Traditional Social Dynamics of Bengal


1. The Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta

Bengal Basin
The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta is the largest delta in the world. The Himalayan rivers contribute one-third of the global sediment transport to the world oceans (Millman et al., 1983). Since millions of years the Bengal basin received millions of flood that created this land to the present form. With the birth of the modern Himalayan Mountains about 35 million years ago the mighty rivers drained along paleoslopes and deposited about 16-18 kilometres of thick sediments in Bangladesh. The ancient river records of this region show several overflows of the channels during the period of high discharge. Sediments of the confluent Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna rivers are today deposited predominantly in the huge sub-aerial delta of these rivers, but during lowered sea levels of the geological past they poured largely into largely in the submarine canyon in the east . The shifting of submarine canyons and deep-sea fans from east to west since 75 million years is one of the remarkable features

Bengal Delta FanThe rivers deposited sediments as active river flood plains, braided flood plains, meander flood plains, major flood plain basins, estuarine flood plains, tidal flood plains and deep sea fans. The Ganges-Brahmaputra river system, the second largest river system of the world, anticipates special significance:

  • The existing gradient between the sources of these rivers and the river mouth;
  • Deforestation in the drainage areas;
  • Their direct connection to the deep sea via canyons and a network of submarine channels

Climate Change

Flood 2007In much of South Asia, the irony of climate change is that it creates too little water in some places and too much in others. The summer runoff from mountain glaciers that now provides most of the drinking water to 40 percent of the world's population is rapidly disappearing. And so are myriad inhabitants, forced to leave land their families tilled for generations.

Starting with the most recent natural disaster while over 100 fishing trawlers with some 1200 fishermen aboard went missing in the Bay of Bengal due to high waves triggered by a sudden storm on Thursday, September 20, 2007, Bangladesh frequently faces crucial natural behavior not only for its geographical position but also for the rapid changing of world climate which is largely caused by human activity.

In Bangladesh, refugees who can no longer farm on drowning coastal land are falling inward to cities already crammed with jobless and desperate masses. Smaller than Illinois, US, Bangladesh has 152.6 million people, half the US population. Imagine what it will be like in 50 years, when the Bay of Bengal is predicted to cover 11 percent of Bangladesh's land. By some estimates, a one-meter sea level rise would submerge about one-third of Bangladesh's total area, uprooting 25-30 million people. Country's recent flooding is one of the worst floods in recent times as more than one-third of the country was inundated, but in the face of such a deluge, there is little that Bangladesh can prevent this natural disaster.

No problem is as complex, or as potentially catastrophic for the industry, as the rising temperatures in the world's oceans and atmosphere. It is time for action. World needs adaptation to climate change, because irrespective of what one's do, everybody will have to live with change in the climate. Adaptation alone can not cope with all the projected impacts of climate change. Hence, a mix of strategies is needed, including adaptation and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions

Floodplain gradients are low. The average gradient from the north-western tip to the coast is less than 20 centimetres per kilometre south of Dhaka, the gradient averages only 1.6, whereas the general direction of groundwater flow is towards the Bay of Bengal, with gradient varying from 1:1,000 in NW to 1:13,000 in the central Bangladesh and less than 1:20,000 in Coastal areas).

Abundance of alluvial soil: The Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI) has identified about 500 soil series in Bangladesh. Although about 500 soil series have been defined, the flood plain soils are the most common and are formed from river deposits. The pride of Bangladesh is its rivers, with one of the largest networks in the world with a total number of about 700 rivers including tributaries. The river system brings every year a huge volume of new silt to replenish the natural fertility of the agricultural land. Flood plain soils can be found throughout Bangladesh, with the exception of the hill tracts. These soils are highly suitable to the growth of a wide variety of crops.

Abundance of water: Abundant water (rainfall and groundwater) is one of the most important resources for agricultural development in the country. The entire country has a tropical climate and receives rain during the summer monsoons. The rainfall during monsoon (June-September) varies between 125 cm in the northwest region and 400 cm in the east. One-third of Bangladesh's physical space of fifty-five thousand square miles is comprised of water in the dry season, while in the rainy season up to 70 percent is submerged.

Favourable climate and wide range of bio-diversity for crop diversification: Bangladesh is endowed with a favourable climate and a wide range of biodiversity for the cultivation of a wide variety of both tropical and temperate crops. This helps grow in the four agroclimatic zones nearly 100 different kinds of crops including cereal crop (rice, wheat, maize), fibre crop (jute, cotton), pulse crop (lentil, soybean), oilseed crop (rape-mustard, sesame, groundnut, sunflower), sugar crop (sugarcane, date palm, palmyra palm), narcotic crop (tobacco, betel leave vine, betel nut), beverage crop (tea), root and tuber crop (potato, cassava) and vegetable crop (brinjal, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, carrot) in the country.

Cheap agricultural labour: Crop production system is highly labour intensive and there is an abundance of cheap agricultural labour in the country throughout the year.According to labour force survey (LFS) Bangladesh 2002-03, agriculture employs 51.7 percent of the country's labour force of 15 years and above. In1995-96, out of a 56 million labour force, 34. 5 million (63.2 percent) were engaged in agricultural activities. What is to be noted is that full time housewives who are not included in the aforesaid LFS carry out a lot of agricultural activities in the rural areas.

Agriculture is a key contributor to GDP: Although contribution of agriculture sector to gross domestic product (GDP) is on the decline, yet it is a key contributor to the GDP of the country. At current prices, the contribution of agriculture sector to the GDP is 30 percent.

Dependence on the vagaries of nature: Agriculture in Bangladesh is still dependent upon the vagaries of nature. The farmers can expect a good harvest in the absence of drought and devastating floods. For instance, in Bangladesh the staple crop is rice. It is cultivated as aus, aman, or boro. Aman is the main rice crop and a good harvest is possible if there is no drought during the period of its transplantation and no devastating flooding after the transplantation. In the coastal areas, cyclones and tidal surges cause heavy damage to the standing crops. River erosion is another cause for the loss of standing crops.

Fall in soil nutrients holding back agricultural growth: According to the SRDI source, soil nutrients in most of the 7.85 million hectares of arable land in the country have depleted alarmingly, posing a threat to agricultural growth. Research conducted by the SRDI shows an acute deficiency of nutrient nitrogen in most arable lands and various degrees of deficiency of nutrients like phosphorus, potash, sulphur, boron, and zinc. The SRDI attributed the deficiency to persisting production of the same crop in the same lands, intensification of cropping, cultivation of modern crop varieties without required land and soil tests and unbalanced use of chemical fertilisers.

Crop damage due to pest attack: Studies show that the annual loss of crops due to insect pests alone is 16 percent for rice, 11 percent for wheat, 20 percent for sugarcane, 25 percent for vegetables, 15 percent for jute and 25 percent for pulse. Our farmers use both traditional and modern methods to control pests. The continued use of chemical pesticides is now being challenged. These include growing public concern about the effects of the chemicals on human health, wildlife and environment; the increasing genetic resistance of insects to chemicals; and the disruption of naturally occurring biological control agents.

High costs of agricultural inputs including fertiliser: It is a fact that the policies of the successive governments for liberalisation of different agricultural input delivery systems, such as (a) liberalisation of trade in minor irrigation sector and encouragement to the private sector for supply of minor irrigation equipment; (b) privatisation of trade in fertiliser; and (c) liberalisation of production, processing, distribution and import of seeds to ensure the participation of private sector seed dealers in seed industry development have had salutary effects on the agriculture sector. But the poor farming community is hit hard by the high costs of agricultural inputs including fertiliser and occasional increases in the price of diesel required for operating irrigation pumps. Further, there is often scarcity of fertiliser during the cultivation of boro which is the second main rice crop in the country. All these adversely affect agricultural production

Inadequate subsidy to agriculture sector: Although the government has in the recent years adopted the policy to increase the subsidy and assistance to agriculture sector, the amount of subsidy and assistance is insufficient for the growth of this vital sector (the government increased subsidy and assistance to agriculture sector from Tk 300 crore in 2003-04 to Tk 600 crore in 2004-05 and Tk 1200 crore in 2005-06). Available information reveals that farmers in Switzerland are now given 69 cents subsidy to produce crops worth one US dollar, in the US the amount is 45 cents, and in European Union countries 35 cents. So, all efforts are needed to overcome the constraints and problems that stand in the way of development of agriculture sector in the country.

The Bangalees as a traditional agrarian community are deeply attached to nature, which is abundant here on a very fertile ground, and is very colourful and lively too. The rural folks not only depend on the bounty of nature but perhaps this long active association with nature kept alive in their mind the pagan passions for nature and natural elements. People believe in nature's supernatural powers, see behind nature's every act of fatal consequences the hands of god thus nurturing in them a mind too vulnerable to all sorts of passionate callings in devotional lines which normally generate from the mysteries or forces or wonders of nature. Occult and obscure practices are ripe in this condition among the common rural people.

Three cheers for the farmers of northern districts

Three cheers for the farmers of northern districts, the granary of Bangladesh! Braving all odds and proving all speculations of crop failure untrue, farmers of northern districts brought their aman paddy home! The fields have taken the shape of green carpets with succulent paddy plants growing in full vigour. An eye-soothing and mind-boggling landscape prevails throughout the entire rural areas of northern Bangladesh now. Aman paddy is almost a cent percent rain-fed crop, and therefore a more profitable crop than the other crops. Besides, aman crop requires less fertilizer and pesticide compared to other crops. But there was scanty rainfall during the full transplant season of aman paddy this year. The northern districts, which generally receive less rainfall than other parts of the country, this year received on an average 50 per cent rainfall and some districts like Dinajpur and Thakurgaon received less than 30 per cent rainfall compared to the normal precipitation.

Apart from scarcity of water, there was also short supply of fertilizer, insecticide, and other inputs. The price of diesel was exorbitant and supply of electricity for operating irrigation pumps was inadequate. Under these trying circumstances, it was really a matter of great concern as to whether the farmers would be able to bring their lands under aman cultivation. Because, if they go for aman cultivation, they must make arrangements for artificial irrigation. This was the scenario they were presented with this monsoon.

But setting aside all calculations of cost and benefit, farmers jumped into aman paddy farming and brought their lands under cultivation. During my road journey from the capital, I did not find a single barren field as far as my eyes could see. The entire horizon was covered by green paddy plants. The farmers set their irrigation pumps to motion, which normally remain idle during this season. They were running them on diesel to irrigate their aman paddy fields. They bought fertilizers at double the price of the government rate, borrowed money from the moneylenders, and even sold their cows to carry on the cultivation process.

O father come let us go
To the field to plough
Place the ploughs on oxen shoulders and Push, push, push.
We who bring out food
From the depth of the earth
We who provide food for the whole world
Why can't we eat can any one tell us?
Jasim Uddin

Music for Bangladesh

  • Concert for Bangladesh Introduction
  • Ravi Shankar- Concert arranged by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison in 1971 to gather donations to help Bangladesh.
  • Mohiner Ghoraguli - Akashe chharano Bengali song
  • George Harrison - Bangladesh
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps - George Harrison
  • Ravi Shankar - the heart of bangladesh
  • Tuning Sitar with Ravi Shankar - Ustad Rakha - Ustad Khan
  • George Harrison honoured for "Concert for Bangladesh"
  • Bob Dylan - Blowin' in the Wind (Concert For Bangladesh)
  • George Harrison - I am missing you (Live)

  • When asked why they are so desperate to cultivate their lands, a marginal farmer of Mithapukur upazila in Rangpur said farming is their profession, it's their mode of life. They do not have any work if they do not go for cultivation. Farmers, especially the marginal ones, employ their entire family labour to make the cultivation a success. They do not bother about loss and profit. Their only concern is whether they can harvest paddy for a few months till the cultivation of the next crop.

    zainul abedinSurprisingly, the endeavour of the poor farmers does not get much attention from our policy-makers. In fact, there is little contribution of the state to the agricultural production process in our country, although agriculture still constitutes nearly 25 per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Agriculture is still the single largest employment sector, offering jobs to over 50 per cent of the active labour force. Also, neither the government nor state machinery plays a major role in making the production process hassle-free. Rather, every year, farmers have to undergo a great ordeal in getting fertilizer, electricity, diesel, and other inputs, which they buy in cash. The middlemen, supported by the government machinery, push them into misery, creating artificial crisis of inputs to derive extra profit. The people who are sitting at the helm of policy-making neither calculate the farming community's requirement of inputs nor do they take necessary steps to procure those in time. As a result, every year a huge sum of money is being siphoned off from the pockets of the poor farmers to the henchmen of the ruling party.

    Our farmers are brave and defiant. They are optimistic. In every cropping season they gamble with their crops as none can say for sure whether the investment they have to make for raising crops would come back. Natural calamity like flood, drought, and other forms of extreme climatic situations, and pest attack or crisis of inputs may cause failure of their crops. No professionals, except the farmers, would enter into such uncertainties where the question of profit and loss exists (N. Islam, The Daily Star, October 9, 2006).

    24pc population live in extreme poverty

    zainulAbout 19 percent of the rural households cannot afford three meals a day while around 10 percent subsist on two meals or less for a number of months every year, reveals a study. "While Bangladesh has come out of the 'shadow of famine', the problem of starvation persists. About 24 percent of the total population currently live in extreme income poverty," it said.

    Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in cooperation with the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC) of UK carried out the study styled 'The State of the Poorest 2005-2006--Chronic Poverty in Bangladesh: Tales of Ascent, Descent, Marginality and Persistence'. It was jointly edited by researcher Binayak Sen and David Hulme. The study mentioned that around 31 percent of the rural population presently suffer the indignity of chronic poverty -- low consumption, hunger and under-nutrition, lack of access to basic health services, illiteracy and other deprivations, for more than a decade.

    While it is clear that Bangladesh does not provide an easy context for poverty reduction, the recent economic growth in the country, improvements in services and the resilience and innovation of the poorest all augur well, it said. Bangladesh will not help its poorest if it believes that 'growth alone' should be the policy focus, the study noted

    Presenting the overview of the study at the BIDS conference room, Binayak Sen said if inequality continues to rise the poorest will face the prospect of 'anti-poorest' growth in the future. "To avoid this situation the government will need to pay increasing attention to policies to moderate inequality," he observed (The Daily Star, October 9, 2006).

    Budha - 350 BC, Mahastangar, Bangladesh

    Traditionally this country lived with harmony to nature which reflects in ancient boul, Murshidi, Jari, Bhatiali songs. Bangladesh has developed over the centuries an excellent social situation based on humanism and secular thought - a very modern trend of social advancement Europe had known during the renaissance. Mainly four streams mingled in this social thought process - tribal anthropomorphism, Buddhist nihilism, Hindu vaiishnavism and Muslim sufism. These four historical forces plus the various local mystic cults of different obscure religious sects which cast and class distinction and autocratic establishment prompted ancient Bangladesh to develop with the hopes fought relentlessly against religious fundamentalism, orthodoxy, fanatism, crude and aspirations of the common men and their philosophy synthesis. Social dynamics of rural Bangladesh is rooted in this cultural synthesis and religious tolerance. In the 16th Century Bangladesh was the first and only country in the world that introduced religion freedom and during this time the country flourished at its highest peak. Sebastien Manrique in 1640 wrote a very impressive account of prosperity of Dhaka:

    Many strange nations resort to this city on account of its vast trade and commerce in a great variety of commodities, which are produced in profusion in the rich and fertile lands of these regions. These have raised the city to an eminence of wealth which is actually stupefying, especially when one sees and considers the large quantities of money, in a such quantity indeed that, being difficult to account, it used commonly to weighed.

    There are many accounts and references which point out that the ancient people of Bengal were different in race, culture and language from the Aryans . The original inhabitants of Bengal were non-aryan. According to Sylvan Levi, the primitive people of Bengal spoke a language that was neither Aryan nor dravidian, but belonged to a separate family. Lying at the crossroads of South Asia and Central Asia, Bengal attracted people from early civilisation of the fertile crescent.. It is now generally held that the foundations of the agriculture-based village life, which is also believed to be one of the foundation of Indian Civilisation, were laid by the Nishadas or Auastric-speaking peoples of Bengal. It may be presumed that Bengal developed a culture of ist own which was non-Vedic and non-Aryan. It is true that Aryan culture, and the Vedic, Buddhist and Jaina religions influenced Bengal. The primitive culture became absorbed but it also influenced adopted religion.

  • History of Bengal
  • Bouls of Bengal
  • Age-old tradition of puppet theatre- A dying Art

    Bangladesh is characterized by a unique coming together of many races, languages and religions. Its culture is a distinctive composite to which Jains, Buddhists, Hindus, Vaisnavas and Muslims have all contributed. From time to time Bangladesh searches for its roots as if trying to put back the missing parts in its long history. In the search for these roots we must look at its poetry.

    They give us a vivid account of the life and occupations of the common people, their work, events of birth, marriage and death, religious activities, dress and ornaments, food and utensils, and music and musical instruments. There is also a beautiful description of the riverine and green eastern part of Bengal which is Bangladesh today. The poems describe rivers, canals, ponds, muddy shores, various types of boats and their different parts, ferrying, and rowing; all these were used by the siddhacaryas as spiritual symbols.

    The poems describe rivers, canals, ponds, muddy shores, various types of boats and their different parts, ferrying, and rowing; all these were used by the siddhacaryas as spiritual symbols.

    Nataraj Siva (basalt), 11th Century

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    2. Mystic Religion

    The Bengali siddhas, Buddhist mystics, used poetry as a vehicle for teaching one of the most difficult and mystic religious, that known as the shahajia mystic school of Buddhism. Through the use of the mother tongue of the common people, the mystic poets conveyed serious religious philosophies. The poems are a part of the cultural and religious heritage of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet

    radha-krishnaThe Caryagiti influenced Gita-govinda, a famous Sanskrit work of the Bengali poet Jayadeva and Vaisnava Padabali, and much later, Rabindranath Tagore and the Baul songs of Bangladesh; Gita-govinda is a celebration of love between Krishna, the god of love and Radha.

    Radha-Krishna - mythological traditions

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    3. Vaisnavism

    Vaisnavism designates the devotional or bhakti practice of worshipping Visnu or Krishna as God. Today Vaisnavism in the Bangla-speaking region is nearly synonymous with the Gaudiya school that focuses primarily on the erotic exploits of Krishna. The inspiration and founder of this school was Krishna Chaitanya (1486-1533), whose followers believe him to be the embodiment of Krishna as svayang bhagavan, the supreme lord, and an androgynous fusion of Radha and Krishna in perpetual union and separation. So completely equated are Chaitanya and Krishna that to worship one is to worship the other. The brilliance of Gaudiya theology and the portability of its primary ritual practices - most notably the simple chanting of the name of Krishna in musical kirtana - has for five centuries enabled that community to adapt itself with dramatic success in each reorganisation of Bengal's political fortunes.

    The earliest extant Vaisnava work in Bangla language, however, is not a theological or devotional statement from one of these formal sampradayas or sects, but the popular songs of Badu Chandidasa's ShriKrishnakirtana, composed in the late 14th or early 15th century. Like the Bhagavata Purana and Gitagovinda before it, the text is not automatically considered sectarian simply because it portrays the exploits of the adolescent Krishna with Radha and the other young girls of Braj, but it was subsequently adopted as a statement of devotional sentiment by the Gaudiya community. The text of some thirteen cantos containing 412 songs also marked the beginning of a new Bangla vernacular literature and served as the source and inspiration for later devotional padas in Bangla, Maithili, and Brajabuli. It has been especially revered because of Chaitanya's professed enjoyment of the songs of Candidasa and Vidyapati, although it is not clear that the manuscript and printed version of the text today match the songs Chaitanya sang.

