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West Bengal Culture and Its Top 13 Interesting Facts- 13angle.com

West Bengal Culture

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West Bengal culture-13angle.com
  • West Bengal is discernible by typical geographical features, mouth-watering delicacies, and cheap means of transport. The beautiful beauty of the tea gardens of Darjeeling would leave you just as fascinated as the mangroves of the Sundarbans Forest. The city culture is different; traveling in the city feels almost like time travel. In the midst of the rush, people find the little luxury of small talks, laughter, devouring street foods, and traveling in trams instead of buses.

  • Bengalis are defined as speakers of the Bengali (Bangla) language and live in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent, which is divided between India and Bangladesh. They are also known as the Bangali and used to be known as the Bengalese and Baboo. Bengali is an Anglicization of Bangali, the name that the Bengalis call themselves.

  •  The Bengalis are the second-largest Muslim cultural group in the world following the Arabs. There are both Muslim and Hindu Bengalis but the vast majority are Muslims.

  •  Bengali speakers make up 85 percent of the population of West Bengal. Most of the non-Bengalis are from other parts of India, living in Calcutta. Only about 56 percent of Calcutta’s 11 million people are Bengalis. Most signs and advertisements are written in English and Hindi, not Bengali. There are noteworthy numbers of tribal’s living in rural West Bengal.

  •  There are around 250 million Bengalis worldwide; most are in West Bengal (with a population of 91 million in 2011) and Bangladesh (with a population of 161 million in 2013). There are several million in Assam, Bihar, and Tripura states and several hundred thousand in Orissa and Meghalaya. There are also large numbers n the United States, Canada, and Britain.

Origin Of Bengal

Origin of Bengal- 13angle.com
  • Bengal is mentioned as a distinct region in some of the earliest Hindu texts. Throughout the A.D. 1st millennium, it was ruled by a succession of Buddhist and Hindu rulers. Islamic armies arrived in the region in the late 12th and early 13th and began a gradual fight of conquest that culminated with Mogul rule, starting in 1586, during which time large numbers of people converted to Islam.
  •  Calcutta, which is situated in Bengal, was an important center of the British East India Company opium trade. The beginning of the British administration of India is usually dated with East India Company’s takeover of the government of Bengal, in 1757. English education had a profound influence on the region. Hindu took advantage of opportunities offered by the British earlier and faster. The Westernized elite was comprised mostly of Hindus.

  •  Bengal was divided into the predominately Muslim eastern and predominately Hindu western provinces in 1905, but after a period of anarchy and violence, it was reunited in 1911 at the request of Hindus. Muslims were angered by this.

  •  Bengali intellectuals were at the forefront of the independence movement. Hindus were very active in the Indian National Congress. Muslims were involved with the Muslim League, which was instrumental in the creation of Pakistan.

  •  In 1947, when India and Pakistan were separated, Bengal was divided into primarily Hindu West Bengal and primarily Muslim East Pakistan. During the Bangladesh War of Liberation in 1971, hundreds of thousands of hungry refugees poured into Calcutta, West Bengal, Assam, and other eastern India.

  • Like most of the languages of northern South Asia, Bengali belongs to the Indo-Iranian (sometimes called Indo-Aryan) branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Descended from ancient Sanskrit, it contains 47 sounds: 11 vowels, 25 consonants, four semi-vowels, and seven “breath sounds” (including sibilants and aspirates). The script is also derived from Sanskrit. It contains 57 letter symbols.

Bengali Religion

Bengali Religion-13angle.com
  • West Bengal and Bangladesh were divided up primarily on religious grounds. Hindus make up 77 percent and Muslims make up 22 percent of the population of West Bengal while Hindus make up 10 percent and Muslims make up 90 percent of the population of Bangladesh. Less than one percent of Bengalis are Christian. There is only a small number of Bengali Buddhists.

  • Bengalis are known for blending Hindu, Muslim, folk religion, deities, and practices. Devotion takes place at temples and mosques and religious folk music gatherings (especially at Vaishnavite gatherings and among Muslim Sufis). Folk deities recognized by both Hindus and Muslims have included Sitala, the goddess of smallpox, Olababibi, goddess of cholera, and Manasa, goddess of snakes.

