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 word ‘Vanga’.
- 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
|Formed On||26 January 1950|
|Coordinates||22.9868° N, 87.8550° E|
|Natural Vegetation||Tropical dry moist deciduous|
|Major Art Forms||
|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|
|World Heritage Sites||Sunderbans|
|Ramsar Sites||East Calcutta Wetlands|
|Marine Protected Area||
West Bengal: Figures at a Glance [As per States Census 2011]
|Area||88.725 sq. km.|
|Sex ratio females per 1000 males||947|
|Rank in population||4th|
|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:
- Hooghly district
- Purba Bardhaman district
- Paschim Bardhaman district
- Birbhum district
- Malda district
- Uttar Dinajpur district
- Dakshin Dinajpur district
- Murshidabad district
- Alipurduar district
- Cooch Behar district
- Darjeeling district
- Jalpaiguri district
- Kalimpong district
- Howrah district
- Kolkata district
- Nadia district
- North 24 Parganas district
- South 24 Parganas district
- Purba Medinipur district
- Paschim Medinipur district
- Jhargram district
- Purulia district
- Bankura district
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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