The geographical features of West Bengal are unique from other states of India. It is placed in the Eastern part of India, bounded by the Himalayas in the North and by the Bay of Bengal in the South with a distance of approx 700 km. It is the only Indian state which has a coastline as well as the Himalayas. The mountains and sea both impact the climate of West Bengal considerably and giving a humid subtropical to the tropical sort of climate.
After independence in 1947, the undivided Bengal province was divided into two parts and the western part of Bengal is called West Bengal by its position. The state West Bengal came under focus and its capital became Kolkata. Considering the area, the position of West Bengal is 14th among the Indian states. It covers an area of around 88,752 sq km which is 2.67% in respect to the total land area of India. Geographical features of a state include its location, its boundary and extent, and its physiographic divisions.
I. LOCATION OF WEST BENGAL
The state West Bengal is located in the Eastern region of India and is situated between 21°38′ and 27°10′ North latitude and between 85°30′ and 89°53′ East longitude. The Tropic of Cancer passes through near about middle of the state and covers the districts like Bankura, Bardhaman, Purulia, and Nadia.
II. BOUNDARY OF WEST BENGAL
West Bengal shares three international boundaries: One with Bangladesh in South-East, the second one with Bhutan in the North, and the last one with Nepal in North West. The state shares the largest international boundary with Bangladesh (approx. 2272 km) and shares the smallest international boundary with Nepal.
The state also shares interstate boundaries with Bihar and Jharkhand in the West, Odisha in the South, Assam in the North-East, and Sikkim in the North. The state shares the longest interstate boundary with Jharkhand and shares the smallest state boundary with Sikkim.
The width of the state from North-South direction is 623 km and from East-West direction is 320 km.
A large landmass of India connects to its North-Eastern states through a narrow strip of land in West Bengal. This strip of land seems to be like Chicken’s Neck and is commonly known as the Siliguri Corridor or the Mahananda Corridor. The width of the corridor is 9 km and is situated in Chopra of North Dinajpur district. The nature of the land is different in two aspects: the type of land on the northern part of this corridor is mountainous whereas the type of land on the southern part of this corridor is plain. In West Bengal, the Rajmahal hills are found on the North-Western border and the Shillong plateau is found on the North-Eastern border.
III. DISTRICTS OF WEST BENGAL
West Bengal is broadly divided into 04 areas, such as NB (North Bengal), SB (South Bengal), SC (South Coastal) and GK (Greater Kolkata). The state has 27 districts are divided into those areas.
|Area||District||Count of Districts|
|North 24 Parganas|
|South 24 Parganas|
|Dakshin Dinajpur (South Dinajpur)|
|Uttar Dinajpur (North Dinajpur)|
|Koch Bihar (Cooch Behar)|
|Paschim Bardhaman (West Bardhaman)|
|Purba Bardhaman (East Bardhaman)|
|Paschim Medinipur (West Medinipur)|
|Purba Medinipur (East Medinipur)|
IV. PHYSIOGRAPHIC DIVISIONS OF WEST BENGAL
The West Bengal provinces can be divided into 03 physiographic divisions:
(01) THE NORTHERN MOUNTAIN REGION
The Northern mountain region is situated on the North-Western part of West Bengal and belongs to the Eastern Himalayan range. This region includes the entire Darjeeling district (excluding the Siliguri division) and some parts of the Jalpaiguri district. This region is full of high mountains, deep gorges, and steep sloping ranges.
The famous ancient silk route of this region passes through the Pedong city near Kalimpong (city of orchid).
Rivers Teesta, Jaldhaka, and Raidhak flow through this region. River Teesta divides the Northern mountains into two regions and forms deep gorges. These two regions are Western Mountain Region and Eastern Mountain Regions.
(i) WESTERN MOUNTAIN REGION: The Singalila range and the Darjeeling range are two main mountain ranges in this region.
➢The Singalila range lies along the border of Darjeeling and Nepal. It has 04 important peaks and these are Sandakphu (3630 in, the highest peak of the state), Phalut (3595 m), Sabargram (3036 m), and Tonglu (3121 m).
➢ The Darjeeling range extends from the Terai region in the South to steep mountains in the North. It also called the Ghum range. The Toy Train, world heritage train of Darjeeling, runs from Siliguri to Darjeeling via Ghum (2247 m), the highest railway station in the world. The Tiger Hills (2567 m) is the highest peak of the Darjeeling range from where Mount Kanchenjunga (8586 m) has been seen. Kurseong Hilltown is also situated in this range.
(ii) EASTERN MOUNTAIN REGION: Richila (3121 m) is the highest peak In the Eastern Mountain Region. The Sinchula range of this region makes a boundary between Bhutan and Jalpaiguri. The Buxa Pass, the main mountain pass of this region, joins India and Bhutan. Renigango and Chota Sinchula are other important peaks. The city of Kalimpong located here.
(02) THE WESTERN PLATEAU
The Western plateau and the adjoining uplands comprising the entire Purulia district, the Western part of Birbhum, Bankura, Bardhaman and West Midnapore districts. However, the Western Plateau region is a part of the Chhotanagpur plateau and it consists of small hills commonly called Dungi or Tila.
