(Bengal or Bangla) This word has another meaning -- all read and know about West Bengal
"বাংলা" শব্দের আর একটি উৎস -- আসুন জেনে নি "পশ্চিমবঙ্গ" কে
West Bengal (Bengali: পশ্চিমবঙ্গ / Poshchim Bônggo), pronounced is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth most populous. It is also the seventh most populous sub-national entity in the world. West Bengal is the third largest contributor to India's GDP. West Bengal, together with Bangladesh lying on its east, forms the historical and geographical region of Bengal. To its northeast lie the states of Assam and Sikkim and the country of Bhutan, and to its southwest lies the state of Orissa. To the west, it borders the states of Jharkhand and Bihar, and to the northwest, Nepal.
The Bengal region was part of several kingdoms and dynasties of Indian history. The British East India Company cemented their hold on the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757, and the city of Calcutta, now Kolkata, served for many years as the capital of British India. A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided in 1947 along religious lines into two separate entities, West Bengal—a state of India, and East Bengal, then a part of the new nation of Pakistan which later became modern-day Bangladesh. Following India's independence in 1947, West Bengal's economic and political systems were dominated for many decades by Marxism, Naxalite movements and trade unionism.
An agriculture-dependent state, West Bengal occupies only 2.7% of the India's land area, though it supports over 7.8% of the Indian population and is the most densely populated state in India. West Bengal has had Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front rule for three decades, making it the world's longest-running democratically-elected communist government. Despite recent economic advancement, West Bengal remains one of the poor states in India, stricken by political instability and bad governance, political culture of strikes/bandhs, abysmal health care services,poor infrastructure and high corruption with lawlessness. According to leading Economists West Bengal is by far the least industrialized and underdeveloped state as compared to other metropolitan states, where industrialization and economic development is relatively very high.
Stone age tools dating back 20,000 years have been excavated in the state. Remnants of civilization in the greater Bengal region date back four thousand years, when the region was settled by Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, and Austro-Asiatic peoples. The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown, though it is believed to be derived from the Dravidian-speaking tribe Bang that settled in the area around the year 1000 BC. The region was a part of the Vanga Kingdom, one of ancient kingdoms of Epic India. The kingdom of Magadha was formed in 7th century BC, consisting of the Bihar and Bengal regions. It was one of the four main kingdoms of India at the time of Mahavira and the Buddha, and consisted of several Janapadas. During the rule of Maurya dynasty, the Magadha Empire extended over nearly all of South Asia, including Afghanistan and parts of Persia under Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BC.
One of the earliest foreign references to Bengal is the mention of a land named Gangaridai by the Greeks around 100 BC. The word is speculated to have come from Gangahrd (Land with the Ganges in its heart) in reference to an area in Bengal. Bengal had overseas trade relations with Suvarnabhumi (Burma, Lower Thailand, Lower Malay Peninsula, and the Sumatra).According to Mahavamsa, Vijaya Singha, a Vanga prince, conquered Lanka (modern day Sri Lanka) and gave the name "Sinhala" to the country.
From the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD, the kingdom of Magadha served as the seat of the Gupta Empire. The first recorded independent king of Bengal was Shashanka, reigning around early 7th century. After a period of anarchy, the Buddhist Pala dynasty ruled the region for four hundred years, followed by a shorter reign of the Hindu Sena dynasty. Islam was introduced to Bengal in the twelfth century by Sufi missionaries.Invasion by the Turkish Muslims started in about 1206.The Hindu Bengali kingdoms held on in various parts of south and east bengal till about the 1350s.After that Hindu political power was limited to the area of Koch Bihar in North Bengal and as baronships and vassal chiefdoms in west bengal and western areas of east bengal. Subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread Islam throughout the region. Bakhtiar Khilji, a Turkic general of the Slave dynasty of Delhi Sultanate, defeated Lakshman Sen of the Sena dynasty and conquered large parts of Bengal in about 1206.The process of conquest continued till about the 1350s. Consequently, the region was ruled by dynasties of sultans and feudal lords under the Delhi Sultanate for the next few hundred years. 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.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy is regarded as the "Father of the Bengal Renaissance"
European traders arrived late in the fifteenth century. Their influence grew until the British East India Company gained taxation rights in Bengal subah, or province, following the Battle of Plassey in 1757, when Siraj ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab, was defeated by the British. The Bengal Presidency was established by 1765, eventually including all British territories 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. Calcutta was named the capital of British India in 1772. The Bengal Renaissance and Brahmo Samaj socio-cultural reform movements had great impact on the cultural and economic life of Bengal. 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. 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 that claimed 3 million lives.
