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Culture of Bengal Through the Ages- Some Aspects (An Old and Rare with pin hole Book)

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Item Code: NAX512
Author: Bhaskar Chattopadhyay
Publisher: The University of Burdwan
Language: English
Edition: 1988
Pages: 444
Other Details 9.50 X 6.00 inch
Weight 770 gm
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Book Description
Bengali culture originated and developed in the land where the growth of Bengali language and literature had occurred. The land was bounded by the Himalayan countries, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan in the north, the Brahmaputra in the north-east, Dvaravanga (Darbhanga) in the north-west, the chain of Garo-Khasia-Jayantia-Tripura-Chattagrama hills extended to the south sea in the east, the mountainous forest-infested plateau of Rajmahal-Santal Pargana-Chhotangpur-Manbhum-Dhalbham-Keonjhar-Mayarbhanj in the west and the Bay of Bengal in the south. This land, inhabited by the Bengali speaking people, comprised a number of Janapadas in the early period, of which Gauda, Pundra and Varendra lay in the north, Radha and Suhma in the west, and Vanga, Vangala, Samatata and Harike.la in the east. The Bhagirathi-Hooghly, in its downward course to the Bay of Bengal, marked the boundary between Radha and Vanga. The Muslims, having conquered North and West Bengal, named the territory under their possession as Lakhawati that had two wings on either side of the river Ganga (Gang) viz. Radha (ral) on the western side and Varendra (Barind) on the eastern side. The Portuguese, having brought coastal Bengal under their occupation in the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries, referred to Chattagrama as the City of, Bengala. Bengala was most probably derived from Vangala. The Portuguese referred to the people of this country as Bengalas and their language as Bengali. The nomenclature originally applied to coastal Bengal was later used for the entire land stretching from the foot of the Himalayas to the coasts of the Bay of Bengal.

The history of the culture of Bengal may be traced from the pre- and proto-historic age. This is evident from the discovery of Paleolithic, microlithic, Neolithic and chalcolithic tools and implements in different parts of the country. While the Paleolithic men in Bengal, as in other parts of India, were at the stage of savagery, collecting food from jungles and leading a community life, the Neolithic men learnt the art of producing food, manufacturing potteries, igniting fire and cooking their meals and thus reached the stage of barbarism.

"Indian type of feudalism" that had its beginning in early medieval Bengal was consolidated under the Sultans of Bengal. Rural economy based on agriculture was the foundation upon which was set up the super-structure of Bengali culture. Agriculture, along with small industries, constituted the self-sufficiency of the village-economy. The extent of landholding determined the social status of the people. The position of poor peasants, the degraded sudras, was reduced to that of serfs. The Serfs and the women-folk were deprived of social and religious rights and privileges. Sri Chaitanya was the first man who started a movement with an objective to establish an equality of rights and privileges. "The Renaissance which we owe to English rule in the nineteenth century had a precursor- a faint glimmer of dawn no doubt two hundred and fifty years earlier" and that is `Chaitanya Renaissance'.

The 'Nineteenth Century Renaissance' in Bengal was infact, the creation of the English-educated middle class people. The cultural development centered in and around Calcutta and had the remotest link with the villages inhabited by the eighty percent of the population of Bengal. The renaissance, of course, reflected the intellectual attainment but failed to bring about any change in the society and economy. European mercantilism touched on the fringes of the society. The predominance of the village-based agrarian economy remained undisturbed. Neither the peasants and artisans in the villages, nor the labourers and small traders living in Calcutta itself, could participate in the cultural progress of nineteenth century Bengal. The regeneration in society and culture did not grow from the roots in the soil. The type of education that the English rulers had introduced in Bengal was for the privileged few. The vast mass of illiterate people wallowed in complete ignorance. In this background, socio-religious reforms or social legislations, engineered by the upper class in collaboration with the government, could hardly be appreciated by the majority of the people. The emancipation of women and Sudras, that was promised by the reformation movement of Chaitanya, was echoed in the speeches and writings of the nineteenth century Bengali intellectuals. Vivekananda's programme of upliftment of the poor and downtrodden and Rabindranath's experiments in rural reconstruction remain yet to be fulfilled. Tagore's efforts for the revival of rural economy by the application of modern science and technology and also for the regeneration of rural culture comprising folk art, dance, music and literature, with somewhat urban sophistication and refinement, indicate the trends in the twentyieth century Bengali culture.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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