  • The worship of Shiva is popular among the upper castes while the worship of Vishnu, and his incarnation Krishna, is more common among the lower castes. Bengali Hindu variations include Brahma Samaj, a modernist sect to which some westernized high caste elites belong. Festivals honoring Shiva and his wives Lakshmi and Saraswati. The goddess of knowledge is important.

  • Bengali Muslims belong almost exclusively to the Sunni section, mostly ascribing to the Hanafi School of Islamic law. They are known for the practice of “pirism,” the cultish following of Muslim holy men or saints.” Muslims celebrate the traditional Muslim holidays. Even though most Bengali Muslims are Sunnis, they also observe the Shiite festival of Ashura. They also celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi and the first day of the Hindu and Bengali new year.

Bengali Character

  • Paul Theroux wrote in the Great Railway Bazaar, “Bengalis were the most alert people I had met in India. But they were also irritable, talkative, dogmatic, arrogant, and humorless, holding forth with malicious skill on virtually every subject except the future of Calcutta.”

  • Bengalis have a reputation for preferring to sit around and talk rather than work. Bengali workers are known for showing up late, going home early, and spending much of their time idly chatting.

  • People from Calcutta are regarded as friendly, warm, and intellectually arrogant. Known throughout India for being frank and informal, they like football, fish curry, and arts and literature. A Bengali proverb goes that anger turns men into kings and women into whore.

Bengali Marriage

  • Bengali marriages have usually been arranged with customs dependent on whether the families involved were Muslims or Hindus. For example, polygamy is allowed and marriages between cousins are fairly common among Muslims while polygamy is discouraged and matrilineal cousin marriage is forbidden among Hindus.

  •  Among Hindus, marriage generally takes place within restrictions. Women marrying upwards in caste are not forbidden but marrying downward is strongly discouraged. Bengali Muslims are not hemmed in by caste restrictions but social rank and status are important in the selection of a partner. Although cousin marriages are allowed there is no evidence that they are preferred and their incidence is not high. Among both Hindus and Muslims, newlyweds generally move in with the groom’s family.

  •  The divorce rate among Muslims is generally higher because divorces are easier to obtain. The remarriage rate among widows and widowers is much higher among Muslims. Islam also does not discourage widow remarriage as Hinduism does.

Bengali Women, Men And Families

  • Relative groups revolve around homestead-based patrilineal extended families, whose members jointly own the homestead land. An extended family typically has a male head and consists of his wife, married son and their families, unmarried children and grandchildren, and other dependants. These homestead extended families are divided into segments called paribars, consisting of men, their wives children, and other dependents. Unity among the extended families is expressed through the sharing of a kitchen or hearth and the sharing of ownership and control of the land.

  •  It is common for older siblings to take care of younger siblings. As they grow older, the activities of girls is restricted and they are expected to stay close to home.

  •  Bengali Hindu rules about inheritance are governed by the Daya Bhaga system of customary law, which states that ancestral property is handed down from a deceased man to his sons, who have traditionally divided the wealth equally. According to Islamic law, Muslim women are supposed to receive a share of the inheritance.. But since men are expected to be breadwinners, daughters customarily forfeit or are deprived of their inheritance which is given to sons.

  •  Bengali men have traditionally been involved in tasks that take place outside the home while women engaged in tasks centered around the home. With farming, men tend to do the plowing, planting, weeding, and harvesting while women take care of threshing, drying, and husking crops near the home. Women also take care of household chores and child-rearing. There are sometimes taboos about women working outside of the home. The taboos are often less strict with lower caste women because of economic necessity.

  •  The degree to which women work outside the home is often determined by wealth and caste. Many poorer, lower-caste women work for wealthy families. Some wealthy, upper-caste women work in professions, especially education and medicine.

Bengali Society And Caste System

  • Hindu Bengali society tends to be less stratified than Hindu societies found elsewhere in India. Villages tend to have a smaller number of castes than Hindu villages elsewhere in India. They typically have five to 15 different castes whereas villages elsewhere may have over 25. In the populous area of the southern Bengal delta, several low-ranking farmer castes are strong both in terms of numbers and political powers. These include the Mahisyas, the Namasudras.

  •  In theory, Islam forbids hereditary distinction based on social rank, but hierarchies exist. The traditional South Asian Muslim system of social rank distinguishes between nobles (ashraf) and lowing ranks ( ajlaf or atraf, some of which are based on occupations). In many Muslim communities, most of the residents are farmers and caste-like distinctions are not strong and when stratification occurs it is based more on wealth more than anything else. The social system as a whole is more fluid and provided more opportunities for social mobility.

