The Info List - West Bengal

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WEST BENGAL (/wɛst bɛŋˈɡɔːl/ ) is an Indian state located in Eastern India
on the Bay of Bengal . It is India's fourth-most populous state, with over 91 million inhabitants (as of 2011). It has an area of 88,752 km2 (34,267 sq mi). A part of the ethno-linguistic Bengal region, it borders Bangladesh in the east, and Nepal and Bhutan in the north; it borders five Indian states, Odisha , Jharkhand , Bihar , Sikkim and Assam . The state capital is Kolkata
(Calcutta), the seventh-largest city in India
. The geography of West Bengal includes the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region in its extreme north, the Ganges delta , the Rarh region and the coastal Sundarbans . The main ethnic group are the Bengalis , with Bengali Hindus forming the demographic majority.

Ancient Bengal was the site of several major _janapadas _. In the 2nd century BCE, the region was conquered by the emperor Ashoka . In the 4th century CE, it was absorbed into the Gupta Empire . From the 13th century onward, the region was ruled by several sultans , powerful Hindu states and Baro-Bhuyan landlords, until the beginning of British rule in the 18th century. The British East India
Company cemented their hold on the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757, and Calcutta served for many years as the capital of British India
. The early and prolonged exposure to British administration resulted in expansion of Western education, culminating in development in science, institutional education, and social reforms of the region, including what became known as the Bengal Renaissance . A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided during India's independence in 1947 along religious lines into two separate entities: West Bengal—a state of India—and East Bengal —a part of the newly created Pakistan —later becoming Bangladesh in 1971. Between 1977 and 2011, the state was administered by the world's longest elected Communist government.

A major agricultural producer , West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributing state to India's net domestic product . The state capital Kolkata
is known as the "cultural capital of India". The state's cultural heritage, besides varied folk traditions, ranges from notable authors in literature including Nobel-laureate Rabindranath Tagore to scores of musicians, film-makers and artists. West Bengal is also distinct from most other Indian states in its appreciation and practice of playing association football besides cricket, the national favourite sport.


* 1 Etymology

* 2 History

* 2.1 Ancient and classical period * 2.2 Medieval and early modern periods * 2.3 Colonial period * 2.4 Indian independence and afterwards

* 3 Geography and climate * 4 Flora and fauna * 5 Government and politics * 6 Districts * 7 Economy * 8 Transport * 9 Demographics

* 10 Culture

* 10.1 Literature * 10.2 Music and dance * 10.3 Films * 10.4 Fine arts * 10.5 Reformist heritage * 10.6 Cuisine * 10.7 Costumes * 10.8 Weaving * 10.9 Festivals

* 11 Education * 12 Media * 13 Sports * 14 See also * 15 Notes * 16 References * 17 External links


Main article: Names of Bengal

The origin of the name Bengal (known as _Bangla_ and _Bongo_ in Bengali language ) is unknown. One theory suggests that the word derives from "Bang," a Dravidian tribe that settled the region around 1000 BCE. The word might have been derived from the ancient kingdom of _Vanga_ (or _Banga_). Although some early Sanskrit literature mentions the name, the region's early history is obscure.

At the end of British Rule over the Indian subcontinent , the Bengal region was partitioned in 1947 along religious lines into east and west. The east came to be known as East Bengal and the west came to known as West Bengal, which continued as an Indian state . In 2011, the Government of West Bengal proposed a change in the official name of the state to _Poschimbongo_ (Bengali : পশ্চিমবঙ্গ _Pôshchimbônggô_). This is the native name of the state, literally meaning western Bengal in the native Bengali language. In August 2016, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly passed another resolution to change the name of West Bengal to "Bangal" in Hindi , "Bengal" in English and "Bangla" in Bengali . Despite the Trinamool Congress government's strong efforts to forge a consensus on the name change resolution, the Indian National Congress , the Left Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party opposed the resolution, However it awaits the consent of the Indian Parliament for approval.


Main articles: History of Bengal and History of West Bengal


An example of the Pala -Sena school of sculptural art from Bengal

Stone Age tools dating back 20,000 years have been excavated in the state, showing human occupation 8,000 years earlier than scholars had thought based on prior evidence. The region was a part of the Vanga Kingdom , according to the Indian epic _ Mahabharata ._ Several Vedic realms were present in Bengal region, including Vanga , Rarh , Pundravardhana and the Suhma Kingdom . One of the earliest foreign references to Bengal is a mention by the Ancient Greeks around 100 BCE of a land named Gangaridai , which was located at the mouths of the Ganges. Bengal had overseas trade relations with Suvarnabhumi (Burma, Lower Thailand, Lower Malay Peninsula , and the Sumatra ). According to the Sri Lankan chronicle _ Mahavamsa ,_ Prince Vijaya (c. 543 – c. 505 BCE), a Vanga Kingdom prince, conquered Lanka (modern-day Sri Lanka) and gave the name Sinhala Kingdom to the country.

