Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Bengali-speaking zone.
  Areas where language is majority.
  Areas where language is a minority.
The Bay of Bengal

Bengal (

Bengali diaspora exists across the world. Bengali is the sixth-most spoken language in the world


Islamic world.[4][5][6] During this period, Bengal's rule and influence spread to Assam, Arakan, Tripura, Bihar, and Orissa.[7][8] Bengal Subah later emerged as a prosperous part of the Mughal Empire

The last independent


Bengali culture, particularly its

Nobel laureates. Once home to the city with the highest per capita income level in British India,[9][10] the region is today a leader in South Asia in terms of gender parity, the gender pay gap and other indices of human development[clarification needed


The name of Bengal is derived from the ancient kingdom of

Sultanate of Bengal, whose first ruler Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah was known as the Shah of Bangala.[17] The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the Age of Discovery.[18]



Art of the Pala period from Dinajpur, 11th century. Ancient Bengal was reputed for its war elephants
Punch-marked coin of the Vanga Kingdom, 400–300 BCE
Atisa of Bikrampur

maritime trade with distand lands in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.[22]

The ancient geopolitical divisions of Bengal included

The region was known to the ancient

Aelana (present-day Aqaba, Jordan) between the 4th and 7th centuries AD.[31]

The first unified Bengali polity can be traced to the reign of

Nalanda was established by the Palas. They also built the Somapura Mahavihara, which was the largest monastic institution in the subcontinent. The rule of the Palas eventually disintegrated. The Chandra dynasty ruled southeastern Bengal and Arakan. The Varman dynasty ruled parts of northeastern Bengal and Assam. The Sena dynasty emerged as the main successor of the Palas by the 11th century. The Senas were a resurgent Hindu dynasty which ruled much of Bengal. The smaller Deva dynasty also ruled parts of the region. Ancient Chinese visitors like Xuanzang provided elaborate accounts of Bengal's cities and monastic institutions.[33]

Muslim trade with Bengal flourished after the fall of the

Umayyad and Abbasid coins are preserved in the Bangladesh National Museum.[35]

Sultanate period

Sultan of Bengal
on 20 September 1414
The Bengal Sultanate was an empire with widespread maritime and mercantile links

In 1204, the

Islamic invasion of Tibet was also mounted by Bakhtiyar. Bengal was under the formal rule of the Delhi Sultanate for approximately 150 years. Delhi struggled to consolidate control over Bengal. Rebel governors often sought to assert autonomy or independence. Sultan Iltutmish re-established control over Bengal in 1225 after suppressing the rebels. Due to the considerable overland distance, Delhi's authority in Bengal was relatively weak. It was left to local governors to expand territory and bring new areas under Muslim rule, such as through the Conquest of Sylhet
in 1303.

In 1338, new rebellions sprung up in Bengal's three main towns. Governors in Lakhnauti,

Muslim Spain
in the west to Bengal in the east.

The initial raids of Ilyas Shah saw the first Muslim army enter

shell currency.[44] The Sultan of Bengal donated funds to build schools in the Hejaz region of Arabia.[45]

The five dynastic periods of the Bengal Sultanate spanned from the

Mughal Emperor Akbar. In the late 16th-century, a confederation called the Baro-Bhuyan resisted Mughal invasions in eastern Bengal. The Baro-Bhuyan included twelve Muslim and Hindu leaders of the Zamindars of Bengal. They were led by Isa Khan
, a former prime minister of the Bengal Sultanate. By the 17th century, the Mughals were able to fully absorb the region to their empire.

Mughal period

Emperor Akbar
offering prayers after the conquest of Bengal
Art of the Sundarbans showing a Ghazi riding a Bengal tiger
Nawab of Bengal

