Bengal (/bɛŋˈɡɔːl/; Bengali: বাংলা/বঙ্গ, translit. Bānglā/Bôngô Bengali pronunciation: [bɔŋgo]) is a geopolitical, cultural and historical region in South Asia, specifically in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Geographically, it is made up by the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta system, the largest such formation in the world; along with mountains in its north bordering the Himalayan states of Nepal and Bhutan and east bordering Burma.
Politically, Bengal is currently divided between Bangladesh (which covers two-thirds of the region) and the Indian territories of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam's Barak Valley (altogether cover the remaining one-third). In 2011, the population of Bengal was estimated to be 250 million, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Among them, an estimated 160 million people live in Bangladesh and 91.3 million people live in West Bengal. The predominant ethnolinguistic group is the Bengali people, who speak the Indo-Aryan Bengali language. Bengali Muslims are the majority in Bangladesh and Bengali Hindus are the majority in West Bengal and Tripura, while Barak Valley contains almost equal proportions of Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims. Outside Bengal proper, the Indian territories of Jharkhand, Bihar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also home to significant communities of Bengalis.
Dense woodlands, including hilly rainforests, cover Bengal's northern and eastern areas; while an elevated forested plateau covers its central area. In the littoral southwest are the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and home of the Bengal tiger. In the coastal southeast lies Cox's Bazar, the longest beach in the world at 125 km (78 mi). The region has a monsoon climate, which the Bengali calendar divides into six seasons.
At times an independent regional empire, the Bengal was a leading power in Southeast Asia and later the Islamic East, with extensive trade networks. In antiquity, its kingdoms were known as seafaring nations. Bengal was known to the Greeks as Gangaridai, notable for mighty military power. It was described by Greek historians that Alexander the Great withdrew from the South east Asia, anticipating a counterattack from an alliance of Gangaridai. Later writers noted merchant shipping links between Bengal and Roman Egypt.
The Bengali Pala Empire was the last major Buddhist imperial power in the subcontinent, founded in 750 and becoming the dominant power in the northern Indian subcontinent by the 9th century, before being replaced by the Hindu Sena dynasty in the 12th century. Islam was introduced during the Pala Empire, through trade with the Abbasid Caliphate. The Islamic Bengal Sultanate, founded in 1352, was absorbed into the Mughal Empire in 1576. The Mughal Bengal Subah province became a major global exporter, a center of worldwide industries such as cotton textiles, silk, and shipbuilding.
Bengal was conquered by the British East India Company in 1757 by Battle of Plassey and became the Bengal Presidency of the British Raj, which experienced deindustrialization under British rule. The Company increased agriculture tax rates from 10 percent to up to 50 causing the Great Bengal famine of 1770 and the deaths of 10 Million Bengalis.
Bengal played a major role in the Indian independence movement, in which revolutionary groups were dominant. Armed attempts to overthrow the British Raj began with the rebellion of Titumir, and reached a climax when Subhas Chandra Bose led the Indian National Army allied with Japan to fight against the British. A large number of Bengalis died in the independence struggle and many were exiled in Cellular Jail, located in Andaman.
The United Kingdom Cabinet Mission of 1946, split the region into India and Pakistan Popularly known as partition of Bengal (1947) opposed by the Prime Minister of Bengal Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and nationalist leader Sarat Chandra Bose. They campaigned for a united and independent nation-state of Bengal. The initiative failed owing to British diplomacy and communal conflict between Muslims and Hindus. Later Pakistan ruled East Bengal becoming the independent nation of Bangladesh by Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971.
Region in Asia
Location of Bengal
|Iron Age India, Vedic India, Vanga Kingdom||1500 – c. 500 BCE|
|Gangaridai, Nanda Empire||345–300 BCE|
|Gupta Empire||2nd century–5th century|
|Pala Empire||8th century–12th century|
|Delhi Sultanate||1204–1339 CE|
|Bengal Sultanate||1338–1576 CE|
|Bengal Subah||1565–1717 CE|
|Nawabs of Bengal||1717–1765 CE|
|Bengal Presidency||1765–1947 CE|
|• Total||236,322 km2 (91,244 sq mi)|
|• Total||250 million ~ 300 million|
|• Density||1,070/km2 (2,800/sq mi)|
|Official languages||Bangladesh – Bengali West Bengal – Bengali, English|
The name of Bengal is derived from the ancient kingdom of Banga, the earliest records of which date back to the Mahabharata epic in the first millennium BCE. Theories on the origin of the term Banga point to the Proto-Dravidian Bong tribe that settled in the area circa 1000 BCE and the Austric word Bong (Sun-god). The term Vangaladesa is used to describe the region in 11th-century South Indian records. The modern term Bangla is prominent from the 14th century, which saw the establishment of the Sultanate of Bengal, whose first ruler Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah was known as the Shah of Bangala. The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the Age of Discovery.
Most of the Bengal region lies in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, but there are highlands in its north, northeast and southeast. The Ganges Delta arises from the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers and their respective tributaries. The total area of Bengal is 232,752 km2—West Bengal is 88,752 km2 (34,267 sq mi) and Bangladesh 147,570 km2 (56,977 sq mi).
The flat and fertile Bangladesh Plain dominates the geography of Bangladesh. The Chittagong Hill Tracts and Sylhet regions are home to most of the mountains in Bangladesh. Most parts of Bangladesh are within 10 metres (33 feet) above the sea level, and it is believed that about 10% of the land would be flooded if the sea level were to rise by 1 metre (3.3 feet). Because of this low elevation, much of this region is exceptionally vulnerable to seasonal flooding due to monsoons. The highest point in Bangladesh is in Mowdok range at 1,052 metres (3,451 feet). A major part of the coastline comprises a marshy jungle, the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world and home to diverse flora and fauna, including the royal Bengal tiger. In 1997, this region was declared endangered.
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 km2 (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 m (11,929 ft))—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. A small coastal region is on the extreme south, while the Sundarbans mangrove forests form a remarkable geographical landmark at the Ganges delta.
At least nine districts in West Bengal and 42 districts in Bangladesh have arsenic levels in groundwater above the World Health Organization maximum permissible limit of 50 µg/L or 50 parts per billion and the untreated water is unfit for human consumption. The water causes arsenicosis, skin cancer and various other complications in the body.
North Bengal is a term used for the north-western part of Bangladesh and northern part of West Bengal. The Bangladeshi part comprises Rajshahi Division and Rangpur Division. Generally, it is the area lying west of Jamuna River and north of Padma River, and includes the Barind Tract. Politically, West Bengal's part comprises Jalpaiguri Division (Alipurduar, Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda) together and Bihar's parts include Kishanganj district. Darjeeling Hills are also part of North Bengal. Although only people of Jaipaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar identifies themselves as North Bengali. North Bengal is divided into Terai and Dooars regions. North Bengal is also noted for its rich cultural heritage, including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Aside from the Bengali majority, North Bengal is home to many other communities including Nepalis, Santhal people, Lepchas and Rajbongshis.
Northeast Bengal refers to the Sylhet region, comprising Sylhet Division of Bangladesh and the Barak Valley in the Indian state of Assam. The region is noted for its distinctive fertile highland terrain, extensive tea plantations, rainforests and wetlands. The Surma and Barak rivers are the geographic markers of the area. The city of Sylhet is its largest urban center, and the most spoken vernacular language in the region is the Sylheti dialect of Bengali. The endonym of the region is Srihatta. The region was ruled by the Kamarupa and Harikela kingdoms. It later became a district of the Mughal Empire. Alongside the predominant Bengali population resides a small Bishnupriya Manipuri minority.
The region is the crossroads of Bengal and northeast India.
Central Bengal refers to the Dhaka Division of Bangladesh. It includes the elevated Madhupur tract with a large Sal tree forest. The Padma River cuts through the southern part of the region, separating the greater Faridpur region. In the north lies the greater Mymensingh and Tangail regions.
South Bengal covers the southern part of the Indian state of West Bengal and southwestern Bangladesh. The Indian part of South Bengal includes 12 districts: Kolkata, Howrah, Hooghly, Burdwan, East Midnapur, West Midnapur, Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum, Nadia, South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas. The Bangladeshi part includes the proposed Faridpur Division, Khulna Division and Barisal Division.
