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Independent University, Bangladesh


School of Liberal Arts and Science
National Culture and Heritage I (NCH – 101)
Course Teacher : SURAIYA ISLAM.
Spring – 2009,
Lecture # 1 (One)

Introduction: An outline of the historical background of Bengal


comprising Bangladesh.

The introductory lecture of this course is not meant for the proper history
course. Rather it is intended for some basic historical knowledge about
ancient India, ancient Bengal including the development of Bengal’s cultural
and Literary heritage. Unless one knows about history of his or her country,
one would remain ignorant about one’s identity.

In this first introductory lecture, I would like to begin with a very short
sketch of the early history of India, which invariably had impact on Bengal
and on the Eastern part of Bengal comprising Bangladesh from the earliest
time on wards, It has been pointed out that the majority European Scholars
in the west misunderstood Indian history and its culture with disdain, an
attitude perhaps best reflected in Macaulay’s contempt for “every thing
Indian”. Yet, a contrary attitude emerged from amongst a small section of
European scholars, who became deeply interested in the discovery of Indian
history mainly through its ancient philosophy and Literature in Sanskrit.

This attitude indeed stressed on the aspects of Indian culture, where the
existence of continuity of religion of over three thousand years was
acclaimed; and where it was believed, that the Indian way of life was very
much concerned with metaphysical concepts and the subtleties of religious
belief that there was no time for mundane things of life. Hence, there
appeared a dichotomy of values among those so called Intellectuals. Indian
values were described as ‘Spiritual’ and European or western values as
‘Materialistic’. On February 2, 1786, Sir William Jones, an oriented jurist,
made three following remarks about Sanskrit to the Asiatic Society in
Bengal. It says;
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“The Sanskrit language, whatever its antiquity, is a wonderful structure;


more perfect then the Greek, more copies then the Latin, and more
exquisitely refined then either, yet bearing to both of them a strong
affinity---------- so strong indeed, that no philosopher could examine them
all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source,
which perhaps, no longer exists”. Sir William Jones was the founder
President of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, knew 28 languages, and wrote
about Muslim and Hindu Law. He was a judge at the High Court in Calcutta,
where he died in 1794 at the age of 47.

The interpretation of the Indian historians of Indian History made such an


impact that, the contention was, that the ‘Golden Age’ in Indian has existed
prior to the coming of the British; and that “the ancient history of Indian was
particularly a glorious period of her history”. (Romila Thapur, r. 17)

The emphasis was brought on the various dynasties who ruled in ancient
Indian and in Bengal during three major periods. i.e “Ancient, Medieval and
Modern”. The ancient period often begins with the coming of the Aryans
culture, and earlier with the (Indus valley civilization), concluded with the
Turkish rule in northern India in circa AD. 1000. This inaugurated the
medieval period lasting until the coming of the British in Mid-eighteenth
century. However, this sort of division is inappropriately equated with
Ancient Rule with Hindu dynasties ruling, and during this period.

It should be pointed out that the period of Muslim rule had distinctive
characteristics of their own culture at all levels. This has been justified in the
writings of the Theologians and chroniclers of the Muslim rulers.

However, there are inadequacies of these historians, but despite the short-
of these studies they laid the foundations of the history of India and gave a
firm chronological frame work. Indeed it helped to produce fresh
interpretations of Indian civilization in their more accurate perspective.
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Lecture # 2 (Two)
Part – I

Topic: The Ethnographical and Anthropological development in


Ancient India. The Aryans, Non - Aryans etc.

Physical Geography
The physical features and geography of Bangladesh, in feat of Bengal is one of the most
important factors among others which have influenced the cultural history and the destiny
of the people in this country. It is indeed a misconception among many people that
Bangladesh is a small country. It is certainly small compared to the big countries like
India and China. However, countries like Sri Lanka or western countries like Holland,
Belgium and Dane mark as well as Switzerland are all about the same size as Bangladesh.
If we consider 144000 square Kilo metres of Bangladesh area, are almost equal in area to
these countries mentioned above.

It should be the pointed out that the most important factor about our country is 1400 Kilo
metres of the coastline which opens to the Bay of Bengal and which in turn opens to the
India Ocean, thus giving access to the shipping lanes of the world. Bangladesh enjoys
another important asset of having Tropical climate. More than half of the year
Bangladesh has rainy seasons with high temperatures most of the year round. Although
this sort of weather causes discomfort at times, it helps us to grow crops throughout the
year with enormous amount of rain and river water. Bangladesh is in advantage compared
many other countries of the world which remain dry most of the year and have crops half
the year and the rest of the year either there as every cold winter or covered with snow.