Mughal Emperors.[46] A new provincial capital was built in Dhaka. Members of the imperial family were appointed to positions in Mughal Bengal, including the position of governor (subedar). Dhaka became a centre of palace intrigue and politics. Some of the most prominent governors included Rajput general Man Singh I, Emperor Shah Jahan's son Prince Shah Shuja, Emperor Aurangzeb's son and later Mughal emperor Azam Shah, and the influential aristocrat Shaista Khan. During the tenure of Shaista Khan, the Portuguese and Arakanese were expelled from the port of Chittagong in 1666. Bengal became the eastern frontier of the Mughal administration. By the 18th century, Bengal became home to a semi-independent aristocracy led by the Nawabs of Bengal.[47] Bengal premier Murshid Quli Khan managed to curtail the influence of the governor due to his rivalry with Prince Azam Shah. Khan controlled Bengal's finances since he was in charge of the treasury. He shifted the provincial capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad

In 1717, the Mughal court in Delhi recognized the hereditary monarchy of the Nawab of Bengal. The ruler was officially titled as the "Nawab of Bengal,

. The Nawabs were also suspicious of the growing influence of these companies.

Under Mughal rule, Bengal was a centre of the worldwide muslin and silk trades. During the Mughal era, the most important centre of cotton production was Bengal, particularly around its capital city of Dhaka, leading to muslin being called "daka" in distant markets such as Central Asia.[49] Domestically, much of India depended on Bengali products such as rice, silks and cotton textiles. Overseas, Europeans depended on Bengali products such as cotton textiles, silks and opium; Bengal accounted for 40% of Dutch imports from Asia, for example, including more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks.[50] From Bengal, saltpetre was also shipped to Europe, opium was sold in Indonesia, raw silk was exported to Japan and the Netherlands, cotton and silk textiles were exported to Europe, Indonesia, and Japan,[51] cotton cloth was exported to the Americas and the Indian Ocean.[52] Bengal also had a large shipbuilding industry. In terms of shipbuilding tonnage during the 16th–18th centuries, economic historian Indrajit Ray estimates the annual output of Bengal at 223,250 tons, compared with 23,061 tons produced in nineteen colonies in North America from 1769 to 1771.[53]

Since the 16th century, European traders traversed the sea routes to Bengal, following the Portuguese conquests of Malacca and Goa. The Portuguese established a

settlement in Chittagong with permission from the Bengal Sultanate in 1528, but were later expelled by the Mughals in 1666. In the 18th-century, the Mughal Court rapidly disintegrated due to Nader Shah's invasion and internal rebellions, allowing European colonial powers to set up trading posts across the territory. The British East India Company eventually emerged as the foremost military power in the region; and defeated the last independent Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 1757.[47]

Colonial era (1757–1947)

The Battle of Plassey in 1757 ushered British rule
The Bengal Presidency at its greatest extent between 1858 and 1867

In Bengal effective political and military power was transferred from the old regime to the British East India Company around 1757–65.[54]

deindustrialisation of its pre-colonial economy.[57]

Company policies led to the deindustrialisation of Bengal's textile industry.

textile manufacturing.[57][59] Economic mismanagement, alongside drought and a smallpox epidemic, directly led to the Great Bengal famine of 1770, which is estimated to have caused the deaths of between 1 million and 10 million people.[60][61][62][63]

In 1862, the

dyarchy. In 1937, the council became the upper chamber of the Bengali legislature while the Bengal Legislative Assembly was created. Between 1937 and 1947, the chief executive of the government was the Prime Minister of Bengal

The Bengal Presidency was the largest administrative unit in the

British Burma became a province of India and a later a Crown colony in itself. Western areas, including the Ceded and Conquered Provinces and The Punjab, were further reorganized. Northeastern areas became Colonial Assam

In 1876, about 200,000 people were killed in Bengal by the

Great Backerganj Cyclone of 1876 in the Barisal region.[65] About 50 million were killed in Bengal due to massive plague outbreaks and famines which happened in 1895 to 1920, mostly in western Bengal.[66]


All India Muslim League was founded.[67] In 1911, the Bengali poet and polymath Rabindranath Tagore became Asia's first Nobel laureate when he won the Nobel Prize in Literature

Bengal played a major role in the

gained independence in 1947, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines.[69] The western joined India (and was named West Bengal) while the eastern part joined Pakistan as a province called East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan, giving rise to Bangladesh in 1971). The circumstances of partition were bloody, with widespread religious riots in Bengal.[69][70]

Partition of Bengal (1947)

