During the period of the Vedic age Bengal was called Vanga and is said
to have been inhabited by several groups of people belonging to various
races. During the Mahabharatha period this area was divided into small
kingdoms and principalities ruled by chieftains. The Aryans inhabited
Bengal during the post Vedic period. Many dynasties exercised their
control over Bengal. The Palas, Pundras, the Sen etc were a few whose
rule was noteworthy. The Palas ruled for more than four hundred years.
Owing to its favourable location this region had trade with Cambodia,
Burma, Sri Lanka, the Deccan and the Persian Gulf. The Navigable parts
of Ganga made it favourable for internal trade and communication. They
had contacts till Taxila. In about the 3rd century the Mauryan and the
Guptas established their rule. The Palas established their strong rule
from about 800AD till the 11th century after which the Senas ruled. The
economy, arts and culture of this region developed under the rule of the
Hindu dynasties. In the beginning of the 13th century Bengal became a
part of the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughals. The influence of the
Muslims led to conversions besides development of art and culture and
cottage industries that produced items such as Muslin which were in
great demand around the world.
The proximity to the sea also resulted in the influence with the
foreigners -- the Portuguese in the early 16th century, the Dutch in
about 1632, the French influence between 1673-1676, the Danish in 1676
and British in 1690. The increased influence of the British resulted in
conflicts with the Nawab. The diplomatic efforts with a series of
conspiracies resulted in the ultimate capture of power in Bengal by the
British. The battle of Plassey (1757) and the battle of Buxar (1764)
sealed the fate of the Mughal rule. The British later brought forth the
Dual system of administration. In 1905 the English partitioned Bengal on
the basis of religion. Calcutta remained the Capital of the British
empire in India till 1911. After that the capital was moved from
Calcutta to Delhi.
In 1947 when India became independent Bengal was partitioned between
India and Pakistan. India's share came to be known as West Bengal and
Pakistan's share was called East Pakistan. Later, the state of Cooch
Behar, French commune of Chandranagore and some parts of Bihar were
added to West Bengal. Bengal represents the lands that possess a
distinct culture with its indigenous art and crafts and make it an
important division of the Indian Union.
Even Nature herself has been lavish in her gifts to Bengal. From amongst
the nine coastal states of India, it is West Bengal alone which is
endowed with mountains, sea and forests. It has, as if, risen from the
Bay of Bengal, its crown-the snow-white Himalayas-Sikkim, its beauty
spot; Bay of Bengal to its South, Bangladesh, Assam to its east and
Bihar, Orissa and Nepal to its west.
Geography of West Bengal
Area : 87,853 sq. km Capital : Calcutta Population : 67,982, 732 (1991) Languages : Bengali Literacy : 57.72% (1991) Roads : 57,539 kms Railways : 3,800 kms No. of Districts : 17 No. of Bank Branches : 3,990 Major Ports : Calcutta Airports : Calcutta, Bagdogra
West Bengal is strategically
placed with three international frontiers - Bangladesh, Nepal and
A hinge between the bulk of Indian territory and the north-east of the
country, West Bengal is located at 21°31' and 27°14' North Latitude at
the head of the Bay of Bengal and 86°35' and 89°53' East Longitude, with
the Tropic of Cancer running through it.
The great Himalayas start a distance of only 300 miles from the Bay of
Bengal and the coastal tropical rain forest, Sundarbans Physiography
The entire Bengal basin is that part of the great Indian shield, which
approximately to the east of longitude 87°E, disappears under alluvium.
West of it are a number of intracratonic Gondwana basins along the
Damodar valley; a few exposures of early Tertiary Age near Baripada (in
Orissa) and Durgapur and the late Mesozoic volcanics of the Rajmahal
It consists of high peaks of Himalaya in the northern extremes to
coastal regions down south, with regions like plateau, Ganges delta etc
superseding in between.
It may be attractive to note that West Bengal is only state in India
where Himalayas are in the north and Sea is at the south, with both
Plaines and plateau are covering the remaining region.
West Bengal has a tropical climate. The plains are hot except during the
short winter season. The mountainous region in the north is cold. On
account of its height but there humidity is high. The standard tradition
speaks of six seasons-Spring, Summer, the rainy, Autumn, mild Winter and
Only four evidently marked seasons with a brief interregnum of spring
are observed, namely the hot season, the rainy season, the post monsoon
season corresponding to autumn and the cold season. The hot season lasts
from mid-March to mid-June, with the day temperature ranging from 38o C
to 45oC in different parts of the state. At nights, a cool southerly
breeze carrying moisture from the Bay of Bengal is usually present.
The high temperature often causes troughs of short pressure to form on
the plains which are compensated by sudden briefs storms known as
kal-baisakhi or 'nor-westers', accompanied by thunder showers. These
summer storms can be fairly critical. The hills of Darjeeling district
are pleasantly cool in summer; the higher reaches are sometimes
enveloped in heavy fog. On some days, one is rewarded by the sight of
the majestic snow-girt Kanchanjunga and the eastern Sikkim ranges and
the greenness of the wooded hills and gorges that abound on all sides.
