West Bengal Tourism

West Bengal is a state in eastern India. With Bangladesh, which lies on its eastern border the state forms the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. To its northeast lie the states of Assam and Sikkim, and to its southeast lies the state of Orissa. To the west it borders the state of Jharkhand, and to the northwest it borders Nepal. The region that is now West Bengal was ruled by small kingdoms as well as the Maurya empire and the Gupta empire. Between the 7th century and 12th century CE, the region was ruled by the Pala dynasty and the Sena dynasty, which were later overthrown by the Turkish and Afghan chiefs of the Delhi Sultanate. Under Jahangir, the reign of the Mughal empire was established in the area. The British East India Company captured the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 CE, and the city of Kolkata (then Calcutta ) would serve for many years as the capital of British India. A hotbed for the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided in 1947 into two separate entities - West Bengal belonging to India, and East Bengal belonging to the new nation of Pakistan.

Geography and climate- West Bengal is on the eastern bottle-neck of India, stretching from the Himalayas in the North to the Bay of Bengal in the south. The state has a total area of 88,853 km². The Darjeeling Himalayan hill region to the northern extreme of the state belongs to the eastern Himalaya . This region contains Sandakfu (3,630 m)-the highest peak of the state. After a brief Terai region starts the plains. The plains continues into the Ganges delta towards the south. The rarh region intervenes between the Ganges delta in the east and the western plateau and high lands. A small coastal region is on the extreme south, while the Sundarbans mangrove forests form the most remarkable geographical landmark of the Ganges delta.

West Bengal's climate is transitional between tropical savannah in the southern portions and humid subtropical in the north. The main seasons are summer, rainy season, a short autumn, and winter. While the summer in the delta region is noted for excessive humidity, the western highlands experience a dry summer like northern India, with the highest day temperature ranging from 38 °C to 45 °C .[17] At nights, a cool southerly breeze carrying moisture from the Bay of Bengal is usually present.

Transport - The total length of surface road in West Bengal is about 57,600 km; National highways comprise 2,357 km and state highways 2,393 km[32] Average speed on state highways varies between 40-50 km/h; in villages and towns, speeds are as low as 20-25 km/h due to the proliferation of speed bumps.[32] Total railway length is 3,825 km.[33] Kolkata is the headquarters of two divisions of the Indian Railways - Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway. The Northeast Frontier Railway plies in the northern parts of the state. The Kolkata metro is the country's first underground railway and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (NFR) is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO.The state's only international airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport at Dum Dum, Kolkata. Bagdogra airport near Siliguri is the other significant airport in the state. Kolkata is a major river-port in eastern India . The Kolkata Port Trust manages both the Kolkata docks and the Haldia docks.

Culture - West Bengal has a long tradition in folk literature. The musical tradition of West Bengal is lyrics-based (Baniprodhan), with minimal instrumental accompaniment. The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bangla folk music, which has also been influenced by regional music traditions. Gombhira and Bhawaiya are a few of the better-known musical forms. Folk music in West Bengal is often accompanied by the ektara, an instrument with only one string. West Bengal also has an active heritage in North Indian classical music. Bengali dance forms draw from folk traditions, especially those of the tribal groups as well as the broader Indian dance traditions. Chau dance of Purulia is a rare form of mask dance. Mainstream Hindi films are quite popular, as are films of Bengali cinema industry dubbed "Tollywood." Bengali film industry is known for its art films.

Rice and fish are traditional favorites leading to a common saying that "fish and rice make a Bengali. Meat consumption has increased with higher production in recent years. Durga Puja in October is the most popular festivals in the West Bengal.

Tourism - West Bengal is a place of varied charms. The mighty Himalayas in the north, the Bay of Bengal in the south, the verdant plains, hilly terrains and the wonderful mangrove forests - all these have inspired many poets to pen down lines in praise of the state. Digha, the marvelous beach on the Bay of Bengal and Darjeeling , the beautiful hill station in the foothills of the Himalayas , are the two extremes of the state. It is the only state in India where a tourist can have the opportunity to see both the majestic Himalayas and the beautiful Bay of Bengal . And in between these two lies the city of Kolkata or Calcutta as it was called earlier. A journey to West Bengal gives you the opportunity to experience a culture unique to Bengal.

