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Culture of West Bengal

The state of West Bengal lies in the eastern region of India and is the thirteenth largest state in the country. Having being under the rule of various empires and dynasties, the state has evolved a rich mix of cultures and traditions.

The manifestations of the culture of West Bengal can be found in various expressions of arts, and literature is one among them. Its literature has a rich heritage, shared with Bangladesh, which was once a part of the undivided India. The literary heritage of West Bengal has been enriched by Michael Madusudhan Dutt, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore, and Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Many eminent modern authors and poets of West Bengal have started from where these greats have left and have further developed the Bengali literature with their quality literary outputs. Besides West Bengal has its own version of fairy tales for children, which is known as Thakurmar Jhuli. These enchanting collections of stories of princes and princesses, flying horses, kings, queens, demons and ogresses have held their sway even in these changing times of Harry Potter.

In music, a unique heritage of the Bangla folk music is the baul tradition. Bauls are the folk singers of rural Bengal who wander from village to village singing their songs, which with their simple lyrics manage to capture the complex truths of life. Their livelihood primarily depends upon common people's patronage. Baul singers often play ektara, which is a single stringed instrument, along with their songs.

Besides folk music, West Bengal's musical repertoire is enriched by the sublime expressions of Rabindrasangeet- the songs of Tagore- which show a unique synthesis of the western and Indian classical music traditions. One of the modern movements in the musical scenario of West Bengal is the Jeebonmukhi Gaan, which tries to capture the idiosyncrasies, complexities and dichotomies of modern life with unconventional perspectives. Suman Chattopadhyay(Kabir Suman), Anjan Dutta and Nachiketa are the chief proponents of this modern musical genre that makes a successful attempt to encapsulate the tensions and frustrations, and little joys and failures of our modern life.

The state also has a rich heritage in North Indian classical music. In dance, Chau dance of Purulia is a rare from of dance, where the dancers wear masks. The Bengali film industry, dubbed as Tollywood, is located in Kolkata. Some of the cinematic maestros of West Bengal are Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen and Goutam Ghose.

Costumes are another expression of the culture of West Bengal. The women of West Bengal traditionally wear saris, though salwar kameez and western wear are also gaining currency. In urban areas, western attire is favoured by many. Among men, western wear is preferred over traditional Indian costumes. However, men, especially during religious occasions, also wear kurta and payjama, or dhoti, thereby donning the typical Bengali style of dressing.

Festive occasions of West Bengal are numerous, the most famous of which is the Durga Pooja, which is generally being held in October. The Bengali new year, also known as Poila Baishakh, Rathayatra, Dolyatra, the Poushparbon, Kali puja, Saraswati puja, Lakshmi puja, Buddha Purnima which marks the birth of Buddha, etc are some of the other festivities of the region. In cuisines, rice and fish are the favourite traditional foods of West Bengal. In recent years, meat consumption has also increased significantly. Another traditional dish in the rural West Bengal is the pantabhat, which is rice, soaked overnight in water. Some other popular food items germane to West Bengal include beguni, kati roll, and phuchka. Its recorded history dates back to two thousand years, and having being under various rules over the years, West Bengal is rich in its traditions and cultures.

Last Updated On: 2011/07/12

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