West Bengal

Posted on August 13, 2010

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Situated in the east of India, this state is a land of natural beauty, exquisite lyrical poetry and enthusiastic people.

The name “Bengal” is derived from Sanskrit word “Vanga,” and, strictly

West Bengal Map

speaking, applies to the country stretching southwards from to the sea. The ancient Bangla formed one of the five outlying kingdoms of Aryan India, and was practically conterminous with the delta of Bengal. It derived its name, according to the etymology of the Pundits, from a prince of the, to whose portion it fell on the partition of the country among the Lunar race of Delhi. But a city called Bangala, near, which, although now washed away, is supposed to have existed in the Muslim period, appears to have given the name to the European world. The word Bangala was first used by the Muslim rulers; and under their rule, like the Bangla pre-Muslim times, it applied specifically to the Gangetic delta, although the later conquests to the east of the were eventually included within it.

In their distribution of the country for fiscal purposes, it formed the central province of a governorship, with Bihar on the north-west, and Orissa on the south-west, jointly ruled by one deputy of the Delhi emperor. Under the English the name has at different periods borne very different significations. Francis Fernandez applies it to the country from the extreme east of Chittagong to Point Palmyras in Orissa, with a coast line which Purchas estimates at 600 m., running inland for the same distance and watered by the. This territory would include the Muslim province of Bengal, with parts of Bihar and Orissa. The loose idea thus derived from the old voyagers became stereotyped in the archives of the East India Company. All its north-eastern factories, from, on the Orissa coast, to Patna, in the heart of Bihar, belonged to the Bengal Establishment, and as British conquests crept higher up the rivers, the term came to be applied to the whole of Northern India.

Durga PujaHistory of West Bengal
Early mention of Bengal can be found in the Mahabharata and in Ptolemy`s geography. Bengal was then a seafaring nation, sending traders to Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Java and being visited by Greeks, Chinese and Persians either by sea or over land. In the 3rd century it was a part of Ashoka`s empire. The 4th century AD it was absorbed into the Gupta empire. Form the 13th century it was under Muslim rule, until it came under the British in 1757. The East India Company formed its earliest settlements in Bengal in the first half of the 17th century.

Geography of West Bengal
West Bengal is on the eastern bottleneck of India, stretching from the in the north to the in the south. The state has a total area of 88,752 in the northern extreme of the state belongs to the eastern.It encompasses two broad natural regions, the Gangetic plain in the south and the Himalayas in the north.This region contains Sadakfu (3,636) 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.

Economy in West Bengal
Agriculture is the leading occupation in West Bengal. Rice is the state`s principal food crop. Other food crops are maize, pulses, oil seeds, wheat, barley, potatoes and vegetables. Jute is the main cash crop of the region. Tea is also produced commercially.

Government and Politics in West 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 three 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.

Transport in West Bengal
The total length of surface road in West Bengal is over 92,023 km; Indian highways comprise 2,377 km and state highways 2,393 km. Total railway length is 3,825 km. Kolkata is the headquarters of two divisions of the Indian railways- Eastern railway and South Eastern railway. The Northeast Frontier Railway runs in the northern parts of the state. The kolkata Metro is the country`s first underground railway, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.There is also an international Airport in Kolkata.

Demography in West Bengal
The vast majority of the 80,221,171 people of West Bengal are Bengalis. A Bihari minority is scattered throughout the state and communities of Sherpas and ethnic Tibetans can be found in regions bordering Sikkim. West Bengal is also home to original tribal Adivasis, who are mostly concentrated in the western districts.

The official language is Bengali. Hindi and English are also used commonly. Hinduism is the principal religion 72.5% of the population is Hindus. Muslims comprise 25%. West Bengal has a population density of 904 people per square km making it the most densely populated state in India. The state`s 1991-2001 growth rate of 17.84% is slightly lower than the national rate of 21.34. The gender ratio is 934 females per 1000 males. The literacy rate is 69.22%. The life expectancy in the state is 63.4 years, slightly 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 31.85%.