Southeast Bengal refers to the hilly and coastal Bengali-speaking areas of Chittagong Division in southeastern Bangladesh and the Indian state of Tripura. Southeast Bengal is noted for its thalassocratic and seafaring heritage. The area was dominated by the Bengali Harikela and Samatata kingdoms in antiquity. It was known to Arab traders as Harkand in the 9th century. During the medieval period, the region was ruled by the Sultanate of Bengal, the Kingdom of Tripura, the Kingdom of Mrauk U, the Portuguese Empire and the Mughal Empire, prior to the advent of British rule. The Chittagonian dialect of Bengali is prevalent in coastal areas of southeast Bengal. Along with its Bengali population, it is also home to Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups, including the Chakma, Marma, Tanchangya, Tripuri and Bawm peoples.
There are four World Heritage Sites in the region, including the Sundarbans, the Somapura Mahavihara, the Mosque City of Bagerhat and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Other prominent places include the Bishnupur, Bankura temple city, the Adina Mosque, the Caravanserai Mosque, numerous zamindar palaces (like Ahsan Manzil and Cooch Behar Palace), the Lalbagh Fort, the Great Caravanserai ruins, the Shaista Khan Caravanserai ruins, the Kolkata Victoria Memorial, the Dhaka Parliament Building, archaeologically excavated ancient fort cities in Mahasthangarh, Mainamati, Chandraketugarh and Wari-Bateshwar, the Jaldapara National Park, the Lawachara National Park, the Teknaf Game Reserve and the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Cox's Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh is home to the longest natural beach in the world and a growing surfing destination. St. Martin's Island, off the coast of Chittagong Division, is home to the sole coral reef in Bengal.
The flat Bengal Plain, which covers most of Bangladesh and West Bengal, is one of the most fertile areas on Earth, with lush vegetation and farmland dominating its landscape. Bengali villages are buried among groves of mango, jack fruit, betel nut and date palm. Rice, jute, mustard and sugarcane plantations are a common sight. Water bodies and wetlands provide a habitat for many aquatic plants in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. The northern part of the region features Himalayan foothills (Dooars) with densely wooded Sal and other tropical evergreen trees. Above an elevation of 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), the forest becomes predominantly subtropical, with a predominance of temperate-forest trees such as oaks, conifers and rhododendrons. Sal woodland is also found across central Bangladesh, particularly in the Bhawal National Park. The Lawachara National Park is a rainforest in northeastern Bangladesh. The Chittagong Hill Tracts in southeastern Bangladesh is noted for its high degree of biodiversity.
The littoral Sundarbans in the southwestern part of Bengal is the largest mangrove forest in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region has over 89 species of mammals, 628 species of birds and numerous species of fish. For Bangladesh, the water lily, the oriental magpie-robin, the hilsa and mango tree are national symbols. For West Bengal, the white-throated kingfisher, the chatim tree and the night-flowering jasmine are state symbols. The Bengal tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh and India. The fishing cat is the state animal of West Bengal.
Human settlement in Bengal can be traced back 20,000 years. Remnants of Copper Age settlements date back 4,300 years. Archaeological evidence confirms that by the second millennium BCE, rice-cultivating communities inhabited the region. By the 11th century BCE, the people of the area lived in systemically-aligned housing, used human cemeteries and manufactured copper ornaments and fine black and red pottery. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers were natural arteries for communication and transportation. Estuaries on the Bay of Bengal allowed for maritime trade. The early Iron Age saw the development of metal weaponry, coinage, permanent field agriculture and irrigation. From 600 BCE, the second wave of urbanization engulfed the north Indian subcontinent, as part of the Northern Black Polished Ware culture.
Ancient Bengal was divided between the regions of Varendra, Suhma, Anga, Vanga, Samatata and Harikela. Early Indian literature described the region as a thalassocracy, with colonies in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. For example, the first recorded king of Sri Lanka was a Bengali prince called Vijaya. The region was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Gangaridai. The Greek ambassador Megasthenes chronicled its military strength and dominance of the Ganges delta. The invasion army of Alexander the Great was deterred by the accounts of Gangaridai's power in 325 BCE. Later Roman accounts noted maritime trade routes with Bengal and a Roman amphora has been found in Purba Medinipur district, made in Aelana (present day Aqaba in Jordan) between the 4th and 7th centuries AD. Another prominent kingdom in Ancient Bengal was Pundravardhana which was located in Northern Bengal with its capital being located in modern-day Bogra, the kingdom was prominently buddhist leaving behind historic Viharas such as Mahasthangarh. In vedic mythology the royal families of Magadha, Anga, Vanga, Suhma and Kalinga were all related and descended from one King.
Ancient Bengal was considered a part of Magadha region, which was the cradle of Indian arts and sciences. Currently the Maghada region is divided into several states that are Bihar, Jharkhand and Bengal (West Bengal and East Bengal) The legacy of Magadha includes the concept of zero, the invention of Chess and the theory of solar and lunar eclipses and the Earth orbiting the Sun. Secular Sanskrit, or standard Old Indo-Aryan, was spoken across Bengal. The Bengali language evolved from Old Indo-Aryan Sanskrit dialects. The region was ruled by Hindu, Buddhist and Jain dynasties, including the Mauryans, Guptas, Varmans, Khadgas, Palas, Chandras and Senas among others. In the 9th century, Arab Muslim traders frequented Bengali seaports and found the region to be a thriving seafaring kingdom with well-developed coinage and banking.
The Pala Empire was an imperial power in the Indian subcontinent, which originated in the region of Bengal. They were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism. The empire was founded with the election of Gopala as the emperor of Gauda in 750. At its height in the early 9th century, the Pala Empire was the dominant power in the northern subcontinent, with its territory stretching across parts of modern-day eastern Pakistan, northern and northeastern India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The empire enjoyed relations with the Srivijaya Empire, the Tibetan Empire, and the Arab Abbasid Caliphate. Islam first appeared in Bengal during Pala rule, as a result of increased trade between Bengal and the Middle East. The resurgent Hindu Sena dynasty dethroned the Pala Empire in the 12th century, ending the reign of the last major Buddhist imperial power in the subcontinent.
Muslim conquests of the Indian subcontinent absorbed Bengal in 1204. The region was annexed by the Delhi Sultanate. Muslim rule introduced agrarian reform, a new calendar and Sufism. The region saw the rise of important city states in Sonargaon, Satgaon and Lakhnauti. By 1352, Ilyas Shah achieved the unification of an independent Bengal. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Bengal Sultanate was a major diplomatic, economic and military power in the subcontinent. It developed the subcontinent's relations with China, Egypt, the Timurid Empire and East Africa. In 1540, Sher Shah Suri was crowned Emperor of the northern subcontinent in the Bengali capital Gaur.
The Mughal Empire conquered Bengal in the 16th century. The Bengal Subah province in the Mughal Empire was the wealthiest state in the subcontinent. Bengal's trade and wealth impressed the Mughals so much that it was described as the Paradise of the Nations by the Mughal Emperors. The region was also notable for its powerful semi-independent aristocracy, including the Twelve Bhuiyans and the Nawabs of Bengal. It was visited by several world explorers, including Ibn Battuta, Niccolo De Conti and Admiral Zheng He.
Under Mughal rule, Bengal was a center of the worldwide muslin and silk trades. During the Mughal era, the most important center of cotton production was Bengal, particularly around its capital city of Dhaka, leading to muslin being called "daka" in distant markets such as Central Asia. Domestically, much of India depended on Bengali products such as rice, silks and cotton textiles. Overseas, Europeans depended on Bengali products such as cotton textiles, silks and opium; Bengal accounted for 40% of Dutch imports from Asia, for example, including more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks. From Bengal, saltpeter was also shipped to Europe, opium was sold in Indonesia, raw silk was exported to Japan and the Netherlands, cotton and silk textiles were exported to Europe, Indonesia, and Japan, cotton cloth was exported to the Americas and the Indian Ocean. Bengal also had a large shipbuilding industry. In terms of shipbuilding tonnage during the 16th–18th centuries, economic historian Indrajit Ray estimates the annual output of Bengal at 223,250 tons, compared with 23,061 tons produced in nineteen colonies in North America from 1769 to 1771.
Since the 16th century, European traders traversed the sea routes to Bengal, following the Portuguese conquests of Malacca and Goa. The Portuguese established a settlement in Chittagong with permission from the Bengal Sultanate in 1528, but were later expelled by the Mughals in 1666. In the 18th-century, the Mughal Court rapidly disintegrated due to Nader Shah's invasion and internal rebellions, allowing European colonial powers to set up trading posts across the territory. The British East India Company eventually emerged as the foremost military power in the region; and defeated the last independent Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757.
