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location_onSTATES AND CITIES

West Bengal

West Bengal is (contrary to what the name indicates) a state in the eastern region of India along the Bay of Bengal.

It is the fourteenth-largest state by area in the country and the fourth-most populous.

History

West Bengal was earlier a part of a larger area called “Bengal Province”, during the British rule. The city of Calcutta was established in the year 1686, by the British when working on their expansion plans, and this was also a part of Bengal Province. And in 1772, Calcutta was made the capital of British India by Warren Hastings, the then Governor-General of the country.

After India’s independence from the British raj (rule), the western part of this British Bengal Province – which had more number of Hindus that the remaining, became the state of West Bengal. Calcutta was included in this part, and was made the capital city of the state of West Bengal.

In 2001, the government of West Bengal decided to finally change its capital city's name from Calcutta to Kolkata, to reflect its Bengali pronunciation.

Cities

West Bengal has more than 100 cities and towns. It is the fourth most populous state in India.

Kolkata (previously Calcutta) is the capital of West Bengal. Other prominent cities in the state include: Durgapur, Howrah, Kharagpur, Siliguri, Darjeeling.

People

There are 9.9 crore (99 million) people in West Bengal, out of which 70.54 % are Hindus, 27.01 % are Muslims, and less than 1% are Sikhs, Christians or Jains.

The natives of West Bengal state, who speak Bengali language are known as Bengalis.

Culture

West Bengal’s people are known as Bengalis. The state has a rich literary heritage, which it shares with neighbouring country Bangladesh – which also has a large number of Bengalis (Bengali is also referred to as “Bangla” by the locals).

West Bengal has a centuries old tradition in folk literature too. Apart from this, Bengali folk music, influenced by regional music traditions is predominant here, along with Rabindra Sangeet - the songs written by the famous Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore (who also wrote India’s national anthem) and Indian classical music (Hindustani).

Sarees and salwar kameez for women and Dhoti, Kurta and Lungi for men are common traditional attire in the state. Durga Puja and Navratri (and Dussehra) are prominent festivals celebrated by the Hindus here. Durga Puja is the biggest and most important of these.

Language

Bengali is the main language spoken across the state, by more than 90% of the population. Other languages include Hindi, Santali, Urdu (primarily spoken by Muslims), and Nepali (in the area of Darjeeling, and surrounding parts).

Food

Rice and Fish (especially Hilsa) are staples in west Bengal. Most dishes in Bengali cuisine include fish, potatoes, and are cooked in pungent mustard oil or mustard paste, which make the dishes have a unique mustard flavor.

Some popular Bengali dishes include: Bhapa Mach (Marinated Hilsa fish curry in mustard), Aloo Poshto (potato and poppy seeds curry), and Shukto (a mixed vegetable dish, especially containing gourds – like bitter gourd, snake gourd, bottle gourd and so on).

Bengal is well-known for its sweets – especially the famous Rasgulla (also known as Roshogolla), which are ball-shaped dumplings of Indian cottage cheese and semolina/flour dough, in thin (often rose flavoured) sugar syrup. Apart from this Mishti Doi (translating to “Sweet Curd”), Sandesh (Shondesh) and Rajbhog are also popular Bengali desserts.

Travel/Transportation

Trains, Planes and Buses are major modes of inter-city transportation within West Bengal. For travel within cities, there are many other modes such as taxi/cabs, local trams (one of the most popular modes of transport in Kolkata – since decades), buses, and private vehicles like 2-wheelers and cars, or bicycles.

Airports – West Bengal has 5 domestic airports connecting to other states and cities in the country, and 2 International airports connecting to cities within the state as well as other parts of the country.

  • Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International airport, Kolkata
  • Bagdogra Airport, Siliguri
  • Balurghat Airport, Balurghat
  • Behala Airport, Behala
  • Cooch Behar Airport, Cooch Behar
  • Kazi Nasrul Islam Airport, Durgapur
  • Malda Airport, Malda

Railway Stations – West Bengal has a total of 563 train terminals/railway stations (at least one for each city/town, and more than 1 in some big cities) that connect to other cities and towns within the state as well as those in other states in the country. Some of the major train terminals and junctions in the state are:

  • Howrah Junction, Howrah
  • Asansol Junction, Asansol
  • Thane Railway Station, Thane
  • Kolkata Railway Station, Kolkata
  • Kharagpur Junction, Kharagpur
  • New Cooch Behar Railway Station, New Cooch Behar
  • Durgapur Junction, Durgapur
  • Rampur Hat Junction, Rampur
  • Bandel Junction, Bandel
  • Adra Junction Railway Station, Adra

Bus Terminals – West Bengal has its own line of state-run WBTC (West Bengal Transport Corporation) buses which provide the connection between all the cities and towns within the state and also neighbouring states. These buses can be boarded at WBTC stops/terminals that are available in every division and town in the state. The prominent town/city bus terminals in the state are located in almost every city and town - they can be easily found and are conveniently accessible.

Attractions

Some of the incredible must-visit places in West Bengal include:

  • Darjeeling – a stunning hill station
  • Siliguri – a cozier and calmer hill station close to Darjeeling
  • Kolkata – the historical city with trams, amazing libraries and an ancient vibe
  • Bagdogra – another hill station that is less crowded, and is great for people looking for some serenity and solitude
  • Sundarban – forests and wild life

WEEKEND GETAWAYS

West Bengal has fascinating places that make for perfect getaways or short vacation destinations. Here are some of the popular choices for getaways within this state:

  • Darjeeling – a stunning hill station
  • Siliguri – a cozier and calmer hill station close to Darjeeling
  • Kolkata – the historical city with trams, amazing libraries and an ancient vibe
  • Bagdogra – another hill station that is less crowded, and is great for people looking for some serenity and solitude
  • Sundarban – forest(s) and wild life

ADVENTURE EXPERIENCES

Some popular adventure activities and places to indulge in them in West Bengal include -

  • Rock Climbing (Mungpo, Darjeeling, Rocky Island)
  • Rappelling
  • Jeep Safari (Gorumara National park)
  • Mountain Biking (Siliguri)
  • Paragliding (Darjeeling)
  • Rafting (Rangpo)

HISTORICAL PLACES

West Bengal being the home to India’s prior capital and also a major center for the British East India company and also ruled by various kings and dynasties before that, has a deep history and a rich heritage, which are manifested through the beautiful monuments and other elements that the state has. Some popular historic places to explore in West Bengal are -

  • Cooch Behar Palace (Victor Jubilee Palace)
  • Victoria memorial
  • Clive’s House, Dum Dum
  • Indian Museum, Kolkata
  • Marble Palace
  • Fort William, Kolkata
  • Dakshineshwar Kali Temple