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Bengal and bengali culture


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Bengal and bengali culture

  1. 1. Bengal and Bengali cultureBengal is situated in northeast part region of Indiansubcontinent at the apex of Bay of Bengal. Themajority of Bengal is inhabited by Bengalipeople who speak Bengali language. Today, it ismainly divided between the sovereign land of
  2. 2. peoples Republic of Bangladesh (previously EastBengal / East Pakistan) and the state of westBengal. The region of Bengal is one of the mostdensely populated regions on earth, with apopulation density exceeding 900/km. Most of theBengal region lies in the low-lying Ganges–Brahmaputra River delta or Ganges delta, theworlds largest delta. In the southern part of the deltalies the Sundarbon —the worlds largest mangroveforest and home of the Bengal Tiger, though thepopulation of the region is mostly rural and agrarian.Two mega cites, Kolkata (previously Calcutta)and DHAKA (previously Dacca), are located inBengal. The Bengal region is renowned for its richliterary and cultural heritage as well as its immensecontribution to the socio-cultural uplift of Indiansociety in the form of the Bengal Renaissance, andrevolutionary activities during the Independencemovement. West Bengal also (proposed newEnglish name: Paschimbanga) is a state in theeastern region of India and is the nations fourth-most populous region. It is also the seventh-mostpopulous sub-national entity in the world, with over91 million inhabitants covering a total area of 34,267sq mi (88,750 km2), which is bordered by thecountries of Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, andthe Indian states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar,Sikkim, and Assam. The state capital is Kolkata
  3. 3. (formerly Calcutta). West Bengal encompasses twobroad natural regions: the Gangetic Plain in thesouth and the sub-Himalayan and Himalayan area inthe north. Bengal was divided in 1947 on religiouslines into two separate entities: West Bengal – astate of India – and East Bengal, which initiallyjoined the new nation of Pakistan, before becomingpart of modern-day Bangladesh in 1971.Bengal wasdivided on religious and language lines. Bengalilanguage movement has played a very importantrole for its separate entity which catalyzed theassertion of Bengali national identity in East Bengaland later East Pakistan, and became a forerunner toBengali nationalist movements, and subsequentlythe Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. InBangladesh, 21 February is observed as languagemovement day, a national holiday. The shaheedminer monument was constructed near DhakaMedical College in memory of the movement and itsvictims.The saliency of Twenty First February has made thehistoric movement for establishing Bengali as one ofthe State languages of Pakistan synonymous withthe 1952 phase of the Bengali language movement.However, the movement for making Bengali as oneof the State languages of the then Pakistan wasknown as Bangla vasha andolon.
  4. 4. Bangla vasha andolon.That spirit of 21th February (ekushey) has notdiminished. Rather, the radiant spirit of the twentyfirst February has remained ingrained in the core ofour hearts and souls even after the elapse of almosthalf of a century of the historic Bengali languagemovement. People from all walks of life still comeout in thousands in the early hours of Februarytwenty first and mournfully trod the streets of Dhaka,and throng the Central Shaheed Miner (Marty sMonument) for offering their heartfelt tributes to thefallen language martyrs. Before depicting thecultures of Bengal, we must go to the historicalroots.Bengali RenaissanceThe Bengal Renaissance refers to a social reformmovement during the nineteenth and early twentiethcentury’s in the region of Bengal in Undivided Indiaduring the period of British rule. The Bengalrenaissance can be said to have started with RajaRam Mohan Roy (1775–1833) and ended withRabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), although therehave been many stalwarts thereafter embodyingparticular aspects of the unique intellectual andcreative output Nineteenth century Bengal was a
  5. 5. unique blend of religious and social reformers,scholars, literary giants, journalists, patriotic oratorsand scientists, all merging to form the image of arenaissance, and marked the transition from themedieval to the modern Bengal.During this period, Bengal witnessed an intellectualawakening that is in some way similar to theEuropean Renaissance during the 16th century,although Europeans of that age were not confrontedwith the challenge and influence of alien colonialism.This movement questioned existing orthodoxies,particularly with respect to women, marriage, thedowry system, the caste system and religion. One ofthe earliest social movements that emerged duringthis time was the Young Bengal movement thatespoused rationalism and atheism as the commondenominators of civil conduct among upper casteeducated Hindus.The parallel socio-religious movement, the BrahmoSamaj, developed during this time period andcounted many of the leaders of the BengalRenaissance among its followers In the earlier yearsthe Brahmo Samaj, like the rest of society, could nothowever, conceptualize, in that feudal-colonial era, afree India as it was influenced by the EuropeanEnlightenment (and its bearers in India, the BritishRaj) although it traced its intellectual roots to the
  6. 6. Upanishads. Their version of Hinduism, or ratherUniversal Religion, although devoid of practices likesati and polygamy that had crept into the socialaspects of Hindu life, was ultimately a rigidimpersonal monotheistic faith, which actually wasquite distinct from the pluralistic and multifacetednature of the way the Hindu religion was practiced.Future leaders like Keshub Chunder Sen were asmuch devotees of Christ, as they were of Brahma,Krishna or the Buddha. It has been argued by somescholars that the Brahmo Samaj movement nevergained the support of the masses and remainedrestricted to the elite, although Hindu society hasaccepted most of the social reform programs of theBrahmo Samaj. It must also be acknowledged thatmany of the later Brahmas were also leaders of thefreedom movement.The renaissance period after the Indian Rebellion of1857 saw a magnificent outburst of Bengaliliterature. While Ram Mohan Roy and IswarChandra Vidyasagar were the pioneers, others likeBankim Chandra Chatterjee widened it and builtupon it .The first significant nationalist detour to theBengal Renaissance was given by the brilliantwritings of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Later writersof the period who introduced broad discussion ofsocial problems and more colloquial forms of
  7. 7. Bengali into mainstream literature included the greatSaratchandra Chatterjee.The Tagore family, including Rabindranath Tagore,were leaders of this period and had a particularinterest in educational reform however theircontribution to the Bengal Renaissance was multi-faceted. Indeed, Tagores 1901 Bengali novella,Nastanirh was written as a critique of men whoprofessed to follow the ideals of the Renaissance,but failed to do so within their own families. In manyways Rabindranath Tagores writings (especiallypoems and songs) can be seen as imbued with thespirit of the Upanishads. His works repeatedly alludeto Upanishadic ideas regarding soul, liberation,transmigration and—perhaps most essentially—about a spirit that imbues all creation not unlike theUpanishadic Brahman. Tagores English translationof a set of poems titled the Gitanjali won him theNobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He was the firstAsian to win this award. That was the only exampleat the time but the contribution of the Tagore familyis enormous. The Bengal Renaissance saw theemergence of pioneering Bengali scientists such asJagadish Chandra Bose, Satyendra Nath Bose,Upendranath Brahmachari and Meghnad Saha.