    The Vedas, which are the scriptures of the Hindus, are unique in character. We find in the Vedas a great variety of subjects and a great flexibility of doctrines.

    Another scripture of profound philosophic value is known as Bhagavad Gita, the song celestial, as it has been called. It forms a part of the great epic Mahabharata. The Gita attempted to bring about a synthesis of the existing Upanisads of the time.

    This book has attracted the interest of the philosophers as much as have the aphorisms of the Vedanta. Almost all of the great Vedantists have some commentary on this little book of seven hundred stanzas. Besides Vedanta philosophy, there exist other systems of thought. These systems of thought are not in any sense in serious disagreement with the Vedanta.

    In this book have been fused all the great systems of Hindu philosophic thought with wonderful genius and skill. Those who are especially influenced by this book commonly go by the name Vaisnav.

    The Vedas, the Upanishadas, and the Bhagavad-Gita play an important role in the development and practice of Hinduism. These ancient holy scriptures uphold the eternal truth of the existence of the supreme Lord and His incarnations, the latest being Sri Krishna. "Owing to the eternal will-to-communicate God descends on earth to re-unite His joyful Self with His created beings."

    All gods and goddesses are in way renderings of Brahma. Krishna is the most perfect rendering of pure Brahma in the human experience. We can talk about Krishna, meditate on Krishna, love Krishna, and dedicate our lives to Him, and from that let us realise ultimate salvation and bliss from the Divinity.

    GITAGOVINDA ("Govinda's Song")

    The Gitagovinda is an allegory of the union of the human soul with God. This union is described through the story of the love between the god Krishna and his human consort Radha, as their relationship traverses an initial flush of passion, jealousy and separation, reconciliation, and reunion. Yet even though Jayadeva's text lavishly employs the images from Sanskrit love poetry, it is far more than a twelfth century romantic novel.

    Lyric poem written in the twelfth century by the poet Jayadeva. According to tradition, Jayadeva was associated with the temple to the god Jagannath in the east Indian city of Puri, and his wife Padmavati was a dancer at the same temple. The Gitagovinda is one of the last great devotional (bhakti) texts composed in Sanskrit, written in an era when vernacular languages were becoming the prevalent vehicle for devotional religiosity, and is an exquisite example of Sanskrit poetry at its finest.

    Jayadeva's text returns to a more conventional tale of romantic love. The following chapter describes the symbols of spring, which are intended to evoke a mood of love in the hearers. Yet this mood is marred by Radha's jealousy when Krishna sports with a troop of cowherd girls, for she desires Krishna for herself alone. She withdraws and sits apart, sulking and despondent, only to burst into rage when Krishna comes to meet her, bearing the signs of another erotic liaison.

    Jayadevva, the twelfth century poet, was a contemporary of several other poets in the court of Lakshmana Sena of Bengal, and even at a young age he attained fame for skill in composing verses in Sanskrit with apt words, as per his own statement in the introductory verses to Gitagovinda. He further says there that his mind has been made the residence of Goddess of Learning and he was the king who made the feet of Padamavati dance to his tunes and beats. The legend goes that Padmavati was the temple dancer at the Puri Jagannath temple and Jayadeva married her and settled down there to serve the Lord and Padmavati simultaneously

    The Gitagovinda consist of twelve chapter, further divided into twenty-four songs. Each song consists of eight couplets, it is called Ashtapadi. Chapter one and chapter two, four five and twelve contain two ashtapadi each; chapters three, six, eight, nine and ten contain only one ashtapadi each. Thus there are twenty-four ashtapadis. These ashtapadis can be set to music in different melodious ragas, which were appreciated and followed by the poets later period. On which more than hundred commentaries has been written in Sanskrit and over fifty more than hundred commentaries have been written in Sanskrit and over fifty in regional languages in India also in many foreign languages.

    vidyapati also made important contributions to Bangla song. Although his songs were written in Maithili, they were once very popular in Bengal. His Vaishnava stanzas are highly regarded, and his themes vary between spiritual love and secular love. Later lyricists tried to emulate him; rabindranath tagore himself was an admirer of Vidyapati and set some of his songs to music and sang them himself.

    Like Jaydev, Vidyapati also wrote Vaishnava songs based on the Radha-Krishna theme. A century later, Govindadas, another Vaishnava poet of Bengal, followed the footsteps of Vidyapati and became popularly known as the second Vidyapati. Rabinranath Tagore admired Govindadas and composed a tune for his song, 'Sundari radhe aoye bani' and included it in the Bhanusingha Thakurer Padavali (Bhanusingher Padavali). Vidyapati's verses are beautiful for both word and tune. The kirtan singers of Bengal have immortalised him by including his verses in Rasakirtan and Palakirtan.

    Many Vaishnava poets, inspired by Chaitanya, wrote songs based on the story of Radha and Krishna and made them popular all over Bengal. These verses, also known as kirtan, are an invaluable heritage of Bengal. In the words of Rabindranath Tagore, 'The joy we find in kirtan is not the joy of pure song; with it we also find the aesthetic sentiment'.

    In Bengal from ancient times, kirtan was sung in praise of the divine. Buddhists sang charya, which is in fact another form of kirtan. While all songs which glorify God and describe his different names and attributes are kirtan, Chaitanya gave a specific form to kirtan and divided it into two types: kirtan which names God and kirtan which describes the doings of God. There are five parts of kirtan: katha, donha, akhar, tuk and chhut. Another part of kirtan is jhumur. The influence of jhumur can be seen in Bangla folk songs as well as in modern songs. nazrul islam used jhumur in a number of songs such as 'Churir tale nurir mala', 'Tepantarer mathe badhu he', 'Ranamatir pathe lo', etc.

    Kirtan songs spread throughout Bengal towards the end of 16th century, developing into four branches: garanhati, manoharshahi, reneti, and mandarini. The manoharsahi kirtan was the most influential, particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries. It has also influenced the panchali

    Krishna enjoyed the dance of love (rasa-lila) with the gopis many of whom are expansions of His own internal energies. The supreme gopi known as Srimati Radharani is the object of Krishna's highest devotion. This beautiful dance would occur in the autumn season at night under a full moon when Lord Krsna would captivate the young gopis with the extraordinary music of His flute . These esoteric pastimes constitute the most confidential expression of divinity ever revealed.

    His famous message known as the Bhagavad-gita, literally the Song of God. This Song contains the essence of all knowledge having been spoken by the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna Himself. This war concluded with the destruction of the demonic kings and the reinstatement of the righteous Pandava princes.

    Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice,
    O descendant of Bharata,
    and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time
    I descend Myself. (Bhagavad-gita 4.7)

    Jayadeva's Gitagovinda is quite passionately erotic, but it is also considered a highly spiritual work, sung daily in many Indian temples dedicated to Krishna. Through song, it tells of the love play, separation, and union between the God-man Krishna and the cowherdess Radha. On an esoteric level, Radha is understood to be the individual soul that petulantly feels abandoned by God (Krishna) who, in turn, loves all souls (and is therefore accused of infidelity by Radha). But Radha finally overcomes her hurt and rejoins her lover in passionate union. Using the hugely magnetic power of desire, this bhakti classic describes a pathway to return to Oneness with the Divine.

    Jayadeva's dramatic lyrical poem Gitagovinda is a unique work in Indian literature and a source of inspiration in both medieval and contemporary Vaisnavism.

    It concentrates on Krsna's love with the Cowherdess Radha. Intense earthly passion is the example Jayadeva uses to express the complexities of divine and human love.

    It describes the loves of Krsna and Radha in twelve cantos containing twenty-four songs. The songs are sung by Krsna or Radha or by Radha's maid and are connected by brief narrative or descriptive passages. The appropriate musical mode and rhythm for each song are noted in the text. This poem is really a kind of drama, of the ragakavya type, since it is usually acted. Critical acclaim of the poem has been high, but its frank eroticism has led many Indian commentators to interpret the love between Radha and Krsna as an allegory of the human soul's love for God. Learned and popular audiences in India and elsewhere have continued to appreciate the emotional lyricism the poem expresses in its variations on the theme of separated lover's passion.

    You rest on the circle of Sri's breast, (from The Gitagovinda)

    You rest on the circle of Sri's breast,
    Wearing your earrings,
    Fondling wanton forest garlands.
    Triumph, God of Triumph, Hari!

    The sun's jewel light encircles you
    As you break through the bond of existence --
    A wild Himalayan goose on lakes in minds of holy men.
    Triumph, God of Triumph, Hari!

    You defeat the venomous serpent Kaliya,
    Exciting your Yadu kinsmen
    Like sunlight inciting lotuses to bloom.
    Triumph, God of Triumph, Hari!

    You ride your fierce eagle Garuda
    To battle demons Madhu and Mura and Naraka,
    Leaving the other goods free to play.
    Triumph, God of Triumph, Hari!

    Watching with long omniscient lotus-petal eyes,
    You free us from bonds of existence,
    Preserving life in the world's three realms.
    Triumph, God of Triumph, Hari!

    Janaka's daughter Sita adorns you.
    You conquer demon Dusana.
    You kill ten-headed Ravana in battle.
    Triumph, God of Triumph, Hari!

    Your beauty is fresh as rain clouds.
    You hold the mountain to churn elixir from the sea.
    Your eyes are night birds drinking from Sri's moon face.
    Triumph, God of Triumph, Hari!

    Poet Jayadeva joyously sings
    This song of invocation
    In an auspicious prayer.
    Triumph, God of Triumph, Hari!

    As he rests in Sri's embrace,
    On the soft slope of her breast,
    The saffroned chest of Madhu's killer
    I stained with red marks of passion
    And sweat from fatigue of tumultuous loving.
    May his broad chest bring you pleasure too!

    Gitagovinda Songs:

  • GITAGOVINDA: Radha Krishna Lila - Manini Radhe
  • Jagannath Mandir group - Awesome devotional
  • Meeta Pandit - Raag Desh a excerpt of a song from Jaydev's Gita Govinda
  • Odissi performance of Madhavi Mudgal
  • L.K.Pandit's recital of Jayadev's Git
  • Gopala Krishna George Harrison
  • Radhe krishna
  • Radha Govinda Meditation

  • Janmastami -- the birth of Lord Krishna

    It has been specifically proclaimed in the "Bhagavad Gita" by Lord Krishna Himself that He descends to this mundane world at different ages whenever it becomes necessary for protecting the virtuous and the innocent from the atrocities and cruelties of the devilish and the oppressive, for establishing religion in its true glory and sublimity by eliminating the evil. Following this unequivocal celestial commitment, Lord Krishna, as the embodiment of Supreme Eternal Personality, descended to this planet earth on the eighth waning night in Bhadra during Rohini Nakshatra (asterism) posing as the worldly son of Devoki and Basudev. It is this enchanting descent of Lord Krishna to the earth that is celebrated as Janmastami by the Hindus the world over.

    It is one of the most colourful and most widely observed religious festivals of the Hindus. On this blissful day, the Hindu devotees keep fast day and night and engage themselves in various festivities in praise of Lord Krishna. It centres round the supernatural birth of Supreme Godhead Lord Krishna in the prison cell of Demon King Kansa, where Devoki and Basudev, the would be mother and father of Lord Krishna on earth, had been thrown in captivity for a long period.

    Devoki saw Him in his absolute Divine Glory, lovingly smiling and standing in front of her in His full youthful blossom. With the appearance of Lord Krishna witnessing divine power all around, the defence system of the highly fortified prison house of Kansa was shattered, locks opened automatically, and sentries went into deep sleep. Krishna consoled Devoki and Basudev that their days of agony and sufferings would be over soon, and the days of King Kansa were numbered.

    Devoki and Basudev, who are the staunchest devotees of Lord Vishnu, now incarnated as Lord Krishna, enjoyed the whole spectrum of the celestial sublimity happening before their eyes and were simply enthralled and fascinated. A celestial warning signaled to Kansa that the eighth issue of Devoki would be his destroyer and that added a new dimension to the full cup of agony of Kansa, who became mortally afraid of his ultimate doom.

    Lord Krishna then instructed Basudev to take Him to Nandalaya at Gokula across the Jamuna, where Jasodha, wife of Nandaraj, had just given birth to a female child, to leave Him beside Jasodha and to take away the new born female child of Jasodha to be placed beside Devoki, to pass off as Devoki's female child.

    An overawed and rewarded Basudev put Krishna on a basket and started for Nandalaya in the midst of incessant downpour and intermittent thunder-storm. For facilitating Krishna's journey from Mathura to Gokula the flooding Jamuna made easy passage for Basudev. Thus, Krishna descended in Mathura, and on the same night migrated to Gokula. The next morning Barajawasis came to Nanda's house to join the most joyous celebration of Krishna's birth.

    From day one, everyday at Brajadham (Brindavan) was of joyous celebration, and every moment was an experience of Krishna's ever new and ever-increasing love and affection that overflowed the hearts of the Brajabashis. As Krishna grew, everyone in Braja would find instances of Krishna's "Leela Madhuris," which instantly elicited the awe and inspiration of the devotees by reminding them of the presence of Lord Krishna in their midst.

    At the age of seven, Krishna did perform "Govardhan Leela" and "Maharasha." At ten Krishna left Brindavan for Mathura and annihilated demon King Kansa and made Ugransen the King of Mathura. Later, He went to Dwarka to avoid ceaseless conflicts with devil incarnate Jarasandha, settled there and married Rukmini, descendant of Moha Lakshmi on earth, and lived there till His ascension to Goloka (heaven) after the ordeals of the Kurukshetra War were over and His supreme mission on earth was fulfilled.

    It was in the battle-field of Kurukshetra that Lord Krishna in His infinite mercy revealed Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna for the benefaction of mankind.

    "Sonaton Dharma," or Hinduism as it is popularly known, cannot be traced to any specific starting point in history, and it does not have a founder, nor is it based on any particular scripture as the spiritual guide. The Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, are no doubt, sacred texts of the Hindus, but the Hindus go beyond them in search of the Ultimate Truth. The Hindus believe that the entire cosmos is subject to the vicissitudes of time and, consequently, whatever has an origin at a point of time has an inevitable end. The process of creation (Shristi) and dissolution (Pralaya) of the Universe is a periodic cycle in which the entire Cosmos manifests at the time of creation and withdraws at the time of dissolution. The process continues till the liberation from the cycle of birth and death (salvation) is attained.

    According to the Hindu belief this cycle of births and rebirths that all souls experience is called 'transmigration," which results in re-incarnation. All souls, according to their Karmo, are destined to experience transmigration, except the Infinite, which is beyond creation or destruction. This Absolute Truth or Ultimate Reality is spoken of as the indestructible, the Supreme Being, God, Almighty, etc. From this we get an idea of the question of the cycle of life and death, the nature of soul, the Universe and its creation, the unity of the creation, and the reason for joy and sufferings, happiness and sorrow, and the ultimate understanding of man's relationship with God (Gour Gopal Saha, Sept. 2007).

    'Gur Pukur Mela' in Satkhira

    gur pukurThe 300 year-old Gur Pukur Mela started recently with devotees paying homage to the goddess Manasa at Palashpole in Satkhira town. However, many believe that the mela has lost some of its appeal. Every year, 15 days before the mela, thousands of traders in the district and from far-flung areas of the country gather here with their goods and products and set up stalls at the premises.

    The Gur Pukur Mela, which should be considered a folk heritage, helps the local cottage and small industries. This tradition is now on the verge of extinction following the two bomb blasts -- one at the movie theare and the other at circus grounds -- in 2002. The blasts left three people dead, while over a hundred people had been injured.

    The Gur Pukur Mela is held around the 'Manasa Tala', a spot where the Hindu devotees worship the goddess. The origin of the festival's name cannot be traced any more. Some say that the mela was originally held around a pond, which was circular in shape. So it was called 'Gol Pukur' (circular pond). 'Gur Pukur' possibly derived from that. According to another hearsay, the water of the mentioned pond became sweet as the devotees poured the remains of food offerings to the goddess Manasa. And hence 'Gur Pukur' (pond of molasses). Yet another version says, the scion of the 'Gaud' dynasty dug the pond. So it was named after the dynasty (Daily Star, September 24, 2007).

    The Legend of Janmashtami
    Behula and Laxminder

    4. Kabir: 15th c. Mystic Poet

    Six hundred years ago Kabir was born in India in 1398 AD. He grew up in a Muslim weaver family, but some say he was really son of a Brahmin widow who was adopted by a childless couple. When he died, his Hindu and Muslim followers started fighting about the last rites. The legend is that when they lifted the cloth covering his body, they found flowers instead. The Muslim followers buried their half and the Hindu cremated thier half. In Maghar, his tomb and samadhi still stand side by side.

    Kabir ranks among the world's greatest poets. The poet Kabir, one of the most intriguing and celebrated personalities in the history of Indian mysticism, lived in the fifteenth century. He was a great religious reformer who left behind an exquisite body of poetry of enlightenment that weaves together the philosophies of Sufism, Hinduism, and the Kabbala. These poems express a wide range of mystical experience, from the loftiest abstractions to the most intimate and personal realization of God, and have become a classic Sufi text. Rabindranath Tagore's translation work simply captures the real mystic flavour. Now, for the first time, Andrew Harvey, one of the leading spiritual writers of our time, and a renowned translator of mystical texts, has written an introduction that gives a contemporary context to the words of Kabir.

    Kabir openly criticized all sects and gave a new direction to the Indian philosophy. This is due to his straight forward approach that has a universal appeal. It is for this reason that Kabir is held in high esteem all over the world.

    Kabir (1398-1456 AD) was a revolutionary and above all a great humanist. Although six hundred years have passed since his birth, the charm of his poetry and significance of his message still thrill the heart and kindle the minds of hundreds of thousands. He is the most often quoted poet even today. He did not belong to any religion in a traditional manner and always crusaded against the ritualistic aspect of every creed, but because of the sheer force of his ideas, he himself became a cult and the Kabir path came into being. He became the pioneer and leader of a host of 'Nirgun Saints' and Muslim poets alike.

    Kabir is the most revered name in Indian tradition, from Punjab to Bengal and from Himalayan frontier to the Deccan, he is acknowledged as a great poet (he has been called 'the Father of Hindi Poetry') and as a great mystic, venerated by Hindus and Muslims alike--a unique distinction.

    His rebellious spirit and revolutionary utterances have even won him the title of the 'Indian Luther.' born as a poor 'Julaha,' a Muslim weaver of Banaras, he showed total contempt for the religious establishment of his time, rejecting all 'scriptures,' the Koran as well as the Veda. His very originality as a 'non-religious' mystic, his rough idiom, the forceful ruggedness, terseness, and allusiveness of his style often made him obscure.

    I. 58. bâgo nâ jâ re nâ jâ

    Do not go to the garden of flowers!
    O Friend! go not there;
    In your body is the garden of flowers.
    Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the Infinite Beauty.

    I. 83. candâ jhalkai yahi ghat mâhîn

    THE moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes cannot see it:
    The moon is within me, and so is the sun.
    The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded within me; but my deaf ears cannot hear it.