Geographical features of Bangladesh


Bangladesh is situated in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Tropic of cancer bisects
Bangladesh, infact it goes through the centre of Kolkata in west Bengal. (See Map:1) To
the North there is the Himalaya Mountains which keeps away the cold dry winter winds
from central Asia like Tibat and Mongolia. That gives us a mild winter. The Himalayan
Range is like a great Wall and stops the cold moist winds from the Indian Ocean, which
in turn produces more rain in our country. So we get Monsoon winds which bring
annually rain fall from April till September about 60 inches of rain in and around
Rajshahi to 200 inches of rain in Sylhet.

Another important factor is that Bangladesh lies on becoming a desert by being on the
desert belt of Northern Hemisphere. Bangladesh is also within the range of the great
desert belt of Thar, the Arabian and Nubian desert, the Sahara in Africa, and the Mexican
desert. It certainly faces risk factor than any other countries. What is a Gondowana land?
It certainly faces risk factor in the south of Bangladesh. There is a large delta with several
flood plains, two areas of uplands, i.e. Barind and Madhupur tracts, while there are hill
ranges and valleys in eastern part, these are the surface picture of Bangladesh. So what do
we know about what is underneath these smooth surface picture? There was a great
geographical change which look place about 200 million years ago. Since then it is
understood that underneath the surface of Bangladesh and a part of Southern India the
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solid rocks of the Indian continent known as the Gondowana land situated deep in the
sea-bed some how broken apart, and one part started drifting to the north and collided
against the Asian continent. This collision led to the formation of the Himalaya and
Arakan-China mountain ranges. It didn’t stop there. It is believed that is still moving and
pushing the Himalayan range very slowly; and the ancient rocks underneath Bangladesh
are still moving as well, but very very slowly indeed towards the North-East. Any sudden
movement however causes earth quakes.

Riverine Physical Features


The main surface features of Bangladesh are the flood planes, where Ganges,
Brahmaputra and Meghna the three mighty rivers formed those delta lands. The main
channels of Brahmaputra once flowed past Mymansingh and Sonargaon town. After a
massive earth quake in 1772 the course of river changed until the 1830. The topography
of Bangladesh presents a somewhat different picture. As mentioned above, there were
two upload areas between the Ganges and Brahmaputra – Jamuna is known as Barind
Tract (Barind Bhumi) and the upland, Between the Jamuna and Meghna is known as
Madhupur Tract (Madhupur Garh). These two large areas have formed two different
types of flood plains. Because they flood those areas less frequently and so the soil is not
that fertile. The Barind Tract is much more populated and become an urban centre, while
the Madhupur Tract remained mainly forested until very recent times.

The Riverine Areas


The three main large rivers flow in such a way that they are almost combined with one
another while flowing south towards Bay of Bengal. It is interesting to see that these
rivers branch out to many Distributary rivers. While this distributary rivers form a
network of trellis pattern in the shape of a triangle, and these triangle lands are known as
Delta.

The Delta of the three mighty rivers of Ganges – Brahmaputra – Meghna is the largest
delta in the world. It is important to note that in this area, where the rivers flow are
mostly affected by the Bay of Bengal usually penetrates within hundred miles inland.
Hence the delta’s soils are new and invariably sink slightly every year. Therefore it is
important that fresh deposits of river sediments are allowed to build up.

It can be said that all along the surface of this delta was known as Sundarban Forest, but
in Patuakhali district this forest was cleared up about a hundred years ago by the British
govt, and now it only remains the famous Sundarban Forest in the western surface of the
world.
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Lecture # 3 (Three)
Part – II

The Eastern Part of Chittagong Range


In the South-East the areas between the Muhuri Rivers in the North and Neaf River in the
south are known in geographical term as Chittagong region. This important area faces the
Bay of Bengal in the West and has a series of hill ranges running from South to North.
The hill rages rose to mountain heights of 3000 feet or more in some places. In the
cultural history of Bangladesh this area is very important, because it links ancient Bengal
to ancient Myanmar through the Arakan Kingdoms. This link has been both overland and
by sea, and it brought together Bengalis, Arabs, Rakhine and various other ethnic peoples
in Bangladesh in the pursuit of artisans and Industries, commerce as well as trade with
the rest of the world.

