Discovery of Kolkata

Kolkata - The early days. Courtesy: Wikipedia

Kolkata – The early days. Courtesy: Wikipedia

The etymological root of Kolkata’s nomenclature goes back a long time in history. There are several suitable theories that are merely conjecture. In the event of the absence of a valid transcribe, theses theories lack credibility. However, the lore is entertaining nonetheless! Before that, let us first briefly go through the interpretation of how Calcutta agglomerated into one piece.


15th and 16th Century – Discovery and History of Kolkata

Previously known as Calcutta, the metropolis comprised of three villages of Kalikat, Gobindapur and Sutanuti situated along the banks of Hooghly River. At that time, trade started flourishing from 13th century onwards along the port towns of Hooghly. The earliest known town to attract foreign traders was Saptagram (or Satgaon) which lured both middle-eastern rulers and the region’s first European traders that were the Portuguese. The Portuguese settled there in 1535. Not long after, they were driven out of the region by its native rulers. Following which they moved into another town called Bandel, where Bengal’s first Church was built by them.

In gradual succession, the Dutch arrived in Chinsura in 1655, the French in Chandernagore in 1697 and the Danes in Serampore in 1755. These port towns dotted along the banks of Hooghly including the trio villages of Kalikat, Gobindapur and Sutanuti served as important trading centers in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. On 24th August 1686, Job Charnock who is accredited with the founding of Calcutta first came to the village of Sutanuti as a representative of the British East India Company to establish a factory. Sutanuti at that time was the hub of textile industry. Prior to this, Charnock inhabited in the city of Patna. He first came to India in 1655 and settled in Patna where he took a native wife and bore three daughters.

The proposition of setting up a factory in Sutanuti drew bitter opposition from the locals. Charnock who is known to possess a volatile temper, stood aground and successfully set up jurisdiction in 1690 in his third visit to Sutanuti. He settled there permanently with his family. Sutanuti along with Gobindapur and Kalikat were bought by the British for a sumptuous amount of Rupees 16000 from the local land lords. In 1717, the Mughal Emperor Farrukh-Siyar granted the British East India Company freedom of trade on Indian soil for a yearly tariff of 3000 Rupees. Thus, the British set foot in Bengal and established their dominance eventually gripping the entire sub-continent for the next 200 years.

24th August is celebrated as the foundation day of Kolkata since this was the day Job Charnock first came to the village of Sutanuti in 1686. Incidentally, on the same date in the year 1690, Charnock celebrated his triumph over the land of Sutanuti by marking the occasion with a ‘Lavish offering’ at a local Kali Temple. Presently, Job Charnock’s mausoleum is located at the compound of St. John’s Church.


In 1706, a survey was carried by a local zamindar to determine the total area of land surrounding the three villages of Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikat. The survey revealed the total area covered was around a rough figure of 5077 bighas of land. Of this only 841 bighas of land was inhabited by settlement; the rest included 1525 bigha of rice fields, 486 bigha of forest spread, 250 bigha of banana plantation, 187 bigha of tobacco plantation, 150 bigha of vegetable plantation, 307 bigha of ancestral land of the natives, 167 bighas of land belonging to the aristocracy, 116 bigha comprising of roads, tanks, wells, etc. and finally 1144 bigha of wasteland.