script) -->

West Bengal Society

The state of West Bengal is culturally rich and vibrant. The West Bengal Society reflects the heritage that dates back to several centuries. Art, literature and music are the integral part of the society of the state. Nearly in every house you will find a member involved in one of these art forms. The West Bengal society is a cosmopolitan society.

The great men namely Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and the filmmaker Satyajit Ray enriched the West Bengal society with their unparalled contributions. The nobel laureate, Rabindra Nath Tagore introduced renaissance in the culture of Bengal. The cultural enlightenment of Calcutta has been brought about by the premier institutions like the University of Calcutta, the Presidency College and the Medical College in Kolkata.

The West Bengal society is a cosmopolitan society. The population of the state comprises people from different religion, sect, race and tribe. The cosmopolitan nature of the society makes it more lively and dynamic. The people of West Bengal are friendly and amicable and this is quite evident when you visit the state during the festive seasons of Durga Puja, Diwali and Christmas.

The state's society is also known for its unique delicacies. It is a gastronomic paradise for food lovers who come here to enjoy rossogolla, bhapa illish, luchi, aloo dum, macher kalia, chingri macher malai curry and many more.


West Bengal is one of the states of India with a rich and glorious cultural heritage. People from various sect, tribe and religious background live in the state and follow different rituals and customs, thus enriching the culture of the state. The cultural diversity of the state is reflected through the various languages and dialects.

Various art forms like dance, music and craft are ingrained in the culture of West Bengal. In the field of fine arts Bengal's name has been written in golden words. The main contributors in this field are Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Jyotirindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, Gaganendranath Tagore, Ramkinkar Baij, Rabindranath Tagore.

Even in the field of literature, Bengal has contributed immensely. The legendary writers of Bengali origin are Kabi Jayadeva, Rabindranath Tagore, N.C. Chowdhuri, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Isvar Chandra Gupta, Madhusudan Dutta, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Sukumar Roy, Kazi Najrul Islam, Jivananda Das, Bibhutibhushan Banerjee, Sunil Gangopadhaya, Shirshendu Mukherjee and many more. The cultural heritage has been influenced by various folk music and dance like Baul music, Gombhira, Bhawaiya, Chhau Dance.

Fairs and festivals like Durga Puja, Diwali, Holi, Poila Baisakh and many more stimulate the cultural life of the people. The five-day festival of Durga Puja portrays the cultural beauty of the state. People from far off places come here and soak in the spiritual celebration of the festival.


People of West Bengal belong to different caste, culture, creed, religion and sect. The traditional dress of the people of Bengal is dhoti with a shirt. The modern urban population prefers pyjama and trousers for its convenience. But the elderly people still enjoy wearing this traditional dress. Women both in rural and urban areas wear sari and also trousers, salwar kameez etc. 40 distinguished communities of tribes are found in West Bengal, some of them are the Santals, Munas, Oraons, Lepchas, and Bhutias. These tribes constitute nearly one-tenth of the total population of the state.

The people of West Bengal are mostly Hindus and follow the religious way of Hindus. A major portion of the population is comprised of Muslim community. There are also people who follow Buddhism, Christianity and Sikhism. The cosmopolitan nature of the society is due to the wide variety of people residing in the state. One of the main occupations of the people of West Bengal is agriculture. The rural people are engaged in the cultivation of rice, wheat, pulses, and vegetables etc. that cater not only to the requirement of the state but also of the country. The people of West Bengal speak Bengali, but languages like Hindi, Punjabi, Bhojpuri are also spoken here.

People from five different racial strains inhabit West Bengal. The oldest of the race is Proto-Australian in origin. Nishadics are predominantly the tribal groups found in the areas adjoining the plateaus and Chhotanagpur and central India. The tribes are short in height with long head, dark coloured skin and broad nose. The Dravidians with long head, tall structure and sharp nose are also found in Bengal. The race found in Darjeeling is the Mongoloid. The fifth race is the Alpine or Indo-Aryan race, which have a fair complexion, prominent nose and long body.

