Art and Culture of West Bengal

The word ‘culture' encompasses the customs, social behaviour of a particular person or society. It is the characteristics of particular group of people defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music, arts etc. It refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, attitude, meanings hierarchies etc. It always affects every aspect of daily life- how we think and feel, how we learn and teach, or consider to be beautiful or ugly. It can be defined as the ways in which people relate themselves to their physical and social environment and how they express these relationships. Here we must turn to the sagacious observation of Tagore, 'Apan hote bahir hoye baire dara' which implies one must shed off the veil of ego to reach the cultural enlightenment to the fullest.

In India, we have inherited a rich cultural heritage from our ancestors. From the mountain to the seas, our country comprises various cultures within her. Our languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country. Indian culture often labelled as an amalgamation of several cultures, spans across the Indian subcontinent and has been influenced by history that is several millennia old.

In West Bengal, we posses varieties of cultural manifestation in the regions ranging from the delta of Sundarbans to the hilly terrains of North Bengal. All the districts in this state have some distinctiveness of their own which reflects in culture of those places. The Government of West Bengal has come forward to identify, uphold, encourage and promote culture and cultural activities in the state.

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West Bengal retains its foremost place in the cultural horizon of India. Be it music or theatre, painting or literature, West Bengal has enough reasons to take pride and starting from its journey back in 1979-80, the Directorate of Culture strives to propagate the finest of our cultural heritage, which is invariably enriched with secular ideals. Folk Culture plays a pivotal role in the overall cultural scenario. Folk songs and dramas are powerful medium. The directorate encourages different sections of people to blossom up their respective art forms. In order to attach special importance to artistes closer to the earth the State Government has decided to take adequate steps for their identification through a process of registration. A scheme has been launched for enlistment of folk artists for ensuring a steady means of their livelihood. Thus the Government brings the whole gamut of folk cultural events like, Darbeshi, Tusu, Manabputul, Jarigaan, Baha, Karam, Kalikapatari etc. under the protective umbrella of patronage.

The Directorate of Culture executes its different programmes through different Academies / Boards / Centers etc. These are:



Folk And Tribal Cultural Centre


Folk and Tribal Cultural Centre plays a vital role in the development and the upliftment of our cultural tradition. The Centre came into existence in December 1994. The Centre, which is an autonomous, non-profitable organisation under the aegis of the Government of West Bengal, has engaged itself in a relentless pursuit to create a disciplined perspective where coordination between the folk artists and folk-researchers may be achieved. Activities of the Centre in a nutshell, are given here.

            The Centre has a vast  and extensive publications on the different aspects of folk and tribal culture. Apart from the publication of research, lectures and dissertation oriented books, every year few types of grants are provided from the Centre in the form of (a) one time grant to the old and distressed folk artistes, (b) one time grant to the folk organisations, (c) one time grant for medical treatment to the poor artistes, (d) grant per month for two years to the child artists for their education etc.

            The Centre also handed over 'Sudhi Pradhan Smarak Puraskar' every year to young, talented and promising folk artistes below the age of 40 years. The Centre also gives 'Lalon Puraskar' and 'Thakur Panchan Burma Award' every year. Other than this, the Centre regularly organises its Annual Festival at Chhit Kalikapur, Lalon Utsav, Folk Drama Festival, Hul Divas celebration etc.


Folk Entertainment Section


 In accordance with the demand the artists and performers of the Folk Entertainment Section have been engaged in the propagation and dissemination of various policies and programmes of the government throughout the year in almost all the districts of the state as well as in outside-states.


Paschimbanga  Bangla Akademi





















Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi, under the aegis of the Department of Infor­mation and Cultural Affairs, was set up in the year 1986 with the objective of promoting the study of different aspects of Bengali language and literature and encouraging research on Bengali script, language, literature and culture. Eminent writer and scholar Annadashankar Ray became the first president of the Akademi and served the institution untill his demise in 2002. The activities of Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi revolves around organising me­morial lectures, seminars and symposiums as well as conferring literary awards and bringing out publications on Bengali language and literature. It also pre­serves invaluable manuscripts, audio visual records and literary documents, pertaining to Bengali language and literature. It also runs three auditoria namely Akademi Sabhaghar, Jibanananda Sabhaghar and Rabindra-Okakura Sabhagriha with a view to promote Bengali culture and literature.

