Languages of West Bengal

About Bengal

West Bengal was created as a constituent state of the Indian union on 15 August 1947 as the result of partition of the undivided British Indian province of Bengal into West Bengal. West Bengal covers the bottle neck of India in the east, stretching from Himalayas in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south. It is bounded on the north by Sikkim and Bhutan, on the east by Assam and Bangladesh. On the south by the Bay of Bengal and on the west by Orissa, Bihar and Nepal. It has therefore, three international frontiers-to the north, east and west.

About Bengali Language

Bengali is a language of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Its Indo-European roots can be traced to the initial split in middle Indo Aryan languages into a NW dialect which grew into Gandhari, the central dialect which grew into Sauraseni, an eastern dialect which became Magadhi and a Southern dialect which lead to, for example, Maharashtri. Bengali probably arose out of the Magadhi or Ardhamagadhi prakrts, through magadhi apabhraMza. Its earliest examples are the caryagitis. (A slightly different view claims that the origins of Punjabi, Hindi, and Rajasthani actually share a distinct origin than the rest of the indo-aryan languages.)

The Bangla (Bengali) language of West Bengal boasts a rich literary heritage. The encounter with western enlightenment brought about a literary transformation that made West Bengal or rather Kolkata the cultural capital of India.  West Bengal has a long tradition in folk literature indicated by Charyapada, Mangal Kavya, Shree Krishna Kirtana, Thakumar Jhuli, and stories related to Gopal Bhar. The Bengali language was standardized and given the form of what is spoken and read even till this day.

History of the Bengali Language

As we already know that, Bengal has a very colorful approach, the language also is very colorful in its own, it has also gone through quiet a lot of ups and downs, the historic ages of the history of this language has been detailed below through translations today.

The Bengali language belongs to the language family of sanskrit language. It evolved from a variant of Middle Indo-Aryan or Prakrit and then emerged in the 10th century from Apabhramsa-Ayahatta. The script of the Bengali language came from Brahmi alphabet of Ashokan inscriptions. The history of the language can be roughly divided in three eras- Old Bengali, Middle Bengali and Modern Bengali. The Old Bengali today remains only through the collection of 48 poems dating back to 1050 to 1200 AD that are referred to as Charva songs. The poems had been composed by siddhacharyas that were Buddhist.

Middle Bengali covers a very large period. The fifteenth century covered the genre of narrative poetry. The theme was mostly religious content. In the genre, Krittivas Ramayan is credited to be one of the most important classics. Some of the other narrative poems from the time include Maladhar Vasu’s Srikrishnavijaya and Baru Chandidas’s Srikrishnakirtan. In the fifteenth century, some of the other literary exploits include Chaitanya Bhagavat or Chaintanyamangal from 1540, a biography of the Saint Chaintanya. During the sixteenth century, some of the Bengali literature includes epic narrative poems that deal with stories of various well known goddesses such as Kavikanan Mukundaram’s Chandi as well as Manasa. At the end of the century, there had been a wave of Vaishnavism. This gave birth to new lyric activity in terms of poetry and music combined.

During the seventeenth century nothing much happened except for the romantic secular verse tales that had been written only by the Muslims. Arrakan Muslims had close contact with Bengal and they were quite active in their literary pursuits. The first ever poet of Bengali Arrakanese had been Daulat Kazi who wrote Sati Mayana, a romantic verse tale. In the 18th century, Bengali literature went towards narrative verse and secular poetry. Sivasankirtan by Rameshvar Bhattacharya portrayed Shiva to be a poor farmer while his wife, Gauri was a human heroine. By the end of the 18th century, two new poetry forms came to age, Panchali and Kavi. In the 19th century, the actual Bengali literary renaissance took place. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Michael Madhusudan Datta were the main founders of Bengali literature’s modern age.

Madhusudan had been the first ever Bengali poet who wrote in the blank verse and also combined the western influence to the essence of Indian literature. Meghnadvadhkawa was written in the blank verse and has the same essence as Paradise Lost by Milton. He also treated Meghnad, a villain from Ramayana with the same angle as Milton portrayed Satan, away from the normal approach.

Literature of Bengal

Rabindranath Tagore, the name itself tells us that Bengal has been house, inspiration, and a muse to a lot of literary geniuses. About the literature of West Bengal, read what we found here below.

The Bengali literature evolution began in the 19th century. The first romantic novel in Bengali had been written in 1865, Durgeshnandini by Bankim Chandra. The first ever Bengali novel that deals with social realism was Alaler Gharer Dulal by Peary Chand Mitra, written in 1858. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee had been a leading novelist of the time and he is credited with the creation of Vandemataram, India’s national song. The song came from Anandmath, his political novel. The century also saw the introduction of periodical press with a monthly magazine known as Digdarshan as well as a weekly by the name of Samachardarpan. Both of these had been published by Serampore missionaries. There was also a huge renewal in the age in literary prose and drama. Some of the greatest dramatists during the time had been D L Ray, Amritlal Bose and GirishChandra Ghosh. Some of the prose writers of the time had been Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar and Debendranath Tagore.

Poetry also grew in popularity during the time. Sadhar Asan, Saradamangal, written by Biharilal Chakravarti were refreshing because of their refined and tender lyrics. This writing style also influenced one of the greatest poets of the time, Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore gave new meaning and brought a revolution in the Bengali literature. He was a literary critic, essayist, dramatist, story writer, novelist and a poet. No other writer in Bengali had written with such breadth and length of age and language. He had been the first ever Indian to receive the Nobel Prize, that he received for Gitanjali poem. After Tagore, there have been few writers to match his caliber. Some of the influential writers of the time had been Abanindranath Tagore, Prabhatkumar Mukherjee and Sarat Chandra Chatterjee.

The modern age of Bengali began with writers that wrote for a modern movement magazine known as Kallol that was founded in the year 1923. Kazi Nazrul Islam as well as Mohitlal Majumdar had been the most popular then. During that age, the two people that came close to Tagore’s caliber were Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyaya and Jibanda Das. Raishekhar Basu and Pramathnath Bisi had been exponents of humorous writings and literary ciriticism then. Tarashankar Bannerji is also notable for the novels that he wrote. Annadashankar was known for his ideas and prose. Sunil Gangopadhyaya undoubtedly led this contemporary period. He had been a story writer for children, novelist and a poet. Some of the other noteworthy figures had been Samaresh Majumdar, Nirendranath Chakraborty, Mahashweta Devi and Buddhadev Guha.

The writing system in Bengali is not purely an alphabet script like Latin.  Instead, it is a type of Eastern Nagari script that is used through eastern India and Bangladesh. This particular script is believed to have emerged in 1000 CE from a modified Brahmic script. The script is much like Mithilakshar, an Oriya and Assamese script. Bengali grammar is also very different from Hindi grammar since the nouns in Bengali are not provided gender. Also, the verbs don’t change with nouns in the language.