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Indian Subcontinent >> India >> West Bengal >> History of West Bengal

History of West Bengal

Bengal is first mentioned in the Mahabharata, one of the two Indian epics, as 'Vanga’. In the third century BC it was part of the Mauryan Empire but it gained importance and a standing of its own only in the 4th century AD under the Gupta rulers. For the next three centuries, the Pala dynasty ruled over Bengal along with parts of Orissa, Bihar and Bangladesh. The first Sultan of Delhi Qutb-ud-din-Aibak subjugated Bengal to Muslim rule. Sher Shah Suri usurped power from the Moghuls and the spin-off was the construction of the National Grand Trunk Road. After Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 Bengal became an independent state.

Pioneered by the Portuguese, the British, Dutch, French and many others set up trading posts in Bengal. The British had the sanction of the Moghul rulers for trade in Bengal. It later transformed into political ascendancy. And the only resistance that the British faced was from Nawab Siraj-ud-daulah who was later defeated by Lord Robert Clive in the historic Battle of Plassey in 1757. By 1784 the British had full control over Bengal. In consonance with the imperial policy of divide and rule, Lord Curzon split Bengal in 1905 which roused bitter sentiments among the people and created communal rifts between the Hindu and the Muslim communities. This was an undeniable cause for the partition of India in 1947 into Pakistan and India. Since independence Bengal has been a hotbed of trade unionism and a state under communist party rule.

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