Eastern India

culture climate food language

East India

is a region of India consisting of the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. West Bengal's capital Kolkata is the largest city of this region. The states of Orissa and West Bengal share some cultural and linguistic characteristics with Bangladesh and with the state of Assam.[citation needed] Together with Bangladesh, West Bengal formed the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal before partition in 1947. The historic region of Bengal which was ruled by Nawabs of Bengal comprises the present, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Bangladesh from where the British started their conquest of India.


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 Chhota 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 Chhattisgarh on the west, the state of Andhra Pradesh in the south and the Bay of Bengal on the east.


Languages

Bengali is the dominant language of West Bengal as well as the whole of East India, spoken by well over 90 million people. Hindi along with Maithili, Magahi and Urdu is the dominant language of Bihar. Hindi and Urdu are the dominant language of Jharkhand, however 34% people of Jharkhand are tribals (2001 Census) and speak their own tribal languages and use Hindi as second language.


Oriya is the dominant language of the state of Odisha.


The Indo-Aryan languages spoken in this region descend from the Magadhi Prakrit, which was spoken in the ancient kingdom of Magadha. Bengali, Oriya and Assamese emerged as distinct languages from Magadhi Prakrit and Maithili around the 9th century CE.


Many of the minority adivasis (indigenous tribal people) of East India belong to the Munda branch of the Austroasiatic language family. Major representatives of this group include the Munda, Santal, Oraon and Ho peoples. Santals are the largest tribal group from the region.


Climate

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. Snowfall occurs in the extreme northern regions of West Bengal and Daringbadi in Odisha.

Religion and culture

The majority of the population of East India is Hindu with Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Sikh minorities. The Muslims constitute a very large minority in this region, with 25% of the population in Bengal and 17% in Bihar. They can be found in each and every District of West Bengal and Bihar. Hindus formed 94% of total population of Odisha. Christians are the largest minority in Odisha.


Durga, Jagannath and Shiva are particularly popular Hindu deities in this region. Durga &Kali are patron deities of Bengal and Mithila whereas Jagannath or Vishnu is patron god among Oriya people. Shiva is popular in all areas of eastern states.


Among tribals of the region Hinduism is the dominant religion. Some tribals also follow their indigenous religions (Sarana).


There are several places of pilgrimage for Hinduism. Puri in Odisha is one the four holy City/Dham of Hindu religion and particularly known for Rath Yatra festival. Bhubaneswar is considered to be the "City of Temples".Konark houses an old sun temple.


Bihar Sharif is an important pilgrimage centre for Muslims all over Bihar.


Dakshineswar Kali Temple is a famous Kali temple in West Bengal. In Bihar, Gaya is known for temple for salvation of ancestors. Other places are Sultanganj in Bhagalpur and Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga in Deoghar, Jharkhand. Bodh Gaya is the city sacred to Buddhism. There are also other cities sacred to Jains in Bihar and Jharkhand.


food

Style of food: Simple is the key word for food of this region in India. Preparation is not elaborate and neither are most of the ingredients. Steaming and frying are popular methods of cooking. In coastal regions fish is the non-vegetarian food of choice while further inland, pork wins the popularity contest. The people of no other region in India can rival the love for sweets and desserts that Eastern Indians have! Some of India’s most popular and world-renowned sweets come from here.

Staple foods: Rice and some more rice!

Cooking oils commonly used: Mustard oil is very popular and used for both deep frying and cooking. Other vegetable oils are also used. Ghee is used for cooking special occasion foods.

Important spices and ingredients: Mustard seeds and paste, chillies (both green and red), Paanch Phoran (a mix of five spices – white cumin seeds, onion seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds). Yoghurt, coconut, maize and gram flour are also common ingredients. Milk and dairy products play a huge role in the preparation of sweets in Eastern India.

Popular dishes: Momos (steamed, meat- or vegetable-filled wontons) and Thukpa (a clear soup), Tomato Achaar (tomato pickle), Machcher Jhol (fish curry), Jhaal-Muri (a spicy snack made with puffed rice and mustard oil), Sandesh, Rasgolla.


Bihu celebration begins in Assam