The Myth of Bengali Nationalism

A Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Naveed Tajammal

BDStudy of Historical Geography if pursued lays bare a lot of fallacious myth’s, Hindu Pundit’s have always been first to, distort any history which does not confirm with their myth’s, The fate of ‘Gaur’ too came under their knife, as it, reflected the Buddhist Past of this region, which later came to be termed as Bengal.
The Hindu- Brahman stresses purely on a conjecture that, according to their own records, ‘Bengal’ is the abode of one their umpteen gods,’Banga’,and where this abode actually is located will be explained later in this article, I quote from the first translation of Ayeen e Akbari, by Francis Galdwin 1783 edition page 300,it is written,that,’Bungaleh,originally was called Bung; it derived the additional AL, from that being the name given to the mounds of earth which ancient kings caused to be raised in the low lands :their breadth was usually twenty cubits,and height ten cubits’.,as per narration given,’Bungal’ means,land of ,Cause-ways,dykes & embankments,to contain floods,from the rivers and numerous creeks and tributaries which criss-crossed the landscape.
The first Muslim writer giving specific notice of the capital city of Gaur,from which through-out the past ages this region is termed,and called as such, as long as,’ Gaur’ was
dominated it controlled the whole later Bengal, during the long Buddhist rule,even testified by Fa-Hien who travelled all over,and visited this region in his quest to collect Budhhist Scriptures between 399-412 AD,had found only Buddhism as the sole religion in full bloom,later,came Hwen Ts’ang in the 7th Century,followed by Khi-Nie and his group of Buddhist monks 964-976 AD all in quest of scriptures,& he too reported of Buddhism flourishing as the main religion in the region under study.Meaning there was No Brahmanism or Hinduism as it is termed these days.
Reverting now to Minhaj-Usman the author of famed ,’Tabaqat i Nasiri’ completed in 1260 AD,who visited Lakhnaoti,in 1243 AD,according,to his book’s best translation done by Major.H.G.Raverty in 1881 AD,Vol l, page-559 foot-note 2,he gives copious references, in crux, he states,’…that the ancient name of the city was ‘Gaur’ afterwards it changed to ‘Lakhanawati’,subsequently reverted back to Gaur again.”
Emperor Humayun named it ‘Bakht-abad’….”.However in Ayeen Akbari, as translated by francis galdwin and quoted earlier,page-303,states,’Jenutabad is a very ancient city,and was once the capital of Bengal,Formerly it was called Lucknowty,and before that Gaur,…..’’
Minhaj-Usman was amazed by the layout of this mega-city of its times [ref : pages-112-116,vol x,9th edition encyclopaedia britannica]and giving the layout of the city states, that Ghiyas uddin’- Iwaz the 4th Muslim ruler of Lakhanawati’ had made embanked roads across the low,country east and west of the city for a space of a ten days journey and also were seen embankments,running through the suburbs and,extending in directions 30-40 miles.Going in further details of this magnificent city,which remained capital and region so called because of it,during the Archaeological surveys done,in the early British Era’s in quest of hidden treasures that being the sole agenda, various references are found,that it was very large,”oblong’ city, within,its walls from North to South seven and half miles and with a breadth varying from one and a half to two miles,and was on the eastern bank of a former bed of Ganges River,the city had massive fortresses on North and South,the West in any case had Ganges with very high embankments,on the Eastern there were double,embankments,with two deep ditches of immense width,for protection against,floods-as river mahananda flowed in the east.The royal palace stood on the south end of the city,and further south were a chain of suburbs,thus from north to south the whole extent of ground gave the bearing & indications of urban occupancy 20 miles in extent.
The Fate of this ancient Buddhist city was no different to that of others,it too became a quarry of building materials, the old capital which had given its,name to the region,later to be called Bangal,was robbed to build Pandua city and Rajmahl,while in later periods the bricks and stones of Gaur’ were transported as merchandise to Malda,Murshidabad,Hoogly,Rangpur,and the more valuable stones to Calcutta. Which is all substantiated, by the East India Company revenue records returns, Later when Bungal was transferred  to the company one finds entry of an annual levy of RS.8000/-,as the ‘Gaur-brick royalty’,from the landlords in the neighbourhood of ‘GAUR’ who retained exclusive right of dismantling, it’s remaining bricks & stones.
Beside Minhaj-Usman we find that the Venetian Nicolo Conti was also in this city in the 14th century,a much more detailed account is that given by,De Barros who while in the company other Portuguese adventurers visited the city in 1537-38 AD,according to him along the embankments of the river were Villa’s ,Orchards,Gardens,and the city had 200,000 inhabitants, the streets were wide and straight with trees planted providing shade to the travellers.The last great inquiry of Gaur city was done by J.A.Ravenshaw in the 19th century,he was from the Bengal Civil Service and wrote a book,’Gaur : It’s ruins & inscriptions’.with photographs and foot-notes.
