Sunday, 2 November 2014

Bengali Language

Bengali Language or Bangla is an Indo-Aryan language spoken mostly in the East Indian subcontinent. It has evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages and is the second most spoken language in India. Currently, the language belt of Bengali ranges from Bangladesh to the Indian state of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. With about 230 million speakers spread all over the world, the Bangla Language is also one of the most spoken languages in the world.

Bangla Language is also a member of the Indo-European family of languages. It takes its birth from a form of Prakrit or Middle Indo-Aryan to finally emerge from the Apabhramsa-Avahatta in the tenth century. The Bengali script has been derived from the Brahmi alphabet of the Ashokan inscriptions (273 to 232BC). History of Bengali language has been divided into three eras – Old Bengali (950-1350), Middle Bengali (1350-1800) and Modern Bengali (1800 to the present day). Old Bengali is survived only through a collection of forty-eight poems (1050-1200) known as the charva songs. These were composed by the siddhacharyas (enlightened ones) who were mainly Buddhist.

Middle Bengali covers a huge period. The 15th century mostly covered the narrative poetry genre, the theme being mainly of religious content. Among these, Krittivas' Ramayan has been credited to be a classic. Other narrative poems include Srikrishnavijaya by Maladhar Vasu and Srikrishnakirttan by Baru Chandidas. Literary exploits of the 15th century also include Chaitanyamangal or Chaitanya Bhagavat (1540), the biography of Saint Chaitanya, by Brindavan Das. In the 16th century Bengali literature contained narrative epic poems dealing mainly with the stories of popular goddesses like Chandi (Chandimangal by Kavikanan Mukundaram Chakravarti) and Manasa. Towards the end of this century there was a wave of Vaishnavism and this gave way to the new lyrical activity in the form of music combined with poetry.

The 17th century has nothing much to boast of, except for its secular romantic verse tales that were written solely by Muslims. Even the Muslims of Arrakan, who had close intellectual contact with Bengal, were active in literary pursuits in Bengali. Daulat Kazi, the first Bengali Arrakanese poet wrote the romantic verse tale Sati Mayana. Eighteenth century saw Bengali literature take an affinity to secular poetry and the narrative verse. Rameshvar Bhattacharya's Sivasankirttan portrayed Shiva as a poor farmer and Gauri, his wife, as a human heroine. The end of the eighteenth century saw two new forms of poetry come into age, the Kavi and the Panchali.

Nineteenth century was the period when the actual literary renaissance of Bengali took place. Michael Madhusudan Datta (1834-1873) and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1838-1898) were the founders of the modern age in Bengali literature. Madhusudan was the first Bengali poet to write in blank verse and combined western influences into the essence Indian literature. His Meghnadvadhkavya (1861) written in blank verse has the same flavour of Milton's Paradise Lost. Madhusudan treated Meghnad, one of the villains of Ramayana, in the same human angle as Milton portrays Satan, absolutely away from the traditional approach.

The evolution of Bengali Literature started in the later half of the 19th century. The first truly romantic Bengali novel is Bankim Chandra's Durgeshnandini (1865), while the first Bengali novel of social realism is Peary Chand Mitra's Alaler Gharer Dulal (1858). The leading novelist of the age was Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, who gave the nation its national song Vandemataram from his political novel Anandamath. This century also saw the advent of the periodical press in the form of Digdarshan (a monthly magazine) and Samachardarpan (a weekly), both published by the Serampore missionaries. Drama and literary prose also saw a huge renewal in this age. The great dramatists of the 19th century were Girishchandra Ghosh (1844-1911), Amritlal Bose (1853-1929) and D L Ray (1863-1913), and the great prose writers were Debendranath Tagore and Ishvarchandra Vidyasagar.

Popularity of poetry also grew in this period. Biharilal Chakravarti’s (1834-94) Saradamangal (1879) and Sadhar Asan (1888-1889) brought in a breath of fresh air by its tender and refined lyrics. This style of writing even influenced Rabindranath Tagore who himself gave a new meaning to Bengali literature. Tagore was a poet, novelist, short-story writer, dramatist, essayist and literary critic all rolled into one. No other Bengali had written at such length and breadth of a language and age. He was the first Indian to receive a Nobel Prize, which he got for his poem Gitanjali. The post Tagore age had very few writers of his calibre, some of whom were Sarat Chandra Chatterjee (1876-1938), Prabhatkumar Mukherjee (1873-1932) and Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951).