The Akademi has been instrumental in undertaking research in the field of Bengali language and literature, and brings out complete works of litterateurs such as Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam besides others. The Akademi is expected to publish a quadra- lingual (Bengali-Hindi-Urdu-English) lexicon and an annotated edition of the Mahabharata in Bengali shortly. The Rabindra-Okakura Bhavan, the sec­ond campus of the Akademi (27 A/1 D D Block, Bidhannagar), is a centre for bringing India and Japan closer through cultural exchange. Besides organising cultural soirees, it offers courses on Japanese language, and organises seminars and memorial lectures on regular basis. The Akademi Library is a rich treasure trove of nearly thirty thousand books (both in Bengali & English) on Bengali language, literature and culture.


Paschimbanga Tele Academy





















The academy was set up in the year 2012 under the aegis of the Department of Information & Cultural Affairs with the objective of promoting the television industry. The academy has been allotted by the State Govt. a plot of land measuring 10 acres at Baruipur, South 24 Paraganas for construction of shooting floors and other infrastructural facilities. Again, many actors, technicians and other workers of this industry have been brought under a health insurance scheme sponsored by the State Govt. So far, about 5000 families have been included in this scheme. Apart from this, every year, the academy organizes the programme ‘Tele Samman' in which actors, directors, producers, technicians etc. of this industry are felicitated. The award giving ceremony is followed by a spectacular cultural programme presented by the television artists. 


Paschimbanga  Natya Akademi                       


 Paschimbanga Natya Akademi was founded on September 26, 1987, as an organisation under the state department of information and cultural affairs to develop and showcase theatre from Bengal.It regularly organises different workshops, Memorial Lectures etc. The Natya Mela was organised in Kolkata, Howrah and other places. Every year all forms of drama were performed by different groups from all over the state. The Akademi also conserves famous plays and interviews with different theatre personalities. Recently these have been transformed in to CDs from Video Cassettes. 


Rajya Charukala Parshad


Since its inception Rajya Charukala Parshad has been functioning in pursuit of excellence in different spheres of creative art. The parshad has been able to reach both to rural and urban folk. The parshad works relentlessly for improvement of arts with active co-operation of artists and art-critics alike. Rajya Charukala Utsav is organized regularly at Rabindra Sadan - Nandan Complex and also at Gaganendra Shilpa Pradarsasala. Renowned artists, groups from all over the State participate in this Utsav. Parshad also conferred Abanindra Award every year and organises different workshops and courses.        

Financial assistance is given to the promising artists, economically backward senior ones and art organisations every year. Paintings of renowned artists have been rejuvenated for their proper preservation.


Paschimbanga Rajya Sangeet Academy















As desired by our Hon'ble Chief Minister, the academy building was thoroughly renovated and landscaping was done in the front space. The academy is organizing workshops and training programmes (of different duration) on classical/light classical music, dance etc. In the district and sub-divisional level, these activities have gained considerable appreciation from the general public. One of the main focus of these activities has been "young talent hunt" from all over the State. In Kolkata, the Rajya Sangeet Academy organizes Uday Sankar Dance Festival, Classical Music Conference, Dance-Drama Festival etc. Eminent artists from all over India and sometimes from abroad, participate in these programmes, making these very popular. In the archive of Rajya Sangeet Academy, there is a huge collection of rare gramophones, records, spools, audio cassettes, CDs, VHS etc. Steps have been taken to modernize the archive through digitalization.


Rajbanshi Bhasa Academy




















Rajbanshi Bhasa (language) happens to be the mother tongue of a large number of people living in the northern part of North Bengal. In 2011, the present Government constituted the Rajbanshi Bhasa Academy for preservation and promotion of Rajbanshi Bhasa and Culture. The office of the academy has been set up in Victor Palace, Coochbehar. The academy has taken up many activities like organizing workshops and seminar on Rajbanshi Bhasa, regular publication of "Voga" - the academy magazine etc. Additionally, the academy regularly commemorates birth anniversaries of eminent people (like Thakur Panchanan Barma) who have made significant contribution to the promotion of Rajbanshi Bhasa, during their lifetime. Every year, on 28th October, the "Rajbanshi Bhasa Sammanana Divas" is observed by the academy.


Paschimbanga Jatra Academy           


The West Bengal Jatra Festival is gradually gaining remarkable successes year by year with laudable enthusiasm and participation on the part of the honourable members of the Academy. This year the said Utsav was inaugurated at Kachhari Maidan, Barasat by Hon'ble Chief Minister with the participation of a large number of people. The other venue of Jatra Utsav was Phanibhusan Vidyavinod Jatra Mancha which has been thoroughly renovated in 2012-13. Thus the scale of Jatra Utsav was expanded to a great extent.


