Sonagachi, translated as Golden Tree, is the largest red-light district in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. It is an area with several hundred multi-story brothels and some 10,000 sex workers. Sonagachi is located in North-Kolkata, near the intersection of Chittaranjan Avenue Sova Bazar and Beadon Street, just north of the Marble Palace.
The tradition of Kolkata sex workers taking control of their lives is as old as its first red light district. Five miles away, in the slums surrounding the Kalighat temple, one of the holiest sites in Hinduism, lies the birth place of the city’s sex industry. Hundreds of years ago, widows and other socially outcast women would migrate here hoping for room and board from temple priests. While they were given a little food and a place on the floor to sleep, resident priests and upper caste men who visited the temple often required sex as a form of payment. Recognizing that demand for sex far exceeded the returns they received, these women began a community alongside the temple and started charging for their services, and organized prostitution was born.