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Vangala


Vangala in all probability connoted a part of vanga, the well-known territorial unit of ancient Bengal. The earliest reference to Vangala, phonetically similar to Vanga, is found in the Nesari plates (dated 805 AD) of the Rastrakuta king Govinda III, where the contemporary Pala king dharmapala is mentaioned as the king of Vangala. The Tirumulai Inscription refers to the invasion of Bengal (1021-24 AD) by the Chola king Rajendra Chola. In that context, the inscription mentions Govindachandra of Vangaladesha, where rain never stops. The manner in which Vangaladesha has been mentioned along with other territorial units (Dandabhukti, Uttara-Radha and Daksina-Radha) of Bengal indicates that the territory lying to the east of the Bhagirathi was meant to be within the kingdom of the Chandra king, who held sway in Vanga and Samatata.

Vangala occurs in many other epigraphic and literary records dated between 12th and 14th century AD. Bhusuka's verse in Charya-charya-vinishchaya (12th/13th century AD) mentions both Vanga and Vangali. The Dakarnava (12th century AD) mentions Vangala and Harikela. The Hammirakavya by Nayachandra Suri (15th century AD) mentions Vanga and Vangala as separate geographical entities. lama taranatha mentions Bhangala (not Vangala) as distinct from Radha and Varendra. A passage - Bhati haite aila Vangal lamba lamba dadi (Vangal with long beard came from the Bhati area) - in Manikchandra Rajar Gan (probably 17th-18th century AD) places Vangala in the Bhati (literally 'downstream' or 'land of the ebb-tide') region, the low-lying flats of the Gangetic Delta that border on the great estuaries.

All these epigraphic and literary references to Vangala do not offer a clear idea about its location, nor is it possible to decide whether it alluded to the whole country of Vanga or a part of it.

While explaining the name of 'Bangalah' ('Bang'+ al), Abul Fazl (16th century) equates Vanga with Vangala. DC Sircar, a modern scholar, derives Vangala from Vanga with the addition of the Prakrit suffix ala, in the sense of a notable district belonging to Vanga. Grierson derives it from Vanga + alaya, meaning the homeland of the Vangas. Sukumar Sen derives it from Vangapala (the people living in Vanga). However it is not possible to decide which derivation is correct.

Thus it is evident that both the terms Vanga and Vangala were used indiscriminately in different sources; sometime both are mentioned together. The term Vangala gained currency first in South India. From the references in the South Indian inscriptions it appears that the term Vangala was used to mean the area of Vanga, and not to indicate a separate unit within Vanga. However, there are scholars (eg RC Majumdar) who believe that Vangala might have been derived from Vanga, perhaps to denote a separate unit of Vanga, lying in the coastal region of Vanga (in the south and southeastern part of Bengal). [AM Chowdhury]

See maps in history (Ancient).

Bibliography DC Sircar, Studies in the Geography of Ancient and Medieval India, Delhi, 1971; RC Majumdar, History of Ancient Bengal, Calcutta, 1974 (Reprint); Amitabh Bhattacharyya, Historical Geography of Ancient and Early Mediaeval Bengal, Calcutta, 1977.