In Bengal effective political and military power was transferred from the old regime to the British East India Company around 1757–65. Company rule in India began under the Bengal Presidency. Calcutta was named the capital of British India in 1772. The presidency was run by a military-civil administration, including the Bengal Army, and had the world's sixth earliest railway network. Great Bengal famines struck several times during colonial rule (notably the Great Bengal famine of 1770 and Bengal famine of 1943). The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was initiated on the outskirts of Calcutta, and spread to Dhaka, Chittagong, Jalpaiguri, Sylhet and Agartala, in solidarity with revolts in North India. The failure of the rebellion led to the abolishment of the Mughal Court and direct rule by the British Raj. The late 19th and early 20th century Bengal Renaissance had a great impact on the cultural and economic life of Bengal. Between 1905 and 1912, an abortive attempt was made to divide the province of Bengal into two zones, that included the short-lived province of Eastern Bengal and Assam based in Dacca and Shillong. Under British rule, Bengal experienced deindustrialization.
Bengal played a major role in the Indian independence movement, in which revolutionary groups were dominant. Armed attempts to overthrow the British Raj began with the rebellion of Titumir, and reached a climax when Subhas Chandra Bose led the Indian National Army against the British. Bengal was also central in the rising political awareness of the Muslim population—the All-India Muslim League was established in Dhaka in 1906. The Muslim homeland movement pushed for a sovereign state in eastern British India with the Lahore Resolution in 1943. Hindu nationalism was also strong in Bengal, which was home to groups like the Hindu Mahasabha. In spite of a last-ditch effort to form a United Bengal, 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 Bangladesh in 1971). The circumstances of partition were bloody, with widespread religious riots in Bengal.
The 1970 Bhola cyclone took the lives of 500,000 people in Bengal, making it one of the deadliest recorded cyclones.
West Bengal became one of India's most populous states. Calcutta, the former capital of the British Raj, became the state capital of West Bengal and continued to be India's largest city until the late 20th century, when severe power shortages, strikes and a violent Marxist-Naxalite movement damaged much of the state's infrastructure in the 1960s and 70s, leading to a period of economic stagnation. 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 the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) governed the state for over three decades, which was the world's longest elected Communist administration in history. Since the 2000s, West Bengal has experienced an economic rejuvenation, particularly in its IT industry.
The princely state of Hill Tippera, that was under the suzerainty of British India, was ruled by a Bengali-speaking monarchy. Following the death of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Debbarman, the princely state acceded to the Union of India on 15 October 1949 under the Tripura Merger Agreement signed by Maharani Regent Kanchan Prava Devi. By the 1950s, the region had a Bengali majority population due to the influx of Hindus from East Pakistan after partition. It became a Union Territory of India in November 1953. It was granted full statehood with an elected legislature in July 1963. An insurgency by indigenous people affected the state for several years. The Left Front ruled the state between 1978 and 1988, followed by a stint of Indian National Congress rule until 1993, and then a return to the Communists.
The Barak Valley joined the union of India after its partition from Sylhet in 1947 and has been a part of the state of Assam. One of the most significant events in the region's history was the language movement in 1961, in which the killing of agitators by state police led to Bengali being recognized as one of the official languages of Assam. The issue of Bengali settlement in the state has been a contentious part of the Assam conflict.
In 1948, the Government of the Dominion of Pakistan ordained Urdu as the sole national language, sparking extensive protests among the Bengali-speaking majority of East Bengal. Facing rising sectarian tensions and mass discontent with the new law, the government outlawed public meetings and rallies. The students of the University of Dhaka and other political activists defied the law and organised a protest on 21 February 1952. The movement reached its climax when several student demonstrators were shot dead by police firing. As a result of the movement, Pakistan government in 1956 included Bengali as national lanuage along with Urdu. UNESCO in 1999 declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day honoring the 1952 incident.
East Bengal, which was later renamed to East Pakistan in 1955, was home to Pakistan's demographic majority and played an instrumental role in the founding of the new state. Strategically, Pakistan joined the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization under the Bengali prime minister Mohammad Ali of Bogra as a bulwark against communism. However, tensions between East and West Pakistan grew rapidly over political exclusion, economic neglect and ethnic and linguistic discrimination. The State of Pakistan was subjected to years of military rule due to fears of Bengali political supremacy under democracy. Elected Bengali-led governments at the federal and provincial levels, which were led by statesmen such as A. K. Fazlul Huq and H. S. Suhrawardy, were deposed.
East Pakistan witnessed the rise of Bengali self determination calls led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Maulana Bhashani in the 1960s. Rahman launched the Six point movement for autonomy in 1966. After the 1970 national election, Rahman's party, the Awami League, had emerged as the largest party in Pakistan's parliament. The erstwhile Pakistani military junta refused to accept election results which triggered civil disobedience across East Pakistan. The Pakistani military responded by launching a genocide that caused the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The first Government of Bangladesh and the Mukti Bahini waged a guerrilla campaign with support from neighboring India, which hosted millions of war refugees. Global support for the independence of East Pakistan increased due to the conflict's humanitarian crisis, with the Indian Armed Forces intervening in support of the Bangladesh Forces in the final two weeks of the war and ensuring Pakistan's surrender.
After independence, Bangladesh adopted a secular democracy under its new constitution in 1972. Awami League premier Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the country's strongman and implemented many socialist policies. A one party state was enacted in 1975. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated later that year during a military coup that ushered in sixteen years of military dictatorships and presidential governments. The liberation war commander Ziaur Rahman emerged as Bangladesh's leader in the late 1970s. He reoriented the country's foreign policy towards the West and restored free markets and the multiparty polity. President Zia was assassinated in 1981 during a failed military coup. He was eventually succeeded by his army chief Hussain Muhammad Ershad. Lasting for nine years, Ershad's rule witnessed continued pro-free market reforms and the devolution of some authority to local government. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was founded in Dhaka in 1985. The Jatiya Party government made Islam the state religion in 1988.
A popular uprising restored parliamentary democracy in 1991. Since then, Bangladesh has largely alternated between the premierships of Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, as well as technocratic caretaker governments. Emergency rule was imposed by the military in 2007 and 2008 after widespread street violence between the League and BNP. The restoration of democratic government in 2009 was followed by the initiation of the International Crimes Tribunal to prosecute surviving colloborators of the 1971 genocide. Today, the country is an emerging economy, listed as one of the Next Eleven and experiencing growing industrial development, but continues to face political, economic and social challenges.
Bengal has been an independent territory during several periods in history, while at other times, it has been part of larger empires. Bengal has also been a regional empire, ruling over neighboring regions like Bihar, Orissa, Arakan, and parts of North India, Assam and Nepal.
Politically, the region is divided between the People's Republic of Bangladesh, an independent state, and the eastern provinces of the Republic of India, including West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. Politically both Bangladesh and Indian Bengal are socialist, with left wing parties dominating the region's politics.
The state of Bangladesh is a parliamentary republic based on the Westminster system, with a written constitution and a President elected by parliament for mostly ceremonial purposes. The government is headed by a Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President from among the popularly elected 300 Members of Parliament in the Jatiyo Sangshad, the national parliament. The Prime Minister is traditionally the leader of the single largest party in the Jatiyo Sangshad. Under the constitution, Islam is recognized as the state religion; while Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and people of all other denomiations are stated to enjoy equal rights.
Between 1975 and 1990, Bangladesh had a presidential system of government. Since the 1990s, it was administered by non-political technocratic caretaker governments on four occasions, the last being under military-backed emergency rule in 2007 and 2008. The Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are the two largest political parties in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a prominent member of the United Nations, being the largest contributor of peacekeeping forces in the world and a key promoter of multilateral diplomacy. It is also a member of SAARC, the Developing 8 Countries, BIMSTEC, the World Trade Organization, NAM, the OIC and the Commonwealth of Nations. A developing country with high levels of poverty, Bangladesh has achieved significant strides in human development compared to its neighbors.
West Bengal, Tripura and Assam (home to the Barak Valley) are provincial states of the Republic of India, with local executives and assemblies- features shared with other states in the Indian federal system. The president of India appoints a governor as the ceremonial representative of the union government. The governor appoints the chief minister on the nomination of the legislative assembly. The chief minister is the traditionally the leader of the party or coalition with most seats in the assembly. President's rule is often imposed in Indian states as a direct intervention of the union government led by the prime minister of India.