Shisu Kishore Akademi          


Shisu Kishore Akademi has been established for the benefit of juveniles. Every year Shisu-Kishore Utsav is organised by the Akademi is attended with great enthusiasm by children. The Akademi also organises the International Children Film Festival every year. Apart from these the Akademi publishes different books on world children literature.The  Akademi also organises different workshops time to time.


Major Auditoria          


To ensure peoples' participation in various cultural activities the State Government laid adequate stress in expanding the network of theatre and auditoria both in Kolkata and districts. The historic Mahajati Sadan, Rabindra Sadan and Calcutta University Institute Hall occupy a place of pride in the State's cultural map. There are 33 (thirty three) Rabindra Bhavans in districts. Dinabandhu Mancha in Siliguri remains one of the finest auditoria in the State. It also has 7 (seven) standard auditoria in the metropolis.


Rabindra Sadan      


Rabindra Sadan is the most important auditorium of the Government. It is located at the heart of the city with easy accessible and frequent means of communication. With 734 seats on the ground floor and 367 seats on the balcony, it has a total seating capacity of 1101. The foundation stone was laid in 1961 by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the hall was opened to the public in the year 1966. The splendid structure of Rabindra Sadan covers about 12, 000 sq.ft.

            The Rabindra Sadan-Nandan complex is the cultural edifice of the metropolis. People frequent cultural programmes at Rabindra Sadan and Sisir Mancha, attend a session of poetry-reading at Bangla Akademi or visit to an exhibition of painting at Gaganendra Shilpa Pradarshashala or experience a film show at Nandan. Or they simply wind down, chatting, savouring the best in the world of art and culture, relaxing in the salubrious ambience. This picture of serene enjoyment is an eloquent testimony to the prevailing atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. 


Sisir Mancha


It was established in 1978 with a capacity of around 400 seats. This theater was named after Sisir Bhaduri, the legendary actor and director of Bengal. The State Government patronizes several cultural programs of diverse tastes, which are held on this Mancha. In addition, it also hosts the group-theatre shows.


Madhusudan Mancha


Madhusudan Mancha adjacent to Dakshinapan Shopping Complex has a sitting capacity of 846.It is generally rented out to various organizations for their cultural programmes/seminars etc.


Girish Mancha


Girish Mancha, established in 1986, in north Kolkata with a sitting capacity of 910 is generally rented out to various organizations for their cultural programmes/seminars etc. on the basis of their prior application. Apart from this the Mancha and I & C A department jointly organise a couple of programmes.


Mahajati Sadan


Its foundation stone was laid by Kavi Guru Rabindra Nath Tagore in 1939. Mahajati Sadan is a part of the glorious freedom movement. The names of Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Dr. Bidhan Chandra Ray are associated with it. The auditorium with a sitting capacity of 1309 and the seminar hall with a sitting capacity of 160 are generally rented out to various organizations for cultural programmes, seminars, meetings etc.


Calcutta University Institute Hall


Since taken over by the Government of West Bengal in 1985, the committee for management and control of the auditorium comprising 10 members was formed by the Government. The auditorium is generally rented out to various organizations. Its seating capacity is 910. 


Dinabandhu Mancha, Siliguri


The state owned information centre and auditorium with a sitting capacity of 913 was established in memory of noted dramatist Dinabandhu Mitra. The auditorium is generally rented to different cultural organizations of north Bengal for their cultural programmes, seminars, meetings etc. 


Minerva Natya Sanskriti Charcha Kendra


After taking over of the Minerva Auditorium by Government of West Bengal, it has been renamed as Minerva Natya Sanaskriti Charcha Kendra. The auditorium is usually rented to the various organization for their cultural events. At the same time a repository has also been constituted to create a center of excellence on historic art.




Patronizing the rich  heritage of culture is a priority of the State Government 21 awards, namely, Rabindra Smriti Puraskar (3 categories), Nazrul Smriti Puraskar, Bankim Smriti Puraskar, Vidyasagar Smriti Puraskar (2 categories), Girish Puraskar, Dinabandhu Puraskar, Abanindra Puraskar, Ramkinkar Baiz Puraskar, Binod Behari Puraskar, Allauddin Puraskar, Uday Sankar Puraskar, Girija Sankar Puraskar, Jnan Prakash Ghosh Puraskar, Thakur Panchanan Barma Puraskar, Pandit Raghunath Murmu Puraskar, Sudhi Pradhan Puraskar, Lalan Puraskar and Bina Dasgupta Puraskar were conferred upon exponents on respective fields.


