The word ‘Bengali’ evokes a lot of emotion and is synonymous with art, culture, food, music, cinema and everything connected to finer aspects of life. Truly as the famous saying goes, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow!” a Bengali was considered an intellectual leader during the British Raj. However, decay set in after independence and the Bengali Bhadralok seems to be still stuck with reminiscing in the retrospective! In fact the various addas can be seen in the city’s coffee houses, city halls and libraries, where the so called “intellectual crowd” engaged in heated debate!
Kolkata History and Ideas
In the early years of the Indian Independence Struggle, being the capital of the British Raj, Calcutta was almost the ideological centre of the freedom movement and nationalist thought.
In the Bengal Renaissance, Calcutta served as the source of socio-religious throughout the Raj. Prominent names include Raja Ram Mohan Roy, the social reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, of the Widows’ Remarriage Act, and Swami Vivekananda, a pioneer of Indian religious philosophy in the west. During the same period, Calcutta pretty much became the cultural centre of the Indian Subcontinent.
The city of Kolkata can be defined as an archive colonial heritage; a birthplace of great ideas, great minds, revolutionaries, and revolutions; a dense, convergent flux of diverse ethnicities. In this article, I try to highlight some main features of the city’s culture.
Like most cities, an essense of Kolkata’s diverse ethnicity can be assimilated from its neighbourhoods and localities. There’s Central Kolkata, the business district, which has the urban park in the city, there’s South Kolkata, which houses the city’s wealthy, and there are neighbourhoods like Dharmatala, which merge historic buildings with residential complexes.
But the most important, from the lens of ethnic cohabitation, is probably Bowbazar. The area resides Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims, Parsis, all in a harmonious and mutually respectful coexistence. Apart from the commonly seen places of worship, there is a Zoroastrian temple, a Buddhist temple, a Synagogue, and an Armenian Church. Bowbazar’s living is a lesson in tolerance for the world.
Architecture in Kolkata
Kolkata houses an enviable number of historical buildings, most of which are still in use. A substantial number of structures were built during the colonial period and are follow the European style. An evolution can be noticed from those built in the eighteenth century, like Fort William, and those built during last decades of the British Rule, like the Victoria Memorial.
Despite the acceptable western influence, Kolkata was also able to develop its own distinct, or rather a fusion, architectural style. This can be seen in buildings like the Jorasanko Thakur Bari, Rabindranath Tagore’s childhood home, the old Asiatic Society building, and the mansions on Bishop Lefroy Road. There are also areas like the Salt Lake City, which were planned in the decades following the Independence, and house modern, 21st century residential buildings.
Art & Literature in Kolkata
Kolkata has been active in Literary and artistic research from a long time. The town has seen the dawn of the literary movement in the middle of the 19th century, which has given birth to a cultural revival in India. Rabindranath Tagore, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature from 1913, has been the best exponent of the movement and continues to be enriched by his exceptional originality in poetry, music, drama and painting. Bengali literature is also blessed by works of some excellent novelists such as Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Manik Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Chetropadhyay and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhya and many more.
Cuisine of Kolkata
The cuisine of Kolkata is influenced by the Mughals, Armenians, Parsis and British, culturally literate as the cultural capital of the nation that paved the path for the Indian Renaissance. With regards to foods, Kolkata is more than simply “Roshogulla” and “Sondesh,” because the entire state of Bengal is filled by cuisine wonders. Perhaps that is why Kolkata is called the “City of Joy,” because what’s happier than being the home of one of the most delicious food in the whole country.
Music, Dance and Cinema
In Bengali culture, music and dance play a major role. In Kolkata, Baul traditions are a unique legacy in Bengali folk music.There are also various other folk music categories, such Gajan, Kirtan, Bhawaiya and many more besides Baul. Rabindra Sangeet has been largely appreciated throughout the city. Apart from that, every year, several conferences have been organised since on classical Indian music. Kolkata is the home of numerous internationally acclaimed traditional dancers like Shri Uday Shankar, who adapted Western theatre method to traditional styles of dance. The city is also a pioneering film production centre in India. International acclaim was accquired by the unconventional, forward-looking directors Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen.
Festivals of Kolkata
The Kolkata witnesses numerous festivals through out the year. The most prominent one is Durga puja following by Kali puja, Saraswati puja and others. Durga puja is the prominent celebration and one of the most famous in the city. The city of Durga puja is known all over the world for its 4 days grandeur celebration. The artistic pandals and idols of Goddess are the main attraction for local and international tourists.
Museums and libraries
Kolkata has more than 30 museums which span a wide range of fields. Founded in 1814, the Indian Museum is India’s oldest, with important holdings featuring archaeological and numismatic divisions. The exhibitions show British links with India in Victoria Memorial Hall. Amongst its treasures is the Asutosh Museum of Indian Art in the University of Calcutta. Science City was one of the first of its kind in Asia to be a big science museum and entertainment complex. The Asian Society of Bengal, the Bengalian Literary Society and the University of Calcutta contain valuable library collections. The national library is the largest in India.
In literature, arts, and music, Kolkata has nurtured India’s and world’s greatest minds. Rabindranath Tagore, the world renowned Nobel laureate, Abanindranath Tagore, of the Bengal School, and Satyajit Ray, the father of parallel Indian cinema- all belong to a unending list of Kolkata’s greats.
Author Bio – Harry Jack is professional blogger & Marketer who has contributed to some of the best publications. At present he is working at The Squander. Harry loves writing on world culture & Lifestyle.