West Bengal Crafts

Bengal has always led the cultural brigade of the country. Be it in music, performing arts or crafts - the state has exemplary expertise over a varied range of artifacts and handicrafts. For ages the artists and craftsmen of Bengal have supplied the country and the world with exciting and colourful handicrafts. Crafts in Bengal can be divided into many segments. Some of them are:-
  • Leather Craft
  • Bamboo and Cane
  • Bell and Brass Metal
  • Clay Dolls
  • Ceramic
  • Horn Work
  • Jute Products
  • Sandalwood Carving
  • Weaving
  • Pottery
  • Mangalghat
  • Lakshmi Ghat
  • Tulsimancha
  • Manasa Ghat
  • Shell Carvings
  • Carving
  • Bone Carvings
  • Stone Carvings
  • Wood Works
  • Dokra Metal Craft
  • Silk Screens
Each and every craft work has a uniqueness of its own. Weavers in Bengal are expert in various forms of the craft. Jamdani, Kantha and other kind of handloom products owe much to the rich weaving artistry of Bengal. The state is also blessed with some extraordinary metal and stone crafts. These include metal and stone sculptures, show pieces, jewellery etc. The Dokra Metal works is a very rare form of handicraft found in Bengal and few other eastern parts of India. Craftsmen of Bengal are also expert in various kinds of carvings like stone, bone, wood and shell carvings.


West Bengal, one of the eastern states of India is known for its handiworks of which pottery is one of the most popular one. In West Bengal, the small-scale industry of pottery is carried on in the districts of Bankura, Murshidabad and Midnapore. Generally the women folk of the villages are involved with this industry. Sometimes men too engage themselves in making pottery.

There are a number of varieties of the pottery of West Bengal. They are made from clay and found in different sizes and shapes. Pottery is one of the indigenous artifacts that are prevalent in the state from the ancient times. The pottery is also used for various purposes.

In fact Rabindranath Tagore formed a new genre of vocal music named after him as 'Rabindra Sangeet'. It comprises songs written and composed by him. These songs were actually written by him in Bengali, which have been later translated into many other languages. Various art forms are even taught at Santiniketan, a school established by Rabindranath Tagore, which later attained the recognition of university and was called Viswabharati University. The art of ballet tradition was popularised in India by Udayashankar and his wife Amala Shankar. In the capital city of Kolkata they have trained many dancers in this art and performed with their troupe of dancers worldwide.

In the field of fine arts, artists from Bengal are famous for their exceptional works. These renowned artists have given a new way to Indian art for e.g. Gaganendranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Jyotirindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Jamini Roy, Ramkinkar Baij. In Bangla folk music, Baul tradition is very popular. Numerous other forms of folk music like Gombhira and Bhawaiya are common. Dance as a form of art is an inseparable part of Bengali culture. The classical dances like Bharatnatyam, Manipuri, Kathak, and folk styles like Chhau dance are learnt by artists. The folk dance of Chhau is performed with masks by male dancers.


The Tant is the one of the finest form of handloom products that West Bengal has gifted us. Keeping in sync with the rich tradition of Bengal's art and craft, Tant and the Tant Sarees of Bengal have been the favourite with fashion designers, style freaks and users. In Bengal a Tant Saree clad motherly figure is a very common and lovable sight in every home. The most possible picture of a traditional Bengali woman will feature a white Tant Saree with red Anchal. These wonderful sarees are a must in Bengali Pujas and other festivities. It can be very easily perceived, the amount of popularity and importance Tant enjoy in Bengal and adjoining areas.

The popularity of Tant owes much to its crisp muslin like finish and feather weight. The Tant Sarees are really comfortable to wear and ideal for daily use. The broad and silky thread works on the body of the saree is an excellent example of classic Bengali motifs. The colourful Tant fabrics are also used to make salwar suits, kurtas and shirts. The Aanchals or Pallus of the Tant Sarees are ornamented with supplementary thread works, which make the garments even more attractive. The Tant garments are very popular with modern day women, especially with the working ladies who can wear them for daily use and in parties also - with the same elan.