Subhash Chandra Bose is one of the most prominent freedom fighters from Bengal in the Indian independence movement against the British Raj.
Bengal 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 Subhash 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 India (and was named West Bengal) while the eastern part joined Pakistan as a province called East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan, giving rise to independent Bangladesh in 1971). Both West and East Bengal suffered from large refugee influx during the partition in 1947, leading to the political unrests later on. The partition of Bengal entailed the greatest exodus of people in Human History. Millions of Hindus migrated from East Pakistan to India and thousands of Muslims too went across the borders to East Pakistan. Because of the immigration of the refugees, there occurred the crisis of land and food in West Bengal; and such condition remained in long duration for more than three decades.The politics of West Bengal since the partition in 1947 developed round the nucleus of refugee problem. Both the Rightists and the Leftists in the Politics of West Bengal have not yet become free from the socio-economic conditions created by the partition of Bengal. These conditions as have remained unresolved in some twisted forms have given birth to local socio-economic, political and ethnic movements. In the fifties, it was decided by then Congress Government to shift industries from state to other parts of the country. The value of freight tax and other taxes were also kept higher for the state by the central Government till the eighties This contributed to very few manufacturing industries being set in the state from 1950 to 1969. Among the joint programmes then implemented were the all-India post and telegraph strike, movements of the government employees and, above all, the programmes built up around the naval uprising at the Bombay seaport. Later, the historic Tebhaga movement led to communist unrest. Transport strikes and merger talks with Bihar occurred.At this time, the Lok Sabha byelections saw Professor Mohit Moitra, president of the anti-merger committee, receive the support of all anti-Congress political parties and defeat the Congress candidate, Ashok Sen, from Kolkata Northwest. More food and salary strikes against oppressive government occurred later in decade, largest till date in state.
In 1950 the Princely State of Cooch Behar merged with West Bengal after King Jagaddipendra Narayan had signed the Instrument of Accession with India. 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 subsequently merged with West Bengal. In 1960s, the regime of Prafulla Chandra sen faced severe food shortage in the state following countrywide drought. Sen advocated introducing the politically unsound measure of food rationing in urban areas. Within months, he had introduced food-grain rationing in the state, a system which has continued with minor modifications to this date. To build food stocks, he imposed a heavy levy on rice mills. In the process he alienated the business community. Shortages of essentials led to anti-Congress Party strikes. In 1967 a peasant uprising broke out in Naxalbari, in northern West Bengal. The insurgency was led by hardline district-level CPI(M) leaders Charu Majumdar and Kanu Sanyal. The Naxalbari movement was violently repressed by the West Bengal government. In November 1967, the West Bengal United Front government was dismissed by the central government. Initially the Indian National Congress formed a minority government led by Prafulla Chandra Ghosh, but that cabinet did not last long.
During the 1970s and 1980s, severe power shortages, strikes and a violent Marxist-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), has governed for the state for the subsequent three decades. During this time, censorship became rampant as national government instated emergency power. Political opprression increased under the new local government, non-communists intimidated.