The state legislative assemblies also play a key role in electing the ceremonial president of India. The former president of India, Pranab Mukherjee, was a native of West Bengal and a leader of the Indian National Congress.
The two major political forces in the Bengali-speaking zone of India are the Left Front and the Trinamool Congress, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress being minor players.
India and Bangladesh are the world's second and eighth most populous countries respectively. Bangladesh-India relations began on a high note in 1971 when India played a major role in the liberation of Bangladesh, with the Indian Bengali populace and media providing overwhelming support to the independence movement in the former East Pakistan. The two countries had a twenty five-year friendship treaty between 1972 and 1996. However, differences over river sharing, border security and access to trade have long plagued the relationship. In more recent years, a consensus has evolved in both countries on the importance of developing good relations, as well as a strategic partnership in South Asia and beyond. Commercial, cultural and defense cooperation have expanded since 2010, when Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina and Manmohan Singh pledged to reinvigorate ties.
The Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi operates a Deputy High Commission in Kolkata and a consular office in Agartala. India has a High Commission in Dhaka with consulates in Chittagong and Rajshahi. Frequent international air, bus and rail services connect major cities in Bangladesh and Indian Bengal, particularly the three largest cities- Dhaka, Kolkata and Chittagong. Undocumented immigration of Bangladeshi workers is a controversial issue championed by right-wing nationalist parties in India but finds little sympathy in West Bengal. India has since fenced the border which has been criticized by Bangladesh.
The Bengal region is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. With a population of 300 million, Bengalis are the third largest ethnic group in the world after the Han Chinese and Arabs. According to provisional results of 2011 Bangladesh census, the population of Bangladesh was 142,319,000; however, CIA's The World Factbook gives 163,654,860 as its population in a July 2013 estimate. According to the provisional results of the 2011 Indian national census, West Bengal has a population of 91,347,736. So, the Bengal region, as of 2011, has at least 233 million people. This figures give a population density of 1003.9/km2; making it among the most densely populated areas in the world.
Bengali is the main language spoken in Bengal. Many phonological, lexical, and structural differences from the standard variety occur in peripheral varieties of Bengali; these include Sylheti, Chittagonian, Chakma, Rangpuri/Rajbangshi, Hajong, Rohingya, and Tangchangya.
In addition, several minority ethnolinguistic groups are native to the region. These include speakers of other Indo-Aryan languages (e.g., Bishnupriya Manipuri, Oraon Sadri, various Bihari languages), Tibeto-Burman languages (e.g., A'Tong, Chak, Koch, Garo, Megam, Meitei Manipuri, Mizo, Mru, Pangkhua, Rakhine/Marma, Kok Borok, Riang, Tippera, Usoi, various Chin languages), Austroasiatic languages (e.g., Khasi, Koda, Mundari, Pnar, Santali, War), and Dravidian languages (e.g., Kurukh, Sauria Paharia).
Life expectancy is around 70.36 years for Bangladesh and 70.2 for West Bengal. In terms of literacy, West Bengal leads with 77% literacy rate, in Bangladesh the rate is approximately 71%.[note 1] The level of poverty in West Bengal is at 19.98%, while in Bangladesh it stands at 12.9%
West Bengal has one of the lowest total fertility rates in India. West Bengal's TFR of 1.6 roughly equals that of Canada.
About 20,000 people live on chars. Chars are temporary islands formed by the deposition of sediments eroded off the banks of the Ganges in West Bengal, which often disappear in the monsoon season. They are made of very fertile soil. The inhabitants of the chars are not recognised by the Government of West Bengal on the grounds that it is not known whether they are Bengalis or Bangladeshi refugees. Consequently, no identification documents are issued to char-dwellers who cannot benefit from health care, barely survive because of very poor sanitation and are prevented from emigrating to the mainland to find jobs when they have turned 14. On a particular char, it was reported that 13% of women died at childbirth.
Historically, Bengal has been the industrial leader of the subcontinent.
The region is one of the largest rice producing areas in the world, with West Bengal being India's largest rice producer and Bangladesh being the world's fourth largest rice producer. Other key crops include jute, tea, sugarcane and wheat. There are significant reserves of limestone, natural gas and coal. Major industries include textiles, leather goods, pharmaceuticals, shipbuilding, banking and information and communication technology.
Below is a comparison of economies in the region of Bengal
|Bangladesh||West Bengal (India)|
|US$285.82 billion||US$141 billion|
|US$1,754 per person||US$1,600 per person|
Bangladesh and India are the largest trading partners in South Asia, with two-way trade valued at an estimated US$6.9 billion. Much of this trade relationship is centered on some of the world's busiest land ports on the Bangladesh-India border, particularly the West Bengal section.
The partition of India severed the once strong economic links which integrated the region. Decades later, frequent air, rail and bus services are increasingly connecting cities in Bangladesh and West Bengal, as well as the wider region, including Northeast India, Nepal and Bhutan. However the overall economic relationship remains well below potential.
The following are the largest cities in Bengal (in terms of population):
|Port of Chittagong||Sea Port||Active||Chittagong, Chittagong||Bangladesh|
|Port of Haldia||Sea Port
|Active||Haldia, East Midnapur||India|
|Port of Mongla||Sea Port||Active||Mongla, Bagerhat, Khulna||Bangladesh|
|Port of Payra||Sea Port||Active||Kalapara, Patuakhali, Barisal||Bangladesh|
|Port of Kolkata||River Port||Active||Kolkata, Kolkata||India|
|Port of Narayanganj||River Port||Active||Narayanganj, Dhaka||Bangladesh|
|Port of Benapole-Petrapole||Landport||Active||Sharsha, Jessore-Bangaon, North 24 Parganas||Jessore-Bangaon|
The Bengal region is located at the crossroads of two huge economic blocs, the SAARC and ASEAN. It gives access to the sea for the landlocked countries of Nepal and Bhutan, as well as the Seven Sister States of North East India. It is also located near China's southern landlocked region, including Yunnan and Tibet.
Both India and Bangladesh plan to expand onshore and offshore oil and gas operations. Bangladesh is Asia's seventh-largest natural gas producer. Its maritime exclusive economic zone potentially holds many of the largest gas reserves in the Asia-Pacific.
The Bay of Bengal is strategically important for its vital shipping lanes and its central location between the Middle East and the Pacific. The Bay of Bengal Initiative, based in Dhaka, brings together Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka to promote economic integration in the subregion. Other regional groupings include the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation (BCIM) and the Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal (BBIN) Initiative.
Culturally, Bengal is significant for its huge Hindu and Muslim populations. Bengali Hindus make up the second largest linguistic community in India. Bengali Muslims are the world's second largest Muslim ethnicity (after Arab Muslims), and Bangladesh is the world's third largest Muslim-majority country (after Indonesia and Pakistan).
The Bengali language developed between the 7th and 10th centuries from Apabhraṃśa and Magadhi Prakrit. It is written using the indigenous Bengali alphabet, a descendant of the ancient Brahmi script. Bengali is the 10th most spoken language in the world. It is an eastern Indo-Aryan language and one of the easternmost branches of the Indo-European language family. It is part of the Bengali-Assamese languages. Bengali has greatly influenced other languages in the region, including Odia, Assamese, Chakma, Nepali and Rohingya. It is the sole state language of Bangladesh and the third most spoken language in India.
Bengali binds together a culturally diverse region and is an important contributor to regional identity. The 1952 Bengali Language Movement in East Pakistan is commemorated by UNESCO as International Mother Language Day, as part of global efforts to preserve linguistic identity.
