Bay of bengal

Posted on: November 8, 2008




In this image, we get a close look at the many river mouths emptying into the Bay of Bengal along the coasts of Bangladesh and northeastern India. Due to heavy rainfall in the Himalayas, the rivers and the part of the bay near their mouths appears brown, colored by silt and sediments in the waters.

The Bay of Bengal is a bay that forms the northeastern part of the Indian

Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered by India and Sri Lanka to the West, Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal to the North, and Myanmar, the southern part of Thailand and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the East.

The Bay of Bengal occupies an area of 2,172,000 km². A number of large rivers – Ganges, Brahmaputra, Ayeyarwady, Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna and Kaveri – flow into the Bay of Bengal. Since the rivers have high discharge outflows, particularly the Ganges River, the bay has much silt pushed into it. The Ganges River can be seen coming from the left, and the Jamuna River from the right. After converging, they form the Padma River, flowing past the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

The Bay of Bengal is a bay that forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered by India and Sri Lanka to the West, Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal to the North (where the name comes from), and Myanmar, southern part of Thailand and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the East. Its southern boundary extends as an imaginary line from Dondra Head at the southern end of Sri Lanka to the northern tip of Sumatra.

The Bay of Bengal occupies an area of 2,172,000 km². A number of large rivers – Ganges, Brahmaputra,Padma,Meghna,Jamuna,Ayeyarwady, Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna and Kaveri – flow into the Bay of Bengal. Among the important ports are Cuddalore, Chennai, Kakinada, Tuticorin, Machilipatnam, Vishakapatnam, Paradip, Kolkata, Chittagong and Yangon.

In the 10th century the explosion of Indianized kingdoms, led by the Chola Empire, resulted in the Bay of Bengal being known as the Chola Lake. It later came to known as Bangal ki Khadi in Hindi after the region of Bengal.[1] Bengal comes from the Sanskrit Banga or Vanga which refers to the delta waters of the river Ganges.[2][3]


The Sunderbans, at the mouth of river Ganges spreads across areas of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India.

Many major rivers of India flow west to east into the Bay of Bengal: in the north, the Ganges River (or Ganga), Meghna River and Brahmaputra River rivers, and in the south Mahanadi River through the Mahanadi River Delta, Godavari River, Krishna River, Irrawaddy and Kaveri River (sometimes written as Cauvery) rivers. The shortest classified river which drains into the Bay of Bengal is Cooum River at 64 km. Brahmaputra is the 28th longest River in the World (2,948 km or 1,832 mi), and it discharges into the ‘Bay of Bengal’ and travels through India, P.R. China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. The Sundarbans mangrove forest is formed at the delta of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. The Ayeyarwady River of Myanmar also flows into the bay.


The Vizag seaport in India is the busiest port in the Bay of Bengal region in terms of cargo handled.

Major Bangladesh ports on the bay include Chittagong and Mongla. Major Indian ports on the bay include Krishnapatnam, Chennai (formerly Madras), Vishakhapatnam, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), and Pondicherry. Yangon, the largest city and former capital of Myanmar is also an important port in the bay.


The islands in the bay are very numerous, including the Andaman, Nicobar and Mergui groups. The group of islands, Cheduba and others, in the north-east, off the Burmese coast, are remarkable for a chain of mud volcanoes, which are occasionally active. Great Andaman is the main archipelago or island group of the Andaman Islands, whereas Ritchie’s Archipelago consists of smaller islands. Only 37 of the 572 islands and islets of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are inhabited, or 6.5%.[4]


Cox’s Bazar, one of the longest stretches of beaches in the world.[5]

Cox’s Bazar, on the northeastern coast of the bay, is one of the longest unbroken natural beaches of the world. Other beaches along the bay are Bakkhali, Digha, Chandipur, Puri, Waltair, Marina Beach at Chennai and Ngapali beach in Myanmar.


Oceanography is the study of oceans and the ocean floor by scientific exploration and scientific methods. The Bay of Bengal is a salt water sea and is a part of the Indian Ocean.

[edit] Plate tectonics

Floor of Bay of Bengal  The Indian plate, shown in red  The Indo-Australian plate, shown in dull orange

The lithosphere of the earth is broken up into what are called tectonic plates. Underneath the Bay of Bengal is the Indian Plate which is part of the great Indo-Australian Plate and is slowly moving north east. This plate meets the Burma Microplate at the Sunda Trench. The Nicobar Islands, and the Andaman Islands are part of the Burma Microplate. The India Plate subducts beneath the Burma Plate at the Sunda Trench or Java Trench. Here, the pressure of the two plates on each other increase pressure and temperature resulting in the formation of volcanoes such as the volcanoes in Myanmar, and a volcanic arc called the Sunda Arc. Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and Asian Tsunami was a result of the pressure at this zone causing a submarine earthquake which then resulted in a huge Tsunamai.[6]

Marine geology

A zone 50 m wide extending from the island of Ceylon and the Coromandel coast to the head of the bay, and thence southwards through a strip embracing the Andaman and Nicobar islands, is bounded by the ioo fathom line of sea bottom; some 50 m. beyond this lies the Soo-fathom limit. Opposite the mouth of the Ganges, however, the intervals between these depths are very much extended by deltaic influence.

