Introduction to West Bengal Geography

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Introduction to West Bengal Geography

In this module, we shall learn about the History of West Bengal, the Geography of West Bengal, and Important Facts about West Bengal and West Bengal: Figures at a Glance [As per States Census 2011].

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Introduction to West Bengal Geography

  • West Bengal is one of the thirty-seven constituent states/ Union Territories of the Union of India lying in the eastern region of the country.
  • India’s total landmass is divided into 28 states and 9 union territories. Until 6 August 2019, there were officially 29 states in India. However, that number now has decreased by one to make 28 states after Jammu & Kashmir was granted the status of a Union Territory with its own legislature. 
  • It is the 4th ranked state in percentage share of 7.79 to the total population of India and also the seventh most populous of the sub-national entity of the world, with over 91 million inhabitants covering a total area of 88,752 sq. km3.
  • West Bengal is one of the most thickly populated states with a population density of 1028 per sq. km.
  • The striking point is that with 70 percent land share of the country it sustains 7.55 percent of its population, ranks 12th in the area but 4th in population share.
  • A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the 6th largest contributor to India’s net domestic product.
  • It is bordered by the five national boundaries of Orissa, Jharkhand, and Bihar on the west, Sikkim on the north, and Assam on the east. It has international borders with the neighboring countries – Bhutan and Nepal on the north and Bangladesh on the east.

History of West Bengal

  • Bengal finds a place even in prehistoric times. Stone-age tools have been excavated in the state dating back 20,000 years.
  • Remains of civilization in the greater Bengal region date back 4,000 years.
  • The name Bengal or Banga is of unknown origins, although in some early Sanskrit literature like Aitareya Aranyaka the name Vanga finds a place as caste and as a geographical identity, the Arthashastra of Kautilya (2, 11) mentions the name.
  • The word might have been derived from the Sanskrit wordVanga’.
  • At the time of Alexander’s invasion, a powerful kingdom called Gangaridai ruled over Bengal.
  • Sasanka, the first recorded independent king of Bengal reigning around the early 7th century said to have played an important role in north-eastern India.
  • He was succeeded by Gopala, who founded the Pala dynasty, which ruled for four hundred years.
  • The Pala dynasty was followed by the Sena dynasty which was ended by the occasional invasion of the Muslim raiders during the thirteenth century with the final settlement of the Mughals in the sixteenth century.
  • After the Mughals, the history of modern Bengal begins with the advent of the English traders.
  • The battle of Plassey in 1757 changed the course of history when the English gained a strong foothold in Bengal and India as a whole.
  • Bengal Presidency was established by 1765, eventually including the British territories.
  • Calcutta named the capital of India in 1772.
  • The failed Indian rebellion of 1857 resulted in the transfer of authority to the British Crown, administered by the Viceroy of India.
  • In 1905 it was partitioned to achieve some political returns but people’s growing movement under the auspices of the Congress-led to the reunion in 1911.
  • This failed attempt to partition Bengal has the consequence of shifting the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi.
  • This triggered off the hectic movement for freedom which culminated in independence in 1947, and partition.
  • After 1947, the merger of the native princely states began which ended with its final reorganization in 1956 (as per recommendations of the States Reorganization Act, 1956) when some Bengali-speaking areas of a neighboring state Bihar were transferred to West Bengal in the form of the district of Puruliya.

Geography of Bengal

  • Lying on the eastern region of the country the geographical location boundary of the state extends between latitudes 21°38′ and 27°10′ north, longitudes 85°50′ and 89°50′ east, at the head of the Bay of Bengal.
  • On the north, the great Himalayas stand guard with rampart-like segments up-to 800 ft.
  • The entire Bengal basin is that part of the great Indian shield, which approximately to the east of longitude 87° E, where it disappears below the blanket of Gangetic alluvium.

