In the year 1907 an Indian scholar named Hara Prasad Shastri found an old script written on paper of Palm leaf during an academic visit to Darbar Library, Nepal. With further research on that script it reveals that- it has been written on old Bengali language and time of writing the script is almost one thousand years ago. Immediately after confirmation of his finding he took step to publish the finding titled as “Hajar bochhorer purono Bangla bhasay rochito Bouddho gan o doha” meaning “Buddhist songs and verses written in Bengali a thousand years ago”. After publishing of that publication, overnight it has established that Bengal has a thousand years old tradition. Modern educated Bangladeshi people know that script as “Charyapada”. In this article we will try to figure out why someone needs to visit Bangladesh from a perspective of historical antiquities.
It is famously known that Indian subcontinent is a place having huge cultural resources. So, as a part of subcontinent, Bangladesh is also a country with significant cultural resources. Bangladesh that we know today was divided in several parts in ancient time as we see other countries do. With the echo of time this parts were also not invariant and reformed each time in different ways through domain of political and social influence. Collecting information from distinct sources and analysis and detail study on history and archeology, tone of scholar found an illustrated configuration and have taken attempt to inform us that those segments can be named as Anga, Vanga, Gauda, Pundra/Pundravardhana, Samatata, Harikela, Rarh etc., under the general naming as “Mahajanapada” or “great realm”. Each of these Mahajanapada or great realm was significant with own identity during their time of fabrication through social, cultural, religious and economic mode. A simple example can be noted from a Portuguese visitor during his visits of the city of Gouda comparatively near time period in year 1521 that- Sultan enjoying “Polo” being played on the plains below the citadel. Portuguese compared the affluence of the city with Lisbon. Current location of Gauda city is Chapai Nawabganj District of Bangladesh with bordering to west Bengal of India, which is a significant archeological site visits by thousands of local and foreign tourists each year.
Presence of Portuguese in medieval Bengal is just a single snapshot of a huge overflow of people from all over the world time to time. During the time of great Roman Empire Megasthenes visited the subcontinent. In Ptolemy’s Map of Asia we see locations of deltaic land of Bengal through flow of Gangetic river system of present day Bangladesh as a significant location. An ancient ruined city named Mahasthangarh located in present day Bogra district of Bangladesh was a great fort city dated back to 3rd century BC indicates cultural and social intervention of great empires on this land. Port city of Chattogram located in south east part of Bangladesh can be considered as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. Its historic evidence found dated back to 4th century B.C. sourced from some Malayan Scripts. During the great Pala Dynasty several “Mahaviharas” or “Great Temples” established in Indian subcontinent like- Nalanda Bihar, Sompur Bihar, and Vikramshila Bihar. Sompur Bihar is currently located in present day Naogaon District of Bangladesh. All these three Bihars were patronized with equal importance during that time. It is believed that people came to learn to these places from Indonesia and Far East as Korea. So, in many aspect land of Bengal or Bangladesh was politically, culturally, historically and economically important for eras after eras.
It seems that geography and climate and weather are placed at the deepest level as influential factor on the dynamical mode of population migration. Life of people shapes through geographic landscape and climatic charisma is not an idea of contemporary echo but an old law that transferred from people to people in generations to generations. Many ancient civilizations has developed and demolished just due to change of climate over long time period. So, a land with ultimate fertility due to flow of more than thousands of river with a climatic excellence would attract people is definitely a logical approach. That’s why, though leading race of Bangladeshi forms with Austric people, modern Bengali people has evolved with a mixture of people from different races as Dravidians, Sakhas, Huns, Alpines, Mongols, Turks, Caucasians, Afghans, Iranians, Iberians, Veddans and so on. So, in that sense it can be infer that Bangladesh is a microcosm of world’s anthropological perspective.
