Bengal (/; Bengali: বাংলা/বঙ্গ, romanized: Bānglā/Bôngô Bengali pronunciation: [bɔŋgo]) is a geopolitical, cultural and historical region in South Asia, specifically in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Geographically, it is made up by the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta system, the largest such formation in the world; along with mountains in its north bordering the Himalayan states of Nepal and Bhutan and east bordering Burma.
Politically, Bengal is currently divided between Bangladesh (which covers two-thirds of the region) and the Indian territories of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam's Barak Valley (altogether cover the remaining one-third). In 2011, the population of Bengal was estimated to be 250 million, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Among them, an estimated 160 million people live in Bangladesh and 91.3 million people live in West Bengal. The predominant ethnolinguistic group is the Bengali people, who speak the Indo-Aryan Bengali language. Bengali Muslims are the majority in Bangladesh and Bengali Hindus are the majority in West Bengal and Tripura, while Barak Valley contains almost equal proportions of Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims. Outside Bengal proper, the Indian territories of Jharkhand, Bihar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also home to significant communities of Bengalis.
Dense woodlands, including hilly rainforests, cover Bengal's northern and eastern areas; while an elevated forested plateau covers its central area. In the littoral southwest are the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest and home of the Bengal tiger. In the coastal southeast lies Cox's Bazar, the longest beach in the world at 125 km (78 mi). The region has a monsoon climate, which the Bengali calendar divides into six seasons.
At times an independent regional empire, Bengal was a leading power in Southeast Asia and later the Islamic East, with extensive trade networks. In antiquity, its kingdoms were known as seafaring nations. Bengal was known to the Greeks as Gangaridai, notable for mighty military power. It was described by Greek historians that Alexander the Great withdrew from India anticipating a counterattack from an alliance of Gangaridai. Later writers noted merchant shipping links between Bengal and Roman Egypt. The Bengali Pala Empire was the last major Buddhist imperial power in the subcontinent, founded in 750 and becoming the dominant power in the northern Indian subcontinent by the 9th century, before being replaced by the Hindu Sena dynasty in the 12th century.
Islam was introduced during the Pala Empire, through trade with the Abbasid Caliphate.Following the early formation Delhi Sultanate, Islam fully spread across the entire Bengal region. During the Islamic Bengal Sultanate, founded in 1352, Bengal was majortrading nation in the world and was often referred by the Europeans as the richest country to trade with. Later, it was absorbed into the Mughal Empire in 1576. The Bengal Subah, described as the Paradise of the Nations, was the empire's wealthiest province, and became a major global exporter, a center of worldwide industries such as cotton textiles, silk, shipbuilding, making worth 12% of the world's GDP, a value bigger than the entirety of western Europe and its citizens' living standards were among the world's most superior. Bengal's economy have waved the period of proto-industrialization. When conquered by the British East India Company in 1757 by Battle of Plassey and became the Bengal Presidency of the British Raj, Bengal made direct significant contribution to the world's first Industrial revolution, but experienced its own deindustrialization. The Company increased agriculture tax rates from 10 percent to up to 50 which caused multiple famines such as the Great Bengal famine of 1770 which caused the deaths of 10 million Bengalis and the Bengal Famine of 1943.
Bengal played a major role in the Indian independence movement, in which revolutionary groups were dominant. Armed attempts to overthrow the British Raj began with the rebellion of Titumir, and reached a climax when Subhas Chandra Bose led the Indian National Army allied with Japan to fight against the British. A large number of Bengalis died in the independence struggle and many were exiled in Cellular Jail, located in Andaman. The United Kingdom Cabinet Mission of 1946 split the region between India and Pakistan, an action popularly known as the partition of Bengal (1947). This was opposed by the Prime Minister of Bengal, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, and nationalist leader Sarat Chandra Bose. They campaigned for a united and independent nation-state of Bengal. The initiative failed owing to British diplomacy and communal conflict between Muslims and Hindus. Subsequently, Pakistan ruled East Bengal which later became the independent nation of Bangladesh by the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971.
Bengali culture has been particularly influential in the fields of literature, music, shipbuilding, art, architecture, sports, currency, commerce, politics, science and cuisine.
The name of Bengal is derived from the ancient kingdom of Banga,(pronounced Bôngô) the earliest records of which date back to the Mahabharata epic in the first millennium BCE. The exact origin of the word Bangla is unknown. In Islam it is said to come from "Bung/Bang", a son of Hind (son of Hām who was a son of Noah) who colonised the area for the first time. The suffix "al" came to be added to it from the fact that the ancient rajahs of this land raised mounds of earth 10 feet high and 20 in breadth in lowlands at the foot of the hills which were called "al". From this suffix added to the Bung, the name Bengal arose and gained currency". This is also mentioned in Ghulam Husain Salim's Riyaz-us-Salatin.
Other theories on the origin of the term Banga point to the Proto-Dravidian Bong tribe that settled in the area circa 1000 BCE and the Austric word Bong (Sun-god). The term Vangaladesa is used to describe the region in 11th-century South Indian records. The modern term Bangla is prominent from the 14th century, which saw the establishment of the Sultanate of Bengal, whose first ruler Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah was known as the Shah of Bangala. The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the Age of Discovery.
The modern English name Bengal is an exonym derived from the Bengal Sultanate period.