(Last Updated on : 11/01/2010)
West Bengal has always been considered one of the richest treasure houses of Indian culture, with its rich folk and tribal culture. The agricultural, economical, cultural and industrial strength of the state entirely depends on the villages as a majority of the state`s total population lives there. The villages of West Bengal are also famous for their wonderful natural beauty. While some of the villages are located on the lap of mountains, there are a few located on the plain lands. The villages located in the northern part of the state are richer in natural beauty than the other parts and they attract many tourists from all over India, every year.
People following different religious paths reside in the villages of West Bengal. Among them, the Hindus are the principal religious community. Most of the villagers in West Bengal follow Hinduism and worship many gods and goddesses for their well being. The deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Kaali, Durga, Shani Dev, Hanuman, Krishna, Rama, etc. are worshipped in most of the villages. Apart from Hinduism, the other major religions in the villages of West Bengal include Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, etc. The villagers speak in different languages out of which, Bengali is the most widely spoken. Bengali is also the official language of West Bengal. Apart from Bengali, the other languages spoken in the villages of West Bengal include Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, etc. The tribal languages like Santhali, Chakma, Rajbongshi, Ho, etc. are also spoken in some villages.
The villages of West Bengal are home to a huge variety of tribal communities. Most of the tribal communities live in the villages located in northern part of the state and the tribal culture in the villages is quite rich. The villages of West Bengal are home to the indigenous tribal Adivasis like Santhals, Kol, Koch-Rajbongshi, Toto tribe, etc. Apart from these, the other tribal communities include Bhuiya, Ho, Lohara, Mal Pahariya, Oraon, Bhutia, Garo, Magh, Mru, Paharia, Chero, Kharia, Mahli, Munda, etc. The communities of Nepali Sherpas and ethnic Tibetans also reside in the villages bordering Sikkim. The villages in the Darjeeling district are home to a large number of Gurkha people of Nepalese origin.
The educational scenario in the villages of West Bengal is good. Many children in the age group of 6-10 years go to schools regularly. The governmental authorities have established several primary schools in the villages to provide primary education. They have also taken initiatives to encourage the villagers to send their children to the schools. Once the primary and secondary education is complete, the students can pursue higher education in the colleges and universities, most of which are located in the urban areas. West Bengal has one of the highest rural literacy rates in the country. However, the governmental authorities are establishing new educational institutions to further improve the educational status in the villages of West Bengal.
The principal occupation of people in the villages of West Bengal is agriculture. A majority of the state`s rural population depends on agriculture to earn their livelihoods. The villages of West Bengal account for about one tenth of India`s total food grains production. West Bengal is the highest producer of rice in India and also makes huge contributions to the country`s total production of jute and oilseeds. A major portion of India`s total production of potatoes also comes from the villages of West Bengal. The major crops cultivated in the villages of West Bengal throughout the year include rice, wheat, jute, tea, sugarcane, pulses, oilseeds, fruit, forest produce, betel leaf, etc. The villages are also rich in minerals like coal, iron ore, manganese, silica, lime stone, china clay, dolomite, etc.
Apart from agriculture, there are various types of industries that provide employment to the residents of the villages of West Bengal. The major industries include chemicals, coal, cotton textiles, heavy and light engineering, iron and steel, jute, leather and footwear, liquor, locomotive, paper, pharmaceuticals, tea, electronics, electrical equipment, cables, steel, leather, jewellery, frigates, automobiles, etc. Cottage industry is another major source of income for the villagers in West Bengal. The villagers are involved in various handicrafts like pottery, brass and copperware, embroidery, tapestry, handlooms, fine muslin and silk artistry, wood carving, cane works, jute works, etc. The traditional art forms of West Bengal like Terracotta, Dhokra, Sholapith, etc. have earned popularity worldwide. The most popular handicraft products made in the villages of West Bengal include carpets, decorative tapestries, hand bags, pot hangings, bedspreads, clay dolls, horn products, masks and puppets, etc.
The most important feature of society in the villages of West Bengal is its rich cultural diversity. The rich Bengali culture is distinguished by its festivals, music, cinema, drama and literature. The villagers celebrate numerous fairs and festivals throughout the year, most of which are of religious kind. The major festivals celebrated in the villages of West Bengal include Durga Puja, Biswakarma Puja, Buddha Purnima, Naba Barsho, Annakut Utsav, Kojagari Lakhsmi Puja, Poush Parban, Rakhi, Jamai Shasthi, Kartik Puja, Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja, Bhratri Dwitiya, Shivaratri, Snanjatra, Basanti Durga Puja, Bipattarini Brata, Charak Puja, Dol Yatra, Rath Yatra, Jhulanyatra, Kalpataru Utsav, Akshay Tritiya, Sabebarat, etc. Apart from these Hindu festivals, the Muslims celebrate the festivals like Muharrum, Iduzzoha, Id-Ul-Fitr, the birthday of the prophet Hazrat Muhammad, etc. in the villages. The other festivals include Christmas, Buddha Purnima, Mahavir Jayanti, etc.
Drama, theatre, music and dance have always been an integral part of celebration of festivals in the villages of West Bengal. A theatre group can easily be found in many villages of the state and they perform different forms of drama and theatre during the festivals. The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bangla folk music and is practised extensively in the villages. Apart from Baul music, the other folk music forms include Gombhira, Bhatiali, Bhawaiya, etc. The folk music is often accompanied by the musical instruments like ektara, dotara, dhol, flute, tabla, etc. Various folk dance forms are also performed by the people in the villages of West Bengal during the festivals. The most popular theatre and dance forms include Jatra, Brita, Gambhira, Tusu, Santhal, Chhau, Lathi Dance, etc.
The villages of West Bengal are best known for their rich tradition and cultural diversity. The tourists visit the villages mainly to experience this cultural diversity and also to enjoy the natural beauty in the villages. In this way, the villages of West Bengal make a good contribution to the tourism sector of the state.