The Indian state West Bengal is situated on the Bay of Bengal in East India. Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal which also happens to be the third largest city in India. West Bengal is one of the jewels in the crown of Incredible India. The origin of the state’s name ‘Bengal’ is unclear. A theory suggests that the word Bengal was borrowed from the Dravidian tribe “Bang” which settled in Bengal around the 1000 BC. As per the national consensus of 2011, West Bengal happens to be the 4th most populous Indian state and has a city population of around 92,000,000.
History of West Bengal – The Formation
The history of West Bengal is believed to date back to the 2nd century BC. It is believed that the land of West Bengal has been the site of various crucial Janapadas like the Vanga, Pundra, Radha and Suhma. The emperors like Ashoka and Guptas took turns to rule the region while a number of Sultans reigned over the lands till the ‘Battle of Plassey’ in 1757. The great Bengal Renaissance took place during the British rule.
Later in 1947, India got its freedom from the British rule; Bengal was divided into East Bengal (now known as Bangladesh) and West Bengal. West Bengal also saw the reign of the world’s longest elected communist government from the year 1977 to 2011. It is also speculated the word ‘Bengal’ could have been derived from the civilization of Vanga.
Geography of West Bengal
The state of West Bengal is situated on the map at 23 degrees N and 88 degrees E. It spreads across an area of 88,752 square kilometers. It has the Darjeeling Himalayan region to its North and the Bay of Bengal to its South. The geography of the state is divided into 20 Tehsils, which comprises cities, villages and towns.
Biodiversity of West Bengal
West Bengal has a rich and varied biodiversity owing to its distinct climatic conditions and topography. The state abounds in both scenic beauty and historic value; while the scenic beauty is represented through the presence of rich bio-diversity, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, hills and mountains the glorious past and architecture manifests the beauty of history.
Climatic Conditions of West Bengal
The state experiences distinct climatic condition owing to the factor that the region enjoys both tropical Savanna and sub-tropical climate. The majority of West Bengal experiences humid summers that range between 38°C-45°C, thunderstorms known as Nor’Westers or Kalbaisakhi are a common occurrence in summer.
The months of June- September brings heavy rains to the region while the winter season lasts from December to January with a mild to severely cold weather depending on the location. The best time to visit the plains and deltas is from October to February while the mountains are from March to June and also from September to December.
West Bengal Culture
The Baul tradition is a perfect example of the unique culture and heritage of the Bengali folk and traditional music. Other popular forms of folk music include the Bhawaiya and Gombhira. The one-stringed ‘Ek Tara’ plays a crucial role in folk music. The songs composed by Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam are popular in Bengal as the Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Geeti.
Musical forms like Atul Prasad and Dwijendra Lal’s songs, Shyama Sangeet are also popular regional songs. The Bengali dance forms are largely inspired by the folk traditions, customs and rituals of the tribal groups. The Chhau dance of the Purulia district is a unique form of folk dance performed wearing masks.
Interesting Facts about West Bengal
- West Bengal has 5 national parks and 15 wildlife sanctuaries.
- The highest peak of West Bengal is in Sandakfu – 3636m.
- A part of the world’s largest mangroves, Sundarbans is situated in Southern West Bengal.
- West Bengal contributes 7.8% to India’s total population.
- As per the consensus of 2011, West Bengal is the 2nd most densely populated state and has a population density of 1,029 inhabitants per square kilometers.
- 72% of the population lives in rural areas.
- The fishing cat is the state animal.
- The white throated kingfisher is the state bird.
- The night flowering jasmine is the state flower.
- As per 2015 consensus, in India, West Bengal has the fifth highest GSDP.
- The folklore of the Petni, Shakchunni, Tantrics who practiced black magic, Meccho Bhoot, Gecho Bhoot, Mamdo Bhoot, Skondhokata, and Brahmodaittyo are popular ghost stories.
West Bengal Tourism: Best Tourist Attractions
The place is a buzzing hub of Indian tourism, especially tourism in West Bengal, there is a large availability of lodging facilities in forms of hotels and resorts. The following are some of the popular places to visit in West Bengal:
- Religious Places: The famous temples are a living example of the exemplary architecture and culture of the past. Jorebangla Temple, Isckon Temple, Birla Temple, Pancha Ratna Temple, Radha Govinda Temple, Sarbamangala Temple, Gate of Old For and Dandeswar Mahadev Temple are some of the top attractions. Kalighat, Belur Math Shrine, Tarapith are some other popular destinations. The culturally rich and diverse capital city is the largest metropolitan in the nation. The devotes can pay their homage in this religious land.
- Hill Stations: Darjeeling tops the list of best honeymoon destinations and is the star of West Bengal hill stations. The region is rich in bio diversity and the snow-covered peak of the mighty Kanchenjunga and Sandakphu offers a breathtaking view. Bankura besides having historic significance, the place also boats of fine architecture. Some leading tourist spots of the region include the Biharinath Hill, Susunia Hills, Mukutmonipur Dam, Krishna-Balaram Temple, Ganesh and Nandi Statue. Dense forest of the Himalayan foothills and lush green tea gardens offer a scenic view and make it one of the best vacation spot and romantic places for couples in West Bengal.