What was Calcutta like before the British came?

It was a village; the capital city of Bengal was Murshidabad, around 60 miles north of Calcutta. In 1772, Calcutta became the capital of British India, and the first Governor General Warren Hastings moved all important offices from Murshidabad to Calcutta . Till 1911, Calcutta remained the capital of India. In 1947, when India gained freedom and the country got partitioned between India and Pakistan, Calcutta was included in the Indian part of Bengal, West Bengal. Calcutta became the capital city of the state of West Bengal.

Kolkata down the ages - at a glance
  • At the end of the fifteenth century, a reference to Kolkata was found in the famous novel of Manasa Mangal written by Bipradas. The character of Chand Saudagar in the novel paid a visit to Kalighat to offer puja to the Goddess Kali on the way to Saptagram.
  • When the Portugese first began to frequent Bengal about the year 1530, the two great centres of trade were Chittagong and Saptagram.
  • In the Ain-i-Akbari, a work written in 1596 by Abul Fazal in the court house of Emperor Akbar, a reference to Calcutta is noticed under the Government of Satgaon(Saptagram).
  • 1690 August, Job Charnok, an agent of East India Company (established 1600) settles in the village of Sutanutee . 
  • 1693 Charnok died.
  • 1696 Fort at Calcutta Factory commenced.
  • 1698 East India Co. bought three villages (Sutanuti, Kolkata, Gobindapur) from local landlord Sabarna Chowdhury.
  • 1699 East India Company started developing Calcutta as a Presidency city.
  • 1707 Mughal Emperor Aurongajeb died.
  • 1715 British people completed building the Old Fort.
  • 1717 The Mughal emperor Farrukh-siyar granted the East India Company trading privileges in return for a yearly payment of 3,000 rupees.
  • 1727 As per the order of King George I, a civil court was set up. The city corporation was established and Hallwell became the first mayor of the city.
  • 1740 Ali Vardi Khan became the Nawab of Bengal.
  • 1756 Ali Vardi Khan died and Siraj-ud-Dawlla (Mirza Muhammad) became the Nawab of Bengal. Siraj-Ud-Dawlla attacked and captured Calcutta . He changed the name of the city to Alinagar.
  • 1757 23rd June, British people (under the leadership of Robert Clive) defeated Siraj-Ud-Dawlla at Plassey (in Nadia district).
  • 1757 British first printed currency bill in Calcutta mint.
  • 1765 Clive took Bengal, Bihar and Orissa from Badsha Alam II ( Delhi ) with an agreement of paying excises.
  • 1770 Infamous famine.
  • 1772 Calcutta became the capital of British India when the first Governor General, Warren Hastings, transferred all important offices to the city from Murshidabad.
  • 1775 Nandakumar, a local landlord was hung in a false allegation when he accused Warren Hastings of corruption.
  • 1780 James Hicky established a printed press and published  first news paper "The Bengal Gazzette".
  • 1784 The first official news paper  "The Calcutta Gazzette", was published.
  • 1784 Sir William Jones took initiative and established The Asiatic Society.
  • 1795 First Bengali drama 'Kalpanik Song Badol' was staged by Gerasim S. Lebedef at Bengali Theatre.
  • 1801 Fort William College was established.
  • 1804 The Governor House (presently Raj Bhawan) was built.
  • 1813 The Town Hall was built.
  • 1818 First Bengali Magazine Digdarshan was published from Srerampur, with the help of David Hare.
  • 1817 The Hindu College (presently Presidency College ) was established with efforts from Rammohan Roy, David Hare and Radhakanta Dev. Initially the college started with 20 students.
  • 1828 Sahid Minar ( Octorloney Monument ) was built.
  • 1829 Rammohan Roy was successful in making 'satidaho' (a Hindu rule) banned by British Governor General William Bentinck.
  • 1839 Sangbad Prabhakar, the first Bengali daily was published.
  • 1854 First Railway line in India was inaugurated (from Calcutta to Hooghly ).
  • Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh came to Calcutta in 1857. He built the town of Metiaburj and died in 1887.
  • 1857 The University of Calcutta was established.
  • 1864 The GPO (General Post Office) building was constructed.
