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West Bengal

  West Bengal, is bounded on the north by Bhutan and the state of Sikkim , on the east by Bangladesh and the state of Assam , on the south by the Bay of Bengal, on the southwest by the state of Orissa , and on the west by Nepal and the state of Bihar . Its capital, Calcutta, is one of the largest cities in India.

In Calcutta, visit the Victoria Memorial and drive past Fort Williams. 51 kms from the city, the Hoogli turns towards the Bay of Bengal -- beyond is the beautiful Bakkhali beach. Darjeeling , the Queen of the Hills has the highest Race Course in the World. In Darjeeling trek to Tiger Hill and Ghoom monastery. Visit its neighbors Mirik and Kalimpong , reached by a fascinating journey through tea estates, winding roads and several view points from where the Himalayan range can be viewed.

Bengal finds a coveted place even in pre-historic times. At the time of Alexander's invasion a powerful kingdom called Gangaridai ruled over Bengal. Later Sasanka became King of Bengal and is said to have played important role in north-eastern India in the early half of the seventh century. He was succeeded by Gopala who founded the Pala dynasty which ruled for centuriesand had created a huge empire. The Palas were followed by the Sena dynasty which was ended by Muslim rulers from Delhi.Bengal was
ruled by various Muslim rulers and governors till the Mughal period in the sixteenth century.

After the Mughals, history of modern Bengal begins with the advent of European and English trading companies. Battle of Plassey in 1757 changed the course of history when the English first gained a strong foothold in Bengal and India. In 1905 it was partitioned to achieve some political returns but people's growing movement in the auspices of Congress led to the reunion in 1911. This triggered off hectic movement foe freedom which culminated with independence in 1947 and partition.

After 1947, merger of native settlements began which ended with its final reorganization in 1956, when some neighbouring Bengali speaking areas too were transferred to West Bengal..

Tribes: West Bengal contains about 40 recognized communities of tribes--the better known among them being the Santals, Oraons, Munas, Lepchas, and Bhutias--that make up less than one-tenth of the total population. Bengali is the language of most of the people, with Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, and English as minority languages. English, however, is the language of administration and a lingua franca for business purposes.

Occupation: More than one-half of the people are engaged in agriculture; rice being the most important crop. Bengal's tea plantations account for much of India's tea production. The state has a significant mineral output, including dolomite, limestone, and china clay. It has steel plants, an automobile-manufacturing plant, and numerous chemical, machinery-building, and light-engineering industries.

Culture: Bengal, the cultural centre of India has produced 4 Nobel Laureates: Tagore, Mother Teresa, Satyajit Ray and Amartya Sen. The theatre is popular, and both amateur and professional performances are quite sophisticated., traditional open-air performances, are popular in the countryside, along with kavigan an impromptu duel in musical verse between village poets. Traditional music takes the form of devotional and cultural songs. The kathakata a religious recital based on folklore, is another rural entertainment. Films offer yet another type of popular diversion, and Bengali productions have earned national and international awards.

CLIMATE: The annual rainfall varies in the sub-Himalayan region between 150- 210 inches and in the plains between 45-75 inches. There are three seasons: hot and dry (March to early June), hot and wet (mid-June to September), and cool (October to February). During the hot and wet season, rain-bearing monsoon winds blow from the southwest. Best time to visit: during September-October and December-January.

Population: 75 million

Festivals: Calcutta festival in January; Bathing Festival in Sagar Island in January; Jhapan festival in Vishnupur in August, Nag Panchami in August; Durga and Kali Puja during September-October and the Flower and Tea festival in Kalimpong in October. Id and Christmas are also important festivals.

Tourist Offices:

Tourism Centre, 3/2 BBD Bagh (East), Calcutta - 1

Tourism Centre (Head Office), Netaji Stadium Eden Gardens, Calcutta - 21

Dy Director of Tourism 1, Nehru Rd Darjeeling - 734101

WB Tourism State Emporia Bldg (First Floor), A/2 Baba Karak Singh Marg New Delhi - 1.

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