Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bengal and Bengali culture

Bengal is situated in northeast part region of Indian subcontinent at the apex of Bay of Bengal. The majority of Bengal is inhabited by Bengali people who speak Bengali language. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of peoples Republic of Bangladesh (previously East Bengal / East Pakistan) and the state of west Bengal. The region of Bengal is one of the most densely populated regions on earth, with a population density exceeding 900/km. Most of the Bengal region lies in the low-lying Ganges–Brahmaputra River delta or Ganges delta, the world's largest delta. In the southern part of the delta lies the Sundarbon —the world's largest mangrove forest and home of the Bengal Tiger, though the population of the region is mostly rural and agrarian. Two mega cites, Kolkata (previously Calcutta) and DHAKA (previously Dacca), are located in Bengal. The Bengal region is renowned for its rich literary and cultural heritage as well as its immense contribution to the socio-cultural uplift of Indian society in the form of the Bengal Renaissance, and revolutionary activities during the Independence movement. West Bengal also (proposed new English name: Paschimbanga) is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous region. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants covering a total area of 34,267 sq mi (88,750 km2), which 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 (formerly Calcutta). West Bengal encompasses two broad natural regions: the Gangetic Plain in the south and the sub-Himalayan and Himalayan area in the north. Bengal was divided in 1947 on 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.Bengal was divided on religious and language lines. Bengali language movement has played a very important role for its separate entity which catalyzed the assertion of Bengali national identity in East Bengal and later East Pakistan, and became a forerunner to Bengali nationalist movements, and subsequently the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. In Bangladesh, 21 February is observed as language movement day, a national holiday. The shaheed miner monument was constructed near Dhaka Medical College in memory of the movement and its victims.
The saliency of Twenty First February has made the historic movement for establishing Bengali as one of the State languages of Pakistan synonymous with the 1952 phase of the Bengali language movement. However, the movement for making Bengali as one of the State languages of the then Pakistan was known as Bangla vasha andolon.

Bangla vasha andolon.
That spirit of 21th February (ekushey) has not diminished. Rather, the radiant spirit of the twenty first February has remained ingrained in the core of our hearts and souls even after the elapse of almost half of a century of the historic Bengali language movement. People from all walks of life still come out in thousands in the early hours of February twenty first and mournfully trod the streets of Dhaka, and throng the Central Shaheed Miner (Marty s Monument) for offering their heartfelt tributes to the fallen language martyrs. Before depicting the cultures of Bengal, we must go to the historical roots.
Bengali Renaissance
The Bengal Renaissance refers to a social reform movement during the nineteenth and early twentieth century’s in the region of Bengal in Undivided India during the period of British rule. The Bengal renaissance can be said to have started with Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1775–1833) and ended with Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), although there have been many stalwarts thereafter embodying particular aspects of the unique intellectual and creative output Nineteenth century Bengal was a unique blend of religious and social reformers, scholars, literary giants, journalists, patriotic orators and scientists, all merging to form the image of a renaissance, and marked the transition from the 'medieval' to the 'modern Bengal.
During this period, Bengal witnessed an intellectual awakening that is in some way similar to the European Renaissance during the 16th century, although Europeans of that age were not confronted with the challenge and influence of alien colonialism. This movement questioned existing orthodoxies, particularly with respect to women, marriage, the dowry system, the caste system and religion. One of the earliest social movements that emerged during this time was the Young Bengal movement that espoused rationalism and atheism as the common denominators of civil conduct among upper caste educated Hindus.
The parallel socio-religious movement, the Brahmo Samaj, developed during this time period and counted many of the leaders of the Bengal Renaissance among its followers In the earlier years the Brahmo Samaj, like the rest of society, could not however, conceptualize, in that feudal-colonial era, a free India as it was influenced by the European Enlightenment (and its bearers in India, the British Raj) although it traced its intellectual roots to the Upanishads. Their version of Hinduism, or rather Universal Religion, although devoid of practices like sati and polygamy that had crept into the social aspects of Hindu life, was ultimately a rigid impersonal monotheistic faith, which actually was quite distinct from the pluralistic and multifaceted nature of the way the Hindu religion was practiced. Future leaders like Keshub Chunder Sen were as much devotees of Christ, as they were of Brahma, Krishna or the Buddha. It has been argued by some scholars that the Brahmo Samaj movement never gained the support of the masses and remained restricted to the elite, although Hindu society has accepted most of the social reform programs of the Brahmo Samaj. It must also be acknowledged that many of the later Brahmas were also leaders of the freedom movement.
The renaissance period after the Indian Rebellion of 1857 saw a magnificent outburst of Bengali literature. While Ram Mohan Roy and Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar were the pioneers, others like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee widened it and built upon it .The first significant nationalist detour to the Bengal Renaissance was given by the brilliant writings of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Later writers of the period who introduced broad discussion of social problems and more colloquial forms of Bengali into mainstream literature included the great Saratchandra Chatterjee.
The Tagore family, including Rabindranath Tagore, were leaders of this period and had a particular interest in educational reform however their contribution to the Bengal Renaissance was multi-faceted. Indeed, Tagore's 1901 Bengali novella, Nastanirh was written as a critique of men who professed to follow the ideals of the Renaissance, but failed to do so within their own families. In many ways Rabindranath Tagore's writings (especially poems and songs) can be seen as imbued with the spirit of the Upanishads. His works repeatedly allude to Upanishadic ideas regarding soul, liberation, transmigration and—perhaps most essentially—about a spirit that imbues all creation not unlike the Upanishadic Brahman. Tagore's English translation of a set of poems titled the Gitanjali won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He was the first Asian to win this award. That was the only example at the time but the contribution of the Tagore family is enormous. The Bengal Renaissance saw the emergence of pioneering Bengali scientists such as Jagadish Chandra Bose, Satyendra Nath Bose, Upendranath Brahmachari and Meghnad Saha.

Etymology of Bengal/Bengali
The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown, though it is believed to be derived from the Dravidian-speaking tribe Bang that settled in the area around the year 1000 BC
Vanga (Greater Bengal) was a kingdom during the times of Mahabharata.
Other accounts speculate that the name is derived from Banga which came from the Austric word "Bonga" meaning the Sun-god. The word Banga and other words speculated to refer to Bengal (such as Anga) found in ancient Indian texts including the Vedas, Jaina texts, the Mahabharata and Puranas. The earliest reference to "Bangala" has been traced in the Nesari plates (805 AD) of Rashtrakuta Govinda III which speak of Dharmapala as the king of Vangala
Some accounts claim that the word may derive from bhang, a preparation of cannabis which is used in some religious ceremonies in Bengal. Dravidians migrated to Bengal from the south, while Tibeto-Burman peoples migrated from the Himalayas followed by the Indo-Aryans from north-western India. The modern Bengali people are a blend of these people. Smaller numbers of Pathans, Persians, Arabs and Turks also migrated to the region in the late middle Ages while spreading Islam.

The age and history of Bengal and Bengali culture is near about 1000 years old. Since the end of Magadha Empire the Bengal religious-socio-cultural ceremonies held great importance’s among the Bengalis. Ceremonies play the symbolic role of every tradition handed over to the decedent’s generation after generation. Some important ceremonies of Bengal.

