West Bengal (/bɛŋˈɡɔːl/) is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. Spread over 34,267 sq mi (88,750 km2), it is bordered by the countries of Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, and the Indian states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, and Assam. The state capital is Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). West Bengal encompasses two broad natural regions: the Gangetic Plain in the south and the sub-Himalayan and Himalayan area in the north.
In the 3rd century BC, the broader region of Bengal was conquered by the emperor Ashoka. In the 4th century AD, it was absorbed into the Gupta Empire. From the 13th century onward, the region was ruled by several sultans, powerful Hindu states and Baro-Bhuyan landlords, until the beginning of British rule in the 18th century. The British East India Company cemented their hold on the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757, and Calcutta served for many years as the capital of British India. The early and prolonged exposure to British administration resulted in expansion of Western education, culminating in development in science, institutional education, and social reforms of the region, including what became known as the Bengal Renaissance. A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided during India's independence in 1947 along religious lines into two separate entities: West Bengal—a state of India—and East Bengal—a part of the newly-created Pakistan—later becoming Bangladesh in 1971.
A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's net domestic product. Noted for its political activism, the state was ruled by democratically elected communist government for three decades. West Bengal is noted for its cultural activities and presence of cultural and educational institutions; the state capital Kolkata is known as the "cultural capital of India". The state's cultural heritage, besides varied folk traditions, ranges from stalwarts in literature including Nobel-laureate Rabindranath Tagore to scores of musicians, film-makers and artist. West Bengal is also distinct from most other Indian states in its appreciation and practice of playing soccer besides the national favourite sport cricket.
Famous quotes containing the words west and/or bengal:
“Biography is a very definite region bounded on the north by history, on the south by fiction, on the east by obituary, and on the west by tedium.”
—Philip Guedalla (18891944)
“In Bengal to move at all
Is seldom, if ever, done,
But mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday sun.”
—Noël Coward (18991973)