The modern age begins with a group of writers who wrote for Kallol, a modernist movement magazine founded in 1923. The most popular among the group were Kazi Nazrul Islam and Mohitlal Majumdar. In this age two people who had the same literary ability as Tagore were Jibananda Das (poet) and Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyaya (novelist). Pramathanath Bisi and Rajshekhar Basu were exponents in literary criticism and humourous writings respectively. Tarashankar Bannerji is most notable for his novels while Annadashankar for his prose of ideas. The contemporary period is led undoubtedly by Sunil Gangopadhyaya (poet, novelist, children’s story writer), Buddhadev Guha (fiction writer dealing mainly with jungle stories), Mahashweta Devi, Nirendranath Chakraborty and Samaresh Majumdar.

Writing Style and Grammar
The Bengali writing system is not a purely an alphabetic script such as the Latin script rather it is a variant of the Eastern Nagari script used throughout Bangladesh and eastern India. It is said to be emerged from the modified Brahmic script around 1000 CE. It is similar to the Assamese script, the Oriya script and Mithilakshar. The Bengali Grammar is different from that of Hindi as the Bengali nouns are not assigned gender as well as the verbs does not change in accordance with the noun. There is also minimal changing of adjectives in the language.

Origin of the Bengali script

Writing systems vary widely (see the page on ancient scripts), and probably arose a number of times separately. All the modern Indian, and many of the south east asian, scripts ultimately derive from a script called brAhmI. This and kharoSThI were used in India in the earliest monumental writings during the maurya period (3rd-2nd cent BC), and may have originated as early as the 7th and 5th centuries respectively (see here for a map of their subsequent spread). The earlier, yet undeciphered, but probably syllabic, Indus valley script, a script which may have been of indigenous origin, had long gone out of use. In contrast, brAhmI and kharoSThI were syllabic alphabetic systems (otherwise called abigudas), not surprising given the detailed syllabic and phonemic analysis prevalent in Indian grammatical systems prior to this date. With the syllables analyzable into consituent consonantal ligatures and vowel modifiers, this was the most systematic syllabic consonantal system to that date. A writing system, hangul, which was more systematic (in marking the phonemic contrasts) was to arise in the world only two millenia later, probably again ideologically influenced by alphabetic descendants of brAhmI.
The idea of alphabetic writing in India, at least as far as it applied to kharoSThI, probably arose from the consonantal Aramaic script (a system suited for semitic, but not Indo-european languages where vowels formed parts of the word roots rather than merely being grammatical markers), an important trade language of the middle east in the first half of the first millenium BC. This in turn was a descendant, through Phoenician (end second millenium BC), of the primal consonantal script, Proto-Canaanite (Proto-Sinaitic; middle of the second millenium BC), which itself arose out of the highly logographic Egyptian hieroglyphics by the acrophonic principle. Though it is attested in the middle east only after 1800 BC, alphabetic writing may have developed in Egypt around 2000 BC, as exemplified by a possibly early Middle Kingdom inscription by a possibly asiatic employee at Wadi el-Hol. The Egyptian hieroglyphic system may have had an independent origin than the almost contemporary sumerian script.
Brahmi, originally written from right to left like its predecessor and like kharoSThI, later changed direction; and changed over time and space. By the third century BC, it had already developed some number symbols, and it is not clear whether these symbols were descendants of the aramaic system (an additive system with symbols for 1 and 4). The evolution seems to have been slight before the guptas, and in North India, therefore, we can say it changed through early and late maurya and shuGga periods, to give rise to the monumental gupta script (which was very close to the brAhmI script) around the 4th-6th century AD. About this time, the eastern Gupta character gave rise to the western siddhamAtRkA branch which gave rise to the nAgarI script which was close to its final form by the ninth century, by which time (594 AD legal document; later attestations from about 150 years later; first undisputed evidence from 876 AD) the place value system is attested (this development was, probably unrelated to the 1700 BC Babylonian base-60 place value system, though the rare use in greek documents may have influenced Indian development; it is certainly unrelated to the 7th century Mayan base 20 place value development; and there is some evidence that its early development dates to early centuries AD).
On the other hand from the eastern variant of this same eastern Gupta character, proto Bengali had developed by the 11th century which gave rise to the recognizably Bengali script in the medieval period. The major period of change can be traced to the 7th to the 9th centuries. The western script seems to have influenced it around the 10th century, but this influence seems to go away during the reign of mahIpAla, and at least some of the letters (a, u, k, kh, g, j, dh, n, m, l, and kS) are recognizably bengali. Many more letters (about 22 of them) became distinct by the time of vijaYasena, and the process was almost complete within the next couple of centuries. The final form used today is the result of standardization due to the first printing types in 1778, with archaisms rapidly disappearing over the next century.
Early examples of writing in Bengal include third century BC prAkRta inscription in brAhmI script at mahAsthAnagaDh.a, a second century BC example from shiluYA in noYAkhAli, and the example from shushunia. Note that the use of the nAgarI script for writing saMskRta has no early example: it is a truly modern tradition.
Up to history of Bengal