In both Bangladesh and West Bengal, currency is commonly denominated as taka. The Bangladesh taka is an official standard bearer of this tradition, while the Indian rupee is also written as taka in Bengali script on all of its banknotes. The history of the taka dates back centuries. Bengal was home one of the world's earliest coin currencies in the first millennium BCE. Under the Delhi Sultanate, the taka was introduced by Muhammad bin Tughluq in 1329. Bengal became the stronghold of the taka. The silver currency was the most important symbol of sovereignty of the Sultanate of Bengal. It was traded on the Silk Road and replicated in Nepal and China's Tibetan protectorate. The Pakistani rupee was scripted in Bengali as taka on its banknotes until Bangladesh's creation in 1971.
|By category |
|Bengali literary history|
|History of Bengali literature|
|Bengali language authors|
|Chronological list – Alphabetic List|
|Writers – Novelists – Poets|
|Novel – Poetry – Science Fiction|
|Institutions and awards|
|Literary Institutions |
West Bengal Portal
Bengali literature has a rich heritage. It has a history stretching back to the 3rd century BCE, when the main language was Sanskrit written in the brahmi script. The Bengali language and script evolved circa 1000 CE from Magadhi Prakrit. Bengal has a long tradition in folk literature, evidenced by the Chôrjapôdô, Mangalkavya, Shreekrishna Kirtana, Maimansingha Gitika or Thakurmar Jhuli. Bengali literature in the medieval age was often either religious (e.g. Chandidas), or adaptations from other languages (e.g. Alaol). During the Bengal Renaissance of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Bengali literature was modernised through the works of authors such as Michael Madhusudan Dutta, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Satyendranath Dutta and Jibanananda Das. In the 20th century, prominent modern Bengali writers included Syed Mujtaba Ali, Jasimuddin, Manik Bandopadhyay, Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Buddhadeb Bose, Sunil Gangopadhyay and Humayun Ahmed.
The Mother Bengal is a female personification of Bengal which was created during the Bengali renaissance and later adopted by the Bengali nationalists. The Mother Bengal represents not only biological motherness but its attributed characteristics as well – protection, never ending love, consolation, care, the beginning and the end of life. In Amar Sonar Bangla, the national anthem of Bangladesh, Rabindranath Tagore has used the word "Maa" (Mother) numerous times to refer to the motherland i.e. Bengal. Despite her popularity in patriotic songs and poems, her physical representations and images are rare.
Islamic Bengal was noted for its production of the finest cotton fabrics and saris, notably the Jamdani, which received warrants from the Mughal court. The Bengal School of painting flourished in Kolkata and Shantiniketan in the British Raj during the early 20th century. Its practitioners were among the harbingers of modern painting in India. Zainul Abedin was the pioneer of modern Bangladeshi art. The country has a thriving and internationally acclaimed contemporary art scene.
Classical Bengali architecture features terracotta buildings. Ancient Bengali kingdoms laid the foundations of the region's architectural heritage through the construction of monasteries and temples (for example, the Somapura Mahavihara). During the sultanate period, a distinct and glorious Islamic style of architecture developed the region. Most Islamic buildings were small and highly artistic terracotta mosques with multiple domes and no minarets. Bengal was also home to the largest mosque in South Asia at Adina. Bengali vernacular architecture is credited for inspiring the popularity of the bungalow.
The Bengal region also has a rich heritage of Indo-Saracenic architecture, including numerous zamindar palaces and mansions. The most prominent example of this style is the Victoria Memorial, Kolkata.
In the 1950s, Muzharul Islam pioneered the modernist terracotta style of architecture in South Asia. This was followed by the design of the Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban by the renowned American architect Louis Kahn in the 1960s, which was based on the aesthetic heritage of Bengali architecture and geography.
The Gupta dynasty, which is believed to have originated in North Bengal, pioneered the invention of chess, the concept of zero, the theory of Earth orbiting the Sun, the study of solar and lunar eclipses and the flourishing of Sanskrit literature and drama. Bengal was the leader of scientific endeavors in the subcontinent during the British Raj. The educational reforms during this period gave birth to many distinguished scientists in the region. Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics, made very significant contributions to plant science, and laid the foundations of experimental science in the Indian subcontinent. IEEE named him one of the fathers of radio science. He was the first person from the Indian subcontinent to receive a US patent, in 1904. In 1924–25, while researching at the University of Dhaka, Prof Satyendra Nath Bose well known for his works in quantum mechanics, provided the foundation for Bose–Einstein statistics and the theory of the Bose–Einstein condensate. In the United States, the Bengali American engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan emerged as the "father of tubular designs" in skyscraper construction.
The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bengali folk music. The 19th century mystic poet Lalon Shah is the most celebrated practitioner of the tradition. Other folk music forms include Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya. Hason Raja is a renowned folk poet of the Sylhet region. Folk music in Bengal is often accompanied by the ektara, a one-stringed instrument. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. The region also has a rich heritage in North Indian classical music.
Bengali cuisine is the only traditionally developed multi-course tradition from the Indian subcontinent. Rice and fish are traditional favourite foods, leading to a saying that "fish and rice make a Bengali". Bengal's vast repertoire of fish-based dishes includes Hilsa preparations, a favourite among Bengalis. Bengalis make distinctive sweetmeats from milk products, including Rôshogolla, Chômchôm, and several kinds of Pithe. The old city of Dhaka is noted for its distinct Indo-Islamic cuisine, including biryani, bakarkhani and kebab dishes.
There are 150 types of Bengali country boats plying the 700 rivers of the Bengal delta, the vast floodplain and many oxbow lakes. They vary in design and size. The boats include the dinghy and sampan among others. Country boats are a central element of Bengali culture and have inspired generations of artists and poets, including the ivory artisans of the Mughal era. The country has a long shipbuilding tradition, dating back many centuries. Wooden boats are made of timber such as Jarul (dipterocarpus turbinatus), sal (shorea robusta), sundari (heritiera fomes), and Burma teak (tectons grandis). Medieval Bengal was shipbuilding hub for the Mughal and Ottoman navies. The British Royal Navy later utilized Bengali shipyards in the 19th-century, including for the Battle of Trafalgar.
Bengali women commonly wear the shaŗi and the salwar kameez, often distinctly designed according to local cultural customs. In urban areas, many women and men wear Western-style attire. Among men, European dressing has greater acceptance. Men also wear traditional costumes such as the kurta with dhoti or pyjama, often on religious occasions. The lungi, a kind of long skirt, is widely worn by Bangladeshi men.
Durga Puja is the biggest festival of the Hindus in Bengal as well as the most significant socio-cultural event of the region in general. The two Eids and Muharram are the important festivals for Muslims. Christmas (called Borodin in Bengali) is also a major festival where people irrespective of their beliefs and faiths participate. Other major festivals include Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja, Holi, Rath Jatra, Janmashtami, Poila Boishakh and Poush Parbon.
Bangladesh has a diverse, outspoken and privately owned press, with the largest circulated Bengali language newspapers in the world. English-language titles are popular in the urban readership. West Bengal had 559 published newspapers in 2005, of which 430 were in Bengali. Bengali cinema is divided between the media hubs of Kolkata and Dhaka.
An Indo-Bangladesh Bengali Games has been organised among the athletes of the Bengali speaking areas of the two countries.
Historians believe that Bengal, the area comprising present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, was settled in about 1000 B.C. by Dravidian-speaking peoples who were later known as the Bang. Their homeland bore various titles that reflected earlier tribal names, such as Vanga, Banga, Bangala, Bangal, and Bengal.
In C1020 ... launched Rajendra's great northern escapade ... peoples he defeated have been tentatively identified ... 'Vangala-desa where the rain water never stopped' sounds like a fair description of Bengal in the monsoon.
The All India Trinamool Congress (abbreviated AITC or TMC) is a national level political party in India. Founded on 1 January 1998, the party is led by its founder and Mamata Banerjee, who is the current chief minister of West Bengal. Following the 2014 general election, it is currently the fourth largest party in the Lok Sabha with 34 seats.Bangladesh
Bangladesh (; Bengali: বাংলাদেশ Bangladesh [ˈbaŋladeʃ] (listen), lit. "The country of Bengal"), officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh (গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ Gônoprojatontri Bangladesh), is a country in South Asia. It shares land borders with India and Myanmar (Burma). The country's maritime territory in the Bay of Bengal is roughly equal to the size of its land area. Bangladesh is the world's eighth most populous country as well as its most densely-populated, to the exclusion of small island nations and city-states. Dhaka is its capital and largest city, followed by Chittagong, which has the country's largest port. Bangladesh forms the largest and easternmost part of the Bengal region. Bangladeshis include people from a range of ethnic groups and religions. Bengalis, who speak the official Bengali language, make up 98% of the population. The politically dominant Bengali Muslims make the nation the world's third largest Muslim-majority country. Islam is the official religion of Bangladesh.Most of Bangladesh is covered by the Bengal Delta, the largest delta on Earth. The country has 700 rivers and 8,046 km (5,000 mi) of inland waterways. Highlands with evergreen forests are found in the northeastern and southeastern regions of the country. Bangladesh has many islands and a coral reef. The second longest unbroken sea beach of the world, Cox's Bazar Beach, is located in the southeast. It is home to the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world. The country's biodiversity includes a vast array of plant and wildlife, including endangered Bengal tigers, the national animal.