Annaprashan is a social ritual among the Hindus, an occasion when the baby breaks its baby food pattern to welcome home made food. It is as well as a social introduction of the new member.'Annaprashan' is a social ritual among the Hindus, an occasion when the baby breaks its baby food pattern to welcome home-made food.
It is as well as a social introduction of the new member of the family in the community. Annaprashan literally means feeding the baby rice for the first time. "Anna" means food, especially rice while "prashan" means to feed. Annaprashan gathers the importance of a religious ceremony. Arranged for the Hindu child generally before teething, this ritual is separate for both boys and girls.
Upanayana is a Vedic ritual of Hinduism. It is an important religious ritual in our society. Upanayana is performed only for Brahmin boys. According to Vedic culture it is a second birth for them..Upanayana is a Vedic ritual of Hinduism. It is an important religious ritual in our society. Upanayana is performed only for Brahmin boys. According to Vedic culture it is a second birth for them. Upanayana marks the beginning of Bramhacharya.
Marriages are made in heaven, goes the proverb. Two people start of a new journey towards future, hand in hand, sharing at each step new outlooks, responsibilities and love. Marriage is an auspicious occasion among us. Arranged marriage is still a common
Bengali marriages are a mixture of pure custom, tradition and religious beliefs. It is an occasion where the entire family gather, take part in the typical Bengali ‘Adda’, regale in fanfare and remain busy in making the necessary arrangements for the invitees. Bengali culture must be searched and seen from the aspect of festivals, literature, drama, music/dance, cousins, dress.

The Bengali language boasts a rich literary heritage, shared with neighboring Bangladesh. West Bengal has a long tradition in folk literature, evidenced by the Charyapada, Mangalkavya, Shreekrishna Kirtana, Thakurmar Jhuli, and stories related to Gopal Bhar. In the nineteenth and twentieth century, Bengali literature was modernized in the works of authors such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Coupled with social reforms led by Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, and others, this constituted a major part of the Bengal Renaissance The middle and latter parts of the 20th century witnessed the arrival of post-modernism, as well as literary movements such as those espoused by the Kallol movement, hungry lists and the little magazines Jibanananda Das, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Manik Bandopadhyay, Ashapurna Devi, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Buddhadeb Guha, Mahashweta Devi, Samaresh Majumdar, Sanjeev Chattopadhyay and Sunil Gangopadhyay among others are well-known writers of the 20th century.
Theater and films
Among other types of theater, West Bengal has a tradition of folk drama known as jatra Kolkata is the home of the Bengali cinema industry, dubbed "Toll wood" for Tollygong, where most of the state's film studios are located. its long tradition of art films includes globally acclaimed film directors such as academy award -winning director Satyajit Roy, Ritwik ghatak, Mrinal sen, tapan sinha, and contemporary directors such as Aparna Sen, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, and Rituparna ghosh.
West Bengal shares its distinctive culinary tradition with neighboring Bangladesh, and also borrows from other Indian states. Boiled rice constitutes the staple food, and is served with a variety of vegetables, fried as well with curry, thick lentil soups, and fish and meat preparations of mutton and chicken, and more rarely pork and beef by certain groups. Sweetmeats are mostly milk based, and consist of several delights including roshgulla, sandesh, rasamalai, gulap jamun, kalo jamun, and chom-chom. Several other sweet preparations are also available. Bengali cuisine is rich and varied with the use of many specialized spices and flavors. Fish is the dominant source of protein, cultivated in ponds and fished with nets in the fresh-water Rivers of the Ganges delta. More than 40 types of mostly freshwater fish are common, including carp, varieties like rui (rohu), katla, magur (catfish), chingŗi (prawn or shrimp), as well as shuţki (dried sea fish) are popular. Salt water fish (not sea fish though) and Ilish (hilsa ilisha) is very popular among Bengalis, can be called an icon of Bengali cuisine.
Bengali women traditionally wear the sari, the shalwar kameez and Western attire is gaining acceptance among younger women. Western-style dress has greater acceptance among men, although the traditional dhoti and kurta of men are seen during festivals. Like any other metropolis, Kolkata also has an eclectic mix of western wears with a tinge of ethnic wears. People are found dressed in jeans along with kurtas, or sari along with an overcoat.

Festivals of West Bengal

West Bengal is a land of festivals. There is a popular saying in Bengali ‘‘Baro Mase Tero Parban’: it literally means thirteen festivals in twelve months. Almost all festivals of all religions are celebrated here with equal religious sentiment and fervor. The people of West Bengal strive hard to maintain the tradition and culture of its land in the festivals they celebrate. A great number of fairs are also organized. The most popular festival celebrated in West Bengal is Durga Puja where all the people come out in the streets and celebrate this four day festival. Other festivals celebrated in West Bengal are Kaali Puja, Basant Panchami, Dushera, Bahi Dooj, Holi, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Jayanti, Rathyatra and Christmas. Other events which have almost taken the form of festivals are Rabindra Jayanti (birthday of Rabindranath Tagore), Birthday of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Birthday of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

List of Festivals in West Bengal:

Birthday of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
Birthday of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
Rabindra Jayanti
Durga Puja
Basant Panchami
Bhai Dooj
Mahavir Jayanti
Buddha Jayanti
Bera Utsav
Kolkata Festival
IST may