  8. 8. Etymology of Bengal/BengaliThe exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal isunknown, though it is believed to be derived fromthe Dravidian-speaking tribe Bang that settled in thearea around the year 1000 BCVanga (Greater Bengal) was a kingdom during thetimes of Mahabharata.Other accounts speculate that the name is derivedfrom Banga which came from the Austric word"Bonga" meaning the Sun-god. The word Banga andother words speculated to refer to Bengal (such asAnga) found in ancient Indian texts including theVedas, Jaina texts, the Mahabharata and Puranas.The earliest reference to "Bangala" has been tracedin the Nesari plates (805 AD) of RashtrakutaGovinda III which speak of Dharmapala as the kingof VangalaSome accounts claim that the word may derive frombhang, a preparation of cannabis which is used insome religious ceremonies in Bengal. Dravidiansmigrated to Bengal from the south, while Tibeto-Burman peoples migrated from the Himalayasfollowed by the Indo-Aryans from north-westernIndia. The modern Bengali people are a blend ofthese people. Smaller numbers of Pathans,
  9. 9. Persians, Arabs and Turks also migrated to theregion in the late middle Ages while spreading Islam.The age and history of Bengal and Bengali culture isnear about 1000 years old. Since the end ofMagadha Empire the Bengal religious-socio-culturalceremonies held great importance’s among theBengalis. Ceremonies play the symbolic role ofevery tradition handed over to the decedent’sgeneration after generation. Some importantceremonies of Bengal.Annaprashan is a social ritual among the Hindus,an occasion when the baby breaks its baby foodpattern to welcome home made food. It is as well asa social introduction of the newmember.Annaprashan is a social ritual among theHindus, an occasion when the baby breaks its babyfood pattern to welcome home-made food.It is as well as a social introduction of the newmember of the family in the community.Annaprashan literally means feeding the baby ricefor the first time. "Anna" means food, especially ricewhile "prashan" means to feed. Annaprashangathers the importance of a religious ceremony.Arranged for the Hindu child generally before
  10. 10. teething, this ritual is separate for both boys andgirls.Upanayana is a Vedic ritual of Hinduism. It is animportant religious ritual in our society. Upanayanais performed only for Brahmin boys. According toVedic culture it is a second birth forthem..Upanayana is a Vedic ritual of Hinduism. It isan important religious ritual in our society.Upanayana is performed only for Brahmin boys.According to Vedic culture it is a second birth forthem. Upanayana marks the beginning ofBramhacharya.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 auspiciousoccasion among us. Arranged marriage is still acommonBengali marriages are a mixture of pure custom,tradition and religious beliefs. It is an occasionwhere the entire family gather, take part in thetypical Bengali ‘Adda’, regale in fanfare and remainbusy in making the necessary arrangements for theinvitees. Bengali culture must be searched and seenfrom the aspect of festivals, literature, drama,music/dance, cousins, and dress.Literature
  11. 11. The Bengali language boasts a rich literary heritage,shared with neighboring Bangladesh. West Bengalhas a long tradition in folk literature, evidenced bythe Charyapada, Mangalkavya, ShreekrishnaKirtana, Thakurmar Jhuli, and stories related toGopal Bhar. In the nineteenth and twentieth century,Bengali literature was modernized in the works ofauthors such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay,Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore,Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Sharat ChandraChattopadhyay. Coupled with social reforms led byRam Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, and others,this constituted a major part of the BengalRenaissance The middle and latter parts of the 20thcentury witnessed the arrival of post-modernism, aswell as literary movements such as those espousedby the Kallol movement, hungry lists and the littlemagazines Jibanananda Das, BibhutibhushanBandopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, ManikBandopadhyay, Ashapurna Devi, ShirshenduMukhopadhyay, Buddhadeb Guha, MahashwetaDevi, Samaresh Majumdar, Sanjeev Chattopadhyayand Sunil Gangopadhyay among others are well-known writers of the 20th century.Theater and filmsAmong other types of theater, West Bengal has atradition of folk drama known as jatra Kolkata is the
  12. 12. home of the Bengali cinema industry, dubbed "Tollwood" for Tollygong, where most of the states filmstudios are located. Its long tradition of artfilms includes globally acclaimed film directors suchas academy award -winning director Satyajit Roy,Ritwik ghatak, Mrinal sen, tapan sinha, andcontemporary directors such as Aparna Sen,Buddhadeb Dasgupta, and Rituparna ghosh.CuisineWest Bengal shares its distinctive culinary traditionwith neighboring Bangladesh, and also borrows fromother Indian states. Boiled rice constitutes the staplefood, and is served with a variety of vegetables, friedas well with curry, thick lentil soups, and fish andmeat preparations of mutton and chicken, and morerarely pork and beef by certain groups. Sweetmeatsare mostly milk based, and consist of severaldelights including roshgulla, sandesh, rasamalai,gulap jamun, kalo jamun, and chom-chom. Severalother sweet preparations are also available. Bengalicuisine is rich and varied with the use of manyspecialized spices and flavors. Fish is the dominantsource of protein, cultivated in ponds and fished withnets in the fresh-water Rivers of the Ganges delta.More than 40 types of mostly freshwater fish arecommon, including carp, varieties like rui (rohu),katla, magur (catfish), chingŗi (prawn or shrimp), as
  13. 13. well as shuţki (dried sea fish) are popular. Salt waterfish (not sea fish though) and Ilish (hilsa ilisha) isvery popular among Bengalis, can be called an iconof Bengali cuisine.DRESSBengali women traditionally wear the sari, theshalwar kameez and Western attire is gainingacceptance among younger women. Western-styledress has greater acceptance among men, althoughthe traditional dhoti and kurta of men are seenduring festivals. Like any other metropolis, Kolkataalso has an eclectic mix of western wears with atinge of ethnic wears. People are found dressed injeans along with kurtas, or sari along with anovercoat.Festivals of West BengalWest Bengal is a land of festivals. There is a popularsaying in Bengali ‘‘Baro Mase Tero Parban’: itliterally means thirteen festivals in twelve months.Almost all festivals of all religions are celebratedhere with equal religious sentiment and fervor. The
  14. 14. people of West Bengal strive hard to maintain thetradition and culture of its land in the festivals theycelebrate. A great number of fairs are alsoorganized. The most popular festival celebrated inWest Bengal is Durga Puja where all the peoplecome out in the streets and celebrate this four dayfestival. Other festivals celebrated in West Bengalare Kaali Puja, Basant Panchami, Dushera, BahiDooj, Holi, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Jayanti,Rathyatra and Christmas. Other events which havealmost taken the form of festivals are RabindraJayanti (birthday of Rabindranath Tagore), Birthdayof Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Birthday ofNetaji Subhas Chandra Bose.List of Festivals in West Bengal:HoliBirthday of Sri Ramakrishna ParamahamsaBirthday of Netaji Subhas Chandra BoseRabindra JayantiDurga PujaBasant PanchamiDusheraBhai DoojHoliMahavir JayantiBuddha Jayanti
  15. 15. RathyatraRakhiChristmasBera UtsavKolkata FestivalIST mayFolk culture of BengalWest BengalBengal, a land of fecundity and prosperity embracesall within her fold. The varied hues of her rich culturecolor her songs, music and literature. The numeroustribes and ethnic groups of Bengal have their owndistinctive folk arts, as varied and beautiful as thetribes themselves. Bengal’s repertoire of folk songswith its lyrical appeal and richness, its thematicdiversity and range is a reflection of rural Bengalscreativity and imagination. As a traditional art form,folk dances of Bengal have gained immensepopularity and recognition over the years. Thedances contain themes that range from ritualistic tosatirical and from allegorical to social. They involveprayers, offerings, celebrations and odes. Usuallyperformed during festive seasons, or to mark ahappy occasion, these dances ingrained in folkculture, reflect local faith, tradition and custom.These dances encompass a broad spectrum, from
