mass of the poor had to survive in the new context and harping on the memory of the massacre was likely to bring them no benefit of any kind.

In regard to the Hindus, who had had the better in the fight, they found it preferable to adopt a low profile and to play the appeasement card. On the Pakistani side, the question was complicated by the fact that, from the early s onwards, Bengalis in East Pakistan felt increasingly alienated from their West Pakistan compatriots and were nostalgic for the time when Bengal had been united. Kolkata is a city synonymous with creativity. While Kolkata promises some of the most cosmopolitan experiences that India has to offer, the surrounding countryside also has a few aces up its sleeve.

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Locals are not only proud of their food, th Travel writer Anirban Mahapatra travels all around the world, but between trips, he heads home to work as Lonely Planet Local for Kolkata. See more activities. Victoria Memorial Kolkata Calcutta. Botanical Gardens Kolkata Calcutta. Belur Math Kolkata Calcutta. Kumartuli Idol-makers Kolkata Calcutta. Marble Palace Kolkata Calcutta. As getting to the Sundarbans on your own is a laborious process, you might want to opt for an all-inclusive package tour.

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Be aware, though, that tiger sightings are rare. Although Bengal was part of the Mauryan Empire during the third century BC, it first came to prominence in its own right under the Guptas in the fourth century AD. So dependent was it on trade with the Mediterranean that the fall of Rome caused a sharp decline, only reversed with the rise of the Pala dynasty in the eighth century. After a short-lived period of rule by the highly cultured Senas, based at Gaur, Bengal was brought under Muslim rule at the end of the twelfth century by the first Sultan of Delhi, Qutb-ud-din-Aibak.

Sher Shah Suri, who briefly usurped power from the Mughals in the mid-sixteenth century, developed the infrastructure and built the Grand Trunk Road, running all the way to the Northwest Province on the borders of his native Afghanistan. Akbar reconquered the territory in , before the advent of the Europeans in the eighteenth century. The Portuguese, who were the first to set up a trading community beside the Hooghly, were soon joined by the British, Dutch, French and many others. Rivalry between them eventually resulted in the ascendancy of the British, with the only serious indigenous resistance coming from the tutelary kingdom of Murshidabad, led by the young Siraj-ud-Daula.

His attack on the fledgling British community of Calcutta in culminated in the infamous Black Hole incident, when British prisoners suffocated to death. Vengeance, in the form of a British army from Madras under Robert Clive, arrived a year later. The defeat of Siraj-ud-Daula at the Battle of Plassey paved the way for British domination of the entire Subcontinent. Bengal became the linchpin of the British East India Company and its lucrative trading empire, until the company handed over control to the Crown in The move aroused bitter resentment, and the rift it created between Hindus and Muslims was a direct cause of the second Partition, in , when East Bengal became East Pakistan.

During the war with Pakistan in the early s that resulted in the creation of an independent Bangladesh, up to ten million refugees fled into West Bengal. Shorn of its provinces, and with the capital moved from Calcutta to Delhi in , the story of West Bengal in the twentieth century was largely a chronicle of decline. In the s and s, the latter launched an abortive but bloody attempt at revolution.


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This long dominance by the CPI M came to a dramatic end in , when the firebrand politician, Mamata Banerjee, who had honed her political skills supporting the oppressed poor in two notorious campaigns against industrialization, swept to power. In Kolkata — booming with expatriate wealth and a surge in business confidence, though nothing like in Delhi or Mumbai — political turmoil can seem a world away.

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Meanwhile in the north of the state, ethnic political groups are calling for autonomy from Bengal. The fabric and future shape of the current state is by no means certain. Before the monsoons, however, the heat hangs unbearably heavily; the arrival of the rains in late June brings relief, but usually also floods that turn the streets into a quagmire.

The best seasons to visit Darjeeling and the mountainous areas of north Bengal are after the monsoons and before winter late Sept to late Nov , and spring mid-Feb to May. Jaidev Mela early Jan. Baul minstrels gather to commemorate Joydeb, the revered author of the Gita Govinda, held in the village of Kendubilwa Kenduli , near Shantiniketan. Ganga Sagar Mela mid-Jan. During the winter solstice of Makar Sankranti, thousands of Hindu pilgrims and sadhus gather for a three-day festival at Sagardwip, km south where the Ganges meets the sea. Popular and important festival, dedicated to the goddess of learning and staged throughout Bengal.

Celebrated with a week-long festival of dragon dances, firecrackers and fine food, concentrated around Chinatown and the suburb of Tangra. Muharram dates determined by the lunar calendar; see when-is. It climaxes on Mahadashami, the tenth day, when the images of goddess Durga are immersed in the river. Held five days after Mahadashami on the full moon, to honour the goddess of wealth.

Christmas Dec Park Street and New Market are adorned with fairy lights and the odd Christmas tree. Poush Mela late Dec. Held in Shantiniketan, the mela brings in Bauls, the wandering minstrels who attract large audiences. At Rough Guides, we understand that experienced travellers want to get truly off-the-beaten-track.