Chittagong City
Over the past many years Chittagong has been a very important urban centre, a major
industrial area, the most important seaport of this country and above all a very important
historical place over the centuries. From the ruins of Rankot i.e. (Ramu) mentioned in 2nd
century A.D. by the famous geographer Ptolemy, the Buddhist art works from a place
called Silua situated near Feni. It points out that the famous Pandit Vihara could have
been near the vicinity of Chittagong city itself. So one can say that Chittagong region
played an important role in the ancient history of Bengal. Its important grew by the
Textile manufacture of Bangladesh. Which is became enormously important in
International Trade. This was not a new phenomenon but its reputation was high since the
8th century A.D. whereas its hay day was from 13th – 18th century A.D. Thus, Chittagong
played a vital role in the International trade in the world market.

Anthropological Aspects
Bangladesh map will show us, in the North is the very high Himalayan Mountains
Strategically located, the very high Mountains of Tibet, The Gobi Desert, and the most
inhospitable stretches of land of Mongolia and Siberia. To the South is Bay of Bengal
which opens out into the Indian Ocean.

The legend is that human beings originated from Africa, and then they kept on moving to
the Middle East and then dispersed across the world. In this process people went to South
East Asia and Australia perhaps more then 50,000 years ago. It is also assumed in this
movement that they may have been in Bangladesh. Among the people who stayed in
South East Asia and Australia, they perhaps spoke Austric languages. Present day one
would call these languages as Khmr (spoken in Cambodia), Mone (spoken in Myanmar),
Bangla (spoken in Bengal), agricultural crops like (kochu: arum) some people even spoke
Austronesian language. Some bronze tools and rice seeds in North East Thailand
suggested that they may have been in Bangladesh to introduce rice cultivation in
Bangladesh. This country is situated in such a Cross road of this sub-continent, that it has
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become a melting-pot of ancient peoples, Immigrants from various possible ways came
and settled in this country. By land routes, across the high mountains, down the river
valleys, by boats, across the China mountains, down the rivers and from coast to coast,
travelers from China and else where live Fa-hein, Huan-Tsang.

Many people came also from the Southern parts of Indian Subcontinent. They were the
Dravidians looked physically different with Black Hair, dark skin and spoke different
languages of Dravidians family of languages. These Dravidians looked and spoke closer
to Caucasoid people who were also similar looking people from the Middle East.
However, the last arrivals of the people to Indian subcontinent were the Aryans. They
spoke the language of the Indo-European family of languages and also people from the
Eastern Europe. These Aryans came or migrated to South Asia around 100B.C. and
flourished in an area called Haryana (land of the Aryans) in Northern India.

Thus, as the Aryans settled in Haryana and adjacent areas they flourished over the
centuries and mixed with the Dravidians as will as possibly other races too in marriage
and social interaction, and settled permanently in the driver regions of the Ganges Valley.
Therefore the mixed blooded Dravidians and Aryans slowly drifted towards Bengal Basin
to do mostly rice cultivation during 600 B.C. and laid down the foundation of
urbanization in our country. However, they also mixed with the Austric and Mongoloid
peoples who were already in Bangladesh and also they produced Mongoloid – Austric
mixed features in this area.

Bangladesh provided great hospitality to these immigrants who settled down here. They
got used to the wet rainy seasons, also to the cultivation of wet – rice as well as Hill –
rice. They become fond of eating fish fresh from rivers, ponds etc.

Even commercial opportunities attracted many traders and merchants immigrants from
Arab countries, and along the coasts. The war like people such as the Turks and Pathans
in urban centers between Gaur and Sonargaon. These people also contributed their stock
of immigrant blood and physique. So the Bengali ancestry included the Austric –
speakers, the Mongoloid, the Dravidians, and the Aryans, the Turk and the Pathans as
well. But the most important factor is that there are many such small groups of ethnic
people who still retained their polity of distinctiveness and they never merged into any
groups to loose their identity and ethnicity. Most of these groups are the Tribal people in
the mountains of Bangladesh. They are mostly Mongoloid in origin, they speak Tibet –
Burmese language, for instance the Koch, and they may be regarded as the major sources
of Bengali Mixture. Apart from this, there are Polia, Mande (Garo), Hajong, Tipra,
Chakma, Lushai, Mru, Tanchanga, Marma, Rakhine, and varies other similar smaller
groups.
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However, Tibeto-Burmese group belong to the Austric Mone-Khmr group such as


Khasia, the Dravidian group like Sontala and Oraon. Some of them are here more than
thousand of years ago. The most important factors are that all these groups of people have
been contributing until now the composition of the very hetero genous communities
known as Bengalis.