  16. 16. invoking the rain Gods for a good harvest todepicting mythological events. In fact, some religiousfestivals are celebrated through songs and dancesthat characterize devotion, prayer and worship. Thedance forms that have evolved from the martial artsdepict events from the great Indian epics, theRamayana and the Mahabharata. These vocalmusical dances are performed round the year onvarious occasions, at fairs and festivals and religiousconglomerations.Some of the well known folk songs and dance ofwest Bengal include:BaulBengal, during the post medieval period, was adivided and closed society. Ruled by religiousstrictures, Hindus and Muslims led cloistered lives,against which grew a protest that took on thecharacter of a cult. The community of protesterscould be identified by the robes they wore (a longsaffron-colored cloak called the alkhalla with aturban of the same color), the one-stringedinstrument or Ektara they always carried and thebells they tied to their perpetually dancing feet.Sometimes the alkhalla would be made of differentpieces of cloth patched together. They were theBauls, the creators of a phenomenal music traditionthat has survived and grown despite the ravages of
  17. 17. time. Apart from the expected bamboo flute, theydeveloped a variety of musical instruments like thePremjuri and Dotara, the Khamak and Goopi Jantro,the Kartal and Dubki among others.The Bauls are free wanderers. They are detachedfrom the bondage of society and family. They movefrom place to place, making a meager living from thealms given to them by those who can plumb theprofound depths of their frugality. The Bauls belongto a sect with a distinctive mystic ideology of theirown and their songs spread the message of peaceand universal brotherhood. The word ‘Baul’ meansmad, the madness that comes out of anoverwhelming love for the Infinite Self. The singersdescribe the transience of mundane existence andthe simple means to spiritual upliftment, though theroot of their philosophical theory rests in a deepercomplex psychological consciousness. Bauls arebasically philanthropists, though sometimes satirefrom day to day life finds a place in their songs. TheBauls have played a major role in India’s freedomstruggle when they moved from village to village inrural Bengal with their songs stirring up a feeling ofnationalism and pride in our motherland among theilliterate village folk.Both men and women (Bauls and Baulanis) are apart of this great music tradition. For a long time, the
  18. 18. Baulanis performed with the Bauls and they did nothave any separate identity. But in recent yearsBaulanis have carved out their own foothold. Themusic of the Bauls had a significant influence onRabindranath Tagore. Today the Bauls’ songs canbe heard in many districts of West Bengal as theirfootsteps dot the muddy village lanes of Bankura,Birbhum, Burddhaman, Nadia, Dinajpur andMurshidabad. Baul Sangeet has always held aspecial place. It is basically a folk dialect of Bengalimusic and highly spiritual in nature, but far awayfrom religious dilution. This form of music wasdeveloped by a group of mystic minstrels fromBengal who are considered to be a syncretism groupwith music in their blood. In 2005 they were declaredas the Masterpieces of the Oral and IntangibleHeritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Joydeb kenduliannual fair is considered to be the biggest fair ofBauls at Birbhum district of west Bengal.Purulia Chhou danceThe Chhau dance of Purulia district is one of themost vibrant and colorful art forms. Emerging frommartial practice, the Purulia Chhau is a vigorousform of dance drama that draws its themes from thetwo great Indian epics, The Ramayana and TheMahabharata.Masks and elaborate headgear are the ornamental
  19. 19. apparels of the Chhau dancers. The dance isbelieved to date back to over a century, though thespecific date of its origin cannot be definitelyascertained. The dance was patronized by theroyalty and landlords of the region. Since itsinception, the members of the Mahato, Kurmi,Bhumija, Deowa, Bhuama and Dom communitieshave sustained this dance form. The dance is anessential part of the Gajan Festival, a festival thatcelebrates the glories of Lord Shiva. Today, thedance is no longer restricted to one particular time ofthe year. The Purulia Chhau dance has beeninfluenced by many dances of the district, like theNata Jawaid Dance, the Mahi Dance and the NachniDance. Even two relatively sophisticated danceforms like the Jhumur and Bhadra Jhumur haveinfluenced the Chhau Dance in its tune and rhythm.The accompanying musical instruments include theDhol, Dhamsa and Shenai.The dance commences with an invocation to LordGanesh. Then the movements follow the nuances ofthe story. In a Chhau Dance the fight between goodand evil always culminates in the triumph of goodover destructive evil. The elaborate masks, thedazzling costumes, the rhythmic drum beatings andshenai, characterize the Chhau Dance. A distinctivefeature of this dance is the acrobatic use of the body
  20. 20. and the intricately crafted masks worn by thedancers. Powerful movements, immenseconcentration and release of energy are the otherfeatures of this dance.In the villages the performance usually startsbetween 9.00 and 10.00 o’clock in the evening. Asthe night grows and the dance gains momentum,there is an air of excitement all around.Communication between the performers and theaudience is a significant feature of this dance form.In the olden days, the performance area used to beilluminated by torches that burnt throughout thenight. Over the years the dance has undergoneevolutions in form, stage craft, lighting and use ofmusical instruments.The masks help the dancers to portray differentcharacters. There are masks depicting particularGods and Goddesses, demons and monsters. Thereare also interesting masks for different animals likethe lion, tiger, bear, monkey and so on. These finely-crafted masks are made by the painter artistes of thedistrict. With the face covered by a mask, it is left tothe dancers to emote using their bodies. Movementsand postures therefore serve both to portrayemotions and make the dance lively.One of the most popular presentations of the PuruliaChhau Dance is Mahisasur Mardini. Oppressed by
  21. 21. the tyranny of the Mahisasura, the Gods pray toGoddess Adyashakti Mahamaya who takes the formof Goddess Durga, Durga tinashini and after a fiercebattle with Asura, finally slays him.Santhali DanceThe Santhalis are an integral part of the folklore ofBengal. The Santhali dance form is seen in thedistricts of Birbhum, Bakura, Malda andBurddhaman. The Santhalis are born dancers.Dance is an integral part of all festivities of theSanthali community. Musical accompaniment isprovided by instruments like the Madol, Flute,Dhamsa, Jhanj, Kartal and occasionally the Shenai.The songs are typically based on Taal MadolChhanda. Dances are usually performed on a fullmoon night and are connected with the celebrationof certain rituals. A notable feature of the Santhalidances is the unison in movement. The dancersstand in a line holding hands and move to therhythm of the madol. Usually the women take part inthe dance and the men provide the musicalaccompaniment. This is reflected in the words of asong, which accompany the Dang Dance, a danceperformed as a part of marriage rituals. The boyscarry two types of drums, the Madal and the Lagra.They sing to the girls telling them: “Though thedrums are heavy, we carry them around dancing all
  22. 22. the time”. The girls reply, “As we hear the beat ofdrums, we cannot stand still. We lift our feet andbegin to dance”.Simplicity of theme and language is what makes theSanthali dances so endearing. Nowadays, Santhalimen also take part in the dances, most of which areseasonal and reflect the ritualistic life of the Santhalicommunity. Each dance form has its own distinctiverhythm and dance style. Some of the populardances include the Sohrai, which is a harvest dance,inviting all the village folk to come out of their homesand join in the festivities, and the Dasai, a danceperformed just before the Durga Puja, when theSanthali men go out to the neighboring villages,where they sing and dance to collect donations ofrice and alms.The Santhali dance reflects the beauty of ruralBengal and adds color to the palette of the folkculture of the state.Mundari danceThe members of the Mundari community performthese dances on different festive occasions, most ofwhich are related to agriculture. The main festival ofthe Mundari community is the Karam Puja. Thedances of the Santhali and Mundari communities arevery close in style and form. The musical
  23. 23. instruments used by the two communities are alsocommon.GambhiraGambhira, a popular annual festival of Malda Districtcomprises songs and dances closely related toagriculture and mythology. Performances depict onone hand, the success, failure or annual productionof crops, and on the other tell stories aboutmythological figures. Depending on the theme,dancers perform solo, duets or in groups, stepping intune with the beat of dhaks. Colorful masksrepresenting Gods and Goddesses like Kalika,Chamunda, Rama, Hanuman, Shiva and evenanimals and birds, make the performances bothcharming and entertaining, while retaining theauthenticity of this primitive dance form.The word Gambhira means ‘Devalaya’ or House ofGod. This festival is very closely associated withShiva Puja. In the different rituals associated withGambhira Puja we find an amalgamation of differentreligious thoughts like Shaivism, Vaishnavism,Buddhism and Shaktiism. In Malda district, wherethis festival is immensely popular, Shiva is alsoknown as Gambhir, and hence the festivalassociated with Shiv Puja is known as Gambhira.The Bengal Drum or Dhak and the Gong or Kanshiare main musical instruments accompanying this
