Shokol desher raani shey je, aamar jonmobhumi! – Rabindranath Tagore
The land of West Bengal has in its intricately woven stories of many bright mornings and dark nights; stories of many civilizations have left their footprints here. A sliver of fertile land running from the tea-draped Himalayan foothills to the sultry mangroves of the Bay of Bengal, West Bengal offers a remarkable range of destinations and experiences to find within a single state. The striped Bengal tiger stealthily swims through muddy rivulets in the Sunderbans; while a bunch of European ghost towns line the banks of the Hooghly (Ganges) further upstream as reminders of the state’s maritime heyday. In the cool northern hills, the ‘toy train’ chugs its way up the charming British-era hill station of Darjeeling. There is also a vibrant art scene, delectable cuisine and a genuinely hospitable population where friends are easy to make and hard to lose.
Here are 15 reasons you are bound to fall in love with West Bengal:
Durga Puja Festival
Durga Puja is an amazingly interesting festival, as it transforms into a newly wedded bride during the festival time. The beautiful pandals, the light decorations on the road and the gorgeously dressed people moving on the roads- all add to the glamor of the city during this festival. You can also witness the women playing ‘Sindoor Khela’ on Dashami Day, where they put ‘sindoor ‘(a reddish powder on each other) or can catch the idols being immersed in water. Indeed! This place is known as the ‘City of Joy’.
Popularly known as ‘land of Maach’ (which means fish). The best way to describe Bengal would be ‘’street-food lover’s paradise’’. The city is peppered with all kinds of eateries which can satisfy any kind of craving, be that of delicious rolls and Biriyani or that of mouth-watering ‘luchi and kosha mangsho’ and ‘Bhetki Paturi’ (is fish fillets smoked in banana leaf). Don’t forget to try out for ‘Jhaal Muri’. The local Bengali delicacies are so absolutely delicious, that you won’t stop licking your fingers.
Earthen Cups of Bengal
Bengal streets are paved with ‘bhar’ (which means kulhar or earthen cups). Bengal’s dairy delicacies, lassi and mishti doi, are stored and served in bhar. ‘Cha’ (which mean tea) is more than just a cup of tea to start the day – the thick sweet drink is an integral part of the rhythm of life. In Bengal, sipping tea is as much about forming communal bonds as consuming caffeine.
Tantalizing Bengali Sweets
Where would a Bengali be without his sweet tooth? There are numerous varieties of sweets which will surely make you craving for sweets, ranging from Roshogulla, Mohan Bhog, Lobongo Latika, Chom Chom, Nolen Gurer Payesh, Pantuwa, Pati Shapta, Chanar Jeelapi, Kalo Jaam, Raskadam, and much more. Finally, the list could not have been complete without a mention of the very quintessential Bengali Mishti Doi. Sink your teeth into these luscious delights and fill your soul with a happy feeling!
Bengal has an array of travel options for intracity or intercity transportation. Airplane and helicopter services, in addition to long-distance trains and ships, bring people into the city. The circular rail and transport corporation buses cater to nearer destinations. Catamaran and ferry services exist for riverine traffic. The Underground Metro, city buses, mini-buses, taxis and trams allow commuters to travel from one end of the city to the other. Hand-pulled rickshaws vie with auto-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws for short-distance travel. Horse-carts can be availed for pleasure rides around the Maidan – the green hub of the city. With all these modes of transport, one would wonder why getting around Bengal is still an ordeal!
Architecture: Where England and India Collides
History of Bengal experiences the modern and ancient history collision with stately buildings, wide boulevards, English churches and grand formal gardens. The glimpse of European style of architecture can be traced in buildings and monuments of Bengal-be that of Howrah Bridge (Rabindra Setu) which is an iconic landmark of the city of Kolkata or that of incredible Victoria Memorial (an architectural marvel built in Queen Victoria’s name) which is a vast, beautifully proportioned festival of white marble. No wonder, Bengal is coined as a place of architectural wonder!
Music: An Art of Rhythm of Lyrics or Sound
The richness of Bengali culture reflects in the music that expresses the feeling of love, sadness, anxiety, motivation, devotion or spirituality. It blends with multiple indigenous musical genres such as Baul, Bishnupuri Classical, Kirtan, Shyama Sangeet, Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Geeti, Atulprasadi, Dwijendrageeti, Kantageeti, Ganasangeet, Adhunik Gaan, and Bengali rock,etc. In short, Bengali music is to the soul what words are to the mind!