The surnames or titles have originated from clan names, village or place names, group names, occupation etc. It is from folk to modernity. The examples are following.

Original- to- Sanskritized -to-  English (anglicized)

Barujjye (original)  -- to -- Banerjee (anglicized)
Bandoghati (original)  to Bandopadhay (sanskritized) to Banerjee
Mukhoti (original) to Mukhopadhay (sanskritized) to Mukherjee (anglicized)
Gangal (original) to Gangopadhay (sanskritized)  to Ganguly (anglicized)
Chatto/ Chattoraj/ Chattokhandi (original) to Chattopadhay (sanskritized) to Chatterjee (anglicized)
Bhatto/ Bhat (original) to Bhattacharya (sanskritized) 

Explanation-1. Shandilya clan (gotra) had three varieties- Barujjye, Batabyal and Bandoghati. Banerjee (anglicized) has distinctly come from Barujjye (like Banaras came from the Baranasi). Bandoghati (original) became Bandopadhyay (sanskritized). Later they also started using Banerjee in English. However Batabyal remained and continued the same.
2. Gangal (original) became Gangopadhyay (sanskritized) then Ganguly (anglicized). Some say why Gangopadhyay is not Gangerjee like Benerjee or Mukherjee. It is because symmetry was drawn from Gangal (original).

Title/ Occupation
Goshthipoti (sanskrit) Goshthipal/ Goshthopal (apabhramsa) Ghoshal (bengali)
Goshtho (sanskrit) Ghosh (bengali). They are milkmen. The cows graze in group. Goru ra goshthi badwa bhabe ghore. Tar theke goru ke bole goshtho ba go. Ta theke goshtho ba ghosh padobir utpotti.
There are 4 kinds of Goyala or milkmen caste, as Ghosh, Gop, Sadgop and Yadav. There may be several castes in the same occupation. Example is Tili and Teli. They are different caste but in same occupation.

The surname Mondol has come from Morol or village headman. Mondal is not alawys lower caste.

2. Dom caste is not Deadbody Carrier. 
The Dom caste is wrongly identified as Deadbody Carrier in WB. Dom caste is originaly bamboo worker. They make dol/ dali/ dhama/ dhol/ etc from bamboo. The term, Dom has come from dol or dhol or dhama. But they are wrongly identified as Deadbody Carrier. It is due to ocupational mobility downwards. Still the people carrying deadbody in the Hospitals and Police Stations should not be called Dom. Let us call them Shob Bahok (in Bengali) or Deadbody Carrier and not the Dom. In the same way the word Prostitute is now substituted by Sex Worker.
3. The origin of Rarhi Brahman-
Some mistakenly think that the term Rarhi is derived from Rarh region of western Bengal. But that Rarh is derived from Ruksha (dry). It is a modern geographic term while Rarhi is a traditional term.
The term Rarhi (shreni) is derived from Gaudiya (shreni). Gaud (Malda) was a place of Sanskrit studies later shifting to Nabadwip. Hussain Shah was also a patron of Gaudiya pundits and invited Rup, Sanatan and Srijiv Goswami in his royal court.