    So long as man clamours for the I and the Mine, his works are as naught:
    When all love of the I and the Mine is dead, then the work of the Lord is done.
    For work has no other aim than the getting of knowledge:
    When that comes, then work is put away.

    The flower blooms for the fruit:
    when the fruit comes, the flower withers. {p. 50}
    The musk is in the deer, but it seeks it not within itself:
    it wanders in quest of grass.

    I. 83. candâ jhalkai yahi ghat mâhîn

    THE moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes cannot see it:
    The moon is within me, and so is the sun.
    The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded within me; but my deaf ears cannot hear it.
    So long as man clamours for the I and the Mine, his works are as naught: When all love of the I and the Mine is dead, then the work of the Lord is done.
    For work has no other aim than the getting of knowledge:
    When that comes, then work is put away.

    The flower blooms for the fruit: when the fruit comes, the flower withers. {p. 50}
    The musk is in the deer, but it seeks it not within itself: it wanders in quest of grass.

    . 104. aisâ lo nahîn taisâ lo

    O HOW may I ever express that secret word?
    O how can I say He is not like this, and He is like that?
    If I say that He is within me, the universe is ashamed:
    If I say that He is without me, it is falsehood.
    He makes the inner and the outer worlds to be indivisibly one;
    The conscious and the unconscious, both are His footstools.
    He is neither manifest nor hidden, He is neither revealed nor unrevealed:
    There are no words to tell that which He is.

    II. 24. hamsâ, kaho purâtan vât

    TELL me, O Swan, your ancient tale.
    From what land do you come, O Swan? to what shore will you fly?
    Where would you take your rest, O Swan, and what do you seek?
    Even this morning, O Swan, awake, arise, follow me!
    There is a land where no doubt nor sorrow have rule: where the terror of Death is no more.
    There the woods of spring are a-bloom, and the fragrant scent "He is I" is borne on the wind:
    There the bee of the heart is deeply immersed, and desires no other joy

    II. 48. jis se rahani apâr jagat men

    MORE than all else do I cherish at heart that love which makes me to live a limitless life in this world.
    It is like the lotus, which lives in the water and blooms in the water: yet the water cannot touch its petals, they open beyond its reach.
    It is like a wife, who enters the fire at the bidding of love. She burns and lets others grieve, yet never dishonours love.
    This ocean of the world is hard to cross: its waters are very deep. Kabîr says: "Listen to me, O Sadhu! few there are who have reached its end."

    Abida sings Kabir - intro by Gulzar - Souun to Sapney MiloonAbida is just fabulous singing the poetry of Kabir
    Abida sings Kabir - Bhala Hua Meri Mutki Toot Gayee

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    4. 1.Chandrabati is the first woman Bangali poet

    Shiva temple (right) in which Chandrabati used to pray next to the Manasha templeKishoreganj a northern district of Dhaka, is enriched with archaeological heritage. People are very proud of and talk a lot about their rich cultural heritage. Poems of Chandrabati are a hot topic. They talk very highly about Jangalbari, and about boating on the haor. We decided to visit Chandrabati's house Jangalbari.

    Chandrabati is the first woman Bangali poet whose tragic life has touched many hearts. She was born in the 16th century in a Brahmun family. Her parents were Dija Bangshidash and Sholochona. Chandrabati was guided by her father, another historical personality well-known for his gathas or odes such as Mahua and Komola.

    sukor- jasim centenaryBeautiful Chandrabati was in love with a Brahmin boy called Joychandra. The two were to get married when suddenly Joychandra jilted her for another woman. Chandrabati, heart broken decided to remain celibate all her life. Seeing her in such grief Chandrabati's father advised her to occupy herself reciting the Ramayana and in praying. Her loving father Dija also made a separate Shiva temple for her to pray next to his manasha temple. Chandrabati devoted herself to reciting and, writing odes and in praying. Some of her well-known odes are: Malua, Dossho Kenaram and Ramayana Katha (incomplete).

    Joychandra soon realised that he still loved Chandrabati and tried to win her back. As the legend goes, one day while Chandrabati was praying in her closed-door temple, Joychandra came to her begging to come back. As she was not opening the door, Joychandra wrote a love letter on the temple wall with red malati flowers. When Chandrabati opened the door, it was too late-- Joychandra had committed suicide by drowning himself in the river next to the temple. Chandrabati could not bear this sight and she too took her own life.

    The government has declared these two temples as national heritage sites, but conditions of these temples are worsening according to Tulshi Das. He says that there is a school in Chandrabati's name but the historical house, which was built by Dija, is totally damaged. Tulshi Das, descendant of Chandrabati, Das hopes that the government and individuals will come forward to repair this historical place and build a heritage museum in memory of Chandrabati.

    Ancient wisdom, as handed down in the form of legends and folklore, offers the best escape route from the sufferings of a world full of unhappiness, discord and hatred. Being staged as part of Ganakrishti's annual theatre festival, Chandrabati is a simple tale of love and longing that inspires and re-awakens in us faith in the fundamental virtues and values of life. Based on a popular story from Maimansingha Geetika, a collection of centuries-old Bangladeshi pala (ballads), the play narrates the life of its eponymous protagonist. Friends since childhood, Chandrabati and Jayananda fall in love and decide to get married. However, impressed by the beauty of another woman, Asmani, Jayananda sends letters to her, expressing his feelings of admiration. Despite being aware of Jayananda?s pledge to Chandrabati, Asmani informs her father about Jayananda, and he is forced to marry Asmani. Shocked and betrayed, Chandrabati becomes a recluse and spends her days in worship, finally refusing a repentant Jayananda when he returns. Direction: Manish Mitra. Event: Play in Bengali, Chandrabati, produced by Kasba Arghya(The Telegraph, July 23,2005)

    Chandraboti’s love for Joychandra

    Mohiner Ghoraguli - Meymansingha Gitika

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    5. Islam

    Islam penetrated into northwestern India, and Arabian traders came into contact with the coastal regions of India, including Bengal. But it took about five hundred years for Muslim political power to reach Bengal. According to unconfirmed traditions, some Muslim sufi-saints came to Bengal even before the political conquest, but Islam actually entered in full force with the Turkish conquest towards the beginning of the 13th century. Bangladesh is today a Muslim majority country; about 90% of her population belong to the Islamic faith.

    During the first three hundred years or so of Muslim rule, Bengal was ruled by the Turks of one or the other group- the Khaljis, the Ilbaris and the Qaraunahs. The Abyssinian slaves occupied the throne for a few years in the late 15th century and then came successively the Sayyids, the Afghans and the Mughals. So broadly speaking, the Muslim rulers of Bengal belonged to three racial groups- the Turks, the Afghans and the Mughals. The last were originally linked with the Turks.

    shajahanIslam entered Bengal both by land and water. By land the Turkish conquerors came with their religion, culture and concept of governance, while the Arab traders came through waterway. They also came with their religion and culture, with a purpose different from that of the Turks. The influence of the Arabs in some parts of Bengal, particularly in the coastal region of Chittagong is remembered through traditions. But the Arabs probably did not affect the society as deeply as was done by the Turkish conquerors.

    The advent of Sufism in Bengal may be dated to the mid-eleventh century with the arrival of Muslim and Sufi preachers. For the next six centuries, learned Sufis and saints continued to arrive in Bengal from Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia and north India. Among the prominent Sufis who came to Bengal during the 11th-12th centuries are Shah Sultan Balkhi (Bogra), shah sultan rumi (Mymensingh), Shah Niamatullah Butshikon (Dhaka), shah makhdum ruposh (Rajshahi), Shaikh Fariduddin Shakkarganj (Faridpur) and Makhdum Shah Daulah Shahid (Pabna). baba adam shahid was another Sufi saint who came to Bengal in the 12th century.

    The spread of Islam was accelerated in Bengal after the victory of bakhtiyar khalji in 1203 AD. Many Sufis accompanied the conquerors and devoted themselves to spreading the message of Islam and Sufism. Among those who played a significant role in this regard were Shah Jalal Tabrizi, Ismail Khan Ghazi and shaikh alaul haq in Gaur Pandua, Shah Jalal Yameni in Sylhet, Khan Jahan Ali in Khulna, Jafar Khan in Hughli Pandua, Shah Daula in Bagha, in the district of Rajshahi, Shaikh sharfuddin abu tawama in Sonargaon, badruddin shah madar in Chittagong and Shah Fariduddin in Faridpur.

    Sufism not only helped the spread of Islam in Bengal, but it also influenced the indigenous religions. The ideal of Sufism, attaining the love of God through love of His creation, has greatly influenced the devotional doctrines of vaisnavism as well as the mysticism of the bauls. At times Sufism in Bengal has been transformed into a folk religion with many of the Sufis being regarded as saints or folk deities. During a maritime journey, for example-specially if a storm arises- sailors pray to Pir Badar, repeating his name, 'Badar Badar'. The names of different Sufi saints are inscribed on the bodies of buses, trucks, launches, and steamers to ensure safe journeys

    The Turks came with the avowed intention of establishing political power. The Arabs came to trade in the trading season, and left when the season was over. But for the Turkish conquerors the situation was different. They conquered, established a kingdom and a government and took other steps to strengthen their position. Ever since the establishment of the first Muslim kingdom in Bengal there was a continuous flow of Muslims into Bengal. There came the soldiers, who were, in fact the backbone of political power; the religious learned people, the Sayyids, Ulama and the Mashayikhs to disseminate religion; the civil servants, experts in politics, finance and governance; the traders and businessmen, and also the artisans and craftsmen.

    They all came in search of employment and /or better livelihood. The Mongol destruction of the Baghdad Caliphate in the thirteenth century led to widespread displacement of Central Asian Muslims, who took refuge in the capitals of Delhi and lakhnauti. They even spread to the outlying places. Muslims coming from the cultural centres of central Asia were welcomed, they were known as aizza ('respectable') and given suitable employment.

    The Mughals took the imperial title of shahinshah (king of kings), and they gave the title of sultan to their princes. Bengal, or Subah Bangalah, was all through a province of the Mughal empire.

    The independent Sultanate saw the expansion of Muslim power which spread into every nook and corner of the country, up to kamarupa in the north, Tippara in the east and the sea in the south. Chittagong was conquered by Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah (1338-1349), Faridpur was conquered by jalaluddin muhammad shah (1415-1432) and renamed fathabad. Khan Jahan brought the Khulna-Jessore area under the Muslim rule in the reign of nasiruddin mahmud shah (1435-1459) and ruknuddin barbak shah (1459-1474) conquered Bakerganj. The expansion of Muslim power in Bengal was now complete, and the Muslim kingdom of Lakhnauti founded by Muhammad bakhtiyar khalji was turned into the Muslim Kingdom of Bengal. The Mughals took over this kingdom. After the death of aurangzeb, when Mughal power declined, Bengal like other provinces of the empire was ruled by the nawabs more or less independently. This position continued up to the battle of palashi, 1757.

    The Sufis of Bengal were called Shaikh, because they actually devoted themselves to the teaching of Islamic sciences alongside their mystic devotions. The Sufis were also called Makhdums, ie those who are served. Shaikh or Makhdum, by whatever name the Sufis were called, were people who were spiritually developed and who adhered to the spirit of Islam. They were renowned for their simplicity of life, strength of character, devotion to faith and peaceful pursuits, They influenced the people and society very deeply. The other groups of Muslims were the Khans, Maliks etc who belonged to the official class and bureaucracy; they were the army personnel and civil servants who ran the administration and were the backbone of Muslim political power.

    Jalal Uddin Rumi is one of the world's most revered mystical poets. During his lifetime he produced a prolific range of inspiring and devotional poetry which encapsulates the sufi's experience of union with the divine. These timeless classics have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, as Rumi has become one of our most popular poets. Although Rumi was a Sufi and a great scholar of the Qu’ran his appeal reaches across religious and social divisions.

    Rumi was born in 1207 on the Eastern shores of the Persian Empire. He was born in the city of Balkh( in what is now Afghanistan. His funeral, which lasted 40 days, was attended by Muslims, Jews, Persians, Christians and Greeks.

    encompasses many different ideas but behind all the poetry the essential theme was the longing and searching for the union with the divine. Rumi was himself a great mystic. His outpourings of poetry were a reflection of his own inner consciousness.


    If knowledge of mysteries come after emptiness of mind, that is
    illumination of heart.

    O Love, O pure deep Love, be here, be now,
    Be all – worlds dissolve into your
    stainless endless radiance,
    Frail living leaves burn with your brighter than cold stares –
    Make me your servant, your breath, your core.

    The beauty of the heart
    is the lasting beauty:
    its lips give to drink
    of the water of life.
    Truly it is the water,
    that which pours,
    and the one who drinks.
    All three become one when
    your talisman is shattered.
    That oneness you can't know
    by reasoning.

    This World Which Is Made of Our Love for Emptiness

    Praise to the emptiness that blanks out existence. Existence:
    This place made from our love for that emptiness!

    Yet somehow comes emptiness,
    this existence goes.
    Praise to that happening, over and over!
    For years I pulled my own existence out of emptiness.

    Then one swoop, one swing of the arm,
    that work is over.

    Free of who I was, free of presence, free of dangerous fear, hope,
    free of mountainous wanting.

    The here-and-now mountain is a tiny piece of a piece of straw
    blown off into emptiness.

    These words I'm saying so much begin to lose meaning:
    Existence, emptiness, mountain, straw:
    Words and what they try to say swept
    out the window, down the slant of the roof.

    Soul receives from soul that knowledge, therefore not by book
    nor from tongue.

    Jalal Uddin Rumi

    At the time of the Muslim conquest, Bengal was predominantly a Hindu-Buddhist country. The proportion of Hindus and Buddhists cannot be ascertained, but it is a fact that Buddhists ruled Bengal for several centuries, though before Bakhtyar's conquest Hindus, the Senas, were holding political power. Raja laksmanasena was then ruling over the whole of Bengal. Moreover, non-Aryan elements were always present in Bengal, particularly outside the urban centres and in the river-girt Bangalah; and Buddhism which was uprooted from the land of its birth, ie North India, had been a great competitor of Hinduism on the eve of the Muslim conquest.

    The non-Aryan elements had somehow identified themselves with the Buddhists and thus when Hindu-Buddhist rivalry was very much present in the society, Islam came as a relieving force, in which many found an easy opening to salvation and success. This probably led to the conversion of local people to Islam.

    The large number of Muslims in this area was not so much due to the introduction of foreign blood into the country as to the conversion of indigenous population for whom the rigid caste system of Hinduism had become intolerable. There is hardly any evidence of forcible conversion in the context of India or Bengal.

    The theory of political patronage also cannot explain the mass conversion to Islam that took place in Bengal because a large number of Hindus occupied state services including the office of ministers. Hinduism had prohibited the outcast from residing in the same village as the twice-born Brahman, had forced him to perform the most menial and repulsive occupations and had virtually treated him as an animal undeserving of any pity; but Islam announced that the poor, as well as the rich, the slave and his master, the peasant and the prince, were all equal in the eye of God.

    The great majority of the people, particularly those who entered the fold of Islam later could not be as religious. It is not unnatural that some popular elements had crept into the general belief of the Muslims. It should be conceded that many of the converted Muslims retained their long-inherited customs, social behaviour and even love for Hindu epics. Jola (weavers), mukeri (livestock holders), pithari (cake-sellers), Kabari (fish-mongers), garasal (converts of mixed origin), sanakar (loom-maker), hajam (circumciser), Tirakar (bow-maker), kagaji (paper-maker), Kalandar (wandering faqir or holy men), darji (tailors), rangrez (dyers), Kal (those who beg for alms at night), kasai (beef-sellers), gola or goala (milk-men) etc retained their old professions.

    Centuries of contact between the Hindus and the Muslims had profoundly influenced both, so that the social and religious life of the Muslims profoundly influenced Hinduism, and in the same manner some practices of the Hindus entered into the life of the Muslims. As a result some popular elements are also found in the religious practices of the Muslims.

    The Persian word Pir is now very loosely used, denoting those spiritual guides for which the Arabic words, Shaikh, Murshid were formerly used. Wandering Muslim faqirs built, in imitation of Hindu temples and Buddhist Viharas, tombs and mausoleums in the name of famous Muslim Sufis of Central Asia and thus earned their livelihood and found out ways and means to acquire followers.

    Sri Chaitanya, the founder of Gaudiya vaisnavism, was a great reformer who advocated a casteless society. So the most important influence of Islam in Bengal is to be found in the diminishing superiority of the Brahmins, the social revolution among the Brahmins themselves, prominence of local cults like those of Manasa, Chandi and Natha, and finally the rise of Gaudiya Vaisnavism as a means of saving Hinduism, chiefly with its casteless appeal.

    Gazir Gan

    Gazir Gan songs to a legendary saint popularly known as Gazi Pir. Gazi songs were particularly popular in the districts of faridpur, noakhali, chittagong and sylhet. They were performed for boons received or wished for, such as for a child, after a cure, for the fertility of the soil, for the well-being of cattle, for success in business, etc. Gazi songs would be presented while unfurling a scroll depicting different events in the life of Gazi Pir. On the scroll would also be depicted the field of Karbala, the Ka'aba, Hindu temples, etc. Sometimes these paintings were also done on earthenware pots.

    Gazi songs were preceded by a bandana or hymn, sung by the main singer. He would sing: 'I turn to the east in reverence to Bhanushvar (sun) whose rise brightens the world. Then I adore Gazi, the kind-hearted, who is saluted by Hindus and Mussalmans'. Then he would narrate the story of Gazi's birth, his wars with the demons and the evil spirits, as well as his rescue of a merchant at sea.

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    Gazir Gan

    Chaitanya, Sri (1486-1533)

    Also known as Krisna Chaitanya, ne Vishvambhara Mishra, was a brahmana-turned-ascetic who through his personal devotion invigorated the Vaisnava community of Bengal and Orissa. He is credited with founding the fifth of the great Vaisnava lineages, the Gaudiya Sampradaya, which today dominates the Vaisnava religious life of northeast India and Bangladesh.

    Chaitanya is more popular in eastern India, where both Bengal and Orissa claim him as their own. At the age of 24, he renounced his family life and traveled widely, preaching and spreading the glory of Krishna. He brought in a completely new wave of 'bhakti', or devotion, showing a path to divine realisation that was easy for even a child to follow (Ravi Shankar).

    Husain Shah (1494-1519) the founder of the Husain Shahi dynasty, occupied the throne of Bengal by assassinating the Habshi Sultan Shamsuddin Muzaffar Shah, under whom he had served as wazir. He was elected sultan by the leading nobles in 1494 AD. The catholicity of his mind is reflected in the Vaisnava works, which maintain that he had much respect for sri chaitanya whom he regarded as an incarnation of God. Husain Shah offered all facilities to Sri Chaitanya in his religious propagation. The institution of jiziyah did not prevail in Husain Shahi Bengal. Husain Shah and his successors must have tried to strengthen the foundation of the state on the basis of the support and sympathy of the different sections of people irrespective of religion and creed. The reign of Husain Shah constitutes a brilliant epoch in the history of medieval Bengal.


  • Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Hare Krishna
  • draupadisi bandhu shobhe - shyamachi aai

  • In the Hindu period, the court language was also Sanskrit. So the rulers and the educated people were interested in the Sanskrit language only. After the Muslim conquest, the position changed; Persian became the court language and Sanskrit receded to the background. Local talents got momentum in cultivating their own language and literature.