Warm Company of Books
Are you one of those who enjoy the feel and smell of a book just as much as the contents of it? If yes, then, Bengal won’t disappoint you. Bengal has always been a major center of literature in India. Bengali literature is one of the oldest available literature in the world, as its history can be traced to centuries ago. The soil of Bengal has given intellectuals like Rabindra Nath Tagore, Raja Ram Roy, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Bankim Chandra and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar to the world of literature. Bengal also has a long tradition in folk literature, evidenced by the Chorjapodo, Mongolkabbo, Shrikrishno Kirton Kobbo, Moimonshingho Gitika, Thakurmar Jhuli, and stories related to Gopal Bhar.
A Vibrant Sports Culture
Football has always been the heartthrob of the city from even before independence. Bengal houses various football clubs like Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammadan Sporting Club, which are famous all over the country. All these clubs have produced and nurtured illustrious footballers over the course of years. Kolkata is home to many famous stadiums and sports clubs which show the inherent sporting culture of its people. Eden Garden of Kolkata is the famous cricketing ground of India, which can seat a crowd of more than one hundred thousand. Salt Lake Stadium is the third largest, highest capacity football stadium in the world. But Bengal had established a sports culture confined not just to football and cricket. It extends to various other sports activities as well, like Swimming, Kho-Kho, Kabaddi, Polo and golf, etc.
Cinemas and Art Films
While Mumbai is the capital of commercial cinemas in India, Kolkata is the house of art-films. Its long tradition of filmmaking has produced acclaimed directors like Satyajit Ray, Zahir Raihan, Khan Ataur Rahman, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak are the pride of Kolkata. Kolkata Film Festival, held annually in several cinema theaters in the city serves to the taste of Kolkata people for cinema from all over the world. Moreover, many famous Bollywood movies, like Parineeta and Devdas, have had their scripts adapted from famous Bengali novels.
Bengal’s Tea Estate
West Bengal, India’s second-largest tea growing state, accounts for 24 percent of the total tea crop. The Tea producing areas include the district of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and North Dinajpur. It consists of about 450 tea gardens spread out in the Darjeeling hills, Terai and Dooars region that are registered as sellers in the Siliguri Tea Auction Centre. The youngest tea gardens are Chinchula Tea Estate, Raimatang Tea Estate and Kalchini Tea Estate all of which are 72 years old. The largest tea garden is Samsing Tea Estate of 1256.60 hectares.
West Bengal stretches to the Bay of Bengal in the south. The Bay of Bengal exhibits its most pristine form and this enchanting beauty allures thousands of tourists every year. The coastal strip of West Bengal, extending from the Gangetic Delta to the border of Orissa, has some beautiful coastal settlements, such as Digha, Shankarpur, Mandarmani, Bakkhali, Gangasagara, and Tajpur. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to get an outstanding view of these beaches. The beguiling beauty of the sun rays, striking the sea and the crystal sands, creates a mesmerizing atmosphere around these beaches.
Skills and Craft: Art of Living
An expedition on West Bengal crafts is incomplete without the mention of its well refined and established pottery culture. Almost every Bengal village is well developed in the art of pottery, but the district of Bankura has been recognized across the world for its terracotta clayware. One such art which exemplifies the Bengali creativity is the idol making industry established in the remote region of Kumartuli. However, the Dhokra metal casting has its own unique taste. Kalighat Painting is also an unusual type of painting is followed by the artists belonging to the Patua neighborhood. Along with the natural jute production, the state is also blessed with jute crafting methods like weaving, knitting and braiding mostly performed by the women.
Museums: Devotion to Preserve or Conserve
Museums in West Bengal, since ages, have preserved the rich heritage of the country. Artifacts having cultural, religious, scientific and historical importance are conserved and showcased by these museums. These museums can be categorized into art museums, archeological museums, history museums,and science museums, etc,-are according to the artifact they house. Naming few- Town hall, Academy of Fine Arts, Birla Planetarium, Rabindra-Bharati Museum, and much more. Museums of West Bengal are not only important for the state but are also the pride of the nation.
Go Shopaholic in Bengal
If you are fond of street fashion and are a good bargainer, shopping from the roadside vendors, who offer a good variety, will be the best deal in the state. West Bengal is home to some of the popular ethnic fabrics for saris and fusion wear and includes various kinds of work on them such as Tangail and Tant (woven cotton). Gold jewelry is very popular among the native women. The making charges for gold ornaments are comparatively lower in West Bengal. The designs for the same are distinct and are sure to stand out. A lot of delicate porcelain work, pottery from Bankura, Dokra metalcraft and terracotta handicrafts are available in the handicraft emporiums and stores as well. Leather items such as bags, shoes and belts are available in the urban areas and are reasonably priced.
No matter how much you have already heard about Bengal, the place would never cease to surprise you in its own unique ways!