West Bengal at a glance

West Bengal 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, with over 91 million inhabitants. West Bengal encompasses two broad natural regions: the Gangetic Plain in the south and the sub-Himalayan and Himalayan area in the north.

In the 3rd century BC, the broader region of Bengal was conquered by the emperor Ashoka. In the 4th century AD, 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, which initially joined the new nation of Pakistan, before becoming mostly modern-day Bangladesh in 1971.

A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's net domestic product. Noted for its political activism, the state was ruled by democratically elected communist government for three decades. West Bengal is noted for its cultural activities and presence of cultural and educational institutions; the state capital Kolkata is known as the "cultural capital of India". The state's cultural heritage, besides varied folk traditions, ranges from stalwarts in literature including Nobel-laureate Rabindranath Tagore to scores of musicians, film-makers and artist. West Bengal is also distinct from most other Indian states in its appreciation and practice of playing soccer besides the national favourite sport cricket.

Area 88,750 sq km
Capital Kolkata
Population 9,13,47,736
Official Languages Bengali

Bordered by the countries of Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, and the Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim and Assam. Stretching from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south.

  • Durga Puja
    Durga Puja

    Durga Is A Popular Fierce Form Of The Hindu Goddess Or Devi. She Is Depicted With Multiple (variously, Up To Eighteen) Arms, Carrying Various Weapons And Riding A Ferocious Lion Or Tiger. She Is Often Pictured As Battling Or Slaying Demons, Particularly Mahishasura, The Buffalo Demon. For The Goddess-worshipping Shaktas, Durga Is Sometimes Equated With Mahadevi, The Supreme Goddess. Her Triumph As Mahishasura Mardini, Slayer Of The Buffalo Demon Is A Central Episode Of The Scripture Devi Mahatmya. Her Victory Is Celebrated Annually In The Festivals Of Navaratri And Durga Puja.

  • Poila Baishakh (the Bengali New Year)
    Poila Baishakh (the Bengali New Year)

    In Bengali, Pohela Stands For 'first' And Boishakh Is First Month Of Bengali Calendar. The Festival Is Celebrated According To The Bengali Calendar.[1][2] Bangla New Year's Festivities Are Closely Linked With Rural Life In Bengal. Usually On Pohela Boishakh Everyone Dress In Traditional Clothes. They Spend Much Time Of The Day Visiting Relatives, Friends And Neighbours. Special Foods Are Prepared To Entertain Guests. This Is One Rural Festival That Has Become Enormously Big In The Cities, Especially In Kolkata.

    Boishakhi Fairs Are Arranged In Many Parts Of The Country. Various Agricultural Products, Traditional Handicrafts, Toys, Cosmetics, As Well As Various Kinds Of Food And Sweets Are Sold At These Fairs. The Fairs Also Provide Entertainment, With Singers And Dancers Staging Jatra (traditional Plays), Pala Gan, Kobigan, Jarigan, Gambhira Gan, Gazir Gan And Alkap Gan. They Present Folk Songs As Well As Baul, Marfati, Murshidi And Bhatiali Songs.

  • Dolyatra

    The Festival Of Dolyatra Is Celebrated With Pomp And Dignity In The State Of West Bengal. It Is Essentially A Festival Of Colours, Just As Holi Is But The Way It Is Celebrated Makes It Different From Holi As Witnessed In Rest Of India.

    What Makes, Dolyatra So Special In West Bengal Is The Fact That It Is The Last Festival Of Bengali Year. The Festival Is Being Celebrated Since Ancient Times. It Celebrates The Legend Of Radha And Krishna Which Says That Lord Krishna Expressed His Love To Her Beloved Radha On The Day Of Dolyatra. Before Starting With Celebrations, People Worship Radha And Krishna On This Day. In Some Places Special Pujas And Bhajans Are Also Organsied. Once The Ceremony Gets Over People Indulge In Play With Colours.

