West Bengal is a state in eastern India. With Bangladesh, which lies on its eastern border, the state forms the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. To its northeast lie the states of Assam and Sikkim and the country Bhutan, and to its southwest, the state of Orissa. To the west it borders the states of Jharkhand and Bihar, and to the northwest, Nepal.
The region that is now West Bengal was part of a number of empires and kingdoms during the past two millennia. The British East India Company cemented their hold on the region following the Battle of Plassey in 1757, and the city of Calcutta, now Kolkata, served for many years as the capital of British India. A hotbed of the Indian independence movement through the early 20th century, Bengal was divided in 1947 along religious lines into two separate entities, West Bengal—a state of India, and East Bengal, a part of the new nation of Pakistan. Following India's independence in 1947, West Bengal's economic and political systems were dominated for many decades by Marxism, Naxalite movements and trade unionism.
An agriculture-dependent state, West Bengal occupies only 2.7% of the India's land area, though it supports over 7.8% of the Indian population, and is the most densely populated state in India. West Bengal has been ruled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front for three decades, making it the world's longest-running democratically elected communist government. Since the late 1990s, the state has seen a resurgence in its economy after decades of stagnation.
West Bengal is on the eastern bottleneck of India, stretching from the Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south. The state has a total area of 88,752 square kilometres (34,267 sq mi). The Darjeeling Himalayan hill region in the northern extreme of the state belongs to the eastern Himalaya. This region contains Sandakfu (3,636 metres/11,929 feet)—the highest peak of the state. The narrow Terai region separates this region from the plains, which in turn transitions into the Ganges delta towards the south. The Rarh region intervenes between the Ganges delta in the east and the western plateau and high lands. A small coastal region is on the extreme south, while the Sundarbans mangrove forests form a remarkable geographical landmark at the Ganges delta.
There are 19 districts in West Bengal- Bankura, Bardhaman, Birbhum, Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, East Midnapore, Hooghly, Howrah, Jalpaiguri, Kolkata, Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North 24 Parganas, North Dinajpur, Purulia, South 24 Parganas, South Dinajpur and West Midnapore. Each district is governed by a district collector or district magistrate, appointed either by the Indian Administrative Service or the West Bengal Civil Service. Each district is subdivided into Sub-Divisions, governed by a sub-divisional magistrate, and again into Blocks. Blocks consists of panchayats (village councils) and town municipalities.
The capital and largest city of the state is Kolkata- the third-largest urban agglomeration and the fourth-largest city in India. Siliguri is an economically important town, strategically located in the northeastern Siliguri Corridor (Chicken's Neck) of India. Asansol, Durgapur and Raniganj are cities in the western industrial belt. Other major cities and towns in West Bengal are Howrah, Haldia, Kharagpur, Burdwan, Darjeeling, Midnapore, Tamluk, Malda and Cooch Behar.