The Anthropological effects in Bangladesh have been fantastic in producing and


sustaining one of the great diversity among the mixed majority groups of people both in
physical features and in cultural identity. But despite this diversity there emerged
culturally a very rich Bengali (Bangla) language of today. But the most significant
sociological aspects that despite the prevalence of dynamic culture of the majority group
of people (The Bengalis), that relatively speaking the above mentioned ‘Tribal’ groups
have been able to continue their distinct individual groups of cultural entities, and
religious identities not only in the peripheral areas, but also in the deep remote places
inside mountainous areas.
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Lecture # 4 (Four)

Topic: Archeological evidences on the cultural heritage during Ancient


Bengal till the Medieval period 1, 2.

As we discussed in the previous two lectures that Bangladesh is indeed one of the largest
delta of the world formed by the fertile silt washed down from the Himalayan highland
by some of the mightiest rivers of Asia. These are the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.
These two mighty rivers have been flowing down through the ages creating many
channels, arteries and streams on its way down wards. This unique network of arteries of
Hydrography is responsible for moulding the destiny of the land and its people who live
here the melting snow of Himalayan glaciers gusting down ward depositing enormous
volumes of water with Fertilizing silt into various arteries of rivers before flowing into
Bay of Bengal. As I said earlier that these rivers often change their courses and find new
live of rivers, channels etc, which help to sustain human settlements on either side of the
river banks.

However, contrary to this, it causes untold miseries and disaster to the people during
devastating flood. These rivers could be regarded as the source of prosperity and joy, but
it brings untold suffering to people.

Pre history
Pre history of Bangladesh is still very indistinct, its early history is quite legendry. In
comparatively recent times a highly interesting Proto and early historic site on were Bates
war, Raingartek and Marjal villages of shibpur in Narsingdhi district has produced
important archeological relies. In 1931 an archeologist N.K.Bhattasali collected many
artifacts and silver punch marked coins near the river beds that dried up river Meghna
and Brahmaputra. The earliest objects were found and registered from this aria are
certainly Neolithic Celts stone, hand-Axe, and chirel. These findings were followed by
the discovery of iron axes, iron plates, rings stone, mortar and pestle, string balls of
stones, and pre- ---- the silver Rench marked coins of about 400 B.C. unfortunately
archeological exploration failed, so far to find any substantial human settlements.
However, there was significant early historical evidences that these area was less known
inland port, than the very famous towns live Sonargaon, Saptagram and Tamralipi were
doing some kind of trade with the outside world.

Early historical period


In the 3rd century B.C. Bangladesh formed the part of the Mauryan Empire. From the 3rd
century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. the North and Western parts of Bengal were under
the Mauryans, the Guptas, the Polas and the Sera rulers until it was suddenly replaced by
the Muslim invaders in the 13th century A.D. The Southern and the Eastern part of Bengal
was called ‘Samatata’. This was situated in Trans-Meghna region which was then ruled
independently by the successive Bhuddhist dynasties between 7th and 12th century. These
dynasty rulers were known as the Khadgas, the Devas, and the Chandra Kings. The Pala
rulers of Varendra were mighty rulers and they extended their power and their territories
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from the borders of Assam in the East to the borders of Kashmir in the West. The Palas
erected and established many beautiful Buddhist Temples, Shrines, and Stupas
throughout the Pala kingdom. The royal Patronage even built many beautiful Monastries.
The four centuries of Pala rules were regarded as the golden era in the history of Bengal,
for it brought peace after years of anarchy, but encouraged building various architectural
and artistic activities with in their kingdom.

It is amazing that from the 8th century A.D. onwards Mahayona Buddhism than the
Mahavira Buddhism under their patronage became a very dynamic international force,
and exercised a great influence from Tibet in the North to the Malayan Archipilago in the
South

Monuments and Sites


During more than two thousand years of history of Bengal, a large numbers of prosperous
urban centers, fortified palaces, huge buildings, Stupas, large gateways, beautiful big
buildings were built by various rulers of the country. Quite a number of them have
perished in the course of times either by destructive elements of nature or by the ravages
of war, plunder etc.