The Gaudiya pundits established a distinct philosophy and rituals in Bengal. Many followed the path of Gaudiya pundits and came to be known as the Gaudiya shreni Brahmans and later Rarhi Brahmans (Gaudiya = Rarhi) by alternative accent.  The sect established by Sri Chaitanya Dev is called the Gaudiya Vaishnavism and he is often called the Gaud. Some denied the newly originated path of the Gaudiya pundits and claimed to be follower of original Varanasi pundits later known as Vaidik shreni. Later the term Rarhi became popular to distinguish from the Barendra Brahmans. It is to note that Barendras are homogenous but Rarhis are heterogenous. The Rarhi Brahmans (not all) are presumed to have migrated and come from north India. It is from the Ananda Bazar matrimonial advertisement that the term Rarhi became popular forgetting its origin from Gaudiya. Rarhi—Gaurhiya   Gaurh-- Rarh

4. The origin of Barendra Brahman-
 Barendras are known as the Brahmans of the Five (later Seven) ancient villages (5 Gramer Bamun) of Bengal. First they developed and spread in Five (5) ancient villages (Adi Janapad) of Bengal along lower Ganges and later on extended to 7 villages. The term Barendra has come from the king (landlord) Birendra of Pabna. Some say that Birendra was one of the 12 great landlords of Bengal (Baro Bhuniya). Birendra hailed in the Pabna district of North Bengal. He was patron of his own community and encouraged their migration from the Five ancient villages (lower Ganges) to his territory (Pabna). The migrants continued their village names to distinguish among themselves. The village names later became their surnames. The Barendras use Five (5) different surnames associated with original villages. These are.
1. Bagchi from Bagcha village presently located near Barrackpur of 24 Parganas
2. Bhaduri from Bhadur village presently located near Bangaon of 24 Parganas
3. Lahiri from Lohori village presently located near Jessore district of Bangladesh
4. Moitra from Mohit village - mohitra –then- moitra – presently unknown
5. Sanyal from Sen Lal village – senlal – then-sanyal

The 5 ancient (later 7) villages can still be traced along lower Ganges in Hoogly and 24 Parganas districts. One is Adi Saptagram on Ganga in Hoogly district. Bhadur village is presently located near Bangaon of 24 Parganas. Bagcha village is presently located near Barrackpur of 24 Parganas. Barendras are indigenous Brahmans of Bengal while the Rarhis have come from outside, north India. Both are different in physical structure.
(Senlal was a landlord. The village was named or called after him. This tradition is found in many other cases. Bogura, a district of Bangladesh is from Bogra Saheb, commander of Hussain Shah and also Mymen Singh, a commander under Ruknuddin Shah)

5. KAYASTHO COMPLEX in WB- It is viewed that caste consciousness is growing. In the Ananda Bazar Patrika, (WB) matrimonial column on Sunday many claim to be Kulin Kayasta. Even like Brahmans some claim to be Barendra Kayasta and Rarhi Kayasta besides being Kulin Kayasta. This is ridiculous. Traditionally these identities are used only by the Brahmans. The Kulin or Rarhi or Barendra classifications are only for the Brahmans. The Kayasthas cannot use these terms, since they are not part of such traditional classification. The Kayasthas are also part of Shudra category.
Earlier the surnames like Basu/ Chanda/ Deb/ Chaki were textile weavers (Tanti). Mitra were Carpenter (Chhutor). Ghosh were Milkmen (Goyala). By origin Kayasthas are heterogeneous but trying to form homogeneity.

Recently the Kayasthas have shortened the period of untouchability after death (ashuch) from 30 days to 13 days. First one or two influential families started this shortened period then followed by others. This is also a way of getting into higher caste. Example- Jyoti Basu’s shraddha was observed on 11 day like Brahmans without reasonable explanation, published in the Dainik Stastesman newspaper.
But the greatest deficiency of the Kayasthas claiming as upper caste is that they have no recognition in the Varnashrama, or the traditional caste hierarchy. They are neither Brahman, nor Kshatriya nor Vaishya and therefore to be classified as Shudra.
Following are some other related information like origin of surnames etc.

6. Jati: Bhondami- Jano kichu manush emon kotha bole ja protest na kore para jay na. Jeman Baidya ra azkaal Baidik Brahman dabi korche. Ora nije nije Brhman sejeche. mukhe mukhe prochar kore dichche. Baidya ra khub chalak. Brahman der sathe biye korar chesta kore. Ora tole tole Brahman sajar chesta korche. Asole Baidya ra semi-Dravirian group, ora 70 percent kalo. Ora Brahman dabi korte pare na. Karon brhman ra farsa ba fair complexion. Baidya ra Brahman der sathe assimilate kore jete chay. Asun amra Jat-pat vedaved vle jai… o sob ku-sanskar……………….

7. Etimology of Varnashram- The term Varnashram has come from Sanskrit (Varna+Ashram). Varna means to accept (varon kora) and Ashram means monastic home or shelter. When one accepts monastic home or shelter is Varnashram.