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 People and Culture

West Bengal has been subjected to a variety of influences from diverse cultures. Since time immemorial, the culmination of these varied cultures along with Bengal's very own evergrowing richness has given birth to a unique Bengali culture which can be identified by its colorful and significant contribution to all epochs of traditional and modern society. In West Bengal most of the people speak Bengali and they are very proud of their language Bengali. Many northern parts of this state speak the languages like Nepali and Bhutia, of the neighbouring countries. With the ancient temples of Vishnupur, to the churches of Kolkata, from Himalayas to sea beaches and world famous Gangetic deltas, from Sunderban to Darjeeling, from Tea to Tant sarees, from Rabindranath Tagore to Satyajit Ray, from Durga Puja to Christmas, from Fish curry to Sweets, Bengali culture is truly unique and exciting. It is the cultural hub of India with theatres, plays and films being the most popular forms of entertainment. Folk dances and folk music form an integral part of this state. In the whole of the rural West Bengal and in the most of the municipal areas the primary education is free and compulsory. Free supply of text books have been under taken. Girls education up to standard VIII has been made free in rural and urban areas, including Calcutta. The common Bengali dress is the dhoti and a stitched upper garment - a shirt, a Punjabi Kurta or a half-sleeved vest. The urban population has started favouring pyjama and trousers for convenience and economy. The western style of dress is being adopted by the more affluent as a status symbol replacing the achakan-pyjama and the Shamla Pugree, there is a general absence of any kind of headdresses, Muslims cover there head during prayer and religious ceremonies. The women invariably wear the waist to ankle length sari in a graceful style. The upper part is covered by different styles of blouses. The Bengali is predominantly a rice eater. All but the very

devout Hindus eat fish as a principal item of their food. He has a sweet tooth and everyone who can afford them enjoys sweet meats made with milk casein (chhan) of which a large variety have been evolved. Another essential item is dal (pulses) which supplements their protein requirements. A large assortment of vegetables and seasonal fruits completes the dietary. Bengalis prefer to other beverages, the habit of taking sweetened tea has a spread to there remotest villages. Chewing of pan laced with lime, Kattha and arecanut is universal, so is the smoking of tobacco, either plain in the form of bidi or mixed with treacle and spices for the hookah. Cigarette smoking has been spreading to rural areas but is still something of a symbol. Drinking of palm juice today and home made alcoholic brews is largely confined to industrial labour and the tribal population.

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