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Bangalah


Bangalah as a territorial name came to be used from the 14th century onwards, more specifically from the time of Sultan Shamsuddin iliyas shah, denoting the territory which now comprises the modern independent state of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal (Paxchim Banga). In the pre-Muslim period the same area was designated by different territorial names (janapadas) such as gauda, radha, vanga, pundra, samatata etc, of which the kingdom of Vanga and Gauda gained prominence and fame. Under Muslim occupation initially Gauda (changed to Lakhnauti) and Vanga ('Bang' of the Muslim historians), Varendra ('Barind' of the Muslims) and Samatata (Saknat of the Muslims) were mentioned as separate territorial entities. Ziauddin Barani was the first Muslim historian who used the terms iqlim-i-bangalah or diyar-i-bangalah (by which he meant eastern Bengal). Shams-i-Siraj Afif (1357 AD) mentioned Iliyas Shah as Shah-i-Bangalah, Sultan-i-Bangalah and Shah-i-Bangaliyan after he had consolidated his power over whole of Bengal by bringing the three units of lakhnauti, satgaon and sonargaon under his sole control.

The independent Sultanate established by Iliyas Shah lasted for about two hundred years and during this long period the name Banglalah got wide currency. The Mughals after establishing their supremacy over the region included Bangalah as a shubah (province) which came to be known as Shubah-i-Bangalah. The same name appeared in the Portuguese records as 'Bengala' and the English made it 'Bengal'. Thus it is clear that from mid 14th century the name Bangalah got currency and came to denote the area, which now more or less include present Bangladesh and Indian province of West Bengal (Paschim Banga).

Abul Fazl, the Mughal historian explained the origin of the name thus: The original name of Bangalah was Bang. Its former rulers raised mounds measuring ten yards in height and twenty in breadth throughout the province, which were called al. From the suffix, this name Bangalah took its rise and currency. One may not agree with the explanation of Abul Fazl, but it is obvious that he meant that 'Bangalah' originated from 'Bang', ie 'Vanga' of the pre-Muslim period. [AM Chowdhury]

Bibliography Abdul Karim, Banga: Bangala: Bangladesh, Manabbidya Baktrita, Dhaka, 1987.