West Bengal – a sojourn through its historic plains, snow – clad mountains, rolling hills, beautiful coastline or through its deep forests in Sundarbans or Sub-Himalayan doors – imprints memory on the minds of the visitors.
Bengal finds a coveted place even in pre-historic times. At the time of Alexander’s invasion a powerful king called Gangaridai ruled over Bengal Ascendancy of the Guptas and the Mauryas had little effect on Bengal. Later Sasanka became King of Bengal and is said to have played an important role in northeastern India in the early half of the seventh century. He was succeeded by Gopala, who founded the Pala dynasty, which ruled for centuries and had created a huge empire. The Palas were followed by the Sena dynasty, which was ended by Muslim rulers from Delhi. Various Muslim rulers and governors till the Mughal period in 16th century ruled Bengal.
After the Mughals, history of modem Bengal begins with the advent of European and English trading companies. The Battle of Plassey in 1757 changed the course of history when the English first gained a strong foothold in Bengal and India. In 1905 it was partitioned to achieve some political returns but people’s growing movement under the auspices of the Congress Party led to the reunion in 1911. This triggered of the hectic movement for freedom, which culminated with Independence in 1947 and partition.
After 1947, the merger of native settlement began which ended with its final reorganization in 1956 when some Bengali speaking areas of a neighboring State were transferred to West Bengal.
At a Glance
Area: 88,752 Sq.Km; Capital: Kolkata; Languages: Bengali, Hindi and English; Airports: Dumdum, Kolkata; Hill Resorts: Darjeeling (2127 m), Kalimpong (1450 m), Kurseong (1450 m), Mirik (170 m).
Popular Places: Kolkata, Shantiniketan, Darjeeling, Murshidabad.
Wildlife Sancturies: Sunderbans Wildlife Sanctuary, Jalarpara Wildlife Sanctuary
Kolkata is over 300 years old and had a fairy tale beginning. Amongst the British merchants sailing down the river Hooogly was one Job Charnock who rowed ashore to Sutanati, one of a cluster of three villages, the other two being Govindpur and Kalikata. Kolkata owes its origin to this English gentlemen as he did pronounce the name of the last village. During the British Raj Kolkata was known as the Jewel of the East and was the Capital of the country till 1911. It still bears the Victorian imprint on its streets and structures. Today, it is still the most important city in the east, the nerve center of trade and industry of the State.
Places of Interest:(1) Victoria Memorial (2) Botanical Garden (3) Horticulture Garden (4) Zoo (5) Lake (6) National Library.
How to ReachL: Kolkata is connected by air with Jorhat, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Patna, Port Blair, Ranchi, Silchar, Tezpur, Visakhapatnam, Amritsar, New Delhi and Leh.Kolkata is well connected by train with all major cities of India. Tourist can travel by road to all major part of India.
Hotel Accommodations : The Oberoi Grand, Taj Bengal, Hotel Airport Ashok, The Park Hotel, Hotel Hindustan, The Kenilworth, Peerless Inn, Hotel Rutt Deen, Hotel Shalimar, Astoria Hotel.
Shantiniketan is 211 km from Kolkata and there are regular bus services. Maharshi Debendranath, father of Rabindranath Tagore, had founded an Ashram here in 1863 AD. Almost 40 years later, Rabindranath started an open-air school at Shantiniketan that gradually developed into an international university named Visva Bharati where the cultures of the East and the West meet in common fellowship and thereby strengthen the fundamental conditions of world peace. KANKALITALA: 9 km from Shantiniketan has one of the sacred Satipithas and temple. DERR PARK: Located at Ballavpur forest is 4 km from Shantiniketan.
Darjeeling, center of India’s most celebrated tea growing district, has possibly the most picturesque views among all Indian hill resorts. The View across the snowy peak of Kanchenjunga and other mountains down to the swollen rivers in the valley are simply magnificent. Darjeeling is a fascination place, where one can see Buddhist monasteries visit a tea plantation and is a convenient base for trekking.
Places of Interest: (1) Observatory Hills (2) Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (3) The Zoological Park (4) Lebong Race Course (5) Lloyd Botanical Garden (6) Dhirdham Temple (7) Darjeeling Rangeet Valley Ropeway.
How to Reach: Nearest airport – Bagdogra 90 km; Nearest railhead – New Jalpaiguri/Siliguri.One has travel by toy train to Darjeeling. Tourist can travel by road to all major part of India.
Hotel Accommodations: Windamere Hotel, Hotel Sinclairs, Hotel Mohit, Hotel Chancellor, New Elgin Hotel, Hotel Garuda, Hotel Seven Seventeen, Central Hotel, Hotel Apsara.
Murshidabad, named after Murshid Quli Khan, the Dewan of Bangel, Bihar and Orissa under Emperor Aurangzeb, is related to events that ultimately changed the history of India. At Plassey near Murshidabad the historic battle between Nawab Siraj – Ud – Daula and lord Clive had taken place. The relics strewn today speak of those times. But the history of this region date back perhaps further. The famous Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsiang, who made the long journey to India in 629-645 AD, in his world famous travelogue describes Karanasubarna near Murshidabad as the first capital of the ancient Bengal. The region is rich in textile and handicrafts. Baluchari sari, now a product of Vishnupur was originally woven at Jiaganj.
How to Reach: Nearest airport – Kolkata 223 km; Easily accessible by rail from Kolkata (197 km). Tourist can travel by road to all major part of India.
The East Himalayas present perhaps the best trekking routes in the whole of India. A popular trekking route from Darjeeling takes one to Sanakphu and Phalut from where one can have breathtaking views of Kanchengunga and Mt.Everest.
The most popular trek in Sikkim is from Yuksom to Dzongri and Goccha La for superb view of Kanchengunga. Two peaks in Dzongri area of West Sikkim, Thingchen Khang and Jopunob, have been declared ‘Trekking Peaks’, which means they are free of royalty payment. Foreigners have to obtain permits for trekking on most routes in Sikkim.
Permits can be obtain from any of the following places:
Delhi 01123015346; Kolkata 033 2297516; Siliguri 0353 2432646
GOLF: The East Himalayan region is now part of the all India golf map with the introduction of the Duncans Runglee-Rungliot Golf Tournament at Chalsa in the Doors Valley. Introduced in 1998,the Tournament is billed to be an annual feature from ’99.Adventure
RUN’N’TREK: Every year, in November, a faithful band of enthusiast assemble at the Himalayan foothill for a ‘run’ & trek’ adventure covering a distance of 100 miles, from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu.
HAND GLIDING/BALWONING: Both these sports have been experimentally introduced at Dhoteria in Darjeeling district, during the Tea & Tourism festival in November 1998. The topography with its high ridges, cliffs and deep-down valleys is an ideal venue for such sports.
RIVER RAFTING: The river Teesta, with its deep gorges, rapids and strong currents, is tail made for river rafting, for much of the stretch covering both Sikkim and North Bengal. Canoeing and kayaking have also been introduced on the river Teesa and the lake in Mirik.
MOUNTAIN BIKING: An exciting spot that has been introduced in the region is mountain biking. The route takes you from Martem to Gangtok in Sikkim, via the famous Rumtek monastery.
ROCK CLIMBING: Rock climbing is regularly conducted at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. Tourists with experience in the spot may contact the Institute.
ARCHERY: Archery competition, with traditional Sikkimese bows and arrows have been introduced for the tourists, as part of the annual Tea & Tourism Festival in the month of November.
ELEPHANT RIDES: Regular elephant rides are conducted inside some of the most exciting jungle land in India at Jaldapara for a once in a lifetime sighting of one-homed rhinos and Bengal tigers .