The state's economic recovery gathered momentum after economic reforms in India were introduced in the mid-1990s by the central government, aided by election of a new reformist Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in 2000. In January 2006 the Supreme Court of India issued notices to Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and others in connection with land allotments made in the Salt Lake City township in Kolkata. Bhattacharya's Government came under heavy criticism for police action against demonstrators in Nandigram in East Midnapore. He was criticized not only by opposition parties (such as the Trinamool Congress) and other Left Front coalition allies like Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party (India) and Forward Bloc, who threatened to back out from the ministry on this issue, but also by his mentor and the state's former chief minister, Jyoti Basu.On March 15, 2007 Basu criticized Bhattacharya for failing to restrain the police in Nandigram. Bhattacharya has expressed regret for the shootings, but claimed that his intention in permitting police action was because Nandigram was an "area where there had been no rule of law and no presence of an administration for not one, two or 10 days but for two-and-a-half months, and many hundreds of villagers were thrown out of nandigram by trinmool partisans, more these villagers taking shelter in a state relief camp outside nandigram, also their land in villages were also captured by the goons." As of 2007, armed activists have been organising minor terrorist attacks in some parts of the state, while clashes with the administration are taking place at several sensitive places on the issue of industrial land acquisition. While West Bengal has made economic gains recently, it still remains one of the most poorest states in India due to high political instability and bad governance.Throughout its political and cultural history the state has witnessed strikes/bandhs,a low Human Development Index level, abysmal medical treatment and healthcare services, tremendous lack of socio-economic development, poor infrastructure, excessive corruption and violence.
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 belongs to the eastern Himalaya. This region contains Sandakfu (3,636 metres / 11,929 feet)—the highest peak of the state. The narrow Terai region separates this region from the 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. The Chola range is situated on the Sikkim and Bhutan border. The highest peak is Rishila. The town of Kalimpong is situated in this region. Neora Valley National Park is located here. The relatively low-height Buxa-Jayanti range, a part of the Sivalik, is also located here. Among the Himalayan ranges of this region, Singalila range hosts Sandakfu which at 3,636 metres (11,929 ft) is the highest point of West Bengal. Two high peaks, Tiger Hill and Ghoom are seen near the town of Darjeeling. Many ranges branch off in different directions from Tiger Hill. Durpindara is an important mountain in the eastern part of the mountainous region. A few hills also occur in the Terai or Dooars region at the foot of the Himalayas. Some remnants of the Siwaliks can be seen in the Jalpaiguri district, where they are known as the Buxa-Jayanti Hills. A small coastal region is on the extreme south, while the Sundarbans mangrove forests form a remarkable geographical landmark at the Ganges delta.
National Highway 31A winds along the banks of the Teesta River near Kalimpong, in the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region.
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 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. There are several dams on the Ganges in West Bengal used for hydroelectricity. One at Farakka, close to the point where the main flow of the river enters Bangladesh, and the tributary Hooghly (also known as Bhagirathi) continues in West Bengal past the capital. This barrage, which feeds the Hooghly branch of the river by a long feeder canal, and its water flow management has been a long-lingering source of dispute with Bangladesh. Damodar, another important tributary of the Ganges, meets the river near Bagnan, Howrah.
Popularly known as "Sorrow of Bengal" due to its frequent floods, is having the large hydroelectric dam called Damodar Valley Project, built on the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority. There is also a controversial dam at Tehri, on the Bhagirathi, one of the main source rivers of the Ganges. At least nine districts in the state suffer from arsenic contamination of groundwater, and 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 savannah 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 summerlike 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. Troughs of low pressure are often developed near the Bay of Bengal, resulting cyclonic storms. These are known as Ashwiner Jhar and often cause huge destruction. This season is a festive season in West Bengal due to celebration of Durga puja, Lakshmi puja and Diwali. Monsoons bring rain to the whole state from June to September. Heavy rainfall of above 250cm is observed in the Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar district. Later, blowing westwards, the winds cause average rainfall of 125 cm in the northern plains and western plateau region. 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. West Bengal receives the Bay of Bengal branch of the Indian ocean monsoon that moves in a northwest direction. 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. However, the Darjeeling Himalayan Hill region experiences a harsh winter, with occasional snowfall at places.
Owing to the varying altitude from the Himalayas to the coastal plains, the flora and fauna of the state is diverse. Forests make up 14% of the geographical area of West Bengal, which is lower than the national average of 23%. Protected forests cover 4% of the state area. Part of the world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans is located in southern West Bengal.
