Bangali Nation

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Bangali Nation Many anthropologists believe that the Bangali nation makes a vastly mixed race and one of the oldest groups of humans inhabiting this region. Many races of the world had intruded into Bengal, many also went away, but they left behind marks of their stay here. The existence of numerous and varied ethnic groups can be traced in the mixed blood of the Bangalis. These ancient people lived at various places of Bengal by occupying different habitats (Janapadas) and got mixed with each other over the centuries. The anthropologists opine that branches from all the four principal ethnic groups of the world came to Bengal at one time or another. These races are: Negroid, Mongoloid, Caucasoid and australoids. It is assumed that among the ancient inhabitants of Bangladesh, the speakers of austric language were the majority. The ethnic groups of santals, Banshforh, rajbangshi in Bangladesh are related to the Proto-Australoids. The society and social system forged by these ancient communities underwent transformation after the arrival of the Aryans. Mongoloid blood is also visible in the population of Bangladesh. New blood was infused among the Bangalis after the arrival of the Shaka people (Scythians) from Persia and Turkistan. The mixing of foreign blood with that of the Bangalis was also clearly apparent during the historical phase. Various groups of adventurous people from different regions of India as well as from outside India contributed towards formation of the Bangali nation through their arrivals here. The Bengal region was ruled by the 'Guptas', 'Senas', 'Barmans', 'Kamboja', 'Kharhaga', 'Turkish', 'Afghans', 'Mughals', 'Portuguese', 'English', 'Armenians', etc., who left behind their blood-current. This intermingling of blood continued even during the Pakistani era. This mixing (Shankarayana) has been geared up even more during the current age of globalisation. In one word, the Bangalis are a mixed (shankara) nation.

Although this environment of intermingling exists in modern times, the ancient ethos has remained the real identity of the Bangali nation. There is no mention of the Bengal region in the hymns of the vedas. The most ancient place of the Vedics was Bihar. It is mentioned in the Aitareya Brahman that 'robbers' lived to the east of the eastern Aryabarta. After declaring the existence of robbers, Aitareya mentions about the Pundra nation and its capital pundranagara. The present Mahasthangarh was that capital of the robbers. Although not mentioned in Aitareya Brahman, its contemporary Aitareya Aranyaka mentions about the Bangali race for the first time. It gave the verdict that the robbers were deviant sinners because they did not follow any 'true book'. It is seen in the ramayana and the mahabharata that not only were the Bangalis non-sinners, they were a promising nation fit to become an ally of the Aryans. The Mahabharata mentions about the conquest of the pundravardhana and a few other Bangali habitats by 'Bhim'. In the Teerthajatra part of the book Bonparban, the river Karatoa – a segment of the river Ganges that flowed beside the Pundranagara – was declared as holy. Similarly, the Bangali communities gradually involved themselves with the Aryans during the age of the Mahabharata with prestige and honour.

During the historical phase, the first mention of the Bangali ethnic groups is found in the writings of Greek historians who accompanied the conqueror Alexander the Great during his campaign of victory in India. They noted the existence of powerful states in eastern India. These included, gauda, vanga, harikela, chandradvipa, vangala, Pundra, varendra, Dakshin-Radha, Uttara-Radhamandal, tamralipti, Pundrabardhan-Bhukti, Suvarnabithi, Bardhaman-Bhukti, Kankagram-Bhukti and some other states lying on the Basin of Meghna River. These states and provinces indicated the political growth and even massive participation in foreign trade by Bengal. In the eyes of the Chinese travellers, 'Tamralipti' – the seaport of Pundra state was an international port. These imply that various small and large states were formed in Bengal alongside the Aryan civilisation, and even before their arrival. Veerkarna, Krishna and Bhimsen had displayed heroism by conquering the Bengal states in the 'Mahabharata'. It showed that the affluence and fame of these states were such that the divine and powerful heroes came from the land of the Aryans to conquer these.

