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Shashwata Banga


Shashwata Banga a literary and cultural history by kazi abdul wadud (1894-1970). It is a compilation of 75 essays and a poem. The book was first published in 1358 BS from Calcutta. It was compiled with selected essays from his books Nabaparjay (1st and 2nd vols 1333 and 1336 BS), Rabindrakabya Path (1334), Samaj O Sahitya (1341), Hindu-Musalmaner Birodh (1343), Ajkar Katha (1348), Nazrul Protiva (1355), Swadhinata-Diner Upahar (1951) and some essays unpublished in book form.

Shashwata Babga's publication was significant for several reasons. First, its historic value. In the third decade of the 20th century there began in Dhaka a movement for freedom of thought. The organisation that led this movement was known as muslim sahitya samaj (1926). The pioneers of this movement were identified in the name of the organisation. Kazi Abdul Wadud was its main leader. He has also been identified as the most outstanding critical thinker and intellectual of the twentieth century in the Muslim society. Shashwata Banga is a valuable document of the thinking and propositions that prompted Kazi Abdul Wadud and his associates to launch the movement to free the intellect of traditional inhibitions and gain momentum for progress.

Shashwata Banga tells the story of a scripture-bound Muslim society for centuries. Even in modern times the Bengalis, especially the Muslims of this region were found to have been shy of reasoning and free thinking. Births and deaths are not all that matters in life. The human life, though mortal, is full of possibilities. It is resplendent with eternal bliss, dreams and enjoyment. Before the eyes of the modern man stand opened the wonders of the universe and immeasurable treasure of facts and information. Employed in unraveling the mystery, vastness and riddles of human life are all the knowledge including science, philosophy, literature, history, sociology, psychology, anthropology and politics. Shashwata Banga is alive in discussing all this.

The book reflects Kazi Abdul Wadud's liberal views and his distress at the pervasive deprivation and weakness of his community. He loved the environment deeply and his love for humanity formed an important aspect of his thoughts. The naming of the book reveals this aspect of his thinking. Kazi Abdul Wadud's Shashwata Banga tells the story of a country where the people's life is dependent on tradition and depressed with abject poverty and superstitions. The ignominy of backwardness is its tradition. But he did not regard this ignominy to be a permanent feature. His Bengal is a land of promise and creativity, rich in life and fertile with great resources.

Shashwata Banga tells of a renaissance in Bengal of the nineteenth century under the leadership of rammohan roy. He has very high value of this has been attached to the principles of Rammohan Roy and his emotion-free bold rationalism. It has been demonstrated by analysis that the renaissance was the result of creative efforts of many beginning with Rammohan to the Dhaka movement for freedom of thinking. The thinking and efforts of others that contributed to this awakening included young bengal's dirozio, such leaders of the tattabodhini sabha as Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905), Akshay Kumar Datta (1820-1886), Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891), Rajnarayan Basu, Keshab Chandra Sen (1838-1884), Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-1873), Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay (1838-1894), Dinabandhu Mitra (1830-1873), Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886), Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay (1876-1938), Roquiah Sakhawat Hossain (1880-1932), Kazi Imdadul Haque, Muhammad Lutfur Rahman, Muhammad Yakub Ali Choudhury, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976), Abul Husain, Qazi Motahar Husain (1897-1981) and Motaher Hossain Chowdhury (1903-1956). While discussing awakening of Bengal, the book gives due importance to the higher level of thinking in Europe. It speaks of the clashes of the Indians with the British rule and consequent rise of cultural movement, changes in thoughts on state, politics, education and a variety of other issues and of unforeseeable inspiration and awakening among the freedom loving people of the region in contributing fruitfully to enriching the Bangla language and literature. It was Kazi Abdul Wadud's view that this awakening taught us patriotism but not at the cost of universalism. This awakening led us to think freely, believe in rationalism and be inspired to the exercise of conscience and intellect. The Bangali psyche of the nineteenth century was attracted by the French Revolution's message of equality, amity and freedom and strong desire for the play of intellect and humanity. The Bangalis were inspired by that message to desire a lofty life and build an advanced nation. The great men of the century created a fusion of the ancient Indian scholarship with the European intellectualism and liberal humanism. That fusion was the fundamental basis for Bangali renaissance. In his book Kazi Abdul Wadud reminded us of that great lesson.

Another theme of Shashwata Banga is worth considering. Kazi Abdul Wadud played a very important role in mitigating the contemporary Hindu-Muslim conflict. He used his pen against the concept prompted by some British historians and the colonial rulers that the Muslims despite being Indians started regarding themselves as inheriting Arab and Iranian blood and therefore constituting a separate nation. He tried to show that although the distinctiveness of the Indian Hindus and Muslims never disappeared the finest thoughts and cultural activities of both communities followed almost an identical stream in the medieval ages. The reason was that in the cultural sphere both were Indians. This truth was far stronger than the debate about the anthropological inheritance of blood. The proof of this lies in baul literature and in the writings of Muslim-Vaishnav poets. The Shashwata Banga reminds us of this historic reality as does Khitimohan Sen through research in his book Madhyayuge Bharatiya Sadhanar Dhara (1930).

rammohan roy was Kazi Abdul Wadud's favourite personality. Perhaps this is why he drew inspiration from Rammohan's thinking in developing integration and clarity of thought in his own writing. His works also reflect the writing style of Rammohan. But one has to read his Shashwata Banga to identify the position of his works in Bangla language and literature and in respect of the intellectual tradition of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. [Muhammad Saiful Islam]