Flow of some of the great rivers of Asia shaped land and water system of Bangladesh. Almost all of the rivers originated from Himalayan Mountain range traces land of Bengal before emptying into Bay of Bengal. Brahmaputra starts from Tibet courses over China and India and meet with Ganges or Parma in Bangladesh after travelling a course with length of 2,899.9 km. Great Ganges covers almost whole north India from west to east before entering Bangladesh. And meeting of all these great rivers named as Meghna at Chandpur District of Bangladesh that is almost at center of the country. Etymology says perhaps word Meghna originated from Greek word “Mega” mean “gigantic” or “large” that indicates a European connection to Bengal. Meghna is the widest and deepest river of Bangladesh.
Though purpose of people to visit and settled in Bengal from around the world varies with choice of interest- it can be said that trading was one of the significant purpose to visit from ancient time. In a recently discovered ruined place at Wari and Bateshwar village of Narsingdi district indicates that Bangladesh had trading link with Rome almost two and half thousand years ago. Finding of Indo-Pacific monochrome glass beads through archeological excavation at Wari-Bateshwar ruin indicate a contact of ancient Bengal to Southeast Asia and Roman Empire. And there found some archeological evidences having similar structure found in Pakistan and India believes dated back to four thousand years past from now. Wari-Bateshwar is still under excavation program and left a lot to be discovered to know an unknown past of this land.
As we said before Bangladesh was all time an attractive place for people of the world, it was under different dynasty in different time period. From Chandra Gupta Maurya to British Raj uncountable number of kingdoms had been established on this land. Some were great some were small but each time period it was non-ignoble region on the chapter of South Asia and even world history. From Delhi Sultanate era to Mughal era, Sen era to Bara-Bhuiyans, Afgan Era to Turk Era- more than hundred of kings, sultans reign different parts of Bangladesh. Their political activity, strategic policy, peacemaking steps, bravery are famously written in chapter of South Asian history. The dual war between Isa Khan, one of Bhuiyan of Baro-Bhuiyans and Mansingh, the chief of commanders of Akbar’s Army, is still a famous story that is being told from generation to generation in Bengal. Sonargaon the capital of Isa Khan now in Narayanganj District is a heritage site that visited by thousands of people each day. Mughal Subadar Shaista Khan sent a naval force with seven hundred warships and an army of one hundred forty three thousand people to conquer Sandwip and Chattogram from Magh’s and Portuguese Pirates is still count as a significant political step in history of Bengal. Lalbagh fort located currently in Lalbagh area of old Dhaka is still keeping remembrance of Shaista Khan. In four hundred years old capital city of Bangladesh, Dhaka, there were business functions of British, French and Dutch during colonial period. Armenian businessmen once established strong business syndicate in old Dhaka that still bears their signature through the name of an area place in old Dhaka as Armanitola.
In many ways Bangladesh has kept its significance in world history. A land of thousand river with vibrant symphony of six different season make this place welcoming with an unavoidable attraction time to time. This article is going to end with some part of an English translation of a very famous poem “Banalata Sen” of Modern Bengali poet Jibanananda Das translated by historian Sugata Bose-
A thousand years have I been roaming the world’s pathways,
From Ceylon to Malaya in darkness of night across oceans
Much have I traveled; in the grey universe of Bimbisara, Ashoka,
Yes, I was there; deeper in the darkness in Vidarbha metropolis,
A weary soul, I, life’s waves all around foaming at the crest,
A moment or two of peace she gave me, Natore’s Banalata Sen.
That’s for today. In next session we will arrive with new theme. Till then- Goodbye!
Some necessary Links:
Hara Prasad Sastri- http://en.banglapedia.org/index.php?title=Shastri,_Haraprasad
City of Gauda- http://en.banglapedia.org/index.php?title=Gaur,_City
Ptolemy’s world map – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptolemy%27s_world_map#cite_note-Maps_&_Civilization-1
Sompur bihar- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somapura_Mahavihara
Austric people- https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Austric
Rivers of Bangladesh- http://en.banglapedia.org/index.php?title=River
Wari-Bateshwar ruins- https://www.ancient-asia-journal.com/articles/10.5334/aa.10210/