Even should you read ‘The Geographical Dictionary Of Ancient And Mediaeval India’ by Nundoo Lal Day.Published in 1927.He too agrees that,The Whole of later Bengal was ‘Denominated’ as Gaur//Gauda from its capital of the same name,The point stressed by above short detail of the historical geography of the region but testifies that old name of Bengal was Gaur//Gauda.
Leaving aside now the geography part,we can now focus on who actually can be pinpointed,as the architect,of this myth of Bengali language being old,and having within it, its own social mores and culture,so much stressed by its apologists. It was a Dr.M.Shahidullah born in Peyara,in the Chobbise [24] Pargana district of British Bengal [1885-1969] who took onto himself the task of distorting the already distorted new Bengali as will be explained subsequently,He did his B.A [Hons] in Sanskrit language in 1910 from City College Calcutta and a M.A in 1921 in comparative philology,again from City College Calcutta,Shahidullah was totally mesmerized by the aura and writings of Rabindarnath Tagore.In 1925 he started his thesis that Bengali originated from Magadhi rustic dialect,in 1926 he went to Paris university to study Vedic sanskrit,as well the ancient sanskrit,he spent time in Freiburg university Germany doing more research in his subject,and eventually received his Doctorate from Sorbonne university Paris in 1928.He later was the moving spirit behind the agitation of the new bengali as it emerged under the patronage of Tagore he was made the secretary of East Bengal literary society from 1936-1940.He was the man behind the ensuing the linguistic riots in East Bengal as it was only in 1956,that East Bengal became East Pakistan,His identity was never disclosed to any of the agencies,so undetected ,he ensured that even after independence from the British and Hindu Yoke no past records emerge which could negate his stance and thesis,for that he became,one of the leading founding father’s  of The Asiatic Society of Pakistan based at Dacca in 1952.,in the later publications of the ‘Journal of the Asiatic society of Pakistan’ to quote as an example Vol.vii june 1963,we find him as the president of the council of the Asiatic Society Pakistan,with emergence of Bangladesh it was made into,Asiatic Society of Bangladesh but shahdidullah had died in 1969 having done his job of distorting facts and causing the,later subsequent mayhem & For providing the wrong intellectual fire to the Mukhti-Bhani /Awami league, However as we see, he was later well rewarded, as he was given  posthumously in 1980 ‘The Swadhinto Padak’,the highest state award introduced by the BD Government in 1977.
The British under a hindu dominated class of teachers had established the Dacca college in 1841,Chittagong College 1869,Rajshahi college 1873,Comilla Victoria college 1899,Ananda Mohan college Mymensingh 1901,Brajalal College Khulna 1902,and the University of Dacca in 1921.
To further substantiate my argument now i take my reader to a book-reference ;’Handbook of Kaithi Character’ by George.A.Grierson Phd,of Her majesty’s Indian Civil Service’ published by Thacker,Spink & the Introduction on page 1 he states, ”By a recent order in 1880,of the Bengal Government ,the Urdu character has been abolished from all official documents, the Deva-Nagri character being substituted for it in printing, and the Kaithi character in papers written by hand’’. Thus this was the death blow to the old Gauri/Bengali- literature written in the Perso-Arabic script which had existed from the early 12th Century AD, from which it has never  recovered and the clueless gullible. Bengali Nationalist does Not, even know these facts, as people like Dr.M.Shahidullah ensured that, such facts never saw the light.[I have the original book quoted above].
Reverting back to the term Bengal,the ever fertile brahman says,that according to his fallacious geography ancient king named Banga ’formed one of the five outlying kings of Vedic Aryan India and his fabled city now washed away was located near present Chittagong,so if this extreme south eastern side was Bangla well what of those regions further north ? according to the 11th edition of encyclopaedia Brittanica,published in 1911,’’with a passage of time and expansion of east india company all its north-eastern factories,from Balasore on the Orissa coast to Patna,in the heart of Bihar,belonged to the ‘Bengal establishment,and as the British conquests crept higher up the rivers,the term came to be applied to the whole of Northern India,i.e The Presidency of Bengal,in contradistinction to those of Madras and Bombay, It even,eventually included all the British territories North of the Central Provinces,from the mouth of Ganges and Brahamaputra to the Himalaya’s,and the Punjab,It was only in 1831 that the geographic entity of North-Western Provinces was created ,which included Oudh & the united provinces [U.P],by 1911,the northern british india was divided into 4 Lieutant-Governorships,of the Punjab,The U.P,Bengal and Eastern Bengal & Assam,while NWFP remained under a commissioner.In the post 1911 period,Lieutant-Governorship of Bengal had namely : Bengal proper,Bihar,Orissa & Chota Nagpur,whereas in physical geography,Chota Nagpur separated the Bengal region from the central indian plateau-Orissa embraced the rich delta’s of the river Mahanadi and the neighbouring rivers,bounded by the bay of