Thursday, 29 May 2008

West Bengal

West Bengal! One of the most important states of the country, it boasts of a rich history, which dates back to more than two millennia. Historically, it has always been a crucial part of several kingdoms and empires, till the British rule consolidated itself in the country by making this region its base and fusing the villages of Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kolikata to form the city of Calcutta (now Kolkata) as its administrative seat. The state as we know now was finally created following the independence of the country in 1947, and the partition which also created Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan).
West Bengal is arguably the country’s pre-eminent seat of learning and culture, intellectuality and strong socio-politico-economic consciousness. It is also a burning symbol of the traditional Indian spirit of hospitality and generosity, this being the most endearing feature of the place. The state has always welcomed people from all regions, sects, religions, and embraced and assimilated them in its mainstream life making everyone feel at home by its virtue of spontaneous warmth and wide acceptance. And if you are a traveler who wants to lose himself in places of scenic beauty, historic importance, or cultural landmark, West Bengal is your ideal destination, for it has on offer travel destinations to suit the taste of a variety of tourists.


Geography

West Bengal is the paradise for a lover of nature. In the north it is bordered by the lofty Himalayas, in the south its feet are washed by the waves of the Bay of Bengal. The culmination point of where the mighty river Ganges finally meets the sea, the southern part of the state is also the home of some of the world’s largest deltas, where the famed mangrove forests, the Sunderbans are situated. The state also forms borders with several states and neighboring countries. There are the states of Assam and Sikkim and the country of Bhutan in its north and north-eastern side, Nepal at the north-western extreme, to east lies Bangladesh, to west are situated the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, and then there is Orissa towards south-west. The state, along with its capital city Kolkata forms the nerve-centre for the eastern and the whole of north-eastern region of the country.


Travel Information

Traveling in West Bengal is best suitable during the autumn and winter. The state has quite a hot summer, when it is advisable not to roam too much in the sun. Though the condition is not as bad as some other parts of the country, it is better to avoid traveling during the summers, and the ensuing monsoon. Although it offers the cool relief after the burning summer, traveling can be a best enjoyed only after these two seasons are over. If you are bitten by the wanderlust, you may not find it any difficult and find pleasure in traveling in any climatic conditions. But for the general traveler — the milder autumn and the winter, never too severe even though 10-11 degrees C are often touched — these are the times to pack up your bags and set out for a journey.


Places of Interest

Darjeeling
The crown of Bengal and often deemed as the Queen of all hill stations in the country. Located in the northern precinct of the state, Darjeeling is recommended for its breath-taking scenic beauty, the fog-covered ambience among the some of the highest peaks of the Himalayas, and its rich flora. And also don’t forget to visit the tea for this is the home where the world’s best tea is grown.

Kolkata
The capital city of West Bengal and also a city where you can go visit places and still there would be someplace more to go. If you are an enthusiast of history, then the National Museum, Victoria Memorial, Town Hall are must visits; for the book lovers, the lanes any by-lanes of the famous book bazaar in College Street is the shrine you must go to; if you are looking to get just amused for a day out, then you may target the amusement/entertainment parks like Nicco Park, Science City, Aquatica; otherwise, you can go and lose yourself in the Botanical and Zoological Gardens.

Shantiniketan
Some 210 km away from Kolkata, is this town of tranquility. Famous for being the home of the international university (Visva Bharati) founded by Rabindranath Tagore, the place have many associations with the Nobel Laureate that forms a part of its rich cultural heritage.

Murshidabad
A place with rich historic undertones. This was the place where the Nawabs of Bengal had their seat of power, before the British wrested it after the Battle of Plassey in 1757. A remnant of the Islamic culture and history, your travel would not be complete until you have been to this place and seen it all.

Digha
The famed sea resort of West Bengal. Although, another sea resort at Bakkhali has recently emerged, this place remains a perennial favorite spot to go to when you are traveling in West Bengal and wish to spend some time by the sea.

Sunderbans
The name of the place is derived from the sundari trees that form the mangrove forests in this deltaic region. Situated at the southern extreme of the state, the Sunderbans are a dream destination for any traveler. The natural beauty of the locale is enhanced by the dark jungles lurking with an abundantly free wildlife. The abode of the world’s most beautiful creature, the Royal Bengal Tiger, this is at once the ground of splendor and terror, a place where man’s communion with nature is at its primitive best.


Business and Economy

West Bengal has traditionally been the food bowl of the country. Primarily an agrarian economy, the rich fertile soils have supported the majority of the population of the state and the agricultural produce has always been plentiful. Rice is the staple food crop, with pulses and potato following suit. Jute and tea (Darjeeling has given the world some best flavors of tea) are the principal cash crops. Being a land of many rivers, West Bengal’s economy is also largely contributed by pisiculture. Industry is also an important source of economy for the state. The main regions where this ahs flourished is the capital city, Kolkata and its adjoining areas as well as some industrial belts in Durgapur, Asansol, Siliguri, Haldia etc. The tourism industry at Darjeeling is another mainstay of the state’s economy. Touted to be the third fastest growing economy in the country, the reason perceived is the state’s success in transforming the city of Kolkata into a hub of information technology.


Art & Culture

Bengal, throughout its history, has been the art and culture capital of the country. Bengali, is the most vernacular of the state. However, with the trend of globalization setting in, and the state being the home of so many people from so many parts of India, the culture has become homogeneous through acceptance of its cosmopolitanism. Bengal can boast of a long literary tradition of folk literature, in its ancient and medieval history. During British rule, when Calcutta (now Kolkata) became the seat of learning and culture and an indigenous renaissance took place. Gradually, modernism set in with great masters like Rammohan, Vidyasagar, Michael Madhusudan, Bankimchandra, Rabindranath, Saratchandra, Bibhutibhushan Bannerjee setting their indelible mark of genius with their contribution.
In terms of music, West Bengal is the home of a heritage of folk music, and the baul tradition is its most unique exponent. The richness of fine arts also knows no bounds, and generations have been mesmerized by the creations of such maestros like Abanindranath Tagore, Nandala Bose, Jamini Roy, Ramkinkar Beij, Ganesh Paine.
The culture of the state will remain incomplete without touching on the gastronomical. Rice and fish are the favorite food items in West Bengal, and has delighted the visitors to this state of food loving people as much as it has formed the diet of its millions of inhabitants. And the sweets of West Bengal are popular with anyone, who have ever tasted them. Starting from the mishti doi (sweet curd), the variety of sweets produced and distributed and eaten in West Bengal include such marvels like rosogollas, sandesh, mihidana to name a few.


Festivals

There is a Bengali saying, baro maas-e tero parbon (Thirteen festivals in twelve months). Durga Puja, where the goddess Durga fights and kills the demon god, Mahisasura, is the principal festival of West Bengal, occurring in the autumn (September or October, dates differ according to auspicious reasons) and it continues for four days. Mostly, festivals in the state are religious in nature, however non-religious festivals like Doljatra (Holi in other parts of the country) are also extremely popular. Being a cosmopolitan culture, the people here also observe the Islamic festivals like Eid and the Christian ones like Christmas and New Year with great zeal. For the culturally conscious people, the annual book fair organized for more than three decades during January-February, and the international film festival (usually happening in November and celebrating its 13th year in 2007) are the occasions to be festive about.

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