West Bengal – Cultural Centre of India
West Bengal is located in the eastern part of India and boasts of its beauty with the State being placed between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal. Tourists can have a glimpse of many natural landscape as well as historical monuments and also modern amenities. It is a well known fact that Bengalis are more into travelling than any other segment of the Indian population. One can be in any tourist spot in India and one is sure to hear conversations in Bengali, shops providing Bengali cuisine and shopkeepers acquainted with some Bengali words.
Bengal has a rich history of people from all walks of life : freedom fighters, musicians, artists, authors, educationalists, poets, directors, actors, painters, singers, renowned doctors, engineers, scientists, politicians, to name a few professions. It is quite often said that “What Bengal thinks today, the world follows tomorrow.”
Bengal have a rich cultural heritage and Bengalis value education and liberalization of mind like no other State of India. Equality of gender, which is still a dream for most part of India is more pronounced in West Bengal. Bengali girls and boys are equally trained in subjects like arts, music, dance etc and a large proportion of the female population of West Bengal are engaged in some profession or other. And it’s not about money always, its more for their individual identity and financial freedom. If you visit any Bengali household, you are sure to find at least one musical instrument. Even if you find any Bengali out of West Bengal, you are sure to find him or her participating or organizing some cultural events.
Historically Bengal has witnessed a lot. Bengal has seen the rise and fall of several dynasties that ruled in India at different times. The following empires had their existence in Bengal : Maurya Dynasty, Gupta Dynasty, Pala Dynasty, Sena Dynasty, Bengal Sultanate, Mughal Dynasty, etc. The importance of the land can be assessed from the fact that the British East India Company who ruled the whole of India had their capital in Calcutta (modern day Kolkata – The City of Joy). They were however later compelled to shift their capital to Delhi as Bengal had become the most active member of the National Movement against the British. Even after moving out of Bengal, the British divided Bengal into two parts as they were unable to bear the resentment of Bengalis.
Bengal has given India freedom fighters like Subhas Chandra Bose, Khudiram Bose, Matongini Hazra and thousands more. In fact, Bengal is the birthplace of most number of female freedom fighters.
The British exposure brought education, social reforms and resulted in the Bengal Renaissance and Bengalis had an edge in western education and liberal mindset over the rest of India at that time.
Rabindranath Tagore had received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1913, C.V. Raman had received the Nobel Prize in Physics, Amartya Sen was honored with the Nobel Prize in Economics. They were based in Kolkata. Mother Teresa has received the Nobel Prize in Peace. She was based in Calcutta. The heterogeneity of the field speaks a lot on the comprehensive evolvement and rich heritage of West Bengal. Swami Vivekanda has enlightened the whole world with his visions.
Bengalis are not behind when it comes with celebrations and festivals. They celebrate all festivals from Durga Puja to Christmas. It is said that Bengalis have 13 festive months in 12 months of a year. (See Also: Festivals of India)
Durga Puja is celebrated during October to celebrate the visit of Goddess Durga to her parental home along with her children and to celebrate her victory over the evil forces. It is celebrated for 4 days and the whole of Bengal gets a makeover. There’s light, colour and creativity all around. Offices and schools are closed in the occasion. People from all over the world visit West Bengal during this festival to witness this unique festival. A unique ritual is that Bengali ladies smear vermilion (which is the symbol of the presence of one’s husband) on each other’s face on the last day of the festival. The whole state seems to be painted and the celebrated beauty of Bengali women is at its best on this day.
Two of the most unique festivals of West Bengal are Saraswati Puja and Bhai Phota. People worship Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge all throughout the state. It is celebrated in almost all the schools and localities and in majority of the households. Generally, children prepare for the festivals and all the lanes and roads are flooded with young girls and female children draped in yellow colored sarees. In Bhai Phota, sisters fast for the security of their brothers and ward off evil energy from the life of their brothers by putting sandalwood powder on the brother’s forehead.
Christmas is also celebrated with pomp in West Bengal. Park Street in Kolkata is adorned with lights of different colors and Bengalis celebrate their Christmas holiday by indulging in cakes, picnics and parties. The northern part of West Bengal celebrates Buddha Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Gautam Buddha in an exemplary manner.
If we talk of West Bengal and miss out on the love of football among Bengalis, we would be missing on an inseparable part of it. It seems that football runs in the veins of Bengalis. Calcutta is also home to world famous sportsmen like Sourav Ganguly, Leander Paes, Dibyendu Barua, Chuni Goswami, among a few.
Apart from the literary and cultural heritage of Bengal, Bengal has a lot to provide for its tourists. One can be mesmerized by the snow mountains in Kanchenjunga while for the sea lovers, Digha is an avenue to open up. For the adventurous, Sunderban the home to the Royal Bengal tiger is a must visit. There are other forest areas in Duars, Purulia and Bankura. One can have a tour to history when they visit Victoria Memorial and other palaces in Hazarduari, CoochBihar & Burdwan. A number of rivers flow through Bengal and fishery is an important profession in Bengal.
In short, West Bengal has the ability to give you an experience that is unique to it.