Bengal on the south-east,the sub-province of Bengal proper had comprised the higher valley of the Ganges from the spot where it issues from the lower confines of united-provinces boundary-line,between Bihar and Orissa was Chota-Nagpur,a portion of which in 1905 was given to central provinces,The valley of Ganges which was divided between West and East Bengal and Assam remained one of the most fertile and densely populated tracts of the British Empire,In this fertile tract of land, teemed with every product of the nature,Tea,Indigo,Turmeric,Lac,Opium,Wheat,Rice,all kind of Grains & pulses,pepper,ginger,betel-nut,quinine,beside costly spicies & drug related herbs and plants,oil-seeds,cotton,silk-worm mulberry,jute and other fibres,timber,and all kinds of Bamboo,coroneted palm ,in short-every vegetable product which could feed and cloth a people, and, the coal reserves were aside, for the Hindu Merchant or the English traders it was the ultimate heaven, of cheap labour and resources which could be taxed and exploited to the maximum.
Reverting back to the Language,before the british and hindu intellectual jumped in to create a new language,as seen in Bangla-Desh,before the 19th century,Bengal had four different mother-languages spoken within its Bengal proper entity,Aryan-Dravidian,Munda & Tibeto-Burman,This mythical Banga city mentioned above may or may not have existed as most fail to understand that all low lands where come the yearly sea floods ,and even those which are slightly higher were formed due to massive silt brought down by the criss-crossing rivers,and so the delta was formed,the sea-coast was much higher before,even the Vedic invasion cannot go beyond 1750 BC,the World had existed much before,so had the people of this Bengal even the people who did the Zoological Survey of India,between 19th and early 20th Century agree that Natives of Bengal are pre-Aryan.It is a fact that,Bengal remained the centre of Buddhist mystique,till the Muslim Invasion,and was converted subsequently to the Muslim Faith,Hinduism trickles in here more in the Mughal era,and floodgates open with British arrival who re-soughted, to the Time honoured Mass transportation to create their balance of power,with these new immigrants came their new faith, that of umpteen gods and black magical rites, and human sacrifices and Temple prostitutes, and the rigid caste system under the watchful eyes of their mentors the British who had their eyes but on the fertile lands above breifly explained.
The new Bengali language as we see  emerged in the 19th century was heavily laced with Sanskrit which again has been a artificial Language,a fact known as such to all philologist as such,the result was it could not be understood by any native of Bengal who had not received special instructions in it,late19th century and early 20th century saw two languages in Bengal; one was the Literary speech and other the old vernacular, the literary speech remained unintelligible to the common masses, even to people of West-Bengal what to say of East Bengal ,the  sanskritic drunk intellectuals of this new Bengali,even themselves failed to understand the old archaic words of  Sanskrit or those conjured, and passed by the pseudo-Bengali Intellectuals, whose meanings only they knew, the others not to be taken as ignorant accepted them, The reason was simple no average Bengali could read this new literature unless well versed in Vedic literature, by expunging the old Perso-Arabic loan words in the vocabulary and dictionary, as well the old script and burning the old literature, which was akin to their old social mores, the Bengali was left clueless of his past or his glory.
The sad part was even though the proponents of this new language thrust it down the Bengali’s throat these new words, his vocal organs were such that he was incapable of uttering these sounds, even the highly educated Bengali would read the Sanskrit word.’Laksmi ’but utter it as ‘Lakkhi’,the result only proved that it was not in anyway  a indigenous language, by any margin, end result only proved that the new Bengali words given in the new literature rarely represented those  spoken, this especially is seen in the case of muslim educated in the Mektab & madrsah used to old Bengali literature now destroyed [extracts : from page-733-Language-11th edition encyclopaedia brittanica].
The new modern Bengali emerged from Fort.William.Calcutta, in the 19th century AD as a child of the revival of Sanskrit learning’s.The old vernacular Bengali died by the following each decade,as this new Bengali language became a slave of Sanskrit, these new fetters imposed upon by this alien language, with its equally strange vocabulary, killed the old Bengali language, which now awaits the birth of a ‘True Nationalist’- Bengali, genius who alone can purge this new language of its pseudo-classical Sanskrit loan words.
Lastly what this foolish female,The one and only,Hasina Wajid fails to comprehend is,that,It is this  ancient-Magadhi, now infested with Sanskrit,which is the root of her, new Bengali,The actual Language of the very Bihari whom they detest and kill,on which Dr,M. Shahidullah spent his life reviving and polishing and injecting in the new Bengali-Dictionary.
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  • naveed tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Thankyou for the post.Yasmeen Ali.