Important Facts about West Bengal

Capital &
Major Cities
  • Kolkata
  • Darjeeling
  • Howrah
Districts 23
Formed On 26 January 1950
Coordinates 22.9868° N, 87.8550° E
 Language Bengali, Hindi
Known As/For
  • The largest producer of rice in India
  • Second longest international border among Indian states
Natural Vegetation Tropical dry moist deciduous
Major Rivers
  • Ganga in 4 districts
  • Bhagirathi-Hooghly (Heart & Soul of Bengal)
  • Teesta from  Zemu Glacier
Major Art Forms
  • Dance: Chhau Dance, Tusu,
    Bhaduriya Saila, Jhumar,
    Ashariya Jhumar, Raibense
  • Music: Vishnupur Gharana, Rabindra Sangeet
  • Ships, automobiles
  • chemicals & fertilizers
  • wagons
  • electronics
  • paper
  • jute & cotton textiles
Minerals & Ores Coal, fireclay, china clay, limestone, copper, iron, wolfram, manganese & dolomite
Agriculture Rice, wheat, potatoes, sugarcane,
oilseeds, jute, mangoes, jackfruit,
bananas, oranges, apples,
pineapples, tea, ginger, cardamom
Geographical Indications Darjeeling Tea, Nakshi Kantha, Santiniketan Leather Goods, Laxman Bhog Mango, Himsagar, Fazli Mango, Santipore Saree, Baluchari Saree, Dhaniakhali Saree, Joynagarer Moa, Bardhman Sitabhog, Bardhman Mihidana
State Animal Fishing Cat
State Bird White-breasted kingfisher
State Tree Chatian
State Flower Shephali
World Heritage Sites Sunderbans
Ramsar Sites East Calcutta Wetlands
Bird Sanctuaries
  • Chintamani Kar BS
  • Thasrana BS
  • Raiganj WLS
National Parks
  • Gorumara NP
  • Buxa NP
  • Neora Valley NP
  • Singalila NP
  • Jaldapara NP
  • Sundarbans NP
Biosphere Reserve Sunderbans
Wildlife Sanctuaries
  • Ballavpur WLS
  • Bethuadahari WLS
  • Bibhuti Bhusan WLS
  • Buxa WLS
  • Chapramari WLS
  • Chintamani Kar
  • Bird Sanctuary
  • Haliday Island WLS
  • Jorepokhri Salamander WLS
  • Lothian Island WLS
  • Mahananda WLS
  • Raiganj WLS
  • Ramnabagan WLS
  • Sajnakhali WLS
  • Senchal WLS
  • West Sunderban WLS
Tiger Reserve
  • Sunderbans
  • Buxa
Elephant Reserve
  • Mayurjharna
  • Eastern Dooars
Marine Protected Area
  • Sundarbans
  • West Sundarbans
  • Haliday Island
  • Sajnakhali
  • Lothian Island

West Bengal: Figures at a Glance [As per States Census 2011]

Area 88.725 sq. km.
Population 91,347,736
Sex ratio females per 1000 males 947
Rank in population 4th
Literacy 77.08%
Total number Divisions 05*
Total number of Districts 23
Total number of Sub-Divisions 66
Total number of Blocks 341
Total number of Panchayat Samities 341
Total number of Gram Panchayats 3354
Total number of Municipalities 119
Total number of Villages 40,945
Total number of inhabited villages 37,945
Total number of Towns 375
Total number of statutory Towns 123
Total number of Municipal Corporations 7
Total number of Notified areas 2 (Coopers Camp and Taherpur)

*A group of districts forms a division, which is administered by a ‘Divisional Commissioner’. West Bengal is now divided into 23 districts, grouped under five divisions:

Burdwan Division

  • Hooghly district
  • Purba Bardhaman district
  • Paschim Bardhaman district
  • Birbhum district

Malda Division 

  • Malda district
  • Uttar Dinajpur district
  • Dakshin Dinajpur district
  • Murshidabad district

Jalpaiguri Division     

  • Alipurduar district
  • Cooch Behar district
  • Darjeeling district
  • Jalpaiguri district
  • Kalimpong district

Presidency Division        

  • Howrah district
  • Kolkata district
  • Nadia district
  • North 24 Parganas district
  • South 24 Parganas district

Midnapore Division

  • Purba Medinipur district
  • Paschim Medinipur district
  • Jhargram district
  • Purulia district
  • Bankura district

Introduction to West Bengal Geography


Municipal Corporations in West Bengal

Rank City District Name of the Body Population (2011)
1 Kolkata Kolkata, South 24 Parganas Kolkata Municipal Corporation 14,496,694
2 Asansol Paschim Bardhaman district Asansol Municipal Corporation 11,56,387
3 Howrah Howrah Howrah Municipal Corporation 1,072,161
4 Durgapur Paschim Bardhaman Durgapur Municipal Corporation 522,517
5 Siliguri Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri Siliguri Municipal Corporation 513,264
6 Bidhannagar North 24 Parganas Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation 218,323
7 Chandannagar Hooghly Chandannagar Municipal Corporation 166,867

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