- Adventurous Places: There are lots of places in West Bengal that promises fun adventure. You can practice rowing, bowling, trekking, hiking in this land offering promising beauty. ‘Bicycling in Tea Gardens’ is one of the main attraction of this fun tourist destination. Monsoon car rally and water sports have always raised the craze among the tourists and natives. The Hazarduari Palace Museum, Imambara, Wasef Manzil, Jalangi River, Nasipur Palace, Katra Mosque and Jahankosha Canon are among the major places to visit. The Tiger Hill is another splendid tourist place which also serves as one of the major adventurous places owing to fact that it harbors some of the most popular trekking and water rafting activity zones in the state.
- National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries: West Bengal attracts a lot of tourists who are passionate about adventures and love to admire the beauty of nature. The ease of accessing the route of Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas is its added benefit. It is a flourishing hub of tourism in West Bengal. Some of the popular destinations in Jalpaiguri include the Dooars, Gorumara National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve and Mendabari Fort. The Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Chilapata Forest, Coronation Bridge, Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, Neora National Park, Kanchenjunga Stadium, Shorea Forest Recreation Center, Alipur Zoo, Keibul Lamjao National Park, Loukoipat Ecological Park Fulbari Barrage, Sevoke, Kalijhora, and Mongpong are popular tourist hubs.
The other great tourist place is Birbhum which is popularly known as the ‘Land of the Brave’. It has a significant historical importance and is among the top West Bengal tourist places. The red soil of the region harbours some of the famous sightseeing places that include Shantiniketan, Ballabhpur wildlife sanctuary, temple of Nandikeswari and Kankali Pith.
Howrah Bridge, Botanical Gardens, Victoria Hall, Mother House, Fort William, Eco Tourism Park, Science City, Marble Palace, Indian Museum, Park Street and a number of shopping malls and haunted places of the cities are some of the best tourist attractions in Kolkata.
People of West Bengal
West Bengal has a rich culture and heritage which is a direct result of diverse religious composition and varied characteristics. The ethnicity comprises of the local Bengalis or the Bongs, the Biharis, Marwaris, Gurkhas, Nepalis, Tribal Adivasis, the Anglo-Indian community, the Chinese, Punjabis, Tamils, Odias, Armenians, Jews, Gujaratis, Parsis, Assamese, the Buddhist communities and many other communities. The widely spoken regional language of the state is Bengali. Other popular languages include Hindi, Nepalese and English.
West Bengal Cuisines
Among the traditional cuisines, rice and fish are widely popular. There is a variety of fish based dishes in the region and the most popular recipes include the Hilsa. The confectionery industry of Bengal has flourished owing to the close association with the religious and social ceremonies. Sweets like Roshogolla, Kalojam, Misti Doi, Chamcham and Sondesh are among the favourite sweets of the Bengalees. Pitha, Narkol-naru, Til-naru, Payesh, Moa, etc. are other delicious sweets. The most popular street food include Beguni, Aloor Chop, Biryani, Kathi Roll and Puchhka.
Major Festivals in West Bengal
Durga Puja, Christmas or Borodin, Ratha Yatra, Holi Poila Baishak, Dol Yatra, Diwali, Kali Puja, Bhai Phonta, Laxmi Puja, Saraswati Puja, Budhha Purnima, Losar, Eid Ul Fitr, Wid Ul Adha, Muharram, Kalpataru Day, etc. are the major celebrations of the state and are observed with great devotion and gusto. Popular socio cultural festivals of the state include Rabindra Jayanti, the Kolkata Book Fair, the Kolkata Film Festival, the Kolkata Food Festival, and Nazrul Jayanti.
Popular Fairs in West Bengal
The Poush Mela is a renowned fair of the Shantiniketan, it is held in the winter season. Folk dance, music and theatre are the major attractions of the fair. The Ganga Sagar fair overlaps with the festival of Makar Sankranti. On this auspicious day, a large number of Hindu pilgrims unite at the confluence of River Ganges and the sea to take a holy dip in the water.
Clothing Trends in West Bengal
Saree and Salwar Kameez are popular traditional dresses of women, while in the urban areas, most women prefer following latest clothing trends and wearing Western attire that includes jeans and top, skirts and dresses. Men are more comfortable in Western wear but also prefer wearing the traditional Dhuti on cultural occasions. Both men and women are up-to-date with the recent fashion trends.
The average literacy rate of the state is 77.08%. The state has promoted the policy of foreign direct investment, which has the potential to revive the social and industrial sector of West Bengal and bring notable development. The growth in the Information Technology is bound to benefit the state and the entire nation on a whole. Bangalees are always ready for coping up with latest fashion trends. West Bengal tourism has developed over years and this rich land of cultures always promises pleasant experiences.
List of Districts in West Bengal
|15||North Twenty Four Parganas|
|19||South Twenty Four Parganas|