Bone carvings

The crafts peculiar to the state of West Bengal include bone carvings that have been practiced for years. This eastern state of India has always been the cultural center of India and its rich tradition of hand - crafted objects is just a part of it.

West Bengal specialises in ivory carving and the craftsperson chisel out exquisite art objects from ivory. Artifacts in the brilliance of ivory white gain an aristocracy of its own and looks majestic. Ivory panels for beds, wardrobe, dressing unit, chairs, thrones, palanquins and similar objects have been coveted items by kings and queens. An ivory table or utensil made by the craftsmen of Bengal has always been craved for by these families. The Murshidabad district of West Bengal deserves special mention in this regard. Khagra and Jiagunj of this district has been the focus of attention for these elegant bone carvings of West Bengal.

Both Hindu and Islamic motifs are used in Ivory Carving of West Bengal and are loved equally by all irrespective of religion. Hindu Gods and Goddesses are very common works of art. The figurines look marvelous in ivory for its inherent versatility. Trail of elephants and of horses done in a complete elephant tusk are widely loved in ivory as also the etched jewellery boxes. These jewellery boxes have been favourite especially with the royal ladies.

Both the districts of Midnapur, especially the areas of Narayan Chauk, Tamluk and Jyot Ghanashyam, in West Bengal are known for combs made of horn of animals. The village folks are the major users of these horn combs of West Bengal as they believe it to be good for hair and scalp. In shimmering shades of black and grey these combs are interesting in their own way.

Stone Carvings

Stone Carvings have been widely practiced in the state of West Bengal, at one point of time. Slowly the art form is nearing its extinction owing to a variety of other materials capturing the market. But still the talented artisans of West Bengal continue to produce beautiful craft items that are functional yet aesthetic in their own way. The carvers do not have a formal training. They learn the basics from the previous generations and mingle their own sense in it. In the end, beauty prevails.

Stone carvings in West Bengal are especially related with making stone utensils. Hand - operated lathes are used to carve out utensils of various shapes and sizes. The stone used for the purpose is Phyllite, a semi - soft grey coloured stone that is easy to carve. Simulpur in the West Medinipur district of West Bengal deserves special mention in this respect. Stone utensils need care to handle and in this respect many other materials are preferred by the common mass.

The Bhaskars or Sutradhars of Burdwan, Patun and Dainhata are renowned for their exquisite stone carvings. Their object of carving is usually human figures and figurines on the walls of temples and houses. Free standing sculptures are also marvellous examples of their work. The use of red brick stones is common especially in the temples of West Bengal. Panels and plaques are chiseled out in stone to adorn the temples. Motifs like distinctly styled elephant, horses, Gods and Goddesses are common in the stone carvings of Bengal temples.


The Kantha works of Bengal is the exceptional embroidery art carried on by the women of Bengal. This form of folk embroidery is widely used in the state. The mothers and sisters of Bengali households have adopted Kantha to make various things, either for household or business purpose. The Kantha works act as the mirror of the society reflecting their religious and social beliefs. They also depict their dreams and desires through this wonderful form of handloom art.

Kantha is based on simple running stitch but it can be used in creating masterpieces. The simplicity of the Kantha is the reason behind its immense popularity. The origin of Kantha is related to Kontha, which in Sanskrit means the rags. It is said that Buddha's disciples used to protect themselves from the cold by stitching rags together, making it thicker and warmer. Kantha is referred in the Sri Sri Chaitanya Charitamitra as a women's self expression.

Types of Kantha based on its end products are:-
  • Archilata kantha - small, mostly used as mirror covers.
  • Durjani or Thalia - mostly used to make wallets.
  • Baiton Kantha - used as book covers and other valuables.
  • Sujani Kantha - decorative Kantha, which started in the eighteenth century is used mostly in blankets.
  • Oaar Kantha - used to make decorative pillow covers.
  • Rumal Kantha - used as handkerchiefs and plate covers.

