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Monday, August 22, 2011

Bengali Literature and Culture of Bangladesh

A Rich Literary Heritage

Bangladesh, with the Indian state of West-Bengal, makes up the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal. The name 'Bangladesh' means 'the Country of Bengal' in the official Bengali language.

Bengali literature and culture reached at its highest pick during the nineteenth century. In that period, we got many famous poets, story-writers, critics, dramatists and novelists who made the Bengali language and literature too much rich and upheld the strong position in the world literature and culture. Rabindranath Tagor, Michael Modhusudan Datta, Bangkim Chandra Chattapadhya, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Sharat Chandra Chattapadhya, Bibhutibhushan Bandapaddya, Manik Bandapadhya were amongst the prominent and most powerful writers.

Bankim Chandra Chattapadhya
Bibhutibhushan Bandapadhya
Manik Bandapadhya
But its seeds had been sowed long before that century. Reflecting the long history of the region, Bangladesh has a literature and culture that encompasses elements both old and new, which Bangladesh shares with the Indian state of West Bengal. “Charyapada” was the earliest literary text in Bengali which was written in the 8th century.

The medieval Bengali literature was often either religious (e.g. Chandidas or Baru Chandidas), or adapted from other languages (e.g. Alaol). In Mughol’s era, many Muslim writers and poets (as well as many Hindu writers and poets too) emerged in Bengali literature. They enriched Bengali literature to a great extent.

Rabindranath Tagor
Kazi Narul Islam
Michael Modhusudan Datta

Rabindranath Tagor won the Nobel Prize on literature and introduced the Bengali literature to the world. He was a genius and he enriched all sectors of literature in Bengali (like: poetries, novels, small stories, lyrics and songs, articles, critics, etc.). After long time, he is still popular with his songs and all other writings among the Bengalis.

Another iconic figure in this sector is Kazi Nazrul Islam. He is mainly prominent and popular for his lyrics and songs. He was also known as the rebel poet of the Bengal due to his enormous contributions to the independence struggle against the then British rule in India.

Bangladesh also has a long tradition in folk literature, for example Maimansingha Gitika (collected folk literature of Bangladesh, collected and edited by Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen), Thakurmar Jhuli (fairy tales) and stories related to Gopal Bhar. The most prominent writer and collector of fairy tales of Bengali literature is Dakshina Ranjan Mitra Mujumdar.

Sukumar Roy
Leela Mazumdar
Upendrakishor Roy Chowdhury

Bengali literature is also highly enriched with children’s and youth’s classics and rhymes with Sukumar Roy, Upapendra Kishor Roy Chowdhury, Leela Mazumdar, Abonindranath Thakur, etc. and their strong and enriched writings ensure the position of Bengali literature as world class.

Troilokkonath Mokhopadhya, Shaktipado Rajguru (Porshuram), Shibram Chakravarti are the famous for their humorous writings in Bengali.

Syed Waliullah (a powerful novelist), Zibanando Das (poet), Syed Mujtoba Ali (novelist & story-writer), Poet Shamsur Rahman were the legends for their writings.

 Dr. Muntasir Mamun

The most powerful writers of the current time of Bengali literature are (in Bangladesh part): Dr. Muntasir Mamun (critics, historian, article writer), Humayon Ahmed, Syed Shamsul Haque, Zafar Iqbal, Imdadul Haque Milon, Shahriar Kabir, Akhtaruzzaman Ilias, Selina Hossain, Manju Sarkar, Rahat Khan, Borhanuddin Khan Jahangir, etc. and (in West Bengal part): Sunil Gangopadhya, Samaresh Majumdar, Shirshendu Mukhopadhya, Sanjeev Chatyapadhya, Syed Mustafa Siraj, Budhadeb Bashu, Satyajit Ray, Leela Majumdar, etc.

The musical tradition of Bangladesh is lyrics-based (Baniprodhan), with minimal instrumental accompaniment. Tagor’s songs, Nazrul Gitee (songs), various folk songs (vatialy, vouaya, maromi, etc.) are the examples of Bengali music.

The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bengali folk music, like, Lalon's Songs (Lalon Geeti) and there are numerous other musical traditions in Bangladesh, varying from one region to region. Gombhira, Bhatiali, Bhawaiya are a few of the better-known musical forms. Another form of songs also have been prevailed in Bengali culture, Maromee (mystical songs or in a sense, those are the songs of prayers of praises of God), e.g. Hasson Rajar Gan (the songs of Hasson Raja).

Lalon Fakir
Baul (folk singer): a singer of Lalon's songs
Folk music of Bengal is often accompanied by the ektara, an instrument with only one string. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. Bangladesh also has an active heritage in North Indian classical music.

Bangladeshi dance forms draw from folk traditions, especially those of the tribal groups, as well as the broader Indian dance tradition.

In nineteenth century, Bengali drama emerged as a strong force in Bengali literature too. Girish Chandra Ghosh was amongst the most prominent playwright, actor, director and producer of Bengali theatre. He was initiated into the theatrical world as a composer in popular Half-akhrai scored the music bands. Michael Modhusudan Datta also enriched the drama world by writing many dramas in Bengali. Afterwards Dizendralal Roy (D.L. Roy) brought forward this literature sector and put it on the stronghold.

Tareq Masud
Satyajit Ray
Goutam Ghosh
Bangladesh produces about 80 films a year. Mainstream Hindi films are also quite popular. The iconic film making figures are as: (in Bangladesh part) Tanvir Mokammel, Jahir Raihan, Tareq Masud and (in West Bengal part): Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Goutam Ghosh, etc

Around 200 daily newspapers are published in Bangladesh, along with more than 1800 periodicals. However, regular readership is low at just under 15% of the population. Bangladeshis listen to a variety of local and national radio programs from Bangladesh Betar, as well as four Private FM radio channels (Radio Foorti, ABC Radio, Radio Today, Radio Amar) popularity to the younger generation is growing rapidly at the important cities. Also, there is Bangla services of Radio from the BBC and Voice of America. The dominant television channel is the state-controlled Bangladesh Television, but in the last few years, privately owned channels have developed considerably.

The culinary tradition of Bangladesh has close relations to Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine as well as having its own unique traits. Rice and curry are traditional favorites. Bangladeshis make distinctive sweetmeats from milk products, some common ones being Roshogolla, chomchom and and kalojam.

Woman in Shari
Women in Salwar-Kameez
The sari (shaŗi) is by far the most widely worn dress by Bangladeshi women. Dhaka in particular is renowned for producing saris from exquisite Jamdani muslin. The salwar kameez (shaloar kamiz) is also quite popular, and in urban areas some women wear Western attire. Among men, Western attire is more widely adopted. Men also wear the kurta-paejama combination, often on religious occasions, and the lungi, a kind of long skirt.

Durga Puja: Hindu religious festival
Pohela Boishakh (Bengali new year observation)

The two Eids, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha are the largest festivals in the Islamic calendar. The day before Eid ul-Fitr is called Chad Rat (the night of the moon), often celebrated with firecrackers. Other Muslim holidays are also observed. Major Hindu festivals are Durga Puja, Kali puja and Saraswati Puja. Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha, is one of the most important Buddhist festivals while Christmas, called Borodin (Great day) in Bangla is celebrated by the minority Christian population. The most important secular festival is Pohela Baishakh or Bengali New Year, the beginning of the Bengali calendar. Other festivities include Nobanno, Poush parbon (festival of Poush) and observance of national days like Shohid Dibosh.