            These besides, Sangeet Mahasamman, Sangeet Samman, Mahanayak Sammanana, Shilpi Mahasamman, Silpi Samman, Life-time Achievement Shilpa Aitihasik Kala Samalochak Awards, Shanti Gopal & Tapan Kumar Puraskar and Tele Academy Award have also been instituted in the arenas of fine arts and Jatra.


            But the highest in this order are Bangabibhusan and Bangabhusan awards, which are conferred for outstanding contribution to the fields of art, culture and sports.


Finally, as part of the various initiatives of the Hon'ble Chief Minister Smt. Mamata Banerjee to put Bengal in the world map through its rich heritage, natural products and creative works which had been adored through centuries, Biswa Bangla has been approved by the Government of West Bengal as the brand for all handicrafts, handloom and other MSME products of West Bengal. The West Bengal.State Export Promotion Society (WBSEPS) has been notified as the owner of the Biswa Bangla brand till the finalization and setting up of the Biswa Bangla Corporation and entrusted to take up the necessary actions to start the process for implementation of programme. The Biswa Bangla outlets will prove to be an ideal space for proper showcasing and marketing for handicrafts and handloom products. The West Bengal State Export Promotion Society (WBSEPS) proposed the setting up of 5 Biswa Bangla outlets as a Greenfield or by converting existing showrooms/outlets of state govt. corporations/agencies in different parts of West Bengal and India.




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Bengali, which is the dominant language of West Bengal, has a very deep heritage, and is one of the most profound and intricate languages ever formulated. It takes years to get a proper grip on the language itself, and even then, you might just end up knowing just a few drops of the vast ocean that is the Bengali language, Since childhood, Bengalis are flooded with literary works such as Charyapada, Mangalkavya, Thakumar Jhuli and other works, which start off a wonderful tryst with the language at a very tender age. And West Bengal has been home to many great literary maestros such as Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Michael Madhusudan Dutta and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Playing with the Bengali language has even resulted in many social reforms from colonial times to the present day, starting from the work of Swami Vivekananda and Raja Rammohan Ray, and they were among the many stalwarts who ushered in the Bengal Renaissance. The later parts of the 20th Century saw the influx of post-modernist thoughts in Bengali literary work, with the arrival of writers such as Manik Bandopadhyay, Mahasweta Devi, Jibanananda Das and Samaresh Majumdar among many.


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West Bengal's tryst with films is also a long one, and has seen the rise of many globally acclaimed filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, who won the Academy Award for his various pivotal works, and other directors such as Ritwik Ghatak, Tapan Sinha and Mrinal Sen. The Tollygunj sector of Kolkata is known as Tollywood, where most of the major film studios of the state are situated, and is one of the busiest centres of business all year around. Modem day filmmakers include Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen, and the late director Rituparno Ghosh, whose works are shown in theatres all around the world.


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When it comes to music, West Bengal is the birthplace of Rabindra Sangeet, which is a style of music which was hugely popularised by late poet and lyricist Rabindranath Tagore, who even won a Nobel Prize for his vast contributions to the literary universe which prevails in India. But what really sets West Bengal apart from other places is its huge plethora of folk music and dance styles, which are specific to various regions in the state. Take for example, the Baul music culture, which can be found in various parts of Birbhum district, where Baul fakirs go around, singing with minimalistic instruments, songs about nature and other topics. Then there is the Kirtan or Gajan music style, practiced in almost every household now, and when it comes to dance, the Chau dance style of Purulia is a must-watch, where performers wear colourful masks and follow various age old traditions and rituals as they dance.


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When it comes to art, Bengal has its own unique style of painting and sculpture, which originated during the colonial occupation of the country, and the roots of this origination lies in Kolkata and Shantiniketan. This art style or movement as it is often termed as was a result of the Swadeshi movement, which was pioneered by Rabindranath Tagore, but later on, many other artists came and went, each adding their own unique style to the vast world of Bengali art and painting. This includes the works and styles of various notable luminaries such as Kalipada Ghosal, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy and Ramkinkar Baij.  


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If you have to know about the culture of West Bengal, then a mention of Durga Puja has to be made at some point, as this is the biggest religious festival in the state and takes place over a span of one week. And this festival is so important and so much looked forward to, that the entire state goes into holiday mode for almost a whole month. But apart from Durga Puja, there are a host of other festivals and events as well, such as the Poush Mela, Eid, Dolyatra - or the festival of colours, Nabanna, Buddha Purnima and Poila Boisakh, which is the Bengali New Year.

Last updated on: Sun, 10 Jul 2016
Information Source: Department of Information & Cultural Affairs(I&CA), Government of West Bengal