The river Ganga starts its sweeping turn towards the sea in West Bengal, creating the world’s largest delta, criss-crossed by brown rivers and inlaid with paddy fields. Most of its land is used for farming, West Bengal is India’s most cultivated state, and as a result it is also India’s most densely populated, with 1000 people per square kilometre. However, the landscape varies distinctly in this bizarrely shaped state. The hill station of Darjeeling and its surroundings, where tired British civil servants would go for some rest and relaxation, is nestled at the feet of the Himalaya; further south, Calcutta, crowded and cosmopolitan, stands unabashedly as one of India’s most populous cities; in the central portion of the state, intellectuals and artists-to-be are instructed at Santiniketan, home of the university founded by Rabindranath Tagore; and, licking the Bay of Bengal, the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, are home to man-eating Bengal tigers. Nature is uncertain in West Bengal; the silty soil is devoid of rocks, substitutes for which are baked in the coal-powered brick kilns whose smoke stacks dot the landscape; Bengali roofs are curved as a precaution against cyclnes which ravage the state from time to time.
It’s position at the mouth of the Ganga made it a rich agricultural and commercial region, attracting European plunderers in the 17th and 18th centuries. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, when Robert Clive defeated Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula and claimed Bengal for Britain, Bengal became pre-eminent in British India. However, West Bengal has always maintained its own sense of identity. Growing on Indi’s eastern frontier, Bengal was far enough from the center of North Indian civilization to develop its own language, Bengali, and its own religious traditions. Even though Bengal was partitioned and the majority of Bengali Muslims found themselves in East Pakistan, roughly every fourth person in the state is a Muslim. Bengali Hindus have a strong tradition of Worshipping Devi, the mother-goddess, usually in her ferocious forms of Kali and Durga. In the 19th century, Bengal was also the center of the revival of Indian culture, and Calcutta still lays claim to being the artistic and intellectual capital of India. Among the leaders of the Bengal Renaissance was Rabindranath Tagore, India’s greatest modern poet, whose songs, including the Indian national anthem, still permeate the land.
The Northern part of the state is commonly referred to as North Bengal and the southern part as South Bengal. Most of the popular natural tourist destinations are located in the Northern part including the Darjeeling hills and the forests of Dooars. The southern Bengal offers historical and cultural attractions apart from the Sundarbans and a number of Sea Beaches.
Darjeeling Hills – The northernmost part of Bengal includes the Himalayan hill station of Darjeeling. It is one of the oldest hill stations of India. The Darjeeling hill is also famous for producing the Darjeeling Tea. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly called the toy train, is another attraction. The hill station and its surrounding area offer excellent views of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak of the world. The Darjeeling region has a number of tourist destinations such as Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Mirik, Kurseong, Lava, Loleygaon, Rishyop, Tinchuley and many more. Siliguri, also located in Darjeeling district, is the gateway to the hills of Bengal as well as Sikkim. Most tourists combine a tour of Darjeeling with that of Sikkim.
Dooars Plains – The foothill plains of Dooars is famous for its natural forests and wildlife. There are 3 major forests in Dooars Gorumara (Western Dooars), Jaldapara (Central Dooars), Buxa (Eastern Dooars). The forests are well known for large population of Rhinos, Elephants, Leopards, Deer, Indian Bison (Gaur) and a variety of birds.
Medieval Bengal – The central part of Bengal covers important tourist destinations of Historical importance including Malda and Murshidabad. Malda is the place where the British had own its first war in India and established its first strong foothold. Murshidabad is another historical place with remnants of the Mughal empire still visible.
Central Bengal - Further South is the popular cultural destinations of Bengal including Shantiniketan, closely associated with memories of Rabindranath Tagore, the famous Bengali poet, and his unique university. Bishnupur is famous for its unique Terracotta temple.
Kolkata – the capital of the state is also popularly known as Calcutta. The unique metropolis offers a variety of attraction to the tourists. From old British architecture to the Street food of central Calcutta, everyone can find here something that personally interests him or her.
Sundarbans – The largest mangrove forests of the world is also home of the Royal Bengal Tiger, the greatest carnivore of all. However sighting of the illusive Tiger is extremely rare due to its habitual shyness and density and inaccessibility of the forest.
Sea Beaches – Mandarmani, Digha, Tajpur are the three beaches adjacent to one another. The sea beaches are very popular amongst local Bengali weekend visitor