The Greeks and Romans identified the region as Gangaridai, a powerful kingdom of the historical Indian subcontinent, in the 3rd century BCE. Archaeological research has unearthed several ancient cities in Bangladesh, which enjoyed international trade links for millennia. The Bengal Sultanate and Mughal Bengal transformed the region into a cosmopolitan Islamic imperial power between the 14th and 18th centuries. The region was home to many principalities that made use of their inland naval prowess. It was also a notable center of the global muslin and silk trade. As part of British India, the region was influenced by the Bengali renaissance and played an important role in anti-colonial movements. The Partition of British India made East Bengal a part of the Dominion of Pakistan; and renamed it as East Pakistan. The region witnessed the Bengali Language Movement in 1952 and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. After independence was achieved, a parliamentary republic was established. A presidential government was in place between 1975 and 1990, followed by a return to parliamentary democracy. The country continues to face challenges in the areas of poverty, education, healthcare, and corruption.
Bangladesh is a middle power and a developing nation. Listed as one of the Next Eleven, its economy ranks 43rd in terms of nominal gross domestic product and 29th in terms of purchasing power parity. It is one of the largest textile exporters in the world. Its major trading partners are the European Union, the United States, China, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. With its strategically vital location between South, East and Southeast Asia, Bangladesh is an important promoter of regional connectivity and cooperation. It is a founding member of SAARC, BIMSTEC, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation and the Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Initiative. It is also a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Commonwealth of Nations, the Developing 8 Countries, the OIC, the Indian-Ocean Rim Association, the Non Aligned Movement, the Group of 77 and the World Trade Organization. Bangladesh is one of the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping forces.Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal is the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean, bounded on the west and northwest by India on the north by Bangladesh, and on the east by Myanmar and the Andaman Islands of India and Myanmar and the Nicobar Islands of India. Its southern limit is a line between Sri Lanka and the northwesternmost point of Sumatra (Indonesia). It is the largest water region called a bay in the world. There are Countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal in South Asia and Southeast Asia. The Bay of Bengal was also called the Chola Lake.
The Bay of Bengal occupies an area of 2,172,000 square kilometres (839,000 sq mi). A number of large rivers flow into the Bay of Bengal: the Ganges-Hooghly, the Padma, the Brahmaputra-Jamuna, the Barak-Surma-Meghna, the Irrawaddy, the Godavari, the Mahanadi, the Brahmani, the Baitarani, the Krishna and the Kaveri. Among the important ports are Chennai-Ennore, Chittagong, Colombo, Kolkata-Haldia, Mongla, Paradip, Port Blair, Tuticorin, Visakhapatnam and Yangon,Dhamra . Among the smaller ports are Gopalpur Port, Kakinada and Payra.Bengal cat
The Bengal cat is a domestic cat breed created from hybrids of domestic cats and the Asian leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) - the name comes from the comes from the taxonomic name. Backcrossing to domestic cats is then done with the goal of creating a beautifully spotted, healthy, and friendly cat with an unusual highly contrasted coat.Bengals have a wild appearance and they can have spots, rosettes, arrowheads or marbling.Bengal famine of 1943
The Bengal famine of 1943 (Bengali: pañcāśēra manvantara) was a major famine in the Bengal province in British India during World War II. An estimated 2.1–3 million, out of a population of 60.3 million, died of starvation, malaria and other diseases aggravated by malnutrition, population displacement, unsanitary conditions and lack of health care. Millions were impoverished as the crisis overwhelmed large segments of the economy and social fabric. Historians have frequently characterised the famine as "man-made", asserting that wartime colonial policies created and then exacerbated the crisis. A minority view holds that the famine arose from natural causes.Bengal's economy was predominantly agrarian. In the years before the famine, between half and three quarters of the rural poor were living in a "semi-starved condition". Stagnant agricultural productivity and a stable land base were inadequate for the soaring population levels, resulting in both a long-term decline in the per capita availability of rice and growing numbers of land-poor or landless laborers. A large percentage also laboured beneath a chronic and spiraling cycle of debt that ended in debt bondage and loss of landholdings due to land grabbing. More proximate causes of the crisis involved large-scale natural disasters in southwestern Bengal and consequences of the war. Military buildup and financing sparked war-time inflation, while land was appropriated from thousands of Bengalis. Following the Japanese occupation of Burma (modern Myanmar) rice imports were lost, then much of Bengal's market supplies and transport systems were disrupted by British "denial policies" for rice and boats (a "scorched earth" response to the occupation). The British government also pursued prioritised distribution of vital supplies to the military, civil servants and other "priority classes". These factors were compounded by restricted access to grain: domestic sources were constrained by emergency inter-provincial trade barriers, while access to international sources was largely denied by Churchill's War Cabinet, arguably due to a wartime shortage of shipping. The relative impact of each of these contributing factors to the death toll and economic devastation is an ongoing matter of controversy.
The provincial government's policy failures began with denial that a famine existed. Humanitarian aid was ineffective through the worst months of the food crisis, and the government never formally declared a state of famine. It first attempted to influence the price of rice paddy (unmilled rice) through price controls. These measures created a black market and encouraged sellers to withhold stocks. Hyperinflation resulted from speculation and hoarding after controls were abandoned. Aid increased significantly when the Indian Army took control of aid in October 1943, but effective relief arrived only after a record rice harvest that December. Deaths from starvation began to decline, but over half the famine-related deaths occurred in 1944, after the food security crisis had abated, as a result of disease.Bengal tiger
The Bengal tiger is a Panthera tigris tigris population in the Indian subcontinent. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2008, and was estimated at comprising fewer than 2,500 individuals by 2011. It is threatened by poaching, loss and fragmentation of habitat. None of the Tiger Conservation Landscapes within its range is considered large enough to support an effective population of more than 250 adult individuals.India's tiger population was estimated at 1,706–1,909 individuals in 2010. By 2014, the population had reputedly increased to an estimated 2,226 individuals. Around 440 tigers are estimated in Bangladesh, 163–253 tigers in Nepal and 103 tigers in Bhutan.The tiger is estimated to be present in the Indian subcontinent since the Late Pleistocene, for about 12,000 to 16,500 years.The Bengal tiger ranks among the biggest wild cats alive today. It is considered to belong to the world's charismatic megafauna.
It is the national animal of both India and Bangladesh. It is also known as the Royal Bengal tiger.Bengali language
Bengali (), also known by its endonym Bangla (UK: ; বাংলা), is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken by the Bengalis in South Asia. It is the official and most widely spoken language of Bangladesh and second most widely spoken of the 22 scheduled languages of India, behind Hindi.
The official and de facto national language of Bangladesh is Modern Standard Bengali (Literary Bengali). It serves as the lingua franca of the nation, with 98% of Bangladeshis being fluent in Bengali (including dialects) as their first language. Within India, Bengali is the official language of the states of West Bengal, Tripura and the Barak Valley in the state of Assam. It is also spoken in different parts of the Brahmaputra valley of Assam. It is also the most widely spoken language in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, and is spoken by significant minorities in other states including Jharkhand, Bihar, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Odisha. With approximately 250–300 million total speakers worldwide, Bengali is usually counted as the sixth most spoken native language in the world by population.Dictionaries from the early 20th century attributed about to 50% of the Bengali vocabulary to native words (i.e., naturally modified Prakrit words, corrupted forms of Ariyan words, and Native Austro-Asiatic e.g. Munda, Dravidian words (non-Indo-European native languages), about 7% percent of Bengali words are unmodified Sanskrit, and the remainders are from to Persian, Arabic, Turkish, English, Portuguese, French etc. language. Dominant in the last group was Persian, which was also the source of some grammatical forms. More recent studies suggest that the use of native and foreign words has been increasing, mainly because of the preference of Bengali speakers for the colloquial style.Bengali literature, with its millennium-old history and folk heritage, has extensively developed since the Bengali renaissance and is one of the most prominent and diverse literary traditions in Asia. In 1999, UNESCO recognized 21 February as International Mother Language Day in recognition of the language movement in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Language is an important element of Bengali identity and binds together a culturally diverse region.Bengalis
Bengalis (বাঙালি [baŋgali]), also rendered as the Bengali people, Bangalis and Bangalees, are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group native to the Bengal region in South Asia, specifically in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, presently divided between Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam's Barak Valley, who speak Bengali, a language from the Indo-Aryan language family. The term "Bangalee" is also used to denote people of Bangladesh as a nation.Bengalis are the third largest ethnic group in the world, after Han Chinese and Arabs. Apart from Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam's Barak Valley, Bengali-majority populations also reside in India's union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands as well as Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts (which was originally not a part of Bengal), with significant populations in Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Uttarakhand. The global Bengali diaspora (Bangladeshi diaspora and Indian Bengalis) have well-established communities in Pakistan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Middle East, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Italy.