  24. 24. dance. Dancers tune their steps to the differentbeats of the Dhak, the intricate patterns of theirdance blending into the pulsating rhythm of festivityand celebration. Over the years, poverty and socialchanges are forcing this dance, which was oncesynonymous with grandeur, into oblivion. TheGambhira festival begins with Agamani songs. Thesecond day of the festival is called the ChotoTamasha and the third day the Boro Tamasha.These days are devoted to Shiva and Gouri Puja.Other popular dances of the Gambhira traditioninclude the Baan Nritya (Arrow Dance) Bak Nritya(Stork Dance) Tapa Nritya (a dance performed bythe fishermen and fisherwomen using a special kindof bamboo basket known as the Tapa which is usedfor catching the fish) and Kali Nritya (the dance ofGoddess Kalika).GajanGajan is a very popular festival in some parts ofBengal. Gajan songs are sung in praise of LordShiva and Goddess Parvati in the Bengali month ofChaitra. Singing and dancing is an integral part ofthis celebration. The dance is performed with greatdevotion and austerity. The dancers sometimesdress up as Hara Parvati and move around thevillage, dancing to the accompaniment of the Dhol,Kanshi and Flute. In Malda and Murshidabad, the
  25. 25. celebration is known as Bolan. The dancers undergopenance with a view to attaining salvation andbecoming free of worldly sufferings. This celebrationis observed during the latter part of the month ofChaitra. Being a festival of austerity, the dancersoften fast before a performance. The performance ofthis Puja involves some harrowing rituals and isusually performed by the lower castes. Theinvolvement of the upper castes is limited to bowingdown before the lower castes for just this one time inthe year.Durga Puja DhakUtsav is synonymous with Durga Puja. The Bengaliwaits all year round for the arrival of Devi Ma. It is atime for celebration and festivity, and it is the soundof the Bengali Drum or the Dhak that joyouslyannounces her eagerly awaited arrival. It is thesound of the Dhak that captures the many moods ofthe Devi, frenzied, calm, plaintive and nostalgic, andit is the sound of the Dhak that also tells us it is timefor her to return to her heavenly abode. Every beatof the dhak is different and each of them holds aspecial place in every Bengalis heart.Dhol BadanThe Dhol (a variation of the Bengali Drum) is anindispensable musical instrument of the different
  26. 26. festivals of Bengal. The musicians dance and playthe Dhol simultaneously.Bratachari – RaibenseThe Raibense dance which is performed by a groupof male dancers is a part of the repertoire of the‘Bratachari’ tradition of West Bengal. The Raibensedance of ancient Bengal is a significant andauthentic reminder that the Bengalis were oncerenowned for their military prowess. The dancebelongs to a living tradition of the war dances ofancient Bengal. Rai means royal, kingly and banshor bansha means bamboo. This was used by theinfantry soldiers in the middle ages. This vigorousdance form includes mock fighting and acrobatics. Itspeaks volumes about the valor of the people ofancient Bengal. The Dhol and Kanshi are the maininstruments used. The strident rhythmic notes of theDhol and the clanging of the Kanshi generatecourage and daring in the hearts of the dancers. Nosongs are sung or verses recited during this martialdance. Instead, vigorous yells mark the varioussectional movements. The simplest costume, a dhoti(which is the traditional dress of Bengali men) isworn with a strip of red cloth signifying spirit andvalor. Shri Gursasaday Dutt, ICS, was responsiblewas resurrecting this ancient group dance andmodifying it to its present form.
  27. 27. The Bagdi, Bauri and Dom communities ofBurddhaman, Birbhum & Murshidabad districts,perform the dance.Stick Dance or Laghur NrityaThe Stick Dance or Laghur Nritya is anotherinteresting martial folk art form of West Bengal. Thestick, which has from time immemorial been used asa weapon of self-defense, is used in this dance. Thelong sticks not only keep the beat of the dance, butare also used for the acrobatic feats, which are anintegral part of this dance form.Ranapa DanceThe Ranapa is another martial form of dance, wherethe artistes walk and dance on stilts. As the dancersdisplay mock fights, they exhibit their skills ofbalancing on stilts.Dhali & Paika NrityaThese two dances are heroic war dances and areperformed by a group of dancers. The dances areevocative of the valor and prowess of the peoplewho took part in the wars.The Dhali Dance, as the name implies, is the ShieldDance. It was the war dance of the Dhali (Shieldman) troupes in the armies of the ancient potentatesof Bengal. In the Dhali Dance, the spectacular
  28. 28. movements are formal and are more in the nature ofathletic exercises. It is a dance of high aestheticvalue by virtue of its intricate maneuvers andordered formations. Being a war dance, it is notaccompanied by any songs. This dance formoriginated and flowered during the reign of RajaPratapaditya of Jossore. After winning a battle, thefatigued and exhausted solders starting dancing withswords and shields in the cantonment to inspirethem for the next war. It is believed that RajaPratapaditya maintained an army of highly skilledDhali soldiers. Over the years, the dance form hasbeen modified extending to women dancers as well.Natua DanceNatua, an ancient dance form, features in the ShivPuranas. The word Natua may have been derivedfrom the name of Lord Nataraj. It is believed thatNandi and Vringi, the associates of Lord Shiva werethe first to perform this dance during the time ofShiva’s marriage with Durga. This highly acrobaticdance form involves many tricks with fire and isusually accompanied by the beats of a Jai Dhak, theinstrument which is said to have been created byLord Shiva. The dance is performed during theCharak Puja and occasionally during marriages.Kirtan Dance songs
  29. 29. The Kirtan music is the most widely practiced folkmusic (vocal and dance) form of Bengal. Thedemocratic nature of the dance, which unites peopleof the whole village, irrespective of their caste orsocial standing is its most striking feature. Thedance is performed to the accompaniment of theDhol and Mridanga. The great spiritual leader, ShriChaitanya Dev gave the dance a national character.Rabha DancesThe women of the Rabha Community perform theRabha Dances, popular in the Northern part ofBengal. The men provide the musicalaccompaniment, playing the Barangshi (a bambooflute), Hem (a drum with two faces), Dandi &Barding, (idiophones made from bamboo) andKarnal (a rare tribal instrument made of bamboo andbuffalo horn). The Rabha women have differentdances for different occasions, like the “Fai NangNing Mein” or Welcome Dance, the “Braisar Pridan”or New Year’s Dance and “Larai Lunge” or WarDance. The dancers depict the daily life of thecommunity and embody the merriment that enlivensall their festivals.Chaibari NrityaThe Chaibari Nritya, as the name suggests, is adance mastered by the tea garden workers of
  30. 30. Northern Bengal. The dancers, with their intricatecostumes and jewelers make for a picture perfectsight in the breathtaking backdrop of the verdant teagardens. The melodious music adds to the charmand beauty of the dance..Domphu NrityaThe Domphu is a musical instrument used by theNepali community settled in North Bengal. TheDomphu Nritya takes its name from this traditionalinstrument. The dances give expression to the joys,hopes and aspirations of the community through thiscolorful folk dance.Kukri NrityaTheKukri Nritya, also from North Bengal, isperformed by the girls of the community, as theyceremoniously hand over their traditional weapon,the Kukri, to their brothers, before they set off for thewar.Mech DanceThe Mech Dance is another popular dance form ofNorth Bengal, the land of forests, mountains andturbulent rivers. In this dance form, which originatedin Jalpaiguri district, we see and feel the innerrhythm which pervades the simple life of the tribalpeople living in harmony with nature. There are
  31. 31. several variations of the Mech Dance.Bagroomba is performed by the Mech women atspring festivals, the colorful costumes used by thedancers are evocative of butterflies.Chal Jhumgre Gele Nai is a war dance which isrhythmic and martial in character.In the Mesa Glang Nai dance, performed by theMech women, the youth of the community isexhorted to be industrious and hardworking. Theyoung members of the community are reminded thatthey must always retain the purity of their minds andbodies. This dance is performed as the women pluckflowers for the ‘Kherai Puja’. They carry small bowlsin their hand to collect the flowers.Rajbanshi DanceThe Rajbanshi is one of the many tribes of NorthBengal. The lives of the people belonging to theRajbanshi tribe revolve around the Teesta River,which they worship as a Goddess. The Teesta flowsdown the snow-capped peaks of Darjeeling, throughthe dense forests of Jalpaiguri. It then charts aturbulent course through the lush scenery ofCoochbehar, finally meeting the Brahmaputra Riverin Bangladesh. This graceful dance is performed toinvoke the blessings of the River Goddess. TheDhol, Kanshi, Kartal and Mukhabanshi are the
