(Editor’s Note: Information below originally appeared as part of the Global Urban Trek.)
Kolkata (formerly named Calcutta), the capital city of West Bengal in Eastern India, is home to between thirteen and fourteen million people. The city was founded by the British in 1690, and as the capital city of the British East India Company, grew to become the largest city in Asia, and a primary political, commercial and intellectual center.
Independence from Britain in 1947, and the partition of the subcontinent into “Hindu” India and “Muslim” Pakistan (including modern-day Bangladesh) resulted in large-scale communal rioting and bloodshed. Kolkata was flooded with millions of immigrants in 1947, 1951 and 1971. These huge waves of immigrants, combined with communal violence, political turmoil and corruption, have contributed to the enormous economic depression in Kolkata that has brought the city to an advanced state of decay and poverty today. Operation World describes Kolkata as the city with the lowest urban standard of living in the world, with 5.5 million residents living in squatter conditions.
Kolkata is named for Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction. More than two thousand altars and shrines devoted to Kali are found throughout the city. The people groups of Kolkata have only scarcely been touched with the gospel. Approximately seventy-six percent of Kolkata's residents are Hindus, and twenty-three percent are Muslims. Less than one-tenth of one percent of Kolkatans are evangelical Christians.
In this environment are servants of Christ surrendering all to bring the hope of the gospel to this darkened land. Click here to read how one community of believers is seeking to restore life in the red light districts of Kolkata.