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Former province, northeastern British India. Generally corresponding to the area inhabited by speakers of the Bengali language, it is now divided between eastern India and Bangladesh. Bengal formed part of most of the early empires that controlled northern India. From the 8th to the 12th century it was under a Buddhist dynasty, and from 1576 it belonged to the Mughal Empire. In the 18th century it was dominated by the nawabs of Bengal; they came into conflict with the British, who had established themselves at Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1690. By 1764 the British had taken possession, and Bengal became the base for British expansion in India. Bengal was partitioned in 1905, and with the end of British rule in 1947, the western portion formed the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. East Bengal went to Pakistan; in 1971 it became Bangladesh. Jharkhand state was created from southern Bihar in 2000.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Bengal, visit Britannica.com.