Bengal, a historic region at the head of the Bay of Bengal. The western part is a province of India and the eastern part is the nation of Bangladesh. The Bengalis are a distinct ethnic group, who speak an Indic tongue of the Indo-European family. West Bengalis are mainly Hindu; East Bengalis, Muslim.
Bengal was an independent kingdom during most of its history until it was conquered in 1576 by Akbar, the Mogul emperor of India. It attracted foreign traders in the 1600's. Bitter rivalry developed between the British and French East India companies, and during the Seven Years' War they waged war in the region. The British, victorious, chose local rulers subservient to the company. After the Indian Mutiny (1857), the British government took over control of the region. (See East India Company.)
The region was divided when India was partitioned in 1947; East Bengal was part of Pakistan until it became independent as Bangladesh in December, 1971.