(Last Updated on : 30/08/2012)
As per the archaeological survey, the region existed and inhabited even in the prehistoric times. The architectural trappings of the Stone Age have been unearthed in several parts of the districts. It has been recorded that, Mahavira and Gautam Buddha had navigated the "Rarh" region (Vajjabhumi & Subbhabhumi) of the district. Therefore it can be ascertained that the civilization of Birbhum dates back to the 5th century B.C.
Birbhum was dominated by different dynasties for centuries. It was once a part of Mauryas and the majestic Guptas. After the extinction of Harshavardhana`s empire, the region was under the Palas till 12th century when the Senas overpowered them. The truly contemporary Pala kings were a great patron of art & culture & initiated the propagation of the Vajrayana cult of Buddhism. Chinese traveler Wang Chung alludes to some of the monasteries he visited in the 7th century. But Buddhism ceased to exist when the Senas rose in ascendancy. As they were the staunch Hindus, only ensured the supremacy of Hinduism.
The 13th century witnessed the Muslim uprising in the region & they wiped out all the institutions of the preceding civilization. Minhaj-us Siraj, in his Tabaqat-i-Nasiri mentioned about Lakhnur (a part of Birbhum), as the "thanah" (or headquarter) of the Muslims & an important frontier post.
Mythologically the forests of Bajrabhumi (west Birbhum) were the hot spots of the "tantric" activities of the Hindus. The impenetrable, isolated jungles were the ideal place for the sacred Hindu rituals. There was some hermitage in the interior, where the sages performed "tantra sadhana" or "Shakti" Worship. Several temples or "Shakti Peethas" were established by the tantrics (performer of the Shakti rituals) for performing the act of tantra sadhana. Tarapith, Bakreswar, Nalhati, Labhpur, which are now the famous tourist spot once were the notable Shakti peethas. Prior to 1856, Baidyanath Dham (Deogarh) was within the territory of Birbhum.
During the reign of the British East India Company, any administrative unit with the name "Birbhum" hardly existed. Till 1787 it was ruled as a part of the Murshidabad administrative unit. The name Birbhum came to be recognized as an administrative unit only after the Santhal rebellion of 1855-56, which was overwhelmed with the martyrdom of Sidhu & Kanu.
Economy of Birbhum:
Birbhum, studded with bushy shrubs offers an undulating landscape. The region is a dual blend of rolling plateau made up of laterite and Gangetic alluvial plains, which is highly conducive for cultivation. Hence the economy of the district is mainly agriculture based and about 3,329.05 km² of land is cultivated. The dry weather of Birbhum is highly adverse to the agriculture(as excepting the monsoon, the dry weather prevails mainly), therefore the irrigation projects( Mayurakshi River Project and Hinglow River Project) have been undertaken to induce the agricultural development,which is the backbone of the rural economy.
As most of the land is dry and the rivers are only rainfed, the agriculture is supported neither by rain nor by rivers. Hence irrigation is the only way out of this problem. Land with irrigation facilities in 2001-02 was 2,763.9 km². There are five barrages providing the irrigation facilities.
Rice is the major crop, and occupies about of the gross area, is produced in the eastern alluvial plains which are suitable for retaining waters. Apart from Rice, legumen, wheat, corn etc are also produced.
In recent times, the government has opened up a number of avenues for the expansion of horticulture (e.g.- vegetables, fruits, and flowers, spices, medicinal & aromatic plants), thereby making it an important source of the district`s gross income.
As the district is not a rich storehouse of mineral, the industries, which have been developed here, are all agriculture or forest based. The major industries include cotton & silk harvesting & weaving, rice & oilseed milling, lac harvesting, metal ware & pottery manufacture. Other agriculture-based industries are textiles, industries, art & crafts. Sriniketan is a famous dairy & forestry center.
Birbhum is the heart of cottage industries in Bengal. "Amar Kutir", a nonprofit rural organization is a brand name in the vicinity of cottage industries. However a major part of cottage industry include textile -especially cotton & locally harvested tussar silk, jute works, batik, kantha stitch, macrame (weaving by knotting threads), leather, pottery and terracotta, solapith, woodcarving, bamboo and cane craft, metal works and various tribal crafts.
Some low grade minerals, like coal, iron ore of inferior quality and granite are mined in the western section. Mohammed Bazar block contain china clay & laterite mines. There are laterite & china clay industries in Panchami villge which contribute to the district`s economy to some extent. Bakreswar thermal Power station is the only heavy industry of the region which accounts for the power supply of the local region and also the neighboring parts.