The Kotwali Gate marks the border between West Bengal and Bangladesh on the Chapai Nawabganj-Malda side

On 27 April 1947, the last

US Ambassador to the United Kingdom that there was a "distinct possibility Bengal might decide against partition and against joining either Hindustan or Pakistan".[72]

On 3 June 1947, the

partition of British India. On 20 June, the Bengal Legislative Assembly met to decide on the partition of Bengal. At the preliminary joint meeting, it was decided (126 votes to 90) that if the province remained united, it should join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. At a separate meeting of legislators from West Bengal, it was decided (58 votes to 21) that the province should be partitioned and West Bengal should join the Constituent Assembly of India. At another meeting of legislators from East Bengal, it was decided (106 votes to 35) that the province should not be partitioned and (107 votes to 34) that East Bengal should join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan if Bengal was partitioned.[73] On 6 July, the Sylhet district of Assam voted in a referendum to join East Bengal

The English barrister

and Calcutta fell on the Indian side close to the border with Pakistan. Dhaka's status as a capital was also restored.


Ganges-Brahmaputra delta

Most of the Bengal region lies in the

Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, but there are highlands in its north, northeast and southeast. The Ganges Delta arises from the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna
rivers and their respective tributaries. The total area of Bengal is 232,752  km2—West Bengal is 88,752 km2 (34,267 sq mi) and Bangladesh 147,570 km2 (56,977 sq mi).

The flat and fertile Bangladesh Plain dominates the

mountains in Bangladesh. Most parts of Bangladesh are within 10 metres (33 feet) above the sea level, and it is believed that about 10% of the land would be flooded if the sea level were to rise by 1 metre (3.3 feet).[74]
Because of this low elevation, much of this region is exceptionally vulnerable to seasonal flooding due to monsoons. The highest point in Bangladesh is in Mowdok range at 1,052 metres (3,451 feet).
royal Bengal tiger. In 1997, this region was declared endangered.[76]

West Bengal is on the eastern bottleneck of India, stretching from the

western plateau and high lands
. A small coastal region is on the extreme south, while the Sundarbans mangrove forests form a remarkable geographical landmark at the Ganges delta.

At least nine districts in West Bengal and 42 districts in Bangladesh have arsenic levels in groundwater above the World Health Organization maximum permissible limit of 50 µg/L or 50 parts per billion and the untreated water is unfit for human consumption.[79] The water causes arsenicosis, skin cancer and various other complications in the body.

  • Fertile Plains of Bengal
  • Plains during the dry season

    Plains during the dry season

  • Cultivated plots of land

    Cultivated plots of land

  • Rice field

    Rice field

  • Jute field

    Jute field

  • Mustard and sugarcane field

    Mustard and sugarcane field

  • Rivers and canals

    Rivers and canals

Historical, political and cultural geography

Geographic distinctions

North Bengal

View of the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region and Kangchenjunga from the plains of north Bengal (Indian side)

Santhal people
, Lepchas and Rajbongshis.

Northeast Bengal

Madhabkunda waterfall in Moulvibazar, Sylhet. Waterfalls are a common sight in the highlands of eastern Bangladesh

Northeast Bengal

Bishnupriya Manipuri, Khasia and other tribal minorities.[81]

The region is the crossroads of Bengal and northeast India.

Central Bengal

Montage of Old Dhaka

Central Bengal refers to the

Sal tree forest. The Padma River cuts through the southern part of the region, separating the greater Faridpur region. In the north lies the greater Mymensingh and Tangail

South Bengal

South Bengal covers the southwestern Bangladesh and the southern part of the Indian state of West Bengal.The Bangladeshi part includes

South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas.[83][84][85]

The Sundarbans, a major biodiversity hotspot, is located in South Bengal. Bangladesh hosts 60% of the forest, with the remainder in India.

Southeast Bengal

Cox's Bazar has the longest uninterrupted sea beach in the world

Southeast Bengal

Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups, including the Chakma, Marma, Tanchangya and Bawm

Southeast Bengal is considered a bridge to Southeast Asia and the northern parts of Arakan are also historically considered to be a part of it.[90]

Places of interest

There are four

Teknaf Game Reserve and the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Cox's Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh is home to the longest natural sea beach in the world with an unbroken length of 120 km (75 mi). It is also a growing surfing destination.[91] St. Martin's Island, off the coast of Chittagong Division, is home to the sole coral reef in Bengal.

