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.
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 racecourse in the World. In Darjeeling trek to Tiger Hill and Ghoom monastery. Visit its neighbours Mirik and Kalimpong, reached by a fascinating journey through tea estates, winding roads and several viewpoints from where the Himalayan range can be viewed.
Capital: Calcutta, the capital city of West Bengal, was the first port of call of the British East India Company. The most important city of British India before the company shifted base to Delhi, its contribution to the Independence movement still makes the elderly nod in nostalgia. There are two Calcutta’s: the north and the south. The north with its narrow lanes and dusty bookshops, the university and the south of the yuppie culture, fast-food joints and elite schools. The markets and the flashy restaurants are in Central Calcutta.
History: West Bengal's early and intellectually productive contact with the West and with other parts of India is one of the most significant factors affecting the state's history. The other was its partition into Muslim East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) and the Hindu Indian state of Bengal in 1947. Integration of Cooch Behar and the former French colony, Chandernagore into Bengal took place post Independence. After gaining land from Bihar, a link between the northern and southern parts of the state, separated earlier.
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 has 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