Capital: Kolkata. Area: 88,752 sq. km. Population: 8,01,76,197 (Male: 4,14,65,985 Female: 3,87,10,212). Population density: 904 per sq. km. Sex ratio: 934 females per 1000 males. Principal languages: Bengali, Hindi, Urdu. Literacy: 68.6% (Male: 77.0% Female: 59.6%). Districts: 17. Lok Sabha seats: 42. State Assembly seats: 294. Airports: Kolkata (International), Bagdogra. Tourist season: October to December and March to May (Hilly regions); Octoberto March (Lower plains).
H Introduction West Bengal, a state in eastern India, stretches from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south. It is the most densely populated Indian state and its geographical diversity is unmatched. With its fruitful contribution of eminent writers, poets, artists, spiritualists and revolutionaries, Bengal deserves to be called the country’s cultural heartland. Despite being a rich and diverse state, it receives only a few foreign tourists. The capital city, Kolkata is indeed a friendly city, and like other metros is made of a combination of slums and newly developing townships and skyscrapers.
Bengal’s history dates back to the third century BC to the Mauryas. They were overthrown by the Guptas. The Pala dynasty controlled a large area in Bengal around the 9th century. Later, Bengal was invaded by
Muslims and was overpowered by Qutb-ud- din, first of the sultans of Delhi, at the end of the 12th century. Subsequent to the death of Aurangazeb in 1707, Bengal became an independent Muslim state and was conquered by Robert Clive of the East India Company in 1757.
In 1773, Warren Hastings became the first Governor General of Bengal. In 1905, Bengal was partitioned into two provinces and due to protests the state was reunified in 1911. At the time of independence, the eastern part of Bengal became East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) and the western part became the Indian state of West Bengal.
West Bengal is the only state in India which has the Himalayas in the north and the sea at the south, with both plains and plateaus covering the remaining region. A portion of the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta constitutes the eastern part of West Bengal. From the northern highlands to the tropical forests of Sunderbans, the variations in altitude result in a great variety of nature and climate.
Major rivers: Hooghly and its tributaries (Mayurakshi, Damodar, Kangsabati and Rupnarayan), Teesta, Torsa, Subarnarrekha, Joldhara and Ranjit.
Climate: The northern part is relatively cooler compared to the south. Maximum and
minimum temperatures vary between 30°C – 44°C and 4°C-12°C respectively. The average annual rainfall is 1750 mm.
Flora and Fauna The forests of West Bengal could be classified under seven categories: tropical semi-evergreen, tropical moist deciduous, subtropical hill forest, littoral and swampy, eastern Himalaya wet temperate, and alpine.
The Sunderbans, abounds in trees like the genwa, dhundal, passur, garian and kankra. The wildlife include the Royal Bengal Tiger, elephant, one-horned rhino, hog deer, wild boar, sambar, barking deer, spotted deer, rhesus monkey, mongoose, crocodile, bison, olive ridley sea turtle, python, salvator lizard, chequered killback, heron, egret, cormorant, fishing eagle, white-bellied sea eagle, seagull, tern, kingfisher, whistling teal, pintail and the white-eyed pochard.
91 Festivals in West Bengal The major festivals of West Bengal are Naba Barsho, Durga Puja, Id-UI-Fitr, Iduzzoha, Diwali, Rasajatra, Navanna, Christmas, Jagaddhatri Puja, Janmashtami, Saraswati Puja, Vasanta Utsav, Holi and Charak. The important fairs are Gangasagar Mela, Kenduli Mela, Jalpesh Mela, Rash Mela and Poush Mela.
| Tourism Spots
Beaches: Digha, Shankarpur, Junput, Frazerganj, Sagardwip, and Bakkhali.
Hill Stations: Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Sandakphu and Mirik.
Pilgrim Centres: The Nakhoda Mosque, Armenian Church, Parasnath Jain Temple, Belur Math, Dakshineshwar Temple, Khalighat Kali Temple, Birla Temple, Mayapur, Tarakeswar, Tarapith, Bishnupur, and Jagannath Temple.
Wildlife/Bird Sanctuaries: The Sunderbans National Park, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary, Buxa Tiger Reserve and the Rajganj Bird Sanctuary