The Bengali culture is one of the most prominent Asian Culture and it is generally regarded as the most endowed culture in India. Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal was once the capital of India; hence this “city of joy” has enjoyed the arrival of many different cultures over the centuries which have enriched the original Bengali culture in many aspects. The Bengalis are a race that is present in all parts of the world but strongly rooted to their traditions and believe. The culture of Bengal has a significance contribution from the Bangladeshi (previously East Bengal) Culture. Numerous tribes of West Bengal have also left their permanent mark on the culture of West Bengal.
Kumartuli is a place in Kolkata where potters make clay idols. Photo from Flickr
Contributors to West Benal
Literature is one of the strongest pillars of Bengali culture. The most important contributor in Bengali literature is Rabindranath Tagore. In recognition of his efforts to bring the Bengali literature to the forefront of the world he was awarded the noble prize in the year 1913 and is regarded as the “world poet” and master of poets. Some of the other noteworthy Bengali writers are “Kazi Nazrul Islam”, “Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya” and “Bamkin Chandra Chattopadhyaya” There are several distinct styles of writing practiced by some of the best Bengali writers who have turned the Bengali literature into a treasure trove of literary jewel. The folk literature of Bengal has also been enmeshed with the main stream Bengali culture and is now considered a part of this rich heritage.
Costume of West Bengal
The traditional Bengali attires are “dhoti and Punjabi” for men and “saree” for women. In the last few decades “salwar kameez” has gained popularity and is now considered a traditional wear of Bengali women. Western dresses like “jeans” “t-shirts” and “tops” are popular among youngsters and many like to mix and match traditional and western wear on a daily basis. However, the traditional dresses are a must during several auspicious festivals and events like wedding. There are large variations of types of “sarees” available throughout the state and each style is as gorgeous as the other. The “dhotis” are traditionally only white but nowadays designer and printed “dhotis” are quite in vogue.
Music and Dance in West Bengal
Music and dancing are integral parts of the Bengali culture and are still practiced vigorously in all the corners of the state. Traditional singing style like “tappa” and “thumri” ruled the hearts of Bengalis and Indians alike in the 19th century and up until the first part of 20th century. Melody of romantic songs was the hallmark of the last century whereas in recent times, songs depicting the struggles of human life are at the top of the chart. Bengal has welcomed practice and perfected several Indian dancing styles such as “Bharatnatyam”, “Odissi” and “Kathak”. The “Chhau” dance of Purulia is the tribal mask dance that can still be enjoyed at different times of the year. The fire in the mud- cup dance known as the “Dhunuchi” dance is a traditional dance performed by the Bengali men during the “Durga Puja” festival.
Festivals in West Bengal
Speaking of festivals, Bengal is called the land of thirteen festivals in twelve months. Apart from the “Durga Puja”, the five day mega festival to worship goddess “durga”, Bengalis indulge in several other events and festivals throughout the year starting from “Saraswati Puja” (goddess of knowledge). “Kali Puja”, many Muslim festivals like “Muharram” and “id”, the “Buddha Purnima” to honor Gautam Buddha, “Bhai Phota” (rituals performed by the sisters praying for the long and prosperous lives of their brothers) and ending the year by celebrating the Christmas. So, no matter at what time someone is visiting Bengal, he can definitely get a glimpse of what celebrating a festival in Bengal looks like.
Lifestyle of Bengalis
The Bengali is one of the most humble, grounded and respected races in the world. Respect and honor for the elders are thoroughly inculcated in their lives from the very childhood. Younger people are encouraged and supported to pursue their dreams by their more experienced counterparts in the friendliest manner possible. Apart from performing the daily chores, the Bengalis also love to enjoy the “adda” or friendly gossip whenever they get a chance; these discussions often cross the boundaries of friendly chitt-chatts and turn into passionate intellectual discussions. Different sports are closely followed and practiced by Bengalis and numerous sports clubs can be found in every corner of the state. Most popular sports in Bengal are the cricket, the football and the “kabbadi”. Besides playing, the Bengalis are also fond of regular board games like card, chess and caroms. Bengalis have represented India in many Olympic events and are one of the major talent pools in country when it comes to sports.
Delicacies of West Bengal
Any discussion on the culture of Bengal is incomplete when there is no mentioning of the food of Bengal. The Bengalis love their food with steamed rice, curry, different preparations of fishes and lentils making up the staple food. There are almost 40 types of fishes that adorn Bengali dishes on a regular basis. Chicken and mutton are also preferred by many Bengalis with some mouth watering variations available throughout the state. Bengali sweets are enjoyed throughout the world and one of the most important parts of the whole Bengali culture.