Folk culture of Bengal
West Bengal
Bengal, a land of fecundity and prosperity embraces all within her fold. The varied hues of her rich culture color her songs, music and literature. The numerous tribes and ethnic groups of Bengal have their own distinctive folk arts, as varied and beautiful as the tribes themselves. Bengal’s repertoire of folk songs with its lyrical appeal and richness, its thematic diversity and range is a reflection of rural Bengals creativity and imagination. As a traditional art form, folk dances of Bengal have gained immense popularity and recognition over the years. The dances contain themes that range from ritualistic to satirical and from allegorical to social. They involve prayers, offerings, celebrations and odes. Usually performed during festive seasons, or to mark a happy occasion, these dances ingrained in folk culture, reflect local faith, tradition and custom. These dances encompass a broad spectrum, from invoking the rain Gods for a good harvest to depicting mythological events. In fact, some religious festivals are celebrated through songs and dances that characterize devotion, prayer and worship. The dance forms that have evolved from the martial arts depict events from the great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These vocal musical dances are performed round the year on various occasions, at fairs and festivals and religious conglomerations.
Some of the well known folk songs and dance of west Bengal include:
Bengal, during the post medieval period, was a divided and closed society. Ruled by religious strictures, Hindus and Muslims led cloistered lives, against which grew a protest that took on the character of a cult. The community of protesters could be identified by the robes they wore (a long saffron-colored cloak called the alkhalla with a turban of the same color), the one-stringed instrument or Ektara they always carried and the bells they tied to their perpetually dancing feet. Sometimes the alkhalla would be made of different pieces of cloth patched together. They were the Bauls, the creators of a phenomenal music tradition that has survived and grown despite the ravages of time. Apart from the expected bamboo flute, they developed a variety of musical instruments like the Premjuri and Dotara, the Khamak and Goopi Jantro, the Kartal and Dubki among others.
The Bauls are free wanderers. They are detached from the bondage of society and family. They move from place to place, making a meager living from the alms given to them by those who can plumb the profound depths of their frugality. The Bauls belong to a sect with a distinctive mystic ideology of their own and their songs spread the message of peace and universal brotherhood. The word ‘Baul’ means mad, the madness that comes out of an overwhelming love for the Infinite Self. The singers describe the transience of mundane existence and the simple means to spiritual upliftment, though the root of their philosophical theory rests in a deeper complex psychological consciousness. Bauls are basically philanthropists, though sometimes satire from day to day life finds a place in their songs. The Bauls have played a major role in India’s freedom struggle when they moved from village to village in rural Bengal with their songs stirring up a feeling of nationalism and pride in our motherland among the illiterate village folk.
Both men and women (Bauls and Baulanis) are a part of this great music tradition. For a long time, the Baulanis performed with the Bauls and they did not have any separate identity. But in recent years Baulanis have carved out their own foothold. The music of the Bauls had a significant influence on Rabindranath Tagore. Today the Bauls’ songs can be heard in many districts of West Bengal as their footsteps dot the muddy village lanes of Bankura, Birbhum, Burddhaman, Nadia, Dinajpur and Murshidabad. Baul Sangeet has always held a special place. It is basically a folk dialect of Bengali music and highly spiritual in nature, but far away from religious dilution. This form of music was developed by a group of mystic minstrels from Bengal who are considered to be a syncretism group with music in their blood. In 2005 they were declared as the 'Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity' by UNESCO. Joydeb kenduli annual fair is considered to be the biggest fair of Bauls at Birbhum district of west Bengal.
Purulia Chhou dance
The Chhau dance of Purulia district is one of the most vibrant and colorful art forms. Emerging from martial practice, the Purulia Chhau is a vigorous form of dance drama that draws its themes from the two great Indian epics, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata.
Masks and elaborate headgear are the ornamental apparels of the Chhau dancers. The dance is believed to date back to over a century, though the specific date of its origin cannot be definitely ascertained. The dance was patronized by the royalty and landlords of the region. Since its inception, the members of the Mahato, Kurmi, Bhumija, Deowa, Bhuama and Dom communities have sustained this dance form. The dance is an essential part of the Gajan Festival, a festival that celebrates the glories of Lord Shiva. Today, the dance is no longer restricted to one particular time of the year. The Purulia Chhau dance has been influenced by many dances of the district, like the Nata Jawaid Dance, the Mahi Dance and the Nachni Dance. Even two relatively sophisticated dance forms like the Jhumur and Bhadra Jhumur have influenced the Chhau Dance in its tune and rhythm. The accompanying musical instruments include the Dhol, Dhamsa and Shenai.
The dance commences with an invocation to Lord Ganesh. Then the movements follow the nuances of the story. In a Chhau Dance the fight between good and evil always culminates in the triumph of good over destructive evil. The elaborate masks, the dazzling costumes, the rhythmic drum beatings and shenai, characterize the Chhau Dance. A distinctive feature of this dance is the acrobatic use of the body and the intricately crafted masks worn by the dancers. Powerful movements, immense concentration and release of energy are the other features of this dance.
In the villages the performance usually starts between 9.00 and 10.00 o’clock in the evening. As the night grows and the dance gains momentum, there is an air of excitement all around. Communication between the performers and the audience is a significant feature of this dance form. In the olden days, the performance area used to be illuminated by torches that burnt throughout the night. Over the years the dance has undergone evolutions in form, stage craft, lighting and use of musical instruments.
The masks help the dancers to portray different characters. There are masks depicting particular Gods and Goddesses, demons and monsters. There are also interesting masks for different animals like the lion, tiger, bear, monkey and so on. These finely-crafted masks are made by the painter artistes of the district. With the face covered by a mask, it is left to the dancers to emote using their bodies. Movements and postures therefore serve both to portray emotions and make the dance lively.
One of the most popular presentations of the Purulia Chhau Dance is Mahisasur Mardini. Oppressed by the tyranny of the Mahisasura, the Gods pray to Goddess Adyashakti Mahamaya who takes the form of Goddess Durga, Durga tinashini and after a fierce battle with Asura, finally slays him.
Santhali Dance
The Santhalis are an integral part of the folklore of Bengal. The Santhali dance form is seen in the districts of Birbhum, Bakura, Malda and Burddhaman. The Santhalis are born dancers. Dance is an integral part of all festivities of the Santhali community. Musical accompaniment is provided by instruments like the Madol, Flute, Dhamsa, Jhanj, Kartal and occasionally the Shenai. The songs are typically based on Taal Madol Chhanda. Dances are usually performed on a full moon night and are connected with the celebration of certain rituals. A notable feature of the Santhali dances is the unison in movement. The dancers stand in a line holding hands and move to the rhythm of the madol. Usually the women take part in the dance and the men provide the musical accompaniment. This is reflected in the words of a song, which accompany the Dang Dance, a dance performed as a part of marriage rituals. The boys carry two types of drums, the Madal and the Lagra. They sing to the girls telling them: “Though the drums are heavy, we carry them around dancing all the time”. The girls reply, “As we hear the beat of drums, we cannot stand still. We lift our feet and begin to dance”.
Simplicity of theme and language is what makes the Santhali dances so endearing. Nowadays, Santhali men also take part in the dances, most of which are seasonal and reflect the ritualistic life of the Santhali community. Each dance form has its own distinctive rhythm and dance style. Some of the popular dances include the Sohrai, which is a harvest dance, inviting all the village folk to come out of their homes and join in the festivities, and the Dasai, a dance performed just before the Durga Puja, when the Santhali men go out to the neighboring villages, where they sing and dance to collect donations of rice and alms.
The Santhali dance reflects the beauty of rural Bengal and adds color to the palette of the folk culture of the state.
Mundari dance
The members of the Mundari community perform these dances on different festive occasions, most of which are related to agriculture. The main festival of the Mundari community is the Karam Puja. The dances of the Santhali and Mundari communities are very close in style and form. The musical instruments used by the two communities are also common.
Gambhira, a popular annual festival of Malda District comprises songs and dances closely related to agriculture and mythology. Performances depict on one hand, the success, failure or annual production of crops, and on the other tell stories about mythological figures. Depending on the theme, dancers perform solo, duets or in groups, stepping in tune with the beat of dhaks. Colorful masks representing Gods and Goddesses like Kalika, Chamunda, Rama, Hanuman, Shiva and even animals and birds, make the performances both charming and entertaining, while retaining the authenticity of this primitive dance form.
The word Gambhira means ‘Devalaya’ or House of God. This festival is very closely associated with Shiva Puja. In the different rituals associated with Gambhira Puja we find an amalgamation of different religious thoughts like Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Buddhism and Shaktiism. In Malda district, where this festival is immensely popular, Shiva is also known as Gambhir, and hence the festival associated with Shiv Puja is known as Gambhira. The Bengal Drum or Dhak and the Gong or Kanshi are main musical instruments accompanying this dance. Dancers tune their steps to the different beats of the Dhak, the intricate patterns of their dance blending into the pulsating rhythm of festivity and celebration. Over the years, poverty and social changes are forcing this dance, which was once synonymous with grandeur, into oblivion. The Gambhira festival begins with Agamani songs. The second day of the festival is called the Choto Tamasha and the third day the Boro Tamasha. These days are devoted to Shiva and Gouri Puja. Other popular dances of the Gambhira tradition include the Baan Nritya (Arrow Dance) Bak Nritya (Stork Dance) Tapa Nritya (a dance performed by the fishermen and fisherwomen using a special kind of bamboo basket known as the Tapa which is used for catching the fish) and Kali Nritya (the dance of Goddess Kalika).
Gajan is a very popular festival in some parts of Bengal. Gajan songs are sung in praise of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in the Bengali month of Chaitra. Singing and dancing is an integral part of this celebration. The dance is performed with great devotion and austerity. The dancers sometimes dress up as Hara Parvati and move around the village, dancing to the accompaniment of the Dhol, Kanshi and Flute. In Malda and Murshidabad, the celebration is known as Bolan. The dancers undergo penance with a view to attaining salvation and becoming free of worldly sufferings. This celebration is observed during the latter part of the month of Chaitra. Being a festival of austerity, the dancers often fast before a performance. The performance of this Puja involves some harrowing rituals and is usually performed by the lower castes. The involvement of the upper castes is limited to bowing down before the lower castes for just this one time in the year.
Durga Puja Dhak
Utsav is synonymous with Durga Puja. The Bengali waits all year round for the arrival of Devi Ma. It is a time for celebration and festivity, and it is the sound of the Bengali Drum or the Dhak that joyously announces her eagerly awaited arrival. It is the sound of the Dhak that captures the many moods of the Devi, frenzied, calm, plaintive and nostalgic, and it is the sound of the Dhak that also tells us it is time for her to return to her heavenly abode. Every beat of the dhak is different and each of them holds a special place in every Bengalis heart.
Dhol Badan
The Dhol (a variation of the Bengali Drum) is an indispensable musical instrument of the different festivals of Bengal. The musicians dance and play the Dhol simultaneously.
Bratachari – Raibense
The Raibense dance which is performed by a group of male dancers is a part of the repertoire of the ‘Bratachari’ tradition of West Bengal. The Raibense dance of ancient Bengal is a significant and authentic reminder that the Bengalis were once renowned for their military prowess. The dance belongs to a living tradition of the war dances of ancient Bengal. Rai means royal, kingly and bansh or bansha means bamboo. This was used by the infantry soldiers in the middle ages. This vigorous dance form includes mock fighting and acrobatics. It speaks volumes about the valor of the people of ancient Bengal. The Dhol and Kanshi are the main instruments used. The strident rhythmic notes of the Dhol and the clanging of the Kanshi generate courage and daring in the hearts of the dancers. No songs are sung or verses recited during this martial dance. Instead, vigorous yells mark the various sectional movements. The simplest costume, a dhoti (which is the traditional dress of Bengali men) is worn with a strip of red cloth signifying spirit and valor. Shri Gursasaday Dutt, ICS, was responsible was resurrecting this ancient group dance and modifying it to its present form.
The Bagdi, Bauri and Dom communities of Burddhaman, Birbhum & Murshidabad districts, perform the dance.
Stick Dance or Laghur Nritya
The Stick Dance or Laghur Nritya is another interesting martial folk art form of West Bengal. The stick, which has from time immemorial been used as a weapon of self-defense, is used in this dance. The long sticks not only keep the beat of the dance, but are also used for the acrobatic feats, which are an integral part of this dance form.
Ranapa Dance
The Ranapa is another martial form of dance, where the artistes walk and dance on stilts. As the dancers display mock fights, they exhibit their skills of balancing on stilts.
Dhali & Paika Nritya
These two dances are heroic war dances and are performed by a group of dancers. The dances are evocative of the valor and prowess of the people who took part in the wars.
The Dhali Dance, as the name implies, is the Shield Dance. It was the war dance of the Dhali (Shield man) troupes in the armies of the ancient potentates of Bengal. In the Dhali Dance, the spectacular movements are formal and are more in the nature of athletic exercises. It is a dance of high aesthetic value by virtue of its intricate maneuvers and ordered formations. Being a war dance, it is not accompanied by any songs. This dance form originated and flowered during the reign of Raja Pratapaditya of Jossore. After winning a battle, the fatigued and exhausted solders starting dancing with swords and shields in the cantonment to inspire them for the next war. It is believed that Raja Pratapaditya maintained an army of highly skilled Dhali soldiers. Over the years, the dance form has been modified extending to women dancers as well.
Natua Dance
Natua, an ancient dance form, features in the Shiv Puranas. The word Natua may have been derived from the name of Lord Nataraj. It is believed that Nandi and Vringi, the associates of Lord Shiva were the first to perform this dance during the time of Shiva’s marriage with Durga. This highly acrobatic dance form involves many tricks with fire and is usually accompanied by the beats of a Jai Dhak, the instrument which is said to have been created by Lord Shiva. The dance is performed during the Charak Puja and occasionally during marriages.
