West Bengal:Nexus between culture and tourism

The epicentre of tourism is culture and both are perpetually responsible for each other’s upliftment and awareness. West Bengal is a synonym to culture and it can be perceived with the residue from the past and the ethos of the present.

Sudipta Saha

West Bengal is one such state which has kept its culture alive in the purest form and has extended the world a hand to explore and discover the beauty of its culture, art and literature from all perspective. The enduring correlation between both has transformed the tourism offerings by the state and is so evident from the fairs and festivals, its inheritance attracting numbers. Bengal has its roots in literature, arts, music, drama and cinema, from the time when it acted as a trade link.

Culture has various aspects and West Bengal being the cultural capital of India has endowed tourists with a bundle of experiences. Earlier, culture and tourism were seen as a different entity, tourism was considered more of a leisure-related activity. However, seeing how culture motivated the interest of tourists, later or sooner culture and tourism became a better half for each. Well, talking about a connection between culture and tourism, there are several factors that stimulate the articulation between the both.

Impact of culture on tourism

Culture and tourism are linked because they share the same synergies and their growth potential is dependable on each other. These two elements create competitiveness and attractiveness of places and countries. Culture creates uniqueness whereas tourism enhances culture and creates income and strengthens cultural heritage and creativity. Cultural tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets and to keep that pace ongoing a strong partnership is essential.  West Bengal has been a great example, the tourism in the state is culturally influenced and the state is vigorously promoting culture through the medium of tourism. Tourism is considered an important vehicle for socio-economic development for the communities, culture being tagged with culture is generating local employment and business both directly and indirectly.

Cultural Tourism: Reference to West Bengal

West Bengal has a strong association with the culture that focuses on heritage, arts and music, literature and cinema. Most districts of Bengal reveal their own distinctive cultural aspects, this state boasts of different ethnicities, heritage, religions, people and languages which add to this beautiful landscape.

Heritage Tourism: Many districts of West Bengal are abounding with enormous attractions of its cultural heritage, some of which enjoy both national and global fame. Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal and City of Joy and is a place filled with talent, joy and passion.

Architecture and Monument: Kolkata founded by the British has a history of around 400 years and there are several monuments that are unique and excellent in their cultural history and significance. There are monuments in the state belonging to a pre-British period. Some of the prominent monuments and structures of the British period are Rabindra Setu (Howrah Bridge), Victoria Memorial Hall, Raj Bhavan, Writers’ Building BBD Bag, Sahid Minar, etc. Besides these, a few other monumental heritages of the state are the Indian Museum, Gandhi Ghat, Hooghly Imambara, Museum at Barrackpur, The Christ Church, Jalpaiguri Rajbari and Darjeeling Town Hall, the residence of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and various terracotta temples all over the state.

Arts and Crafts: West Bengal is the place of modern and fine arts. After the Independence of India, some important groups like the Calcutta Group and the Society of Contemporary Artists were formed in the undivided Bengal which dominated the art scenario all over India.

Music and Dance: Music is an integral part of Bengali culture. There are numerous some of the famous are Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Geeti and some folk songs of various districts like Baul, Bhatiali, Kirtan, Bhawaya, Gajan etc. Rabindra nittya (performance of dance with Rabindra sangeet) and world-famous Chau dance of Purulia district.

Festivals: There is a very popular saying in Bengali ‘baro mase tero parban’ that translates to-thirteen (or many) festivals in twelve months (a year). West Bengal is a land of festivals and throughout the year many festivals or ‘parban’ are celebrated in this state.

Cultural tourist spots:

Santiniketan: Santiniketan is more commonly known as being Rabindranath Tagore’s eternal abode. Located in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, Santiniketan has acquired the status of a unique tourist haven where knowledge and aesthetic brilliance merge.

Murshidabad: The last capital city of independent Bengal before British rule was named after Nawab Murshid Quli Khan, the Dewan of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Situated on the banks of the Bhagirathi, it is a city of splendours and is famous for its silk.

Gaur: Right on the Indo-Bangladesh border is one of the most important historical places of 14th and 15th century Bengal. It has an immense value from the archaeological point of view.

Burdwan: Burdwan has been a district capital since the time of the Mughals. During the Mughal period, the city was known as Sharifabad.

Nabadwip: Surrounded in the legendary tales of its past, Nabadwip exudes an aura of mystique and nostalgia. The city is especially a must-visit for those craving a spiritual experience.

Bishnupur: A small town in West Bengal famous for its terracotta temples, rich heritage, culture including architecture, music and handicraft.

Influence of cinema on tourism

Cinema captures the intriguing events of day to day life, the way cinema projects culture is phenomenal. Cinema since its inception has been an integral part of tourism marketing. Well, we might have realised its importance later but cinema has always projected the place, culture, people through its camera. As Sindoor Khela a ritual during Durga Puja was go gorgeously picturised in the movie ‘Kaahani’, it actually encouraged to be part of the same.

Satyajit Ray, the greatest film-maker of all time, through his movie actually depicted rural Bengal and in 1955 a Bengali drama ‘Pather Panchali’ depicted the harsh rural life. There have been numerous film shot in the different locations of Bengal, some of them projected countless sequences of posh localities amid the city clamour the tram tracks and hand-pulled rickshaw in Kolkata.

The rural culture of Purulia and Bankura was used as a shooting location by many filmmakers and the terracotta temples of Bishnupur is also popular amongst filmmakers. Many Bengali, Bhojpuri and Oriya films were shot here and Lootera is one such pick from Bollywood that has been shot in Purulia. Satyajit Ray’s Gupi Gayan Bagha Bayan, Hirak Rajar Deshe, Gupi Bagha Phire Elo are the most popular movies in Indian Film history that have been filmed extensively in Purulia and Bankura districts.

Darjeeling, which is another popular hill station in India, is also a notable filming destination for Indian filmmakers. Popular Bollywood movies such as Aradhana, Mausam, Barfi and Via Darjeeling were majorly shot in Darjeeling. The legendary actor Shammi Kapoor was shot for the song ‘Main Chali Main Chali’ from the movie Professor in Darjeeling. The song ‘Dil Hai Mera Deewana’ from the movie Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman was also shot in the streets of Darjeeling.

Literature & Tourism

Literature and tourism accompany each other with dignity and pride. West Bengal has a rich legacy of literature, with authors like Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay contributing their fair share to the Bengali literature as well as to the world literature. There has been a long tradition of folk tales like the Thakurmar Jhuli, stories of Gopal Bhar and much more which in their popularity bear a great resemblance to famous stories like Arabian nights and the Panchatantra. Bengalis have played a significant role in modernising the course of Indian literature. Later, the authored books were translated into television series, some event was transmitted into films as well, depicting Bengali culture in a wider perspective.



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