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the bengal conundrum

It has been nearly a 12 months since unprecedented violence came about in West Bengal after the Meeting election outcomes have been introduced. Why Bengal has been struggling violence (each West Bengal and Bangladesh)? What was the unique demographic composition of Bengal and the way it has modified; and the way this has affected the socio-political milieu on this area? This multi-part sequence would try to hint the origin of socio-political developments within the bigger Bengal area (state of West Bengal and Bangladesh) over the past a number of a long time. These developments are associated to the evolution of Bengal over the past 4000 years. It’s a protracted journey and sadly most a part of it has been forgotten.

The historical past of Bengal could be traced again to the traditional Vedic occasions although many historians consider that the documented historical past of Bengal is obtainable from round 326 BC solely. The references to Bengal and other people residing in that area have discovered point out in Mahabharata, Ramayana and a number of other different historical texts like Aitareya Brahmana.

Archaeological excavations carried out in the course of the Sixties primarily at Pandu Rajar Dhibi within the valley of Ajay (close to Bolpur) in Birbhum district, and a number of other different websites on the Kopai and Kunnur rivers and in Chandraketugarh (Berachampa) close to Barasat in North 24 Parganas district have furnished proof of a developed civilisation in some elements of Bengal across the second millennium BC. (Supply: P.C. Dasgupta, Exploring Bengal’s Previous (1966) and The Excavations of Pandu Rajar Dhibir, Directorate of Archaeology Bulletin No. 2, 1964)

Sadly, our historical past textbooks in addition to our mainstream public discourse has not mentioned the historic function of Bengal in historical India; the main focus has been stored largely on Muslim and British rule in Bengal. The golden period of Bengal that comprised rule of Vangas, Gauras, Gupta, Mauryas has largely been ignored and therefore the wealthy cultural legacy doesn’t discover a lot point out in current day discourse. Bengal’s story had began hundreds of years in the past and it’s time to return past the Muslim and the British period and hint the wealthy cultural roots of the Sanatan Dharma.

Beginning of Bengal

Bengal as a area is essentially an consequence of a posh river system that contains two important rivers – Ganga and Brahmaputra – and their quite a few branches and tributaries. They gave beginning to the Bengal Delta by carrying alluvial deposit into the ocean. This course of took hundreds of years however progressively a delta arose out of the ocean. It additionally continued its southward motion. Fourteenth century Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta had described Bengal as a ‘land with abundance’. One other sixteenth century Dutch Service provider Van Lindolan had termed Bengal because the ‘granary of the east’.

The river system cut up up Bengal into 4 broad divisions. To the north of the primary Ganga and west of Brahmaputra lies the huge space which in medieval occasions was generally known as Varendrabhumi. It contains the Rajshahi division of Bangladesh, the Jalpaiguri division of West Bengal and the peripheral areas of Assam and Bihar. A part of this area additionally constituted the traditional land of Pundravardhana.

To its south-west and to the west of Bhagirathi or Hooghly lies the traditional Radha (Rar) land comprising the Burdwan (Bardhaman) division of West Bengal with peripheral areas in Odisha and Bihar.

To its east, bounded by the Bhagirathi, the Padma, the decrease reaches of the Brahmaputra and the Meghana, lies the area of Central Bengal comprising the Presidency division in West Bengal, the Khulna division in Bangladesh and elements of Dhaka division. This included the Vanga kingdom that finds point out in Kalidasa’s works and the dominion of Gangaridai.

The fourth division lies to its east and consists of all territories between the Padma and the Meghana rivers on one aspect and as much as the Khasi and Jantia Hills, and Mizoram and Chittagong hills on the opposite. This roughly corresponds to the districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj in Assam, Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong divisions of Bangladesh and the state of Tripura in India. The traditional kingdom of Samatata belonged to this area. (Supply: Nitish Sengupta, Land of Two Rivers, Penguin 2011, Pp7)

Origin of the Phrase ‘Bengal’

There have been a number of territorial divisions in historical Bengal, the 2 most distinguished amongst them have been Vanga and Gaur. The previous is known as East Bengal and the latter as West Bengal.

In actual fact, the phrase ‘Bengal’ was not in use until late medieval interval. This area was denoted largely as ‘Vanga’ and ‘Gaur’.

One model is that the title ‘Bengal’ got here from the expression ‘Bangla’ or ‘Vangla’, utilized by Arabian and Persian chroniclers to explain the nation thirteenth century onwards; it progressively got here to indicate your entire province that stood between Bihar on the one hand and Kamrup on the opposite. It was this title which was adopted by the Portuguese as ‘Bangla’ and subsequently by different European merchants, which led to the title ‘Bengal’— which additionally gave its title to the Bay of Bengal to its south.

Abu’l Fazal has offered one other attention-grabbing model in regards to the origin of the phrase ‘Bengal’ in Ain-i-Akbari the place he acknowledged, “The unique title of Bengal was ‘Bung’ and the suffx ‘al’ got here to be added to it from the truth that the traditional kings of this land raised mounds of earth of 10 toes in peak and 20 in breadth in lowlands on the foot of the hills that are referred to as ‘al’. From this suffix added to the Bung, the title Bengal grew to become standard and established.”

Bengal in Holy Scriptures

The kingdoms in Bengal have been carefully linked to kingdoms in different elements of then Bharat. Ramayana mentions Vanga being a part of King Dashrath’s empire.

The ruler of Vanga took half within the epic battle of Mahabharata. He had sided with Kauravas.

The Bhishma-Parva of Mahabharata offers an exciting account of a energetic encounter between a scion of the Pandus and the mighty ruler of the Vangas as defined by R.C. Majumdar in his seminal work The Historical past of Bengal: Vol. I:

“Beholding that lance levelled at Duryodhana, the lord of the Vangas rapidly arrived on the scene together with his elephant that towered like a mountain. He coated the Kuru King’s chariot with the physique of the animal. Ghatotkacha, with eyes reddened with rage, flung his upraised missile on the beast. Struck with the dart, the elephant bled profusely and fell down useless. The rider rapidly jumped down from the falling animal and Duryodhan rushed to his rescue.’

In response to Majumdar, “Whereas among the Bengal kings fought on elephants, others rode on ‘Ocean bred steeds of the hue of the moon’. There dhwajas (flags) or requirements are additionally referred to within the epic… (the) epic tales recall the navy prowess of Bengal rulers of fierce power.”

A number of Jain and Buddhist texts have additionally talked about the presence of assorted Bengal kingdoms in addition to a number of holy locations on this area.

The author, an writer and columnist, has written a number of books. Considered one of his newest books is ‘The Forgotten Historical past of India’. The views expressed on this article are these of the author and don’t symbolize the stand of this publication.

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