    Fortunately, the Muslim rulers were tolerant. They encouraged the cultivation of local language and literature, patronised Hindu poets and thus some very important books were written in the Sultanate period. Almost all these poets received patronage from the Muslim rulers. The names of Barbak Shah, husain shah, nusrat shah and the Muslim officers, paragal khan, Chute Khan may be mentioned in this connection.

    From the 16th century onwards, Muslim poets themselves wrote poems in Bengali. Besides, as an impact of Muslim rule, many Arabic and Persian words became assimilated into the Bengali language. The loan words in Bengali from these languages may be several hundred or even thousand and thus the Bengali vocabulary has been enriched. The Muslims also introduced romantic literature in Bengali. Whereas the Hindus wrote chiefly on religious themes centring round gods and goddesses, the Muslims introduced love-stories of men and women.

    Gandhi was imprisoned until 1924. On his release from prison, he set up an ashram (a rural commune), established a newspaper, and inaugurated a series of reforms aimed at the socially disadvantaged within Hindu society, the rural poor, and the Untouchables.

    His popularity soared in Indian politics as he reached the hearts and minds of ordinary people, winning support for his causes as no one else had ever done before. By his personal and eclectic piety, his asceticism, his vegetarianism, his espousal of Hindu-Muslim unity, and his firm belief in ahimsa, Gandhi appealed to the loftier Hindu ideals. For Gandhi, moral regeneration, social progress, and national freedom were inseparable.

    By 1900, although the Congress had emerged as an all-India political organization, its achievement was undermined by its singular failure to attract Muslims, who had by then begun to realize their inadequate education and underrepresentation in government service.

    Muslim leaders saw that their community had fallen behind the Hindus.

    Attacks by Hindu reformers against religious conversion, cow killing, and the preservation of Urdu in Arabic script deepened their fears of minority status and denial of their rights if the Congress alone were to represent the people of India. For many Muslims, loyalty to the British crown seemed preferable to cooperation with Congress leaders. Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-98) launched a movement for Muslim regeneration that culminated in the founding in 1875 of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh (renamed Aligarh Muslim University in 1921). Its objective was to educate wealthy students by emphasizing the compatibility of Islam with modern Western knowledge.

    The diversity among India's Muslims, however, made it impossible to bring about uniform cultural and intellectual regeneration.

    Sir George Curzon, the governor-general (1899-1905), ordered the partition of Bengal in 1905. He wanted to improve administrative efficiency in that huge and populous region, where the Bengali Hindu intelligentsia exerted considerable influence on local and national politics.

    The partition created two provinces: Eastern Bengal and Assam, with its capital at Dhaka (then spelled Dacca), and West Bengal, with its capital at Calcutta (which also served as the capital of British India).

    An ill-conceived and hastily implemented action, the partition outraged Bengalis. Not only had the government failed to consult Indian public opinion but the action appeared to reflect the British resolve to "divide and rule." Widespread agitation ensued in the streets and in the press, and the Congress advocated boycotting British products under the banner of swadeshi .

    In what the British saw as an additional goodwill gesture, in 1911 King-Emperor George V (r. 1910-36) visited India for a durbar (a traditional court held for subjects to express fealty to their ruler), during which he announced the reversal of the partition of Bengal and the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to a newly planned city to be built immediately south of Delhi, which became New Delhi.

    The Congress wasted precious time denouncing the British rather than allaying Muslim fears during the highly charged election campaign of 1946.

    Even the more mature Congress leaders, especially Gandhi and Nehru, failed to see how genuinely afraid the Muslims were and how exhausted and weak the British had become in the aftermath of the war. When it appeared that the Congress had no desire to share power with the Muslim League at the center, Jinnah declared August 16, 1946, Direct Action Day, which brought communal rioting and massacre in many places in the north. Partition seemed preferable to civil war. On June 3, 1947, Viscount Louis Mountbatten, the viceroy (1947) and governor-general (1947-48), announced plans for partition of the British Indian Empire into the nations of India and Pakistan, which itself was divided into east and west wings on either side of India .

    At midnight, on August 15, 1947, India strode to freedom amidst ecstatic shouting of "Jai Hind" (roughly, Long Live India).

    World War II saw the forcible alliance of India on the side of the Allies. Indian troops fought side by side with allied troops in various parts of the world.1942 saw the launch of the Quit India Movement by Mahatma Gandhi at a meeting in Bombay. With the situation going out of control and world wide attention on the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, Britain finally decided in principle to grant independence to India. The Muslim League under the leadership of M.K Jinnah became vocal about demands for a separate homeland for the subcontinent's Muslims. In February 1946, Calcutta witnessed the great Calcutta killings. Riots broke out again in August. Partition led to two nations (14 August, 1947) - India and Pakistan with two halves - East Pakistan & West Pakistan. Bengal was partitioned again and the western half became the state of West Bengal in the Indian Union. The eastern half of Bengal became East Pakistan and in 1971, became an independent nation Bangladesh.

    bangobandhu-1st prime ministerThe Bangabandhu placed his historic Six-Point programme at a political conference in Lahore in 1966. This programme called for a federal state structure for Pakistan and full autonomy for Bangladesh with a parliamentary democratic system. The Six- Point programme became so popular in a short while that it was turned into the Charter of Freedom for the Bangladeshis or their Magna Carta. The Army Junta of Pakistan threatened to use the language of weapons against the Six-Point movement and the Bangabandhu was arrested under the Defence Rules on May 8, 1966. The powerful mass upsurge that burst forth throughout Bangladesh in protest against this arrest of the Bangabandhu came to be known as June Movement.

    Some of the biographers of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman have said that he was the most astonishing and much talked about leader in South East Asia. In an age of military coup d'etat he attained power through elections and mass upsurge; in an age of decline of democracy he firmly established democracy in one of the countries of Asia and in an age of "Strong Men" he spurned the opportunity of becoming a dictator and instead chose to become the elected Prime Minister. The way he turned a nonviolent non-cooperation movement of unarmed masses into an armed struggle that successfully brought into reality the liberation of a new nation and the creation of a new state in barely ten months will remain a wonder of history.

    The 21st February 1952, however, rolled years of lightning and a single day of drums in one everlasting mosaic. In essence, it is a mélange of varied colours of sadness, pride and enduring joy of success achieved through unparalleled sacrifice. As the world knows the unique happening on that day was a turning point in the life of Bengalees of Bangladesh. The language martyrs, Salam, Barkat, Rafique, Shafique, Jabbar and others laid down their lives at the prime of youth to establish Bangla as state language of the then united Pakistan. Their supreme sacrifice did not go in vain. The unforgettable struggle that the students and youth of this territory waged was, spearheaded by the students of the Dhaka University and succeeded in achieving for Bangla the status of a state language of undivided Pakistan.

    For a thousand years I have walked the ways of the world,
    From Sinhala's Sea to Malaya in night's darkness,
    Far did I roam. In Vimbisar and Ashok's ash-grey world
    Was I present; farther off, in distant Vidarba city's darkness…

    I'll come again to the banks of the Dhansiri to this land....
    One day I'll lie down in a field in Bengal under a shriveled banyan tree
    Next to a Dalshiri River bank
    then red fruits will drop off softly.....

    ....The day I leave this world…
    make my bed on that level land
    that lush grass-green picturesque land
    close to the smell of the Dhanshiri river water in this Bengal.
    Jibanando Das

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    6. Bauls

    Ancient history of Bengal shows that Bangladesh is the only country in the Indian-Subcontinent that accepted several religions but the root of the social philosophy was the ancient "Kuamo Society" that accepted god as a human being (Mukhopadhya, 1983). The society was based on "see" and emotional "feel" in a simple peaceful environment. These strong sustainable elements of the society can be seen as weakness as it could not resist foreign invaders (Mukhopadhya, 1983). Mainly four streams mingled in this social thought process - tribal anthropomorphism, Buddhist nihilism, Hindu vaiishnavism and Muslim sufism. Bangladeshis believe in simple life - this has been achieved through past association with Buddhism, Boishnivism, Baulism, Simplism and Sufism. Bengali Baul songs, which are considered close to Carya poems in mysticism, are a synthesis of Shaajia Buddhism, Vaisnava Shahajia and Indo-Persian Sufism. Perhaps these are the elements rooted in the nation that world-wide survey by the London School of Economics (1999) found that "Bangladeshis are the happiest nation" live on this earth .

    BAULS (itinerant folk singers) have roamed this part of the horizon for thousands of years. A lifestyle matched with that of the nature, bauls move from village to village soul searching through meditation and singing. You may find a single baul in simple traditional robe walking down the earthen rural road playing an ektara (one-string instrument). He is not bothered about his survival for he knows someone somewhere in the villages will give him a shelter and the meager allocations for the day. Or sometimes you may find quite a few of them gathering somewhere and puffing their time out on ganja and music. Nowadays bauls are not often found roaming the rural roads.

    Simplism is traditionally rooted in the philosophy of Baulism. Bauls' culture is not very easy to understand, as it has rather complex levels of philosophy and understanding. Though a few basic traits are common among the Bauls, they leave the regular life and embrace and live a life of harsh situations and detachments. They lead a life of self and soul searching in the mystic realm of Baul philosophy

    Bauls usually roam around like free sprits, not restricting themselves to any one particular order. Though there are many sub disciplines or orders, but on the whole, they are neither Hindu nor Muslim. They belong to the wider spectrum of the Bauls, unlike the Sufi order, where there are only the Islamic mystics. Legend has it that Lalon was Hindu.

    blind boul singerOnce he was traveling to a distance, and on his way he became sick with small pox. He was looked after by an elderly Muslim couple. Instead of deserting him they took care of him. On the other side, not seeing any sign of his return, his Hindu family observed his shadha (last rites). But when Lalon returned home he was denounced even by his own family, as they feared punishment of getting outcast by the society if they had accepted Lalon. The community people said as the last rite had been observed they could not accept Lalon as a living being even if he was one. Later the elderly couple recovered Lalon and adopted him, the adopted father later became Lalon's disciple and was known as Malam Shah, while the adopted mother is buried next to Lalon in his tomb in Kushtia. This is the whole situation that moulded Lalon's life, later to influence many others.

    The simple message from Baulism can unite the world - forgetting and disabeling prsent terror and material interest.

    Lalon - Bauls Mysticism

    Jatra, the traditional open-air folk opera of Bangladesh


    As a root of a tree are firmly buried together with the soil and its upper part is spread towards the sky, in the same way the lower part of literature is always hidden, being to a large extent imprisoned in the soil of its mother country ... there is a ceaseless inner connection between the lower literature and the higher one.
    Rabinranath Tagore

    Jatra, the traditional open-air folk opera of Bangladesh, is an integral part of folk life. There are about 210 registered Jatra Groups but every year only 50 become active. This is the only source of income for almost 4000 people, and as such around 2,00,000 people depend on Jatra. But is now going to disapper due to protest of radical religious groups and introduction of western culture through modern communication system.

    The main attraction of Jatra, a loud and vigorous form of art, is the orchestra and body movements. Music and dance -- the very essence of Jatra, has gone through marked changes down the years. Dance has taken over and has now become Jatra's charm. This change has thrown aside the talent and skill of the Jatra artists. In a sense, Jatra has lost its characteristic flavour.

    The entire scenario is that Bengali art is losing its glory with the introduction of other forms of modern art. If local art is not protected, Jatra artists will have to soon look at other ways to earn their living. It is high time the public should think of preserving, at any cost, the originality of Jatra.

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    7. Bengali Language

  • Poems of Bengali Language - Recitation
  • 21st February (International Mother Language Day)
  • 21st February 2007 - Dance by Riana, Aisha,Parisa and Mehraz
  • Shimul Yusuf - Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano
  • Bengali belongs to the Aryan branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It has been in existence as an independent language for more than ten centuries. It is the speech of the largest number of people in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent.

    The history of ancient Bengali is based on copper plate inscriptions and stone script findings. The oldest epigraphical record, found at Mahastangar in the Bogra district of Bangladesh is a very short inscription on stone written in Prakrit. Archaeologists believe it to have been written in the third century B.C.; the script shows the Brahmi characters of the time of Asoka. The inscription contains the word 'Pundrabardan which was a renowned Buddhist and Jain center of learning in Bengal

    Bengali is derived from Magadhi Prakrit, which was the official language of the great emperor Asoka. A related dialect was used by Buddha and by Mohavira, the apostle of Jainism. In Bengal in the their of the first millennium B.C. no Aryan language was spoken but the people there had their own language and possessed great artistic skills. During the period of Asoka, the Prakritic or Magadhi form developed into Bengali. About a thousand years ago two kinds of language were apparently in use : the Sauraseni Apabramsa and the native language of Bengal, Proto-Bengali which had become Old Bengali by 1000 A.D.

    The Muslim conquest of Bengal in c. A.D. 1200 introduced many Persian, Arabic and Turkish words; the Persian influence was the greatest. Later on the Portuguese, Dutch, French and English who came to India from the sixteenth century onwards also contributed to the Bengali vocabulary.

    The history of Bangla literature is capacious. It has been the ground that was tilled in many different ways at various points of time to make many different harvests. "It was the military feudalism during the rule of Allauddin Hussain Shah (1494-1590) that Mahabharata and Ramayana were first translated in Bangla. The state language was Farsi (Parsian), and Sanskrit was the language of the Hindu pundits; it was in this backdrop that the Hindu epics were first translated in the popular language that was Bangla," points out Salimullah Khan, a linguist with a strong penchant for historicity, one who is also a writer who translated a number of philosophical works. He pin points the rise of Chaitanya Dev, the Vaishnav avatar, as being the Renaissance of Bengal.

    chaytonodev 1486-1534."Sixteenth century is the time of Chaitanya Dev, and it is the beginning of Modernism in Bengal. The concept of 'humanity' that came into fruition is contemporaneous with that of Europe," notes Khan. He believes that all hopes of progressing on that humanistic line were dashed when the British came and forced all things Bangla into a "subordinate position".

    Back in the 16th century, the Vaishnav movement led by Chaitanya had various social, political and literary implications. Most importantly Vaishnavism forced to bring the language of the masses to the fore. "The discourse of knowledge was Sanskrit at that time. It was Chaitanya who emerged from Sylhet and settled in Orissa to spread his humanistic ideas that spurred a process of interaction between the elite and the subaltern(Khan)"

    Chaitanya led a revolt against the Sanskrit-speaking pundits of his time. The Sri Krishna Kirttan, a series of story-telling lyric poems, is a major work in Bangla of his time. "It is the tale of Uttar Pradesh retold in Bangla," says Khan. "The Radha-Krishna tale of north Indian origin assumed Bangali characteristics in Sri Krishna Kirttan," continues Khan. He terms the Bengal Vaishnavism that contributed in bringing Bangla into use by superseding Sanskrit in the "phase one" of the history of Bangla literature.

    "The history of Bangla literature is the history of translation". It was in the first phase that Mahabharata and Ramayana were translated, the former by poets like Kavindra Parameshavra and Shrikara Nandi, two major poets during the rule of Hussain Shah. It was also the era when through the Bangali brand of Vaishnavism the poems of Radha-Krishna was adapted into Bangla.

    The second phase of the history of Bangla too is a time when a lot got translated. New poets emerged, who are now popularly known as "medieval poets", were the major exponents of the Arakan court. Alaol (1607-1680), Daulat Kazi (1600-1638), Muhammad Khan, Daulat Ujir Bahram Khan and the likes steered Bangla literature on a relatively newer course. Outside the Arakan court there was Shah Abdul Hakim.

    “Numerous works were translated from Arabic to Bangla in the second phase. And the third phase saw a flurry of translations from English to Bangla," says Khan, who also points out that it was in the 19th century, 70 years after the conquest of India by the East India Company in the 1760 that "the creative spurt first became visible".

    21st February is a day of pride. Yes, this is the day when the brave sons of the soil sacrificed their lives for our rights. The day has been recognised as the International Mother Language Day by UNESCO. It is due recognition to the language martyrs who will continue to inspire people around the globe in the days to come.

    Ekushey is the biggest unifying factor as far as this nation is concerned. The occasion has traditionally remained above controversy, though some other days and events have been politicised or subjected to myopic interpretation by individuals or parties. Ekushey still retains its position as a unique day when the nation rose in defiance of an extremely arbitrary decision of the Pakistani rulers to impose Urdu as the state language. Its glory and role in the movement that culminated in our independence has never been questioned. In fact, the issue was settled back in the 1950's. An evil force which had used the bogey of Islam against the assertion of our cultural rights were defeated when the masses refused to accept their dictates and launched a movement to secure their linguistic and cultural freedoms.

    It seems the extremist elements have decided to destroy the symbols that represent the tolerant political culture nurtured by this society over the years. There are tell-tale signs of some hidden agenda being pursued by some quarters aiming at countering all progressive and secular ideals, and Ekushey might have been targeted as part of the execution of that vicious plan.

    The fanatics cannot any longer be dismissed lightly as they are showing signs of being organised and having the readiness to strike. The government must make an all-out effort to contain the challenge which is apparently growing stronger by the day in the absence of effective resistance.

    The History of Bengali Language

    23 bengalisBangla is the official language of Bangladesh. It is also spoken in West Bengal. Bangalees protected Bangla from the clutches of Pakistani oppressors in 1952 by preventing Urdu from being the state language of East Pakistan where a vast majority of people spoke in Bangla. Bangalees had to sacrifice lives for their mother tongue on 21st February, 1952. 21st February being declared International Mother Language Day by UNESCO, Bangla reached the peak of maturity.


    Bangla's direct ancestor is a form of Magadhi Prakrit or Middle Indo-Aryan which descended from Sanskrit or Old Indo-Aryan. Bangla evolved mainly from Sanskrit. Also Hindi, Urdu, Farsi, English--all contributed lots of words and terms to form this language.

    The Origin of Bangla Alphabet

    Bangla alphabet originated from Brahmi alphabet of the Asokan inscriptions. The Bangla script in its present printed form took shape in 1778 when printing types were first cast by Charles Wilkins. There still remained a few archaic forms and these were finally replaced in the middle of the nineteenth century.

    The Oldest Records

    For old Bangla the only record is Charjapad discovered from a palace in Nepal by Haraprasad Shastri. It is a collection of the oldest verses thought to be the oldest records of Bangla literature. The language of Charjapad is basically vernacular, but at the same time it is also something of a literary language.

    Two Styles

    Bangla at the present day has two literary styles. One is called "Sadhu Bhasha" and the other "Chalit Bhasa". The former is the traditional literary style based on Middle Bangla of the sixteenth century. The later is practically a creation of the present century, and is based on the cultivated form of the dialect and day-to-day talks.

    The difference between the two literary styles is not very sharp. The vocabulary is practically the same. The difference lies mainly in the forms of the pronoun and the verb. The Sadhu Bhasa has the old and heavier forms while the Chalit Bhasa uses the modern and lighter forms.

    The former shows a partiality for lexical words and for compound words of the Sanskrit type, and the latter prefers colloquial words, phrases and idioms. The Chalit Bhasa was first seriously taken up by Pramatha Chawdhury at the instance of Rabindranath Tagore during the early years of the first World War. Soon after Tagore practically discarded Sadhu Bhasa, and Chalit Bhasa is now generally favored by writers who have no particular fascination for the traditional literary style.

