The Bengali people are the ethnic community from Bengal (now divided between Bangladesh and India) in South Asia with a history dating back four millennia. They speak Bengali (বাংলা Bangla), a language of the eastern Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. In their native language, they are referred to as বাঙালী (pronounced Bangali). They are an eastern Indo-Aryan people, who are also descended from Austro-Asiatic and Dravidian peoples, and closely related to the Assamese, Biharis and other East Indians, as well as to Munda and Tibeto-Burman peoples. As such, Bengalis are a homogoneous but considerably diverse ethnic group with heterogeneous origins.
They are mostly concentrated in Bangladesh and in the states of West Bengal and Tripura in India. There are also a number of Bengali communities scattered in North-East India, New Delhi, and the Indian states of Assam, Jharkhand, Bihar, Maharastra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. In addition, there are significant Bengali communities beyond South Asia, in places such as Burma (the Rohingya people), the Arab states of the Persian Gulf (Bangladeshis in the Middle East), the United Kingdom (in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, 30.5% of the population is British Bangladeshi; some 65,000 people ), Malaysia (Bangladeshis in Malaysia), the United States (Bangladeshi Americans), South Korea, Canada (Bangladeshi Canadians), Japan (Bangladeshis in Japan), and many other countries.
Remnants of civilisation in the greater Bengal region date back 4,000 years,  when the region was settled by Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic peoples. The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown, though it is believed to be derived from the Dravidian-speaking tribe Bang that settled in the area around the year 1000 BCE.
After the arrival of Indo-Aryans, the kingdoms of Anga, Vanga and Magadha were formed in and around Bengal and were first described in the Atharvaveda around 1000 BCE. From the 6th century BCE, Magadha expanded to include most of the Bihar and Bengal regions. It was one of the four main kingdoms of India at the time of Buddha and was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas. Under the Maurya Empire founded by Chandragupta Maurya, Magadha extended over nearly all of South Asia, including parts of Persia and Afghanistan, reaching its greatest extent under the Buddhist emperor Ashoka the Great in the 3rd century BCE. One of the earliest foreign references to Bengal is the mention of a land named Gangaridai by the Greeks around 100 BCE. The word is speculated to have come from Gangahrd (Land with the Ganges in its heart) in reference to an area in Bengal. Later from the 3rd to the 6th centuries CE, the kingdom of Magadha served as the seat of the Gupta Empire.
See also: Pala Empire and Sena dynasty. The first recorded independent king of Bengal was Shashanka, reigning around the early 7th century. After a period of anarchy, Gopala came to power in 750 by democratic election. He founded the Bengali Buddhist Pala Empire which ruled the region for four hundred years, and expanded across much of Southern Asia, from Assam in the northeast, to Kabul in the west, to Andhra Pradesh in the south. Atisha was a renouned Bengali Buddhist teacher who was instrumental in revival of Buddhism in Tibet and also held the position of Abbot at the Vikramshila university. Tilopa was also from Bengal region.
The Pala dynasty was later followed by a shorter reign of the Hindu Sena dynasty. Islam was introduced to Bengal in the twelfth century by Sufi missionaries. Subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread Islam throughout the region. Bakhtiar Khilji, an Afghan general of the Slave dynasty of Delhi Sultanate, defeated Lakshman Sen of the Sena dynasty and conquered large parts of Bengal. Consequently, the region was ruled by dynasties of sultans and feudal lords under the Delhi Sultanate for the next few hundred years. Islam was introduced to the Sylhet region by the Muslim saint Shah Jalal in the early 14th century. In the 16th century, Mughal general Islam Khan conquered Bengal. However, administration by governors appointed by the court of the Mughal Empire gave way to semi-independence of the area under the Nawabs of Murshidabad, who nominally respected the sovereignty of the Mughals in Delhi. After the collapse of the Mughal Empire in 1707, Bengal was ruled independently by the Nawabs until 1757, when the region was annexed by the East India Company after the Battle of Plassey.
See main article: Bengal Renaissance.
See also: Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore. The Bengal Renaissance refers to a social reform movement during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the region of Bengal in undivided India during the period of British rule. The Bengal renaissance can be said to have started with Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1775-1833) and ended with Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), although there have been many stalwarts thereafter embodying particular aspects of the unique intellectual and creative output. Nineteenth century Bengal was a unique blend of religious and social reformers, scholars, literary giants, journalists, patriotic orators and scientists, all merging to form the image of a renaissance, and marked the transition from the 'medieval' to the 'modern'.
