East India

East India

:"This article refers to the region in the Indian subcontinent. For the region including the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, see East Indies."East India, or Eastern India, is a region of India consisting of the states of West Bengal, Bihar [cite web
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title = State Profile
publisher = Bihar Government website
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] [cite web
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title = Food riots, anger as floods swamp South Asia
publisher = Reuters India
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] , Jharkhand, and Orissa. The states of Orissa and West Bengal share many cultural and linguistic characteristics with Bangladesh and with the state of Assam. Together with Bangladesh, West Bengal formed the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal before Partition in 1947.

The bulk of the region lies on the east coast of India by the Bay of Bengal, and on the Indo-Gangetic plain. Jharkhand, on the Chota Nagpur plateau, is a hilly and a heavily forested state rich in mineral wealth. The region is bounded by the Nepal and Sikkim Himalayas in the north, the states of Uttar Pradesh and Chattisgarh on the west, the state of Andhra Pradesh in the south and the Bay of Bengal on the east.

The region was the historical centre of the Sunga and Pala empires that ruled much of the Indian sub-continent at their prime. In medieval India, it was incorporated into the Mughal and then the British empire. After independence in 1947, the states joined the Indian Union and took their current from after the States Reorganization Act of 1956. Today, they continue to face problems of overpopulation, environmental degradation and pervasive corruption despite significant economic and social progress.

Usage of the term

The term East India was used in the 14th to 18th century by European traders and adventurers to refer to the East Indies region. This included the Indian subcontinent plus present-day Indonesia and the rest of South-East Asia. The history of the term came from Christopher Columbus' belief, when he reached the Americas in 1492, that he had reached India, a much sought-after sea version of the profitable Spice Route. After Columbus' death, West Indies became the term for the Caribbean islands while East Indies referred to India and neighboring states. The British East India Company, Dutch East India Company, French East India Company were all constituted to advance their home countries' commercial and colonial interests in the entire East Indies region.

Today, East India refers to the East Indian states.


300px|right|thumb|The_approximate_extent_of_the_Magadha state in the 5th century BC]

East India was at the heart of the ancient Magadha and Maurya empires.

It was the birthplace of Buddhism. Gautam Buddha received enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. The Maurya king Ashoka send out emissaries to spread Buddhism across Asia. The famous university of Nalanda was in East India. Chinese travellers visited Buddhist and Hindu temples and libraries in Bihar and Bengal.

The great Bengal dynasties of Senas and Palas rules for centuries.

Islamic invasions in the 13th century resulted in the collapse of Hindu kings and most Buddhists, especially in East Bengal, converted to Islam. East India was part of the Mughal Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries.

With the arrival of the Europeans in the 17th century, outposts were established in Bengal. The Portuguese were in Chittagong, Dutch in Chinsura, French in Pondicherry and the English founded Calcutta. In 1756, the British East India Company defeated the local Indian Muslim rulers in Plassey and established British Rule in the subcontinent. Its capital Calcutta grew into one of the world's greatest ports. Tea from Calcutta was off-loaded by American separatists in the American War of Independence in the 1770's. In the 19th century, Calcutta's traders and merchants traded with the rest of the British Empire, continental Europe, the Unites States and China. Indentured Indian labourers from Bihar and Bengal sailed from Calcutta to new homes in Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Surinam and South Africa.

India's independence movement had strong roots in East India. The feudal land system, established through the Permanent Settlement of Bengal, was unpopular. The Indian War of Independence in 1857 started in Bengal. British war propaganda asserted there were atrocities by the mutinous soldiers in the Black Hole of Calcutta. Eventually the British prevailed and Calcutta remained capital of Britain's Asian dominions until 1911. The Indian Congress was founded in Calcutta. During Mahatma Gandhi's freedom movement, the Bihari village of Champaran was an important supporter of non-violent resistance. Great poets of the stature of Rabindranath Tagore championed the movement for self-rule.

The Partition also had its roots in undivided East India. The Muslim League was founded in Dhaka. The Muslim League government of Bengal in the 1940's started the atrocities of the Direct Action Day in Calcutta, which after brutal killings across the country, resulted in the acceptance of Pakistan and the partition. In 1947 bloody communal riots displaced millions as India independence and partition occurred together. Some Bihari and Bengali Muslims fled to Pakistan. Most East Bengal Hindus fled to India.

The 1950's saw industrial progress in East India. These were cut short with the conflict in neighbouring East Pakistan and by the Communist movement at home. In 1971, in the course of Bangladesh's independence struggle, millions of refugees poured into East India. In 1977 the Communist party came to power in West Bengal.

Bihar and Orissa struggled with economic issues but developed steadily. Jharkhand became a separate state in the 1990's. The economic boom since 1991 started to spread new malls, highways, airports and IT office complexes, but not evenly across the region.


Agriculture continues to be the largest sector of the economy and employs the majority of the working population. In the 20th century Industrial development was concentrated in southern West Bengal and in Jamshedpur. In recent years the IT industry has developed in Orissa and West Bengal.

Urban areas

West Bengal's capital Kolkata, the capital of British India till 1911, is the biggest metropolis and economically dominant city of the region. However, the mid-sized cities of Cuttack and Puri in Orissa, and Bihar's capital Patna, were historically more prominent in the ancient and medieval periods.

In the 21st century, India's economic boom is resulting in the growth and development of towns such as Patna, Bhubaneshwar, Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Siliguri and Asansol.


The region lies in the humid-subtropical zone, and experiences hot summers from March to June, the monsoon from July to October and mild winters from November to February. The interior states have a drier climate and slightly more extreme climate, especially during the winters and summers, but the whole region receives heavy, sustained rainfall during the monsoon months.


Bengali is the dominant language of this part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, being spoken by well over 80 million people in West Bengal plus neighbouring states. Hindi has the largest number of speakers at over 90 million but has little cultural influence outside Bihar. Other important languages are Oriya and Assamese.

The Indo-Aryan languages spoken in this region descend from the Magadhi Prakrits spoken in the ancient kingdom of Magadha. Of these, Magadhi and Oriya, which remain virtually unchanged for over a thousand years, are considered the most direct descendants. Bengali and Assamese emerged as distinct languages from Magadhi Prakrit around 9/10th century A.D.

Many of the minority adivasis (indigenous tribal people) of East India belong to the Munda branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family. Major representatives of this group include the Munda, Santal, and Ho peoples.

Religion and culture

The majority of the population of East India is Hindu with Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Sikh minorities. Durga and Jagannath are particularly popular Hindu deities in this region. Puri is the eastern center for pilgrimage in Hinduism, and Bhubaneswar is considered to be the city of temples.

References and footnotes

ee also

* India
* South India
* North-East India
* West India
* North India
* Central India

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