Kolkata served as the capital of India during the British Raj until 1911, when its perceived geographical disadvantages and a growing nationalism in Bengal led officials to shift the capital to New Delhi. The city is noted for its vibrant political culture. It was a center of the Indian struggle for independence and remains a hotbed of contemporary politics. Once the center of modern education, science, culture, and politics in India, Kolkata witnessed economic stagnation in the years following India's independence in 1947. However, since the year 2000, economic rejuvenation has led to an acceleration in the city's growth. Like other metropolitan cities in developing countries, Kolkata continues to deal with contemporary urban problems like pollution and traffic congestion. Despite such problems, it remains the dominant urban area of eastern India and the major economic,educational and cultural hub.
The Kolkata Book Fair (Old name: Calcutta Book Fair in English, and officially Kolkata Boimela or Kolkata Pustakmela in romanized Bengali, Bengali: কলকাতা বইমেলা বা কলকাতা পুস্তকমেলা) is a winter fair in Kolkata. It is a unique book fair in the sense of not being a trade fair - the book fair is primarily for the general public rather than whole-sale distributors. It is the world's largest non-trade book fair, Asia's largest book fair and the most attended book fair in the world. It is the world's third largest annual conglomeration of books after the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair. Many Kolkatans consider the book fair an inherent part of Kolkata, and instances of people visiting the fair every day during its duration is not uncommon. The fair also has a typical fairground experience with a book flavour - with the presence of picnickers, singer-songwriters, and candy floss vendors on the fair premises. With a total footfall of over 2 million people, it is world's largest book fair by attendance.
The popularity of the Kolkata Book Fair was seminal in India being nominated the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2006, according to the Frankfurt Book Fair organizers. The book fair has been celebrated in theatre, literature, songs and limericks inKolkata.
Kolkata has long been known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage. As the former capital of India, Kolkata was the birthplace of modern Indian literary and artistic thought. Kolkatans tend to have a special appreciation for art and literature; its tradition of welcoming new talent has made it a City of Furious Creative Energy. For these reasons, Kolkata has often been dubbed as the Cultural Capital of India or the Literary Capital of India.
A characteristic feature of Kolkata is with the para or neighbourhoods having a strong sense of community. Typically, every para has its own community club with a clubroom and often, a playing field. People here habitually indulge in adda, or leisurely chat, and these adda sessions are often a form of freestyle intellectual conversation. The city has a tradition of political graffiti depicting everything from outrageous slander to witty banter and limericks, caricatures to propaganda.
Kolkata is also an important centre of art and has hosted many important artists like Abanindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, Ram Kinker Baij, Bikash Bhattacharya, Paresh Maity and Devajyoti Ray. In the 1960s, the city has seen the emergence of the famous Calcutta Group, which preceded the Progressive Artists Group in field of modern Indian art. In 2005, the first exhibition on Pseudorealism was held at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture. The city continues to be the home of one of the most passionate lovers of art in country. Kolkata is often also called the backyard of Indian art.
The city is also noted for its appreciation of Rabindrasangeet and Indian classical music as well as Bengali folk music such asbaul and kirtans and gajan, and modern songs including Bengali adhunik songs. From the early 1990s, there has been an emergence of new genres| of music, including the emergence of what has been called Bengali Jeebonmukhi Gaan (a modern genre based on realism).
Key elements of Kolkata's cuisine include rice and Machher jhol (fish curry), with roshogolla, sandesh and mishti dohi(sweet yoghurt) as dessert. Bengal's vast repertoire of fish-based dishes includes various eelish preparations (a favorite among Bengalis). Street foods such as beguni (fried battered eggplant slices), kati roll (flatbread roll with vegetable or chicken,mutton, or egg stuffing), phuchka (deep fried crêpe with tamarind and lentil sauce) and Indian Chinese cuisine fromChina Town in the eastern parts of the city are quite popular. Sweets occupy an important place in the diet of Kolkatans and at their social ceremonies.
Bengali women commonly wear the shaŗi as per tradition and global/western outfits. Among men, western dressing has greater acceptance, though the traditional dhoti and panjabi/kurta comes to life on festivals.