Kirtan Dance songs
The Kirtan music is the most widely practiced folk music (vocal and dance) form of Bengal. The democratic nature of the dance, which unites people of the whole village, irrespective of their caste or social standing is its most striking feature. The dance is performed to the accompaniment of the Dhol and Mridanga. The great spiritual leader, Shri Chaitanya Dev gave the dance a national character.
Rabha Dances
The women of the Rabha Community perform the Rabha Dances, popular in the Northern part of Bengal. The men provide the musical accompaniment, playing the Barangshi (a bamboo flute), Hem (a drum with two faces), Dandi & Barding, (idiophones made from bamboo) and Karnal (a rare tribal instrument made of bamboo and buffalo horn). The Rabha women have different dances for different occasions, like the “Fai Nang Ning Mein” or Welcome Dance, the “Braisar Pridan” or New Year’s Dance and “Larai Lunge” or War Dance. The dancers depict the daily life of the community and embody the merriment that enlivens all their festivals.
Chaibari Nritya
The Chaibari Nritya, as the name suggests, is a dance mastered by the tea garden workers of Northern Bengal. The dancers, with their intricate costumes and jewelers make for a picture perfect sight in the breathtaking backdrop of the verdant tea gardens. The melodious music adds to the charm and beauty of the dance..
Domphu Nritya
The Domphu is a musical instrument used by the Nepali community settled in North Bengal. The Domphu Nritya takes its name from this traditional instrument. The dances give expression to the joys, hopes and aspirations of the community through this colorful folk dance.
Kukri Nritya
TheKukri Nritya, also from North Bengal, is performed by the girls of the community, as they ceremoniously hand over their traditional weapon, the Kukri, to their brothers, before they set off for the war.
Mech Dance
The Mech Dance is another popular dance form of North Bengal, the land of forests, mountains and turbulent rivers. In this dance form, which originated in Jalpaiguri district, we see and feel the inner rhythm which pervades the simple life of the tribal people living in harmony with nature. There are several variations of the Mech Dance.
Bagroomba is performed by the Mech women at spring festivals, the colorful costumes used by the dancers are evocative of butterflies.
Chal Jhumgre Gele Nai is a war dance which is rhythmic and martial in character.
In the Mesa Glang Nai dance, performed by the Mech women, the youth of the community is exhorted to be industrious and hardworking. The young members of the community are reminded that they must always retain the purity of their minds and bodies. This dance is performed as the women pluck flowers for the ‘Kherai Puja’. They carry small bowls in their hand to collect the flowers.
Rajbanshi Dance
The Rajbanshi is one of the many tribes of North Bengal. The lives of the people belonging to the Rajbanshi tribe revolve around the Teesta River, which they worship as a Goddess. The Teesta flows down the snow-capped peaks of Darjeeling, through the dense forests of Jalpaiguri. It then charts a turbulent course through the lush scenery of Coochbehar, finally meeting the Brahmaputra River in Bangladesh. This graceful dance is performed to invoke the blessings of the River Goddess. The Dhol, Kanshi, Kartal and Mukhabanshi are the instruments that accompany this invocatory dance.
Jhumur Dance
The Jhumur songs and dance is one of the liveliest musical forms of Purulia district of west Bengal, this is an elaborate dance, choreographed and performed by professional artistes. Here lies its essential difference with forms like the Santhali Dance. The dance is performed by girls while the boys play the Dhol and Madol. This entertaining dance is performed on stage and during road shows. Heavy make-up and ornate jewelers form part of the costume of the Jhumur dancers. This secular dance form is accompanied by fast-paced and cheerful Jhumur songs.
The sensuous Nachni is an offshoot of the Jhumur Dance, depicting the love of Radha (Nachni) and Krishna (Rasik).
As the rains pour down on the red earth of Bengal, voices rise in praise of Bhadreswari Ma, invoking her blessings for a good harvest. Originating from the districts of Bakura, Purulia, West Burddhaman and Birbhum, the Bhadu Dance is performed mainly during the Monsoon. The dance draws its name from the Bengali month of Bhadra, when the monsoon showers drench the earth. During the festival, Bhadreswari or Bhadu (goddess of crops) is invoked by the villagers, seeking her blessings for an abundant harvest. The women of the community, both married and unmarried perform the Bhadu Dance. The unmarried girls pray for a loving husband while the married women pray to Mother Earth to be blessed with children.
The Bhadu festival is also celebrated in Chota Nagpur, where it is known as ‘Karam Parab’.
When we think of harvest songs in Bengali folk culture, we think of Tushu. Tushu songs, originating from the districts of Bakura, Purulia & Midnapore have similar features. The daily lives and relationships of the villagers form the theme of this genre of songs. Family rows between rival co-wives and between wives and their sisters-in-law find a place in Tushu songs.
Tushu songs being associated with harvesting always refer to the householder’s wealth – ‘ghee of 32 cows’, ‘rice of fine paddy’, ‘pots of ghee and gur’ are some of the expressions used. The villagers pray to the Folk Goddess Tushu for prosperity. They ask for the Goddess’s blessings so that their homes and the homes of their sons may overflow with wealth.
Dhamail is a folk dance performed by the married women of rural Bengal. The women arrange themselves in a circle, around a certain object of prayer, clapping to the beats of the song. While praying to the Sun God, a lit diya, symbolizing the sun, is kept at the centre. The clapping brings a rhythmic element into the otherwise slow-paced dance.
Nabanna is a ritualistic dance performed after the autumn harvest. It is part of a religious ceremony associated with cultivation and harvesting. The dance is an expression of the happiness of the farmers’ families after a successful harvest. A special religious ceremony is held on the day the new rice is eaten.
Noila Broto
Farming is an integral part of the lives of villagers in rural Bengal. After a day’s toil, the villagers often sing and dance as a welcome break from their daily routine of labor and hard work. In most parts of rural India, agriculture is still dependant on the rains. Noila Broto is a traditional ode to the Rain Goddess, “Megh Kanya”. This prayer dance, involving rituals and offerings, celebrates the arrival of the first monsoon clouds. The farmers and their wives pray for a good monsoon that will bring forth an abundant harvest of crop, ushering in prosperity and happiness.
The Bengali community is known for the warm hospitality it extends to visitors. When a guest arrives unannounced at a Bengali home, he is greeted warmly and made to feel welcome, while the host makes every effort to ensure a comfortable stay. The Baromashya songs and dances describe this endearing quality of the simple folk of rural Bengal.
Bou Nritya
This is a part of the traditional Badhubaran ceremony of Srihatta. Bou Nritya enacts the custom of asking a new bride to dance; a process of helping her shed her inhibitions. The dancers wear ornaments typical of this region and drape the sari in a different way. The distinguishing feature of this dance is that the dancers never lift their feet off the ground during the entire performance. Through this dance of initiation, the new bride is welcomed into her new family.
Ganga Baidya
Ganga Baidya is a dance of the snake charmers or Bedes of Bengal. The dance gives expression to the daily lives, customs, hopes and aspirations as well as the pains and tribulations of this sect of people of rural Bengal. The Bedes were a nomadic tribe who moved from place to place, earning their living by singing their songs and displaying acrobatic tricks – with fire, knives, sticks and ropes. These worshippers of Ma Manasha use snakes for a variety of tricks. Through their songs and dances, the fearless Bedes sold snake venom and talismans to the villagers, promising them that these would keep evil away.
Lathi Dance
This is another notable form of folk dance which has a different art of expression. This dance is performed to express different situations of human life like remorse, celebration, anger, pain or love. The dance is performed in the first ten days of the Muslim festival of Muharram.
Music of West Bengal
The richness of Bengali culture also reflects in the music that expresses the feeling of love, sadness, anxiety, motivation, devotion or spirituality. The music of West Bengal also refers as Bangla Sangeet. Some of the popular Music of Bengal are:
Classical Bangla Music
The classical music of West Bengal is highly inspired by the other forms of Indian classical music. The influence of Karnataka music has significant influence on the classical music of Bengal. Like other classical forms of music of this place also based on the musical modes called ‘Ragas’. Themes of classical music have its root in Jaydev's Gitagovindam, Rabindra-Sangeet, Shyama-Sangeet, Mangalgiti and Padavali kirtan.
Rabindra Sangeet
This is one of the most popular kinds of Bangla music which was created by the great poet and the Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. These songs are regarded as cultural treasures of Bengal
Artists/painters of West Bengal
The Bengal School of Art commonly referred as Bengal School was an influential art movement and a style of painting that originated in Bengal, primarily Kolkata and Shantiniketan, and flourished throughout India during the British Raj in the early 20th century. Also known as 'Indian style of painting' in its early days, it was associated with Indian nationalism (swadeshi) and led by Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951), but was also promoted and supported by British arts administrators like E.B Havell the principal of the Government Collage of arts Kolkata from 1896; eventually it led to the development of the modern Indian painting.
However Bengal continues to produce some of the best artists of modern India. Among them the best known artists of present day Bengal are Ganesh Pyne, Manishi Dey, Nirmal Dutta, Nilima Dutta, Jahar Dasgupta, Bikash Bhattacharya Sudip Roy, Devajyoti Ray and Paresh Maiti
Architecture of Bengal
The Bengal region, which includes the Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, has many architectural relics and monuments/temples dating back thousands of years.
Bengal, a land of natural and cultural heritage.
Temples of West Bengal an amazing architectures;
Bakranath Temple at Bakreswar near Siuri in West Bengal: Built in the Oriyan style, the large temple is the most important of the several shrines in Bakreswar. Hot springs are another feature of interest in this town.
Balrampur Jain Temple at Balrampur near Purulia in West Bengal
Bansuli Temple at Nannur near Bolpur in West Bengal: The temple site is like a mound, and the lowest level dates back to the Gupta period.
Barakar Temples at Barakar near Asansol in West Bengal: Four stone temples in the North Indian Rekha style built in the 8th through the 15th century.
Bargabhima Temple at Tamluk near Medinipur in West Bengal: Large Temple to Shakti influenced by the Oriyan architecture style displaying interesting engineering and architectural features.
Bhagwati Temple at Gourangpur near Asansol in West Bengal: A beautiful brick temple over 150 years old now deserted.
Brindabanchandra Temple at Guptipara near Calcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: The biggest in the group of temples in Guptipara.
Chaitanyadev Temple at Guptipara near Calcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: 17th century temple in the Bengali style of architecture.
Chinese Temple at Achipur near Calcutta in West Bengal: Chinese temple with inscriptions dating back to the 18th century.
10 Dakshineswar Kali Temple at Calcutta in West Bengal: Famous 19th century Kali temple associated with Ramakrishna.
11 Dhirdham Temple at Darjeeling in West Bengal: Built along the lines of the Pasupathinath temple in Nepal.
12 Dugdheshwar Shiva Temple at Amaragarh near Burddhaman in West Bengal
13 Ekteswara Temple at Ekteswara near Bakura in West Bengal: Famous Shiva temple that looks like a massive solid pillar near the river Dwarkeshwar.
14 Hanseswari Temple at Bansberia near Calcutta in West Bengal: Dates back to the 19th century with ornate arches.
15 Jagannath Temple at Serampore near Calcutta in West Bengal: Large and ancient Jagannath temple famous for its rath yatra second only to Puri.
16 Jain remains at Pakbira near Bara Bazar (Purulia) in West Bengal: Remains of numerous temples and images some about 2000 years old.
17 Jain Temple Ruins at Boram near Jaipur in West Bengal: Ruins of three identical Jain temples
18 Jain Temples at Dulmi near Purulia in West Bengal
19 Jain Temples at Deoli near Purulia in West Bengal: Group of Jain temples, the largest of which has an image of Arhanath worshipped by Hindus as well.
20 Jain temples and ruins at Chharra near Purulia in West Bengal: Old temples and ruins of Jain origin.
21 Jateshwarnath Temple at Mahanad near Calcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: A center for Shiva and Shakti worship.
22 Jaya Deva Temple at Kenduli near Bolpur in West Bengal: Well known temple to Radha and Krishna dating back to the 12th century - current structure over 200 years old.
23 Jor Bangala Temple at Bishnupur near Bakura in West Bengal: Specimen of remarkable sculpture and architecture.
24 Kalighat Temple at Calcutta in West Bengal: 200 year old temple from which Calcutta is said to take its name.
25 Kalna Shiva Temples at Kalna in West Bengal: A group of 108 Shiva temples in concentric circles.
26 Kalyaneshwari Temple at Barakar near Asansol in West Bengal: This is a 500 year old temple a great center for Shakti worship.
27 Kanak Durga Temple at Chikligarh near Medinipur in West Bengal
28 Kapil Muni Temple at Sagar Island near Diamond Harbor in West Bengal: Associated with the mythological descent of the Ganges from the heavens (into the sea) and a site held in great reverence.
29 Kiriteshwari Temple at Murhsidabad near Murshidbad in West Bengal: Regarded as one of the Shakthi Peeths this was once a center of great importance.
30 Krishnachandra Temple at Guptipara near Calcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: Located along with the Chaitanyadev, Ramachandra and Brindabanchandra temples.
31 Krishnarjun Temple at Tamluk near Medinipur in West Bengal: Ancient temple - current structure built 400 years ago.
32 Lalji Temple at Chandrakona near Medinipur in West Bengal: 16th century temple built in Bengali style, enclosed by a high wall with a gateway.
33 Malleswar Temple at Chandrakona near Medinipur in West Bengal: 60 feet high temple dating back to the 18th century, with an even older shrine.
34 Mankeshwar Mahadev Temple at Amaragarh near Burddhaman in West Bengal
35 Radha Kanta Jiu Temple at Rajbalhat near Calcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: A fine specimen of Bengali architecture dating back to the 18th century.
36 Ramachandra Temple at Guptipara near Calcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: Fine red colored brick temple with a curved roof, with brick panels carved with fine specimen of Bengali art.
37 Sarva Mangala Devi Temple at Garbeta near Medinipur in West Bengal: 16th-17th century temple in the Oriyan style dedicated to Devi along with other temples within the fort.
38 Sheetalnath Jain Temple at Calcutta in West Bengal: 19th century temple - an ornate mass of mirrors, colored stones and glass mosaics.
39 Shivakhya Devi Temple at Amaragarh near Burddhaman in West Bengal
40 Sidheswara Temple at Bahulara near Onda in West Bengal: Ancient Shiva temple in the Oriyan style with fine ornamentation depicting replicas of the temple.
41 Suratheshwar Temple at Supur near Bolpur in West Bengal
42 Swayambhava Kali Temple at Bansberia near Calcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: Located near the Vishnu temple, this temple dates back to the 18th century.
43 Syamaleswar Temple at Dantan in West Bengal: Ancient temple to Shiva in this town where there are 2 large tanks - the Bidyadhar and Sarasankha.
44 Tarakeshwar Temple at Tarakeshwar near Calcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: A very well known temple in the Bengali style of architecture attracting scores of pilgrims.
45 Temple Ruins at Chandrakona at Chandrakon near Medinipur in West Bengal: Ruins of several Oriyan styled temples now abandoned.

