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West Bengal Travel Guide

West Bengal is a land of natural beauty, exquisite lyrical poetry and enthusiastic people. Situated in the east of India, West Bengal is stretches from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the South. This state shares international boundaries with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Hence it is a strategically important place.

The state is interlocked by the other states like Sikkim, Assam, Orissa and Bihar. Hooghly and its tributaries - Mayurakshi, Damodar, Kangsabati and the Rupnarayan, enrich the soils of Bengal. The northern districts of Bengal like Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Bihar (in the Himalayas ranges) are watered by the rivers Tista, Torsa, Jaldhaka and Ranjit. From the northern places (feet of Himalayas) to the tropical forests of Sunderbans, West Bengal is a land of incessant beauty.

West Bengal, like many other places in the world, is a place of contrasts- a curious blend of the old and the new, partly feudal, partly born out of growing urbanization, partly undefinable. Fish, crowds, politics, potholes, monuments, art and cinema, cricket and soccer- all are indispensable parts of Bengal.

The state is, in its physical form, a complete representation of the Indian subcontinent. Darjeeling, its north end, touches the magnificent Himalayas and the Dooars in the foothills are rich in forest. The indomitable river Ganga flows across the State's rich alluvial plains to reach the Bay of Bengal in the south, through vast swamps known as Sunderbans.

The districts in the west are semi-arid and sport loamy soil. Bengal does have a many splendoured countenance, but it is up to you to explore and discover it.

Durga Puja ,coinciding with Dussehra in other parts of the country, rouses the state to a feverish pitch, with its preparations that touch the life of every Bengali. Kali Puja, festival of lights (Diwali), Dol Jatra (Holi), Ganga Sagar Mela at Sagar (January /February), the Muslim festivals of Id and Ramzan, Baisakhi - Bengal's New Year's day, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary, Christmas and New Year are marked by typical abandon and devotion.

Calcutta, three hundred years old, traces its history to the landing of Robert Clive on the banks of the Hooghly beside three villages. It was from here the monumental British Raj was launched in India. The capital of West Bengal, Calcutta is the major entry point.

If Delhi is the elegant capital of the nation, and Bombay its major industrial city, then Calcutta ranks as the intellectual capital. Poets, thinkers and film directors of international renown hail from this city where avant garde plays and art exhibitions go on show practically every day of the year.

Calcutta was the first headquarters of the East India Company, and some of its best known monuments were built by this British trading house. However, the city has, within its 300 years’ history, hosted other communities both from other parts of India as well as abroad, Chinese, Armenians, Jews all of whom have left their imprint in pockets of Calcutta.

Sightseeing in this fascinating city includes Raj Bhawan, the residence of the Governor of Bengal; Victoria Memorial, the city’s landmark; Botanical Gardens, which are notable for the oldest banyan tree, and orchid house; Armenian Church; Marble Palace, one family’s collection of memorabilia; and the Birla Planetarium. Darjeeling, the state’s most popular hill resort, is a slice of England 2,134 metres above sea level.

Surrounded by tea gardens growing the prized leaf known as Darjeeling, the little town faces some of the Himalaya’s highest peaks. Darjeeling is an abrupt variation from the lowlands of West Bengal. Buddhism, being a major faith here, Darjeeling and the nearby town of Kalimpong have, between them, several Buddhist monasteries, chiefly of the Yellow Hat sect.

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