Bengal (known locally as Bangala or Vanga) is a region in the northeast of the Indian subcontinent, today comprising the nation of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal.
Bengal became a political entity during the Bhuddist Pala kings of Bengal in the 6th century. The Hindu Sena rulers also ruled Bengal for a period of about a hundred years before the arrival of Muslim army in the 13th century. During the early Muslim period, the kingdom was known as the Sultanate of Bangala. Moghul rule came to Bengal in the sixteenth centuries. Bengal's trade and wealth was so vast that the Moghul's called it as the "Paradise of the Nations" in their times. Administration (1575-1717) by governors appointed by the court of the Mughal Empire court gave way to four decades of semi-independence, until the victory of British troops and their local allies at the Battle of Plassey (June 23, 1757) inaugurated a century of rule by the British East India Company, followed in 1858 by direct British government administration.
A centre of rice cultivation as well as fine cotton called Muslins and the world's main source of jute fibre, from the 1850s Bengal became one of India's principal centres of industry, concentrated in the capital Kolkata (known as Calcutta under the British, always called 'Kolkata' in the native tongue of Bengali) and its emerging cluster of suburbs. Most of the population nevertheless remained dependent on agriculture, and despite its leading role in Indian political and intellectual activity, the province included some exceptionally undeveloped districts, especially in the east.
India's most populous province, in 1905 Bengal was divided for administrative purposes into an overwhelmingly Hindu west (including present-day Bihar and Orissa) and a predominantly Muslim east (including Assam). Indian nationalists saw the move as a means of sowing disunity within a Bengali population united by language and history, and following a violent agitation the partition was reversed in 1912.
As partition of British India into Hindu and Muslim dominions approached in 1947, Bengal was again split along much the same lines as in 1905, into the Indian state of West Bengal and region of East Bengal under Pakistan (later renamed East Pakistan in 1958). East Pakistan (East Bengal) later rebelled against Pakistani military rule to become independent republic of Bangladesh or literally "Bengal Land" following a war of independence against the Pakistani army in 1971.
Bengal has experienced two devastating famines costing millions of lives, in 1770 and 1943. But the resilient people of Bengal have been able to rise above such disasters to rebuild their land in the fashion the Nobel Laureate Bengali poet Tagore described as the "Golden Bengal".
See also: Bengali language - Bengali cuisine -