  • N.D  On December 27, 2013 at 8:37 am

    ‘Nationalism’ is a modern concept which emerged as a historical process with colonialism, as brilliantly explained by Benedict Anderson. Roots of ‘Bengali nationalism’ (as also Indian nationalism) certainly emerged during the anti-colonial struggle. But it is absurd to claim Bengali as a language was invented in Fort William. Not only of Bengali, but roots of another language, the Assamese, goes back far, with separate scripts emerging as early as 5th-6th century. There is enough evidence of it in ancient rock inscriptions and copper plate grants of which we have excellent records. The modern form of Bengali and Assamese naturally emerged during the colonial period and got standardized with the advent of the printing press but to claim they never were languages is to live in absurd denial.

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Nilim Dutta,It is a old technique to antiquate the present with a interpolated background,I have given all references,rhetoric alone cannot negate the records,do read the references,counter them with adequate references,vitriolic alone never helps,but to enlighten,you on the subject of Sanskrit as written now in Deva-nagri script,and told that,such was the old history of this script,you are referred to read;”A Sanskrit-English Dictionary’ etymologically and philologically arranged’ by Sir Moneir-Williams,Boden professor of Sanskrit,and numerous other citations giving his background of academics and grasp on the subject,First published in 1899,and continuously published since then,from various indian presses.kindly go to page-xxviii,foot-note 1,”… is noteworthy,however,that the first ‘manuscript’ in really modern Nagari [script] is Not older than the Eleventh century AD”.

