Howrah is an industrial city, a municipal corporation in the Howrah district, West Bengal, India. It is the second largest city of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is the headquarters of the district, and also the headquarters of the Howrah Sadar subdivision of the district. Located on the west bank of the Hoogli River, it is a twin city to Kolkata. Howrah is the second smallest district after Kolkata. The two cities are connected by four bridges on the river Ganges, these being the Howrah Bridge (also known asRabindra Setu), the Vidyasagar Setu (also known as the second Hooghly Bridge), the Vivekananda Setu (also known as Bally Bridge), the Nivedita Setu (also known as Second Vivekananda Setu and ferry services between various jetties in the two cities.
The history of the city of Howrah dates back over 500 years, but the district is situated in an area historically occupied by the ancient Bengali kingdom of Bhurshut. Venetian explorer Cesare Federici, who travelled in India during 1565–79, mentioned a place called Buttor in his journal circa 1578. As per his description, this was the a location into which large ships could travel (presumably the Hoogli River) and perhaps a commercial port.This place is identifiable with the modern day neighbourhood of Bator. Bator was also mentioned in the Bengali poetry Manasamangal written by Bipradas Pipilai in 1495.
In 1713, the Bengal Council of the British East India Company, on the accession of the Emperor Farrukhsiyar, grandson of Aurangzeb, to the throne of Delhi, sent a deputation to him with a petition for a settlement of five villages on west bank of Hooghly river along with thirty-three villages on the east bank. The list of villages appeared in the Consultation Book of the Council dated 4 May 1714. The five villages on the west bank on Hooghly river were: ‘Salica’ (Salkia), ‘Harirah’ (Howrah), ‘Cassundeah’ (Kasundia), ‘Ramkrishnopoor’ (Ramkrishnapur), and ‘Battar’ (Bator): all identifiable with localities of modern day Howrah city. The deputation was successful except for these five villages. By 1728, most of the present day Howrah district was part of either of the two zamindaris: Burdwan or Muhammand Aminpur. After Battle of Plassey, as per the treaty signed with the Nawab of Bengal, Mir Qasim, on 11 October 1760, Howrah district (then part of Burdwan) came under control of East India Company. In 1787, the Hooghly district was formed, and till 1819, the whole of the present day Howrah district was added to it. The Howrah district was separated from the Hooghly district in 1843.
With the establishment of the Howrah Railway Terminus in 1854 started the most important phase of its industrial development. Flour mills were established in 1855, followed by Jute mills and around the 1870s, there were five mills near Howrah station. The Howrah–Shalimar Railway Section and the Shalimar Terminus were constructed in 1883. By 1914 almost every major city in India was served by the Railways and the increased demand for its rolling stocks and repair works resulted in the establishment of railway workshop in Howrah. The light engineering industry grew up after 1914. This industrial boom continued throughout the second world war and brought with it rapid urbanisation phase in unplanned manner creating slums near the industrial establishments. Today, Howrah is famous for Howrah Station and Howrah Bridge.
Howrah is located at 22.59°N 88.31°E. It has an average elevation of 12 metres (39 feet).
As of 2011 India census, Howrah had a population of 1,072,161. Males constitute 52.28% of the population and females 47.72%. Howrah has an average literacy rate of 89.86%, higher than the national average of 74.04%: male literacy is 92.34%, and female literacy is 87.13%. In Howrah, 8% of the population is under 6 years of age.
As of 1896 census of British India, Howrah had a population of 84,069, which grew up to 157,594 in 1901 census. This rapid growth was due to abundance of job opportunities, which effected in a 100% increase in male population during this period, whereas the female population grew up only by 60%
Burn Standard Company (BSCL, established in 1781), a major company in heavy engineering industry, which is now part of Bharat Bhari Udyog Nigam Limited (BBUNL), has its oldest manufacturing unit located in Howrah. In 1823, Bishop Reginald Heber described Howrah as the place “chiefly inhabited by shipbuilders”. The Howrah plant of Shalimar Paints (established in 1902) was the first large-scale paint manufacturing plant to be set up not only in India but in entire South East Asia.
Jute industry suffered during the Partition of Bengal (1947), when the larger jute production area became part of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The foundry industry saw a decline in demand due to growth in steel industry.
Often termed as Sheffield of the East, Howrah is known today as an engineering hub, mainly in the area of light engineering industry. There are small engineering firms all over Howrah, particularly around Belilios Road area near Howrah station. Even though it is the second largest city in the state, it did not undertake appropriate infrastructure development in the last century. As a result, Howrah is continuing to face its perennial problems like traffic congestion, population explosion and pollution. The ratio of roadspace to the population is too low in this city, even comparatively smaller towns like Baharampur enjoy a better ratio. The emigrant labor force from the rest of the state’s rural areas and neighboring states take refuge in the cheaper quarters in Howrah, bringing the already poor infrastructure to the brink of collapse. Many times such migrations reduce a locality to a poor-infrastructure slum. The name of the novel City of Joy, which has been often the name the Kolkata metropolis been called, is actually based on one such slum of Howrah. However, recently, work has been done on broadening the national highways and several towns roads. These activities are expected to help in improvement of traffic conditions. Of late, Howrah has seen a lot of new industrial proposals like the Kona Truck Terminus, Kolkata West International City and relocation of the old smoky foundry plants.