West Bengal Travel Guide

Bengal has rich cultural heritage and a glorious past dates back to 3rd century BC. The region has been ruled by Mauryas, Guptas, Palas, the Muslims and finally the British. Bengal is the birth place of many great personalities, philosophers, scientists, patriots, and home to five Nobel laureates – Ronald Ross, Sir C.V. Raman, Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen. During British imperialism, this region was divided into two provinces of West Bengal and East Bengal followed the policy of “divide and rule” to curb the rising of national movement in India. Present Bangladesh is the region of East Bengal and West Bengal is one of the 28th states of Indian Union.

GEOGRAPHY

West Bengal is bordered by Nepal and Bangladesh and the states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, Assam, and Meghalaya in different directions. From north to south, it stretches from Himalayan Mountain to the Gangetic plain and the Bay of Bengal. The land is mostly plain except the northern region, which comes under the Himalayan mountain range. On the basis of landforms, the state can be divided into the following regions: Darjeeling Himalayan hill region, Terai region, North Bengal plains, Rarh region, Coastal plain, Sunderbans, Western plateau and high lands and Ganges delta.

CULTURE

The rebirth of Indian culture has taken place in this region of West Bengal which added a new chapter in the evolution of Indian history as Bengal Renaissance. This region is the land of Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Mother Teresa, Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Jagdish Chandra Basu, Dr. C. V. Raman, Satyendra Nath Basu, U. N. Bhramcharya, Meghnath Saha, G. D. Birla, Girendra Sekhar Basu, P. C. Mahalanabish, Sishir Kumar Mitra, Debendra Mohan Basu, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Saorjini Naidu, Amartya Sen, Saurav Ganguly and many more. The culture of Bengal is deep rooted in its soil and is distinguished by festivals, music, cinema, drama and literature. Festivals in a multidimensional scale are observed in spiritual ecstasy in the state especially during Durga Puja.

CUISINE

Bengalis are fond of Bhaat (rice) and Machher jhol (fish curry). There is a wide range of dishes and cuisines with variety of tastes. Most of the typical Bengali sweets have their origin in traditional household kitchens. The most famous of all Bengali sweet is the rasogolla (a kind of sweet) which is best eaten chilled.

PLACES OF INTEREST

There are three distinct types of landscape in West Bengal. First is the Red Soil famous for its rich color to the terracotta temple of Bishnupur, second is the Ganges Delta in lower Bengal where the Bengal tigers meander and the third is the charming Rajera Hill Stations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong lies in the foothills of the Himalayas in the northern part of West Bengal. Some of the famous India Tours and tourist destinations of West Bengal are Kolkata the capital of the state offers Birla Planetarium, Fort William, Botanical Garden, Zoological Garden, Eden Gardens, Nehru Children’s Museum, Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial, Indian Museum, Nakhoda Mosque, St. Paul’s Cathedral Church and Kali Mandir of Kalighat. Some other excursions are Digha, Diamond Harbor, Haldia, Barrackpore, Chandernagore, Bandel, Sunderban Wildlife Sanctuary etc. Darjeeling one of the most magnificent hill resorts in the world with breathtaking beauty crowned by the majestic Himalayas. Siliguri the gateway of Eastern India as it is the main transit point for going to Darjeeling hill region, Sikkim, Bhutan, Eastern Nepal and Assam. Kurseong a quiet township between Siliguri and Darjeeling noted for its secluded charm and Eagle’s Crag. Kalimpong secluded and tucked away in the corner under big Darjeeling umbrella, offers a quiet and relaxed holiday, against the backdrop of the Kanchenjunga. Mirik a nest in the hills, a long lake, a floating fountain and the glory of Kanchenjungha reflected in the lake waters. Dooars Valley forms a gateway to the hill stations of North Bengal and Bhutan and famous for unending stretch of virgin forests. Lava commands panoramic view of Jelep La and Rechi La passes, also the gateway to the Neora National Park. Lolay Gaon gives panoramic view of Kanchenjunga. The East Himalayas land of infinite charm with scenic views of Kanchenjunga, bewildering greenery, tea gardens, adventure spots, trekking and lots more.

BEACHES

The coastal trip of West Bengal extending from the Gangetic delta land to the border of Orissa offers breathtaking and eye-catching beaches of Digha, Shankarpur, Junput, Bakkhali, Frazergunj and Sagardwip.

WILDLIFE OF BENGAL

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. Other major wildlife sanctuaries and parks are as under:

1. Neora Valley National Park

The Neora Valley National Park is located in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal bordered on the east by Western Bhutan. The forest of Neora Valley is one of the least tracts of virgin wilderness in the country harbors a wealth of flora and fauna.

2. Buxa National Park

The Buxa Tiger Reserve is located in the north eastern corner of West Bengal bordering Bhutan and Assam. It comprises of deciduous forests which are densely wooded and grasslands and is home to some of West Bengal’s most varied flora and fauna.

3. Sunderban National Park

It is located in 24 Paraganas district, has been designated as a World Heritage Site in 1985 and is a part of the Project Tiger.

4. Singalila National Park

This National Park is famous for Rhododendron, Magnolia, Oak, Hemlock, Silver Fir, Juniper, Mailing Bamboo, Buk, Kawla, Bhujpatra etc. Fauna are leopard, serow, pangolin, elephant, chinkara takin, red panda, barking deer etc.

5. Gorumara National Park

Gorumara National Park is located in the Dooars region of Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal famous for its natural population of the Great Indian one horned Rhinoceros.

6. Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary

The sanctuary located in the Mountains of Bhutan and the confluence of river Torsa and Malangi is the home of several wild lives like one horned Indian Rhinos, Swamp Deer, wild boar, leopard and tigers.