From a phytogeographic viewpoint, the southern part of West Bengal can be divided into two regions: the Gangetic plain and the littoral mangrove forests of the Sundarbans.The alluvial soil of the Gangetic plain compounded with favorable rainfall make this region especially fertile. Much of the vegetation of the western part of the state shares floristic similarities with the plants of the Chota Nagpur plateau in the adjoining state of Jharkhand. The predominant commercial tree species is Shorea robusta, commonly known as Sal. The coastal region of Purba Medinipur exhibits coastal vegetation; the predominant tree is the Casuarina. The most valuable tree from the Sundarbans is the ubiquitous sundri (Heritiera fomes) from which the forest gets its name. Vegetation in northern West Bengal is dictated by elevation and precipitation. For example, the foothills of the Himalayas, the Dooars, are densely wooded with Sal and other trees of the tropical evergreen type.Above 1000 m, the forest type changes to subtropical. In Darjeeling, which is above 1500 m, common trees typifying the temperate forest are oaks, conifers, and rhododendrons.
The Sundarbans are noted for a reserve project conserving Bengal tigers. There are five national parks in the state — Sundarbans National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve, Gorumara National Park, Neora Valley National Park and Singalila National Park. Wildlife includes the Indian rhinoceros, Indian elephants, deer, bison, leopards, gaur, and crocodiles. The state is also rich in bird life. Migratory birds come to the state during the winter. The high altitude forests like Singalila National Park shelter barking deer, red panda, chinkara, takin, serow, pangolin, minivet and Kalij pheasants. In addition to the Bengal tiger, the Sundarbans host many other endangered species like Gangetic dolphin, river terrapin, estuarine crocodile etc. The mangrove forest also acts as a natural fish nursery, supporting coastal fishes along the Bay of Bengal.
West Bengal is governed through a parliamentary system of representative democracy, a feature the state shares with other Indian states. Universal suffrage is granted to residents. There are two branches of government. The legislature, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, consists of elected members and special office bearers such as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, that are elected by the members. Assembly meetings are presided over by the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker in the Speaker's absence. The judiciary is composed of the Calcutta High Court and a system of lower courts. Executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister, although the titular head of government is the Governor. The Governor is the head of state appointed by the President of India. The leader of the party or coalition with a majority in the Legislative Assembly is appointed as the Chief Minister by the Governor, and the Council of Ministers are appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister. The Council of Ministers reports to the Legislative Assembly. The Assembly is unicameral with 295 Members of the Legislative Assembly, or MLAs, including one nominated from the Anglo-Indian community. Terms of office run for 5 years, unless the Assembly is dissolved prior to the completion of the term. Auxiliary authorities known as panchayats, for which local body elections are regularly held, govern local affairs. The state contributes 42 seats to Lok Sabha and 16 seats to Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament.
The 19 districts of West Bengal are as listed below with the numbers corresponding to those in the image at top.
4. Cooch Behar
6. East Midnapore
14. North 24 Parganas
15. North Dinajpur
17. South 24 Parganas
18. South Dinajpur
19. West Midnapore
Each district is governed by a district collector or district magistrate, appointed either by the Indian Administrative Service or the West Bengal Civil Service. Each district is subdivided into Sub-Divisions, governed by a sub-divisional magistrate, and again into Blocks. Blocks consists of panchayats (village councils) and town municipalities.
The capital and largest city of the state is Kolkata — the third-largest urban agglomeration and the fourth-largest city in India. Siliguri is an economically important Metropolitan City, strategically located in the northeastern Siliguri Corridor (Chicken's Neck) of India. Asansol, Durgapur are the other Metropolitan cities in the western industrial belt. Other major cities and towns in West Bengal are Howrah, Raniganj, Haldia, Jalpaiguri, Kharagpur, Burdwan, Darjeeling, Midnapore, Tamluk, Malda and Cooch Behar.
griculture is the leading occupation in West Bengal. Rice is the state's principal food crop. Other food crops are pulses, oil seeds, wheat, tobacco, sugarcane and potatoes. Jute is the main cash crop of the region. Tea is also produced commercially; the region is well known for Darjeeling and other high quality teas. However, the service sector is the largest contributor to the gross domestic product of the state, contributing 51% of the state domestic product compared to 27% from agriculture and 22% from industry. State industries are localized in the Kolkata region and the mineral-rich western highlands. The Durgapur–Asansol colliery belt is home to a number of major steel plants. Manufacturing industries playing an important economic role are engineering products, electronics, electrical equipment, cables, steel, leather, textiles, jewellery, frigates, automobiles, railway coaches, and wagons. The Durgapur centre has established a number of industries in the areas of tea, sugar, chemicals and fertilizers. Natural resources like tea and jute in and nearby parts has made West Bengal a major centre for the jute and tea industries.