The historical phase of the formation of Bangali nation started from the Gupta era (320-650 AD). It was during this period that large states were formed from smaller ones. These took shape under the empire of the Guptas. Examples included the 'Vanga' state in the southern region of eastern India and the 'Gauda' state of the north. shashanka (approximately 600-625 AD) was the first historically specific and powerful ruler of greater 'Vanga'. He raised Bengal and Bangalis to a position of prestige. The Bangali nationality started its journey from then on. This ethos flourished further during the 'Pala' and 'Sena' rules, thereby erecting a strong edifice. The Sultani state of Bengal was set up based on that foundation. The state was given the name of 'Vangala' or Bangla; the inhabitants of this land were termed Vangalia or Bangali. It was again during the Sultani era that a common language – Bangla – was given shape for the whole of the Bangali nation. Consequently, we got Bangladesh, the Bangali nation and the Bangla language during the Sultani era, after blossoming through centuries. At this stage, a new ethnic group – the Turkic-Afghans – added a new Central Asian ingredient to the Bangali nation and its culture. The Persian language was then introduced alongside Bangla at governmental level. This ingredient was further enriched during the Mughal era (1575-1717 AD).

Although Bangladesh was a subah or province in the Mughal state structure, its subahdars (provincial rulers) took great care in handling its cultural distinctiveness. It was during this period that the major festivals of the Bangalis came into being. The Bangla calendar, name of Bangla months, pahela baishakh or the Bengali New Year's festival were the contributions of the Mughals. Various festivals, diverse food-items and dresses which were introduced added colour to the Bangaliness. Betel-leaf, tobacco, drinks, jalsa or adda (cultural gatherings) were special contributions of the Mughals. The Bengali literature was influenced by these developments. Sufism and vaisnavism, and related literature and folk-practices added distinctiveness to the Bangalee ethos, which strengthened the tolerance and cooperation among various communities. The Mughal politics and emperor's court was respectful and tolerant towards all religions and views. Around half the Amir-Omrah (high officials) of the Mughal courts, as in Dhaka, belonged to the Hindu community. The Hindu amirs were a majority in the court of Nawab [[Shujauddin Muhammad Khan}shujauddin muhammad khan]](1727-1739). Almost all contemporary families of big businessmen were Hindus, who flourished under the patronisation of the Nawab. These political features indicate that communalism was not an issue in the then state structure. Almost unknowingly, the issue of religion was never considered in the blossoming of the Bangali nationhood over the past few centuries. Religion was not relevant for nation-building even up to the last decade of British rule. The British only for planning and implementing the partition of bengal used religious differences. In order to receive their support, the Muslims of East Bengal were told that its relatively less developed Muslim community would get unprecedented opportunities if Bengal were partitioned. The All India muslim league was established in Dhaka with instigation from the British government. As a reaction to this, the communal feelings grew among the Hindus. However, the Kolkata-based Hindu bhadralok class succeeded in 1911 in compelling the government through a movement to rescind the illogical creation of the province of eastern bengal and assam.

The governments never attempted to rule the people by dividing them according to religion prior to the British rule. It was a strategy only of the British colonial era. The India Acts of 1909, 1919 and 1935 made arrangements for elections based on communal divisions. The 1937-election was held on the basis of religious adherences and the subsequent governments were elected on this basis. As a consequence, communal interests gradually held sway in political relationships. The demand for establishing a 'Pakistan' state in areas of India inhabited by Muslims was raised in 1940 based on the narrow considerations of communal politics. The Pakistan state was established in 1947 on the basis of this demand. But this theory of Muslim Nationalism did not prove to be sustainable. Both Urdu and Bangla languages had flourished during the Mughal era – Urdu in northern India and Bangla in Bengal. But the central rulers of Pakistan considered Bangla as the language of the Hindus and therefore Urdu was declared as the state language of Pakistan. The Bangla-speaking people of East Bengal protested this move and waged a movement for according the same status to Bangla. It became clear to the Pakistanis through this movement that the East Pakistanis were Bangali as a nation and Bangla was their mother-language. The Bengalee nationalistic movement had its origin there. Its ultimate outcome was the materialisation of a secular, independent Bangladesh through an armed revolution by the Bangalis in 1971. [Sirajul Islam]