Ashoon, aarombho kori...bangaliana'r porikroma....which means - Come, let's begin...the tour of Bengaliana... The suffix 'ana' in Bengali is different from Latin. It can loosely be equated to 'dom' as in fandom...the universe of some given quality, in this case, Bengaliness. Or you can interpret it in terms of the Latin too - Bengaliana, it still makes sense as the theme. Welcome to the A-Z Challenge 2019, which is in its tenth year and I'm participating for the sixth time.
As with the last couple years, I'm starting off with some music. Aj kothao by AlienZ an indie Bangla band from Kolkata...have a listen.
Here's another number Alo o AaNdhar (Light and darkness) this time from a Bangladeshi band called Aurthoheen (Meaningless). Enjoy!
If we are talking about A and Music, I've got to tell you about Srikanto Acharya, a vastly popular singer from Kolkata, singing in various genres - from Rabindrasangeet (Tagore songs) to devotionals to Adhunik (Modern). Listen to him sing the title Ami khola janala (I'm an open window) from the late 90's.
And finally, here's Artcell a super popular band from Bangladesh with Amar Poth Chola (My Walking the Road)
Arrivals and Antecedents
There are roughly 270 million native speakers of Bengali, the 7th most spoken language in the world. Another 15 million or so speak Bengali as a second language. So, who are the Bengalis and where did they come from? How long has Bengal been settled? And how far back does this civilisation go?
theories hold that early humans migrated out of Africa along the coast of
Arabia and into Asia about 50-60,000 years ago.
These dates are forever being jostled backwards and forwards due to new
archaeological discoveries being made. Recently the first migration out of
Africa has been pushed back a few thousand years. So has the date when they
arrived in India.
|in bengal A=Amazing Art n Architecture...|
Forget the exact date, let’s take a shufti at their route instead. Ancestral humans moved along the coastline of peninsular India from the west to east, ultimately peopling the vast Ganges delta region which is Bengal. I use Bengal here in a broader sense – not just Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. Bengal is larger than the sum of its parts – it spans bits to the east and west of it, parts of Bihar and Assam and the Indian states further to the east. Bengali speaking peoples make up significant populations in all of them, part of their demographics since ages past. Bengal was large enough, significant enough to have an entire stretch of the Indian Ocean named after itself - the Bay of Bengal.
There is evidence of stone age shelters in the region dated to around 100,000 years ago (Paisra, Bihar). A recent discovery of a cache of stone tools near Murshidabad in West Bengal has been dated to 20,000 years ago. Unfortunately, torrid heat coupled with moving waters and shifting mud do not leave many traces of organic matter. But there is no doubt that Bengal has been inhabited since prehistoric times.
Mythological references in the Indian epic Mahabharata tell us that “Vanga,” from which Banga and ultimately Bangal (anglicised to Bengal) derives, was already in existence when the epic was composed around 1500 BCE. Ancient Bengal was an entrepot of the Silk Road, it established colonies on Indian Ocean islands and maintained close trade links with Arabia, Persia and the Mediterranean. Civilisation here goes back some 4000 years.
The first historical reference comes from the Greeks who mention the Delta peoples as Gangaridae, a warrior-like race. Alexander, in 326 BCE, is held to have turned back because his armies were inadequate in morale and materiel to take them on. Bengal by then was part of the powerful Nanda Empire.
Bengal was subsequently ruled by the Gupta empire (240-550CE) before it gave way to regional kingdoms of Gauda, Pala, Sena and others. By late 16th century Bengal had come under the Mughal Empire. Under the Mughals, Bengal grew to be one of the richest regions. It generated nearly 50% of the Mughal GDP, and 12% of that of the entire world, playing a monumental role in the global trade of textiles. Its skills in shipbuilding were legendary, its gold- silver- and coppersmiths created magic with metals, its potters and swordmakers and a whole heap of artisans underpinning an industrially well-developed region where a range of refined goods were available.
As the Mughal Empire declined, independent rulers (styled Nawab) came to power in Bengal. The British had their eyes on Bengal for a long time and made their move. The last independent Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah, was defeated by Robert Clive who plotted with the Nawab’s traitorous military chief Mir Zafar in 1757. The British East India Company assumed control. For two hundred years, Bengal’s trajectory reversed under colonial rule, as the British repatriated all the revenues to Britain. Bengal was gradually deindustrialised and stripped of its riches.
The British left India in 1947, their parting shot was to partition Bengal into two along religious lines – West Bengal went to Hindu-majority India, and East Bengal became Muslim majority East Pakistan. West Pakistan and Islamabad, the capital of that newly formed country, were a thousand miles away from Dhaka, separated by vast tracts of Indian lands. Not just lands, but more importantly language, history, customs, a whole culture.
When the Bengali-speakers of East Pakistan wanted Bengali made into an official language, the leaders of West Pakistan refused to entertain the idea. The East Pakistanis were not amused. From the 50’s onwards their struggle to get their mother tongue its rightful voice led to a bitter war of liberation and finally to the formation of Bangladesh in 1971. But that is another story and a post for another letter.
Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2019
Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2019