See also: Freedom fighters from Bengal
Bengal played a major role in the Indian independence movement, in which revolutionary groups such as Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar were dominant. Bengalis also played a notable role in the Indian independence movement. Many of the early proponents of the freedom struggle, and subsequent leaders in movement were Bengalis such as Chittaranjan Das, Surendranath Banerjea, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chaki, Bagha Jatin, Khudiram Bose, Surya Sen, Binoy-Badal-Dinesh, Sarojini Naidu, Aurobindo Ghosh, Rashbehari Bose and many more. Some of these leaders, such as Netaji, did not subscribe to the view that non-violent civil disobedience was the best way to achieve Indian Independence, and were instrumental in armed resistance against the British force. Netaji was the co-founder and leader of the Indian National Army (distinct from the army of British India) that challenged British forces in several parts of India. He was also the head of state of a parallel regime, the Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind, that was recognized and supported by the Axis powers. Bengal was also the fostering ground for several prominent revolutionary organisations, the most notable of which was Anushilan Samiti. A large number of Bengalis were martyred in the freedom struggle and many were exiled in Cellular Jail, the much dreaded prison located in Andaman.
See main article: Bangladesh Liberation War.
Main articles: Demographics of Bangladesh, Demographics of West Bengal, and Demographics of Tripura
See also: Religion in Bangladesh.
See also: Islam in Bangladesh, Hinduism in Bangladesh, Buddhism in Bangladesh and Christianity in Bangladesh. Two major religions practiced in Bengal are Islam and Hinduism. In Bangladesh 88.3% of the population follow Islam (US State Department est. 2007) while 9.2% follow Hinduism. In West Bengal, Hindus are the majority with 72.5% of the population while Muslims comprise 25%. Other religious groups include Buddhists and Christians. 
In his 1996 book, Comparing State Polities, Michael J. Sullivan indicated that the 183 million Bengalis are divided into about 112 million Bengali Muslims in Bangladesh and about 71 million Bengali Hindus in India. However, recent census information from Bangladesh and India show the total population of Bengalis to be 230 million, among which 152 millions or 66% are Muslims, while 76 million or 33% are Hindus. 
According to U.A.B Razia, "Islam's greatest missionary triumphs has been amongst the Bengali people". Various theories have been espoused on how Bengalis accepted Islam. Some claim that there were mass conversions to Islam from Hinduism.
Others note the influx of famous Muslim missionaries into the region such as Shah Jalal. While others note that there were waves of aristocrats who migrated to the Bengal and bolstered the number of adherents.  .Today, Bengalis constitute a significant body of the world's Muslims. 11%, or 1/9 of the world's Muslims are actually Bengali.
See also: Culture of Bengal. The Bengalis are known for their artistic, intellectual and cultural achievements. Noted Bengali saints, authors,scientists, researchers, thinkers, music composers, painters and film-makers have played a significant role in the development of bengali culture . The Bengal Renaissance of the 19th and early 20th centuries was brought about after the British introduced Western education and ideas. Among the various Indian cultures, the Bengalis were relatively quick to adapt to the British rule and actually use its principles (such as the judiciary and the legislature) in the subsequent political struggle for independence. The Bengal Renaissance contained the seeds of a nascent political Indian nationalism and was the precursor in many ways to modern Indian artistic and cultural expression.
The Bengali poet and novelist, Rabindranath Tagore, became the first Nobel laureate from Asia when he won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature. Other Bengali Nobel laureates include Amartya Sen (1999 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences) and Muhammad Yunus (2006 Nobel Peace Prize). Other famous figures in Bengali literature include Ram Mohan Roy, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Bangla science fiction writers such as Jagadananda Roy and Roquia Sakhawat Hussain (Begum Rokeya). Famous Bengali scientists include Jagadish Chandra Bose and Satyendra Nath Bose; famous Bengali engineers include Fazlur Khan and Nizamuddin Awlia (Leepu); famous Bengali filmmakers include Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Aparna Sen and Tareque Masud; and famous Bengali entrepeneurs include Sake Dean Mahomed, Amar Bose and Jawed Karim.