West Bengal is a state in eastern India. With Bangladesh, which lies on its eastern border, the state forms the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. To its northeast lie the states of Assam and Sikkim and the country Bhutan, and to its southwest, the state of Orissa. To the west it borders the state of Jharkhand and Bihar, and to the northwest, Nepal.
The region that is now West Bengal was a part of a number of empires and kingdoms during the past two millennia. The British East India Company cemented their hold on the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 CE, and the city of Kolkata, then Calcutta, served for many years as the capital of British India. A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided in 1947 into two separate entities, West Bengal – a state of India, and East Pakistan belonging to the new nation of Pakistan. Following India’s independence in 1947, West Bengal’s economic and political systems were dominated for many decades by Marxism, Naxalite movements and trade unionism.
An agriculture-dependent state, West Bengal occupies only 2.7% of the India’s land area, though it supports over 7.8% of Indian population, and is the most densely populated state in India.
West Bengal is on the eastern bottleneck of India, stretching from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south. The state has a total area of 88,752 square kilometres (34,267 sq mi).The Darjeeling Himalayan hill region in the northern extreme of the state belongs to the eastern Himalaya. This region contains Sandakfu (3,636 metres/11,929 feet) – the highest peak of the state.The narrow Terai region separates this region from the plains, which in turn transitions into the Ganges delta towards the south. The Rarh region intervenes between the Ganges delta in the east and 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.
The Ganges is the main river, which divides in West Bengal. One branch enters Bangladesh as the Padma or Podda, while the other flows through West Bengal as the Bhagirathi River and Hooghly River. The Teesta, Torsa, Jaldhaka and Mahananda rivers are in the northern hilly region. The western plateau region has rivers such as the Damodar, Ajay and Kangsabati. The Ganges delta and the Sundarbans area have numerous rivers and creeks.
There are 19 districts in West Bengal – Bankura, Bardhaman, Birbhum, Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, East Midnapore, Hooghly, Howrah, Jalpaiguri, Kolkata, Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, North Dinajpur, Purulia, South 24 Parganas, Dakshin Dinajpur and West Midnapore.
Important minerals occurring in the state are apatite in Purulia district; coal in Burdwan, Bankura, Birbhum, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Purulia districts; china clay in 24-Parganas, Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan, Hoogly, Midnapur and Purulia districts; and fireclay in Bankura, Birbhum, Burdwan and Purulia districts.
Other minerals that occur in the state are barytes, copper ore, kyanite, pyrite and titanium minerals in Purulia district; dolomite in Jalpaiguri district; feldspar and limestone in Bankura and Purulia districts; granite in Bankura, Birbhum and Purulia districts; lead-zinc in Darjeeling district; manganese ore and sillimanite in Midnapur district; quartz/silica sand in Bankura, Hoogly and Purulia districts; and tungsten and vermiculite in Bankura district.