Kharagpur is an important industrial city in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal, India. It is multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city. It is the most populated city of Paschim Medinipur district. The first Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), a group of Institutes of National Importance, was founded in Kharagpur as early as in May 1950. It is 116 km from Kolkata and forms an important station on Howrah-Mumbai, Howrah-Chennai road and railway route. This city also has one of the largest railway workshops in India, and the third longest railway platform in the world (1072.5 m). Kharagpur also has the Asia’s largest Railway Solid State Interlocking (SSI) system. Kharagpur has an Air Force base in Kalaikunda, and another in Salua. There have been plans by the IAF to allow civil flights in Kalaikunda.. Recently, government have revealed plans to establish a civilian airport
Kharagpur received its name from the twelfth king of Mallabhum, Kharga Malla, when he conquered it. Kharagpur was a part of the Hijli Kingdom and ruled by Hindu Oriya rulers as a feudatory under Gajapati Kings of Orissa. Historians claim that in the 16th century, Kharagpur was still a small village surrounded by dense forests. The village was on high rocky barren land. The only inhabited settlement near Kharagpur was Hijli. Hijli was a small island village on the banks of the Rasulpur River, in the delta of Bay of Bengal. It developed into a port town in 1687. Hijli was also a province and it existed until 1886. It covered parts of Bengal and Orissa. It had important towns like Tamluk, Panskura, and Debra, along with the Kelghai and Haldi rivers on the north, south, and east sides bounded by Bay of Bengaland Kharagpur, Keshiary, Dantan, and Jaleswar on the west.
Hijli was ruled by Taj Khan who was the disciple of Guru Peer Mackdram Sha Chisti. It was also ruled by the Kushan, Gupta, and Pal dynasties, and by the Mughals. It is said that Hijli had excellent business and trade centers with judiciary, prison, and administrative offices during the reign of Hindu Kings and during the Mughal Raj. The capital of Hijli was in Bahiri up to 1628 and was shifted to Hijli afterwards. Hijli Province was at its peak in 1754 and was highly prosperous during this period.
Captain Nicolson was the first English colonialist to invade Hijli and captured the port. In 1687 Job Charnock with soldiers and warships captured Hijli, defeating Hindu and Mughal defenders. After the war with the Mughals, a treaty was signed between Job Charnock and the Mughal Emperor. The loss suffered by Job Charnock forced him to leave Hijli and to proceed towards Uluberia, while the Mughal Emperor continued to rule the province. From there, they finally settled at Sutanuti in Kolkata to establish their business in Eastern India. This was the start of the East India Company in India. Hijli as we know it today is only a small part of the Hijli Province, and was created for establishing administrative offices by the British in the 19th century. It is curious that almost the entire Kharagpur division of today has boundaries identical to Hijli Province.
In the 18th century Khejuri, another port town was set up on the banks of the Koukhali River in the delta region. It was established by the British primarily for carrying out trade with European countries. Khejuri was also an island. In the devastating cyclone of 1864, both ports were destroyed. The islands have since merged with the mainland.
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