    International Mother Language Day

    The UNESCO has declared 21st February as The International Mother Language Day to be observed globally in recognition of the sacrifices of the Bangla language martyrs who laid their lives for establishing the rightful place of Bangla. The proclamation came in the form of a resolution unanimously adopted at the plenary of the UNESCO at its headquarters in Paris in November 1999. In its resolution the UNESCO said-' 21st February be proclaimed International Mother Language Day throughout the world to commemorate the martyrs who sacrificed their lives on this very day in 1952’.

    It is a great tribute and glowing homage paid by the international community to the language martyrs of Bangladesh. The genesis of the historic Language Movement which ensued since September 1947 with the students in the vanguard backed by intellectuals, cultural activists and patriotic elements was the first spurt of Bangalee nationalistic upsurge culminating in the sanguinary events of February 21, 1952 and finally leading to the war of Liberation in 1971.

    The UNESCO in its resolution said-the recognition was given bearing in mind that all moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness about linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

    Henceforth UN member countries around the world will observe 21st February as the International Mother Language Day. The historic 21st February has, thus, assumed new dimension. The sacrifices of Rafiq, Salam, Jabbar, Barkat and other martyrs as well as of those tortured and repressed by the then authoritarian government of Pakistan for championing the cause of their mother tongue have received now a glorious and new recognition by the November 1999 resolution of the UNESCO.

    The Sylheti Language

    Sylheti is the language of the Surma valley region, consisting of most of Sylhet Division in Bangladesh and Cachar District in Assam, and is spoken by over 9 million people. It is related to the rural dialects of eastern Bengal, but with a high proportion of words derived from Persian and Arabic, and a distinct grammar.

    There are two things that make Sylheti an important language in its own right, and not a colloquial or 'peasant' corruption of Bengali as some have alleged. Firstly, Sylheti is the language of choice not just of the illiterate, but also of educated Sylhetis who can function well in Bengali when they choose to. Secondly, Sylheti is the only regional language related to Bengali which developed its own folk literature in its own script.

    The Sylheti script is not related to Bengali. Some Bengali writers have called the script 'Devanagri' or Hindi, quoting from a book by a British author 100 years ago who had not himself seen any examples, but this too is wrong. The Siloti Nagri alphabet seems to have been derived from the Kaithi script of Bihar, though with a number of differences. Nobody knows when it first arrived in Sylhet - some say with the companions of Shah Jalal who invaded Sylhet in 1303 CE, others believe it came later.

    Puthi Literature

    Puthi Literature a special genre of literature written in a mixed vocabulary drawn from Bangla, Arabic, Urdu, Persian and Hindi. It was current during the 18th and the 19th centuries and its composers as well as readers were Muslims. The word puthi (or punthi) is derived from pustika or book. However, only a particular type of writing dating from the 18th-19th centuries is known as puthi.

    Puthi manuscript book: Before the invention of printing, books were handwritten. Copies were made based on the demand. Most puthis were written on material that was either grey or pale yellow. This is why these manuscripts were called pandulipi in Bangla, pandu being the Bangla word for 'pale yellow' and lipi for 'writing'. Nowadays all manuscripts are called pandulipi in Bangla. Before the invention of paper, manuscripts used to be written on leather, leaves, barks, plantain leaves, palm leaves and other natural materials, processed through dipping, boiling and drying. In the process, the material turned grey or pale yellow and became resistant to insects.

    The puthi composer was generally known as a shaer, Arabic for 'poet'. In the prefatory verses of Amir Hamza, Syed Hamza describes the work as shaeri puthi or poetic puthi. Although read from left to right like other Bangla books, puthi text was printed from right to left as in Arabic and Persian. It is composed in the payar and tripadi metres, in very simple language shorn of ornamentation.

    Many Muslim poets of the period wrote in both sadhu or chaste Bangla as well as in dobhasi Bangla. Thus Garibullah's first book in verse, yusuf-zulekha, was written in chaste Bangla. He wrote Sonabhan, Satyapirer Puthi, janganama and Amir Hamza in the mixed language. Garibullah left Amir Hamza unfinished and the poem was later completed by Syed Hamza in 1795. Like Garibullah, Hamza's first work, Madhumalati, was written in chaste Bangla. His two later works - jaiguner puthi (1798) and Hatem Tai (1804) - were written in dobhasi.

    puthiIn the preparation of the cotton-pulp, lime and indigo dye, or powdered turmeric, were also mixed with the pulp. This mixture used to make paper resistant to insects, but the lime shortened its life. Indigo dye imparted a bluish tinge to the paper, turmeric turned it pale yellow or grey. Bamboo, feathers, porcupine spines, reeds etc. were used to make pens. The bark of the silk-cotton tree, lodhra tree (symplocos raccueosa), shellac, hibiscus buds, green mangosteen, myrobalan, pomegranates, charcoal, soot etc was used to prepare the ink. Sometimes, iron dust was mixed with the ink to make it bright, but tended to destroy the paper. Red ink was prepared from ripe fruits or their seeds.

    The part of a puthi where the scribe provides a brief autobiography, the name of the puthi, the date of writing/copying, the name of the person who employed him in the work and for whom the copying is done, is called the colophon or puspika (literally, floret). It is generally found on the first leaf, at the end of the chapter or act, and on the last folio. The puspika on the first folio and at the end of the chapter or act contains the names of the scribe and the book. The puspika on the last folio contains the names of the author, the scribe and the book as well as the dates of writing/copying. Occasionally there is also a bhanita (preamble), a variant of puspika.

    Persian was so important at the time that, apart from Muslims and Hindus, the employees of the European trading companies too started learning it. Before coming to India the employees of the East India Company used to learn Persian at seminaries in Britain. After observing the state of bangla language in the 18th century, nathaniel brassey halhed in A Grammar of the Bengal Language (1778) said that those who spoke Bangla using the largest number of Arabic and Persian adjectives with Bangla verbs were regarded as knowing Bangla well. The documents and legal papers of the 18th century largely used this kind of language. Sukumar Sen termed it as a 'working language' or the 'language of usage'. Bharatchandra called it yabani mishal (Muslim mixture).

    He himself learned this language and claimed that although it did not possess high literary qualities it was understood by all. Bharatchandra and Garibullah came from the same region of Bhurshut Pargana at about the same time. The spoken language of the common people, irrespective of whether they were Hindu or Muslim, was the language of puthi literature and thus cannot be termed as an artificial literary language. The ordinary educated Muslim liked it because of the mixture of Arabic and Persian vocabulary. With some exceptions, most puthi literature was derivative with poets using Persian, Urdu and Hindi works as their sources.

    Impact of Bangladesh on Tagore's creativity

    Rabindranath Tagore spent the prime of his life at Patishar of Rajshahi, Shilaidah of Kustia and Shahjadpur of Pabna in Bangladesh. Though he came here to oversee his zamindari, these visits had immense impact on his thought, philosophy and creativity. The Tagore songs composed in this tradition are treasures of our music.

    He spent most of the time watching the unique natural beauty, interacting with the bauls and rural bards as well as writing and composing. Most of his popular writings -- from Chhinnapatra to Nobel Prize-winning book Geetanjali -- have spontaneously overflowed through powerful emotions recollected from tranquility of these regions, especially in his poems and songs.

    Rabindranath was an adherent of 'Brahmo Samaj', to whom music is a kind of devotion. This is similar to 'doctrines of bauls', as the latter also offer the mystic songs as prayer for the supreme God. Tagore's intimacy with bauls such as Gagan Harkara, a disciple of great baul Lalon Shah, Khepa baul and others generated interest in Tagore about baul songs.

    And like the bauls' quest for moner manush (urge for reunification of the soul and God), Tagore has also wandered in search of the supreme creator in his devotional songs. Sadi said, "After visiting the then East Bengal in the early 20th century, Tagore was greatly influenced by the bauls, who believe that the mystic creator lives in the soul of human beings. Tagore believed that love is devotion and nature is its background. That is why love, devotion and nature are interwoven in Tagore's songs. "For example, Tagore heard Gagan Harkara rendering Ami kothay pabo tare amar moner manushere. The tune and lyrics of the song attracted Tagore so much he instantly composed Amar shonar bangla ami tomay bhalobashi, which later became the national anthem of Bangladesh. Tagore composed Ebar tor morar aagey being influenced by Khepa baul's bhatiali song Mon majhi samal sama. In fact, Tagore's familiarity with the folk tunes, and kirtan, shyamasangeet and ramprasadi is found in the songs he composed between 1884 and 1886. The use of baul tunes became noticeable since 1905 onwards. "

    Not only the tune but also the unique natural beauty Bangladesh -- especially monsoon and spring, boating on river Padma, the beauty of the rivers, diversified landscape, have appeared repeatedly in his writings. Lyrics of many of his 2,232 songs, especially devotional songs, love songs and songs on seasons as well as many poems have been influenced by his visit to this region. The thematic variety of these songs reflect the rich emotional life of the Bangalees. This has made Tagore songs an essential part of life of the Bangalees -- in happiness, sorrow, and at work (E. Komol, May11, 2006)

    Tagore's views on the language (Sadler's Commission (1919))

    It is Sir Rabindranath's strong conviction that, while English should be skilfully and thoroughly taught as a second language, the chief medium of instruction in schools (and even in colleges up to the stage of the university degree) should be the mother tongue. He has four reasons for this belief: first, because it is through his mother tongue that every man learns the deepest lessons of life: second, because some of those pupils who have a just claim to higher education cannot master the English language; third, because many of those who do acquire English fail to achieve true proficiency in it and yet, in the attempt to learn a language so difficult to a Bengali, spend too large a part of the energy which is indispensable to the growth of the power of independent thought and observation; and, fourth, because a training conducted chiefly through the mother tongue would lighten the load of education for girls, whose deeper culture is of high importance to India. He holds that the essential things in the culture of the West should be conveyed to the whole Bengali people by means of a widely diffused education, but that this can only be done through a wider use of the vernacular in schools.

    Gandhi wrote his first major book Hind Swaraj ("Indian Home Rule") While presiding over the All-India Common Script and common language conference, insisting that Hindi should be India's common language, Gandhi said that whenever he spoke English he felt "I am committing a sin." While attending Lucknow Congress he argued that unless Congress business was conducted in Hindi, rather than English, Swaraj was not possible. "In provincial matters, the provincial languages may be used," he conceded "But national question ought to be deliberated in the national language only."

    At Nagpur, Gandhi moved for adoption for new Congress creed, which changed" The object of the Indian National Congress" from "Responsible colonial Government" to "the attainment of Swaraj by the people of India by all legitimate and peaceful means," He spoke in support of his creed he had drafted in Hindi, insisting it should be Indian's national language and the language of every Congress meeting.

    In the Lucknow session of the All-India Muslim League in 1936 a resolution proposing Urdu as the language of Muslim India was moved. The resolution was strongly opposed by the delegates from Bengal. On the direct intervention of Jinnah, it was ultimately resolved that "whatever Urdu language is the language of the area its unhampered development and use should be upheld, and where it is not the predominant language, adequate arrangements should be made for teaching it as an optional subject"

    On 22 February 1938 Poet Sanjoy Bhattacharjee, the Editor of Purbasha wrote to Rabindra Nath Tagore bemoaning why and for what fault the well -enriched Bengali language should be deprived of the honour of being the state language of the country and requested Tagore's views on that question.

    Tagore expressed his inability to protest against the decision of the Congress not to regard Bengali as the state language. He wrote back, 'The duty of Congress is in the Congress's hand. I am not even a member. If you want to strive in vain , you do. You are younger in age . You have got enough time'. Tagore never expressed any opinion to make Bengali a state language. He had little enthusiasm for that. Both Jinnah and Gandhi were of the view that in the provinces language of the provinces may be used. In all-India level Gandhi pleaded for Hindi and in Pakistan pleaded for Urdu.

    Before India was partitioned All-India Congress decided on Hindi and All-India Muslim League opted for Urdu. Jinnah was a little surprised when he found his choice was opposed in Dhaka. On the question he was not at all emotional or sentimental. He did not earn much proficiency in his mother language. Both English and Urdu appear to be his acquired languages.

    The people of Dhaka gave Jinnah a formal reception at the Race Course Maidan on 21 March 1948. In the afternoon that day Jinnah spoke for about an hour on language issue and the language movement. He said, "About language as I have already said , this is in order to create disruption among the Musalmans. Your Prime Minister has rightly pointed this out in a recent statement and I am glad that his government has decided to put down firmly any attempt to disturb the peace of this province by political saboteurs or their agents. Whether Bengali shall be the official language of this province is a matter of the elected representatives of the people of this province to decide. I have no doubt that this question shall be decided solely in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants of this province at the appropriate time."

    Speaking in favour of Urdu as the state language Jinnah said, "Let me tell you in the clearest language that there is no truth that your normal life is going to be touched or disturbed so far as your Bengali language is concerned. But ultimately it is for you, the people of this province, to decide what shall be the language this province. But let me tell you very clearly that the Sate Language of Pakistan is gong to be Urdu and no other language. Any one who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pkistan. Without one state language no nation can remain tied up solidly together and function. Look at the history of other countries. Therefore, so far as the state language is concerned, Pakistan's language shall be Urdu. But, as I have said, it will come in time".

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    8. The Language Movement of 1952 - 21 st Feberuary

    You might know that Chorjapod the most ancient evidence of Bengali literature, a two thousand-year old anthology of poetry, which was found from the library of the Royal Court of Nepal. In the ancient times the Buddhist Emperors of the Pal Dynasty patronized Bengali. But in the successive periods Bengali language had to survive the reigns of the strictly Brahmin Sen Dynasty. I said 'survived' because as a language of 'prakrito jon' or the common people Bengali had to bear the pressure of Sanskrit, the royal language of that time.

    The Sen Emperors were keen to use Sanskrit as the language of the scriptures and literature. As a result Bengali was banished from the Royal Court. Bengali was banned as a language of the scriptures by a Royal Decree. But the popular language flourished among the common people.

    After the Sen period, Bengali flourished in the reign of the Sultani period. In the Sultani period the rulers were sultans of Turkish origin but they were the greatest patrons of Bengali language and literature. The sultans of the Ilias Shahi and Hossain Shahi dynasties were very eager for the development of Bengali language. At this time under the patronization of the Sultans and their high officials many books including Mahabharat, Ramayan and Bhagabatgeeta were translated into Bengali from Sanskrit. As Bengali was the language of the common people when these were translated into Bengali the general populace was able to fathom the contents of the great holy books. Along with Sanskrit, Bengali became the language of the literature. Sultan Borbok Shah, Sultan Hossain Shah and Sultan Ghiasuddin Azam Shah were patrons of Bengali literature. It is said that the Turkish reign in Bengal was a boon for the Bengali literature.

    However, the Pakistani period that followed, was just a facsimile of the Sen period. According to the Abdul Karim Shahitto Bisharod if the ruling class tries to ruin the language of the nation then they cannot remain in power for long. Soon after the termination of the British Raj the Pakistan Government tried abolish Bengali from the administrative language and to impose Urdu on us. Bizarre proposals like writing Bengali in the Arabic and Urdu scripts were presented to the Bengali populace.

    The Language Movement was no accident of history. The implication is obvious. Had the explosion not come in 1952, it would have arrived later. And there are the reasons to explain why 1952 happened. In the first place, the administration, inherited though from the British steel frame of public service, was almost totally made up of the northern Indian elite Muslims, including the migrants or the optees.

    Secondly, though the absence of senior officials in the higher echelons of the government was sought to be balanced by a quota system favouring the provinces, particularly, then East Pakistan, the military continued to be solely manned by the officers of the western wing. The Language Movement turned out to be a clear protest at the existing built-in discriminations, and the later-time resources transfer resulting in economic disparity in favour of the western wing at the expense of the East Bengal. It was, too, the first organised revolt, Pakistan-wise, by the Bengali middle class, by then rapidly becoming disgruntled, and the element of discontent in the peasantry as well. The first five years of Pakistan were a long enough time to convince Bengalis that their values and their tradition were at risk in the new state.

    These unwanted pressures on our mother tongue led to the Language Movement of 1952. We all know what happened on the 21st February so I will not reiterate. What we always have to know is that our language is an ancient one. It is not easy to erase a language that is two thousand years old. The apathetic Pakistani rulers forgot this but in the end they had to concede the truth and they had to accept Bengali as the state language of Pakistan. Here lies the spirit of Ekushey.

    Forever your skies, your air set my heart in tune As if it were a flute”

    Language is an important tool for any civilisation. It is the only way that one can communicate one's likes, dislikes, worries, pains and joys with others. Granted this, no one would like their language to be taken away. I speak in Bengali, a derivative of the ancient Sanskrit, spoken by the people of West Bengal in India and Bangladesh. Rabindranath Tagore was one of the most prominent and influential Bengali poets and won the Nobel Prize for Literature. I have selected one of his poems, “My Golden Bengal” in which he writes about the beauty of Bengal. With metaphors and similes, he describes the natural beauty of the land that he grew up in and calls his motherland. His description is sensual, appealing to three of the senses. He is thrilled by the smell of the mango groves, he writes about the tenderness of the shade like a quilt when he lies under the banyan tree or the soothing melody of nature that sways his heart. He writes, “Forever your skies, your air set my heart in tune As if it were a flute” (verse 2)

    Some of the rhymes of the poem have been lost in the English translation. It has an iambic hexameter. The rhyming sequence is a-b-a-b throughout the poem. Although the poem throughout has a optimistic tone throughout, in the final verse Tagore rapidly changes his tone to that of a sad one, “If sadness, O mother mine, casts a gloom on your face, eyes are filled with tears!” (verse 18)

    Tagore writes that if his motherland is under threat he would be willing to fight for his country. I find that this poem to be very powerful because when sung by a group in unison, as the national anthem, it fills me with patriotism and a feeling of unity with other people of my country. The poem has a subtle rebellious message to it. The time this poem was written during the British rule of India, an overtly rebellious poem would have been censored. Tagore by neither using any harsh words nor criticising the British rule wrote a very powerful poem on ethnic identity and taking pride in it. The people of Bangladesh have had to struggle for their language and their land, their heritage and pride, but this poem seems to alleviate all those pains and make all those struggles worthwhile.

    Bangladesh was placed under the tutelage of Pakistan in 1947 after the separation from the British monarchy. When forced to change their national language to Urdu and adopting the national identity of being Pakistani, the people of Bangladesh revolted - a revolt in which millions took part and millions lost lives in the genocides under the Pakistani army. Many outsiders did not know about this situation or want to take part in the mess. To let those who did not know about the problems in Bangladesh, a concert was organised by Pundit Ravi Shankar and George Harrison. In the Concert for Bangladesh, Harrison sang “Bangladesh” which helped to bring aid to the starving

    The song is rhythmic and has a rhyme pattern to it. He regularly uses the line, “Bangladesh, Bangladesh” which emphasises the urgency for aid in the war ravaged country. The verses are well arranged and easy to listen to. In the song the following lines are repeated to show the helplessness of the mass and the country that was under the tyranny of the regime. “And it sure looks like a mess, I've never seen such distress”

    Compared to Tagore's poem, Harrison's song is different in tone. While Tagore's poem is about the natural beauty of the country, Harrison's song is on the devastation of the country. Tagore writes about the golden paddy fields while Harrison urges the listeners to give some bread for the starving to feed. Harrison's version of Bangladesh is a country in disarray while Tagore writes about his country's natural treasures. The purpose for Harrison's song was to gain support from other countries for the nation and Tagore's poem was to raise awareness among the people of the nation. Since this nation's birth thirty five years ago, it has gone through many trials and struggles, but it has been growing with time. Harrison's Bangladesh is a war-damaged country trying to rebuild itself from scratch, the Bangladesh I see when I close my eyes is the present, and the Bangladesh that Tagore envisions, a country with potential and a bright future.