The treasures of Archeological findings in Eastern Bengal that is Bangladesh are


extraordinary and highly impressive. In the following pages, a brief description of
Archeological findings will be mentioned but with important historical points to learn and
to be remembered for its place in the historical perspectives. These excavations findings
are relevant to the history of Bangladesh starting from Pre-Islamic period. For instance
these are about 27 Archeological sights from this period.

1. Pundranagara: was identified with ruins of Mahasthan in Bogra district. It was the
largest and the most ancient city in Bengal, and its cotemporary art and culture and inter-
provincial trade were well-known. During the seventh century a famous Chinese pilgrim
Hieun-Tsang visited this city, and left a glowing tribute of this place. Whereas Sadhyakar
Nandi wrote in ‘Ramcharika’ that this city is the ‘Crown Jewel’ of Varedra. In the city
the palaces, State Secretariat, luxurious Villas, Flourishing markets, Ornate Temples,
Assembly Hall etc added splendors in the city. These could be well compared with the
brilliance of Vaisali, Rajgirha, Sravasti, Kausambi, and Pataliputra. The extensive ruins
of this fortified ancient city was mentioned in the epigraphic records of the Mauryans, the
Guptas, and the Polas, and also a description of this has been found in some Chinese
Buddhist Pilgrims visiting Bengal between 5th to 7th century A.D. These chroniclers
visiters were Fa-Hiean, Hieun-Tsang, and T-sang.

Infect isolated and separated mounds within the peremitre of the cikodel cover the entire
eastern half of the area, each mound had a wonderful local name such as Khodar Pathor
mound, Mamkalir Khodai Parasuram’s Palace, Jiyat Kunda, Bairagi Bhita, Munir Ghon,
Narasingher Dhap etc.
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2. Govind Bhita Tample: The ruins of this massive temple complex have been found on
a high mound outside the Northern rampart of the city. It is beautifully situated on the
double bend of Karatoya River as important shrine.

3. Bairagi Bhita Temple: This low mound is located inside the North Eastern sector of
the citadel. There were two temples ruins probably several ancillary buildings were in the
early 8th and 11th centuries.

4. Khodar Pathor Mounds: This is situated about 200 yards North-East of the dargah of
Shah Sultan Balkhi, Which actually Garh occupies the highest point of Mahasthan on
South-East corner, the mound derives its family name from an enormous granite door
nearby.

5. Mankalir Bhita: In 1965-66 an excavation revealed the foundation of a 15 domed


Sultanate period oblong Mosque of 15th / 16th century.

6. The most widely known legend of the muslim occupation of Mahasthan centres around
Shah Sultan Balki Mahisawar and the legendry Kshtria Mahisawar and the legendry
Kshtria king Parasurame. However the Muslim Saint with his followers; converted
‘Chillan’ the general of Parasamchandra, and many local Hindus to Islam. The king then
attacked the saint, but was defeated and eventually he was killed. The saint wanted to
marry his daughter, but she refused to marry and committed suicide.

7. Parasuram’s Palace Mound: was excavated in 1961 which was situated about 200
yards north of Mankalir Kunda Mound.

8. Jajat Kund: This is situated very close to the palace mound and its known as a
legendry “Well of Life”. The Jajat Kund, this is a mass ry well with a massive
rectangular Stone block with engraved floral pattern. However, contrary to popular belief
this well was constructed during the Muslim period.

9. The Mazar and the Mughal Mosque: The Northern Rampart. These two ruins have
been largely renovated so much that the original features have been virtually lost.

10. Lakhindarer Medh Gokul: It’s a large mound in a village called Gokul, situated
very near the citadel of Mahasthan. This is associated with the popular folk-tale of
“Behula Laksendar” and the offended snake goddess ‘Manasa’. To be precise, this is the
remarks of a Shiva Temple.

11. Bihar and Vasubihar: The ruins of Po shi Po Vihara (Vasubihara) visited by the
famous Chinese pilgrim Hiean-Tsang in 638 A.D. who was identified by General
Cunningham with the extensive ruins of Bihar and Vasubihar which was locally called
“Narapatir Dhap”, situated about four miles west of Mahasthan Garh.
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12. Mongol Kot: This is a small ancient mound and is situated about one mile west of
Mahasthan Garh in a village Chingaspur. The excavations of the three successive years
from 1981-83 exposed two important tengle remains of the Gupta period, together with
more than one thousand large terracotta images, and other minor antiquities.

