Art and Culture History

“Amar Shonar Bangla Ami tomaye Bhalobasi……”

The meaning of the above header is” Oh! My golden Bengal i love u…….” Bengal……a land of heritage, culture, history…….politics, controversy…..name it and Bengal have it..

In olden days Bengal was called “Bongo” or “Bongodesh”. Bengal is Geographically important place in South Asia. Presently Bengal is divided into two parts but the culture is same as it was. Bangladesh(East-Bengal) is now an independent nation and West-Bengal is a part of India. Indian part of Bengal is surrounded by Tripura, Orrisa, Assam. Majority of United Bengal speaks Bengali irrespective of their religion, cast or creed. Bengali of East-Bengal is somewhat different from West-Bengal. The two main rivers of Bengal are Ganga & Padma.

The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown, though it is believed to be derived from the Dravidian-speaking tribe Bang that settled in the area around the year 1000 BCE. The first Independent known ruler of Bengal was Shasank who ruled the state around 7th century. After that Senas, Palas ruled the state.

Subsequent Muslim Conquest helped spread Islam throughout the region. Bhaktiar Khilji, a Turkic general of the Slave Dynasty of Delhi Sultanate, defeated Lakshman Sen of the Sena dynasty and conquered large parts of Bengal. Consequently, the region was ruled by dynasties of Sultans and feudal lords under the Delhi Sultanate for the next few hundred years. Arround 1200 Ad it came under the Rule of Delhi sultanate and capita of Bengal was shifted to Dhaka from Kolkata. Around 1567 AD Murshid Kuli Khan Shifted his capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad and then started the Golden rule of Nawabs of Murshidabad.

The European Came in Bengal in Fifteenth Century. Dutch established their colony in Chinsurah. Portuguese in Sodpore, Islampur, Chattagram(Chittagong). French got chandannagore and British settled in Dhaka-Bikrampore, Narayanganj, Barishal, Noakhali, Patuakhali, Kolkata, Paraganas, Birbhum and started the most worst case in history called “Neel Chash”.

The first revolt against the British started in Bengal by Mangal Pandey. From here Bengalis started fighting against the Brirish including…..Bagha Jatin, Bidrohi Kabi Nazrul Islam, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Pulin Behari Das, Binoy Badal Dinesh, Khudiram, Sher-E-Bangla Fazlur Haque, Nawab Latif of Faridpur and many many others. Then in Muslim majority province of united India; Muslims started united and getting roots in Bengal thus Muslim League was established in Dhaka in 1906.

In spite of a last ditch effort to form a United Bengal, when India gained independence in 1947, Bengal was partitioned along religious lines. The western part went to India (and was named West Bengal) while the eastern part joined Pakistan as a province called East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan, giving rise to Bangladesh in 1971). The circumstances of partition was bloody, with widespread religious riots in Bengal.

West Bengal, the western part of Bengal, became a state in India. In the 1960s and 1970s, severe power shortages, strikes and a violent Marxist-Naxalite movement damaged much of the state’s infrastructure, leading to a period of economic stagnation. The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 resulted in the influx of millions of refugees to West Bengal, causing significant strains on its infrastructure. West Bengal politics underwent a major change when the Left Front won the 1977 assembly election, defeating the incumbent Indian National Congress. The Left Front, led by CPI(M) has governed for the last three decades.The state’s economic recovery gathered momentum after economic reforms in India were introduced in the mid-1990s by the central government, aided by election of a new reformist Chief Minister in 2000.

Economy of Bengal is very good. Rice, Fish, potatoe, Jute, Tea(From Darjeeling) are very important crops. Fish forms a very important part of Bengal.

Culture Of Bengal:

The common Bengali language and culture binds the shared tradition of two parts of politically divided Bengal. Bengal has a long tradition in folk literature, evidenced by the Charyapada, Mangalkavya, Shreekrishna Kirtana, Maimansingha Gitika or Thakurmar Jhuli. Bengali literature in the medieval age was often either religious (e.g. Chandidas), or adaptations from other languages (e.g. Alaol). During the Bengal Renaissance of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Bengali literature was modernized through the works of authors such as Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam.

The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bangla folk music.Other folk music forms include Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya. Folk music in Bengal is often accompanied by the ektara, a one-stringed instrument. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. The region also has an active heritage in North Indian classical music.