The kingdom of Magadha was formed in 7th century BCE, consisting of the regions now comprising Bihar and Bengal . It was one of the four main kingdoms of India
at the time of the lives of Mahavira , founder of Jainism , and Gautama Buddha , founder of Buddhism . It consisted of several janapadas or kingdoms. Under Ashoka , the Maurya Empire of Magadha in the 3rd century BCE extended over nearly all of South Asia , including Afghanistan and parts of Balochistan . From the 3rd to the 6th centuries CE, the kingdom of Magadha served as the seat of the Gupta Empire .

Two kingdoms – Vanga or Samatata and Gauda – are mentioned in some texts to have appeared after the end of Gupta Empire, although details of their ruling time are uncertain. The first recorded independent king of Bengal was Shashanka , who reigned in the early 7th century. Shashanka is often recorded in Buddhist annals as an intolerant Hindu ruler who is noted for his persecution of the Buddhists. Shashanka murdered Rajyavardhana, the Buddhist King of Thanesar, and is noted for destroying the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya , and replacing Buddha statues with Shiva lingams . After a period of anarchy, :36 the Pala dynasty ruled the region for four hundred years starting from the eighth century. It was followed by a shorter reign of the Hindu Sena dynasty .

Some areas of Bengal were invaded by Rajendra Chola I of the Chola dynasty between 1021 and 1023. Islam made its first appearance in Bengal during the 12th century when Sufi missionaries arrived. Later, occasional Muslim raiders reinforced the process of conversion by building mosques , madrasas and khanqahs . Between 1202 and 1206, Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji , a military commander from the Delhi Sultanate , overran Bihar and Bengal as far east as Rangpur , Bogra and the Brahmaputra River . Although he failed to bring Bengal under his control, the expedition defeated Lakshman Sen . His two sons moved to a place then called Vikramapur (present-day Munshiganj District ), where their diminished dominion lasted until the late 13th century.


Adina Mosque The temple city of Bishnupur hosts several landmark terracotta Hindu temples

Subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread Islam throughout the region. Consequently, the region was ruled by dynasties of Bengal Sultanate and feudal lords under the Delhi Sultanate for the next few hundred years. The Bengal Sultanate was interrupted for 20 years by an uprising by the Hindus under Raja Ganesha . In the sixteenth century, Mughal general Islam Khan conquered Bengal. However, administration by governors appointed by the court of the Mughal Empire gave way to semi-independence of the area under the Nawabs of Murshidabad , who nominally respected the sovereignty of the Mughals in Delhi . Several independent Hindu states were established in Bengal during the Mughal period, like those of Pratapaditya of Jessore District and Raja Sitaram Ray of Bardhaman . The Koch dynasty in northern Bengal flourished during the period of 16th and the 17th centuries; it weathered the Mughals and survived till the advent of the British colonial era.


Ram Mohan Roy is regarded as the "Father of the Bengali renaissance ".

Several European traders reached this area late in the fifteenth century. The British East India
Company defeated Siraj ud-Daulah , the last independent Nawab, In the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The company gained rights to collect revenue in Bengal subah (province) in 1765 as per the treaty between the East India
company and Mughal emperor following the Battle of Buxar in 1764. The Bengal Presidency was established in 1765; it later incorporated all British territories controlled north of the Central Provinces (now Madhya Pradesh ), from the mouths of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra to the Himalayas and the Punjab . The Bengal famine of 1770 claimed millions of lives due to tax policies enacted by the British company. Calcutta, the headquarters of the East India
company, was named in 1772 as the capital of British-held territories in India. The failed Indian rebellion of 1857 started near Calcutta and resulted in transfer of authority to the British Crown , administered by the Viceroy of India .

The Bengal Renaissance and Brahmo Samaj socio-cultural reform movements influenced the cultural and economic life of Bengal. Between 1905 and 1911, an abortive attempt was made to divide the province of Bengal into two zones. Bengal suffered from the Great Bengal famine in 1943, which claimed 3 million lives during World War II. Bengalis played a major role in the Indian independence movement , in which revolutionary groups such as _ Anushilan Samiti _ and _ Jugantar _ were dominant. Armed attempts against the British Raj from Bengal reached a climax when Subhas Chandra Bose led the Indian National Army from Southeast Asia against the British.