Other regions

Today, Standard Bengali is still spoken in areas beside Bengal proper, including the Barak Valley, Tripura and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Bengal was a regional power of the Indian subcontinent. The administrative jurisdiction of Bengal historically extended beyond the territory of Bengal proper. In the 9th century, the Pala Empire of Bengal ruled large parts of northern India. The Bengal Sultanate controlled Bengal, Assam, Arakan, Bihar and Orissa at different periods in history. In Mughal Bengal, the Nawab of Bengal had a jurisdiction covering Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Bengal's administrative jurisdiction reached its greatest extent under the British Empire, when the Bengal Presidency extended from the Straits of Malacca in the east to the Khyber Pass in the west. In the late-19th and early-20th centuries, administrative reorganization drastically reduced the territory of Bengal.

Several regions bordering Bengal proper continue to have high levels of Bengali influence. The Indian state of Tripura has a Bengali majority population. Bengali influence is also prevalent in the Indian regions of Assam, Meghalaya, Bihar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; as well as in Myanmar's Rakhine State.


Bengal and Arakan in 1638.


According to Pamela Gutman, "Arakan was ruled by kings who adopted Indian titles and traditions to suit their own environment. Indian Brahmins conducted royal ceremonies, Buddhist monks spread their teachings, traders came and went and artists and architects used Indian models for inspiration. In the later period, there was also influence from the Islamic courts of Bengal and Delhi".[94] Arakan emerged as a vassal state of the Bengal Sultanate.[95] It later became an independent kingdom. The royal court and culture of the Kingdom of Mrauk U was heavily influenced by Bengal. Bengali Muslims served in the royal court as ministers and military commanders.[95] Bengali Hindus and Bengali Buddhists served as priests. Some of the most important poets of medieval Bengali literature lived in Arakan, including Alaol and Daulat Qazi.[96] In 1660, Prince Shah Shuja, the governor of Mughal Bengal and a pretender of the Peacock Throne of India, was forced to seek asylum in Arakan.[97][98] Bengali influence in the Arakanese royal court persisted until Burmese annexation in the 18th-century.

The modern-day Rohingya population is a legacy of Bengal's influence on Arakan.[99][96] The Rohingya genocide resulted in the displacement of over a million people between 2016 and 2017, with many being uprooted from their homes in Rakhine State.


Bengali-Assamese languages

The Indian state of Assam shares many cultural similarities with Bengal. The Assamese language uses the same script as the Bengali language. The Barak Valley has a Bengali-speaking majority population. During the Partition of India, Assam was also partitioned along with Bengal. The Sylhet Division joined East Bengal in Pakistan, with the exception of Karimganj which joined Indian Assam. Previously, East Bengal and Assam were part of a single province called Eastern Bengal and Assam between 1905 and 1912 under the British Raj.[100]

Assam and Bengal were often part of the same kingdoms, including

Alauddin Hussain Shah during the Bengal Sultanate.[101]
Assam was one of the few regions in the subcontinent to successfully resist Mughal expansion and never fell completely under Mughal rule.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Bengali is the most spoken language among the population of the

Subhash Chandra Bose visited and renamed the islands. Between 1949 and 1971, the Indian government resettled many Bengali Hindus in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.[102]


Bengal in 1880, including Bihar, Orissa and Assam.

In antiquity, Bihar and Bengal were often part of the same kingdoms. The ancient region of

Mauryan Empire, the Gupta Empire and the Pala Empire. Bengal, Bihar and Orissa together formed a single province under the Mughal Empire. The Nawab of Bengal was styled as the Nawab of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.[103]

Chittagong Hill Tracts


Mughal Bengal after obtaining permission from Emperor Farrukhsiyar for trade with the plains of Chittagong.[104][105] Like the kings of Arakan, the Chakma Circle began to fashion themselves using Mughal nomenclatures and titles. They initially resisted the Permanent Settlement and the activities of the East India Company.[105] The tribal royal families of the region came under heavy Bengali influence. The Chakma queen Benita Roy was a friend of Rabindranath Tagore. The region was governed by the Chittagong Hill Tracts manual under colonial rule. The manual was significantly amended after the end of British rule; and the region became fully integrated with Bangladesh.[106]