Freshly sown saplings of paddy; in the background are stacks of jute sticks.
A significant part of the state is economically backward, namely, large parts of six northern districts of Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Malda, North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur; three western districts of Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum; and the Sundarbans area. Years after independence, West Bengal was still dependent on the central government for meeting its demands for food; food production remained stagnant and the Indian green revolution bypassed the state. However, there has been a significant spurt in food production since the 1980s, and the state now has a surplus of grains. The state's share of total industrial output in India was 9.8% in 1980–81, declining to 5% by 1997–98. However, the service sector has grown at a rate higher than the national rate.
West Bengal has the third largest economy (2003–2004) in India, with a net state domestic product of US$ 21.5 billion. During 2001–2002, the state's average SDP was more than 7.8% — outperforming the National GDP Growth. The state's total financial debt stands at 192,000 crore (US$41.66 billion) as of 2010. It has promoted foreign direct investment, which has mostly come in the software and electronics fields;
Kolkata is becoming a major hub for the Information technology (IT) industry. Owing to the boom in Kolkata's and the overall state's economy, West Bengal is now the third fastest growing economy in the country. However, the rapid industrialisation process has given rise to debate over land acquisition for industry in this agrarian state. NASSCOM–Gartner ranks West Bengal power infrastructure the best in the country. West Bengals state domestic product (SDP) grew in 2004 with 12.7 % and in 2005 with 11.0 % . "Taking a cue from China, West Bengals’s Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has pushed through an ambitious economic reform program with an approach more capitalist than communist."Notably, many corporate companies are now headquartered in Kolkata include ITC Limited, India Government Mint, Kolkata, Haldia Petrochemicals, Exide Industries, Hindustan Motors, Britannia Industries, Bata India, Birla Corporation, CESC Limited, Coal India Limited, Damodar Valley Corporation, PwC India, Peerless Group, United Bank of India, UCO Bank and Allahabad Bank. Recently, various events like adoption of "Look East" policy by the government of India, opening of the Nathu La Pass in Sikkim as a border trade-route with China and immense interest in the South East Asian countries to enter the Indian market and invest have put Kolkata in an advantageous position for development in future, particularly with likes of Myanmar, where India needs oil from military regime.
The total length of surface road in West Bengal is over 92,023 km (57,180 mi); national highways comprise 2,377 km (1,477 mi) and state highways 2,393 km (1,487 mi). The road density of the state is 103.69 km per 100 km² (166.92 mi per 100 sq mi), higher than the national average of 74.7 km per 100 km² (120 mi per 100 sq mi). Average speed on state highways varies between 40–50 km/h (25–31 mi/h); in villages and towns, speeds are as low as 20–25 km/h (12–16 mi/h) due to the substandard quality of road constructions and low maintenance. Total railway length is 3,825 km (2,377 mi). Kolkata is the headquarters of two divisions of the Indian Railways—Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway. The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) plies in the northern parts of the state. The Kolkata metro is the country's first underground railway. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, part of NFR, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The state's only international airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport at Dum Dum, Kolkata. Bagdogra airport near Siliguri is another significant airport in the state and recently it has been upgraded to an international airport. Kolkata is a major river-port in eastern India. The Kolkata Port Trust manages both the Kolkata docks and the Haldia docks. There is passenger service to Port Blair on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and cargo ship service to ports in India and abroad, operated by the Shipping Corporation of India. Ferry is a principal mode of transport in the southern part of the state, especially in the Sundarbans area. Kolkata is the only city in India to have trams as a mode of transport and these are operated by the Calcutta Tramways Company.
