May 26, 2013 | 02:15 AM (BD Time)
26 May, 2013 Sunday
Background of the Language Movement
M. Mizanur Rahman:
The language speaks of life. Not only human beings but also every animal, beast or bird, insect or plant speak of life in its own language and in its own mother's tongue. Every living being thus enlivens with its mother's tongue towards struggling for its bare existence. Even the person who wants to learn other's language before speaking or writing that foreign language, s/he translates it from his or her mother's tongue. For every child the sweetest language is his or her mother's language. It is natural. In Bangladesh the lingua franca of its people is Bengali among all other spoken languages. The poet of Bangladesh sings, "Mo-ther Gorob Mo-ther Asha A mori Bangla Bhasha"(our pride and hope unto death is our Bangla Language). Language is a means of communication. Human communities exchange reciprocal feelings through the language. When we talk of a nation we have to know its language first. Because of the fact, the people of that nation identify themselves with their national language.
The people of Bangladesh were under the subjugation of foreign rules for a very long period since they could not establish the stately status of Bangla language towards that ends though they had their wills and aspirations inherent among themselves. Moreover before the advent of the foreign Muslim invaders in Bangladesh Bangla language was absolutely neglected and left aside as vulgar and as the language of the untouchables as was prescribed by the then most powerful Brahmin pundits. At that time Bangla language was the language of the Bengali people who were treated as lower, mean, and abjected as well as outcastes. At times Brahmins had their scriptural language Sanskrit that was said to be very sacred in which there was no access to the common people.
The most eminent research scholar under the Calcutta University, Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen said in one of his articles on "Bengali Language" that those pundits (Brahmins) hated and neglected Bangla Language as much as they hated and neglected Haris and Domes (lower labour class people). Bangla language was also in expectation for that auspicious time when it will be unfettered from the yoke of its ominous underhand like those diamonds that look for the jeweler who would smoothen them after they were plucked out of the coalmine and like those pearls that look for the diver who would collect them and set them free from oyster shells.
Gour (now Maldaha of West Bengal, India) was then the capital of Bengal occupied by the Muslim invaders. It carried no sense whether they came from Iran or Turan, after their conquest of Bengal they became Bengali. Bengal is as much the motherland of the Hindus today, it were the same for the Muslims of those days. They did not come to this country to rob its wealth or valuables in the guise of traders but they became really the people of this country. They became much more Bengali than what was expected by the Hindus at that time. Bengali language was in usage since early period when the Buddha- dynasty reigned Bengal. Bengali lyrics of that period are available. But it is no exaggeration that development of Bengali literature and culture took place during the Muslim rule in Bengal.
The history, according to Dr. Sen, "…All around the capital (Gour) Hindu subjects were everywhere, sounds of conch shells and temple bells could be heard everywhere, five wicks lamps lit for devotional purpose, aromatic incense and fumes of burnt sandal woods covered the whole area and divine songs or recitals of Ramayana and Mahabharat could be heard everywhere. The Muslim emperor who loved his subjects most, naturally wanted to know, "What are all about these?" He called the Brahmin Pundit to elucidate the fact. The Brahmin pundit having sandal mark on his forehead with a piece of stone swinging by the neck and a scarf depicting the different names of Hindu deities on his bald head appeared before his excellency and said, "One can get access to our scriptural knowledge after learning grammar for twelve years while the learner must be the Brahmin Hindu". The emperor became angry and said, "I don't understand grammar. Why should I learn grammars leaving aside my royal business while you are not willing to teach me? That can't be. Translate Ramayana, Mahabharat and Bhagabat into local country language."
How could the emperor govern the country until and unless he learnt the language of the people? So he learnt the language of his subjects. He became Bengali fully…He opined that the religious scripture must be translated in people's language.
On hearing this order the face of the Brahmin pundit became dry and ashen-pale. The language of god and goddess had to be rendered into the language of the lowly peoples and the Brahmin would have to be placed in the line of those Chandals (the scheduled castes)! What Kalluk-Bhatta and Raghu Nandan could not make possible writing memoirs in hundreds, the emperor could do that within a short time by his royal order! So invincible is his royal order! Having seen no other alternatives the Brahmin ought to carry out the royal order.
Since the reign of Samsuddin Iliyash Shah (1342-1355), the independent Sultan of Gour, his Excellency's direct patronisation the development of Bengali language took place under royal supervision for the welfare of the people. Thereafter the name of Sultan Hossain Shah (1493-1518) became a legend in the history of Bengali literature that under his patronisation Bengali literature developed to a greater extent. Though Bengali language, literature and culture per excellence had been flourished during this period under the aegis of the great Muslim emperors of Gour, Bengali was never given the status of the state language. Both Mughal and Pathan rulers in India used their official state language Persian. Sometimes due to the advent of the Seljuk and the Turk as rulers, soldiers or traders, their spoken languages like Arabic and Turkish had some impact on Bengali language also. And all these alien people had their direct or indirect influence over relevant subjects. Some words of their languages got easy access to Bengali language and enriched Bengali vocabulary. Later on the English people came here, as traders but became the rulers in course of time. They made their English language as the state language of India where they ruled about two centuries and got influence over all local or regional languages. Our Bengali is not exception of it. We have adopted a lot of English words and enriched our vocabulary. Similarly Portuguese, French and Armenians came to our plain as traders or soldiers, though they could not make much headway like the English, but some of their words got access in our Bengali language.
There are regions in India and Pakistan where major language is either Hindi or Urdu. Particularly Hindi language is an admixture with words of several foreign languages namely Bengali, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Turkish and English likewise Urdu has its Persian and Arabic admixture in tone and accent. Dialects of these two languages seem to be analogous. Similarly admixture of different linguistic terms played their roles towards the development of language like Punjabi, Pastu etc. So the waves of words of different languages roll round the world and very interestingly become inter-related as well as internationally acknowledged.
The history of literature and culture of Bengal seem to be though age-old, yet the making of Bangla as the state language is the outcome of a continuous social and political movement in Bangladesh. The Bengali people had been waking up with political consciousness from the backdrop of British rule in India. That is why once Gopal Krishno Gokhlay told, "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow".
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