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Through the darkness and into the storm: Phases of development of Bengali language and literature

 

   

A language that reflects heterogeneous sources, Bengali has a long heritage of literature to share; though the meager space is too short to narrate the entire spectrum it has covered so far, but starting from the fourteenth century A.D. shall provide an idea fair enough to comprehend an era in which Bengali literature started incorporating elements sources best described as diverse or even better, polar opposites.

  

 

The era proved the relatively uniform standard of Bengali literature; surpassing the boundaries pre-defined by the medieval Muslim elite and Hindu court authors is the first mark of the heterogeneity Bengali literary styles are noted for; it was a standard that evolved by itself, taking in gradually the Perso-Arabic influence lexically, to say the least.

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The occurrence gave rise to a new era in the fifteenth century; it started with the Hindu court-authors who introduced a mixed literary style. The style coexisted with the supposedly dominant Perso-Arabic coalesce, but it also proved to be the swan song of the era of uniformity, which is to say, the common standard that the Muslims had set by joining hands (or intellect? You decide) with the local poets. Though considered a means to make a prominent stance of loyalty to the Mughal state, the argument reaches a stalemate position after looking at the Muslims who wrote the Vaisnava poetries. However, it does reach a conclusion; no ancient form of Bengali literature had communal inclinations, which emerged a lot later. But two things do become evident:

 

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  • A large proportion of the vocabulary used is archaic and highly technical.

  

  • Old literature mostly comprised tatsama words, a sharp contrast to the tadbhava and the foreign words that are (and still is) used in modern Bengali literature.

  

A closer analysis reveals facts that are more interesting; Old Bengali (950 - 1350 AD), as evident from Charyapada, the oldest document of Bengali literature, which is a collection of religious and philosophical songs by different poets was written in an ‘Sandhya Bhasha’, an orphic style, while medieval Bengali (1350-1800 AD) represents mystic love and brotherhood to be the backbone of the language. It also indicates a Vaishnava influence ruling the roost - a phenomenon that helped in the further development of the Bengali language. Vaishnava Padavalis, Chaitanyamangal and Chaitanyacharitamrita being the biggest examples, the later middle period witnessed eulogizing non-Aryan Gods through a form far easy flowing than the previous forms of Bangla. Modern Bengali took shape in 1800 AD; it marked the development of the Bengali language, as we know it today. This is when iambic pentameter showed up in Bengali through the works of Michael Madhusudan Dutta; later, during the post-Rabindranath era, realism showed up through Jibanananda Das and Sukanta Bhattacharya. Dramatists like Dinabandhu Mitra, Girish Chandra Ghosh, and Dwijendralal Roy surfaced alongside the notable novelists like Tarashankar Banerji, Bibhutibhushan Banerji, Premendra Mitra and Buddhadeb Basu; romance and religion, what had once been the staple of the authors now gave way to realistic literary forms and satire, a trend that can be expected to reign for a few more decades to come.For Bengali translation by native translator contact www.indianscripts.com

 

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