When India
gained independence in 1947, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines. The western part went to Dominion of India
(and was named West Bengal), while the eastern part went to Dominion of Pakistan as a province called East Bengal (later renamed as East Pakistan in 1956). The latter became independent Bangladesh in 1971. In 1950, the Princely State of Cooch Behar merged with West Bengal. In 1955, the former French enclave of Chandannagar , which had passed into Indian control after 1950, was integrated into West Bengal; portions of Bihar were also subsequently merged with West Bengal. Both West and East Bengal suffered from large refugee influxes during and after the partition in 1947. Refugee resettlement and related issues continued to play a significant role in the politics and socio-economic condition of the state. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999

During the 1970s and 1980s, severe power shortages, strikes and a violent Naxalite movement damaged much of the state's infrastructure, leading to a period of economic stagnation. The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 resulted in the influx of millions of refugees to West Bengal, causing significant strains on its infrastructure. The 1974 smallpox epidemic killed thousands. West Bengal politics underwent a major change when the Left Front won the 1977 assembly election, defeating the incumbent Indian National Congress . The Left Front, led by Communist Party of India
(Marxist) , governed the state for the subsequent three decades.

The state's economic recovery gathered momentum after economic liberalisations were introduced in the mid-1990s by the central government . This was aided by the advent of information technology and IT-enabled services . Since mid-2000s, armed activists conducted minor terrorist attacks in some parts of the state, while clashes with the administration took place at several sensitive places over the issue of industrial land acquisition, which became a crucial reason behind the defeat of the ruling Left Front government in the 2011 assembly election. Although the state's GDP has risen significantly since the 1990s, West Bengal has remained affected by political instability and bad governance. The state continues to suffer from regular bandhs (strikes ), substandard healthcare services, a lack of socio-economic development, poor infrastructure, political corruption, criminalisation of politics, unemployment, poor education facilities and civil violence.


Main articles: Geography of West Bengal and Climate of West Bengal Many areas remain flooded during the heavy rains brought by monsoon

West Bengal is on the eastern bottleneck of India, stretching from the Himalayas in the north, to the Bay of Bengal in the south. The state has a total area of 88,752 square kilometres (34,267 sq mi). The Darjeeling Himalayan hill region in the northern extreme of the state is a part of the eastern Himalayas mountain range. This region contains Sandakfu (3,636 m or 11,929 ft)—the highest peak of the state. The narrow Terai region separates the hills from the North Bengal plains , which in turn transitions into the Ganges delta towards the south. The Rarh region intervenes between the Ganges delta in the east and the western plateau and high lands . A small coastal region is on the extreme south, while the Sundarbans mangrove forests form a geographical landmark at the Ganges delta.

The Ganges is the main river, which divides in West Bengal. One branch enters Bangladesh as the _Padma _ or _Pôdda_, while the other flows through West Bengal as the Bhagirathi River and Hooghly River . The Farakka barrage over Ganges feeds the Hooghly branch of the river by a feeder canal, and its water flow management has been a source of lingering dispute between India
and Bangladesh. The Teesta , Torsa , Jaldhaka and Mahananda rivers are in the northern hilly region. The western plateau region has rivers such as the Damodar , Ajay and Kangsabati . The Ganges delta and the Sundarbans area have numerous rivers and creeks. Pollution of the Ganges from indiscriminate waste dumped into the river is a major problem. Damodar , another tributary of the Ganges and once known as the "Sorrow of Bengal" (due to its frequent floods), has several dams under the Damodar Valley Project . At least nine districts in the state suffer from arsenic contamination of groundwater , and, as of 2006, an estimated 8.7 million people drink water containing arsenic above the World Health Organisation recommended limit of 10 µg /L.

West Bengal's climate varies from tropical savanna in the southern portions to humid subtropical in the north. The main seasons are summer, rainy season, a short autumn, and winter. While the summer in the delta region is noted for excessive humidity, the western highlands experience a dry summer like northern India, with the highest day temperature ranging from 38 °C (100 °F) to 45 °C (113 °F). At nights, a cool southerly breeze carries moisture from the Bay of Bengal. In early summer brief squalls and thunderstorms known as _Kalbaisakhi_, or Nor'westers, often occur. West Bengal receives the Bay of Bengal branch of the Indian Ocean monsoon that moves in a northwest direction. Monsoons bring rain to the whole state from June to September. Heavy rainfall of above 250 centimetres (98 in) is observed in the Darjeeling , Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar district . During the arrival of the monsoons, low pressure in the Bay of Bengal region often leads to the occurrence of storms in the coastal areas . Winter (December–January) is mild over the plains with average minimum temperatures of 15 °C (59 °F). A cold and dry northern wind blows in the winter, substantially lowering the humidity level. The Darjeeling Himalayan Hill region experiences a harsh winter, with occasional snowfall.


A Bengal tiger . Sal trees in the Arabari forest in West Midnapur .

As of 2013, recorded forest area in the state is 16,805 km2 (6,488 sq mi) which is 18.93% of the state's geographical area, compared to the national average of 21.23%. Reserves, protected and unclassed forests constitute 59.4%, 31.8% and 8.9%, respectively, of the forest area, as of 2009. Part of the world's largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans , is located in southern West Bengal.


STATE ANIMAL Fishing cat

STATE BIRD White-throated kingfisher

STATE TREE Devil tree

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* Official Site of the Government of West Bengal, India