  • N.D  On December 27, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Dear Naveed Tajammal, the rock inscriptions and copper plate inscriptions didn’t get invented by Sir Monier Williams, Sir. The evolution of the scripts over centuries is rather well documented and I do have some grounding in linguistics, epigraphy and archaeology in a region which has a overlapping of Indo-European, Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic language groups. I also happened to study it because there was a strain of thought to pass off Assamese as merely another dialect of Benali whereas that is historically and linguistically inaccurate. As I had said earlier, how the scripts and alphabets emerged and transformed over centuries is a story rather well researched and well documented and can no longer be disputed.

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Indeed I too have the original set of linguistic survey of india,which adequately covers all languages of british indian empire,instead of going in a diversion do give your views in context to the article,and do keep in mind the value of the 9th edition encyclopaedia Britannica,if you have no idea do google

  • N.D  On December 27, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Linguistic research in this part of the world has not remained stuck in the colonial linguistic survey of India and actually even gone forth to document and study many of those left undocumented. For many languages that did not have scripts, the work to develop its orthography is work of only recent decades. I haven’t studied linguistics or history of at least where I live in from google. So much for your condescending remark. LOL

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Nationalism is as old as human evolution,read the Shah Nama e Firdausi.the unending wars between the Turani and Irani.The very same Irani-from whom one of their old dead languages,was revived by the joint efforts of renegade Buddhist monks and equally renegade Mazdhkite, Dasturs and mobids,a old language,was thus revived,and is now called ‘sanskrit’ this happened in the aftermath of the fire-ceremony held at Mount.Abu.which in reality was a old jain temple site.Buddhism pre-dates Later Brahmanism,distortion indeed is new,to antiquate the claim of hindu brahmans. The pundits indeed have tried their best to change history to what goes in conformity with their mythical

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:42 am

    You are naive,it was for nothing that Dr.M.Shahidullah went to Paris or Germany,it was in quest of old records,apparently you are not aware,what happened to the records or old books,which were the treasure trove of our past,when you have time read the three volumes of the translation of ibn khuldun’s ,”Muqaddimah’ translated by Franz Rosenthal’ and his lament on,accessing the actual manuscript’s,read the translations of all the major works,and the pains the translators took accessing old records,lying in old libraries of west.After 1857 all libraries of british indian empire were

  • N.D  On December 27, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Let me make it clear how I have understood history and where I stand: I am not among those who conflate ‘Hinduism’ with whatever the faith or language Vedic Aryans practiced and spoke respectively. There is absolutely no historical dispute that Buddhism predates Brahmanism. The Ramayana or the Mahabharata is not history (as modern historiography would demand) and has to be understood in context. That said, it is equally absurd to conflate Sanskrit, Hindi, Avadhi, Bengali or Assamese or to claim these were colonial creations. The people and these cultures/languages existed and evolved in a cultural and geographical continuum, assuming distinct group identities over centuries. Nor were they ‘monolithic’ ethno-linguistic groups under any circumstances, arriving at a standardized version (as it is written now) only in modern times. It is equally absurd to claim nationalism is as old as human evolution. As I have pointed it out earlier, Benedict Anderson brilliantly defines it and traces its roots historically. Roots of Bengali nationalism, as I have remarked earlier, is modern too. That, however, cannot give one the liberty to claim that they did not evolve as a distinct group of people and can be conflated whimsically with just about anyone from Biharis to Punjabis.