    We remember 21 st February 1952

    21 febThe observance of Ekushey yet once more ought to send out a message to all of us in Bangladesh. The message relates chiefly to what we, as citizens, as repositories of democratic political beliefs across the spectrum, should be doing about upholding the spirit we have come to associate with the Language Movement of 1952. The spirit, if we recall —- and recall we must —- was one geared towards a reassertion of Bengali rights and cultural values only five years into what we thought was our emergence as an independent people within the parameters of Pakistan.

    As the tragedy on 21 February 1952, and the circumstances around it, were to demonstrate to us, that assessment of our being a free people was based on some rather wrong assumptions. Our faith in democracy, our belief in tradition and our loyalty to our historical values had come under assault, which is why we needed to reassert them through a massive demonstration of the popular will on the streets of Dhaka and elsewhere fifty three years ago.

    The message today, therefore, is a simple and yet substantive one. It speaks of the great will and awareness of society that went into the struggle in defence of the Bengali language in 1952. But in a far bigger way, Ekushey was for us a powerful signal that as people with distinctive cultural traditions, we could not but prepare to free ourselves as a nation in the times to be. It was from such an understanding of our place in history that the nation’s political leadership initiated the movement for Bengali autonomy. The 1960s, from such a point of view, were clearly some of the more moving times in our lives. It was within this period that we were able to go into profound soul-searching, to come away with the definitive finding that in order to be able to give ourselves a political voice as a modern nation, we needed to be secular, democratic and therefore representative of all the good and decent that life in general symbolised.

    It is all these qualities that we need to struggle for anew in these extremely difficult times. Let us not pretend that a mere observance of Ekushey reinforces our hold on life and on history as a whole. The rising spate of criminality around us, the endemic corruption, the gradual slide of democratic tolerance among the nation’s political parties and the overall sense of deepening despair among the one hundred and forty million people of Bangladesh are pointers to an unwelcome truth — that our aspirations towards building a just, democratic and welfare-oriented society for ourselves is yet a dream. More ominously, the dream keeps receding, to a point where we fear a nightmare of monstrous proportions could soon be upon us.

    On Ekushey this year, therefore, the prayer must be one related to a forging of national unity across the frontier of political differences. We cannot forget that it was a united, unified and determined nation which went to war to free the land in 1971. With three million of our fellow Bengalis dead in the war, with two hundred thousand women molested and with thousands of villages and towns torched by the enemy and its local collaborators, we could not but go forth to build anew. For thirty four years we have been on a search to find ourselves. It will be unwise to think that we can spend an equal amount of time to consolidate ourselves as a happy, economically developed and politically mature society. On Ekushey, we ask our political leadership to recall the old spirit of 1952 and find the ways and means of rekindling it in us in these tumultuous, hugely disturbing times we live in.

    The Spirit of Language Movement

    Is the spirit of the ‘language movement’ of the Bengalis, beginning with a few students saying ‘no’ to governor general Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s assertion on March 24, 1948 that Urdu would be the lone official language of Pakistan and reaching climax on February 21, 1952 with the police killing Bengali students agitating for Bangla to be the national language, still relevant to the life of Bangladeshis who wrested their national independence from Jinnah’s Pakistan more than a quarter of a century ago?

    The movement brewed from a grave deviation of a political principle staged by no other than the prime leader of the Pakistan movement in the mid-1940s, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In his historic inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, Jinnah promised that while running the affairs of the state, he, as the governor general of Pakistan, would ‘always be guided by the principles of justice and fair play without any, as is put in the political language, prejudice or ill will, in other words, partiality or favouritism’. ‘My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality,’ he announced unequivocally. The Muslims of the erstwhile East Pakistan, who actually strengthened Jinnah’s Pakistan movement by providing him with active mass support, naturally took this as assurance. But Jinnah betrayed them within no time, by way of denying the people of East Pakistan — 56 per cent of the total population of then Pakistan — their legitimate right to get Bangla, the language of the majority, graduated as an official language of the state, alongside Urdu, the language of the minority.

    The language movement was a protest against this injustice, partiality and foul play by the ruling elite against the majority of the population — a phenomenon which is still there in different forms in independent Bangladesh, a phenomenon that cannot be done away with if the spirit of the language movement is not celebrated today.

    Clearly, the movement was aimed at establishing the democratic right of the Bengali population, which constituted the majority of the population, while it showed political sensitivity towards the rights of the Urdu-speaking minority of then Pakistan as well

    Thousands of poor people could easily identify their cultural and material interests with the essence of the movement, which was to secure, primarily, the recognition of Bangla, the language of the poor Bengali masses of the day, in the civil and judicial services, not to mention the academia.

    The objective is yet to be achieved effectively, as the poor people, still the majority of the country, have not yet been able to establish a government of their own even half a century since the language movement and gaining national independence for Bangladesh in the meanwhile. The poor Bengalis, who actively supported both the language movement and the movement for national independence, still cannot understand as to what instruction a senior public servant issues on a matter of public importance, or as to what a professional lawyer argues in the high court for his/her poor clients. Is there any reason, then, to accept the proposition that the spirit of the language movement has become irrelevant these days? What is rather more important to understand in this regard is that the subsequent government leaders of Bangladesh have rather betrayed the cause of the majority of our population the same way that Jinnah did in Pakistan. Notably, the languages and cultures of Bangladesh’s ethnic minority groups are also still waiting to be officially recognised by the chauvinist Bengali ruling class.

    The government leaders in independent Bangladesh seldom realise that the Bengali nation in question include millions of poor Bangladeshis too, who still do not have access to printed knowledge at all — let alone global knowledge available in foreign languages. Naturally, Bangladeshis need to revive forcefully the spirit of the language movement to make the anti-people ruling elite, apparently divided into opposing political camps, realise that the country also belong to its poor majority.

    Our glory is identified with global pride

    The occurrence of 21st February is a unique event in the history of human races. This can postulately be a remarkable example for any people in the world to boast of and to nourish for the encouragement to their survival in the face of adversities. To speak the truth, the martyrs who sacrificed their lives on 21st February for the utmost cause, did it not only for saving our language from being affronted, but more significantly for saving the entity of our nation. Perhaps, we would not have been able to sustain our own culture and heritage so much in the same way as today if a 21st February had not taken place, because the tyrant regime would have put all sorts of hindrance before us. Hadn't this 21st February occurred we, probably, wouldn't have the opportunity to fight for our freedom in 1971 which had seeded the rudimentary inspiration from our language movement.

    The Language Movement was in effect the prelude to the liberation of Bangladesh because from it the struggle for rights and struggle against oppression started to take up steam, which ultimately led to independence struggle which had its successful culmination when on December 16th, 1971, this nation won freedom.

    For a long time, it was only us who remembered the language martyrs and their selfless sacrifice that gave us the right to speak our language. But, with the world fast becoming a global village, this unique event did not take time to catch the eye of others.

    Now, we celebrate 21st February as the international mother language day.

    Unesco, in 1999 in Paris, in a unanimous decision declared 21st February as International Mother Language Day. All 191 UN nations around the world would celebrate their mother tongues from the year 2000 while bearing in mind that promoting the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness about linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue. This noble cause of unifying, while at the same time promoting diversification, comes in the form of commemorating our martyrs.

    Now, in the 21st century, the diminishing trend in the use of Bangla has been fortified due to the adverse impacts of globalisation, free-market economy and information technology. The political parties here hardly did anything during the movement, as they were busy struggling for power. We have failed to imbue the minds of the masses with the spirit of the language movement, even after 35 years of independence

    A nation cannot fail forever. A new generation will come up to ignite a social movement to ensure a wide use of Bangla. You should overcome whatever obstacle you face on the way to attaining the ultimate goal of a progressive, secular and prosperous Bangladesh with the spirit of the language movement

    Significance of Ekushey

    Ekushey 21 Februry also symbolizes the advent of the birth of non-communalism and secular traditions for the people of the then East Pakistan that ultimately became an integral part of the Bengali identity.

    The objective behind the vigorous attempts to install Urdu as the one and the only state language of Pakistan was to further confirm and consolidate the foundation of the then Pakistan based on religion. Ekushey thus also symbolises the beginning of secular traditions in our individual lives and the nation at large. That is why when following the 1952 language movement the administration made several attempts to dislodge the unity thus created through various wily means like introducing some sort of Roman script both for Urdu and Bengali they miserably failed and had to abandon those ideas in the face of popular public protests. Ayub Khan even went to the extent of attempting to restrict Tagore songs in public functions and ceremonies including broadcasting over the radio. This too failed; on the contrary observation and celebration of all sorts of traditional Bengali festivals and culture of the Bengali language became more and more pronounced and widespread.

    The legacy and rich heritage of Ekushey February that makes it an integral part of our culture and traditions. Of course language is central to the culture and traditions in the life of any nation. Here in Bangladesh it bears special significance because of its historic role in the very creation of the country. Despite all this today the spirit of Ekushey stands seriously threatened.

    It is through the nation’s patriotic approach to the mother tongue that it will be in a position to deal with the larger issues of Bangladesh’s place in the world. A nation that ignores its own language, that sometimes appears to act as an apologist for foreign languages such as English, is one that only digs a deeper hole for itself.

    The spirit and essence of Ekushey February to my mind has been best captured in the following lines of a poem by renowned Bengali poet Sikander Abu Zafar (Ekushey Kabita, Bangla Academy, 1983) “

    February is a fearless journey
    On the road of conscience,
    February 21 is a united being of million men
    February 21 is written with the sleepless terror
    Of the conscience stricken egoist,
    Who startles at the sound of falling leaves.”

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    9. Folklore of Bengal

    A rich and vibrant cultural tradition of its rural people, evolved over a period beginning perhaps even before the arrival of the Aryans. Its influence on Bengali village life is as great as life itself. Bengal is the land of festivities. According to a popular saying Bengal has "thirteen festivals in twelve months". These festivities are centred around the six seasons. They either form part of religions of its people or relate to the agricultural cycles - sowing of crops and harvesting or just happen as integral fragments of life. Each festival in the Bengali calendar has brought immense joy and pleasure to millions of people over centuries. The festive occasions are always accompanied by carnivals of sport, music, dance, drama, riddles and other performing events.

    The fact that the Bengali folk songs and musical heritage astonishingly survived the onset of Indian classical music, clearly points to their depth, variety and distinct character or tradition. Whilst some impressions of classical rag or ragini are noticeable in branches of Bengali folk music, most remained virgin. However, it is not quite clear if this character can survive the radio rage and the hot-dog imperialism. Perhaps unwise to do so, Bengali folk songs can be grouped in a number of loosely defined classes.

    Baul songs

    There was a time when rural Bangladesh would resonate with the beats of the dhol, the ektara and the mystical songs of the Bauls. The Bauls were a very colourful community, known for their wit, humour, nomadic lifestyle and mellifluous songs. Through their songs, the Bauls expressed their emotions, feelings, dreams and philosophy and also earned their livelihood. Today, this community is confronted with competition from the electronic media and is in danger of losing its charm.

    United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) yesterday proclaimed Bangladesh's traditional Baul Songs as a "Masterpiece" of Heritage of Humanity (November 28, 2005)

    baulThe word 'Baul' originated from 'Bawra' -- meaning people who do not associate with traditional lifestyle or norms. Bauls do not belong to certain religious communities. They believe in the religion of 'humanity'. Searching for the 'higher being' through love, peace and harmony among fellow human beings, is their conviction. And this is what fetched Baul songs mass popularity in this part of the world during the last few centuries.

    During the middle ages when both Hindus and Muslims from the lower classes of the society lost hope in the traditional social system due to the maltreatment they received from the higher classes; some individuals left civilised world and formed a new creed. These people -- Hindus and Muslims -- did not become atheists though. They did believe in God. But according to them God is amongst us, within each and every being. It is amazing how these folks who had no traditional education; spoke of the intricate and complex philosophy of mysticism. 'Sufism' was introduced in Persia (Iran) and some of these Sufis traveled to the sub-continent. Sufism was introduced in parts of the Bengal and the Bauls were deeply influenced by the Sufi philosophy.


    Kabigaan are songs written and composed by Kobials (folk poets). The instinctive folk poets sing or recite their compositions in front of appeciative audiences. Humerous and witty Kabigaans are often sprinkled with metaphorical ornamentations and riddles - drawn from materials, events and titbits of life. Kabials create popular verses in front of their eager and attentive audience. Not only do they build their lyrical masterpieces on the spot confronting their rivals, they compose musical scores for them on the fly as they recite their verses. They attack thier opponents with apparently unanswerable questions and riddles; the opponents solve the puzzles with equal mastery and leave behind a counter question. This process continues until one side concedes to the other for that session. To generations of villagers kabigaan had been an immense source of entertainment, pleasure and wisdom.

    Such was the depth of wit, emotion, romanticism and wisdom in their creation and such was their melodious rendition that they would leave an indelible mark on the audience. The audience would continue to recite those pieces for a long time to come.

    Many kabials of past centuries had left their legendary mark on the Bengali heritage - some of their memorable riddles still do and will continue to fascinate vast majority of village folks.


    Since the major part of Bangladesh is rural, the people are also rural people, their music is also folk music. Three of the world's largest rivers and their countless tributaries criss-cross the lush green land of Bengal. Here boats are the main means of communication. Where there are boats, there are boatmen too, and these boatmen sing the popular type of folk song called "Bhatiali."
    Like any folk song, the composers are after anonymous. These undaunted fearless boatmen while rowing their boats on ocean-like rivers they sing out loud the "Sari" songs which are incomparable.

    padmaComposed and sung by boatmen of East Bengal. This branch is a fitting reminder that Bengal is the land of rivers.

    The mighty flow of the Ganga, Padma, Brahmaputra, Kabotaksha, Tista, Meghna, Madhumati and Buriganga not only brought the Bengal delta to life, it also gave its people one of the cheapest form of transport. Also, it's not unusul that a lot of people live on boats. The beauty and tranquility of passing villages, flowing murmur of water, whistling wind on the sail and the rythms of baitha (oar) can only bring a touch of poetic creativity to lonely hearts - away from home, separated from the loved ones. Sadly, it seems as if life is passing them by like the everflowing Padma. The thoughts become words, words become lyric and rowing rythms help to add a tune or two. The river banks, the destination, look close yet far - the longing seems forever. Memorable compositions survive generations, new ones replace the old - creative inspirations never will end.

    "Bichhedi" or the song of separation: These songs speak of the sorrows and stresses of separating from ones lover.

    Bangladeshi marriages are full of rituals and there are numerous songs composed for each ritual and occasion. These marriage songs are different in district, but some "Biyer gan" have become popular throughout the country.


    Murshidi is basically a variation of the Baul theme and is largely influenced by the Sufi philosophy of Islamic tradition. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the two - the same singers and composers upheld the beliefs of both - thus blurring the line of the religious divide. Eccentric lifestyles of some of the proponents of either tradition often made it impossible to know whether they were hindus or muslims. Lalan Fakir for example was certainly one of them who refused to be idetified with any one religion

    The life and times of prophet Mohamed and his disciples figure prominently in them whereas Bauls were intensely occupied with either Tantrik meditation, or with the purpose and relationship of this earthly existence (this body) to the inner soul or with their constant longing to unite with the Lord of the eternal abode - Sri Krishna.


    Traditionally, kabials were mostly hindus and they derived their materials from the hindu mythology and way of life. The muslim folk equivalent of the Kabial tradition is known as Jarigaan. The muslim folk poets were inspired by life and times of prophet Mohammed and his disciples, and their themes were based on subject matters dwelling more on the Islamic folk heroes and religious beliefs. It was not uncommon, however, to find hindu and muslim kabials, and more frequently rival hindu kabials, providing excellent theosophical explanations of the differences between the believers of either religion and their eventual unity in diversity,


    Harikeertan (also called Namjajna) involves inceasant chanting of names of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama's around the clock. The chant goes like this:


    Song offerings (hymns) to Sri Krishna and Sri Chaitanya. The former who drove Arjun's charriot in the killing fields of Kurukshetra is considered the Lord Himself in the Dwapar (hindu mythology divides time into four periods:

  • Satya,
  • Treta,
  • Dwapar and
  • Koli) period.

    The latter, considered another reincarnation of the Lord Himself in the Koli period, is a Bengali rebel philosopher and religious prophet who revoked the Aryan caste system as immoral and planted the concept of universal brotherhood not only in Bengal, but in other neighbouring states.

    In the Vaishnav (worshippers of Lord Vishnu) traditions of the hindu religion, Lord I and Lord Chaitanya are held to be the reincarnations of Lord Vishnu.

    The keertan branch of Bengali folk songs, very rich in tonal texture and saturated with devotional spirit, concerns itself with lives and times of Lord Krishna and Sri Chaitanya.

    In some parts of Bengal keertan sessions assume proportions of a full length drama describing certain aspects of Lord Krishna's adultrous love affair with Sri Radha which often include the tales of their arduous separation (or viraha) and eventual coalescence (or milon).

    In a metaphorical sense, this life on Earth is nothing more or nothing less than the Viraha so aptly presented in the Keertan episodes. All who love the Lord will, not unlike Radha, one day find Him and be united as one with Him.


    Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
    Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,
    Hare Rama Hare Rama
    Rama Rama Hare Hare!

    This chant is believed to be clarifying the minds and induce pure devotion to Godhead. In some parts of Bengal Harikeertan is an elaborate festival, that can last two or three weeks at a time, and may involve veteran singing bands of devotees from faraway places (every part of the land) and draws large crowds from many villages.

    The variation in tonal structure and musical notation of the basic chant, often embodying the finest of Indian Ragas, can be not only a religious uplift, but a very enthralling musical experience.

    Vegetarian meals and accomodation for all visiting bands and for devout audience remain a financial and logistical responsibility of the organisers of the Mahotsav (great festival). The charm and magnetic attraction of these village fairs, festivities and musical extrvaganzas - the greatest wealth of Bengal - are in no way less phenomenal than some of the most popular country music festivals of the West.


    Sari (or Shaeri) songs are associated with boat races. Boat races used to be a popular pastime in East Bengal(Bangladesh) during the monsoon months. Village youths would draw immense courage, determination and pleasure to take part and win in the races. Large crowds would gather along the banks of the river to celebrate the occasions. Boats would be gracefully prepared with colorful decorations. Before the race began, and sometimes after it was completed, festivitivities continued all day long with sing-a-song-sing-along sarigaan.