The monsoon arrives by a middle of June. Its scouts start arriving about
two weeks before its normal onset. This is called the Chhota monsoon
which breaks the hot spell of summer. The monsoon rains in west Bengal
are caused solely by the current of wind from the Bay of Bengal.
Variability is a characteristic feature of the monsoon in west Bengal as
well as Bangladesh and Orissa which all receive the impact of the
south-west Bay current. Breaks in the continuity of rain are not
unusual; the resultant thoughts of low pressure develop into cyclone
storms especially towards the end of the season and in early autumn.
A welcome change in the weather begins to be specifically felt towards
the end of September. Autumn in West Bengal is the period for festivity
in the fields the golden grain of paddy starts ripening and is harvested
towards the end of the season. The conclusion of the round of the
festivities marks the onset of the winter in mid-November.
Winter, which lasts about three months, is mild over the plains, the
average minimum temperature not falling 15o C. It is attended by a cold
and dry northern wind, substantially lowering the humidity level. Winter
is the season for the rabi crops-pulses, potato and vegetables and
citrus fruits that grow on the Darjeeling hills.
There occurs a short interregnum of clouds and rain usually the last
week of December and the first week of January, caused by the incursion
of the western monsoon coming all the way from the Arabian Sea. The cold
is harsh on the hills and there are sometimes sleet and snowfall on the
higher reaches during the days of rain.
The weather gets warmer by the middle February, which heralds a brief
spring period lasting about a month during which the deciduous trees
break out in young green leaves and flowers. But this mellow season is
too short-lived and the temperature is turned on until with the coming
of April, clammy summer comes in full explosion and the yearly cycle of
seasons rolls on once again.
Languages spoken in west Bengal are :
Bangla ( Baņla) is an Indo-Aryan language of South Asia that evolved as
a successor to Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit. Bengali is the English word
for the name of the language and for its speakers; in Bengali, the
language itself is called Bangla (pronounced: IPA: ['baŋla]), a term
that now has greater currency in English. From this point forward,
Bangla will be used to refer to the language.
With more than 200 million native speakers, it is the fourth or fifth
most widely spoken language in the world (after Mandarin, Spanish,
English and Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu). It is also the fourth most spoken
language in terms of native speakers . Bangla is the second most
commonly spoken language in India (after Hindi). Along with Assamese, it
is geographically the most eastern of the Indo-European languages.
As a result of the Bengal renaissance in the 19th and 20th centuries,
much of India's most famous literature, poetry, and lyrics are in Bangla;
the works of Rabindranath Tagore (the first Asian to be awarded a Nobel
Prize), for example, are in Bangla. Many of the reformist religious,
philosophical, and political movements that began in that era were led
HOW TO REACH
West Bengal is has a smooth connection with the national and
international air network. The international (Netaji Subhash
International Airport) and domestic airports of Kolkata, Dumdum, is
located 15 km from the city center. The Bagdogra airport at Siliguri
connects the state with places in and around the state.
Three more airports, namely, Balurghat, Coochbehar and Malda also give
an option of domestic flights. West Bengal owes a major railway network.
Kharagpur railway station has the longest railway platform in India.
The Howrah railway station is one of the most accessed railway heads in
India. New Jalpaiguri railhead connects Darjeeling with other places of
the country by toy train. The national as well as state highways connect
West Bengal with major cities in and around the state.
The state transport corporation also runs regular buses connecting these
places. There are also private tour operators that provide luxury
coaches to access the nearby places.
International carriers connect Calcutta with Rome, London, Bangkok, Hong
Kong, Tokyo, Dubai, New York, Osaka, Moscow, Kathmandu and Dhaka.
Air : Calcutta is a good place for competitive air fares to other
parts of Asia. Most airline offices are around Chowringhee. Flights are
usually with Air India, Indian Airlines, Thai International, Royal Nepal
Airlines or Tarum Romanian. Netaji Subhash Airport is situated at
Dumdum, around 17km northeast of the city centre. Indian Airlines
connects Calcutta with Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Patna, Ahmedabad, Port
Blair, Ranchi, Lucknow, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Visakhapatnam, Bhubaneswar,
Ban- galore, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Silchar, Im
Rail : Calcutta is served by two railway station, Haora (Howrah) and Sealdah
and is connected to major cities all over the country. At Howrah
Station, platforms 1 to 16 are in the old main building, platforms 17 to
22 are in the new annex next door. The tourist railway booking office is
on the 1st floor at 6 Fairlie Place near BBD Bagh. It's open Monday to
Saturday from 9an to 1pm and 1.30 to 4pm and on Sunday between 9am to
Road : Calcutta is connected by an extensive network of national highways with
major cities and towns of tourist interest nearby. Buses generally
depart from the Esplanades bus stand area at the northern end of the
Maidan near Chowringhee Road. But there are a number of private
companies which have their own stands. Buses to and from the South
generally use the bus stand near Fort William at Babu Ghat.
Local Transport : Taxi -Yellow top taxis are much cheaper in Calcutta than some other
Indian Cities. Rickshaw -Calcutta is the only city to have hand-pulled
rickshaws many of which are hired for the day by the pullers. These sort
of rickshaws only exist in small parts of central Calcutta and they are
restricted to the small roads. Across the river in Howrah or in other
Calcutta Suburbs, there are auto and cycle-rickshaws.