They have four major religious subgroups: Bengali Muslims, Bengali Hindus, Bengali Christians, and Bengali Buddhists.Dhaka
Dhaka ( DAH-kə or DAK-ə; Bengali: ঢাকা, pronounced [ɖʱaka]), formerly known as Dacca, is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. It is one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world, with a population of 18.89 million people in the Greater Dhaka Area. Dhaka is the economic, political and cultural center of Bangladesh. It is one of the major cities of South Asia, the largest city in Eastern South Asia and among the Bay of Bengal countries; and one of the largest cities among OIC countries. As part of the Bengal plain, the city is bounded by the Buriganga River, Turag River, Dhaleshwari River and Shitalakshya River. The city is located in an eponymous district and division.
The area of Dhaka has been inhabited since the first millennium. The city rose to prominence in the 17th century as a provincial capital and commercial center of the Mughal Empire in South Asia. Dhaka was the capital of Mughal Bengal for 75 years. As the center of the muslin trade in Bengal, it was one of the most prosperous cities in the Indian subcontinent. The medieval city was named in honor of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and hosted the seat of the Mughal Subahdar (governor), Naib Nazims and Dewans (prime ministers). Medieval Dhaka's glory peaked in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was home to merchants from across Eurasia. The Mughals decorated the city with well-laid out gardens, tombs, mosques, palaces and forts. The city was once called the Venice of the East. Under the British Empire, the city saw the introduction of electricity, railways, cinemas, Western-style universities and colleges and a modern water supply. It became an important administrative and educational center in Eastern Bengal and Assam after 1905. In 1947, after ending of British rule, it became the administrative capital of the East Pakistan. It was declared as the legislative capital of Pakistan in 1962. In 1971, it became the capital of an independent Bangladesh. Article 5 of the Constitution of Bangladesh declares Dhaka as the capital of the republic.Since its establishment as a modern capital city, the population, area, and social and economic diversity of Dhaka have grown tremendously. Dhaka is now one of the most densely industrialized regions in the country. By the 21st century, it emerged as a megacity, which is now listed as a Beta- Global City by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC). Dhaka is a major financial center in the region, being home to many local and international companies. Its stock exchange has over 750 listed companies. The city hosts over 50 diplomatic missions and the headquarters of BIMSTEC. The city's culture is known for its cycle-rickshaws, cuisine, art festivals and religious diversity. The old city is home to around 2000 buildings from the Mughal and British periods, including notable structures such as the Bara Katra and Choto Katra caravansaries. The city's modernist national assembly is one of the largest parliaments in the world.Kolkata
Kolkata ([kolkata] (listen), also known as Calcutta , the official name until 2001) is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River approximately 75 kilometres (47 mi) west of the border with Bangladesh, it is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while the Port of Kolkata is India's oldest operating port and its sole major riverine port. The city is widely regarded as the "cultural capital" of India, and is also nicknamed the "City of Joy". According to the 2011 Indian census, it is the seventh most populous city; the city had a population of 4.5 million, while the suburb population brought the total to 14.1 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area in India. Recent estimates of Kolkata Metropolitan Area's economy have ranged from $60 to $150 billion (GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity) making it third most-productive metropolitan area in India, after Mumbai and Delhi.In the late 17th century, the three villages that predated Calcutta were ruled by the Nawab of Bengal under Mughal suzerainty. After the Nawab granted the East India Company a trading licence in 1690, the area was developed by the Company into an increasingly fortified trading post. Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah occupied Calcutta in 1756, and the East India Company retook it the following year. In 1793 the East India company was strong enough to abolish Nizamat (local rule), and assumed full sovereignty of the region. Under the company rule, and later under the British Raj, Calcutta served as the capital of British-held territories in India until 1911, when its perceived geographical disadvantages, combined with growing nationalism in Bengal, led to a shift of the capital to New Delhi. Calcutta was the centre for the Indian independence movement; it remains a hotbed of contemporary state politics. Following Indian independence in 1947, Kolkata, which was once the centre of modern Indian education, science, culture, and politics, suffered several decades of economic stagnation.
As a nucleus of the 19th- and early 20th-century Bengal Renaissance and a religiously and ethnically diverse centre of culture in Bengal and India, Kolkata has local traditions in drama, art, film, theatre, and literature. Many people from Kolkata—among them several Nobel laureates—have contributed to the arts, the sciences, and other areas. Kolkata culture features idiosyncrasies that include distinctively close-knit neighbourhoods (paras) and freestyle intellectual exchanges (adda). West Bengal's share of the Bengali film industry is based in the city, which also hosts venerable cultural institutions of national importance, such as the Academy of Fine Arts, the Victoria Memorial, the Asiatic Society, the Indian Museum and the National Library of India. Among professional scientific institutions, Kolkata hosts the Agri Horticultural Society of India, the Geological Survey of India, the Botanical Survey of India, the Calcutta Mathematical Society, the Indian Science Congress Association, the Zoological Survey of India, the Institution of Engineers, the Anthropological Survey of India and the Indian Public Health Association. Though home to major cricketing venues and franchises, Kolkata differs from other Indian cities by giving importance to association football and other sports.List of cities in India by population
The following tables are the list of cities in India by population. Often cities are bifurcated into multiple regions (municipalities) which results in creation of cities within cities which may figure in the list. The entire work of this article is based on Census of India, 2011, conducted by the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, under Ministry of Home Affairs (India), Government of India.List of districts of West Bengal
The Himalayas lies in the north of the state and the Bay of Bengal is at the south. In between them, the river Ganga flows eastwards and its main distributary, the Hooghly River, flows south to reach the Bay of Bengal. The Siliguri Corridor, which connects North-East India with rest of the India, lies in the North Bengal region of the state. Geographically, West Bengal is divided into a variety of regions—Darjeeling Himalayan hill region, Terai and Dooars region, North Bengal plains, Rarh region, Western plateau and high lands, coastal plains, Sunderbans and the Ganga Delta.In 1947, when India gained independence, the state of West Bengal was formed with 14 districts, as per partition plan of the then Bengal province of British India. The former princely state Koch Bihar joined as a district in 1950, and the former French enclave Chandannagore joined as part of the Hooghly district in 1954. The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 led to addition of Purulia district to the state and to enlargement of West Dinajpur district. Later, larger districts such as West Dinajpur, 24 Parganas and Midnapore were bifurcated. Till 24 June 2014 West Bengal was divided into 19 districts.