13. Bhimer Jangal: (Old Embankment). This is an old irregular earthen embankment
locally known as ‘Bhimer Jangal’. This is also a kind of landmark in the district of Bogra
and Rampur. Perhaps it was used as a defensive ‘Bulk work’ or an ancient high way. The
story goes like this, that Bhima a son of a Kalvarta chief Rudraka, who usurped the
throne of ‘Varandra kingdom during the reign of Mahipala II of the old Pala dynasty who
ruled for a brief period Bhima, however, was defeated and killed with his followers soon
after wards by Rampala in the 11th century.

14. Paharpur Buddhist Monastry: This is situated in agrarian setting and is regarded as
the spectacular monument of a gigantic Buddhist Temple and a monastry at Paharpur in
Naogaon district. This was excavated in (1923-32), and was identified from a set of
terrecota inscribed seals known as the famous “Somapuri Mohanhara”, which was
erected by the emperor Dhamapala of the Pala dynasty during (781-821 A.D). This has
been regarded as the “Second largest single Vihara” in Asia. Historically and
archeologically, “Somapuri Vihara” is certainly a treasured heritage of the world, which
is perhaps in ancient Asia by the Buddhists kings in the Far East.

15. Satya Pir Bhita: This isolated ruins at the Satya Pir at Bihar and 132 motive Stupas,
all these were erected in about 11th century A.D. Infect, some of these native shrines
contained thousands of miniature votive Stupas stamped with Buddhist creed.

16. There were similar Viharas like Setakst Vihara and its ancient sites. Similarly
“Jagaddal Vihara Mound”, one of the most famous Jagaddal Mahavihara, which has
established by emperor Rampala (1077-1120 A.D.), even eclipsed the glory of the
“Sompuri Vihara” as portrayed by the old Buddhist literature. However, since 1966
regular excavations by the archeologists department have been carried out in this area.
The antiquities salvaged from these excavations were Terracota Placques of the Paharpur
type, or namented bricks iron nails, semiprecious stone beads, a tiny gold ring, larn of, a
Vishnu stone image.
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Lecture # 6 (Six)
Part – I

Topic: The Earliest Kingdoms and Empires:

The Classical Period-The Gupta Period.

Ancient Bengal: The classical Period


If must be understood very clearly that Bengal or Bangladesh and West Bengal in the
ancient Period had been one undivided Bengal, both Eastern Bengal and West Bengal
which was part of Eastern India. In order to know the earliest history of Bangladesh it is
important to know its earliest history in the Ancient period.

In the ancient Period, Bengal was inhabited by different groups of people, Whose names
were associated with the area who lived there Permanently the people i.e. The
‘Janapadas’ of Pundra, Vanga, Radha, and Gauda.

Pundra was ronghly comprised of the territories of northern Bangladesh and parts of
north Bangal of the Indian Provinee of West Bangal. Vanga denoted the major portion of
the present Bangladesh it’s southern and south eastern districts, Somatata was an unique
important ‘Janapada’ is the trans-Meghna-region of Bangladesh, in the South-Eastern
part of Camilla –Noakhali area. In fact, Chittagong with its adjacent areas was known as
Harikela. This fact came to be known from the later
Vedie literature. This area was inhabited by Non-Aryans i.e. the Dravidians; with its
capital at Ganje, a great market town on the banks of the Ganges. The evidence shows
that a great trade existed.

North – Western parts of ancient India came under the influence of Aryars since the
middle of the second. Millennium B.C. and it took a long time for the Aryans to reach the
eastern part of the sub-continent of India. So the people of Bengal felt – Aryanisation
much later. From the 5th century B.C. the Aryan influence or the Aryanisation took
almost one thousand years to settle down deeply in the roots of the entire Bengal. But
before this pre-Aryan influence the non – Aryan characteristics and its influence deeply
affected the life and Culture of the Bengali people. It is vital to note that the “history of
ancient Bengal from 4th century A.D on words. is the history of Aryan domination both
from the poetical as well as cultural”. Greek and Latin sources (3rd century B.C. -1st
century, B.C.) refer to an eastern Indian nation as Gangaridae (Greek), and Gangaridai
(Latin) which was quite strong militarily.