  32. 32. instruments that accompany this invocatory dance.Jhumur DanceThe Jhumur songs and dance is one of the liveliestmusical forms of Purulia district of west Bengal, thisis an elaborate dance, choreographed andperformed by professional artistes. Here lies itsessential difference with forms like the SanthaliDance. The dance is performed by girls while theboys play the Dhol and Madol. This entertainingdance is performed on stage and during road shows.Heavy make-up and ornate jewelers form part of thecostume of the Jhumur dancers. This secular danceform is accompanied by fast-paced and cheerfulJhumur songs.The sensuous Nachni is an offshoot of the JhumurDance, depicting the love of Radha (Nachni) andKrishna (Rasik).BhaduAs the rains pour down on the red earth of Bengal,voices rise in praise of Bhadreswari Ma, invoking herblessings for a good harvest. Originating from thedistricts of Bakura, Purulia, West Burddhaman andBirbhum, the Bhadu Dance is performed mainlyduring the Monsoon. The dance draws its namefrom the Bengali month of Bhadra, when themonsoon showers drench the earth. During the
  33. 33. festival, Bhadreswari or Bhadu (goddess of crops) isinvoked by the villagers, seeking her blessings foran abundant harvest. The women of the community,both married and unmarried perform the BhaduDance. The unmarried girls pray for a lovinghusband while the married women pray to MotherEarth to be blessed with children.The Bhadu festival is also celebrated in ChotaNagpur, where it is known as ‘Karam Parab’.TushuWhen we think of harvest songs in Bengali folkculture, we think of Tushu. Tushu songs, originatingfrom the districts of Bakura, Purulia & Midnaporehave similar features. The daily lives andrelationships of the villagers form the theme of thisgenre of songs. Family rows between rival co-wivesand between wives and their sisters-in-law find aplace in Tushu songs.Tushu songs being associated with harvestingalways refer to the householder’s wealth – ‘ghee of32 cows’, ‘rice of fine paddy’, ‘pots of ghee and gur’are some of the expressions used. The villagerspray to the Folk Goddess Tushu for prosperity. Theyask for the Goddess’s blessings so that their homesand the homes of their sons may overflow withwealth.
  34. 34. DhamailDhamail is a folk dance performed by the marriedwomen of rural Bengal. The women arrangethemselves in a circle, around a certain object ofprayer, clapping to the beats of the song. Whilepraying to the Sun God, a lit diya, symbolizing thesun, is kept at the centre. The clapping brings arhythmic element into the otherwise slow-paceddance.NabannaNabanna is a ritualistic dance performed after theautumn harvest. It is part of a religious ceremonyassociated with cultivation and harvesting. Thedance is an expression of the happiness of thefarmers’ families after a successful harvest. Aspecial religious ceremony is held on the day thenew rice is eaten.Noila BrotoFarming is an integral part of the lives of villagers inrural Bengal. After a day’s toil, the villagers oftensing and dance as a welcome break from their dailyroutine of labor and hard work. In most parts of ruralIndia, agriculture is still dependant on the rains.Noila Broto is a traditional ode to the Rain Goddess,“Megh Kanya”. This prayer dance, involving ritualsand offerings, celebrates the arrival of the first
  35. 35. monsoon clouds. The farmers and their wives prayfor a good monsoon that will bring forth an abundantharvest of crop, ushering in prosperity andhappiness.BaromashyaThe Bengali community is known for the warmhospitality it extends to visitors. When a guestarrives unannounced at a Bengali home, he isgreeted warmly and made to feel welcome, while thehost makes every effort to ensure a comfortablestay. The Baromashya songs and dances describethis endearing quality of the simple folk of ruralBengal.Bou NrityaThis is a part of the traditional Badhubaranceremony of Srihatta. Bou Nritya enacts the customof asking a new bride to dance; a process of helpingher shed her inhibitions. The dancers wearornaments typical of this region and drape the sari ina different way. The distinguishing feature of thisdance is that the dancers never lift their feet off theground during the entire performance. Through thisdance of initiation, the new bride is welcomed intoher new family.Ganga Baidya
  36. 36. Ganga Baidya is a dance of the snake charmers orBedes of Bengal. The dance gives expression to thedaily lives, customs, hopes and aspirations as wellas the pains and tribulations of this sect of people ofrural Bengal. The Bedes were a nomadic tribe whomoved from place to place, earning their living bysinging their songs and displaying acrobatic tricks –with fire, knives, sticks and ropes. Theseworshippers of Ma Manasha use snakes for a varietyof tricks. Through their songs and dances, thefearless Bedes sold snake venom and talismans tothe villagers, promising them that these would keepevil away.Lathi DanceThis is another notable form of folk dance which hasa different art of expression. This dance isperformed to express different situations of humanlife like remorse, celebration, anger, pain or love.The dance is performed in the first ten days of theMuslim festival of Muharram.Music of West BengalThe richness of Bengali culture also reflects in themusic that expresses the feeling of love, sadness,anxiety, motivation, devotion or spirituality. Themusic of West Bengal also refers as BanglaSangeet. Some of the popular Music of Bengal are:
  37. 37. Classical Bangla MusicThe classical music of West Bengal is highly inspiredby the other forms of Indian classical music. Theinfluence of Karnataka music has significantinfluence on the classical music of Bengal. Likeother classical forms of music of this place alsobased on the musical modes called ‘Ragas’.Themes of classical music have its root in JaydevsGitagovindam, Rabindra-Sangeet, Shyama-Sangeet, Mangalgiti and Padavali kirtan.Rabindra SangeetThis is one of the most popular kinds of Banglamusic which was created by the great poet and theNoble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. These songsare regarded as cultural treasures of BengalArtists/painters of West BengalThe Bengal School of Art commonly referredas Bengal School was an influential art movementand a style of painting that originated in Bengal,primarily Kolkata and Shantiniketan, and flourishedthroughout India during the British Raj in the early20th century. Also known as Indian style of paintingin its early days, it was associated with Indiannationalism (swadeshi) and led by AbanindranathTagore (1871-1951), but was also promoted andsupported by British arts administrators like E.B
  38. 38. Havell the principal of the Government Collage ofarts Kolkata from 1896; eventually it led to thedevelopment of the modern Indian painting.However Bengal continues to produce some of thebest artists of modern India. Among them the bestknown artists of present day Bengal are GaneshPyne, Manishi Dey, Nirmal Dutta, Nilima Dutta,Jahar Dasgupta, Bikash Bhattacharya Sudip Roy,Devajyoti Ray and Paresh MaitiArchitecture of BengalThe Bengal region, which includes the Republic ofBangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal,has many architectural relics andmonuments/temples dating back thousands ofyears.Bengal, a land of natural and cultural heritage.Temples of West Bengal an amazingarchitectures;1 Bakranath Temple at Bakreswar near Siuri inWest Bengal: Built in the Oriyan style, the largetemple is the most important of the several shrines inBakreswar. Hot springs are another feature ofinterest in this town.2 Balrampur Jain Temple at Balrampur nearPurulia in West Bengal
  39. 39. 3 Bansuli Temple at Nannur near Bolpur in WestBengal: The temple site is like a mound, and thelowest level dates back to the Gupta period.4 Barakar Temples at Barakar near Asansol inWest Bengal: Four stone temples in the North IndianRekha style built in the 8th through the 15th century.5 Bargabhima Temple at Tamluk near Medinipur inWest Bengal: Large Temple to Shakti influenced bythe Oriyan architecture style displaying interestingengineering and architectural features.6 Bhagwati Temple at Gourangpur near Asansolin West Bengal: A beautiful brick temple over 150years old now deserted.7 Brindabanchandra Temple at Guptipara nearCalcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: The biggest inthe group of temples in Guptipara.8 Chaitanyadev Temple at Guptipara nearCalcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: 17th centurytemple in the Bengali style of architecture.9 Chinese Temple at Achipur near Calcutta inWest Bengal: Chinese temple with inscriptionsdating back to the 18th century.10 Dakshineswar Kali Temple at Calcutta in WestBengal: Famous 19th century Kali temple associatedwith Ramakrishna.