Swatch of No Ground is a 14 km-wide deep sea canyon of the Bay of Bengal. The deepest recorded area of this valley is about 1340 m.[7]

Marine biology, flora and fauna


The sunderbans bordering the Bay of Bengal is the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world.[8]

The Bay of Bengal is full of biological diversity, diverging amongst coral reefs, estuaries, fish spawning and nursery areas, and mangroves. The Bay of Bengal is one of the World’s 64 largest marine ecosystems.

Kerilia jerdonii is a sea snake of the Bay of Bengal. Glory of Bengal Cone (Conus bengalensis) is just one of the seashells which can be photographed along beaches of the Bay of Bengal.[9] An endangered species, the Olive Ridley sea turtle can survive because of the nesting grounds made available at the Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary, Gahirmatha Beach, Orissa, India. Marlin, barracuda, skipjack tuna, (Katsuwonus pelamis), yellowfin tuna, Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin (Sousa chinensis) , and Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni) are a few of the marine animals. Bay of Bengal Hogfish (Bodianus neilli) is a type of Wrass which live in turbid lagoon reefs or shallow coastal reefs. Schools of dolphins can be seen, whether they are the bottle nose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), Pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata) or the spinner dolphin (stenella longirostris) . Tuna and dolphins are usually residing in the same waters. In shallower and warmer coastal waters the Irrawaddy Dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) can be found.[10][11]

The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve proides sanctuary to many animals some of which include the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) , giant Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) , and Malayan box turtle (Cuora amboinensis kamaroma) to name a few.

Another endangered species Royal Bengal Tiger is supported by Sundarbans a large estuarine delta that holds a mangrove area in the Ganges River Delta.[12][13]

Chemical oceanography

Coastal regions bordering the Bay of Bengal are rich in minerals. Sri Lanka, Serendib, or Ratna – Dweepa which means Gem Island. Amethyst, beryl, ruby, sapphire, topaz, and garnet are just some of the gems of Sri Lanka. Garnet and other precious gems are also found in abundance in the Indian states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.[14]

Physical oceanography – Climate of the Bay of Bengal

From January to October, the current is northward flowing, and the clockwise circulation pattern is called the "East Indian Current." The Bay of Bengal monsoon moves in a northwest direction striking the Nicobar Islands, and the Andaman Islands first end of May, then the North Eastern Coast of India by end of June.

The remainder of the year, the counterclockwise current is southwestward flowing, and the circulation pattern is called the East Indian Winter Jet. September and December see very active weather, season varsha (or monsoon), in the Bay of Bengal producing severe Cyclones which affect Eastern India. Several efforts have been initiated to cope with Storm surge.[15]

Tropical storms and cyclones

Cyclone Sidr at its peak near Bangladesh

Aerial view of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis in Burma

A tropical storm with rotating winds blowing at speeds of 74 miles (119 kilometers) an hour are called cyclones when they originate over the Bay of Bengal; they are hurricanes in the Atlantic.[16] Between 100,000 and 500,000 residents of East Pakistan (Bangladesh) were killed because of the 1970 Bhola cyclone.

  • 2008, Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Nargis
  • 2007, Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Sidr
  • 2006, Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Mala
  • 2006, September Typhoon Xangsane
  • 2004, November Typhoon Muifa
  • 2002, May Tropical Cyclone 2B
  • 1991, April Bangladesh cyclone
  • 1989, November Typhoon Gay
  • 1985, May Tropical Storm One (1B)
  • 1982, April Cyclone One (1B)
  • 1982, May Tropical Storm Two (2B)
  • 1982, October Tropical Storm Three (3B)
  • 1981, December Cyclone Three (3B)
  • 1980, October Tropical Storm One (1B)
  • 1980, December Unknown Storm Four (4B)
  • 1980, December Tropical Storm Five (5B)
  • 1971 Orissa Cyclone
  • 1970, November Bhola cyclone

Historic sites

  • Kumari Kandam, an antediluvian civilization, (South India) is also held in myth to be under the Bay of Bengal. Fisherman claim their nets have snagged, and on dives to free them they find pagodas, doorways, and temples to reinforce their belief of this ancient time.[17]
  • The remains of Sri Vaisakheswara Swamy temple lies under the Bay of Bengal. Spokespersons from Andhra University Centre for Marine Archaeology say the temple may be located opposite the Coastal Battery.[18]
  • Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram is the name for Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temple was constructed in the eighth century AD and myth has it that six other temples were also built here.
  • Another historic site which has been preserved is Vivekanandar Illam. It was contstructed in 1842 by the Ice King Frederic Tudor to store and market ice year round. In 1897, Swami Vivekananda famous lectures were recorded here at Castle Kernan. The site is an exhibition devoted to Swami Vivekananda and his legacy.
  • Konark is the home of the Sun Temple or Black Pagoda. This Brahman sanctuary was built of black granite mid 1200 AD and has been declared a World Heritage Site.
  • Ramanathaswami Temple located at Dhanushkodi, where the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean come together.[19]


Arugam Point at the Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka beach attracts thousands of tourists

One of the first trading ventures along the Bay of Bengal was The Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies more commonly referred to as British East India Company. Gopalpur was one of their main trading centers. Other trading companies along the Bay of Bengal shorelines were English East India Company and French East India Company.[20]

BIMSTEC Bay of Bengal Initiative for MultiSectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) supports free trade internationally around the Bay of Bengal between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project is a new venture proposed which would create a channel for a shipping route to link the Gulf of Mannar with the Bay of Bengal. This would connect India east to west without the necessity of going around Sri Lanka.

