West Bengal State General Information

Capital : Kolkata

Districts :19

Languages: Bengali, Hindi, English

Introduction to West Bengal

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee composed his famous song, “Vande Mataram”, in 1882, he was in many ways symbolizing the beauty of Bengal. Some things here are still eternal. The rich culture of the state binds the population together through its unique unity in diversity and offers matchless geographical variety to its visitors. West Bengal, located in the eastern part of the Indian peninsula, is one of the country’s medium-sized, states. However, in its physical form, it is a complete representation of the Indian subcontinent. Darjeeling, its northern end, is embraced by the arms of the mighty Himalayas. The Dooars in the foothills are rich in forest. The unconquerable river Ganga flows across the state’s rich alluvial plains to reach the Bay of Bengal in the south, through vast swamps that are known as the Sundarbans.

Geography of West Bengal

West Bengal is stretching for about 300 miles from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, West Bengal’s geography is as diversified as its culture. Through West Bengal runs the tropic of cancer. West Bengal is surrounded by the three international frontiers in the north, namely, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. On its northeast lies the green valley of Assam. On the east lies Bangladesh. Bihar lies on the western side. To the southwest, lies Orissa, the state with, its golden beaches, and the Bay of Bengal lies to the south of West Bengal. Starting from the mighty Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south, West Bengal is a cluster of varied physical features. Coming downward, the state houses some of the rare species of wildlife in the Sundarbans that is also the natural habitat of the famous Royal Bengal Tiger. Between the Himalayan mountain region and the delta region lie the fertile Gangetic plains.

Brief History of West Bengal

West Bengal was formerly known as Vanga and was spread over a vast area. Ruled by several dynasties from ancient times, the actual history of this region is, however, available from the Gupta period. The prosperity and the importance of the state increased largely when the British East India Company took over the place. It was a widespread Bengal province until under the terms of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, the province of Bengal ceased to exist. The Muslim-dominated districts, namely, Chittagong, Dacca and part of Presidency and Rajshahi division went to the present-day Bangladesh and the state of West Bengal came into existence in 1947.

The district of Cooch Behar was merged with the state on January 1, 1950. The former Chandernogor came within the state on October 2, 1954 and the state got its present political boundary when, according to the States Reorganization Act, part of the state of Bihar was transferred to West Bengal.

Government of West Bengal

Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has been the Chief Minister of West Bengal since November 6, 2000. He is also a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Districts of West Bengal

There are 19 districts in West Bengal, namely:

Bankura, Bardhaman, Birbhum, Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, District East Midnapore. Hooghly. Howrah. Jalpaiguri. Kolkata, Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, District North 24 Parganas, North Dinajpur, Purulia, South 24 Parganas, South Dinajpur & West Midnapore.

Economy of West Bengal

Minerals, like rock phosphate, fire clay, iron, limestone, copper, silica, quartz, manganese and sandstone are found in a considerable amount in the state. As a result, a few industries related to these are being established in the state. Steel and alloy steel plants in Durgapur and another steel plant in Burnpur are some of the important industries of the state. Other industries include jute, tea, cotton textiles, automobiles, bicycle, footwear, leather, paper, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, aluminum, sugar, timber processing, ceramic, glass, bone metal, and dairy. Fifty-five percent of the population of West Bengal depends upon agriculture. In fact, agriculture makes a substantial contribution to the state’s income. West Bengal accounts for 57.3% of the total jute and 24% of the total tea produced in the country. Pulses, oilseeds, barley, maize, betel leaf, tobacco and sugarcane are some of the other agricultural products of West Bengal. Moreover, there are several multipurpose irrigation schemes in West Bengal, namely, the Damodar Valley, Mayurakshi, Kangsbati and Subarnarekha Barrage. The irrigation schemes are Teesta-Mahananda link canal in Jalpaiguri district, Terageria and Turga irrigation scheme in Purulia, Hinlow irrigation scheme in Birbhum district and Sohajare scheme in Bankura district.

West Bengal Travel Information

West Bengal is one of the first destinations in a tourist’s itinerary visiting the eastern part of the country. Calcutta (Kolkata), the capital of the state, is the proud intellectual capital of the country. The city has made outstanding contribution to the country in the fields of art, science, medicine, social reform and literature. The city retains some of the most striking colonial buildings of the country. It used to be the capital of the British East India Company and the evidence of the British colonization continues in the city even today. The Victoria Memorial is a majestic house constructed in the memory of Queen Victoria. This building houses a number of rare specimens of the historical preserves of the land. Moreover, the manuscripts, the paintings and the sculptures here are outstanding. Howrah Bridge is yet another landmark that denotes this city of joy. This hanging bridge is an architectural marvel of the country. The second largest planetarium in Asia, the Birla Planetarium, is another site that attracts attention of all, regardless of their age.