West Bengal terra cotta temple architecture
Although there is plenty of evidence of human settlement in Bengal from prehistoric times but there are regrettable dearth of evidence. This is because of the soil structure of Bengal The community being spread on the alluvial plain of the mighty rivers of Ganges, Brahmaputra the whole region is susceptible to flood and its resulting unsettling geographical pattern. The only somewhat undulated regions being the western Chota Nagpur and the Himalayan ridges of east and the north. This soil structure is reflected in the building material chosen by the Bengali temple designers. Mainly the terra cotta temples with elaborate surface decorations and lettering written in nagari alphabets. The roof structure also has been the effect of the heavy rainfall that the river delta and the Tarai experiences throughout the monsoon, it has Ganges been curved effectively in most cases to get rid of the huge amount of water as soon as possible and thereby increasing the lifetime of the structure. The architectural evidence generally has been from the Gupta Empire period onwards. There have been recent discoveries of plaques from the times of Chandraketugarh and mahasthangarh throwing additional light on the architectural styles of sunga and gupta periods. Apart from the Pahlavi and Phamsana influence on the architectural style it is also closely connected to the Bhanja style of temples from mayurbhanj district of Orissa But the temples of south Bengal is a distinction due to its roofing style so unique and closely related to the paddy roofed traditional building style of rural Bengal. Bishnupur in the southern district Bakura of West Bengal has a remarkable set of such temples which being built from the Malla dynasty are examples of this style. Most of these temples are covered on the outer surface with terra cotta reliefs which contains plenty of secular materials making these important to reconstruct the social structure from these times.
The temple structures contain gabled roofs which are colloquially called the chala, For example a gabled roof with an eight sided pyramid structured roof with be called "ath chala" or literally the eight faces of the roof. And frequently there is more than one tower in the temple building. These are built of laterite and brick bringing them at the mercy of severe weather conditions of southern Bengal .Dakshineswar Kali Temple is one example of the Bhanja style while the additional small temples of Shiva along the river bank are example of southern Bengal roof style though in much smaller dimension.
Bankura district is a land of temples. There are more historical temples inBishnupur than in any other place in West Bengal. There are several aspects oftemple art, architecture and construction that need to be considered.
Almost all temples in Bishnupur town are Vaishnavite, but many of those scatteredin different areas of the district spread outside the town are Shaivite, with traces ofJainism and Buddhism. While some of the older temples were built of laterite, thearea has numerous brick built temples, some with exquisite terra cotta carvings.Terra cotta carvings are also found in some temples outside the district, as forexample at joy deb kenduli or Antpur, but the art of terra cotta carvings seems tohave flourished with the rise of the Rajas of Bishnupurand virtually died out withthe fading of their supremacy. Some of the earlier temples built by the BardhamanRaj have terra cotta carvings, possibly by artisans from Bankura district, but by thetime Rani Rashmoni decided to construct the Dakhinswar kali temple, in the mid-nineteenth century, the art of terra cotta carvings had obviously faded out.
Terra cotta Temples are the pride of Bishnupur, a small village in Bankura Districtof West Bengal. The Malla kings of the 16th-18th centuries constructed thesetemples, about 30 in all, in their devotion to Lord Krishna. This architecture betrays influences of various ancient Indian styles as well as of Mughal andPersian designs. Ras-Manch, Shyamrai, Jor-Bangla, and Radha-Shyam are someof the most important of the Terracota Temples. The basic building material of these temples is tiles made from the local red soil. The terracota tiles aredecorated with filigreed carvings that have Mughal, Persian or Indian lineage.
Attraction of Bakura bishnupur
Malleshwar Temple: Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is the oldest temple in Bishnupur.
Rasmancha: Built in the late 16th century by King Bir Hambir, the temple has an unusual elongated paramedical tower, surrounded by hut-shaped turrets. Idols were kept here for public worship during Ras-utsav.
Pancha Ratna Temple of Shyam Raya: Built in 1643 AD by King Raghunath Singha. The walls are richly decorated with terracotta carvings featuring different aspects of Lord Krishna’s life.
Jorebangla Temple of Keshta Raya: Built by King Raghunath Singha Dev II in 1655 AD, the ornate terracotta carvings are set off by the roof in the classic chala style of typical Bengal architecture.
Madanmohan Temple: King Durjana Singh Deva built the temple in 1694 AD in the ekaratna style. It is a square flat-roofed building with carved cornices, surmounted by a pinnacle. Impressive carvings on the walls depict scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas.
Kalachand Temple: It is of ekratna style and is on the bank of Lal-bandh.
Mukutmonipur: Mukutmonipur is 55Km away from Bakura (a 2 hours drive) District Head Quarters and is situated at the confluence of river Kangsabati and Kumari. Green forests and hillocks surround the vast bluish tract of water. The undulating terrain along the southern edge of the Kangsabati Water Reservoir extends as a three-dimensional necklace of green and terracotta color. Tourists flock here for its stunning natural beauty.
Jhilimili: Jhilimili is situated 70 Km away from Bakura Town. It is a beautiful, undisturbed dense natural forest. The road from Ranibund to Jhilimili offers a wonderful view of spectacular forests on varying heights on both sides, finally reaching Jhilimili, which is mounted on the top of a hillock.. The sparkle of micaceous soil adds to the beauty of the environment.
Susunia: Susunia hill, 50 km from Bishnupur, is quite popular as a trekking spot. It is also an important tourist spot for people who visit the place to see "Dhara" (a natural spring) and Silialipi. Excavations have revealed inscriptions dating back to the 4th century AD.