Bengali Villages And Homes

  • The official documented unit of rural settlement is known as a mauza or “revenue village,” whose boundaries were surveyed and determined in the British era for purpose of administration and taxation. There are more than 68,000 of these villages in Bangladesh and 40,000 in West Bengal. Peasant homesteads are typically comprised of extended families broken down into households consisting of nuclear families and men and their dependents, which form landholding and cultivating units. Scattered among the hamlets are “standard marketing areas,” which serve both as sites for regular markets and political centers for rural communities in a given area.

  •  Dwellings in the delta area are typically made from dense mud using techniques that are sophisticated enough to make buildings two or three stories in height. Homesteads typically have animal shelters, fruit-bearing trees, and ponds often constructed when the mud was excavated to make house. The pond provides water for bathing, laundry, and fish. The poor generally have houses with thatch roofs. Those who are better off can afford corrugated metal t roofs. The poorest of the poor often live in houses made completely of bamboo.

Bengali Culture And Intellectual Life

Bengali Culture and Intellectual Life- 13angle.com
  • Bengalis have achievements in the arts. West Bengal produced the Nobel laureates Rabindranath Tagore (literature) and Amartya Sen (economics). Describing a Bengali intellectual, Barry Bearak wrote in the New York Times, he is “by culture and self-assertion of superior brainpower and spirit, adept at debating all isms and wasms of political thought. He is the Indian who effortlessly quotes Marx and Marshall McLuhan, all the while sipping coffee and scribbling poems on a paper napkin.”

  •  The Bengali playwright and government official Buddha Bhattacharjee told the New York Times, “Intellectually, I humbly proclaim we are more advanced than anyone else. We discussed the great questions: What is postmodernism? What does Noam Chomsky have to say about this or that?” Bengalis and people from Calcutta have a reputation for being intellectual, romantic, and outward-looking like characters in a Satyajit Ray movie. Even poor Muslim families in the slums of Calcutta hold studies in madrasa.

Bengali Literature, Arts And Music

  •  Urban Bengalis have produced some of South Asia’s finest literary works, including novels, short stories, poetry. West Bengal produced the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore (literature) and the acclaimed poet Sunil Gangopadhyay. Rural Bengal has a rich folk literature and narrative poetry tradition. Literary magazines in Calcutta sometimes are still produced with hand presses. Early magazines were printed on banana leaves.

  •  Bengalis have also made contributions to drama and film. Jatra is a popular form of itinerant theater. The terra-cotta sculpture is a feature of temple and mosque architecture. The Bengali tradition of painting is displayed in religious scrolls and the walls of homes in rural Bengal. The work of Bengali weavers, potters, blacksmiths are admired for its technique and design.

  •  Some of India’s best classical musicians and dancers have been Bengalis. Bengal has a rich tradition of religious folk music, especially associated with Sufism among Muslims and with the devotional worship of Krishna and the goddess Kali among Hindus.

Bauls

  • Bauls are a religious and cultural group most active in West Bengal in India and Bangladesh. They are known as traveling nomads who perform ecstatic songs and poems and live an unconventional lifestyle. The term “Baul” is understood to mean “madness.” The Baul often describe them as “crazy for God.” Most Bauls are men who sing their songs while playing instruments such as the harmonium, small cymbals, drums, or dotara (two-string lute with a long neck). Usually, they play a gopi yantra (or ektara, a one-stringed instrument, made from a gourd and split bamboo). Bauls fall into three major groups:

1) Those with links to Tantric Buddhism and Shaktism (goddess worship),

2) Those associated with Bengali Vaishnava (Vishnu worship); and Muslim fakirs. Some Bauls are married and perform daily rites in their homes. Some are ascetics who go through an initiation ritual and wander the countryside, living in ashrams or monasteries. Bauls often gather in large numbers at festivals known as melas to sing songs and share stories.

  • Bauls usually dress in orange or saffron, with small bells around the ankles. They often have beards and long hair tied in a topknot. Sometimes they wear rudraksha beads (sacred to the god Shiva). They believe that God dwells within the human body and their songs bring him out. One type of song called Sahaja emphasizes spontaneity and attempts to induce a state of ecstasy and creativity.