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 crime rate in the state in 2004 was 82.6 per 100,000, which was half of the national average. This is the fourth-lowest crime rate among the 32 States and Territories of India. In reported crimes against women, the state showed a crime rate of 7.1 compared to the national rate of 14.1. West Bengal was the first Indian state to constitute a Human Rights Commission of its own.

Culture in West Bengal
University of CalcuttaA great majority of the people in West Bengal is Bengali. In fact, about 85% speak Bengali, but small tribal populations, like the Santhals and Oraon of the plains and the Lepchas and Bhotias of the Himalayas, also call the state home. This strong Bengali presence is what prevails in nearly every facet of West Bengal`s culture. Above all, the signature of Bengali art is its delicate touch and requirement of keen observation. India has become familiar with the leather goods of West Bengal and their subtle stitch patterns. Terracotta pottery, another Bengali creation, is also a perfect example of delicate art now in demand around world. In much the same way, Bengali music underwent a significant popularity boom. Relatively young compared to most Indian music, Bengali music only began developing significantly 200 years ago. Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Geeti fostered this growth.

Prayer festivals tend to be the most important observances of the Bengali year. Saraswati Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja and Janmashtami all include special celebratory festivities. However, the most important festival in West Bengal is the Durga Puja. Celebrations last for seven days, and preparations begin months in advance. An essential part of this preparation includes every person acquiring new clothes for the puja. The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bangla folk music, which has also been influenced by regional music traditions. Rice and fish are traditional favorite foods, leading to a saying that in Bengali, machhe bhate bangali, that translates as “fish and rice make a Bengali. Meat production has increased significantly in recent years. Bengalis make distinctive Sweetmeats from milk products, including Rasgulla, Chomchom, and Kalojam. Bengal`s vast list of fish-based dishes includes hilsa preparations, a favorite dish among Bengalis.

Education in West Bengal
West Bengal schools are run by the state government or by private organizations, including religious institutions. Instruction is mainly in English or Bengali, though Hindi and Urdu are also used. The secondary schools are affiliated with the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations, 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, Arts, Commerce, and Science.

West Bengal has eighteen universities. The University of Calcutta, one of the oldest and largest public universities in India, has more than 200 affiliated colleges. The Bengal Engineering Science University and Jadavpur University are prestigious technical universities. The state has higher education institutes of national importance including the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, the Indian Institute of Management Kolkata, the saha institute of nuclear physics, the Asiatic-society, the Indian-statistical-institute and the Marine Engineering and Research Institute.

Media in West Bengal
Ananda Bazar PatrikaWest Bengal had 559 published newspapers in 2005. Of which 430 were in Bangla. Ananda Bazar Patrika published from Kolkata with 1,130,167 daily copies, has the largest circulation for a single-edition, regional language newspaper in India. Other major Bengali newspapers are Aajkal, Bartman, Sangbad Pratidin and Ganashakti. The Telegraph, The Statesman, Asian Age, Hindustan Times, The Times of India is some of the newspapers published in English. Vernacular newspapers such as those in Hindi, Gujrati, Oriya, Urdu, Punjabi and Nepali 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 through Cable. Bengali 24 hour television news channels include Star Ananda and Kolkata TV. All India Radio is a public radio station. Private Frequency Modulation stations are available only in cities like Kolkata. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, Hutch Essar and Airtel are available cellular phone operators. Broadband Internet is available in selected towns and cities and is provided by the state-run BSNL and by other private companies. BSNL and other providers provide Dial-up access throughout the state.

Sports in West Bengal
Mohammedan Sporting ClubCricket and Football 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, Mohan Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting Club. Indian sports such as kho kho and Kabaddi are also played. West Bengal has several large stadiums The Eden Gardens is one of only two 100,000-seat cricket ground in the world. Salt Lake Stadium is a Multi Use stadium and is the World`s third 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, Olympic tennis bronze medallist Leander Paes and chess grandmaster Dibyendu Barua.

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