Joyrambati, 44 km from Bishnupur, the birthplace of Sree Maa Sarada Devi, is a holy town. The famous temple of Singha Bahani Devi is a special attraction. Mayerepukur, in front of the residential house of Ma-Sarada is also a sight worth visiting.
Sutan Forest: Bakura is also popular for beautiful Tourist Spots like Sutan, Near Ranibandh & Eco-Park ,Near Taldangra, both covered with dense forest, decorated with small lakes and thrilling with wild animals. Biharinath Hill: Biharinath, situated in the extreme northwest area of the district, 57 km away from Bakura town, thought to be an ancient centre of Jainism. The height of the hill is 448 m is the highest hill in Bakura. Biharinath is very rich in flora and fauna.
Hyena, Pangolin, Chameleon, Racaphorus, though few in number, are still found here.
The place is known for its natural beauty.
The fisherman community of rural Bengal prays to Ganga Devi in the month of Chaitra. Through their prayers and dances, they appease the Goddess, so that she bestows blessings on them throughout the year. According to great philosopher Aristotle all source of great human
world knowledge and wisdom has come from the banks of holy Ganges river of India.

Ganga Heritage Cruise West Bengal
The river Ganga passing through the state of West Bengal in India has been an important trade route from time immemorial. It is through this route trade was conducted with the early civilizations. Later when European colonial powers came through this river they established trade posts along the river. One can also find important places of pre colonial times also. The aim of the Ganga Heritage Cruise, West Bengal is to discover these historical places along with natural historical sites. The whole Ganga Heritage Cruise, West Bengal stretches 260 km from Howrah to Murshidabad spanning seven districts with picturesque rural Bengal. The cruise is conducted by a number of cruise launches where staying and fooding facilities are well provided for.
The starting point is the town of Murshidabad the erstwhile capital of Bengal. The town was founded by Nawab Murshid Quli Khan and its prosperity was its silk center. With this silk trade came the European traders but after the Battle of Plassey in 1757 the British founded the British colonial empire. One of the important historical landmarks is Hazar Duari named after the thousand doors of the palace though not all are real. It is now a museum displaying rare books, military weapons, paintings, royal artifacts etc. Other places are Katra Mosque housing the tomb of the founding Nawab, Jorebangla a four terra-cotta temple complex and other historic places.
Next place is Mayapur the birth place of Shri Chaitanya who started Vaishnavism five centuries ago and Nabadwip where Shri Chaitanya propounded the Vaishnavism philosophy in 1485.
Then comes the town of Kalna with its famous 108 Shivlinga temples build by the Maharaja of Burdwan in 1809. You can also visit the beautiful terracotta temple of Pratapeswar temple built in 1849.Other important sites are Shyamsunder Bati, Krishna Chandraji temple, Amli Briksha and Pancha Bimsati temple.
Next comes the city of Chinsura the former Dutch trading post established in 1656. Discover the Dutch colonial heritage. After that visiting the city of Chandernagore, the erstwhile French settlement feels like being transported to the 16th century with its beautiful esplanade by the river with chairs. One can visit the house of Dupleix, the French Governor, the police headquarters and the French Institute. And lastly the Ganga Heritage Cruise, West Bengal stops at Belur the foundation of Ramkrishna Mission and a site for an equally imposing temple.
Go onboard the Ganga Heritage Cruise, West Bengal which takes you back in time and discover each stages of cultural, historical heritage of Bengal in a comfortable journey through the romantic river Ganga. An unforgettable experience! An incredible amazing Bengal.

