Hinduism in West Bengal
',72.47% of Population
|Regions with significant populations|
|Majority in all districts except Murshidabad and Maldah districts.|
Hinduism is the largest religious tradition in the Indian state of West Bengal (Paschimbanga) with 72.5% of the population identifying themselves as Hindus (as of 2001). The Hindus in West Bengal mostly belong to the Vaishnavite and Shakta denominations.
Hinduism arrived to the region of Bengal before the 6th century BC and by the 3rd century, along with Buddhism and Jainism, it began to dominate over the primitive religious groups of the natives. Gaur, the first sovereign Hindu kingdom in Bengal with its capital in Karnasubarna in modern-day Murshidabad district, was set up by Shashanka, a Shaivaite king who ruled approximately between 600 AD and 625 AD. The modern structure of Bengali Hindu society was developed during the rule of the Sena dynasty in the 12th century AD. Islam arrived in Bengal in the 13th century and subsequently conquered the region. But while the Muslim saints and rulars successfully spread Islam and established it as the major religion of eastern parts of Bengal (now Bangladesh), they fail do the same in the western parts because of the strong base of Vaishnavism and folk Hinduism in the Rarh and the Gangetic regions of West Bengal where Hinduism remained the major religious group till today. West Bengal has been home to several famous religious teachers, including Sri Chaitanya, Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Paramahansa Yogananda who helped to abolish evil practices like sati, dowry, and caste-based discrimination or untouchability that crept into the Hindu society during the Middle Ages.
The language of the Hindus in West Bengal is Bengali. A large number of Hindu religious texts like biographies of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Mangal-kavyas, Bratakathas and Panchalis as well as dharmik writings of modern Bengali philosophers and saints have been produced in Bengali for many centuries.
Kali and Chandi are the most worshipped Hindu goddesses in West Bengal. Worship of Durga, Shiva, Krishna and other gods and goddesses is also common. Durga Puja is the most important festivals of the Hindus in West Bengal as well as the most significant festival of the state in general. Other major festivals include Kali Puja, Dolyatra, Poila Baishakh, Ratha-Yatra, Saraswati Puja, Poush Parban etc.
Hindus in Pachimbanga are noted for their fondness for observing festivals, hence the Bengali proverb Baro Mase Tero Parbon (বারো মাসে তেরো পার্বণ) – (they observe) thirteen festivals in twelve months. The Bengali year begins with Poila Boishakh ceremony on 14th or 15 April. Traditional business establishment commence their fiscal year on this day, with the worship of Lakshmi and Ganesha and inauguration of the Hal Khata (the account books of the Bengali merchants). People dress in ethnic wear and enjoy ethnic food. Poila Baishakh is followed by Rabindra Jayanti or the Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore which is celebrated as one of the major festivals of the state, Rathyatra and Janmashtami before the commencement of the autumnal festival season which starts with Biswakarma Puja on the last day of Bengali month of Bhadra. The five-day Durga Puja is the biggest Hindu festival in Paschimbanga. Durga Puja is followed by Kojagari Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Bhai Phonta and Jagaddhatri Puja. The winter solstice is celebrated a Paush Sankranti in mid January, followed by Netaji Jayanti or the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Saraswati Puja. The spring is celebrated in the form of Dolyatra. The year ends with Charak Puja and Gajan.
Temple architecture in Paschimbanga architecture has assumed a unique identity and evolved into the Bengali terra cotta temple architecture. Due to lack of suitable stone in the alluvial Gangetic delta, the temple makers had to resort to other materials instead of stone. This gave rise to using terra cotta as a medium for temple construction. Terra-cotta exteriors with rich carvings are a unique feature of Bengali temples. The town of Vishnupur in West Bengal is renowned for this type of architecture.
Usually a part of the intended total motif was carved by hand on one side of a brick and then baked. While under construction, these carved bricks were arranged to make up the entire motif.
The Bengali style of temple is not luxurious. Rather, most are modeled on simple thatched-roof earthen huts used as dwellings by commoners. This can be attributed to the popularity of bhakti cults which taught people to view gods as close to themselves. Thus, various styles like do-chala, char-chala, and aat-chala sprang up. However, there is also a popular style of building known as Navaratna (nine-towered) or Pancharatna (five-towered) in Bengal which is more luxurious than the Chala buildings. A typical example of Navaratna style is the Dakshineswar Kali Temple.
