City India

West Bengal

West Bengal is noted for its cultural activities and presence of cultural and educational institutions; the state capital Kolkata is known as the cultural capital of India.

About West Bengal

West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP. Covering a total area of 34,267 sq mi (88,750 km2), it is bordered by the countries of Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, and the Indian states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, and Assam. The state capital is Kolkata (en: Calcutta).

West Bengal encompasses two broad natural regions: the Gangetic Plain in the south and the sub-Himalayan and Himalayan area in the north. In the 3rd century BC, the broader region of Bengal was conquered by the emperor Ashoka. In the 4th century AD, it was absorbed into the Gupta Empire. From the 13th century onward, the region was ruled by several sultans, powerful Hindu states and Baro-Bhuyan landlords, until the beginning of British rule in the 18th century.

The British East India Company cemented their hold on the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757, and the city of Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) served for many years as the capital of British India. A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided in 1947 along religious lines into two separate entities: West Bengal — a state of India — and East Bengal, which initially joined the new nation of Pakistan, before becoming part of modern- day Bangladesh in 1971. Today, West Bengal is noted for its artistic endeavours, including filmmaking.

Stone age tools dating back 20,000 years have been excavated in the state. Remnants of civilization in the greater Bengal region date back four thousand years, when the region was settled by Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, and Austro-Asiatic peoples. The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown, though it is believed to be derived from the Dravidian-speaking Bang tribe that settled in the area around 1000 BC. The region was a part of the Vanga Kingdom, one of ancient kingdoms of Epic India. The kingdom of Magadha was formed in 7th century BC, consisting of the Bihar and Bengal regions. It was one of the four main kingdoms of India at the time of Mahavira and the Buddha, and consisted of several Janapadas. During the rule of Maurya dynasty, the Magadha Empire extended over nearly all of South Asia, including Afghanistan and parts of Persia under Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BC.

One of the earliest foreign references to Bengal is a mention of a land named Gangaridai by the Ancient Greeks around 100 BC. The word is speculated to have come from Gangahrd (Land with the Ganges in its heart) in reference to an area in Bengal. Bengal had overseas trade relations with Suvarnabhumi (Burma, Lower Thailand, Lower Malay Peninsula, and the Sumatra). According to Mahavamsa, Vijaya Singha, a Vanga prince, conquered Lanka (modern day Sri Lanka) and gave the name "Sinhala" to the country.

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 square kilometres (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 or 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. The Chola range is situated on the Sikkim and Bhutan border. The highest peak is Rishila. The town of Kalimpong is situated in this region. Neora Valley National Park is located here. The relatively low-height Buxa-Jayanti range, a part of the Sivalik, is also located here. Among the Himalayan ranges of this region, Singalila range hosts Sandakfu which at 3,636 metres (11,929 ft) is the highest point of West Bengal. Two high peaks, Tiger Hill and Ghoom are seen near the town of Darjeeling. Many ranges branch off in different directions from Tiger Hill. Durpindara is an important mountain in the eastern part of the mountainous region. A few hills also occur in the Terai or Dooars region at the foot of the Himalayas. Some remnants of the Siwaliks can be seen in the Jalpaiguri district, where they are known as the Buxa-Jayanti Hills. A small coastal region is on the extreme south, while the Sundarbans mangrove forests form a remarkable geographical landmark at the Ganges delta.

The Ganges is the main river, which divides in West Bengal. One branch enters Bangladesh as the Padma or Podda, while the other flows through West Bengal as the Bhagirathi River and Hooghly River. The Teesta, Torsa, Jaldhaka and Mahananda rivers are in the northern hilly region. The western plateau region has rivers such as the Damodar, Ajay and Kangsabati. The Ganges delta and the Sundarbans area have numerous rivers and creeks. Pollution of the Ganges from indiscriminate waste dumped into the river is a major problem. There are several dams on the Ganges in West Bengal used for hydroelectricity.

West Bengal's climate varies from tropical savannah in the southern portions to humid subtropical in the north. The main seasons are summer, rainy season, a short autumn, and winter. While the summer in the delta region is noted for excessive humidity, the western highlands experience a dry summer like northern India, with the highest day temperature ranging from 38 °C (100 °F) to 45 °C (113 °F). At nights, a cool southerly breeze carries moisture from the Bay of Bengal. In early summer brief squalls and thunderstorms known as Kalbaisakhi, or Nor'westers, often occur. Troughs of low pressure are often developed near the Bay of Bengal, resulting cyclonic storms. These are known as Ashwiner Jhar and often cause huge destruction. This season is a festive season in West Bengal due to celebration of Durga puja, Kojagari Lakshmi Puja and Diwali. Monsoons bring rain to the whole state from June to September. Heavy rainfall of above 250 cm is observed in the Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar district. Later, blowing westwards, the winds cause average rainfall of 125 cm in the northern plains and western plateau region. During the arrival of the monsoons, low pressure in the Bay of Bengal region often leads to the occurrence of storms in the coastal areas. West Bengal receives the Bay of Bengal branch of the Indian ocean monsoon that moves in a northwest direction. Winter (December–January) is mild over the plains with average minimum temperatures of 15 °C (59 °F). A cold and dry northern wind blows in the winter, substantially lowering the humidity level. However, the Darjeeling Himalayan Hill region experiences a harsh winter, with occasional snowfall at places.

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