Malay Archipelago

Extent of the Bengal Presidency between 1858 and 1867, including the Straits Settlements

Through trade, settlements and the exchange of ideas; parts of

Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms in Southeast Asia depended on the Bay of Bengal for trade and ideas. Islam in Southeast Asia also spread through the Bay of Bengal, which was a bridge between the Malay Archipelago and Indo-Islamic states of the Indian subcontinent.[109][110] A large number of wealthy merchants from Bengal were based in Malacca.[43] Bengali ships were the largest ships in the waters of the Malay Archipelago during the 15th century.[111]

Between 1830 and 1867, the ports of Singapore and Malacca, the island of Penang, and a portion of the Malay Peninsula were ruled under the jurisdiction of the Bengal Presidency of the British Empire.[112] These areas were known as the Straits Settlements, which was separated from the Bengal Presidency and converted into a Crown colony in 1867.[113]: 980 


The Indian state of Meghalaya historically came under the influence of Shah Jalal, a Muslim missionary and conqueror from Sylhet. During British rule, the city of Shillong was the summer capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam (modern Bangladesh and Northeast India). Shillong boasted the highest per capita income in British India.[9][10] The city continues to have a sizeable Bengali population; while visitors from Bangladesh frequent the state often.

North India

The ancient Mauryan, Gupta and Pala empires of the Magadha region (Bihar and Bengal) extended into northern India. The westernmost border of the Bengal Sultanate extended towards Varanasi and Jaunpur.[114][42] In the 19th century, Punjab and the Ceded and Conquered Provinces formed the western extent of the Bengal Presidency. According to the British historian Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, "The Bengal Presidency, an administrative jurisdiction introduced by the East India Company, would later include not only the whole of northern India up to the Khyber Pass on the north-west frontier with Afghanistan, but would spread eastwards to Burma and Singapore as well".[115]


Mughal Emperor.[103]


During the

Bakhtiyar Khalji, the Muslim conqueror of Bengal.[119] In the 16th century, the Tibetan tangka became the currency of Tibet due to the historical taka's use on the Silk Road



Bengali culture, the celebrated singer S. D. Burman
was a member of the Tripura royal family.

Flora and fauna

The Bengal tiger

The flat Bengal Plain, which covers most of Bangladesh and West Bengal, is one of the most

Sal and other tropical evergreen trees.[123][124] Above an elevation of 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), the forest becomes predominantly subtropical, with a predominance of temperate-forest trees such as oaks, conifers and rhododendrons. Sal woodland is also found across central Bangladesh, particularly in the Bhawal National Park. The Lawachara National Park is a rainforest in northeastern Bangladesh.[125] The Chittagong Hill Tracts in southeastern Bangladesh is noted for its high degree of biodiversity.[126]


national animal of Bangladesh and India. The fishing cat
is the state animal of West Bengal.


Today, the region of Bengal proper is divided between the

Hill Tipperah. In the Bay of Bengal, St. Martin's Island is governed by Bangladesh; while the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has a plurality of Bengali speakers and is governed by India's federal government as a union territory

Bangladeshi Republic

Bangabhaban (the House of Bengal) is the presidential palace of Bangladesh

The state of Bangladesh is a

established religion, the constitution grants freedom of religion
to non-Muslims.

Between 1975 and 1990, Bangladesh had a presidential system of government. Since the 1990s, it was administered by non-political technocratic caretaker governments on four occasions, the last being under military-backed emergency rule in 2007 and 2008. The Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are the two largest political parties in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is a member of the

OIC, IDB, SAARC, BIMSTEC and the IMCTC. Bangladesh has achieved significant strides in human development
compared to its neighbours.

Indian Bengal

Writers' Building, the official seat of the Government of West Bengal

West Bengal is a constituent state of the

prime minister of India

Each state has popularly elected members in the Indian lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha. Each state nominates members to the Indian upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha.