    Bangladesh, the riverine delta of the subcontinent, is a new country on the world map. Its culture, however, is a thousand years old. It is known as a land of music. Particularly the folk music of Bangladesh is simple as it is sung by the simple people living in the villages of Bengal. It is easily understood as it is the spontaneous expression of their feelings and emotions. Our folk songs are as rich as they are varied. Bengalis are a proud people possessing a rich cultural tradition evolved through centuries of inter-mingling and admixture of the cultural traits of various races, castes, and tribes, who have lived here since the dawn of civilisation. Otherwise a poor country, Bangladesh boasts of a rich cultural heritage. "Because all village people are simple, because they think simply, because their songs are simple, because their subject matter is simple, they talk of their simple joys and sorrows, and because people, the tune, the subject matter is simple -- all folk songs of the world are alike."(Abbasuddin, F. Rahman, 2006))

    Folk theatres of Gambhira and Alkap

    Keep the song in your throat.
    Let your hands bring out the meaning.
    Your glance should be full of expression.
    While your feet maintain the rhythm.
    Where the hand goes, there the eyes should follow.
    Where the eyes are, the mind should follow.
    Where the mind is, there the expression should be brought out.
    Where the expression is, there the rasa or flavour will be experienced.
    Shloka from Vedas

    alkapThe northern region of Bangladesh has two entertaining folk forms called 'Gambhira' and 'Alkap'. Through lighthearted banter, songs and dances, and at times crude fun and jokes the characters of these folk forms point out the reality and often the absurdity of various aspects of our rural life. A particularly interesting feature of these forms is the quaint regional dialect in which the participants conduct their bantering repartee. This, however, is impossible to convey in English translation. But when one witnesses these performances, no one can miss it.

    About three years ago we had been to Puthia during Baishakhi Purnima (a religious festival of the Buddhists) on an invitation from the Puthia Theatre group. We had the opportunity of watching the folk theatres of Gambhira and Alkap on two consecutive evenings.

    On the first night Gambhira was presented. It was a dialogue between a grandfather and a grandson, full of songs, witty bantering and playful raillery. However, through teasing and chaffing the characters brought out the many contemporary problems of the society. In these days of media culture our traditional Bengali culture, our ways of life, our talks, our songs and dances, our dresses are often found to have become absurd and alien under the influence of dish antennae. This theme was presented in the Gambhira through fun and frolicking. Beneath the surface of light bantering, one could discern the rural bard's concern with the underlying truths and lies of the society.

    On the other hand, 'Alkap' which was presented on the second night dealt mainly with the problems of the family. Whereas in Gambhira the themes treated are the entire society, and even the state, in Alkap we find that it is mainly the 'family as a single social unit that is presented on the stage. On the second evening we watched a 'pala' or a folk drama presented by Ananda Mohan Bagchi's troup “Swadeshi Alkap”. Let me discuss here how this particular 'pala' dealt with various problems of a family.

    At the beginning, the instrumental musicians (the orchestra) sat in a circle at the centre of the stage. Some played harmonium, some the flutes, while the others kept beat on the 'mandira' and the 'tabla'. At one point the vocalists joined in creating a magical atmosphere of orchestra and songs. After a while, the leader of the troup, Ananda Mohan Bagchi, stood up and started to pay homage to the audience with a hymn:

    With the feet of ten, I weave a garland to wear around my neck
    Who are the ten? Oh God, if you believe in one
    It's the ten who can spread
    our fame,
    Or the ten who can bring our fall
    Oh, if the ten were not here, who would we perform for?
    Ten is our God, ten our deliverer/saviour
    And so here I am, I sing my hymn for the ten!

    In this story of the Alkap, the problem of a typical family in the rural area has been portrayed through sharp and witty dialogue, songs, dances and acting. Unless one watches the Gambhira and Alkap in person, sitting there in the audience as part of the 'ashar', it is not possible to capture the magical quality of the visual at second hand and auditory charm as well as the insightful sarcasm that characterise the Gambhira and Alkap (S. Zakeria, August 2006).

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    10. DURGA Puja, its universal appeal

    The most celebrated religious festival among the Bangalee Hindu community is Durga Puja. During the days of Durga puja colourful idols turn parts of the country into a glittering landscape, sounds of dhak and dhol, revv up the mood of jubilation.

    According to legend the bride Durga is supposed to have a homecoming followed by her children Kaartik, Lakshmi, Sharaswati and Ganesh. This starts from the first sighting of the new moon.

    In our country the statues that are created always contain seven figures. The limelight is taken by Durga herself who is flanked by Kaartik, Lakshmi, Sharaswati and Ganesh. Her right foot rests on a lion's back while the toe of the left foot is curled around the neck of the devil.

    Durga puja has a history that dates back in the ancient period. There is much debate regarding the origin of Durga Puja. It's history as well is quite complex. For example in Kritivasa's Ramayana, Rama does the Akal bodhon in autumn (Sharat) to do the Durga Puja. On the other hand king Surath used to perform the puja in spring. This puja is now known as Vasanti Puja.

    According to the famous scholar Amulyacharan Vidyabhushan the name Durga appeared from Dakshakanyan (daughter of Daksha). In the ancient times the statue of Dakshakanyan was the symbol of fire. The statue of Dakshakanyan was yellow at that time and was set on the Kunda. Later the ten sides of the Kunda (hollow in the earth) became the ten hands of Durga. During the last part of the Vedic age, Dakshakanyan evolved in to Uma, Uma in to Ambika and Ambika in to Durga. Durga Puja may have been held in the ancient days but its character and nature were different then. The Durga Puja that is prevalent today in Bangladesh is a folk form of the ancient custom. At present it is being celebrated in autumn.

    Usually Akal Bodhon of Durga takes place on the sixth lunar day of the full moon in the month Aswin. The seventh, eighth and the ninth lunar days are the days of Durga puja.

    The immersion takes place on the tenth lunar day, which is called Vijoya Dashami. From the next day of immersion starts the custom of extended Vijoya greetings. Durga's elder daughter Lakshmi is worshipped on the full moon in Aswin. In the month of Kartik on the day of Sankranti (the passage of the sun from one astrological sign to another) Durga's son Kartik is worshipped. Saraswati, Durga's younger daughter is worshipped in the month of Magh on the fifth lunar day of the full moon. There is no puja for Ganesh as he is always worshiped along with other gods. Durga puja was first transformed into a grand festival in Calcutta not only for celebration. It also served the purpose of entertainment for the English masters.

    Description of the Durga puja can be found in contemporary journals and novels. Probably from the nineteenth century the faint echo of the puja in Calcutta spread in to Bangladesh. The landlords and the elites used to reside in Calcutta at that time. They introduced the entertainment and amusement of Calcutta in to the lives of their peasants. The zamindars played the most important role in transforming Durga puja in to a universal festival in this region. For some it was a time to exhibit wealth and for some other people it was the time to show kindness and generosity.

    In 1946, after the communal riots in Bangladesh especially in Noakhali many families left the villages to come to the city. In the making of the deity Durga, people from different castes perform different duties. As some of the caste became displaced from their birthplace, it became quite difficult to organise the puja. In this backdrop in the year 1946, Brahmins and non-Brahmins jointly came to the villages ignoring their caste differences to collect donation and organise the puja, which is now known as Sarbojonin Puja. After the independence of Bangladesh the Dhakeswari temple of Dhaka has been transformed in to a site for the celebration of the Durga Puja.

    Most of the mandirs of Dhaka are situated at the old part. Almost all the idols of Dhaka are immersed in the river Buriganga.

    Huge rally takes place, with thousands of people dancing all the way to Buriganga with the beat of drums (dhak and dhol). Due to the congested status of Dhaka, it is quite difficult to turn the festival in to a grand one. The most spectacular mondops are built outside Dhaka. Chittagong and Narayanganj has huge puja festivity. Traditional Durga puja mela (fair) takes place around different mondops. This fair attracts people of all ages. Statues of clay, sweet treats like khaja, goja, batasha, kodma is sold in the fair. Children are most likely to gather around these stalls. Devotees of all age visit the goddess and pay their respect. Like all the other religious festivals, the theme of Durga puja is nurturing the essence of ecstasy.

    Durga is a symbol of strength and unity with all the gods and even the demon brought together. Durga puja is a festival that brings together all the devotees and in a way it tries to bring unity among its followers. The statues are mainly made using clay from Rajbari. It is made malleable with the help of water from the Ganges or from the sea. Everyone from all classes of society are brought together for this event. In fact, classes are merged as everyone stands together in obeisance. In unity everyone asks for peace.

    It is not only the devotees but also people of other religions who are touched by this event. As a social event it brings people together in unity as symbolised by Durga the goddess.

    durga puja 2006Mother Durga descends upon earth about this time of the year (End of September) to cleanse the hearts of the followers and shower them with divine blessings before returning to her abode amongst the pantheon of gods and goddesses. It is said that Durga Puja remains the most revered religious occasion of the Bengali Hindus all over the world. The five-day festivity attracted thousands of devotees to the temples and special mandaps erected for the purpose, after waiting eagerly for one year for her arrival. Traditionally, high priests decorate the image of the goddess with beautiful clothes and ornaments and submit earthly offerings at her feet amidst chanting of verses from holy scriptures. And over the chanting of holy hymns, thick smoke of incense and din of the metal bells, the eternal message of sublimity, peace and the triumph of the good over evil permeates every heart.


    KATYANI PUJAAlthough Durga Puja is the greatest religious festival among the Bengali- speaking people of the Hindu community, Magura district is an exception where with the passage of time ‘Katyani Puja’ has become the main religious festival. This puja is celebrated every year one month after the Durga Puja. It was Shatish Chandra - a rich person of parnanduali village in Magura Sadar Upazila – who first observed this Katyani Puja about 50 years ago. Science then this Puja started to become popular among the Hindu community and now it is being celebrated with much enthusiasm and festivity for about 15 years. Idols of Katyani Puja are similar to that of Durga Puja. Every year, thousands of enthusiastic people even from neighbouring states of India assemble in Magura to celebrate the Puja.

    According to the Hindu Shastra (Scripture), during the 'Dapor-Era' before appearing on Earth, Sree Krishna sent his parents and other family members to the world of the mortals. Inhabitants of Vraja nourished voluntary religious observance to get sree krishna along with his father Bashudev and mother Debokee as the son, friend, husband and god. During the 'Dapor-Era' milk maids(Gopbalas) of Brindaban, first started observing the month-long Katyani Puja at the beginning of Deway sea-son (Kartik and Agrahayan months of the Bangla year) on the river bank of Jamuna making idosimilar to the 'Devi Durga'.

    Dipawali -- the festival of lights

    dipaliThe Indian civilisation is an unending procession of festivals. Dipawali or Diwali, one of the biggest and grandest festival of Hindus, is celebrated in the month of Kartika (October-November). Dipawali literally means row of lamps and Diwali, as it is popularly known, means the 'festival of lights'. It is an important and popular festival in India in one from or the other. As a matter of fact it is a five-day long festival, but the main celebration takes place on the day of Dipawali (the dark night before new moon). One myth says that on this auspicious day 'Laksmi',(The Goddess of Love, Beauty and Prosperity

    lakshmiThe word Lakshmi is derived from the Sanskrit word Laksme, meaning "goal." Lakshmi, therefore, represents the goal of life, which includes worldly as well as spiritual prosperity. She is the Goddess of Love, Beauty & Prosperity and maintains harmony, joy and fullness in the universe) the goddess of wealth and good fortune, roams about the visits the houses of people. So, people tidy up their houses, establishments and shops and decorate them with lamps to welcome the fortune goddess. On the night she is worshipped with great devotion. The occasion also commemorates the triumph of Lord Rama over Ravana, and Rama's return to Ayodhya. It is also on this day that Lord Krishna killed the demon Norkasura.

    The birth of goddess Lakshmi is related to an ancient story. Durvasa the short-tempered sage once presented Indra, the king of the gods, with a garland of flowers which would never wilt. Indra gave this garland to his elephant, Airavata. Sage Durvasa saw the elephant trampling the divine garland and, short-tempered as he was, cursed Indra, for he had shown disrespect to the sage. The sage cursed Indra that he and all the gods would lose their power because it had made them so proud and vain. Due to the curse, the demons vanquished the gods out of the heavens.

    Laksmi Pata (Bangla-Lok'khir pat, Lok'Khi Shara) is a traditional expression of Bengal folk art. Laksmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, beauty, prosperity and fertility. Though she is worshipped in pious Hindu homes every Thursday, her annual worship is held on the full-moon night of autumn when the fields are full of dhan (paddy), the main harvest, and the moon is in the clear sky after the monsoons, representing completion of a circle. On this occasion, some Hindus worship the clay image, some a pitcher full of water with mango leaves in it and a green coconut representing a fertility cult. In some homes, especially in non-Brahmin ones, the Laksmi pata showing the icons is worshipped.

    Laksmi saras (saucer) are of four broad types and have a number of variations. These four broad types are: (i) Dhakai - these originated in Dhaka; the rim of this type of saucers is slightly raised but the convex surface is not much raised. The surface is primed with white. Narayana and Laksmi are depicted in a standing position, facing each other. Their arms, holding stalks of corn, are raised from the elbow.

    kadom flowerA Kadamba tree bearing round yellow flowers stands in between with its branches spread over their heads like two arches. Laksmi seating on a lotus holding the stalk of corn and a treasure-trove, her carrier owl near her feet, is the subject of the single icon.

    The image of Laksmi riding a trade-boat alludes to Dhaka's history as a prosperous centre of trade. The round space is divided by a horizontal line into a large and a small semi-circular area. The main images are shown in the larger upper half, bearing an arch-type decorative design touching the rim. The raised rim is painted red symbolising prosperity.

    Faridpuri- Originated in Faridpur region, in this type of iconography, space division and the white priming in the background are same as in the Dhakai type, but the rim is not raised. The style too differs. (iii) Sureshwari- Originated in Sureshwar, village of Faridpur, in this type the round space is divided into five vertical panels; the central division, which adorns the main deity, is larger. A base line, drawn horizontally, creates a smaller lower semi circular space. The central vertical panel is further divided into two rectangles. The smaller upper compartment is for Siva -the male consort of Durga. The central compartment is ocupied by the main deity Durga, shown riding a lion and killing the demon Asura. Her children Laksmi and Ganesha adorn the two vertical compartments on her left side, while Saraswati and Kartikeya are on the right side compartments. The semi-circular space below the base line shows Laksmi. The architectonic space division is further enhanced by lotus-bud arches at the top, in the shape of a pancha-ratna or a Five-Jewel temple. The palette and the treatment of background are the same as in the Dhakai and Faridpuri types.

    Like all other folk styles, pata styles were handed down the generations. The clay-image makers paint the patas seasonally. In the first three types, colours are applied in free strokes area-wise to create a plastic feeling. A few sweeping strokes in black are used as finishing lines. In the Ganaki type, colours are filled in cautiously. They never overlap the contours. The finishing lines too never go astray. The styles have all the qualities of folk-art. The preference is for outline drawing and flat colours without tonality. Gestures are articulated to rhythmic expressions. The palette consists of red, yellow, blue, green, white and black - all in vibrant colours and having rich intensity. Laksmi pata or Lok'khir shara, executed as a commodity, sustains a community and embodies a living folk tradition.

    It is not possible to describe at length about the many ancient, mediaeval and modern books on the Dipawali or Diwali festival, Dipawali was celebrated with equal zest by the Jainas also. According to the Jaina Harivamsa Purana, the members of the community joined the celebrations because it was the Nirvana day of Lord Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Tirthankara. The festival of Diwali is even now celebrated every year also in other continents and many countries in Asia.

    Dipawali also marks the advent of new season and sowing of new crops. The new Vikrama era begins on this day and account books are opened. The famous king Vikramaditya, after whom the era is named, was crowned on this day. People greet each other and distribute sweets.

    In Bengal Goddess Kali is worshipped with great fervour and devotion on this day.On this occasion people ask for each other's forgiveness for the wrongs done knowingly or unknowingly and mutual relations are reestablished and strengthened. Thus all enmity is forgiven and forgotten as people embrace one another.

    At night, Lakshmi along with Ganesha are worshipped, and old accounts are closed and new ones are opened. People throng the bazars and streets during the night in order to watch and appreciate the illumination and fire works.

    Thus, this great festival of lights symbolises man's urge to move towards light from darkness towards enlightenment from ignorance (Prem Ranjan Dev, November 2005) .

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    11. Reminder of Lost Heritage of Bengal- Temples

    kalinarayan temple, Joydev pur.Mathurapur Deul, Madhukahli, Faridpur, circa 1600.Mahilara Math, Gournadi, Barisal, circa 1800

    Most temples in Bangladesh are left to ruin. With the absence of government intervention, and at most cases, with the blatant transgression by many land-grabbing neo-rich of the rural areas, who have no inkling of what archeological treasures mean, most temples are in danger of being obliterated from the face of this part of Bengal. In Bangladesh, there are near about five hundred temples. The temples that still stand and had not reached the irreparable stage were built within the time starting from the last three hundred years to the early 19th century. "You will not find a single temple that dates back to the time before Muslim invasion of Bengal. They either could not stand the test of time or were brought down by Muslim invaders," Ahmed B. (August, 2004)

    . "Every time I go back to my subjects after an interval of a number of years, I find them in a diminished condition. Many temples are being used as bathans -- meaning barn for cattle," Ahmed discloses. It pains him to see this wealth being on the verge of disappearance as a result of both vandalism and apathy of humans.

    His first encounter with a mondir (temple) was the "Twin-Shiva Temple" in Bolihar, Naogaon. "Now it houses cattle, and the spire of the temple at the right is gone," Ahmed picturises the temple in ruin, one that he photographed ten years back with the temple in one piece.

    The UNESCO Chief Wolfgang Vollmann could not hide his astonishment, he was swept away by the sheer number and the variety of the temples. Vollman was heard saying that he would not have imagined that in such a small country so many historical sites were built and are still standing.

    The Hindu population has decimated, but the efforts of people like Ahmed, at least, may go to serve to raise a voice of concern to save the crumbling structures that stand proof of a culture based on the idea of integration.

    Whether they are temples or maths, many of the structures have lost their original contour. Successive renovation works have robbed them of their original relief work that used to adorn the surface. Those that did not lose the original intricate ornaments or the repetitive ornate cornices that runs the length of the spire, are sights of extraordinary beauty. The Dhakeshwary Temple with its living deity is a prime example of a temple that lost its ornaments to renovations. The solo exhibition titled "One Hundred Temples" strives to relocate our point of attention, it initiates a change of heart on the visitors part.

    Those who had no idea of the vast architectural riches that Bangladesh holds inside its periphery, will have a clear idea of it after a single visit. Yet the question remains, will this break the slumber of the relevant authorities? Will they hear Ahmed's clarion call?

    Kantaji temple in Dinajpur is on the verge of destruction

    Kantajio MandirKantaji temple in Dinajpur is on the verge of destruction as high salinity in the soil beneath its foundation has been seeping through the structure, damaging its beautiful terracotta embellishments by a huge number. The wretched condition of this eighteenth-century marvel is mostly caused by "absence of proper maintenance and sufficient manpower due to fund shortage of the department” in the last six years, said a senior official of Department of Archaeology (DA).

    M Abdul Khaleque, regional director of DA, said a huge number of terracotta panels have already been damaged by salinity -- especially in the lower-southern section of the three-storied 51-foot square ancient brick temple. "Only Tk 2 lakh is more than enough to save [the structure] from salinity," he added. A type of blotting paper or pulp is used to absorb salinity from the terracotta panels, but it is a time consuming process, Khaleque explained.

    Also known as Kantajio Mandir, this is one of the three nine-spired or "Nava Ratna" temples built in the region in the eighteenth century. It sits on the west bank of the river Dhapa, 14 km away from Dinajpur town, Khaleque said adding, the temple was declared a protected archaeological site in November 1960 by the then government of Pakistan. The other two Nava Ratna temples were in Sirajganj -- Potajia temple at Shajadpur upazila and Hatikumrul temple at Ullapara. The Potajia temple has already been destroyed due to high salinity in the soil and sheer negligence of the DA. The Hatikumrul temple is also heading towards the same fate for similar reasons, lamented DA officials.