Tourism in Birbhum:-
"The land of the red soil", Birbhum is also quoted as "a land of brave"(land- "bhumi"; brave-"bhumi") because the land was dominated by several brave kings since its advent . Remnants of those civilization once colonized in the region, adds profound historical importance to the immense worth of the land.The district is mainly famous as a heritage place.Bolpur- Shantiniketan, Nannor, Joydev-Kenduli, Amar Kutir etc. are the principal sites of attraction here.
As per the literacy rate of 2001 census, the literacy percentage of Birbhum is 62.16%. but the standard of education is not of first rate. However the growth of literacy in the last decade of 20th century is emphasized through the eradication of the illiteracy. A new venture has been adopted by the government to fulfill the national objective of sending all children between 6-14 years to school by 2010. There are a bunch of primary and high schools with Madrashas throughout the district. Recently the district is making progress in the field of vocational training. 2 Engineering colleges, 1 polytechnic and 1 industrial training institute(ITI) have recently been developed. There are 127 libraries aided by the government and 1 private & 1 district library.
Birbhum was inhabited by a number of people belonging from different civilization, which makes the land as the blend of both indigenous & alien culture. The diverse culture of Birbhum from the prehistoric times inspires the poet and its rural society was the focus for the poets of Vaishnav & Shakta Padavali. However it was the Folk Culture, which gets prominence in the post-independence period.
The folk culture or rather the native culture of Birbhum was specially augmented by the contribution of the bauls, their philosophy & their music. The concept of Baulism emerged as a religiously liberal philosophy & lifestyle which conforms to the ideals of Sahajyan movement, a refined form of Vajrayan movement, also supplemented by the influence of Vaishnavism & Sufism.The bauls who earn their living by singing & collecting alms, accommodate people from all castes & creed. "Baulism"is the true replica of the mixed culture of the land and the truly modern bauls upheld a broader yet liberal perspective of life & culture. Tagore was immensely influenced by the bauls and some of his works are endowed with the "baulian" philosophy. Birbhum is the hub of Bengal`s folk culture.
In addition of being a confluence of Vaishnav, Shakta & Shaiva culture, Birbhum villages also observes the worship of "gramadevata" or the god of village popularly known as the "Dharma Thakur", symbolized by a stone& mainly the tribals like bagdi, dome, hari, bauri worship "Dharma Thakur."The folks of Birbhum are the clear representation of the spirit of rural Bengal.
As per the demographic survey, Birbhum witnessed a gradual increase of population. From 1901 to 1981, there was an average increase of 75%. According to the 2001 demographic statistics, total population again raise upto 3,015,422.As Birbhum is agriculturally very prosperous and has rural economy, people from various places, whose occupation is mainly agriculture come to settle down here & perhaps this is the principal reason behind the continuous growth of population.
According to the recently available records, the percentage of Muslims in the district has been growing in comparison to the Hindus. In 1981, the Muslim community only comprises the 30.98% of the society and till 2001 about 35% of the population of the district was Muslim. A proportional decrease of the Hindus in the rural area is complemented by the relative growth of the Hindu community in the urbanized area. There are also other religious groups comprising the population. As per the 2001 census, 29.51 % of population comprise the Scheduled Castes & about 6.74 of population belongs to the Scheduled Tribes.
In spite of being an important tourist center and a prosperous economy based on agriculture, the standard of living in the district in comparison to the other parts of Bengal is substantially very low. Recently Government has adopted measures and insisted on the educational & economic developments of the district.
So far the Bakreswar Thermal power Station has been established an ample investigation has been made which indicates to the extensive storage of geo-thermal resources here, which extended to the area of about 35 km. Government is about to set up a Mineral Water Plant, Refrigeration Unit, Green House Cultivation GSI & SWID by utilizing the hot water reserve here. Ceramic & other allied industries are under construction by exploiting the enormous deposit of quartz & feldspar.
Hydrological survey in the district has reported that the suitable exploitation of the groundwater structure & the optimum use of that will preserve the groundwater at the desired level, thereby supplement the irrigation process of the district.
Government also aided the primary & high schools over here and at the same time the establishment of the Birbhum Institute of Engineering & Technology, a renowned Institute of vocational training has added a feather to the cap of the district`s heritage. However Birbhum is recently acknowledged as a magnificent seat of the academics.
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