Kolkata, Bengali Kalikata, formerly Calcutta, city, capital of West Bengal state, and former capital (1772–1911) of British India. It is one of India’s largest cities and one of its major ports. The city is centred on the east bank of the Hugli (Hooghly) River, once the main channel of the Ganges (Ganga) River, about 96 miles (154 km) upstream from the head of the Bay of Bengal; there the port city developed as a point of transshipment from water to land and from river to sea. A city of commerce, transport, and manufacture, Kolkata is the dominant urban centre of eastern India.