Bengali literature

Bengali literature

The term Bengali literature refers to literary works written in Bengali language particularly from Bangladesh and Indian province of West Bengal. The history of Bengali literature traces back hundreds of years while it is impossible to separate the literary trends of the two Bengals during the pre-independence period. Post independent Bangladesh has given birth to its own distinct set of literature.


Early history

The first evidence of Bengali literature is known as Charyapada or Charyageeti, a collection of 8th-12th century CE Buddhist mystic poems from eastern India that provides early examples of Assamese, Oriya and Bengali languages. Poets of these Charyapadas, the Siddhas or "Siddhacharyas" belonged to the various regions of Assam, Bengal, Orissa and Bihar. Charyapada is also the oldest known written form of Bengali.Chatterjee, Gita. "Bengal's Swadeshi Samgīt." Published in Banerjee, Jayasri (ed.), "The Music of Bengal". Baroda: Indian Musicological Society, 1987.] The famous Bengali linguist Harprashad Shastri discovered the palm leaf Charyapada manuscript in the Nepal Royal Court Library in 1907.

In the middle of 19th century, Bengali literature gained momentum. During this period, the Bengali "Pandits" of Fort William College did the tedious work of translating the text books in Bengali to help teach the British some Indian languages including Bengali. This work played a role in the background in the evolution of Bengali prose. In 1814, Raja Ram Mohan Roy arrived in Calcutta and engaged in literary pursuits. Translating from Sanskrit to Bengali, writing essays on religious topics and publishing magazines were some the areas he focussed on. He established a cultural group in the name of 'Atmiya Sabha' (Club of Kins) in 1815. Another significant contributor of Bengali literature in its early stage was Ishwar Chandra Bandyopadhyaya.

In 1857, the famous 'Sipahi Bidroha' (Sepoy Mutiny) took place. With the wind of it, 'Nil Bidroho'(Indigo Revolt)scattered all over then Bengal region. This Nil Bidroha lasted for more than a year (In 1859-1860). The literature world was shaken with this revolt. In the light of this revolt, a great drama was published from Dhaka in the name of 'Neel Dorpon' (The Indigo Mirror). Dinabandhu Mitra was the writer of this play.

Michael Madhusudan Dutt

In this time, Michael Madhusudan Dutt emerged as the first epic-poet of modern bangla literature. Dutt, a Christian by conversion, is best known for his Ramayana-based masterpiece, "The Slaying of Meghnadh," (in Bengali "Meghnadh Bodh Kabbo" (মেঘনাদ বধ কাব্য)), which essentially follows in the poetic tradition of Milton's "Paradise Lost". Those who have read it consider this work a world-class epic poem of the modern era. Michael Madhusudan Dutta is also credited with the introduction of sonnets to Bangla literature. He ruled the bangla literature wold for more than a decade (1858-1863).

Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay

Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay starts his journey through bangla literature with his first published novel 'Durgeshnondini' (Daughter of the Fort Lord) in 1865. he is considered as one of the leading Bengali novelists and is popularly known as the author of India's first "national song", "Bande Mātarom" (pronounced in Hindi "Vande Mātāram").The song appears in his novel "Anandamath", considered to be a masterpiece in Bengali literature.


Bangla literature also become rich with its variations. It started to spread its different branches also. in poetry Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Biharilal Chakravarty, Kaykobad, in novel Romesh Chunder Dutt, Mir Mosharraf Hossain, in plays Girish Chandra Ghosh, in essays Akshay Kumar Boral, Ramendra Sundar Tribedi and many others contributed to enrich bangla literature in this time.

A lot of literature magazines and newspapers started to come under day light. A number of educational institutes appears all over the region. This helps a lot to nurture the future author and poets of bangla language.

Influence of Rabindranath Tagore

Possibly the most prolific writer in Bangla is Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore dominated both the Bengali and Indian philosophical and literary scene for decades. His 2,000 "Rabindrasangeets" play a pivotal part in defining Bengali culture, both in West Bengal and Bangladesh. He is the author of the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh, both composed in Bangla. Other notable Bangla works of his are "Gitanjali", a book of poems for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, and many short stories and a few novels. It is widely accepted that Bangla Literature accomplished its contemporary look by the writings and influence of Rabindranath.

Kazi Nazrul Islam

In a similar category is Kazi Nazrul Islam, who was invited to post-partition Bangladesh as the National Poet and whose work transcends sectarian boundaries. Adored by Bengalis both in Bangladesh and West Bengal, his work includes 3,000 songs, known as both as "nazrul geeti" and "nazrul sangeet". He is frequently called the rebel poet mainly because of his most famous and electrifying poem "Bidrohi" or "The Rebel", and also because of his strong sympathy and support for revolutionary activities leading to India's independence from British Rule. His songs and poems were frequently used during the Bangladesh Liberation War as well. Though he is acknowledged as the rebel poet, Nazrul very effectively contributed in all branches of literature. He wrote poems that light the fire against inequality or injustice and at the same time is known for his poignant romantic poems as well. He wrote a lot of Islami Ghazals and in the same time wrote a number of "Shyama Sangeet" (songs for the Hindu Mother Goddess, Kali). Nazrul was not only a poet, he was writer, musician, journalist and philosopher. He was sent to jail for his literary works against the then prevailing British rule.