Sri Ramakrishna Temple, Belur Math
The Ramakrishna temple at the Belur Math is designed to "celebrate the diversity of Indian Religions" and resembles a temple, a mosque, a church if seen from different positions. The design of the temple was envisioned by Swami Vivekananda and the architect was Swami Vijnanananda, a direct monastic disciple of Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna Temple was consecrated on 14 January, the Makar Sankranti Day in 1938. The architectural style and symbolism from a number of religions have been incorporated into the design of the temple at Belur Math, to convey the "universal faith" in which the movement believes. The temple is considered as a prime example of the importance of "material dimension" of religion. The main entrance of the temple, has a facade influenced by Buddhist style. The structure which rises over the entrance is modelled on the Hindu temples of South India with their lofty towers. The windows and balconies inside the temple draw upon the Rajput (Hindu) and Mughal (Islamic) style of north India. The central dome is derived from European architecture of the Renaissance period. The ground plan is in the shape of Christian cross.
Hindu population by district
|Purba & Paschim Medinipur||85.6%|
|North 24 Parganas||75.2%|
|South 24 Parganas||65.9%|
Economies and Business
The West Bengali Hindus have their mainstay in trade and business. The sub-categories like Aguris, etc., specialise in trade and industry. This ethnic minority has been home to major industrialists worldwide. Large number of West Bengali Hindus have settled outside India.
The literacy level of West Bengali Hindus in Bengal and other parts of the world is very high.
Noted West Bengali Hindu industrialists include:
- Raja Nabakrishna Deb of Shovabazar
- Gouri Sen of lagey taka debey Gouri Sen fame
- Gourmohan Dutta of GD Pharmaceuticals-manufacturers of South Asia 1st antiseptic cream "BOROLINE"
- Hari Ghosh of Hari Ghosher fame
- Banamali Sarkar
- Gobindram Mitter
- Prasanna Coomar Tagore
- Ramanath Tagore
- Prince Dwarkanath Tagore
- Rajen Mookerjee
- Sir Biren Mookerjee
- Rajat Kumar Gupta
- Purnendu Chatterjee of The Chatterjee Group & Haldia Petrochemicals
- Prashant Mukherjee
- Sadhan Dutt
- Amar Gopal Bose of Bose Corporation
- "Data on Religion". Census of India (2001). Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on August 12, 2007. Retrieved August 26, 2006.
- Sen, Sukumar (1999). "Dharme" [The Religion]. Banga-Bhumika [An Introduction to the History of Bengal] (in Bengali) (1st ed.). Kolkata: Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi. pp. 104–05. ISBN 81-86908-97-8.
- Dutta(2003) p.104
- Pilgrimage Centers of India. p. 167.
- "Travel: Kolkata Surprise". MySinchew. 2008-10-18. Retrieved 2009-05-08.
- Simmons, Graham (December 18, 2005). "Soul places of India". The Sunday Morning Herald. Retrieved 2009-05-08. "The Ramakrishna Mission, at Belur Math in Calcutta, is known for its charitable works and outstanding temple - Hindu, Saracen and Arabic design on a foundation of a Christian cross."
- Open University Course Team. Introduction to the Humanities. p. 75.
- Pilgrimage Centers of India. p. 167. "This symbolises the main message of the master that all religions and men are essentially one and united."
- O’Malley, L.S.S., ICS, Bankura, Bengal District Gazetteers, pp. 48-52, 1995 reprint, Government of West Bengal
- Bardhaman district data
- Islam, Sheikh, Birbhumer Karmasansthane Matsya, Pranisampad Ebong Paschim Banga Sankhyalaghu Unnayan O Bityanigam, Paschim Banga, Birbhum Special Issue, p. 178
- Birbhum district data
- Cooch Behar district data
- Darjeeling district data
- Medinipur district data
- Hooghly district data
- Howrah district data
- Jalpaiguri district data
- Kolkata district data
- Malda district data
- Murshidabad district data
- Nadia district data
- North 24 Parganas district data
- Uttar Dinajpur district data
- Purulia district data
- South 24 Parganas district data
- Dakshin Dinajpur district data