Life in Birbhum - Geography, Demography, Culture

Birbhum is one of the 19 districts of West Bengal sharing 5.12 per cent of the land area of the state but 3.76 per cent of its total population, indicating a relatively lower density of population per square kilometer in the district (663) vis-à-vis the state (903). Between 1991 and 2001 census years, the population of Birbhum increased from 25.56 lakhs to 30.15 lakhs registering 18.0 per cent decennial growth rate, which is marginally higher than the growth rate of population in West Bengal as a whole (17.8 per cent).

Birbhum district is an administrative unit in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is the northernmost district of Burdwan division — one of the three administrative divisions of West Bengal. The district headquarters is located at Suri. The state of Jharkhand lies at the western border of this district, whereas the border on other directions is covered by the districts of Bardhaman and Murshidabad of West Bengal.

Situated between 23° 32' 30" (right above the tropic of cancer) and 24° 35' 0" north latitude and 87° 5' 25" and 88° 1' 40" east longitudes, and about 4,545 square kilometres (1,755 sq mi) in area, this district is triangular in shape.


Hindus form around 65% of the population according to 2001 census. Muslims are about 33% of the population. There is a sprinkling of other religious groups in the population. According to the 2001 census, 29.5% of the population belongs to the scheduled castes and 6.7% to the scheduled tribes. 32 Other than the those speaking the local dialect of Bengali, there are tribal Santhals and ten other tribal communities in Birbhum with some presence, amongst whom Koda, Mahali and Oraons are more common.

According to the 2011 census Birbhum district has a population of 3,502,387, roughly equal to the nation of Lithuania or the US state of Connecticut. This gives it a ranking of 84th in India (out of a total of 640). The district has a population density of 771 inhabitants per square kilometre (2,000 /sq mi) .Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 16.15 %.Birbhum has a sex ratio of 956 females for every 1000 males, and a literacy rate of 70.9 %.

The growth of literacy in the last decade of the twentieth century was particularly remarkable with special emphasis on the eradication of illiteracy. While it is feared that Birbhum may not be able to fulfill the national objective of sending all children in the age group 6–14 years to school by 2010, efforts are on in that direction.

The district has 127 libraries supported by the Government, 1 private library and 1 district library


The climate on the western side is dry and extreme, but is relatively milder on the eastern side. During summer, the temperature can shoot well above 40°C (104°F) and in winters it can drop to around 10°C (50°F). It has been observed that rainfall is higher in the western areas as compared to the eastern areas. The annual average rainfall in Rajnagar is 1,405 millimetres (55.3 in) and in Nanoor it is 1,212 millimetres (47.7 in), mostly in the monsoon months (June to October).


Several rivers flow across Birbhum. Some of these are Ajay, Mayurakshi (Mor), Kopai, Bakreshwar, Brahmani, Dwarka, Hinglo, Chapala, Bansloi, Pagla etc. A project on the Mayurakshi that includes the Tilpara Barrage (near Suri), provides irrigation for about 2,428 square kilometres (937 sq mi). Almost all the rivers originate higher up on the Chota Nagpur plateau and flow across Birbhum in a west–east direction. These rivers are furious during the monsoons but shrink during the dry summer months. The cyclical rotation of drought and floods of the rivers destroy lives and property, and adds to the difficulties of life in the district

Flora and Fauna

The eastern area of Birbhum is a part of the rice plains of West Bengal, and the vegetation here includes usual characteristics of rice fields in Bengal, such as species of Aponogeton, Utricularia, Drosera, Philcoxia, Scrophulariaceae and similar aquatic or palustrine genera. In the drier western region of the district, the characteristic shrubs and herbs include species of Wendlandia, Convolvulaceae, Stipa, Tragus, Spermacoce, Ziziphus, Capparis and other similar plants that grows on laterite soil. Mango, palm, and bamboo are among commonly visible trees in Birbhum. Other common species of plants visible here are jackfruit, arjun, sal, guava, kend and mahua.

Other than feral dogs and domestic cattle, the most frequently encountered non-human mammal is the hanuman, a long tailed grey langur prevalent in the Gangetic plain. Some wild boars and wolves may still be spotted in the small forests of Chinpai, Bandarsol and Charicha. Leopards and bears are not to be seen any more in the wild. Sometimes during the season when mahua trees bloom, wild Asiatic elephants from Jharkhand come in trampling crops and threatening life and property. Birds of Birbhum include a mix of hilly and plain-land dwelling species like partridge, pigeon, green pigeon, water fowls, doyel, Indian robin, drongo, hawk, cuckoo, koel, sunbird, Indian roller, parrot, babbler, and some migratory birds.


Viswa bharati university founded by Rabindranath Tagore – is the creative fountain of the district. While Tagore loved the land and the people, spending most of his life here at Santiniketan – the people of Birbhum have a rich heritage of folk culture. Bauls - the minstrels – epitomizes the voice and language of the people of the land. Kenduli mela - a fair of bauls - held in mid January, provide an unique backdrop for these people’s singers and artists to share the pleasure, pain and life of the rural people.