West Bengal is now divided into 23 districts which includes the newly formed Alipurduar district (formed on 25 June 2014), Kalimpong district (formed on 14 February 2017), Jhargram district (formed on 4 April 2017), and the splitting of the former Bardhaman district into Purba Bardhaman district and Paschim Bardhaman district (formed on 7 April 2017). The districts are grouped into five divisions.Divisions are administered by Divisional Commissioners. Kolkata, the capital of the state, constitutes the Kolkata district. Other districts are further divided into administrative units such as subdivisions and blocks, administered by SDO and BDO, respectively. The Panchayati Raj has a three-tier structure in the state. The atomic unit is called a Gram Panchayat, which is the Panchayat organisation for a collection of villages. The block-level organisations are called Panchayat Samiti, and the district-level organisations are named Zilla Parishad.Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee (Bengali: [mɔmota bɔndoˈpaddʱˈae̯] also known as Didi, born 5 January 1955) is an Indian politician of Bengali descent who serves as the 8th and current Chief Minister of West Bengal since 2011. She is the first woman to hold the office. She founded the party All India Trinamool Congress (AITC or TMC) in 1998 after separating from the Indian National Congress, and became its chairperson. She is often referred to as Didi (meaning: elder sister in Hindi and Bengali).Banerjee has previously served twice as the Minister of Railways, the first woman to do so. She is also the first female Minister of Coal, and Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Youth Affairs, Sports, Women and Child Development in the cabinet of the Indian government. She rose to prominence after opposing the erstwhile land acquisition policies for industrialisation of the Communist government in West Bengal for Special Economic Zones at the cost of agriculturalists and farmers at Singur. In 2011 Banerjee pulled off a landslide victory for the TMC Congress alliance in West Bengal, defeating the 34-year-old Communist Party of India (Marxist)- led Left Front government, the world's longest-serving democratically elected communist government in the process.In 2012, Time magazine named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Bloomberg Markets magazine listed her among the 50 most influential people in the world of finance in September 2012.Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire (Persian: گورکانیان, translit. Gūrkāniyān; Urdu: مغلیہ سلطنت, translit. Mughliyah Saltanat) or Mogul Empire was an empire in the Indian subcontinent, founded in 1526. It was established and ruled by the Timurid dynasty, with Turco-Mongol Chagatai roots from Central Asia, claiming direct descent from both Genghis Khan (through his son Chagatai Khan) and Timur, and with significant Indian Rajput and Persian ancestry through marriage alliances; the first two Mughal emperors had both parents from Central Asian ancestry. The dynasty was Indo-Persian in culture, combining Persianate culture with local Indian cultural influences visible in its traits and customs.The beginning of the empire is conventionally dated to the victory by its founder Babur over Ibrahim Lodi, the last ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, in the First Battle of Panipat (1526). During the reign of Humayun, the successor of Babur, the empire was briefly interrupted by the Sur Empire. The "classic period" of the Mughal Empire started in 1556 with the ascension of Akbar the Great to the throne. Some Rajput kingdoms continued to pose a significant threat to the Mughal dominance of northwestern India, but most of them were subdued by Akbar. All Mughal emperors were Muslims; Akbar, however, propounded a syncretic religion in the latter part of his life called Dīn-i Ilāhī, as recorded in historical books like Ain-i-Akbari and Dabistān-i Mazāhib. The Mughal Empire did not try to intervene in the local societies during most of its existence, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices and diverse and inclusive ruling elites, leading to more systematic, centralised, and uniform rule. Traditional and newly coherent social groups in northern and western India, such as the Marathas, the Rajputs, the Pashtuns, the Hindu Jats and the Sikhs, gained military and governing ambitions during Mughal rule, which, through collaboration or adversity, gave them both recognition and military experience.Internal dissatisfaction arose due to the weakness of the empire's administrative and economic systems, leading to its break-up and declarations of independence of its former provinces by the Nawab of Bengal, the Nawab of Awadh, the Nizam of Hyderabad and other small states. In 1739, the Mughals were crushingly defeated in the Battle of Karnal by the forces of Nader Shah, the founder of the Afsharid dynasty in Persia, and Delhi was sacked and looted, drastically accelerating their decline. By the mid-18th century, the Marathas had routed Mughal armies and won over several Mughal provinces from the Punjab to Bengal. During the following century Mughal power had become severely limited, and the last emperor, Bahadur Shah II, had authority over only the city of Shahjahanabad. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British, Bahadur issued a firman supporting the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Consequent to the rebellion's defeat he was tried by the British East India Company for treason, imprisoned, and exiled to Rangoon. The last remnants of the empire were formally taken over by the British, and the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act 1858 to enable the Crown formally to displace the rights of the East India Company and assume direct control of India in the form of the new British Raj.
The Mughal Empire at its peak extended over nearly all of the Indian subcontinent and parts of Afghanistan. It was the third largest empire to have existed in the Indian subcontinent (behind the Maurya Empire, and the British Indian Empire which replaced it), spanning approximately four million square kilometres at its zenith, second to the Maurya Empire. The maximum expansion was reached during the reign of Aurangzeb, who ruled over more than 150 million subjects, nearly one quarter of the world's population at the time. The Mughal Empire also ushered in a period of proto-industrialization, and around the 17th century, Mughal India became the world's largest economic and manufacturing power, producing a quarter of global industrial output up until the 18th century. The Mughal Empire is considered "India's last golden age" and one of the three Islamic Gunpowder Empires (along with the Ottoman Empire and Safavid Persia). The reign of Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor, between 1628 and 1658, was the zenith of Mughal architecture with famous monuments such as the Taj Mahal and Moti Masjid at Agra, the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, Delhi, and the Lahore Fort.Partition of Bengal (1905)
The decision to effect the Partition of Bengal (Bengali: বঙ্গভঙ্গ) was announced on 19 July 1905 by the Viceroy of India, Curzon. The partition took place on 16 October 1905 and separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas. The Hindus of West Bengal who dominated Bengal's business and rural life complained that the division would make them a minority in a province that would incorporate the province of Bihar and Orissa. Hindus were outraged at what they saw as a "divide and rule" policy (where the colonisers turned the native population against itself in order to rule), even though Curzon stressed it would produce administrative efficiency. The partition animated the Muslims to form their own national organization on communal lines. In order to appease Bengali sentiment, Bengal was reunited by Lord Hardinge in 1911, in response to the Swadeshi movement's riots in protest against the policy and the growing belief among Hindus that east Bengal would have its own courts and policies.Presidencies and provinces of British India
The Provinces of India, earlier Presidencies of British India and still earlier, Presidency towns, were the administrative divisions of British governance in India. Collectively, they were called British India. In one form or another, they existed between 1612 and 1947, conventionally divided into three historical periods:
Between 1612 and 1757 the East India Company set up "factories" (trading posts) in several locations, mostly in coastal India, with the consent of the Mughal emperors or local rulers. Its rivals were the merchant trading companies of Portugal, Denmark, Holland and France. By the mid-18th century three "Presidency towns": Madras, Bombay and Calcutta, had grown in size.
During the period of Company rule in India, 1757–1858, the Company gradually acquired sovereignty over large parts of India, now called "Presidencies". However, it also increasingly came under British government oversight, in effect sharing sovereignty with the Crown. At the same time it gradually lost its mercantile privileges.
Following the Indian Rebellion of 1857 the Company's remaining powers were transferred to the Crown. In the new British Raj (1858–1947), sovereignty extended to a few new regions, such as Upper Burma. Increasingly, however, unwieldy presidencies were broken up into "Provinces".West Bengal
West Bengal (; Bengali: Paschim Banga) is an Indian state, located in Eastern India on the Bay of Bengal. With over 91 million inhabitants (as of 2011), it is India's fourth-most populous state. It has an area of 88,752 km2 (34,267 sq mi). A part of the ethno-linguistic Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent, it borders Bangladesh in the east, and Nepal and Bhutan in the north. It also borders the Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, and Assam. The state capital is Kolkata (Calcutta), the seventh-largest city in India. As for geography, West Bengal includes the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region, the Ganges delta, the Rarh region, and the coastal Sundarbans. The main ethnic group are the Bengalis, with Bengali Hindus forming the demographic majority.
The area's early history featured a succession of Indian empires, internal squabbling, and a tussle between Hinduism and Buddhism for dominance. Ancient Bengal was the site of several major Janapadas (kingdoms), while the earliest cities date back to the Vedic period. The region was part of several ancient pan-Indian empires, including the Mauryans and Guptas. It was also a bastion of regional kingdoms. The citadel of Gauda served as the capital of the Gauda Kingdom, the Buddhist Pala Empire (eighth to 11th century) and Hindu Sena Empire (11th–12th century). 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 an expansion of Western education, culminating in developments in science, institutional education, and social reforms in the region, including what became known as the Bengali 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, a province of Pakistan which later became independent Bangladesh. Between 1977 and 2011 the state was administered by the world's longest elected Communist government.
The economy of West Bengal is the sixth-largest state economy in India with ₹10.49 lakh crore (US$150 billion) in gross domestic product and a per capita GDP of ₹108,000 (US$1,500). The state's cultural heritage, besides varied folk traditions, includes authors in literature, such as Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Kolkata is known as the "cultural capital of India". West Bengal is also known for its enthusiasm for the sport of association football, as well as cricket.West Bengal Legislative Assembly
The West Bengal Legislative Assembly is the unicameral legislature of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is Located in the B. B. D. Bagh area of Kolkata (Calcutta)-the Capital of the state. Members of the Legislative assembly are directly elected by the people. The legislative assembly comprises 295 Members of Legislative Assembly, which include 294 members directly elected from single-seat constituencies and one nominated from the Anglo-Indian community. Its term is five years, unless sooner dissolved.White tiger
The white tiger or bleached tiger is a pigmentation variant of the Bengal tiger, which is reported in the wild from time to time in the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal and Bihar in the Sunderbans region and especially in the former State of Rewa. Such a tiger has the black stripes typical of the Bengal tiger, but carries a white or near-white coat.