  40. 40. 11 Dhirdham Temple at Darjeeling in West Bengal:Built along the lines of the Pasupathinath temple inNepal.12 Dugdheshwar Shiva Temple at Amaragarh nearBurddhaman in West Bengal13 Ekteswara Temple at Ekteswara near Bakura inWest Bengal: Famous Shiva temple that looks like amassive solid pillar near the river Dwarkeshwar.14 Hanseswari Temple at Bansberia near Calcuttain West Bengal: Dates back to the 19th century withornate arches.15 Jagannath Temple at Serampore near Calcuttain West Bengal: Large and ancient Jagannathtemple famous for its rath yatra second only to Puri.16 Jain remains at Pakbira near Bara Bazar(Purulia) in West Bengal: Remains of numeroustemples and images some about 2000 years old.17 Jain Temple Ruins at Boram near Jaipur inWest Bengal: Ruins of three identical Jain temples18 Jain Temples at Dulmi near Purulia in WestBengal19 Jain Temples at Deoli near Purulia in WestBengal: Group of Jain temples, the largest of whichhas an image of Arhanath worshipped by Hindus aswell.
  41. 41. 20 Jain temples and ruins at Chharra near Puruliain West Bengal: Old temples and ruins of Jain origin.21 Jateshwarnath Temple at Mahanad nearCalcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: A center forShiva and Shakti worship.22 Jaya Deva Temple at Kenduli near Bolpur inWest Bengal: Well known temple to Radha andKrishna dating back to the 12th century - currentstructure over 200 years old.23 Jor Bangala Temple at Bishnupur near Bakurain West Bengal: Specimen of remarkable sculptureand architecture.24 Kalighat Temple at Calcutta in West Bengal:200 year old temple from which Calcutta is said totake 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 nearAsansol in West Bengal: This is a 500 year oldtemple a great center for Shakti worship.27 Kanak Durga Temple at Chikligarh nearMedinipur in West Bengal28 Kapil Muni Temple at Sagar Island nearDiamond Harbor in West Bengal: Associated withthe mythological descent of the Ganges from the
  42. 42. heavens (into the sea) and a site held in greatreverence.29 Kiriteshwari Temple at Murhsidabad nearMurshidbad in West Bengal: Regarded as one of theShakthi Peeths this was once a center of greatimportance.30 Krishnachandra Temple at Guptipara nearCalcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: Located alongwith the Chaitanyadev, Ramachandra andBrindabanchandra temples.31 Krishnarjun Temple at Tamluk near Medinipurin West Bengal: Ancient temple - current structurebuilt 400 years ago.32 Lalji Temple at Chandrakona near Medinipur inWest Bengal: 16th century temple built in Bengalistyle, enclosed by a high wall with a gateway.33 Malleswar Temple at Chandrakona nearMedinipur in West Bengal: 60 feet high templedating back to the 18th century, with an even oldershrine.34 Mankeshwar Mahadev Temple atAmaragarh near Burddhaman in West Bengal35 Radha Kanta Jiu Temple at Rajbalhat nearCalcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: A fine specimenof Bengali architecture dating back to the 18th
  43. 43. century.36 Ramachandra Temple at Guptipara nearCalcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: Fine red coloredbrick temple with a curved roof, with brick panelscarved with fine specimen of Bengali art.37 Sarva Mangala Devi Temple at Garbeta nearMedinipur in West Bengal: 16th-17th century templein the Oriyan style dedicated to Devi along with othertemples within the fort.38 Sheetalnath Jain Temple at Calcutta in WestBengal: 19th century temple - an ornate mass ofmirrors, colored stones and glass mosaics.39 Shivakhya Devi Temple at Amaragarh nearBurddhaman in West Bengal40 Sidheswara Temple at Bahulara near Onda inWest Bengal: Ancient Shiva temple in the Oriyanstyle with fine ornamentation depicting replicas ofthe temple.41 Suratheshwar Temple at Supur near Bolpur inWest Bengal42 Swayambhava Kali Temple at Bansberia nearCalcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: Located near theVishnu temple, this temple dates back to the 18thcentury.43 Syamaleswar Temple at Dantan in West
  44. 44. Bengal: Ancient temple to Shiva in this town wherethere are 2 large tanks - the Bidyadhar andSarasankha.44 Tarakeshwar Temple at Tarakeshwar nearCalcutta (Hooghly) in West Bengal: A very wellknown temple in the Bengali style of architectureattracting scores of pilgrims.45 Temple Ruins at Chandrakona at Chandrakonnear Medinipur in West Bengal: Ruins of severalOriyan styled temples now abandoned.West Bengal terra cotta temple architectureAlthough there is plenty of evidence of humansettlement in Bengal from prehistoric times but thereare regrettable dearth of evidence. This is becauseof the soil structure of Bengal The community beingspread on the alluvial plain of the mighty rivers ofGanges, Brahmaputra the whole region issusceptible to flood and its resulting unsettlinggeographical pattern. The only somewhat undulatedregions being the western Chota Nagpur and theHimalayan ridges of east and the north. This soilstructure is reflected in the building material chosenby the Bengali temple designers. Mainly the terracotta temples with elaborate surface decorationsand lettering written in nagari alphabets. The roof
  45. 45. structure also has been the effect of the heavyrainfall that the river delta and the Tarai experiencesthroughout the monsoon, it has Ganges been curvedeffectively in most cases to get rid of the hugeamount of water as soon as possible and therebyincreasing the lifetime of the structure. Thearchitectural evidence generally has been from theGupta Empire period onwards. There have beenrecent discoveries of plaques from the times ofChandraketugarh and mahasthangarh throwingadditional light on the architectural styles of sungaand gupta periods. Apart from the Pahlavi andPhamsana influence on the architectural style it isalso closely connected to the Bhanja style oftemples from mayurbhanj district of Orissa But thetemples of south Bengal is a distinction due to itsroofing style so unique and closely related to thepaddy roofed traditional building style of ruralBengal. Bishnupur in the southern district Bakura ofWest Bengal has a remarkable set of such templeswhich being built from the Malla dynasty areexamples of this style. Most of these temples arecovered on the outer surface with terra cotta reliefswhich contains plenty of secular materials makingthese important to reconstruct the social structurefrom these times.The temple structures contain gabled roofs which
  46. 46. are colloquially called the chala, For example agabled roof with an eight sided pyramid structuredroof with be called "ath chala" or literally the eightfaces of the roof. And frequently there is more thanone tower in the temple building. These are built oflaterite and brick bringing them at the mercy ofsevere weather conditions of southern Bengal.Dakshineswar Kali Temple is one example of theBhanja style while the additional small temples ofShiva along the river bank are example of southernBengal 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 joydeb 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
  47. 47. of their supremacy. Some of the earlier temples builtby 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.Terracotta 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 architecturebetrays 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 ofthese 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 bishnupurMalleshwar Temple: Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it isthe oldest temple in Bishnupur.Rasmancha: Built in the late 16th century by King
  48. 48. Bir Hambir, the temple has an unusual elongatedparamedical tower, surrounded by hut-shapedturrets. Idols were kept here for public worshipduring Ras-utsav.Pancha Ratna Temple of Shyam Raya: Built in1643 AD by King Raghunath Singha. The walls arerichly decorated with terracotta carvings featuringdifferent aspects of Lord Krishna’s life.Jorebangla Temple of Keshta Raya: Built by KingRaghunath Singha Dev II in 1655 AD, the ornateterracotta carvings are set off by the roof in theclassic chala style of typical Bengal architecture.Madanmohan Temple: King Durjana Singh Devabuilt the temple in 1694 AD in the ekaratna style. It isa square flat-roofed building with carved cornices,surmounted by a pinnacle. Impressive carvings onthe walls depict scenes from the Ramayana,Mahabharata and the Puranas.Kalachand Temple: It is of ekratna style and is onthe bank of Lal-bandh.Mukutmonipur: Mukutmonipur is 55Km away fromBakura (a 2 hours drive) District Head Quarters andis situated at the confluence of river Kangsabati andKumari. Green forests and hillocks surround the vastbluish tract of water. The undulating terrain along thesouthern edge of the Kangsabati Water Reservoir