Whatever use the Kantha has, it is an integral part of the life of the people of Bengal.

Wall Hangings

The exquisitely decorated Wall Hangings of West Bengal represent the rich artistic skills and creative imagination of the craftsmen of the state. One of the most flourishing industries of West Bengal, the handicraft industry produces many decorative items.

West Bengal is one of the leading jute producing states of India. The handicraft industries of the state produce many items of jute like beautifully designed carpets, attractive jute bags, colourful jute door mats, and many other decorative house hold goods. The wall hangings are one such products of the small-scale cottage and handicraft industry of West Bengal.

The local artists of West Bengal weave the fine threads of jute to produce beautiful wall hangings. The natural golden colour of the jute threads imparts a yellowish and golden tinge to the Wall Hangings. To make them more attractive, the craftsmen design the Wall Hangings with colorful silk threads and beads.

The wall hangings have an internationally acclaimed status and any tourist who visits the state makes it a point to purchase them. The wall hangings serve various purposes. While on one hand the wall hangings can be used as a decorative item that adds to the grace of the rooms, on the other hand they can be used as souvenirs, and gifted to near and dear ones as a token of love and appreciation.

The handicraft industry forms the backbone of the economy of West Bengal. The state earns large chunks of revenue from the small-scale handicraft and cottage industries. The wall hangings of the handicraft industry reflect the rich cultural tradition of the past that has triggered down to the present era to strengthen the economic condition of West Bengal.


The silk tradition of Baluchari, which involves the use of human brocade figures that adorn the borders and pallu is noted for its intricate designs. Sari is the traditional wear of women in India. Many types of Sari's are popular in India categorised on the basis of their fabric, designs, embroidery etc. Some of the common varieties are Kanchivaram, Ikkat, Banarasi, Tanth, Pochampalli, Katki silk, Chanderi, Baluchari, Garwal silk etc.

A type of silk weaving called Baluchari silk evolved where artisans could weave exquisite stories from Indian mythology in silk. This art has recently been revived, with the help of the central government and some French made Jacquard type looms. Baluchari is woven with two varieties of silk threads, one from Bangalore and the other from West Bengal. One of the silk types is set vertically and the other is set horizontally in the special looms. To make a single sari it takes a lot of effort for the artisans. Before fixing the threads on the loom the silk threads are washed in boiling water. On the next day, it is coloured by dipping in hot colours. Then the threads are rolled on the spinning wheels. After toiling for nearly five to six months we get those beautiful exquisite Baluchari saris.

Daccai Jamdani

The different varieties of handloom products of West Bengal have always reflected the richness of art and craft of the state. Among these exquisite handloom products, the Daccai or the Daccai Jamdani holds a distinct style of its own. The Daccai weaving pattern used in the cotton sarees has gained fame over the years. The word is derived from Ducca - the capital of Bangladesh. As per its name the handloom style was originally practiced in Dacca and other parts of undivided eastern Bengal but after the partition of Bengal, it is in practice in West Bengal too. The Daccai style is generally weaved on cotton sarees. These Daccai Sarees are usually in cotton but when it is treated with silk along with cotton, the glamorous Daccai Jamdani is created.

The Daccai Jamdani saree is a favourite party wear among the women of both the Bengals and in other parts of India. The Bangladeshi Daccai Sarees are mostly in beige background but the Indian version is more liberal with colours. Jet Black Daccai Jamdani with Jari works in golden or silver is a prized possession for any woman and it is one of the elegant sarees of the country. The fine texture of the Daccai Jamdani sarees almost resembles the muslin with a dose of fine ornamental works. The exotic Daccai Sarees from the shores of Bengal is India's pride today. It is one of the important export products of the country.

Last Updated on : November 8, 2014