Bengal had also been the harbinger of modernism in Indian fine arts. Abanindranath Tagore, one of the important 18th century artist from Bengal is often referred to as the father of Indian modern art. He had established the first non-British art academy in India known as the Kalabhavan within the premises of Santiniketan. Santiniketan in course of time had produced many important Indian artists like Gaganendranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy, Benode Bihari Mukherjee and Ramkinkar Baij. In the post-independence era, Bengal had produced important artists like Somenath Hore, Meera Mukherjee and Ganesh Paine.

Rice and fish are traditional favorite foods, leading to a saying that in Bengali, mach ar bhaath bangali baanaay, that translates as “fish and rice make a Bengali”. Bengal’s vast repertoire of fish-based dishes includes Hilsa preparations, a favorite among Bengalis. Bengalis make distinctive sweetmeats from milk products, including Rôshogolla, Chômchôm, and several kinds of Pithe(sweet).

Bengali women commonly wear the shari and the salwar kameez, often distinctly designed according to local cultural customs. In urban areas, many women and men wear Western-style attire. Among men, European dressing has greater acceptance. Men also wear traditional costumes such as the panjabi with dhuti or pyjama, often on religious occasions. The lungi, a kind of long skirt, is widely worn by Bangladesh men.

The greatest religious festivals are the two Eids (Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha) for the Muslims, and the autumnal Durga Puja for Hindus.Christmas (called Borodin (Great day) in Bangla), Buddha Purnima are other major religious festivals. Other festivities include Pohela Baishakh (the Bengali New Year), Basanta-Utsab, Nobanno, and Poush parbon (festival of Poush).

Bengali cinema are made both in Kolkata and Dhaka. The Kolkata film industry is older and particularly well known for its art films. Its long tradition of film making has produced acclaimed directors like Satyajit Ray, while contemporary directors include Buddhadev Dasgupta and Aparna Sen. Dhaka also has a vibrant commercial industry and more recently has been home to critically acclaimed directors like Tareque Masud. Mainstream Hindi films of Bollywood are also quite popular in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Around 200 dailies are published in Bangladesh, along with more than 1800 periodicals. West Bengal had 559 published newspapers in 2005, of which 430 were in Bangla.Cricket and football are popular sports in the Bengal region. Local games include sports such as Kho Kho and Kabaddi, the later being the national sport of Bangladesh. An Indo-Bangladesh Bangla Games has been organized among the athletes of the Bengali speaking areas of the two countries.

Temples & Mosques in Bengal:

1.Nakhoda Mosque: A great old Mosque of Kolkata. Beutiful Architecture
2. Tipu Sultan(Kolkata)
3.Ahsan Manzil(Dhaka)
4.Kali Mandir(Kolkata)
5.Dhakhineswar(Kolkata)
6.Dhakeshwari Kali (Kolkata)
7.PanchGhara Masjid(Kaliganj,Bangladesh)
8.Chatteshwari(Chittagong)
9. Tara Pith(Tarapith,Hooghly,WB and Jessore EB)

and lots of there……including thousand of Monanstry, Churches, Gurudwaras, Parsi Temples……. In one Word ……..Bengal is “Unity in Diversity

And in the words of Tagore:

Amar shonar Bangla,
Ami tomae bhalobashi.
Chirodin tomar akash,
Tomar batash,
Amar prane bajae bashi
O ma,
Phagune tor amer bone
Ghrane pagol kore,
Mori hae, hae re,
O ma,
oghrane tor bhora khete
Ami ki dekhechhi modhur hashi.
Ki shobha, ki chhaea go,
Ki sneho, ki maea go,
Ki achol bichhaeechho
Bo?er mule,
Nodir kule kule!
Ma, tor mukher bani
Amar kane lage,
Shudhar moto,
Mori hae, hae re,
Ma, tor bodonkhani molin hole,
Ami nôeon jole bhashi.

(National Anthem of Bangladesh)

(References taken from Wikipedia; Ambarish Panday has edited the Bengal section of Wikipedia)

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About the author

Ambarish Pandey

Ambarish Pandey is currently working for PricewaterhouseCoopers PVT. LTD. in India, Kolkata. He is a Senior Consultant in the Advisory Division of the firm. He holds Engineering degree from Bengal Engineering & Science University, Shibpur, India's second oldest Engineering college. Besides Developing websites and other software jobs he loves to blog on Women, Minority Issues.

His hobbies are Cooking, Collectibles and Archeology(Egyptology), Bengal's & Punjab's History... His book on cookery in Bengali under title "Hesel"(Kitchen) has been published in India.

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  • Bengal is golden bird with golden soil………so it has been target of many outsiders.On the basis of religion it is splitted now…but our culture has binded us again…….just a border cannot separate us….Dhaka…Kolkata are having same culture soil and food…we are BENGALIS……