  49. 49. extends as a three-dimensional necklace of greenand terracotta color. Tourists flock here for itsstunning natural beauty.Jhilimili: Jhilimili is situated 70 Km away fromBakura Town. It is a beautiful, undisturbed densenatural forest. The road from Ranibund to Jhilimilioffers a wonderful view of spectacular forests onvarying heights on both sides, finally reachingJhilimili, which is mounted on the top of a hillock..The sparkle of micaceous soil adds to the beauty ofthe environment.Susunia: Susunia hill, 50 km from Bishnupur, isquite popular as a trekking spot. It is also animportant tourist spot for people who visit the placeto see "Dhara" (a natural spring) and Silialipi.Excavations have revealed inscriptions dating backto the 4th century AD.Joyrambati, 44 km from Bishnupur, the birthplace ofSree Maa Sarada Devi, is a holy town. The famoustemple 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 beautifulTourist Spots like Sutan, Near Ranibandh & Eco-Park, and Near Taldangra, covered with denseforest, decorated with small lakes and thrilling withwild animals. Biharinath Hill: Biharinath, situated in
  50. 50. the extreme northwest area of the district, 57 kmaway from Bakura town, thought to be an ancientcentre of Jainism. The height of the hill is 448 m isthe highest hill in Bakura. Biharinath is very rich inflora and fauna.Hyena, Pangolin, Chameleon, Racaphorus, thoughfew in number, are still found here.The place is known for its natural beauty.GangaThe fisherman community of rural Bengal prays toGanga Devi in the month of Chaitra. Through theirprayers and dances, they appease the Goddess, sothat she bestows blessings on them throughout theyear. According to great philosopher Aristotle allsource of great humanworld knowledge and wisdom has come from thebanks of holy Ganges river of India.Ganga Heritage Cruise West BengalThe river Ganga passing through the state of WestBengal in India has been an important trade routefrom time immemorial. It is through this route tradewas conducted with the early civilizations. Laterwhen European colonial powers came through this
  51. 51. river they established trade posts along the river.One can also find important places of pre colonialtimes also. The aim of the Ganga Heritage Cruise,West Bengal is to discover these historical placesalong with natural historical sites. The whole GangaHeritage Cruise, West Bengal stretches 260 km fromHowrah to Murshidabad spanning seven districtswith picturesque rural Bengal. The cruise isconducted by a number of cruise launches wherestaying and fooding facilities are well provided for.The starting point is the town of Murshidabad theerstwhile capital of Bengal. The town was foundedby Nawab Murshid Quli Khan and its prosperity wasits silk center. With this silk trade came theEuropean traders but after the Battle of Plassey in1757 the British founded the British colonial empire.One of the important historical landmarks is HazarDuari named after the thousand doors of the palacethough not all are real. It is now a museumdisplaying rare books, military weapons, paintings,royal artifacts etc. Other places are Katra Mosquehousing the tomb of the founding Nawab,Jorebangla a four terra-cotta temple complex andother historic places.Next place is Mayapur the birth place of ShriChaitanya who started Vaishnavism five centuriesago and Nabadwip where Shri Chaitanya
  52. 52. propounded the Vaishnavism philosophy in 1485.Then comes the town of Kalna with its famous 108Shivlinga temples build by the Maharaja of Burdwanin 1809. You can also visit the beautiful terracottatemple of Pratapeswar temple built in 1849.Otherimportant sites are Shyamsunder Bati, KrishnaChandraji temple, Amli Briksha and Pancha Bimsatitemple.Next comes the city of Chinsura the former Dutchtrading post established in 1656. Discover the Dutchcolonial heritage. After that visiting the city ofChandernagore, the erstwhile French settlementfeels like being transported to the 16th century withits beautiful esplanade by the river with chairs. Onecan visit the house of Dupleix, the French Governor,the police headquarters and the French Institute.And lastly the Ganga Heritage Cruise, West Bengalstops at Belur the foundation of Ramkrishna Missionand a site for an equally imposing temple.Go onboard the Ganga Heritage Cruise, WestBengal which takes you back in time and discovereach stages of cultural, historical heritage of Bengalin a comfortable journey through the romantic riverGanga. An unforgettable experience! An incredibleamazing Bengal.
  53. 53. Climate and geography of west BengalThe eastern state of West Bengal experiences atropical type of climate due to its geographicallocation. The state has diversity in physiographic asit touches the Himalayas in the north and isbordered by the Bay of Bengal in south. Thenorthern districts remain cold throughout the yearand for that reason, the hill stations are favored bythe tourists especially during the summer months.The climate of West Bengal is full of variation. Theseasons in West Bengal can be broadly categorizedinto summer, winter, autumn and rainy seasons. Thesummer months in West Bengal span from mid ofMarch to mid of June. During this time, the averagetemperature is 38 degree to 45 degree.The monsoon season in West Bengal is muchawaited as the landscape turns lush green after themonsoon showers. By the middle of June, monsoonapproaches the state and it is influenced by thewinds blowing from Bay of Bengal. The autumnseason in West Bengal is welcomed with a numberof festive occasions. From September the festivemood commences and it is during this cool andpleasant climate, the festival of Durga Puja iscelebrated in West Bengal.During the winter season, the weather of West
  54. 54. Bengal remains very pleasant. The stateexperiences a mild cold climate while thetemperature drops very low in the hilly region ofWest Bengal. From about mid November, winterapproaches West Bengal and temperature rises notbefore the middle of February. The temperaturevaries around 15 degree in these cold months.The Geography of West Bengal is varied. Thestate of West Bengal is situated in the eastern partof India. On the east lies Bangladesh. Sikkim andBhutan lie on the north of West Bengal. The state ofAssam is situated on the north east of West Bengal.Bihar and Jharkhand is situated on the western sideof the state. The geographical location of the state is23 degree North latitude and 88 degree Eastlongitude.As per details from Census 2011, West Bengal haspopulation of 9.13 Crore, an increase from figure of8.02 Crore in 2001 census. Total population of WestBengal as per 2011 census is 91,347,736 of whichmale and female are 46,927,389 and 44,420,347respectively. In 2001, total population was80,176,197 in which males were 41,465,985 whilefemales were 38,710,212. he total area of WestBengal is 88,752 sqThe population density of West Bengal per square
  55. 55. kilometer is 904. Sex Ratio in West Bengal is 947i.e. for each 1000 male, which is below nationalaverage of 940 as per census 2011. In 2001, the sexratio of female was 934 per 1000 males in WestBengal.. The population of West Bengal ispredominated by the Bengali population. Butimmigration from different states of India hasenriched the population diversity of West Bengal.The topography of the state also varies from regionto region. The northern part of West Bengal touchesthe Himalayan range. The topography of WestBengal alters as the Indo-Gangetic plain begins. TheGangetic plain is rich in alluvial soil and thus is veryfertile. This kind of soil is suitable for agriculture.Further south, the deltaic plain or the Sunderbanregion is a very important spot for tourism in WestBengal.The climate of West Bengal is full of variation. Thestate experiences a tropical type of climate. Theseasons in West Bengal can be broadly categorizedinto summer, rainy, autumn and winter seasons.DemographyAccording to the provisional results of 2011 nationalcensus, West Bengal is the fourth most populousstate in India with a population of 91,347,736 (7.55%