Several government-owned organisations operate substandard bus services in the state, including the Calcutta State Transport Corporation, the North Bengal State Transport Corporation, the South Bengal State Transport Corporation, the West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation, and the Calcutta Tramways Company, thus leading to mismanagement. There are also private bus companies. The railway system is a nationalised service without any private investment. Hired forms of transport include metered taxis and auto rickshaws which often ply specific routes in cities. In most of the state, cycle rickshaws, and in Kolkata, hand-pulled rickshaws, are also used for short-distance travel. Large-scale transport accidents in West Bengal are common, particularly the sinking of transport boats and train crashes.
The vast majority of the 80,221,171 people of West Bengal are Bengalis. The Bihari minority is scattered throughout the state and communities of Sherpas and ethnic Tibetans can be found in regions bordering Sikkim. Darjeeling district has a large number of Gurkha people of Nepalese origin. West Bengal is home to indigenous tribal Adivasis such as Santals, Kol, Koch-Rajbongshi and Toto tribe.
The official language is Bengali and English. Hindi is also commonly used. Nepali is spoken primarily in the Darjeeling district. Languages such as Rajbongshi, Santali and Ho are used in some parts of the state. Urdu is used primarily in Central Kolkata. There were also many Armenians, Greeks and Jews, althought these have declined in 20th century. After the establishment of Israel, many Jews left to live in Israel and the size of the Jewish community had a severe decrease. Chinatown in the eastern part of the city of Kolkata is the only Chinatown in the country. The locality was once home to 20,000 ethnic Chinese, now the population has dropped to 2,000 or so. The traditional occupation of the Chinese community here had been working in the nearby tanning industry and the Chinese restaurants.
As of 2001, Hinduism is the principal religion at 72.5% of the total population, while Muslims comprise 25.2% of the total population , being the second-largest community as also the largest minority group; Sikhism, Christianity and other religions make up the remainder.West Bengal has a population density of 904 inhabitants per square kilometre (2,340 /sq mi) making it the most densely populated state in India. The state contributes 7.8% of India's population. The state's 1991–2001 growth rate of 17.8% is lower than the national rate of 21.3%. The gender ratio is 934 females per 1000 males.
The literacy rate is 69.2%. Data of 1995–1999 showed the life expectancy in the state was 63.4 years, higher than the national value of 61.7 years. About 72% of people live in rural areas. The proportion of people living below the poverty line in 1999–2000 was 31.9%. Scheduled Castes and Tribes form 28.6% and 5.8% of the population respectively in rural areas, and 19.9% and 1.5% respectively in urban areas.
The Bengali language boasts a rich literary heritage, shared with neighbouring Bangladesh. West Bengal has a long tradition in folk literature, evidenced by the Charyapada, Mangalkavya, Shreekrishna Kirtana, Thakurmar Jhuli, and stories related to Gopal Bhar. In the nineteenth and twentieth century, Bengali literature was modernized in the works of authors such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Jibananda Das and Manik Bandyopadhyay. In modern timesJibanananda Das, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Manik Bandopadhyay, Ashapurna Devi, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Buddhadeb Guha, Mahashweta Devi, Samaresh Majumdar, Sanjeev Chattopadhyay and Sunil Gangopadhyay among others are well known.
The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bengali folk music, which has also been influenced by regional music traditions. Other folk music forms include Gombhira and Bhawaiya. Folk music in West Bengal is often accompanied by the ektara, a one-stringed instrument. West Bengal also has an heritage in North Indian classical music. "Rabindrasangeet", songs composed and set into tune by Rabindranath Tagore and "Nazrul geeti" (by Kazi Nazrul Islam) are popular. Also prominent are other musical forms like Dwijendralal, Atulprasad and Rajanikanta's songs, and "adhunik" or modern music from films and other composers. From the early 1990s, there has been an emergence and popularisation of new genres of music, including fusions of Baul and Jazz by several Bangla bands, as well as the emergence of what has been called Jeebonmukhi Gaan (a modern genre based on realism). Bengali dance forms draw from folk traditions, especially those of the tribal groups, as well as the broader Indian dance traditions. Chau dance of Purulia is a rare form of mask dance. State is known for Bengali folk music such as baul and kirtans and gajan, and modern songs including Bengali adhunik songs. From the early 1990s, there has been an emergence of new genres of music, including the emergence of what has been called Bengali Jeebonmukhi Gaan (a modern genre based on realism) by artists like Anjan Dutta, Kabir Suman, Nachiketa and folk/alternative/rock bands like Moheener Ghoraguli, Chandrabindoo, Bhoomi, Cactus and Fossils. Dutta's songs are influenced by classical music, and especially country music and blues and Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen which he fused with Bengali tradition of east west, as did Suman. American urban folk and grunge are also an inspiration for this generation.
