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(bĕng-gôl`, bĕn–), region, 77,442 sq mi (200,575 sq km), E India and Bangladesh, on the Bay of Bengal. The inland section is mountainous, with peaks up to 12,000 ft (3,660 m) high in the northwest, but most of Bengal is the fertile land of the Ganges-Brahmaputra alluvial plains and delta. Along the coast are richly timbered jungles, swamps, and islands. The heavy monsoon rainfall and predominantly warm weather make possible two harvests a year. The population, which speaks mainly Bengali, is ethnically quite homogeneous but is almost equally divided between Muslims and Hindus.

In the 3d cent. B.C., Bengal belonged to the empire of AśokaAśoka
or Ashoka,
d. c.232 B.C., Indian emperor (c.273–c.232 B.C.) of the Maurya dynasty; grandson of Chandragupta. One of the greatest rulers of ancient India, he brought nearly all India, together with Baluchistan and Afghanistan, under one sway for the
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. It became a political entity in the 8th cent. A.D. under the Buddhist Pala kings. In the 11th cent. the Hindu Sena dynasty arose from the remnants of the Pala empire. Bengal was conquered (c.1200) by Muslims of Turkic and Pashtun descent. When the Portuguese began their trading activities (late 15th cent.), Bengal was a part of the Muslim MughalMughal
or Mogul
, Muslim empire in India, 1526–1857. The dynasty was founded by Babur, a Turkic chieftain who had his base in Afghanistan. Babur's invasion of India culminated in the battle of Panipat (1526) and the occupation of Delhi and Agra.
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 empire. The British East India Company established its first settlement in 1642 and extended its occupation by conquering the native princes and expelling the Dutch and French. Muslim control of Bengal ended with the defeat of Siraj-ud-Daula by British forces under Robert CliveClive, Robert, Baron Clive of Plassey
, 1725–74, British soldier and statesman. He went to India in 1743 as a clerk for the British East India Company and entered the military service of the company in 1744; he soon distinguished himself in the fighting against the French.
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 at the Battle of Plassey in 1757.

Under British control, Bengal was a presidency of India. At various times the neighboring provinces of Assam, Bihar, and Orissa were administered under the Bengal presidency. In 1905 Bengal was split into the provinces of Bengal (W) and East Bengal and Assam (E). Bengal was reestablished as a single province in 1912, but two non-Bengali-speaking provinces, Bihar and Orissa in the west and Assam in the east, were split off. When India was partitioned in 1947, the province was divided along the line approximately separating the two main concentrations of the religious communities.

East Bengal, overwhelmingly Muslim in population, became East Pakistan in 1947 and the independent nation of BangladeshBangladesh
[Bengali,=Bengal nation], officially People's Republic of Bangladesh, republic (2005 est. pop. 144,320,000), 55,126 sq mi (142,776 sq km), S Asia. Bangladesh borders on the Bay of Bengal in the south; on the Indian states of West Bengal in the west and north, Assam
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 in 1971. West Bengal (2001 provisional pop. 80,221,171), 33,928 sq mi (87,874 sq km), with its capital at KolkataKolkata
, formerly Calcutta
, city (1991 pop. 10,916,272), capital of West Bengal state, E India, on the Hugli River. It is the second largest city in India and one of the largest in the world.
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 (Calcutta), became a state of India. It is bordered by Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam on the east; Nepal, Bhutan, and the state of Sikkim on the north; the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha (Orissa) on the west; and the Bay of Bengal on the south. A highly industrialized region, it has jute mills, steel-fabricating plants, and chemical industries, all mainly centered in the Hugliside industrial complex. Coal is mined and petroleum is refined.

In 1950, West Bengal absorbed the state of Cooch BeharCooch Behar
, former princely state, now part of West Bengal state, E India. It lies in a low, poorly drained plain. Rice, tobacco, corn, oilseeds, and jute are grown. Big-game hunting is practiced. The chief town, Koch Bihar or Cooch Behar (1991 pop.
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. In the 1970s disputes between Hindus and Muslims, further complicated by droves of refugees from Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) and agitation by Maoist groups called Naxalites, created political instability. The 1980s saw an uprising by Gurkhas in the DarjeelingDarjeeling
or Darjiling
, town (1991 pop. 73,062), West Bengal state, NE India, near the border of Sikkim state. Its most famous product is tea, a major cash crop in the region.
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 area, which became a semiautonomous district; some Gurkhas have continued to demand a separate state. Maoist rebels experienced a resurgence in the state in late 2008 and seized control of the region around Lalgarh, where farmers opposed the building of a steel plant; paramilitary forces moved in June, 2009, to regain control of the area. West Bengal is governed by a chief minister and cabinet responsible to a bicameral legislature with one elected house and by a governor appointed by the president of India. Famous Bengalis include poet and Nobel laureate Sir Rabindranath TagoreTagore, Sir Rabindranath
, 1861–1941, Indian author and guru, b. Calcutta (now Kolkata). Tagore came from a wealthy Bengali family. He went abroad in 1877 to study law in England but soon returned to India.
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 and filmmaker Satyajit RayRay, Satyajit
, 1921–92, Indian film director, b. Calcutta (now Kolkata). His subtle, austere, and delicately lyrical films made him one of the outstanding filmmakers of the 20th cent.; he was the first Indian director to win international acclaim.
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a historic region in South Asia, partly located on the Indian subcontinent; in the Lower Ganges Basin and the deltas of the Ganges and Brahmaputra. In ancient times different parts of Bengal were known by the names of Anga, Vanga, Gauta, and others. The common term “Bengal” appeared around the tenth to the 12th centuries. From the eighth until the beginning of the 13th century states headed by the Pala and later by the Sena dynasties existed on the territory of Bengal. In the beginning of the 13th century Bengal became part of the Delhi sultanate. In the middle of the 14th century it became an independent state. It was conquered by the Great Moguls in 1575. In the beginning of the 18th century an independent state under the nawabs, with its capital at Murshidabad, arose on the territory of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. The British East India Company, whose center of operations on Bengali territory was Calcutta, provoked a war with the Bengali nawab Siraj-ud-Daula. After the battle near Plassey on June 23, 1757, the Company brought Bengal under its rule.

The division of Bengal into two separate territories by the British authorities in 1905 provoked fierce opposition among the Bengalis, and in 1911 the British were forced to reunite Bengal. In 1947, in connection with the partition of India into the two independent states of India and Pakistan, West Bengal with its Hindu population and its center at Calcutta became part of India (the state of West Bengal). East Bengal with its Muslim population and its center at Dacca became part of Pakistan (East Pakistan). In 1971, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was established on the territory of East Pakistan.


Antonova, K. A. Angliiskoe zavoevanie Indii V XVlll veke. Moscow, 1958.
Kabiraj, N. Natsional’no-osvoboditel’noe dvizhenie v Bengalii. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from Bengali.)
The History of Bengal, vols. 1–2. Dacca, 1943–48.



1. a former province of NE India, in the great deltas of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers: in 1947 divided into West Bengal (belonging to India) and East Bengal (Bangladesh)
2. Bay of. a wide arm of the Indian Ocean, between India and Myanmar
3. a breed of medium-large cat with a spotted or marbled coat
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