Certainly, Pundranagar is regarded as the earliest urban administrative and cultural centre
throughout the ancient period up to the 12th century A.D. Scholars have identified
‘Gangaridai’ located in parts of southern and south eastern Bengal, near the north of the
Ganges (Bhagirathi – Padma –rivers) . Refering to other qualities of ancient Bengal, the
Arthasastra of Kautiliya (3rd century B.C.) refers to fine cotton fabric of Vanga (South-
eastern Bengal).
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Sartorial evidences proved that Bengal was a province Kingdom and a great market tarun
on the bank of Ganges. Trade was between Bengal and China and other countries. In fact,
the name Vanga was also found among the list of Maritime countries where ships went
for trade.

During the expansion of the Gupta rule under Samudra Gupta in the 4th century A.D.
Bengal remained divided into independent states. But, most other independent states
gradually came under the rule of Samudra - Gupta. Samatata, the Trans – Meghna region
including Comilla – Noakhali was outside the Gupta rule. Samudra Guptas son
Chandragupta II consolidated Samatata under the Gupta rule. By the and of the 6th
century A.D. Gupta authority was very strong, and Gupta kings were known as Kumara
Gupta, Budha Gupta, Vaniya Gupta’s copper plates of the 5th century were found in North
Bengal which proved that there existed well established Gupta rule in these areas.

However, Bengal became an important province during this period, and was called “the
Golden Age” of Indian history, It is know historically that during this period lender the
strong Gupta central government, there was peace, health and prosperity, far a longer
time. According to the Chinese visitor Fa–Hien’s account, trade and commerce
remarkably flourished in Bengal during this period. He also described that in the eastern
Tamralipta (modern Tamluk in Midnapur district of west Bengal) was the great
emporium of trade the important factor is that the Gupta rule brought religious to leration
among their subjects. The Imperial Gupta converted themselves to Brahmanism and
styled themselves as Parama bhagavatas or Paramadai Vatas, but surprisingly they also
patronised Buddhism and fainism. The religious toleration brought ultimately coexistence
of religious beliefs. However, the artistic excellence of the Gupta age is remarkable and
had a great influence in artistic tradition of Bengal. Indeed, the Gupta school inspired the
Bengal school of sculptural art.

Sasanka the Gupta King:


Later Guptas had a long drawn straggle between the Mau kharis from the central port of
northern India for the possession of Magodha (South Bihar) and parts of western &
northern Bengal, by the beginning of the seventh century Gauda became an independent
kingdom under Sasanka. He was the first Gupta king who extended his suzerainty over
the boundaries of Indian Empire. He was also regarded as the first important king of
Bengal who established his aggressive challenge and his supremecy over northern India.

The Pala Dynasty:


The Pala dynasty was founded by Gopala in the middle of 8th century A.D., and ruled
Bengal for four centuries. The historians believed the rule of the Palas formed the
glorious period in ancient history of Bengal.This glorious history was contributed by the
combined effort of the eighteen generations of the Pala kings. They were (i) period
ascendancy by Dharmapala (C.781-821 A.D), Deva Pala (C.821-861 A.D.), Then came a
period of stagnation in the country (C.861-995 A.D). This was revived by Mahipala I
(C.995-1048 A.D.). Mahipala I was regarded as the second founder of this dynasty after
the chaos in the country. The last phase (iii) Period of Decline and Disintegration was
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somehow stopped by a strong rule of Rampala in (C.1082-1124 A.D.). But Pala Empire
did net last long. The fisol collapse came with the coming and rise in power by the Senas
in the third quarter of the 12th century A.D. Both Mahipala I Dharmapala were powerful
enough to challenge the Gurjara Prathiharas of western India and Rshtakutas of southern
India. There was a long drawn struggle for two generations, but the Pala kings extended
their boundaries of Bengal and Bihar as far as Kunauj. In fact, Dharmapala stands out
most successfully in the annals of Pala dynasty as a great conqueror and a brilliant leader
who spread Bengal’s influence over North India far quite sometime. He was a devout
Buddhist, and remained a great patron of Buddhism and founded many famous
monasteries. He also founded the monumental architectural Somapura mahavira at
Paharpur (in Naogaon in Bargladesh.). This is included in the ‘Heritage of man’ of
UNESCO and is regarded as the greatest Buddhist monastery in the Indian sub continent,
but the 2nd largest in the world.