In Purulia district, Ayodhya and Baghmundi hills are the popular hills in this region. The highest peak of the Ayodhya hill is Gorgaburu (677 m).
Moreover, some other important hills of this region are Panchet and Bhandari hills in Purulia district, Belpahari hill in West Midnapore, Mama-Bhagne and Mathurkali hills in Birbhum district and Susunia and Biharinath hills in Bankura district.
Many rivers rise from the Chotanagpur plateau area and then flow through the Western Plateau region from West to East. They travel short courses and are mostly rainfed.
In Purulia district, the region of this plateau is highly elevated in between the Kansai and Subarnarekha rivers. In Birbhum district, a popular hot water spring located at Bakreswar.
(03) THE PLAINS OF THE NORTH AND SOUTH REGION
This region extends from Siliguri district till to the coast of Bay of Bengal. It is the largest region in West Bengal and it makes the state a fertile agricultural state. This plain is divided into 2 regions i.e. the Plains of North Bengal and the Plains of South Bengal.
A. PLAINS OF NORTH BENGAL
This region extends from Siliguri to the North bank of the river Ganges i.e. Malda district. This region is divided into 02 sub-divisions: Terai and Northern Plain.
(i) Terai: This region basically made up of sand, gravels and pebbles which are brought down from the Himalayan by the rivers like Teesta, Torsa, Raidak, Jaldhaka and several other small rivulets. The height of the Terai region is around 80 to 100 m. The Teesta river divides the Plains of North Bengal into two parts:
➢ the Western part is known as Terai and
➢ the Eastern part is known as Duars. The duars region is further subdivided into 03 regions:
• Siliguri or Western duars,
• middle or Jalpaiguri duars and
• Eastern or Alipur duars.
The duars region extends to the Siliguri division of Darjeeling district, North and Eastern parts of Jalpaiguri district (except Buxa-Jayanti) and the upper region of Cooch Behar district.
(ii) Northern Plain: This region extends from the Southern end of the Terai region to the Northern bank of Ganges. This region is further divided into 03 categories.
➢ Diara: The area of new alluvium brought by Kalindi river is known as Diara. It covers Western part of Malda district.
➢ Barendrabhumi: A substantial part in the South of West Dinajpur and in the North-East of Malda is built up with old alluvium which is called as Barind or Barendrabhumi.
➢ Tal: The lakes or wetlands created by floodwater is known as Tals. Numerous Tals are found between the areas of Mahananda and Kalindi rivers because of the flood-prone zone.
B. PLAINS OF SOUTH BENGAL
The lower course of the Ganga river creates the delta plains which basically form the entire plains of South Bengal. Due to this reason, these plains are very fertile in nature. This region is classified into 04 sub-divisions:
(i) Delta Plain: The river Ganges form the delta which is further categorized into 03 distinct delta plains i.e. old delta, mature delta, and active delta.
➢ Moribund Delta Plain: Nadia and Eastern part of Murshidabad districts are situated in the old delta region of Moribund delta plain. In this region, the delta is completely formed by the erosion and deposition of numerous rivers and small canals. This region is locally known as Bagdi.
➢ Mature Delta Plain: Hooghly, Howrah, plains of Bardhaman, and East Midnapore districts are situated in the mature delta region. This delta region is also completely formed but it is newer than the old delta plain.
➢ Active Delta Plain: South-Eastern part of South 24-Parganas and the Southern part of North 24-Parganas districts are situated in the active delta region where the formation of the delta is an ongoing process. New islands like Purbasha are usually formed to the southern part of this delta region.
(ii) Rahr Plain: This plain usually located between the delta plain and the Western plateau region. This region is formed mainly by the silt deposition carried out by the tributaries of Ajay, Damodar, Mayurakashi and Rupnarayan rivers. The soil of the Rahr Plain is red in colour due to the rivers flow over the Western plateau that constitutes of laterite soil.
This region is situated approx 50 to 100 m above the sea level and covers the districts like Eastern Bankura, Bardhaman, Birbhum, Western Murshidabad, and West Midnapore. This region is locally known as ‘Rangamati‘ which means ‘red soil‘.
(iii) Sandy Coastal Plain: This plain lies along the coastal strip of Bay of Bengal in East Midnapore. This region is usually constituted of sand and mud deposition by the rivers and wind. Many sand dunes have been formed in this region. Some common sea beaches in the sandy coastal plains are Digha, Shankarpur, and Kanthi or Contai.
(iv) Sundarbans Plain: This Plain covers the Southern part of North and South 24-Parganas, especially Sundarbans. The main features of this region are the presence of Alluvial low plains, muddy and saline water, numerous tributaries, many islands and estuaries.
The Sundarbans plain is an extremely low-lying area beside the Bay of Bengal and it is covered with mangrove forest known as Sundarbans. However, it is the largest Mangrove forest in the world. The name is given to this plain due to the abundant presence of ‘Sundari‘, reddish coloured mangrove trees.
Sundarbans Plain is named after reddish colour trees ‘Sundari‘ that are the main trees found in this area. It was considered as a World Heritage Site after declaration by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1987. Many tidal rivers such as Bartala, Saptamukhi, Jamina, Malta, and Gosaba flow through this region.