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:43 am

    well said, but, remember that what ever I have quoted is from the records,which too cannot be negated,having said that,do keep in mind that the very entity of Ashoka is a british creation[1837],on whom stands the myth of oneness of india,and his logo and symbols dominate and an attempt has been made to build the edifice of oneness of india.It was after the findings of Zoological survey of india,that a need arose to kill the old theory of an Vedic invasion,which is much hyped these days by RSSS.Benedict’s findings or logic alone cannot be taken as the ultimate truth,do read the Shah nama e firdausi.Here this article deals with the actual Name of the region,therefore kindly read it once again.regards

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:43 am

    All books quoted are from my personal book collection,so should anyone wishes to contradict the passages or extracts i can with that person go over them page by page.

  • N.D  On December 27, 2013 at 8:44 am

    The region I was born in had historically remained beyond the control of any of the Indo-Gangetic ‘Empires’ and existed as independent and distinct medieval kingdoms. Cultural discourse and movement of people, however, goes back to ancient times. It was only in 1826 that it was incorporated into British India. That doesn’t, however, make me any less or any more an Indian. My consciousness as an Indian is not just by the accident of my birth within its post-colonial borders, but by conscious choice. And my identity as an Assamese and as an Indian coexists synchronously, without having to resort to inventing history claim legitimacy. Hope this gives you a better insight on where I stand on questions of nationality and nationalism.

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:44 am

    We never had anything in common with your side,our Language stands as a wedge between iranian on west and the host of 1576 languages to the East [india-census 1991],The Act of 1935 was tailor made,which keeps your federating units in its place,however our provincial entities are new,We were never punjab till 1849,when this was thrust on us,sindh was never sind nor balluchistan as such existed before 1876.Out northern regions were made in a agency keeping in view the british forward policies,so we stand apart from what was british indian empire,in any case they merely ruled over us for 100 years.

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

    You have your point of view which evolves around Assamese heritage,good for you,but do keep in mind here we are discussing Gaur’ and how it became Bengal.

  • N.D  On December 27, 2013 at 8:46 am

    The point was not just Assam/Assamese. Point is about a ‘nationality’ being a dynamic entity, evolving and transforming all the time, including some at some point and excluding some others at some other point of time. Just because it may be new doesn’t take away any of its legitimacy.

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:46 am

    No you cannot make a punjabi out of me,just because my region was so made by the British imperialists-No ? Bengali/Gauri has lost his language that needs to be revived,like you have a heritage they too had one,agreed ? this article deals on that facet alone,once i write on Assam you are welcome to educate

  • N.D  On December 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

    The assumption is that languages/cultures are never changing entities. They are not. Giving recognition to ‘Bengali’ doesn’t mean that it always existed in the same form as the present day language is. Nor does it take away any legitimacy of their claim to ‘Bengali nationalism’ that has its manifestation in the geo-political entity Bangladesh.

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Not really if the rationale is the language alone,which was only created in 19th

  • N.D  On December 27, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Language is only one ingredient of nationalism.

  • Naveed Tajammal  On December 27, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Yes but here the language was sole issue,do read more on the subject,I have to go now to my Office,and will be away for a few hours,please feel free to post your queries i will answer when I return,in my office iI just read and write on my forth coming new article.regards

  • shahbazthuthaal  On December 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm


    tanks for sharing

    Muhammad Shahbaz Thuthaal EME CHS Multan road,lahore. 0301-3667777

  • Javed Hilali  On December 28, 2013 at 12:45 am

    Pretty informative in patches. I’ll pass it on to my interested friends.
    However, there are many points that are debatable.Thank you.

    • naveed tajammal  On December 28, 2013 at 2:03 am

      Indeed everything is debatable provided it is within the ambit or in reference to context,all books quoted in the article from which extracts were taken,their authenticity,cannot be negated,denial is escapism.

  • Shmb Nur Chowdhury  On January 2, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you. An excellent article on the subject – well researched! Please convey my thanks and appreciation to Mr. Naveed for making this article available to us.



    (Shmb Nur Chowdhury)

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