Thoni and catamaran fishing boats of fishing villages thrive along the Bay of Bengal shorelines. Fishermen can catch between 26-44 species of marine fish.[21] In one year, the average catch is 2 million tons of fish from the Bay of Bengal alone.[22]

Strategic importance

Indian Navy’s Presidential Fleet review held in Vizag in 2006. It was the first time the fleet was held ouside of Mumbai, signifying going strategic importance of Bay of Bengal to India.

The Bay of Bengal is strategically crucial for India because of the presence of outlying islands, namely Andaman islands and Nicobar islands and several major ports such as Kolkata and Vizag along its coast with the Bay of Bengal. Much of the naval operations of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War took place in the Bay of Bengal.[23]

The growing influence of China, due to support provided by Myanmar, has created geo-political implications for India.[24] India has held several major naval exercises with friendly countries, especially United States, to counter increasing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean.[25][26] The largest ever wargame in Bay of Bengal was held in 2007 and naval warships from India, US, Singapore, Japan and Australia took part in it. This exercise was widely viewed as "strategic encirclement of China".[27] India has also forged naval cooperation agreements with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to increase its strategic reach in the region.[28] India also established Far Eastern Naval Command off Port Blair to increase surveillance in the adjoining Andaman Sea.[29]

The potential of natural gas exploitation also makes the Bay of Bengal important for India, Bangladesh and Myanmar.[30] Disputes over rights of some oil and gas blocks have caused brief diplomatic spats between India and Bangladesh.[31]

Environmental hazards


"Asian Brown Cloud" hangs over the Bay of Bengal. It is considered to be a combination of vehicle exhaust, smoke from cooking fires, and industrial discharges.[32]



Ross Island, in the Andamans, was one of the main naval bases of British India during World War II

Due to continental drift, the India Plate split from Madagascar and collided with the Eurasian Plate resulting in the formation of the Himalayas and The Bay of Bengal.

Northern Circars occupied the western coast of the Bay of Bengal and is now considered to be India’s Madras state. The Kakatiya dynasty reached the western coastline of the Bay of Bengal between the Godavari and the Krishna rivers. Kushanas about the middle of the 1st century AD invaded northern India perhaps extending as far as the Bay of Bengal. Chola dynasty (9th century to 12th century) when ruled by Rajaraja Chola I occupied the western coastline of the Bay of Bengal circa AD 1014 Chandragupta Maurya extended the Maurya Dynasty across Northern India to the Bay of Bengal. Hajipur was a stronghold of Portuguese Pirates. In the 1500s the Portuguese built trading posts in the North of the Bay of Bengal at Chittagong (Porto Grande) and Satgaon (Porto Pequeno).[33]

British penal colony

Cellular Jail or "Black Waters" built in 1896 on Ross Island, a part of the Andaman Island Chain. As early as 1858 this island was used as a British penal colony for politial prisoners facing life imprisonment.

Marine archeology

Maritime archaeology or marine archaeology is the study of material remains of ancient peoples. A specialized branch, Archaeology of shipwrecks studies the salvaged artifacts of ancient ships. Stone anchors, amphorae sherds, elephant tusks, hippopotamus teeth, ceramic pottery, a rare wood mast and lead ingots are examples which may survive the test of time for archaeologists to study and place the salvaged findings into a time line of history. Coral reefs, tsuanamis, cyclones, mangrove swamps, battles and a criss cross of sea routes in a high trading area combined with pirating have all contributed to shipwrecks in the Bay of Bengal.[34]

Famous ships and shipwrecks
  • 1778 to 1783 The Naval operations in the American Revolutionary War or American War of Independence ranged as far as the Bay of Bengal.
  • c1816 Mornington Ship burned in the Bay of Bengal[35]
  • 1850 American clipper brig Eagle is supposed to have sunk in a Bay of Bengal[36]
  • American Baptist missionary Adoniram Judson, Jr. died April 12, 1850 and was buried at sea in the Bay of Bengal.
  • 1855 The Bark "Incredible" struck on a sunken rock in the Bay of Bengal[37]
  • 1865, a gale dismasted the Euterpe while traversing the Bay of Bengal typhoon.
  • 1875 Veleda 76 m (250 ft) long and 15 m (50 ft) wide is a part of a current salvage operation.[38]
  • 1942 Japanese cruiser Yura of the Second Expeditionary Fleet, Malay Force attacked merchant ships in the Bay of Bengal.
  • 1971 December 3 – It was claimed that Indian Navy destroyer INS Rajput sunk the Pakistan Navy submarine PNS Ghazi off of Vishakapatnam, in Bay Of Bengal List of naval battles

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