  56. 56. of Indias population). Majority of the populationcomprises Bengali people. Marawaris, Behari andOriya minorities are scattered throughout the state.Communities of Sherpa’s and ethnic Tibetans canbe found inDarjeeling Himalayan hill region .Darjeeling districthas a large number of Gurkha people of Nepaleseorigin. West Bengal is home to indigenous tribalAdivasis such as Santhalis, Kol, Koch-Rajbonshiand Toto tribe There are a small number of ethnicminorities primarily in the state capital, includingChinese, Tamils, Gujarati, Anglo Indians,Armenians, punjabis,and parsis. Indias sole chainatown is in eastern KolkataReligions in West BengalReligionPercentHindu72.5%Muslim25.2%Others
  57. 57. 2.3%The official language is Bengali and English. Nepaliis the official language in three subdivisions of.Darjeeling district .As of 2001, in descending orderof number of speakers, the languages of the stateare: Bengali, Hindi, Santali, Urdu Nepali, and .OriyaLanguages such as Rajbangsi and Ho are used insome parts of the state.As of 2001, Hinduism is the principal religion at72.5% of the total population, while Muslimscomprise 25.2% of the total population, being thesecond-largest community as also the largestminority group; Sikhism Christianity and otherreligions make up the remainder. The statecontributes 7.8% of Indias population. The states2001–2011 decennial growth rates was 13.93%,lower than 1991–2001 growth rate of 17.8%, andalso lower than the national rate of 17.64%. Thegender ratio is 947 females per 1000 males. As of2011, West Bengal has a population density of1,029 inhabitants per square kilometer (2,670 /sqmi) making it the second-most densely populatedstate in India, after Bihar.The literacy rate is 77.08%, higher than the nationalrate of 74.04%.Data of 1995–1999 showed the lifeexpectancy in the state was 63.4 years, higher thanthe national value of 61.7 years. About 72% of
  58. 58. people live in rural areas. The proportion of peopleliving below the poverty line in 1999–2000 was31.9% Scheduled Castes and Tribes form 28.6%and 5.8% of the population respectively in ruralareas, and 19.9% and 1.5% respectively in urbanareas. A study conducted in three districts of WestBengal found that accessing private health servicesto treat illness had a catastrophic impact onhouseholds. This indicates the value of publicprovision of health services to mitigate againstpoverty and the impact of illness on poorhouseholds.The crime rate in the state in 2004 was 82.6 per100,000, which was half of the national average.This is the fourth-lowest crime rate among the 32India. However, the state reported the highest rate ofSpecial and Local Laws (SLL) crimes. In reportedcrimes against women, the state showed a crimerate of 7.1 compared to the national rate of 14.1.Some estimates state that there are more than60,000 brothel-based women and girls in prostitutionin Kolkata. The population of prostitutes insonagachi constitutes mainly of a Nepalese, Indiansand BANGLADESHI. Some sources estimate thereare 60,000 women in the brothels of Kolkata. Thelargest prostitution area in city is SONAGACHI .WestBengal was the first Indian state to constitute a
  59. 59. Human Rights Commission of its ownFlora and faunaFlora and Fauna of West Bengal is rich in flora andfauna and has diverse ecosystems because of itsvarying terrain from the high altitudes to the sealevel plains. Protected forests cover 4% of the statearea. There are 15 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 5 NationalParks and 2 Tiger Reserves.The Sunder ban, in south Bengal, is home to thefamous Tiger Project – a conservatory effort to savethe Bengal tigers from extinction. It is an UNESCOworld heritage site. Another similar project exists inBuxa in north Bengal. Wildlife includes the Indianone horned rhinoceros, Indian elephants, deer,bison, leopards, gaur, crocodiles and others. Thestate is also rich in bird life. Migratory birds come tothe state during the winter months.Conclusion; Bengali culture and its excellenceHistorically Bengal has a very rich cultural heritage.Bengal is, indeed, noted for its rich culture in songs,music, drama, dances and language. Its indigenousstyle 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
  60. 60. is the fourth largest language group in the world,only surpassed by Chinese, English and Hindi It isthe first of Indian languages to develop western stylesecular fiction and drama. It originated from theIndo-Aryan family of languages in the 7th century,thus making it comparable to English, French andGerman. Bengali language is much older than HindiUrdu and even Portuguese, Spanish and many otherestablished modern languages.In the middle ages, Bengali was already a well-established language with popular poets likeBidyapati, Chandidas, Daulat Kazi and Alawol. Itwas during this period of middle ages that thefamous Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharatawere translated in lyric forms from Sanskrit intoBengali by Krittibas and Kashiram Das respectively.This period also saw a rich output of romantic songs,poems and dance centering on the love of Radhaand Krishna. These were simply superb in theirwording, rhythm and style.However, things started changing rapidly about 200years ago. With the emergence of some greatpersonalities like Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-91), Michael Madhusudan Datta (1824-73) andBankim Chatterjee (1838-94) Bengali language andliterature really got a new life. About one hundredand forty years ago came the famous Bengali poet
  61. 61. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)and then rebel Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam appeared in1899. These two great Bengali poets have actuallyinitiated a new era for Bengali language and culture.Tagore represented this new era of culturalmodernization; others followed him almost asdisciples. Palli Kabi Jasimuddin was also one ofthem. Tagore was urban, sophisticated anduniversal; Nazrul exhibited his spirit of protest andopposition to all social injustice, discrimination,oppression and exploitation while Jasimuddin vastlyremained rural and provincial in his approach. Theircommon bond was their liberal outlook for secularBengali culture.Music, songs, drama and dances are also part ofrich Bengali culture and there are three mainstreamsof this Bengali Culture: folk, modern and classical.Folk music mainly based is rural Bengal. It has beennurtured by the village singers, musicians, actorsand dancers. With sweet melodies, touching wordsof love, tragedy and devotion, folk music is the mostpopular form of music in all over Bengal. The bestknown forms of folk music are bhatiali, Baul,bhawaia, jaari, marfati and murshidi. Lalan Fakir,Hasan Raja, Nirmalendu Chowdhury, AbbasuddinAhmed, Shachin Dev Burman, Purnadas Baul,Sadhan Bairagi and Abdul Halim are some of the
  62. 62. greatest names in Bengali folk music.On the other hand, the pioneers of modern Bengalimusic were, indeed, the world famous NobelLaureate poet Rabindranath Tagore and the rebelpoet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Tagore initiated a blend ofEast and West and Nazrul experimented with thesynthesis of folk and Middle Eastern strains.Bengal also shares the rich tradition of classicalmusic of the subcontinent. Indeed, Bengal hasproduced many musicians and maestros ofinternational repute like Ustad Alauddin Khan, UstadAli Akbar Khan, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty and PanditRavi Shankar who have successfully made sitar andsarode popular all over the world.Before I conclude let me describe a few words aboutthe musical instruments which are also playing vitalroles to promote the rich Bengali culture and itsexcellence. The typical Bengali folk musicalinstruments are Ektara (one string), Dotara (two, butactually four strings), Ghungur, Khol, Mandira,Behala (violin) and Banshi (flute) and the classicalmusical instruments are Sitar, Sarode, Tanpura,Shenai, Eshraj, Pakhwaj, Tabla and Harmonium.Even now a large number of people in the villages ofBangladesh, West Bengal and Tripura regularlylisten to the folk drama called Jatra and the age oldmelodic folk songs.
  63. 63. Bengali Performing Arts aim is to promote this richBengali cultural heritage and its excellence byorganizing cultural programs round the yearthroughout the world..