Climate and geography of west Bengal
The eastern state of West Bengal experiences a tropical type of climate due to its geographical location. The state has diversity in physiographic as it touches the Himalayas in the north and is bordered by the Bay of Bengal in south. The northern districts remain cold throughout the year and for that reason, the hill stations are favored by the tourists especially during the summer months.
The climate of West Bengal is full of variation. The seasons in West Bengal can be broadly categorized into summer, winter, autumn and rainy seasons. The summer months in West Bengal span from mid of March to mid of June. During this time, the average temperature is 38 degree to 45 degree.
The monsoon season in West Bengal is much awaited as the landscape turns lush green after the monsoon showers. By the middle of June, monsoon approaches the state and it is influenced by the winds blowing from Bay of Bengal. The autumn season in West Bengal is welcomed with a number of festive occasions. From September the festive mood commences and it is during this cool and pleasant climate, the festival of Durga Puja is celebrated in West Bengal.
During the winter season, the weather of West Bengal remains very pleasant. The state experiences a mild cold climate while the temperature drops very low in the hilly region of West Bengal. From about mid November, winter approaches West Bengal and temperature rises not before the middle of February. The temperature varies around 15 degree in these cold months.
The Geography of West Bengal is varied. The state of West Bengal is situated in the eastern part of India. On the east lies Bangladesh. Sikkim and Bhutan lie on the north of West Bengal. The state of Assam is situated on the north east of West Bengal. Bihar and Jharkhand is situated on the western side of the state. The geographical location of the state is 23 degree North latitude and 88 degree East longitude.

As per details from Census 2011, West Bengal has population of 9.13 Crore, an increase from figure of 8.02 Crore in 2001 census. Total population of West Bengal as per 2011 census is 91,347,736 of which male and female are 46,927,389 and 44,420,347 respectively. In 2001, total population was 80,176,197 in which males were 41,465,985 while females were 38,710,212. he total area of West Bengal is 88,752 sq
The population density of West Bengal per square kilometer is 904. Sex Ratio in West Bengal is 947 i.e. for each 1000 male, which is below national average of 940 as per census 2011. In 2001, the sex ratio of female was 934 per 1000 males in West Bengal.. The population of West Bengal is predominated by the Bengali population. But immigration from different states of India has enriched the population diversity of West Bengal.

