In This Article Kolkata/Calcutta

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Vaiṣṇavism
  • Guru Traditions
  • Non-Bengali Hindu Communities
  • Hindu Communalism

Hinduism Kolkata/Calcutta
by
Deonnie Moodie
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 March 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0232

Introduction

Some may ponder the relevance of an entry on “Kolkata” in a bibliography on Hinduism. By official accounts, this is not a Hindu city. Nor is it a city with ties to a Hindu kingdom. It is instead a modern city made famous for being the first capital of the British Empire in India. Kolkata is, however, the largest city in the region of Bengal that is home to long-standing and distinctive Hindu traditions. Hindus furthermore make up about 75 percent of the city’s population. As such, Kolkata is home to some of the most well-known and well-frequented temples in the region and also hosts some of the most elaborate celebrations of Bengali Hindu festivals. As a major metropolis, it is also home to vibrant non-Bengali Hindu traditions. Hindus in Kolkata furthermore live alongside a very large Muslim minority as well as smaller religious and ethnic minority communities—leading at times to catholic and hybrid manifestations of Hinduism, and at other times to more defensive ones. Another reason Kolkata is an important site for the study of Hinduism is that it was the center of major Hindu reform and revival movements in the 19th century that went on to shape nationalist movements across India, and continue to influence the way Hinduism is understood around the world today. The first half of this bibliography addresses Hindu sites, practices, and communities in the city, while the second half focuses on major Hindu debates, movements, and leaders that emerged in the city during the colonial era. A short note on scope: This is a bibliography on Kolkata, and yet—much like the category “Hinduism” itself—this is not a bounded entity that lends itself to easy demarcation. It refers to a territory that originally included only three villages on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River: Sutāṇuṭi, Kalikātā, and Govindapur. Yet the Kolkata metropolitan area today includes over 700 square miles of territory that includes towns as far north as Barrackpore, as far south as Joka, and that extends eastward to new developments such as Salt Lake and New Town. This bibliography takes the term “Kolkata” (and “Calcutta” when referring to the city prior to its official name change in 2001) quite liberally. It includes studies dealing with sites close to the city as well as those that hearken to the city as their major locus of authority.

General Overviews

There are no overviews of Hinduism in Kolkata as such. However, Chaudhuri 1990 and Dutta 2008 provide comprehensive studies of the city that include articles about its Hindu heritage. Biswas 1980 is a very useful resource in its meticulous documentation of Hindu temples in the city in the 1970s. Biswas 1985 provides the same, though in shortened and more accessible form.

  • Biswas, Liny. “Hinduism in a Dynamic Urban Setting: The Temples and Shrines of Calcutta.” PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1980.

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    A comprehensive study of Hindu sites in Calcutta in the 1970s based on fieldwork and surveys. This work is helpfully divided by city region and according to the following classificatory scheme: family temples, institutional temples, community temples and shrines, and priest-owned temples and shrines.

  • Biswas, Liny. “Religious Landscape and Hindu Temples of Calcutta.” Geographical Review of India 41.1 (1985): 64–73.

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    A more easily accessible précis of Biswas’s work. While far shorter than the dissertation, this article provides valuable data on Hindu sites in the city and includes maps.

  • Chaudhuri, Sukanta, ed. Calcutta: The Living City. 2 Vols. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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    An encyclopedic account of the city that includes eighty-six short essays covering everything from religion and theater to infrastructure and trade. On Hinduism, see “Calcutta: The Name” (p. 1), “Kalighat” (pp. 24–26), “Calcutta and the ‘Bengal Renaissance’” (pp. 95–105) in Volume I, and “The Marwaris of Calcutta” (pp. 109–112) and “Durga Puja in Calcutta” (pp. 331–336) in Volume II.

  • Dutta, Krishna. Calcutta: A Cultural History. Northampton, MA: Interlink Publishing, 2008.

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    A helpful introduction to the history and culture of the city, including chapters on “Babus,” “Sahibs,” and “Reformers,” as well as religious communalism in the wake of India’s independence.

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