  • 1873 First Tram car (horse drawn) in the city was launched.
  • 1875 "The Statesman", leading English Daily newspaper, started.
  • 1875 The Indian Museum was built.
  • 1883 Surendra Nath Banerjee called for a National convention (which led to the forming of Indian National Congress in 1885 at Bombay ).
  • 1883 First telephone communication between Calcutta and Howrah through a cable laid beneath the floating Howrah bridge.
  • 1886 Second convention of Indian National Congress happened at Calcutta .
  • 1888 Indian Football Association established.
  • 1895 Scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose experimented on transmission through radio waves at Town Hall.
  • 1896 First motor car appeared on city's street.
  • 1899 For the first time in Calcutta , electricity was generated.
  • 1902 First Electric tram car from Esplanade to Kidderepore.
  • 1905 Lord Curzon, viceroy of India , tried to partition Bengal . There was a strong protest. Finally he failed to do so.
  • 1911 British moved the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi
  • 1911 A local football team, Mohan Bagan defeated British team in IFA shield final and created national sensation.
  • 1913 Rabindranath Tagore, the great philosopher, poet and writer received Nobel Prize in literature.
  • 1921 King Edward VIII inaugurated the Victoria Memorial building.
  • 1924 Chittaranjan Das was elected as the first Indian mayor of the city of Calcutta .
  • 1929 Agnes Goinxha Bejaxhiu (Mother Teresa) came to Calcutta to join Bengal Loreto Mission.
  • 1939 The World War II hit Calcutta .
  • 1941 Tagore died.
  • 1941 Subhash Chandra Bose escaped from house arrest by British.
  • 1943 Thousands of people got killed in famine.
  • 1946 Communal riot killed thousands of people in and around the city.
  • 1947 India gained independence. Bengal got partitioned; Calcutta became the capital city of the state of West Bengal in India . Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh became the first Chief Minister of West Bengal , followed by Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy. Calcutta and suburban area received thousands of  people from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh ) as a result of the partition.
  • 1952 The National Library was moved to Alipore from Esplanade.
  • 1962 India-China war affected Calcutta .
  • 1971 Tension of India-Pakistan war on freedom of Bangladesh.
  • 1970-71 The Naxalite Movement hit the city resulting arrests of hundreds of youths and creating enormous tension among city dwellers.
  • 1975 First TV transmission started in the city from August 9th.
  • 1977 Left Front led by CPI(M) Party won the state election and came into the power of state Government.
  • 1977 The world famous football player Pele played in a football match in the city.
  • 1978 A major flood hit Calcutta .
  • 1979 Mother Teresa, a permanent resident of Calcutta was awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 1984 Metro, the first underground railway in India, started from Tollygunge to Esplanade.
  • 1984 First color TV transmission started from the TV centre (DoorDarshan).
  • 1989 France 's highest civilian award, Legion d'Honour was conferred upon Satyajit Ray by President F. Mitterrand in Calcutta .
  • 1992 Satyajit Roy, film director, received prestigious "Life Time Achievement" Oscar award and "Bharat Ratna". He died in the same year.
  • 1995 First cellular phone service starts in the city.
  • 1997 Mother Teresa died in Calcutta.
  • 1998 Amartya Sen (grew up in Shantiniketan and studied at Calcutta ) received Nobel Prize in Ecomonics
  • 2001 Calcutta was officially renamed as 'Kolkata' from 1st of Januray.
  • Add some more recent events / dates ?

How did the city get the name Calcutta / Kolkata ? Different opinions

  • Kalikata is derived from the Bengali word Kalikshetra meaning "Ground of the Goddess Kali."
  • Some say the city's name is derived from the location of it's original settlement on the bank of a canal (khal).
  • Some match the name to the Bengali words for lime (kali) and burnt shell (kata), since the area was noted for  manufacturing shell-lime.
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