The topography of the state also varies from region to region. The northern part of West Bengal touches the Himalayan range. The topography of West Bengal alters as the Indo-Gangetic plain begins. The Gangetic plain is rich in alluvial soil and thus is very fertile. This kind of soil is suitable for agriculture. Further south, the deltaic plain or the Sunderban region is a very important spot for tourism in West Bengal.

The climate of West Bengal is full of variation. The state experiences a tropical type of climate. The seasons in West Bengal can be broadly categorized into summer, rainy, autumn and winter seasons.
According to the provisional results of 2011 national census, West Bengal is the fourth most populous state in India with a population of 91,347,736 (7.55% of India's population). Majority of the population comprises Bengali people. Marawaris, Behari and Oriya minorities are scattered throughout the state. Communities of Sherpa’s and ethnic Tibetans can be found in

Darjeeling Himalayan hill region .Darjeeling district has a large number of Gurkha people of Nepalese origin. West Bengal is home to indigenous tribal Adivasis such as Santhalis, Kol, Koch-Rajbonshi and Toto tribe There are a small number of ethnic minorities primarily in the state capital, including Chinese, Tamils, Gujarati, Anglo Indians, Armenians, punjabis,and parsis. India's sole chaina town is in eastern Kolkata
Religions in West Bengal
The official language is Bengali and English. Nepali is the official language in three subdivisions of. Darjeeling district .As of 2001, in descending order of number of speakers, the languages of the state are: Bengali, , Hindi, Santali, Urdu Nepali, and .Oriya Languages such as Rajbangsi and Ho are used in some parts of the state.
As of 2001, Hinduism is the principal religion at 72.5% of the total population, while Muslims comprise 25.2% of the total population, being the second-largest community as also the largest minority group;Sikhism Christianity and other religions make up the remainder. The state contributes 7.8% of India's population. The state's 2001–2011 decennial growth rate was 13.93%, lower than 1991–2001 growth rate of 17.8%, and also lower than the national rate of 17.64%. The gender ratio is 947 females per 1000 males. As of 2011, West Bengal has a population density of 1,029 inhabitants per square kilometer (2,670 /sq mi) making it the second-most densely populated state in India, after Bihar.
The literacy rate is 77.08%, higher than the national rate of 74.04%.Data of 1995–1999 showed the life expectancy in the state was 63.4 years, higher than the national value of 61.7 years. About 72% of people live in rural areas. The proportion of people living below the poverty line in 1999–2000 was 31.9% Scheduled Castes and Tribes form 28.6% and 5.8% of the population respectively in rural areas, and 19.9% and 1.5% respectively in urban areas. A study conducted in three districts of West Bengal found that accessing private health services to treat illness had a catastrophic impact on households. This indicates the value of public provision of health services to mitigate against poverty and the impact of illness on poor households.
The crime rate in the state in 2004 was 82.6 per 100,000, which was half of the national average .This is the fourth-lowest crime rate among the 32 India. However, the state reported the highest rate of Special and Local Laws (SLL) crimes. In reported crimes against women, the state showed a crime rate of 7.1 compared to the national rate of 14.1. Some estimates state that there are more than 60,000 brothel-based women and girls in prostitution in Kolkata. The population of prostitutes in sonagachi constitutes mainly of a Nepalese, Indians and BANGLADESHI. Some sources estimate there are 60,000 women in the brothels of Kolkata. The largest prostitution area in city is SONAGACHI .West Bengal was the first Indian state to constitute a Human Rights Commission of its own
Flora and fauna
Flora and Fauna of West Bengal is rich in flora and fauna and has diverse ecosystems because of its varying terrain from the high altitudes to the sea level plains. Protected forests cover 4% of the state area. There are 15 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 5 National Parks and 2 Tiger Reserves.
The Sunder ban, in south Bengal, is home to the famous Tiger Project – a conservatory effort to save the Bengal tigers from extinction. It is an UNESCO world heritage site. Another similar project exists in Buxa in north Bengal. Wildlife includes the Indian one horned rhinoceros, Indian elephants, deer, bison, leopards, gaur, crocodiles and others. The state is also rich in bird life. Migratory birds come to the state during the winter months.
Bengali culture and its excellence
Historically Bengal has a very rich cultural heritage. Bengal is, indeed, noted for its rich culture in songs, music, drama, dances and language. Its indigenous style of music, art, dance and drama is very rich. Bengali is one of the oldest languages in the world. According to statistics, jointly with Spanish, Bengali is the fourth largest language group in the world, only surpassed by Chinese, English and Hindi It is the first of Indian languages to develop western style secular fiction and drama. It originated from the Indo-Aryan family of languages in the 7th century, thus making it comparable to English, French and German. Bengali language is much older than Hindi Urdu and even Portuguese, Spanish and many other established modern languages.
In the middle ages, Bengali was already a well-established language with popular poets like Bidyapati, Chandidas, Daulat Kazi and Alawol. It was during this period of middle ages that the famous Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata were translated in lyric forms from Sanskrit into Bengali by Krittibas and Kashiram Das respectively. This period also saw a rich output of romantic songs, poems and dance centering on the love of Radha and Krishna. These were simply superb in their wording, rhythm and style.
However, things started changing rapidly about 200 years ago. With the emergence of some great personalities like Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-91), Michael Madhusudan Datta (1824-73) and Bankim Chatterjee (1838-94) Bengali language and literature really got a new life. About one hundred and forty years ago came the famous Bengali poet Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and then rebel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam appeared in 1899. These two great Bengali poets have actually initiated a new era for Bengali language and culture. Tagore represented this new era of cultural modernization; others followed him almost as disciples. Palli Kabi Jasimuddin was also one of them. Tagore was urban, sophisticated and universal; Nazrul exhibited his spirit of protest and opposition to all social injustice, discrimination, oppression and exploitation while Jasimuddin vastly remained rural and provincial in his approach. Their common bond was their liberal outlook for secular Bengali culture.
Music, songs, drama and dances are also part of rich Bengali culture and there are three mainstreams of this Bengali Culture: folk, modern and classical. Folk music mainly based is rural Bengal. It has been nurtured by the village singers, musicians, actors and dancers. With sweet melodies, touching words of love, tragedy and devotion, folk music is the most popular form of music in all over Bengal. The best known forms of folk music are bhatiali, Baul, bhawaia, jaari, marfati and murshidi. Lalan Fakir, Hasan Raja, Nirmalendu Chowdhury, Abbasuddin Ahmed, Shachin Dev Burman, Purnadas Baul, Sadhan Bairagi and Abdul Halim are some of the greatest names in Bengali folk music.
On the other hand, the pioneers of modern Bengali music were, indeed, the world famous Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore and the rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Tagore initiated a blend of East and West and Nazrul experimented with the synthesis of folk and Middle Eastern strains.
Bengal also shares the rich tradition of classical music of the subcontinent. Indeed, Bengal has produced many musicians and maestros of international repute like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty and Pandit Ravi Shankar who have successfully made sitar and sarode popular all over the world.
Before I conclude let me describe a few words about the musical instruments which are also playing vital roles to promote the rich Bengali culture and its excellence. The typical Bengali folk musical instruments are Ektara (one string), Dotara (two, but actually four strings), Ghungur, Khol, Mandira, Behala (violin) and Banshi (flute) and the classical musical instruments are Sitar, Sarode, Tanpura, Shenai, Eshraj, Pakhwaj, Tabla and Harmonium. Even now a large number of people in the villages of Bangladesh, West Bengal and Tripura regularly listen to the folk drama called Jatra and the age old melodic folk songs.
Bengali Performing Arts' aim is to promote this rich Bengali cultural heritage and its excellence by organizing cultural programs round the year throughout the world.


No comments:

Post a Comment