Mainstream Hindi films are popular, as are films from the Bengali cinema industry, dubbed "Tollywood". Tollygunj in Kolkata is the location of Bengali movie studios and the name "Tollywood" (similar to Hollywood and Bollywood) is derived from that name. The Bengali film industry is also known for art films or Indy films. Its long tradition of filmmaking has produced acclaimed directors like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha and Ritwik Ghatak. Contemporary directors include Buddhadev Dasgupta, Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh. Many of these have brought acclaim to Bengali cinema on national and transnational arena, Europe in particular.
Bengal had been the harbinger of modernism in fine arts. Abanindranath Tagore, called the father of Modern Indian Art had started the Bengal School of Art which was to create styles of art outside the European realist tradition which was taught in art colleges under the colonial administration of the British Government. The movement had many adherents like Gaganendranath Tagore, Ramkinkar Baij, Jamini Roy and Rabindranath Tagore. After Indian Independence, important groups like the Calcutta Group and the Society of Contemporary Artists were formed in bengal which dominated the art scene in India.
The capital Kolkata was also the workplace of several social reformers, like Raja Ram Mohan Ray, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, and Swami Vivekananda. These social reforms have eventually led to a cultural atmosphere where practices like sati, dowry, and caste-based discrimination or untouchability, the evils that crept into the Hindu society, were abolished.
Rice and fish are traditional favourite foods, leading to a saying in Bengali, machhe bhate bangali, that translates as "fish and rice make a Bengali" .Bengal's vast repertoire of fish-based dishes includes hilsa preparations, a favorite among Bengalis. There are numerous ways of cooking fish depending on the texture, size, fat content and the bones. Sweets occupy an important place in the diet of Bengalis and at their social ceremonies. It is an ancient custom among both Hindu and Muslim Bengalis to distribute sweets during festivities. The confectionery industry has flourished because of its close association with social and religious ceremonies. Competition and changing tastes have helped to create many new sweets. Bengalis make distinctive sweetmeats from milk products, including Rôshogolla, Chômchôm, Kalojam and several kinds of sondesh. Pitha and patishapta are specialties of winter season. Sweets like coconut-naru, til-naru, moa, payesh, etc. are prepared during the festival of Lakshmi puja. Popular street food includes Aloor Chop, Beguni, Kati roll, and phuchka. The variety of fruits and vegetables that Bengal has to offer is incredible. A host of gourds, roots and tubers, leafy greens, succulent stalks, lemons and limes, green and purple eggplants, red onions, plantain, broad beans, okra, banana tree stems and flowers, green jackfruit and red pumpkins are to be found in the markets or anaj bazaar as popularly called. Panta bhat (rice soaked overnight in water)with onion & green chili is a traditional dish consumed in rural areas. Common spices found in a Bengali kitchen are cumin, ajmoda (radhuni), bay leaf, mustard, ginger, green chillies, turmeric, etc. People of erstwhile East Bengal use a lot of ajmoda, coriander leaves, tamarind, coconut and mustard in their cooking; while those aboriginally from West Bengal use a lot of sugar, garam masala and red chilli powder. Vegetarian dishes are mostly without onion and garlic.
Bengali women commonly wear the shari , often distinctly designed according to local cultural customs. In urban areas, many women and men wear Western attire. Among men, western dressing has greater acceptance. Men also wear traditional costumes such as the panjabi with dhuti , often on cultural occasions.