The state legislative assemblies also play a key role in electing the ceremonial president of India. The former president of India, Pranab Mukherjee, was a native of West Bengal and a leader of the Indian National Congress.

The two major political forces in the Bengali-speaking zone of India are the Left Front and the Trinamool Congress, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress being minor players.

Crossborder relations

A meeting between the naval commanders of India and Bangladesh

India and Bangladesh are the world's first and eighth most populous countries respectively.

liberation of Bangladesh, with the Indian Bengali populace and media providing overwhelming support to the independence movement in the former East Pakistan. The two countries had a twenty five-year friendship treaty between 1972 and 1996. However, differences over river sharing, border security and access to trade have long plagued the relationship. In more recent years, a consensus has evolved in both countries on the importance of developing good relations, as well as a strategic partnership in South Asia and beyond. Commercial, cultural and defence co-operation have expanded since 2010, when Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina and Manmohan Singh
pledged to reinvigorate ties.

The Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi operates a Deputy High Commission in Kolkata and a consular office in Agartala. India has a High Commission in Dhaka with consulates in Chittagong and Rajshahi. Frequent international air, bus and rail services connect major cities in Bangladesh and Indian Bengal, particularly the three largest cities- Dhaka, Kolkata and Chittagong. Undocumented immigration of Bangladeshi workers is a controversial issue championed by right-wing nationalist parties in India but finds little sympathy in West Bengal.[130] India has since fenced the border which has been criticised by Bangladesh.[131]


Downtown Dhaka
Dutch Bengal
Calcutta Port, 1903
The 42 is the tallest building in the region as of 2022
The Gulshan financial district
Chittagong has the busiest port on the Bay of Bengal

The Ganges Delta provided advantages of fertile soil, ample water, and an abundance of fish, wildlife, and fruit.[132] Living standards for Bengal's elite were relatively better than other parts of the Indian subcontinent.[132] Between 400 and 1200, Bengal had a well-developed economy in terms of land ownership, agriculture, livestock, shipping, trade, commerce, taxation, and banking.[133] The apparent vibrancy of the Bengal economy in the beginning of the 15th century is attributed to the end of tribute payments to the Delhi Sultanate, which ceased after the creation of the Bengal Sultanate and stopped the outflow of wealth. Ma Huan's travelogue recorded a booming shipbuilding industry and significant international trade in Bengal.

In 1338,

Sultan of Bengal. The Sultanate of Bengal established an estimated 27 mints in provincial capitals across the kingdom.[135][136] These provincial capitals were known as Mint Towns.[137]
These Mint Towns formed an integral aspect of governance and administration in Bengal.

The taka continued to be issued in

Nawab of Bengal was the biggest source of revenue for the imperial Mughal court in Delhi. Bengal had a large shipbuilding industry. The shipbuilding output of Bengal during the 16th and 17th centuries stood at 223,250 tons annually, which was higher than the volume of shipbuilding in the nineteen colonies of North America between 1769 and 1771.[53]

Historically, Bengal has been the industrial leader of the subcontinent. Mughal Bengal saw the emergence of a proto-industrial economy backed up by textiles and gunpowder. The organized early modern economy flourished till the beginning of British rule in the mid 18th-century, when the region underwent radical and revolutionary changes in government, trade, and regulation. The British displaced the indigenous ruling class and transferred much of the region's wealth back to the colonial metropole in Britain. In the 19th century, the British began investing in railways and limited industrialization. However, the Bengali economy was dominated by trade in raw materials during much of the colonial period, particularly the jute trade.[138]

The partition of India changed the economic geography of the region. Calcutta in West Bengal inherited a thriving industrial base from the colonial period, particularly in terms of jute processing. East Pakistan soon developed its industrial base, including the world's largest jute mill. In 1972, the newly independent government of Bangladesh nationalized 580 industrial plants. These industries were later privatized in the late 1970s as Bangladesh moved towards a market-oriented economy. Liberal reforms in 1991 paved the way for a major expansion of Bangladesh's private sector industry, including in telecoms, natural gas, textiles, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, steel and shipbuilding. In 2022, Bangladesh was the second largest economy in South Asia after India.[139][140]

The region is one of the largest rice producing areas in the world, with West Bengal being India's largest rice producer and Bangladesh being the world's fourth largest rice producer.

Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics and Muhammad Yunus who won the Nobel Peace Prize

Stock markets

Ports and harbours

Chambers of commerce

Intra-Bengal trade

Bangladesh and India are the largest trading partners in South Asia, with two-way trade valued at an estimated US$16 billion.

Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Initiative seeks to boost trade through a Regional Motor Vehicles Agreement.[143]


The Bengal region is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. With a population of 300 million, Bengalis are the third largest ethnic group in the world after the Han Chinese and Arabs.[note 1] According to provisional results of 2011 Bangladesh census, the population of Bangladesh was 149,772,364;[144] however, CIA's The World Factbook gives 163,654,860 as its population in a July 2013 estimate. According to the provisional results of the 2011 Indian national census, West Bengal has a population of 91,347,736.[145] "So, the Bengal region, as of 2011, has at least 241.1 million people. This figures give a population density of 1003.9/km2; making it among the most densely populated areas in the world.[146][147]

Language in Bengal

  Bengali (93%)
  Others (7%)


English is often used for official work alongside Bangladesh and Indian West Bengal. Other major Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi, Urdu, Assamese, and Nepali are also familiar to Bengalis in India.[149]

Population trends for major religious groups in the Bengal region(West Bengal + Bangladesh) under the British India(1881–1941)
% 1881
% 1891
% 1901
% 1911
% 1921
% 1931
% 1941
Islam 50.16% 50.7% 51.58% 52.74% 53.99% 54.87% 54.73%
Hinduism 48.45% 47.27% 46.60% 44.80% 43.27% 43.04% 41.55%
Christianity 0.2%
Buddhism 0.69%
Other religions 0.5%
Bengal region religious diversity as per 2011 census[150][151][152]
Religion Population
Muslims () 160,049,043
Hindus () 77,116,197
Christians () 1,257,708
Buddhists () 1,181,533
Others 1,515,619
Total 241,120,100

In addition, several minority ethnolinguistic groups are native to the region. These include speakers of other Indo-Aryan languages (e.g.,

Sauria Paharia).[148]

Life expectancy is around 72.49 years for Bangladesh[153] and 70.2 for West Bengal.[154][155] In terms of literacy, West Bengal leads with 77% literacy rate,[146] in Bangladesh the rate is approximately 72.9%.[156][note 2] The level of poverty in West Bengal is at 19.98%, while in Bangladesh it stands at 12.9%[157][158][159]

West Bengal has one of the lowest total fertility rates in India. West Bengal's TFR of 1.6 roughly equals that of Canada.[160]

Major cities



Bengali Letters


state language of Bangladesh and the second most spoken language in India.[162]
It is also the seventh most spoken language by total number of speakers in the world.

Bengali binds together a culturally diverse region and is an important contributor to regional identity. The 1952

, as part of global efforts to preserve linguistic identity.


A silver coin with Proto-Bengali script, 9th century

In both Bangladesh and West Bengal, currency is commonly denominated as taka. The

Sultanate of Bengal. It was traded on the Silk Road and replicated in Nepal and China's Tibetan protectorate. The Pakistani rupee
was scripted in Bengali as taka on its banknotes until Bangladesh's creation in 1971.


Bengali literature
বাংলা সাহিত্য
Alphabetic List
Bengali writers
NovelPoetryScience Fiction
Institutions and awards
Literary Institutions
Literary Prizes
Related Portals
Literature Portal

India Portal

Bangladesh Portal
Rabindranath Tagore, known as the Bengali Shakespeare, being hosted at the Parliament of Iran in the 1930s

Bengali literature has a rich heritage. It has a history stretching back to the 3rd century BCE, when the main language was

Buddhadeb Bose, Sunil Gangopadhyay and Humayun Ahmed

Prominent contemporary Bengali writers in English include Amitav Ghosh, Tahmima Anam, Jhumpa Lahiri and Zia Haider Rahman among others.



