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West Bengal

St. Paul's Cathedral, West Bengal TravelsWest Bengal is situated in the eastern part of the Indian peninsula. It is surrounded by three international frontiers to its north by Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh. It has Darjeeling in the northern end from where the mighty Himalayas can be seen rising. West Bengal has been famous for its strong literary leanings. The famous nationalistic fervour song “Bande Mataram” sung even today was composed 120 years ago by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. The other most famous and revered poet was Rabindra Nath Tagore. The mighty river Ganga flows across the state to reach the Bay of Bengal, through vast swamps of the Sundarbans.

West Bengal was ruled by several dynasties in ancient times of which Gupta period is somewhat traceable. Then the British came and established East India Company, when most of the Muslim dominated areas were taken into its ambit. The period of prosperity thence is better recorded.

The most important festival celebrated is Durga Puja which is an extravaganza of almost seven days. Besides the other festivals like Saraswati Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja and Janmashtami are also celebrated by most people.

Calcutta (Kolkata), the capital of the state, is termed the intellectual capital of India. The city has made outstanding contributions in arts, sciences, medicine, social reform and literature. The attractions in the city include The hanging bridge called Howrah Bridge is an architectural marvel of the country; Birla Planetarium, the second largest planetarium in Asia; the Victoria Memorial is a grand edifice constructed in the memory of Queen Victoria; the Botanical Garden with its 250-year-old banyan tree (Ficus bengalhensis); the Dakshineshwar Temple where Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the spiritual guru of Swami Vivekananda, used to worship Goddess Kali; Vidyasagar Setu that connects both the banks of the Hooghly River; Thakur Bari, the residence of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore; National Library, Shaheed Minar, Eden Garden, Fort William, Rat Park and Marble Palace.

Howrah Bridge in CalcuttaA little distance from Kolkata are Shantiniketan, Tagore's university township; Bakreswar, where ancient Kali and Shiva temples rise into the azure sky. The hot springs here are famous for curing many chronic diseases. West Bengal has many other places like Darjeeling for trekking enthusiasts, Mirik, land of oranges, the charming city of Kalimpong; the panoramic Kurseong; the magical forests and tea-garden of Malbazar; the Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary for majestic elephants.

The relics of rich Muslim culture can be seen in Bara Sona mosque at Malda and the Hazarduari Palace and the Khush Bagh at Berhampur. Some of the other tourist destinations in West Bengal are Murshidabad, Bishnupur, Haldia, Digha, Siliguri, Gaur, Pandua, and the Sunderban Tiger Reserve.

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