WEST BENGAL FESTIVALS

The common and popular Bengali saying ‘Baro Mase Tero Parban’ which means thirteen festivals in twelve months that signifies the umpteen number of fairs and festivals that take place. Some of the famous festivals of West Bengal are Gangasagar Mela in South 24 Pargana, Kenduli Mela in Birbhum district, Jalpesh Mela in Jalpaiguri district, Vasanta Utsav in Birbhum district, Naba Barsho throughout West Bengal, Rathayatra in Hooghly district, Jhapan in Bankura district, Bera Utsav in Murshidabad district, Durga Puja and Deepavali throughout West Bengal, Rash Mela in Cooch Behar district, Jagaddhatri Puja in Hooghly district, Teesta Tea and Tourism Festival held in a series at Darjeeling, the Dooars and in Sikkim, Poush Mela in Birbhum district, Vishnupur Festival in Bankura district, Eid throughout West Bengal, Dol Purnima and Noboborsho.

CLIMATE

West Bengal has a tropical climate. The plains are hot except during the short winter season while the mountainous region in the north is cold. Generally there are six seasons – springs, summer, the rainy, autumn, mild winter and severe winter.

Mario Vargas Llosa – Peru’s Nobel Prize Winner

Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa has long been regarded as one of the most acclaimed writers, playwrights, essayists and literary critics in Latin America. Recently this reputation was confirmed by the prestigious 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature. This makes him one of two Latin Americans to have won the prize, alongside Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Born in Arequipa, Peru, Vargas Llosa stays true to his roots. Most of his novels take place in Peru and follow the traditional Peruvian fiction regarding social protest that exposes political corruption, violence and racial prejudices. Despite dealing with such passionate and personal topics, he is known for maintaining a lack of preaching or having to reconcile ideological propaganda with artistic aims.

After being born in Arequipa, Peru in 1936, Vargas Llosa moved to Bolivia after his parents separated, with his mother and maternal grandparents. The family returned to live in northern Peru in 1946 and then moved to Lima, Peru. He first attended military school and then studied literature and law in Lima, and afterwards Spain. During this time, he wrote several books on literary criticism as well as fiction and started to become a famous writer whose ambitious goal was to rejuvenate the Latin American novel.

During the 1960s, the country of Peru suffered from problems in the publishing industry and many Peruvian writers suffered as well. Vargas Llosa moved to France and was a Spanish teacher, journalist and broadcaster in the early 1960s. During the late 1960s, he served as an adjunct professor at many European and American universities.

It was in 1962, however, that Vargas Llosa primarily became known as a novelist with the book, “The Time of the Hero”, which takes place at one of the military academies where he had been a student. It won immediate international recognition although it was considered controversial in his own country where 1000 copies were publicly burned by Peruvian military officials.

Since then, he has written over thirty novels, plays and essays including “Conversation in the Cathedral” and the “The Green House”. He was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Hispanic world’s most distinguished literary honor in 1995.

In addition to novels, Vargas Llosa has published a great deal of criticism and literary and political journalism. He has been a writer with an international following and has written for The New York Times, Le Monde, The Times Literary Supplement, El País, and other well-known newspapers. The book, “Diary of Iraq”, published in 2003, is a collection of his articles for El País magazine about the war in Iraq. In 2005 he travelled to Israel and Palestine with his daughter to record his impressions in the book “Israel/Palestine: Peace or War”. The Jewish community in South America had mixed reactions.

Entering the political arena, he ran to become president of Peru in 1990 but lost to Alberto Fujimori. In 1994, he was the first Latin American writer to be elected to the Spanish Academy and he took his seat there in 1996.

If you are planning a vacation to Peru or would like to get to know the country better, be sure to check out some of Mario Vargas Llosa’s varied works for a unique and intimate view of the Peruvian psychology. It might help explain some of the strange things you encounter when travelling!

Two Giants of Travel Writing

Many people dream of making a break from the hum-drum day-to-day and travelling the world, to chronicle their journeys with a literary flair that echoes down the generations. There’s something decidedly romantic about the literature of great journeys, and the internet provides even more opportunity for writers to create inspirational and finely-honed travel articles. While it can sometimes seem the journals and blogs of those making their way around parts of or the whole world are not exactly literary gems, there are some truly great writers who cut their teeth by visiting other countries and cultures and journaling about their experiences. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of the big names who once set out with a suitcase in one hand and a typewriter in the other:

Pearl S Buck

Perhaps the Grande Dame of this kind of writing, Pearl Buck was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and the Nobel Prize in 1938. Buck was born in the US but moved to China with her missionary parents when she was only three months old. Although she spent significant portions of her life in the US, she frequently returned to live in China for prolonged periods. She wrote numerous travel articles and non-fiction books usually dealing with countries in Asia.

Although much of her writing centres on the people and states of eastern Asia, her travel articles, commentary and political analysis had a wide scope and found publication in magazines and newspapers across the globe.

Ernest Hemingway

Not a man to do things by halves, Hemingway’s work was strongly rooted in what you might call participant observation. His non-fiction writing is often over-strained with desperate bravado and machismo, but he nonetheless brings some fine prose and incredible observations to the places he visited. ‘Death in the Afternoon’, first published in 1932, is the definitive English language book on the mood and atmosphere of a bull-fight in the first half of the 20th century. His time in East Africa led to the publication of the ‘Green Hills of Africa’, a book published in 1935 that detailed Hemingway’s stay in the Lake Manyara region of Tanzania.

The fiction that he produced was also heavily influenced by the places he visited – most famously of all through his experiences of working as an ambulance driver for the Italian army in the First World War, which would form the basis of his seminal ‘A Farewell to Arms’. His journalistic work also included a number of travel articles for publications across the globe.