Other notable names


Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaywas one of the most popular novelists of early 20th century whose speciality was exploring life and sufferings of women in contemporary rural Bengal. His sympathy towards the common rural folks in "pallisamaj" and a tread mark simplified Bengali as a writing style made him one of the most popular writer in his time. Even long after his death many Bengali and Bollywood blockbusters were based on his novels. After him Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Manik Bandopadhyay are the three Bandopadhyays who broke out into a new era of realistic writing style. Where the two of the above Bibhutibhusan and Manik had long standing influence on the two of the most brilliant film directors from Bengal, Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak respectively. Other famous bengali novelists are Satinath Bhaduri, Manik Bandopadhyay, Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay(Banophool), Saradindu Bandopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Bimal Mitra, Bimal Kar, Samaresh Basu etc. Seeds of bengali science fiction could be observed in the writings of Jagadish Chandra Bose. Which was later put into a definite genre by writers such as Jagadananda Roy, Hemlal Dutta, Jagdish Chandra Bose, Premendra Mitra, Satyajit Ray. Where Satyajit Ray is also notable for his short stories where he revives the tradition of Thakurmar Jhuli into a mixture of fantasy, mystery, science, and fairy tale.

hort story writers

Bengali literature is also famous for short stories. Some of the famous short story writers are Rabindranath Tagore, Manik Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay, Rajshekhar Basu (Parasuram), Premendra Mitra, Shibram Chakrabarti, Saradindu Bandopadhyay, Subodh Ghosh, Narendranath Mitra, Narayan Gangopadhyay, Santosh Ghosh, Akhtaruzzaman Ilias, Mahmudul Huq, Hasan Azizul Huq, Debesh Roy,etc.

The famous Bengali film director Satyajit Ray also wrote many short stories. One of his stories was "Bankubabur Bandhu" ("Banku Babu's Friend") written in 1962, which was the first science fiction story to portray an alien from outer space as a benign and playful being invested with magical powers and best capable of interacting with children, in contrast to earlier science fiction stories which portrayed aliens as dangerous monsters. He later adapted the story as a script for a film called "The Alien" in 1967, though the film was later cancelled. However, Ray's story was strikingly similar to Spielberg's film "E.T." later released in 1982, which may have been inspired by Ray's script for "The Alien".


Jatindramohan Bagchi, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Jibanananda Das, along with Buddhadeva Bose, marks the beginning of the major move to transcend the Tagore legacy . Even though Jibanananda went through a terbulent and difficult financial troubles and met an unfortunate accident caliming his life early in his writing career, he remains to be the most influential poet of post-Rabindranath era. The new genre of Bengali poets departed considerably from Tagore's ideological style and adopted various themes and philosophies such as Marxism , Freudian interpretation of mind, which were avoided and often criticized by Rabindranath Tagore. These three marked the beginning of the era that will burst with activities and urge to merge with the greater world of poetry absorbing elements from them. Commonly called polli-kobi ("pastoral poet") Jasimuddin, Shamsur Rahman, widely known for his 'playing with words' are also notable. There has been only one pathbreaking literary movement in West Bengal, namely The Hungry Generation or Hungryalism.


Seminal Hindu religious works in Bangla include the many songs of Ramprasad Sen. His works (still sung today) from the 17th century cover an astonishing range of emotional responses to the goddess Kali, detailing complex philosophical statements based on Vedanta teachings and more visceral prouncements of his love of the goddess. They are known as "Shyama Sangeet" and were the literary inspiration for Kazi Nazrul Islam's later, famed Shyama Sangeet. There are also the laudatory accounts of the lives and teachings of the Vaishnava saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (the "Choitanyo Choritāmrit") and Shri Ramakrishna (the "Ramakrishna Kathamrita", translated roughly as Gospel of Ramakrishna). There is also a large body of Islamic literature, that can be traced back at least to "Noornama" by Abdul Hakim. "Bishad Sindhu" depicting the death of Hussain in Karbala is very popular novel written by Mir Mosharraf Hossain. Later works influenced by Islam include devotional songs written by Nazrul, and popularized by Abbas Uddin, among others.

Bauls and traditional singers

The mystic Bauls of the Bengal countryside who preached the boundless spiritual truth of "Sôhoj Pôth" (the Simple, Natural Path) and "Moner Mānush" (The Man of The Heart) drew on Vedantic philosophy to propound transcendental truths in song format, traveling from village to village proclaiming that there was no such thing as Hindu, Muslim or Christian, only "moner mānush."

The literature discussed so far can be more or less regarded as the common heritage of both Bangladesh and West Bengal. Since the partition of Bengal in 1947, the east and west parts of Bengal have also developed their own distinctive literatures. For example, the Naxalite movement has influenced much of West Bengal's literature, whereas the Liberation War has had a similarly profound impact on Bangladeshi literature.

Major literary figures in Bangladesh

Shawkat Osman, Shamsur Rahman, Sufia Kamal, Al Mahmud, Abubakar Siddique, Hasan Azizul Huq, Selina Hossain, Shawkat Ali, Akhtaruzzaman Ilias, Nirmalendu Goon, Mahadev Saha, Abul Hasan, Humayun Azad, Humayun Ahmed, Imdadul Haque Milon, Anisul Hoque and Muhammed Zafar Iqbal to name a few.

Major literary figures in West Bengal

Sunil Gangopadhyay, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Syed Mustafa Siraj, Baren Gangopadhyay, Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Debesh Roy, Atin Bandyopadhyay, Chattopadhyay] , Mahasweta Devi, Moti Nandi, Shankar, Suchitra Bhattacharya, Bani Basu



ee also

*History of Bengali literature
*Bengali novels
* List of notable Writers
* Chronological List of Bengali Writers

External links

* []
* [ Library of Congress - Bengali Section]
* [ Bengali Literature Archive]

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