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. Jamtara, Dumka and Pakur districts of the state ofJharkhand lie at the western border of this district, whereas the border in other directions is covered by the districts of Bardhaman and Murshidabad of West Bengal.
Often called “The land of red soil”, Birbhum is noted for its topography and its cultural heritage which is unique and is somewhat different from that of the other districts in West Bengal. The western part of Birbhum is a bushy region, a part of the Chhota Nagpur Plateau. This region gradually merges with the fertile alluvial farmlands in the east. This district saw many cultural and religious movements in history. The Visva Bharati University at Santiniketan, established by Rabindranath Tagore, is one of the places Birbhum is internationally renowned for. Many festivals are celebrated in this culturally rich district, including the notable Poush Mela.
Birbhum is primarily an agricultural district with around 75% of the population being dependent on agriculture.]Principal industries of the district include cotton and silk harvesting and weaving, rice and oilseed milling, lacharvesting, stone mining and metalware and pottery manufacture. Bakreshwar Thermal Power Station is the only heavy industry in the district.
Birbhum is primarily an agricultural district with around 75% of the people dependent on agriculture. While 159.3 km (61.5 sq mi) of land is occupied by forests, 3,329.05 km (1,285.35 sq mi) of land is used for agricultural purposes. 91.02% of the population live in villages. Major crops produced in the district include rice, legumes, wheat, corn (maize), potatoes and sugar cane. The district has thirteen cold storages. Land with irrigation facilities in 2001-02 totalled 2,763.9 km (1,067.1 sq mi). There are five barrages, providing irrigation support.Canada Dam on the Mayurakshi river at Massanjore lies close to the border of Birbhum and the Dumka district in Jharkhand. Further down the Mayurakshi is the Tilpara Barrage at Suri.
Birbhum is a major centre of cottage industries. Perhaps the most notable cottage industry here is a non-profit rural organization named Amar Kutir. Other main industries in Birbhum are agriculture-based industries, textiles, forestry, arts and crafts. Sriniketan is noted for its dairy industry and as a forestry centre. Some of the notable forms of cottage industries of Birbhum include textile—especially cotton and locally harvested tussar silk, jute works, batik, kantha stitch, macramé (weaving by knotting threads), leather, pottery and terracotta, solapith, woodcarving, bamboo and cane craft, metal works and various tribal crafts.There are 8,883 small and medium scale industries. Principal industries of the district include cotton and silk harvesting and weaving, rice and oilseed milling, lac harvesting, and metalware and pottery manufacture.
In 1901, Birbhum had a population of 902,280, which by 1981 rose to 2,095,829. According to the 2001 census data, the total population has further risen to 3,015,422. 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 belong to the scheduled castes and 6.7% to the scheduled tribes. 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, 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 bauls of Birbhum, their philosophy and their songs form a notable representation of the folk culture of the district. Birbhum has also been home to kabiyals, kirtaniyas and other folk culture groups.
The numerous fairs in Birbhum start with Poush Mela at Santiniketan and follows through the Bengali month of Poush till Makar Sankranti. Particularly lively is the fair at Jaydev Kenduli. Various festivities are organized across the seasons. People of Birbhum patronise folk entertainment programmes such as jatra, kavigan and alkap.
Many poets were born in this district, as for example, Chandidas (Rami). In addition to being a confluence of Vaishnava, Shakta and Saiva cultures, Birbhum villages also observe prehistoric customs like worship of gramdevta (gram means village and devta means deity) in many forms at different places.
Amongst the major attractions of Birbhum are Bakreshwar, Tarapith and Patharchapuri. Birbhum has many old temples, such as the ones at Jaydev Kenduli, Surul and Nanoor, with delicate decorative tiles made of terra cotta(burnt clay).