Durga Puja in October is the most popular festival in the West Bengal. Poila Baishakh (the Bengali New Year), Rathayatra, Dolyatra or Basanta-Utsab, Nobanno, Poush Parbon (festival of Poush), Kali Puja, SaraswatiPuja, LaxmiPuja, Christmas, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adhaand Muhharam are other major festivals. Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha, is one of the most important Hindu/Buddhist festivals while Christmas, called Bôrodin (Great day) in Bengali is celebrated by the minority Christian population. Poush mela is a popular festival of Shantiniketan, taking place in winter. West Bengal has been home to several famous religious teachers, including Sri Chaitanya, Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Paramahansa Yogananda. The swami is credited with introducing Hinduism to western society and became a religious symbol of the nation in eyes of the intellectuals of the west.
West Bengal schools are run by the state government or by private organisations, including religious institutions. Instruction is mainly in English or Bengali, though Urdu are also used, especially in Central Kolkata. The secondary schools are affiliated with the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), the National Institute of Open School (NIOS) or the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. Under the 10+2+3 plan, after completing secondary school, students typically enroll for 2 years in a junior college, also known as pre-university, or in schools with a higher secondary facility affiliated with the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education or any central board. Students choose from one of three streams, namely, liberal arts, commerce or science. Upon completing the required coursework, students may enroll in general or professional degree programs.
West Bengal had 505 published newspapers in 2005, of which 389 were in Bengali.Ananda Bazar Patrika, published from Kolkata with 1,234,122 daily copies, has the largest circulation for a single-edition, regional language newspaper in India. Other major Bengali newspapers are Bartaman, Sangbad Pratidin, Aajkaal, Jago Bangla, Uttarbanga Sambad and Ganashakti. Major English language newspapers which are published and sold in large numbers are The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Indian Express, The Statesman, The Telegraph and Asian Age. Some prominent financial dailies like The Economic Times, Financial Express, Business Line and Business Standard are widely circulated. Vernacular newspapers such as those in Hindi, Nepali Gujarati, Oriya, Urdu and Punjabi are also read by a select readership.
Doordarshan is the state-owned television broadcaster. Multi system operators provide a mix of Bengali, Nepali, Hindi, English and international channels via cable. Bengali 24-hour television news channels include STAR Ananda, Tara Newz, Kolkata TV, 24 Ghanta, Ne Bangla, News Time, Mahuaa Khobor, CTVN Plus, Channel 10 and R Plus . All India Radio is a public radio station. Private FM stations are available only in cities like Kolkata, Siliguri and Asansol. Vodafone, Airtel, BSNL, Reliance Communications, Uninor, Aircel, MTS India, Tata Indicom, Idea Cellular and Tata DoCoMo are available cellular phone operators. Broadband internet is available in select towns and cities and is provided by the state-run BSNL and by other private companies. Dial-up access is provided throughout the state by BSNL and other providers.
Cricket and football (soccer) are popular sports in the state. Kolkata is one of the major centers for football in India and houses top national clubs such as East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting Club. Indian sports such as Kho Kho and Kabaddi are also played. Calcutta Polo Club is considered as the oldest polo club of the world, and the Royal Calcutta Golf Club is the oldest of its kind outside Great Britain.
Eden Gardens in Kolkata
West Bengal has several large stadiums—The Eden Gardens is one of only two 100,000-seat cricket amphitheaters in the world, although renovations will reduce this figure. Kolkata Knight Riders, East Zone and Bengal play there, and the 1987 World Cup final was there although in 2011 World Cup, Eden Gardens was stripped due to construction incompleteness. Salt Lake Stadium—a multi-use stadium—is the world's second highest-capacity football stadium. Calcutta Cricket and Football Club is the second-oldest cricket club in the world. National and international sports events are also held in Durgapur, Siliguri and Kharagpur.
Notable sports persons from West Bengal include former Indian national cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, Pankaj Roy Olympic tennis bronze medallist Leander Paes, and chess grand master Dibyendu Barua. Other major sporting icons over the years include famous football players such as Chuni Goswami, PK Banerjee and Sailen Manna as well as swimmer Mihir Sen and athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar (winner of gold medals at the Asian Games).