Culture of Bengal

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The culture of Bengal encompasses cultures in the Bengal region, which today consists of the independent nation of Bangladesh (Purbo Bongo East Bengal), and the Indian state of West Bengal (Poshchim Bongo). The two geographical entities share many cultural traits which root from their historical association.


Pohela Boishakh celebration in Dhaka

Ancient Bengal was the seat of Buddhism.[1] During the Mauryan period, Pundrobhordhon, corresponding northern Bengal, was the seat of culture and political activities; and in the third century B.C. both of Buddhism and Jainism were prevalent in northern Bengal. This Buddhist tradition continued for centuries up to the end of the Pala period.The period was marked by the establishment of some Buddhist colleges and universities, the remains of one of which still can be found at Paharpur. From the twelfth century, under royal patronage of the Sena rulers, there was the revival of Brahmanical Hinduism; and because of the introduction of Kulinism and torture on the Buddhists and Yogis, the path was made ready for the spread of Islam from the thirteenth century onward. With the elapse of time, Shoktism became very prominent in Bengal; and from the end of the fifteenth century, Vaishnavism also grew to be popular under the leadership of Shri Chaitanya.[1] Centuries after the demise of Chaitanya, Bhoktibedantoshami Prabhupada made Bengal's Vaishnavism a factor of Krishna consciousness all over the world. There are many bhajans (devotional prayers to Bhagoban, Supreme Personality of Krishno, and his devotees), which are written in Bengali language.

Islam first arrived in Bengal during the 8th century AD. Bengal first came under Muslim rule during the early 13th century and remained so till the beginning of British rule in the mid 18th century.

Christianity first arrived in the 16th century, and spread with the efforts of the Portuguese missionaries. During the British Rule in the 18th century, many prominent Bengalis converted to Christianity including Krishna Mohan Banerjee, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, and Gnanendramohan Tagore. Bengali Christians played a significant role in the Bengali renaissance.


The Bengali language boasts a rich literary heritage. Bengal has a long tradition in folk literature, evidenced by the Chorjapodo, Mongolkabbo, Shrikrishno Kirton Kobbo, Moimonshingho Gitika, Thakurmar Jhuli, and stories related to Gopal Bhar. Bengali literature in the medieval age was often either religious (e.g. Chondidash), or adaptations from other languages (e.g. Alaol). In the nineteenth and twentieth century, Bengali literature was modernized in the works of authors such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Modhushudan Dutta, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Bengali culture took a revolutionary turn with the advent of about 30 writers, poets, dramatists and artists in 1960s who were called as the Hungryalists.


Baul singers at Boshonto Utshob, Shantiniketan

The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bengali folk music, which has also been influenced by regional music traditions.[2] Other folk music forms include Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya. Folk music in Bengal is often accompanied by the ektara, a one-stringed instrument. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, bamboo flute, and tabla. The region also has an active heritage in North Indian classical music. Gurushodoy Dotto did a lot for the revival of folk art and folk dances of Bengal in the early twentieth century.

Robindro Shonggit, songs by Rabindranath Tagore, use Indian classical music and traditional folk-music as sources. In Bengali cultural life they have a strong influence. Nazrul Geeti, songs by Kazi Nazrul Islam, are also of great significance in Bengali culture.[3]


Main article: Bengali cuisine

Rice and fish are traditional Bengali staple diet, leading to a saying that in Bengali, machhe bhate bangali, that translates as "fish and rice make a Bengali".[4] Meat production has increased significantly in recent years.[5] Bengalis make distinctive sweetmeats from milk products, including rôshogolla, Chomchom (Bengali: চমচম), kalojam (কালোজাম) and several kinds of pithe (পিঠে). Bengal's vast repertoire of fish-based dishes includes ilish preparations, a favorite among Bengalis.ros Malay.


Bengali women commonly wear the shari, often distinctly designed according to local cultural customs. In urban areas, many women and men wear Western-style attire. Men also wear traditional costumes such as the panjabi with dhuti. As time goes by the lungi, a variant of the sarong, has replaced the dhuti, and now lungi is widely worn by Bangladeshi men.


The two Eids, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha are the largest festivals in Bangladesh. Durga Puja in October is the most popular festival in the West Bengal.[6] Pohela Boishakh (the Bengali New Year), Roth jatra, Dol jatra or Bashonto Utshob, Nobanno, Poush porbon (festival of Poush), Kali puja, Lokshmi puja are other major festivals.

  • "Bhaiphota": After "Kali puja"


A bride dressed in red sari
Main article: Bengali wedding

Bengali wedding includes many rituals and ceremonies that can span several days. Although Muslim and Hindu marriages have their distinctive religious rituals, there are many common Bengali rituals in weddings across both West Bengal and Bangladesh.[7][8] Main rituals include Gaye Holud (lit. "yellowing the body"), the wedding ceremony, and the reception (Bodhu Boron and Bou Bhat or Walima).

Cinema and media[edit]

Main article: Cinema of Bengal

Bengali cinema is made both in Kolkata and Dhaka. Mainstream Hindi films of Bollywood are also quite popular in West Bengal and Bangladesh. The Bengali film industry is also known for art films. Its long tradition of filmmaking has produced acclaimed directors like Satyajit Ray, Zahir Raihan, Khan Ataur Rahman, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak. Contemporary directors include Buddhadev Dasgupta, Goutam Ghose, Aparna Sen, Tanvir Mokammel, Tarek Masud and Rituparno Ghosh. Around 200 dailies are published in Bangladesh, along with more than 1800 periodicals. However, regular readership is low, about 15% of the population.[9] West Bengal had 559 published newspapers in 2005,[10] of which 430 were in Bengali.[10] Ananda Bazar Patrika, published from Kolkata with 1,130,167 daily copies, has the largest circulation for a single-edition, regional language newspaper in India.[10]


Cricket and football are popular sports in the Bengal region. Dhaka and Chittagong are home to some of the most renowned football clubs in South Asia and are prominent venues for international cricket. Kolkata is one of the major centers for football in India. Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Tamim Iqbal from Bangladesh and Sourav Ganguly from West Bengal are internationally known cricketers Football s technically soccer .[11] Local games include sports such as Kho Kho and Kabaddi, the latter being the national sport of Bangladesh.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sailen Debnath, 'Essays on Cultural History of North Bengal', ISBN 978-81-86860-42-7
  2. ^ "The Bauls of Bengal". Folk Music. BengalOnline. Retrieved 2006-10-26. 
  3. ^ Huke, Robert E. (2009). "West Bengal". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  4. ^ Gertjan de Graaf, Abdul Latif. "Development of freshwater fish farming and poverty alleviation: A case study from Bangladesh" (PDF). Aqua KE Government. Retrieved 2006-10-22. 
  5. ^ "West Bengal hopeful of surplus in fish production". The Hindu. Retrieved 2006-10-22. 
  6. ^ "Durga Puja". Festivals of Bengal. West Bengal Tourism, Government of West Bengal. Retrieved 2006-10-28. 
  7. ^ "Bengali Wedding Rituals - A Traditional Bengali Marriage Ceremony". Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  8. ^ "Weddings In India - Wedding in Exotic Indian Locations". Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  9. ^ Newspapers and periodicals in Banglapedia
  10. ^ a b c "General Review". Registrar of Newspapers for India. Retrieved 2006-09-01. 
  11. ^ Prabhakaran, Shaji (January 18, 2003). "Football in India - A Fact File". Retrieved 2006-10-26.