Bengali Renaissance and later adopted by the Bengali nationalists.[163] Hindu nationalists adopted a modified Bharat Mata as a national personification of India.[164] The Mother Bengal represents not only biological motherness but its attributed characteristics as well – protection, never ending love, consolation, care, the beginning and the end of life. In Amar Sonar Bangla, the national anthem of Bangladesh, Rabindranath Tagore
has used the word "Maa" (Mother) numerous times to refer to the motherland i.e. Bengal.


Bangladeshi paintings on sale at an art gallery in Dhaka

The Pala-Sena School of Art developed in Bengal between the 8th and 12th centuries and is considered a high point of classical Asian art.[165][166] It included sculptures and paintings.[167]

Islamic Bengal was noted for its production of the finest cotton fabrics and saris, notably the Jamdani, which received warrants from the Mughal court.[168] The Bengal School of painting flourished in Kolkata and Shantiniketan in the British Raj during the early 20th century. Its practitioners were among the harbingers of modern painting in India.[169] Zainul Abedin was the pioneer of modern Bangladeshi art. The country has a thriving and internationally acclaimed contemporary art scene.[170]


Bengali architecture

Classical Bengali architecture features terracotta buildings. Ancient Bengali kingdoms laid the foundations of the region's architectural heritage through the construction of monasteries and temples (for example, the Somapura Mahavihara). During the sultanate period, a distinct and glorious Islamic style of architecture developed the region.[171] Most Islamic buildings were small and highly artistic terracotta mosques with multiple domes and no minarets. Bengal was also home to the largest mosque in South Asia at Adina. Bengali vernacular architecture is credited for inspiring the popularity of the bungalow.[172]

The Bengal region also has a rich heritage of Indo-Saracenic architecture, including numerous zamindar palaces and mansions. The most prominent example of this style is the Victoria Memorial, Kolkata.

In the 1950s,

Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban by the renowned American architect Louis Kahn in the 1960s, which was based on the aesthetic heritage of Bengali architecture and geography.[173][174]


Bose Corporation was founded by the Bengali-American engineer Amar Bose
Sears Tower
in the United States


Fundamental Physics Prize "for opening the path to the realisation that all string theories are different limits of the same underlying theory".[183]


A Baul musician. The Baul ballads of Bangladesh are classified by UNESCO as humanity's intangible cultural heritage


Lalon Shah is the most celebrated practitioner of the tradition.[185] Other folk music forms include Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya. Hason Raja is a renowned folk poet of the Sylhet region. Folk music in Bengal is often accompanied by the ektara, a one-stringed instrument. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. The region also has a rich heritage in North Indian classical music


Pithe. The old city of Dhaka is noted for its distinct Indo-Islamic cuisine, including biryani, bakarkhani and kebab


18th century painting of a budgerow

There are 150 types of Bengali country boats plying the

Bengali culture and have inspired generations of artists and poets, including the ivory artisans of the Mughal era. The country has a long shipbuilding tradition, dating back many centuries. Wooden boats are made of timber such as Jarul (dipterocarpus turbinatus), sal (shorea robusta), sundari (heritiera fomes), and Burma teak (tectons grandis). Medieval Bengal was shipbuilding hub for the Mughal and Ottoman navies.[187][188] The British Royal Navy later utilised Bengali shipyards in the 19th century, including for the Battle of Trafalgar


A bride in a Bengali wedding
Hindu wedding

Bengali women commonly wear the

pyjama, often on religious occasions. The lungi, a kind of long skirt, is widely worn by Bangladeshi men.[citation needed


Bengali New Year
in Bangladesh


first day of spring and the Nabanna
harvest festival in autumn.


Bangladesh has a diverse, outspoken and privately owned press, with the largest circulated Bengali language newspapers in the world. English-language titles are popular in the urban readership.[190] West Bengal had 559 published newspapers in 2005,[191] of which 430 were in Bengali.[191] Bengali cinema is divided between the media hubs of Dhaka and Kolkata.


Kho Kho and Kabaddi, the latter being the national sport of Bangladesh. An Indo-Bangladesh Bengali Games has been organised among the athletes of the Bengali speaking areas of the two countries.[192]

See also


  1. British Bangladeshi
  2. ^ CRI do not give a breakdown by gender or state the age bracket for the data


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