  • The Bauls reject caste and Muslim-Hindu religious distinctions and sometimes their way of life embraces Tantric ideas about sexuality. These Bauls believe that God dwells in sexual fluids. There are sexual rituals that unite the male and female essence. Many of their songs contain metaphors for unions of this fluid such a catching fish at high tide and piercing the moon. Baul’s beliefs are influenced by Tantric Buddhism, Sufism, Kundalini yoga, and Shaktism (the worship of Kali).

Bengali Political Parties

  • The Communist Party of India and other leftist groups for the most part ruled West Bengal from 1977 to 2011. All India trinomial congress is the leading party in west Bengal after defeating the communists.

Bengali Education, Health And Transportation

  • There are lots of schools. How long children stay in school is often determined by their sex and the caste or status of their families. Religious schools— pathsalas for Hindus and madrassahs for Muslims—are open to both sexes.

  •  Bengalis are proud of their achievements in science. West Bengal produced the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen (economics) There are many Bengali professionals and bureaucrats.

  •  Homeopathic, allopathic, Hindu Ayurvedic, Muslim Unani medicine, and folk medicine are practiced. Folk healers, known as ojha or fakis, are called upon to treat a wide variety of maladies, including snake bites, bone breaks, and ghost possession. Treatments include reciting magical mantras while taking herbal remedies. Folk healers also provide amulets of protection against sorcery, which are worn by many Bengalis.

  •  Bengal is crisscrossed by rivers and waterways and boat transportation is an important means for moving both people and goods. Many important commercial centers have grown up along rivers.

Bengali Economics And Business

  • Bengali economic growth has been hampered somewhat by socialist policies, strikes, and inflexible labor laws. Many multinational corporations have been driven out of the area.

  •  In the cities that are major urban commercial centers. They are often linked together through a wholesaler system. Many Bengali peasants engage in some kind of petty marketing to earn cash. The large scale marketing and transportation of major crops especially rice and jute is carried by wholesalers who work in a number of different markets

  • Seminars have been held in Calcutta to get Bengalis to take more of an interest in entrepreneurship.

  •  Industrial manufacturing is concentrated primarily in the cities. The village-level industry has traditionally been done by Hindu artisan caste groups, including weavers, potters, blacksmiths, and carpenters, because villages are small, these artisans often serve a particular area rather than just one village.

Top 13 Interesting Facts About West Bengal

Bengali culture is indeed one of the richest cultures of India.

Bengali culture is not something purely Aryan. It has a lot to do with local people and the renaissance. You might have heard of a few Bengali geniuses who prove how great the culture is. Bengal was once a huge province comprising of WB, Bangladesh, Odisha, and Bihar, which got partitioned by the Britishers. At times Bengal was plundered by several outsiders who left their influences behind. From Mughals to French and English. People mostly know about the food of Bengal.

From the historical Mangal Pandey’s revolution to the newly elected Bengal government back in 2011, Bengalis seem to always play the masterstroke of change. From time to time, Bengali habits, lifestyle, and language have been cornered to certain stereotypical aspects. So while you take a break and chill out with your Bengali friend, let us present you with 13 interesting facts about Bengalis that will surely set you happy at their liveliness.

  1. Bengal was the Former Capital City of British India.

  2. West Bengal’s capital Kolkata is also known as the city of joy.

  3. Howrah Railway station is the busiest railway station in India. It has a Grand railway complex.

  4. The biggest red light area Sonagachi is situated in Kolkata.

  5. Bengali celebrates Eid with the same energy and excitement as they do Durga Puja.

  6. West Bengal is the Homeland of many literary legends.

  7. Bengali does not always eat only rice, fish, and potatoes. They have many veg and non-veg dishes which do not include potato and fish. They love kosha mangos (meat with semi-thick gravy).

  8. A is pronounced as O and V is pronounced as B by Bengalis.

  9. The laborious hand-pulled rickshaws are still seen in West Bengal.

  10. Kolkata has the third-largest Cricket ground in the world called Eden Garden.

  11. West Bengal has a fusion of different cultures.

  12. No meal is complete without a sweet – rosogolla, mishti doi, shondesh , cham cham or any other variant is compulsory for every meal.

  13. The National Library of India is situated in Kolkata, Is the largest public library of India.

Anirban Chakraborty- 13angle Intern

Anirban Chakraborty

 

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13angle

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