  • Poush Mela
    Poush Mela

    Poush Mela Is One Of The Important Festivals In The District Of Birbhum Of West Bengal. The Festival Is Celebrated At Shantiniketan In Birbhum With Great Splendor And Magnificence And Its Diversity Spreads Worldwide. The Week Long Fair Is Celebrated With Great Joy And Excitement. The Poush Fair Is The Site For Blending And Mixing Of Different Cultures With The True Bengali Spirit, As People Belonging To Different Cultures And Traditions From Different Parts Of Country Participate In The Fair.

    Poush Mela Is One Of The Major Fairs Organized At Shantiniketan Which Attracts Large Number Of Tourists Not Only From India But Different Countries Of The World. The Fair Is Famous For The Perfect Amalgamation Of Different Cultures And Traditions. Visitors Enjoy The Fair And Experience The Rich Heritage Of Bengal And The Enjoyment Is Taken To The Higher Level By The Splendid And Mind Blowing Cultural Performances Of The Students Of Shantiniketan And Live Performances Of Bengali Folk Music, Notably Baul Music.

  • Literature

    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 Modernised 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 Times Jibanananda 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.

  • Music And Dance
    Music And Dance

    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 A 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

  • Films

    Mainstream Hindi Films Are Popular In Bengal, And The State Is Home To A Thriving Cinema Industry, Dubbed "tollywood". Tollygunj In Kolkata Is The Location Of Numerous Bengali Movie Studios, And The Name "tollywood" (similar To Hollywood And Bollywood) Is Derived From That Name. The Bengali Film Industry Is Well Known For Its Art Films, And Has Produced Acclaimed Directors Like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha And Ritwik Ghatak. Prominent Contemporary Directors Include Buddhadev Dasgupta, Tarun Majumdar, Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen And Rituparno Ghosh.

  • Fine Arts
    Fine Arts

    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.

  • Reformist Heritage
    Reformist Heritage

    The Capital, Kolkata, Was 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.

  • Cuisine

    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 Favourite 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 Roshogolla, Chomcom, Kalojam And Several Kinds Of Sondesh. Pitha, A Kind Of Sweet Cake, Bread Or Dimsum 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.

  • Masks

    The Use Of Masks Have Come Down From The Primitive Ages. The Masks Generally Made Here Are Of Mythological Character And The Material Used Is Paper Mache Painted In Bright Colours. They Are Used For Rituals And Folk Festivals And As Decorative Items For Homes.

  • Rag Dolls
    Rag Dolls

    This Craft Root From A Japanese Influence, But Has Lately Gained Immense Popularity In Bengal. Made With Small Cloth, Cotton & Wool, These Are Used By Children And For Decorative Purposes.

  • Terracotta

    This Is One Of The Most Ancient Forms Of Art In Bengal And The Association With Religion Has Given It A Different Dimension. The Traditional Potters Or "khumbhakars" Have Been Producing Domestic And Decorative Items By Moulding Dry And Burnt Clay Over The Ages.

  • Cane & Bamboo
    Cane & Bamboo

    Originating In Ancient Bengal, These Items Find A Bigger Market In Cities Rather Than Villages In Modern Times. The Material Is Mainly Used To Make Furniture And Other Decorative Itmes.

  • Wood Carvings
    Wood Carvings

    Wood Is Widely Used For Making Toys And Decorative Panels. Kalighat Dolls & Natungram Wood Carvings Are Worth Mentioning. Image Made In Wood Relate Back To Traditional Icons, Deities Some Of Them Stylised To A Modern Look. New Materials And Innovative Techniques Are Being Used By The Artisans To Produce Useful And Aesthetic Products. Folk Motifs And Ingredients Are Being Effectively Used For A Greater Market.

  • Textile

    International Textiles & Garment Fair Is The First One-stop Opportunity In India For Textile Professionals And Exporters To Discover What West Bengal Has To Offer. Itgf'99 - An Unprecedented, High Profile Extravaganza, Where Hundreds Of Weavers And Craftsmen Come Together To Meet Industry And Trade Participants And Interact On The Intricacies Of Production And Concepts That Can Sell.