The Reasons Why Calcutta Was Renamed Kolkata

Piyal Kundu / WikiCommons
Piyal Kundu / WikiCommons
Sridevi Nambiar

Kolkata wasn’t always known as Kolkata. Before 2001, the city was officially called Calcutta – the anglicised version of its name. Here we look at the political and cultural context surrounding the renaming of one of India’s largest cities.
The are a number of reasons why Calcutta changed its name to Kolkata. Firstly, the city has always been pronounced Kolkata by the Bengalis. It was also felt that the anglicised version was simply outdated, as the country has been free from colonial rule for more than half a century.

Loved by over 40s
Some institutions retain the anglicised version of the city’s name

The name change is also a nod to the origins of the city: Kolkata is said to resemble Kôlikata, the name of one of the three villages that originally existed on the site. The name of that village and present day Kolkata are derived from the Bengali word kilkila, which means flat area. The name is also thought to have its roots in koli chun, which is Bengali for quicklime and kata, which means coir, two products produced in the area.

The old Whiteway Laidlaw department store in Kolkata, now known as the Metropolitan Building

Kolkata’s name change is not an isolated event. It is part of a wider trend of renaming Indian cities, often in an attempt to move away from colonial identities and reclaim the significance of the original names. For example, Bombay became Mumbai – a nod to the city’s patron deity, Mumba Devi, whose significance to the city predates the British colonisation. Similarly, Madras became Chennai, Bangalore became Bengaluru, Pondicherry became Puducherry, Cochin became Kochi and so on.

In some cases, renaming cities has been controversial. But the State Government of West Bengal’s decision to make the change was not met with much resistance. However, some institutions, such as The Calcutta High Court, continue to retain their colonial era names.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider

Hanna

women sitting on iceberg

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?

2 years.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?

It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.

WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?

I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

X

Keen to explore the world?

Our passionately curated premium small-group trips are an invitation to connect with like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences.