National Tourism Awardee - Tour Operator & Travel Agent
| |
West Bengal

West Bengal

Price On Request

West Bengal the gateway to the exotic east - is a land of sheer passion and poetry,natural beauty and strong people, marked by a humaneness, evident in every facet of their life.

West Bengal covers the bottleneck of India in the east, stretching from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south. Countries that share international boundaries with West Bengal include Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal while Sikkim, Assam, Orissa and Bihar frame its domestic borders.  The alluvial plain in the south is watered by the legendary River Hooghly and its tributaries.  The Himalayan north, comprising the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Bihar are watered by the swift flowing rivers Tista, Torsa, Jaldhaka and Ranjit.

Variations in altitude result in great variety in the nature and climate of West Bengal. From the northern highlands at the feet of the Himalayas to the tropical forests of Sunderbans, West  Bengal is a land of myriad beauty, each region different from the other. Bengal has a long history, that dates back before the Aryan invasion of India.  Known as 'Gauda' or 'Vanga' in ancient Sanskrit literature, Bengal had a well - settled civilisation and culture, at the time of the Aryan penetration. An integral part of successive empires of the Mauryas and Guptas, Bengal also had its own dynasty of independent rulers, the Palas, who extended the existing boundaries considerably West Bengal is a land of natural beauty, exquisite lyrical poetry and enthusiastic people. Situated in the east of India, West Bengal is stretches from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the South. This state shares international boundaries with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. Hence it is a strategically important place. The state is interlocked by the other states like Sikkim, Assam, Orissa and Bihar. Hooghly and its tributaries - Mayurakshi, Damodar, Kangsabati and the Rupnarayan, enrich the soils of Bengal. The northern districts of Bengal like Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Bihar (in the Himalayas ranges) are watered by the rivers Tista, Torsa, Jaldhaka and Ranjit. From the northern places (feet of Himalayas) to the tropical forests of Sunderbans, West Bengal is a land of incessant beauty. 

West Bengal, like many other places in the world, is a place of contrasts- a curious blend of the old and the new, partly feudal, partly born out of growing urbanization, partly undefinable. Fish, crowds, politics, potholes, monuments, art and cinema, cricket and soccer- all are indispensable parts of Bengal. The state is, in its physical form, a complete representation of the Indian subcontinent. Darjeeling, its north end, touches the magnificent Himalayas and the Dooars in the foothills are rich in forest. The indomitable river Ganga flows across the State's rich alluvial plains to reach the Bay of Bengal in the south, through vast swamps known as Sunderbans. The districts in the west are semi-arid and sport loamy soil. Bengal does have a many splendoured countenance, but it is up to you to explore and discover it. 

Durga Puja ,coinciding with Dussehra in other parts of the country, rouses the state to a feverish pitch, with its preparations that touch the life of every Bengali. Kali Puja, festival of lights (Diwali), Dol Jatra (Holi), Ganga Sagar Mela at Sagar (January /February), the Muslim festivals of Id and Ramzan, Baisakhi - Bengal's New Year's day, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary, Christmas and New Year are marked by typical abandon and devotion.

 

Calcutta, three hundred years old, traces its history to the landing of Robert Clive on the banks of the Hooghly beside three villages. It was from here the monumental British Raj was launched in India. The capital of West Bengal, Calcutta is the major entry point. Calcutta was the first headquarters of the East India Company, and some of its best known monuments were built by this British trading house. However, the city has, within its 300 years’ history, hosted other communities both from other parts of India as well as abroad - Chinese, Armenians, Jews - all of whom have left their imprint in pockets of Calcutta.

Festivals in West Bengal

Gangasagar Mela (District South 24 Parganas) : The largest fair of the State, Gangasagar Mela is a three-day event held in mid-January, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Dwip. Lakhs of pilgrims come for a holy dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal.

Kenduli Mela (District Birbhum) : on the occasion of Makar Sankranti (mid-January) another fair is held at Kenduli in the district of Birbhum. The Mela draws the largest number of Bauls, the wandering minstrels of Bengal.

Jalpesh Mela (District Jalpaiguri) : On the occasion of Sivaratri (February – March), a month-long fair is held at Jalpesh near Mainaguri in the district of Jalpaiguri. The fair centres round the age-old Siva temple dedicated to Lord Jalpeswara.

Vasanta Utsav (District Birbhum) : With the onset of spring, Holi is celebrated all throughout India. At Santiniketan in the district of Birbhum, it is Vasanta Utsav (March). Students of the Visva Bharati University welcome the season of colours through songs and dances, throwing abir and spraying liquid dyes at each other.

Naba Barsho (Throughout West Bengal) : The Bengali year starts from the first Baisakh (mid-April). It is an occasion for celebration to the Bengalees in general and tradesmen in particular. New clothes, fresh flowers, offerings at temples, people visiting decorated shops mark the day.

Rathayatra (District Hooghly) : Rathayatra (June-July) at Mahesh near Serampore is a week-long festival. People throng to have a share in pulling the long ropes attached to the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra on the journey from the temple and back.

Jhapan (District Bankura) : All over the Western part of the state, a festival is held in the honour of the serpent-deity Manasa on the last day of the Bengali month Sravana (mid-August). But the most spectacular is the one held at Vishnupur in the district of Bankura, with its shows of live snakes on open platforms.

Bera Utsav (District Murshidabad) : Every year on the last Thursday of the Bengali month of Bhadra mid-September), Bera Utsav is held at Lalbagh on the river Bhagirathi near the palace of the Nawabs. Fireworks of various size and colour add to the gaiety of the festival.

Durga Puja & Deepavali (Throughout West Bengal) : The largest Bengali festival is Durga Puja, held in the Bengali month of Aswin (October). Images of the ten-armed goddess are worshipped in ancient houses and at pandals, erected specially for the Puja. After the four-day ceremony, the images are immersed in the river. Durgapuja is the most important festival in the city of Kolkata. The festival that follows is Deepavali, the festival of lights,. The worship of goddess Kali is marked by display of fireworks and crackers.

Rash Mela (District Cooch Behar) : On the occasion of Rashyatra (November), a fair is held at Cooch Behar in North Bengal. The month-long fair is one of the most important fairs in the area.

Jagaddhatri Puja (District Hooghly) : Goddess Jagaddhatri is worshipped in the Bengali month of Kartick (November). At Chandannagar near Kolkata images of the goddess are tall, pandals spectacular and the illumination unique. In fact, the illumination part is the most attractive feature here.

Teesta Tea & Tourism Festival (Inter-State) : Held in a series at Darjeeling, the Dooars and in Sikkim, the Teesta Tea & Tourism Festival is celebrated with a view to promote tourism in this region as a composite tourist destination, with its bounties in tea, timber and tourism. The festival is held every year in November – December.

Poush Mela (District Birbhum) : Between the 7th and 9th of Poush (end-December). Poush Mela is held at Santiniketan in the district of Birbhum. Of the many seasonal festivals celebrated at Santiniketan, this is perhaps the most important, with cultural programmes consisting of folk music & dance, folk theatre and Baul songs.

Vishnupur Festival (District Bankura) : In the temple town of Vishnupur a festival is organised every year between 27 and 31 December. Characterised by exhibition and sale of local handicrafts and performance of the rich musical tradition that Vishnupur boasts, this is an immensely popular festival.

Id (Throughout West Bengal) : Id is the largest festival to the Muslims of West Bengal. Id-ul-Fitr comes after the lapse of the Ramjan month and marks a happy communion after a month of prayer and fasting. Seventy days after Id-ul-Fitr, comes another festive occasion – Id-uj-Joha. It is celebrated throughout the state, but with great grandeur in Kolkata. A very large congregation of Muslims as well as non-Muslims is held at the Kolkata Maidan.

Dover Lane Music Conference : The largest Indian Classical musical event in Kolkata, the Dover Lane Music Conference has been taking place for the last 25 years. The festival is presented at Nazrul Mancha every year between January 22 and 26.

Kolkata Book Fair : Held every year from the end of January till early February, this 12-day long Book Fair is held over a large chunk of the Maidan near the crossing of Chowringhee and Park Street.

Iskcon Rathayatra : Rathayatra is celebrated all over the State, but the one on a grand scale in Kolkata is organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Three Chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra are taken out of their temple on Albert Road to the strip of Maidan bordering the Victoria Memorial. After seven days, these are taken back again to the temple.

Kolkata Film Festival : Every November between 10 and 17, the Kolkata Film Festival is a gala event, showing films in various theaters,holding seminars, exhibitions and book bazars, attracting large crowds of film-lovers. The hub of all activities is Nandan.

National Theatre Festival : Keeping true to its tradition of theatre, Kolkata has an annual theatre festival between 16 and 25 December, organised by Nandikar theatre group. Held usually at the Academy of Fine Arts, it is a unique fare of theatre happenings in the country as well as in the neighbouring countries

Jatra Festival : A form of entertainment, exclusive in Bengal, is Jatra. A month-long festival of Jatra shows is held at Rabindra Kanan, Chitpur during December-January. Various Tourism fairs organised by W.B.Tourism eg. West Bengal Tourism fair at Nalban and West Bengal Tourism Exhibition in various districts. Apart from these other tourism fairs like TTF/TTE/Industrial trade fair.

Arts & Crafts of West Bengal

The immortal inheritance of Indian Culture has moulded its artists of the people, joyful exciting, intricate in imagination intuitively creating, but each with its individuality of his own. This is the expression that found incarnation in the traditional masters of arts and artifacts of West Bengal. Here cheek by jowl are stacked the wonderful worlds of our weavers, potters, metal-wrights, shell-artists, carvers in wood, bone or stone. And these amazing variety of creation, the aesthetic, varied, living pulsating life are expressed in vibrant collections of colour, hue, tone, shape and size.

Artistic Leather Craft 
A fine example of contemporary art and craft, the Bengal leather crafts owe their widespread popularity and development due to some innovative work done by gifted artists at Santiniketan.

Brass & Bell Metal
A many-splendoured craft of West Bengal. Handed down to generations of metalworkers. From domestic utensils for everyday use to vessels for observance of rituals, the emphasis is always on strength of form. Copper, one of the earliest known metals was transformed into alloys like bronze, brass and bell metal by Indian metallurgists of Harappan times.  Archaeological evidence indicates that Bengal’s metallurgists too were practicing the art and science of metal workings as early as 2nd millennium B.C. Artisans of Bankura, Bishnupur, Ghatal and Chandanpur in Midnapore, have a superb lineage of shaped and engraved brass and bell metal work. 

Cane & Bamboo
From the depths of time and the earliest chapters of civilization, comes a craft that endures. Bengal’s very own tradition in creating everyday and fancy articles from bamboo and cane, is rich and varied. More than 35,000 artisans practise this craft in different districts of rural Bengal.

Ceramic
This is a radition built up in contemporary times-several centuries of interaction with foreign craftsmen and a legacy left us by many years of British rule. The craft, however, is today flourishing in and around Calcutta and in some places in Birbhum district. New ceramic technologies have joined hands with a heritage of handicrafts to produce a range of fine, glazed ceramic products for decoration, dolly, toys, wall-hangings, household pottery and industrial application.

 

Clay Dolls
Clay fantasies of real-life stylized, sometimes even graphic in their representations, mark traditional Indian clay dolls and toys. But the dolls and figurines of Krishnanagar in Bengal, are unique in their realism and the quality of their finish. Patronized by Maharaja Krishnachandra himself in the late 18th century, they truly represent a breakaway from the traditional form.

Dokra
Nomadic tribes who roam the earth restlessly - what permanence do they leave us with, as a mark of their passage ? The Dokra or Dhokra group of tribal craftsmen who range through the landscapes of Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh – give us a timeless heritage of beautifully shaped and ornamented products of cast metals. The Bikna group of Dokra artisans of Bankura and the Dariapur group of Burdwan, were rehabilitated in the sixties. There are similar concentrations at Kharagpur in Midnapore and Malda. 

Horn Work
The early pages of Indian civilization are full of descriptions of ‘horn combs’ which adorned the tresses of women in ancient times. In shining black and translucent shades of greys, Bengal horn work is still a fascinating craft.

 

Jute Products
Jute, the ‘golden fibre’ has traditionally been woven and knotted and braided by women of Bengal, often for domestic storage. Jute as a fabric was much popular in ancient times. Today Bengal is not only a major producer of jute goods ranging from pllush jute-blended carpets, to decorative tapestries, garden pot hangings, decorative hand bags, bedspreads and more. In 50 villages of the Kaliaganj area in West Dinajpur, the process of colouring, weaving of jute on single looms goes on, as the world outside turns once again to this wonderful natural fibre.

 

Masks & Puppets
Once upon a time, priests masqueraded as gods, demons or spirits. Sorcerers and wizards wove their spells. Today they are more popular as items of interior decoration. In Bengal, masks used by the Chhou dancers of Purulia and those who perform the Gambhira dances of Malda, actually represent the theatrical tradition. While the masks used in Devil Dances and other socio-religious festivals of Darjeeling and Tibet, are colourful relics of priesthood.

 

Papier Mache
Papier mache is not a craft traditional to this state. The Santiniketan school of artists did some pioneering work in introducing this craft in West Bengal. Today quite a number of craftsmen in and around Calcutta have taken up the craft and their products mainly dolls and masks, have found a market for their beauty in designs and excellence in craftsmanship.

 

Sandalwood Carving
Once upon a time, elephant tusks were carved into great and tiny delicate pieces of art by master craftsmen of Khagra and Jiaganj in Murshidabad district. But then the elephant population stood threatened, ecological disaster became imminent and so a ban came upon ivory. But that did not stop the wizardry of the craftsmen. Their deft fingers found the aromatic, oily sandalwood as an ideal substitute. And so those legendary ivory creations grew in sandalwood.

Artistic Weaving Printing & Painting
Silks of Bengal were much acclaimed the world over, since ancient times. The most well-known Bengal Silk saree, which carry its legendary name, is the Baluchari saree - a product of exquisite design, and fabulous weaving technique. A revival in recent times of both the Baluchari and yet another outstanding, traditional Bengal Saree, the Daccai, has led to nationwide and worldwide popularity and renewal of interest in Bengal silks. 

Like silk, cotton sarees are also woven in a fascinating and exquisite range. The Daccai ‘Jamdani’ is a fabric on which the designs are raised in inimitable style. The ‘Batik’ prints originating from Javanese wax-designing, revived in Santiniketan. Floral forms circular ‘kalka’ shapes, pyramidal and variations of geometric designs are typical. Handloom still remains the great employer in rural Bengal. Today hand-painted scrolls also silk-screened and printed are quite popular as wall hangings etc. 

Shantipur in Nadia; Begumpur, Rajbalhat and Dhanekhali in Hooghly; Kenjekura in Bankura; Fulia, Guptipara and Samudragarh in Nadia and Burdwan - are the homes of these legendary weavers.

Needlework & Embroidery
Delicate silver needles, flashing fingers, moving dexterously on cloth - it’s a bewitching world. The ‘Kantha’ of Bengal, somewhat in the class of the English quilt, is an all-purpose wrap, superbly stitched together from pieces of garment: for use as bedspreads (Sujni Kantha), mirror-wraps (Arsilata) and the like. Multiform designs fill every segment, pocket and compartment. They run along the borders, illuminating the edges. Except for the straight kantha stitch, it is customary to represent illustrations from well-known epics such as the Ramayana or Krishnalila, and also legends evolving from folk-rituals of Bengal (Vratas). The results are products of art-consciousness and creative aptitude in symbolic communication. Figures or complexly stitched and bespectacled with colour, the lotus as the central point in the kantha from which the design spreads - all are redolent with meaning. Most importantly, the ‘kantha’ is a creation of the essential female - the mother, the wife, the sister and the loved one. It is her eye, her emotions, her skill that gives us this exotic example of needlework and embroidery rolled into one.

Music & Dance

Dancers at the Bengali festival

In ancient Bengal, dancing was popular entertainment. Courtesans and temple girls (devadasis) were required to be proficient in the art of dance prescribed by Bharata in his 'Natysastra'. Popular forms of dancing were rendered at mundane celebrations and on other occasions by low-caste tribes Nats and Domnis (women of the Dom caste) who practiced dancing and singing as hereditary professions. In the Middle ages, probably the institution of temple girls become obsolescent and class dancing was limited to courtesans. As a result dancing came to be looked down up on in respectable society.

Rabindranath Tagore has the credit of rehabilitating dancing as a fine art  to be learnt by young as a part of their education. In his school at Santiniketan and later in his university Viswabharati, he provided ample facilities for training in these acquirements. He had profound admiration for the rich treasure of the classical dances of India but he thought these required too rigid a discipline and too elaborate a training to be feasible for the general public. He therefore introduced a simple course of instruction in dancing to his songs of the seasons. By 1926 this developed into a flexible system compounding elements of Bharatnatyam, Manipuri, Kathak, Kathakali and folk styles. This creative system was very well received by the Bengali public and has since grown into a major cultural activity. A large number of institutions teaching the elements of classical dances and presenting ballet compositions have come into existence in Calcutta and the towns. Evolution of an Indian ballet tradition has been the quest of institution presided over by Udayashankar, who  well versed in European ballet made his debut in this field in 1929 and has made Calcutta his headquarters since over a decades ago. During the last twenty five years the new dance movement has made considerable progress not only in West Bengal but also other parts of India and Bangladesh.The Santals inhabiting the plateau Fringe have their own system of group dancing to the accompaniment of song, the flute and Madal (a minor drum) to express their joy of life. It is full-blooded and exuberant but notably free from vulgarity or obscenity.

Music is a passion with the Bengalis who express their feelings, emotions and spiritual experience in songs. The open spaces, the winding rivers and the beautiful villages have from the long past  have inspired rural bards to compose and sing songs of their joys and sorrows to the tune of the bamboo flute and the ektara (one-stringed lyre) or the dotara (two stringed lyre) and the dhal and khol (percussion instruments). Some raga forms native to Bengal were admitted into the corpus of North Indian or Hindustani music. Elements of the Karnatic school of music are also found in these songs. There are different styles in classical ragas.

Hill Stations in West Bengal

Ajodhya

The 600-m. high Ajodhya Hills form a part of the Dolma Hill Range on the Bihar-Puruliya border. The green hills are shrouded in stillness. Pine, shimul, saal, shirish and segun trees fill the landscape, which changes colour with the seasons. The area is full of small and big peaks, the highest being Gorga-buru, 855 m. in height. 

Elephants, deer, wild boars, wolves and cheetahs inhabit the 34,517-acre mountain forests. The animals can be spotted in a tour of the jungles. The Mayuri Hill peak offers a lovely view of the surrounding hills and forests.

 

According to legend, Ram Chandra visited the Ajodhya Hills with his wife, Sita, during their banishment. This was where a very thirsty Sita drank water, when Ram created a fountain by piercing the ground with his arrow. On Disum Sendra, or the Hunting Festival, tribals from far and near, come and drink water from the Sita Kund, the legendary fountain. Only then do they go out on their hunting expeditions.

Shushunia

The Shushunia Hill, rising abruptly from the neighbouring plains, is older than the Himalayas. At a height of 440 m., it is an important peak in the district of Bankura. The green Hill, full of shaal, shegun and arjun trees, is dotted with red palash leaves during springtime. The peak, full of big and small rocks, is popularly known as Poppins Peak. The Gandheswari River flows by the Hill.Every year in November, the Hill becomes a centre for rock-climbing courses. After the Darjeeling hills, Shushunia is the most popular centre for rock-climbing in West Bengal. Seven kilometres south of Shushunia is Chhatna, known for the Vishalaxmi Debi Mandir. Local handicrafts made of stone are popular souvenirs of Shushunia. Buses go to Shushunia from Kharagpur, Bishnupur and Bankura town. Tourists can avail of the morning bus to Shushunia, make a tour of the surroundings and return by afternoon.

Darjeeling

The hill station of Darjeeling is situated on the foothills of the Himalayas, at an altitude of 2,134 m. It stands on a long, narrow mountain ridge of the Sikkim Himalayas. It has Sikkim in the north and Bangladesh in the south, while Bhutan and Nepal flank it on the east and west, respectively. A small town spread over 11.4 sq. km., Darjeeling grew into a full fledged hill resort under British patronage, after two Englishmen, Lloyd and Grant, came here in 1828 and fell in love with it. The name Darjeeling originates from the Tibetan dorje ling, which means Place of the Thunderbolt. According to legend, the hill was struck by a thunderbolt. It was named by a lama who founded a monastery at what is today known as the Observatory Hill. Darjeeling is nature at her beautiful best. There are lively springs sparkling down the mountain walls. Monkeys, wildcats, leopards and jackals form the animal fraternity. Forests of fir, pine and birch, orchids, about 4,000 varieties of flowering plants and 300 types of ferns, including the rare tree fern, make up the vegetation of Darjeeling. If Darjeeling is famous for its quaint charm, it is no less known for its exquisite quality of tea, on which the local economy is primarily based. In fact, about 25 % of India's total tea is produced in the 86 tea gardens in and around Darjeeling. 

Kalimpong

Cradled between the Deolo and Durpin Dara Hills, Kalimpong is an ideal health resort. It's height is about 1250 - 1600 m. for the town area, while the countryside averages 1600 m. Rachela, at 3,152 m. is the highest spot. Kalimpong's area of 9 sq. km. houses a population of around 40,000, comprising Nepalese, Bhutias and Lepchas. Kalimpong is famous for its tradition of simple and sincere hospitality. 

Kurseong

Nestled in the lush greenery of pine, fir and birch forests, at an altitude of 1,458 m., the picturesque tourist resort of Kurseong is a place of unforgettable charm. 32 km. away from Darjeeling, it is also the place where buses and taxis usually stop on their way between Siliguri and Darjeeling. Famous for its natural bounty of orchids, Kurseong is endearingly called Land of the White Orchid. 

There are several churches and many good schools in Kurseong, of which the Dow Hill Forest School has a beautiful campus. The Forest Museum, the Deer Park, the mini amusement park and the water reservoir - all set amid moss-laden conifers - are worth a visit. The Eagle's Crag is a popular landmark. 

A one kilometre ascent takes one to the top of Dow Hill where a well-developed tourist complex is situated. Standing here on a clear day, one can have a sweeping view of the plains in striking contrast to the hills around. All around are the ubiquitous tea plantations. The Castleton Tea Estate, which produces the world's most expensive tea, is nearby.

  Singalila trek

Phalut

Phalut in Tibetan means Peeled Summit or Denuded Peak, which describes it perfectly. Situated 23 km. away from Sandakphu, Phalut stands on the Darjeeling-Sikkim-Nepal border. The Phalut Ridge is part of almost all the trekking routes in the Sikkim-Darjeeling region, and the culminating point of a number of shorter treks. 

The Phalut peak is a universal favourite of trekkers. At an altitude of 3,600 m., it is a vantage point to experience the awesome beauty of the Himalayas. On clear days, one can have a great view of the Kanchenjungha range. The Everest however, remains hidden by peak No. XIII, a mountain shaped like an enormous armchair of snow. 

Sandakphu

The name Sandakphu means the Height of the Poison Plant, a direct reference to the profusion of the poisonous aconite plants that grow near the peak. The loftiest peak of the Singalila Range, Sandakphu is the culminating point of most of the trekking routes in the Darjeeling-Sikkim region. At an altitude of 3,638 m., it is located at a distance of 58 km. from Darjeeling. 

The best time to visit Sandakphu is in April-May, the flower season, and again around November, when the weather is pleasant and the skies remain unclouded.

 

Sandakphu epitomises the wild elemental grandeur of the snows. Nature here is at her pristine best, and the vista at the top is worth all the hardship endured on the way. Aptly called the Paradise of Trekkers, the Sandakphu peak is a vantage point from where one can see four of the world's five highest peaks - Everest, Kanchenjungha, Makalu and Lhotse in a continuous snow-clad arc. 

Sandakphu is resplendent with the ethereal beauty of magnolias, rhododendrons, primulas and other sub-alpine flowers. It also contains more than 600 varieties of orchids, the largest to be found in a single geographical area in the world. 

West Bengal Beaches

Breathtaking Beaches premise the perfect escape to tranquility !!! The coastal strip of West Bengal, extending from the Gangetic delta land to the border of Orissa, presents some beautiful options in sea resorts - Digha, Shankarpur, Junput, Bakkhali, Sagardwip. All of these offer wide, flat, hard beaches, a gently rolling sea, rows of casuarina forests and a pleasant, warm weather round the year.

Down south from Calcutta, the coastal areas of West Bengal present eye-catching beautiful options: - Digha - Shankarpur - Junput - Bakkhali - Frazergunj and Sagardwip.

Digha 
The Southern West Bengal is endowed with the most famous beach on the eastern coast of India – Digha. The beach town of Digha is famous all over for flat, hard beaches. The beauty of this place was discovered as early as the days of Warren Hastings. Digha was known as Beercool at that time. Digha beach is girdled with casuarina plantations along the coast. The sea is calm and shallow for about a mile from the beach making it quite safe for swimming.

Shankarpur 
Shankarpur, a virgin beach as yet, is a recent discovery. It is a twin beach of Digha, around 10 km. from it. It offers nearly all the pleasures of a private beach. This beach too is cupped with casuarina plantations. Shankarpur is only 14 km. east of Digha, along the Digha-Contai Road. It is also a regular fishing harbour. Shankarpur is now developed as a sea resort with hotels, tourist lodges and other facilities.

Frazerganj 
The white sand beach, is entirely different from the other beaches. It is pristine pure and holds the charms of a beach unspoilt. It can be accessed from Calcutta, and is a three hours drive on very good roads. The destination is also all too famous for the migratory birds that can be sighted over there.

Sagardwip 
A lovely destination combining pilgrimage and fun, situated on an island in the Sunderban, holds the charms of a completely unspoilt beach on the estuary of the mighty Ganga. Sagardwip presents a quiet, silvery expanse of beach and the calm sea provides the perfect setting for a quiet weekend.

From Diamond Harbour one has to travel to Kakdwip (30 km. past Diamond Harbour), then to Herwood Point (Lot No. 8), cross the ferry to the other side of the river Muriganga. The other side is Kachuberia. From Kachuberia, a journey by bus, minibus or trekker to Sagar Island. West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation runs direct buses between Esplanade and Lot No. 8 and ferry vessels across the river.

On Makar Sankranti day in winter (mid-January), pilgrims from all over India congregate at Sagardwip to take a holy dip at the confluence of the river Ganga and the Bay of Bengal. After the holy dip, they offer ‘Puja’ at the nearby ashram associated with the legendary sage Kapil Muni. This has been a famous pilgrim centre from the ancient times. Gangasagar Mela, held on the occasion of Makar Sankranti is the largest fair in West Bengal.

 

The lighthouse at Sagardwip provides a panoramic view of the surroundings.

Bakkhali
It is so near Calcutta and yet so very different from the bustling metropolis that is Calcutta. Bakkhali is only 132 km from Calcutta. From Calcutta to Namkhana by bus (105 km.), then a short diversion by the ferry across the Hatania Doania river, and then another hour and a half bus journey to Bakkhali. En rout, there is Diamond Harbour (48 km from Calcutta) where there is a comfortable Tourist Lodge for accommodation.

 

At Bakkhali, the beach is long and sandy, the waves twinkling in the sunlight. Dense casuarina groves drape the beach. Red fiddler crabs march in line on the beach.

 

Junput 
Junput is 40 km. from Digha by bus, with a change at Contai. The place offers beautiful sea-view and lines of casuarina trees. The beach is unspoilt. Brackish water fish cultivation and research are done here by the State Government Fisheries Department.

Wildlife in West Bengal

Owns the land ruled by 269 Royals. West Bengal’s wild life offers a fascinating diversity of terrain, flora and fauna. It is a delight for nature lovers. It is the home to the World Heritage Site - Sunderbans.

Sunderbans : Sunderbans, the place that owes its name to Sundari trees, consist of a large flora population like Genwa, Dhundal, Passur, Garjan and Kankra. Apart from these trees, impenetrable Goran trees between 1.8 mtr. & 3.6 mtr. high covers almost the entire region. One of the most remarkable feature of this place is the bayonet like roots of mangrove forests that stick out above the water level.

When in West Bengal for a holiday vacation, you just cannot miss the thrill of duping the Royal Bengal Tiger on the land while saving your soul from the vicious crocodiles in water at Sundarbans. The largest riverine estuary in the world, a protected wildlife reserve part of Project Tiger and a World Heritage Site under UNESCO, Sunderbans promises every tourist an eventful holiday experience. A site where you can have the pleasure of exploring distinctive flora and fauna. Nature apart, if you want to feel the essence of spirituality then this is the place to be. A place of Ma Bonobibi (the goddess of the forest) to Shiber Kumir (Lord Shiva's Crocodile) or from Dakshinaroy (an ogre, the ancestor of all tigers) to Kapil Muni (an incarnation of Vishnu), Sunderbans pulsates with many interesting yet frightening legends and myths of rural Bengal. 

Dooars : The forested areas of Northern West Bengal present a plethora of Wildlife.Imagine a stretch of land 130 km. long by 48 km. wide where nature has lavished all her bounties. And you know it’s Dooars. Here, an unending stretch of virgin forests is crisscrossed by the river Teesta and her innumerable tributaries. 

Jaldapara : Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary situated in Alipurduar Sub-Division of Jalpaiguri District in West Bengal is about 124 km from Siliguri. This sanctuary was constituted in the year 1941 for the protection of Wild Life, particularly one-horned rhinos, an animal threatened with extinction.