The Botanical Garden with its 250-year-old banyan tree (Ficus bengalhensis) is another, attraction of the city. The Dakshineshwar Temple is an important pilgrimage center that attracts a number of tourists as well as pilgrims from all over the country. It is said that Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the spiritual guru of Swami Vivekananda, used to worship Goddess Kali in this place. The recently built Vidyasagar Setu, another architectural marvel, connects both the banks of the Hooghly River. Thakur Bari, the residence of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, is another site that receives a herd of visitors every year. Moreover, the Metro Railway, National Library, Shaheed Minar, Eden Garden, Fort William, Rat Park and Marble Palace are some of the other sites of the city that are worth visiting.

Shantiniketan, Tagore’s university township, is a must on any itinerary that plots Bengal as a stopover. Just two and a half hours away by rail from Calcutta, this town in the Birbhum district is rich in culture and art. At Tagore’s residence in the Uttarayan complex, one could visit the museum and his various homes. From Shantiniketan, you could also take a stopover at Bakreswar, where ancient Kali and Shiva temples rise into the azure sky. The hot springs are famous for curing many chronic diseases. For witnessing the sheer magnificence of the mountains, untouched and unspoiled, one should visit the hill station of Darjeeling, located 7,000 feet above sea level. Darjeeling is famous for its flavored tea all over the world. The brew is often compared to champagne and the tea gardens that dot the slopes are witness to this gigantic industry. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is a paradise for trekkers. West Bengal has lot more to offer as a tourist destination.-- Digha, Siliguri, Gaur, Pandua, Murshidabad, Bishnupur, Haldia and the Sunderban Tiger Reserve are some of the few places of West Bengal that need to be mentioned here.

Rivers of West Bengal

The main rivers of the state are: Teesta, Brahamaputra, Jaldhaka, Torsha, Sankosh, Raidak, Mahananda, Mahanadi, Balason, Machi, Tangan, Punarbhava, Atrai, Ganga, Bhagirathi, Mayurakshi, Brahmani, Dwaraka, Bakreswar, Kopai, Damodar, Hooghly, Rupanarayan, Kansabati or Kasai and Subarnarekha

Education in West Bengal

In the whole of the rural West Bengal and in the most of the municipal areas the primary education is free and compulsory. Free supply of text books have been under taken. Girls education up to standard VIII has been made free in rural and urban areas, including Calcutta. Schools in West Bengal are either run by the state government or by private organisations. Schools mainly use English or Bengali as the medium of instruction, though Hindi and Urdu may also be used. The schools are affiliated with the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), or the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. West Bengal has fifteen universities. The University of Calcutta has more than 200 affiliated colleges. Bengal Engineering & Science University and Jadavpur University have notable engineering institutions. Notable collegess include Presidency College, St. Xavier's College, Medical College Kolkata. The state has many higher education institutes of national importance including Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, National Institute of Technology, Durgapur, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Asiatic Society, Indian Statistical Institute, Marine Engineering and Research Institute etc.

Food of West Bengal

Among all East Indian food, Bengali food is known all over for its varied taste and flavor. The cuisine contains sweets as well as other meal accompanying dishes. The sweets made from milk and curds, namely, rasogolla, sondesh, malai somsom, chana mukhi, and raj bhog are especially famous all over India. Above all, the fish preparation of Bengal is a culinary delight for the non-vegetarian food lovers. Fish of different varieties are prepared mostly with mustard oil and mustard seeds. Fish items are sometimes marinated in spices and sometimes cooked with curd. The ilcha macher jhol is an all-time favorite. Misti doi or sweet curd is another delicacy worth savoring. The Bengali is predominantly a rice eater. All but the very devout Hindus eat fish as a principal item of their food. Bengalis prefer to other beverages, the habit of taking sweetened tea has a spread to their remotest villages. Chewing of pan laced with lime, Kattha and arecanut is universal. Drinking of palm juice today and home made alcoholic brews is largely confined to industrial labour and the tribal population.

Arts & Culture of West Bengal

The attire of the Bengalis is very much Indian in origin. The main dress for the male is a cotton dhoti and silk or muslin kurta with a long cloth that is placed on the shoulder and neck. The women wear cotton saris especially known as Bangla tanter saree that is worn in a unique way, where the pallav of the saree comes from the backside of the wearer. The ethnicity of the state is diversified. The majority of the people are Bengalis. Some of the tribal groups like the Santhals and Oraon live in the remote plains whereas, the Lepchas and Bhotias live in the Himalayan regions of the state. Eighty-five percent of the population speaks Bengali whereas the remaining speaks Hindi, Urdu and other tribal languages.

Though the music of the state is not very old, it has gained a lot more maturity in its journey to perfection in the last 200 years. However, in the long run, Bengali music, especially Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Geeti and baul songs have successfully made their mark in the world of Indian music.

Festivals of West Bengal

Besides the other festivals of the Hindu solar calendar, Durga Puja is the one that gains the ultimate importance and attention in West Bengal. Durga Puja is an extravaganza of almost seven days, but, the preparation starts months before the actual event. New clothes are an integral part of Puja for every Bengali. Besides Durga Puja; Saraswati Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja and Janmashtami are some other festivals that are given special attention in Bengal. The art and craft of West Bengal is known world over. Decent with the touch of minute observation, Bengali art and craft are unique. The leather products of Bengal are very famous all over the country.

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