Bengal (; Bengali: বাংলা/বঙ্গ, translit. Bānglā/Bôngô Bengali pronunciation: [bɔŋgo]) is a geopolitical, cultural and historical region in South Asia, specifically in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Geographically, it is made up by the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta system, the largest such formation in the world; along with mountains in its north bordering the Himalayan states of Nepal and Bhutan and east bordering Burma.
Politically, Bengal is currently divided between Bangladesh (which covers two-thirds of the region) and the Indian territories of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam's Barak Valley (altogether cover the remaining one-third). In 2011, the population of Bengal was estimated to be 250 million, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Among them, an estimated 160 million people live in Bangladesh and 91.3 million people live in West Bengal. The predominant ethnolinguistic group is the Bengali people, who speak the Indo-Aryan Bengali language. Bengali Muslims are the majority in Bangladesh and Bengali Hindus are the majority in West Bengal and Tripura, while Barak Valley contains almost equal proportions of Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims. Outside Bengal proper, the Indian territories of Jharkhand, Bihar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also home to significant communities of Bengalis.
Dense woodlands, including hilly rainforests, cover Bengal's northern and eastern areas; while an elevated forested plateau covers its central area. In the littoral southwest are the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and home of the Bengal tiger. In the coastal southeast lies Cox's Bazar, the longest beach in the world at 125 km (78 mi). The region has a monsoon climate, which the Bengali calendar divides into six seasons.
At times an independent regional empire, the Bengal was a leading power in Southeast Asia and later the Islamic East, with extensive trade networks. In antiquity, its kingdoms were known as seafaring nations. Bengal was known to the Greeks as Gangaridai, notable for mighty military power. It was described by Greek historians that Alexander the Great withdrew from the South east Asia, anticipating a counterattack from an alliance of Gangaridai. Later writers noted merchant shipping links between Bengal and Roman Egypt.
The Bengali Pala Empire was the last major Buddhist imperial power in the subcontinent, founded in 750 and becoming the dominant power in the northern Indian subcontinent by the 9th century, before being replaced by the Hindu Sena dynasty in the 12th century. Islam was introduced during the Pala Empire, through trade with the Abbasid Caliphate. The Islamic Bengal Sultanate, founded in 1352, was absorbed into the Mughal Empire in 1576. The Mughal Bengal Subah province became a major global exporter, a center of worldwide industries such as muslin, silk, pearl, cotton textiles and shipbuilding.
Bengal was conquered by the British East India Company in 1757 by Battle of Plassey and became the Bengal Presidency of British Raj, which experienced deindustrialization under British rule. The Company increased agriculture tax rates from 10 percent to up to 50 causing the Great Bengal famine of 1770 and the deaths of 10 Million Bengalis.
Bengal played a major role in the Indian independence movement, in which revolutionary groups were dominant. Armed attempts to overthrow the British Raj began with the rebellion of Titumir, and reached a climax when Subhas Chandra Bose led the Indian National Army allied with Japan to fight against the British. A large number of Bengalis died in the independence struggle and many were exiled in Cellular Jail, located in Andaman.
The United Kingdom Cabinet Mission of 1946, split the region into India and Pakistan Popularly known as partition of Bengal (1947) opposed by the Prime Minister of Bengal Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and nationalist leader Sarat Chandra Bose. They campaigned for a united and independent nation-state of Bengal. The initiative failed owing to British diplomacy and communal conflict between Muslims and Hindus. Later Pakistan ruled East Bengal becoming the independent nation of Bangladesh by Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971.
Bengali culture has been particularly influential in the fields of literature, music, shipbuilding, art, architecture, sports, currency, commerce, politics and cuisine.