    Construction the Kantaji temple started in 1722 AD by Maharaja Pran Nath. It was completed in 1752 AD during the reign of his son Maharaja Ramnath. It boasts one of the greatest examples on terracotta architecture in Bangladesh. It once had nine ornamental spires or nava-ratna (nine-jewel), but all were destroyed in an earthquake that took place in 1897, according to Wikipedia.

    This magnificent pyramidal temple rose in three receding terraces and was crowned with nine spires on the corners of the three terraces that imparted it an appearance of a huge Ratha or an ornate chariot resting on a high plinth. It was provided with arched openings on all four sides in order to enable devotees to see the deity enshrined inside from all directions. Every available inch of its wall surface from the base to the crest of its three stories, both inside and out, pulsates with an amazing profusion of figured and floral art in unbroken succession. The vast array of subject matter include the stories of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the exploits of Krishna, and a series of extremely fascinating contemporary social scenes depicting the favourite pastimes of the landed aristocracy. The astonishing profusion, delicacy of modelling, and the beauty of its carefully integrated friezes have seldom been surpassed by any mural art of its kind in Bengal. [Source: Banglapedia]

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    12. The oldest settlers of the Bhawal forest- A need to keep alive an indigenous culture

    Kochs are the oldest as well as the original settlers of the forest but over the last 50-60 years they have become a minority in their own land due to continuous Bangalee migration to the region. The Bhawal National Park is situated 40 km north of Dhaka, on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway. The Kochs came long before the 13th century from Assam, West Bengal. Self-styled as warriors of the sun, the Kochs converted themselves to Hinduism under the Hindu law in 1954. They are a race persecuted since the great Kurukshetra war. At that time they used to wear the sacred thread. Nowadays, most of the people living around the neighbouring villages of the Bhawal National Park are Muslims. According to surveys for the period 1909-1917, the Kochs and Mandees constituted 97 percent of the total population in the Madhupur forest. However, according to the 1991 Census Report, only 16,567 Koch people live in Bangladesh.

    Back then Bhawal was a hilly region. They had their own kingdom in Cooch Behar of West Bengal. The head of the family or the headman controls his community, taking care of all the internal and external problems related to the community. The eldest of the offspring is selected to be the headman. He is not only judged by his family name, but also by his educational qualifications, knowledge base and attitude. He has the right to take any decision and mete out justice. The Kochs have distinctive physical features. They bear a little resemblance with the Mongoloid populace, but they belong to the Dravidians/Bodo tribe (HH Risley: Tribes and Castes of Bengal, Vol-I, p 183). They are usually dark and tall. Their unique feature is their slanting eyes, and slim tough bodies.

    By and large, the Kochs dress differently from the Bangalees. Indigenous people who lived around the neighbouring area of the Bhawal National Park used to don a gamchha, akin to the sarong. The womenfolk used to wear a gamchha tied around their waist, which reached down to the knees. On the top they used to wrap around another small gamchha. The males wore a sarong wrapped around their waist up to the knees. During winter they used to wear big shawls wrapped around their bodies. However, now there has been a change in dress style: married women have adopted the sari, while the unmarried women go for shelwar kameez. Likewise, men have begun wearing <>lungi and shirts. Nowadays, the ancient dress and ornaments of the Kochs cannot be seen quite often.

    There was a time when the Kochs were hunters and their staple fare was grilled deer, wild hen, geese and boars. Today they eat pigs, vegetables and fish. During festivals or puja, they depend on vegetables. They take heavy meals thrice a day. Their courses include sizeable quantity of rice, as they have to work hard. Beer or rum is an important item. Usually men drink alcohol during special festivals.

    ET Dalton regards the ethnic minority of the Kochs to be one of the ancient people of India (Tribal History, p 89). These people, mostly converts to Hinduism, follow the Sanaton religion. The Kochs used to follow their original religion Nagoree before they converted to Hinduism. There are also some Christian Koch people in Kaliakoir.

    Originally the Kochs were matrilineal. Bangla is the language of the majority of the people. Among the Barmons, the Kochs speak in their own dialects, known as Thar or Atong. However, they prefer using Bangla in their daily life for communicating with the Bangalees. In fact, they are sometimes reticent about speaking in their own language because the Bangalees make fun of them on this score (Story: Tanveen Zaman & Khaled, The Daily Star, July 11, 2005)

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    13. The Lost Art of Metal Casting

    goddess durga folklore

    The lost-wax technique is an ancient art that dates back over 2,000 years or older in India, China, and Egypt. In the 15th century it was used by the likes of Donatello for the making large-scale bronze nudes. Bowls and plates made with intricate etchings are made using other methods.


  • First, the artisan creates a sculpture using wax made from beeswax and paraffin. Three different compositions of river-based clay are then poured over it, two times each. Two nali or openings are molded at one end of each piece.
  • Thirty-six to forty crucibles of brass and bronze metal are arranged at the bottom of a five-foot cylindrical brick oven. Placed over these are the clay molds containing the wax figures.
  • The cylindrical oven is so deep that one of the workmen must go into the oven to lay the raw clay structures. When the crucibles and molds are in place, the oven is fired up. A great mass of smoke rises from the open-top oven, taking the form of a miniature Hiroshima explosion.
  • A 20-foot high flame created by the burning wax discharging from the clay molds eventually replaces the smoke. At this point, the oven has heated between 175-200o centigrade. In the end, none of the wax will remain leaving behind hollow molds. From here arises the term "lost wax".
  • Two and a half-hours after firing up of the oven, the metal starts melting at a scorching 1000o centigrade.
  • Once the metal is liquidified, the scalding hot clay molds are removed from the oven using six-foot long tongs. The empty molds are turned over to expose the nalis and the red-hot molten metal is poured in.
  • After the metal cools down and takes solid form, the outer clay of each mold is chiseled away to reveal a silvery brass statue, a replica of the original wax sculpture.
  • The figure is filed and polished.
  • Lastly, chemicals are added to its surface to give the metal its characteristic patina. The statues are fit for display.

  • Material

    Most of the figures are made from bronze (a copper and tin alloy) or brass (a copper and zinc alloy). Hindu figures are made out of eight metals believed to have an auspicious connection to the planets. The eight metals are: copper, zinc, tin, iron, lead, mercury, gold and silver.

    The Wax Artisan

    Once a dying art, metal-casting is being revived by Sukanta Banik, whose business in Dhamrai has been in the family for five generations. Until recently, Banik's forefathers had been making household items with brass and bronze -- kasha and pittal. But in 1971, Sukanta's uncle Shakhi Gopal Banik and his partner, Mosharraf Hossein, changed direction and started producing works of art: figures from Hindu mythology and folk art as well as Buddhist and Jain sculptures.

    During Durga Puja season most of the artisans go home to work on clay murtis for their family business. "Wax figures are harder to work on than clay ones because we do replicas of museum designs, but clay murtis are our own creation," says Gautam Pal, the sole remaining artisan of the season.

    Designs of the gods and goddesses

    Designs of the gods and goddesses are based on the art of the Pala dynasty. They tend to be very intricate, and stand distinguished from statues made elsewhere,

    The lost-wax technique allows helps Banik's artisans create more pronounced detailing. In contrast to most Indian statues, whose details are etched onto the solid metal form, the details of one of Banik's statues are made on the soft wax at the initial stages of the sculpting, using soft wax thread, which is then carved into with a bamboo stick. Thus, the embellishments take on a three-dimensional quality.
    Murtis from India also differ in that they are usually made from a Master mold.

    We must attempt to preserve this age-old tradition, not just in Dhamrai, but in other centers like Jamalpur, Islampur, Tangail, Kushtia, and Dhaka." In the words of friend and supporter, Matt Friedman, "If [the metal casting] trade is someday lost, an important part of Bangladesh's artistic tradition will vanish forever." Hats off to Mr. Banik for bringing this decidedly Bangalee tradition back to life (Manisha Gangopadhyay, November 8, 2004).

    Metal Craft- A Forgotton Art

    The clanging sound of blacksmiths and metal workers was once a distinct part of the beautiful sounds that make up the rhythm of rural or small towns of Bangladesh. Although oblivious to many, metal craft has been an important part of Bangladesh’s artistic tradition.

    The art of metal craft dates back to 3000 B.C when skilled artisans indulged themselves in making some of the greatest masterpieces of time. Each sculpture included elaborate and detailed designing. The beautiful figurine of a dancing girl belonging to the Indus Valley civilization or the magnificently sculptured deities or merely the intricately designed Nakshi bowl indicate the high-level of workmanship and skill attained by ancient craftsman.

    metal artDespite the richness and exclusivity of these metal crafts, today, the legacy of this art-form is becoming extinct. It’s a pity that a large number of Bangladeshis themselves have very low level or no awareness of the existence of such art-form while a good number of foreigners seem to appreciate this rich heritage to a great degree. Every year they visit the main centre for metal casting in Bangladesh. Located 20km North of Dhaka, Dhamrai, is a glimpse of hope for reviving this lost art-form. This particular region was once the living testimony of metal craft where almost every family was involved in this art-form using unique 2000 year old techniques.

    With the passage of time and introduction of inexpensive machine made aluminum and plastic products, many families involved in metal craft shifted away from this sector. Today the metal art has almost vanished but despite that, there are still chances of reviving this rich heritage of Bangladesh. It’s especially true, when you walk inside the beautiful village called Dhamrai. As you walk past every road, every nook and every corner, you know that the struggle and hope of people to keep this craft alive has yet not died away. The village in itself is a mere reflection of rich heritage- the temples, the majestic houses of older times and the distinct sound of the metal work which keep the rhythm of the beauty of village intact. A perfect example of a family who has struggled to revive this rich heritage is the Banik Family. Involved in the craft for more than 200 years, for Baniks it’s more of a bond and something with which they have seen time pass by.

    ‘I grew up hearing the clanging sound of metal beating and testing. My everyday life has been associated with this art,’ says Shukanto Banik. Young, energetic and undoubtedly passionate, Shukanto is the man who is determined to revive the lost art of metal casting. While studying Political Science, Shunkanto helped his uncle and father in the family business. It was during this time that metal craft industry experienced a sharp decline. After the death of his uncle, Shunkanto took over the responsibility of managing the business in 2000. By then, most people had lost hope in this sector. Many started shifting to other profitable businesses.

    ‘There was a time when I didn’t have money to even produce something. It was my mother who gave me 8000 taka to restart the business. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve such heights of success especially when I was one of the handful of people trying to revive the metal craft that had experienced an extremely sharp decline.’

    It was then that Shukanto started from the scratch with the handful of craftsmen who knew the true skill of metal craft. He maintained the quality and the ancient process of handmade metal craft and at the same time introduced contemporary sculptures as well.

    ‘What makes some of the masterpieces stand out is the use of lost wax method which is not widely used. A distinct feature of this method is that it can only be used once. Therefore a particular piece cannot be copied exactly as we do not use any shapes to clone objects.’

    Indeed, Lost Wax method is a very ancient method which has withstood the centuries, visually telling the tale of past cultures, their religion and social structures. Most of these casting symbolized deities and religious sculptures. Shunkanto’s work today evolves from different sculptures of Pal Empire, religious figures and also contemporary and everyday objects with elaborate designs.

    Shukanto moved on working on every detail with his excellent team of workers. The result has been worth it. In the last few years, Dhamrai Metal craft Industry has captured the attention of many international buyers and others. Today, a large number of these works are being imported by Western Europe, USA, India etc.

    ‘I must thank Mathew S Friedman, my friend and guide,’ says Shukanto, ‘He didn’t only appreciate this rich heritage but helped me portray the skill and art of metal craft in different International clubs and organizations. He also wrote a book on the Metal Crafting titled ‘Bangladesh Metal Casting-Five Techniques’.

    To help revive this art-form, the US embassy and many others who believed in this art and realised the true essence of this heritage came together and worked on keeping the Metal casting industry alive. To portray the metalcraft and revive the lost tradition an exhibition was held recently at the Bengal Art Gallery.

    This exhibition portrayed some of the masterpieces of all time. Shunkanto managed to strike a good balance in highlighting the religious sculptures such as Radha and Krisna, Ganesh and at the same time the Pal Empire and other objects such as animals, bowls, candleholders and such. One of the most attractive item that captured various visitors was an immense traditional Indian Chess set- Satranj. The chess set worth more than 1 lakh once again highlighted the delicate designing and above all the true traditional art. Other exclusive items which were bought by not only foreigners but also Bangladeshis included Shiva Parvati, Nataraj, and Wedding Procession. Each of these pieces highlight the extraordinary skill and time that are put in the making of them. Its incredible how smallest of items like the deity sculptures or even ordinary objects take about three months and involve processes in exactly the traditional manner.

    When you look at each of these items, you can see not only the creative ideas involved but also the kind of passion and dedication with which each of these items are produced, and how each of the sculptures and items speak of the past heritage. Shunkanto’s work today involves much of the contemporary touch and summation of different cultures yet he maintains the flair of metal craft that his older generation had passed on. It’s not only for Shukanto but also the rest of us Bangladeshis moral responsibility to revive this lost art that builds up an important part of the true Bangladeshi essence of art (T. Shafique, =ctober 2006).

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    14. Doors to dreams and memories

    Doors open into houses and speak of the tastes and times of the owners of these homes. Myriam Bassinot, director Alliance Francaise, speaking at the opening of the exhibition of antique doors at the gallery of Alliance Francaise, said, "I've always been fascinated by antiques." When she arrived in Bangladesh she was totally taken up by the doors and shutters that she found in the streets of old Dhaka and Sonargaon. She found the similar pieces in the antique shops at Gulshan 2. She said, "When you imagine all the people passing through them you are intrigued by the life of the past, where people rejoiced and mourned, passing though these doors in their everyday existence." She used the latter to form the exhibition along with excellent photographs on the same subject by Mujibur Rahman Khan, who teaches photography at Alliance Francaise. The photographs formed the backdrop of the ancient, carved doors with their fascinating motifs.

    The door from Faridpur has leaves, stems, curling all across the top of its three sections. It contains two pillars which are carved with floral motifs. Apart from the row of motifs on top and bottom, it has carved sections with simple but delightful flower patterns. The door itself is a delight of carpentry with more ornate flowers. There are more rosettes on the four sides contained within rectangles. From Mahasthangarh, Bogra, comes the gray and red door with floral relief and added geometrical motifs. The colour is vivid in the centre. Also from Bogra is door No 16 which has designs of horses, fish, flowers and tendrils. There are iron rings at the sides and a chain in front.

    Peacocks, snakes, horses, lions, waves from the river and geometrical patterns go to decorate another door. On four pillars on this door are four sunbursts. The birds, animals and reptiles are neatly carved, while the pillars are in the form of spirals with motifs at the bottom and top. This is in brown and blue and comes from Faridpur. Another one contains a carved horse and a lion along with the sunbursts and rosettes. The friezes at the bottom and top contain intricate floral patterns.

    Door No 4 is decorated with parrots, flowers, sunbursts and rectangular shapes. This is in bright red and chrome green. From Mahasthangarh comes another door with careful rectangular shapes, and carved flowers. Door 2 has square motifs and miniature oval windows.

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    15. Globalisation and Culture of Third World

    Mukherjee (1971)after investigating six villages in Bengal argued that the 'self-suffient village economy' of pre-British Bengal, which was based on 'peasent production', 'disintegrated and was improverished by colonial intervention.

    Agriculture has continued to be the lifeline of the economy of independent Bangladesh. One important factor responsible for excessive dependence on agriculture is that the British made almost no effort to industrialise the area that now encompasses Bangladesh. Available information reveals that when the British left the sub-continent in 1947 and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) became a province of Pakistan, she inherited a very small share of the industries of the undivided Bengal. Available data reveals that she got not one of the 108 jute mills, 18 iron and steel mills, and 16 paper mills of Bengal. Only 90 of Bengal's 389 cotton mills, 10 of its 166 sugar mills, and 3 of its 19 cement factories fell in the territory of the then East Pakistan. The government of Pakistan also followed a discriminatory policy. It favoured West Pakistan in industrial development and drained resources from the then East Pakistan for the purpose. Thus, till the liberation in1971, Bangladesh continued to be deprived of industrial development.

    The onslaught of aberrant culture that does more harm than good has become the cause of concern for the people in general in this country. Numerous satellite channels have come under fire for promoting and profiting from showing low quality western and other films and drama serials targeting the young generation. They are peddling corruption in the guise of cinema and soap operas and dance and music shows Our cultural heritage is at risk through globalisation.

    Globalisation argues for a universal incorporation to the world marketplace and the distribution of benefits among the wealthy creditors as well as the bankrupt debtors; super-rich speculators and impoverished unemployed workers; imperial states that direct international financial institutions and subordinate states to their dictates. The prescription of globalisation is to open up economies through trade and investment liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation. In order for monopoly capital to survive its crisis and in order for globalisation to succeed, it must continue to push for liberalisation of markets to allow it to take over economies. The direct result is the devastation of economies, displacement of livelihood and employment, and the destruction of productive forces the world over.

    The recent trend in globalisation has been largely characterised by continued integration of the world's economies through expanding flows of goods, services, labour and ideas through collective action by countries. Present era of globalisation has distinctive features. Shrinking space, shrinking time and disappearing borders are linking peoples' live more deeply, more intensely, more immediately than ever before. The combined result of the technological revolutions and globalisation are quickly integrating markets and linking people across all kinds of traditional boundaries.

    Several studies—by the World Bank, European Union, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Food and Agricultural Organisation—show that a likely Doha agreement would result in minimal increase in the volume of global trade, but the bulk of it would go to developed countries. The rest of the gains, shared among the developing countries would be distributed in a highly uneven manner. While studies vary in projecting the volume in terms of money, each observe that Bangladesh is certain to face net losses from any Doha round agreement.

    Increasing global competition leads to gradual reduction of prices of these products originating from the developing world while those of the developed countries seldom face such deteriorating terms of trade in the international market. Consequently the developing countries use up increasingly higher amount of resources to attain the same levels of exports in money terms. Critics go as far as to say that foreign investment in Bangladesh only contributes towards benefiting the urban rich and does not translate into benefits for the general population. While the garment workers have begun a movement for better pay and other due privileges despite stiff opposition from their factory owners, and seem unlikely to succeed in having most of their legitimate demands met, the Jarinas of Bangladesh are resigned to withering away from one generation to the next. As it stands, this is a looming inevitability.

    In a country like Bangladesh where about half of the population is absolutely poor and hence poverty alleviation is the most basic national goal, an increase in poverty cannot be socially acceptable. Again, socioeconomic inequality between the rich and the poor, between urban and rural populations and between men and women has accentuated, putting further strain on social sustainability of the process of growth being pursued. The increased level of marketisation experienced by the poor countries like Bangladesh in recent years has been playing a decisive role in generating the process of poverty.

    Both moderate and extreme poor face negative impacts of marketisation while other classes (i.e., middle and well off) did not have to go through similar grilling of it. There are different categories of market and terms of trade are different for different sectors (The Daily Star, Huq, F., 15 October, 2006).

    1. Tragedy in the Himalays and Ganges-Brahmaputra Plain - Flood, drought, earthquake and cyclone
    2. There can be no real peace without justice.
    by Arundhuti Roy

    3. Grameenbank- The Bank of the Poor

    Last Modified: August 28, 2007

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