Bengali Language | Bangla

Bengali Language | Bangla

The Bengali language is an Indo-Aryan language spoken mostly in the East Indian subcontinent. It is also known as Bangla language. It has evolved from the Pali, Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit language. The Bengali language is spoken by the people of Bangladesh and by the people of Indian states like West Bengal, Tripura and some people of Assam.

Bengali is the English word for the name of the language (as well as the people speaking the language); in the language itself, the tongue is called Bangla (বাংলা). It is the seventh most spoken language in the world and is the second most spoken language in India. The National Anthem of India, National Anthem of Bangladesh, National Anthem of Sri Lanka and the National song of India were first composed in the Bengali language.


In prehistoric times, the Indo-Europian speakers left there ancient homes in Southern Russia. A group of them came to the East and were the Indo-Iranians. Some of them came farther Eastwards, crossed the Hindukush and entered the Indus basin in North-Western India and Pakistan around 3000 B.C. They were the Indian Aryans. Their language was Vedic which has been recorded in the extensive Vedic literature. By 500 B.C. this language gave rise to Standard Classical Sanskrit.

Sanskrit was the literary and religious language of the Hindus for the next 1000 or 1500 years. By the time Sanskrit was standardized a lot of middle Indo-Arian (Vedic and Sanskrit are the old ones) languages, called Prakeitas and Pali, were born.

The Aryan culture by this time reached Eastern India. Gradually the MIA languages developed for the next millennium, giving birth to ‘Apabhramsha’ and ‘Abahatta’ languages. By 1000 AD from these late MIA languages were born the Neo IA languages, eg- Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya and a handfull of Bihari dialects were born of a form of Eastern Apabhramsha called ‘Ardhya Magadhi Apabhramsha‘.

Bengali history
Buddha Giving Safety (Abhayananda) to Mariners Source:

At the end of the 12th century AD Turks invaded Bengal. Roughly at this time, the Old Bengali period ends, and the Middle Bengali period starts. In the mid-18th century, the Middle Bengali period ends, and the Modern Bengali period starts. By the 19th and early 20th centuries, the modern literary form of this language came into existence. It was during this period that varied changes, including Cholitobhasha came to the front as a choice for written Bengali.

In 1948, the Bengali language movement was started in Bangladesh (former East Bengal) after Pakistan Government tried to impose Urdu as the sole state language in Pakistan. The Bengali Language movement was a popular ethnolinguistic movement in order to protect Bengali’s recognition as the state language. Thus, Bengali came to be known as the only language, for which people sacrificed their life, in order to protect their mother language. in 2010, the language was made an official UN language.

Due to centuries of powerful influences from Europeans, Mughals, Arabs, Persians, and East Asians, Bengali has absorbed countless words from foreign languages, often totally integrating these borrowings into the core vocabulary. The Bengali language served as an intermediary between the local sphere and the networks of the Bay of Bengal, in which the kingdom occupied a place of growing importance.

The Bengali language is written using Bengali scripts and is the 6th most widely used writing system in the world. The script with minor variations is shared by the Assamese and is the basis for other languages like Manipuri and Bishnupriya Manipuri. The Bengali language is one of the recognized languages of India. It is the official language of West Bengal and Tripura. It is also a major language in the Indian union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Bengali is the national and official language of Bangladesh. In addition to differences in how the letters are pronounced in the different languages, there are some typographical differences between the version of the script used for the Assamese language and that used for the Bengali language. The Bengali alphabet is derived from the Brahmi alphabet. It is also closely related to the Devanagari alphabet, from which it started to diverge in the 11th century AD. The current printed form of the Bengali alphabet was developed by Charles Wilkins in 1778.

Bengali dialects

Bengali today is the most spoken language with 80 million people in West Bengal, Tripura, and parts of Assam as well as in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands speaks Bengali. Bengali is not only recognized in West Bengal but also the second official language of Jharkhand. Assamese, Oriya, and Bengali are considered mutually intelligible and some dialects of Bengali bear a striking resemblance to one or more dialects of the other two languages.

Chakma dialect of Bengali is mostly spoken by about 4000,000 people in Assam, Tripura, and Mizoram. Rangpuri dialect speaking people are scattered in Bangladesh and India.
Shadhu-bhasha was a formal form of Bengali language used, whose vocabulary was borrowed mainly from Pali and Sanskrit language. It is no longer used and commonly used form is Cholito-bhasha which is characterized by the use of short verbs and vernacular idioms and has become the standardized form of Bengali.

Spoken Bengali, including what is heard in news reports, speeches, announcements, is modeled on Cholito-bhasha. This form of spoken Bengali stands alongside other spoken dialects, or Ancholik Bengali (“regional Bengali”). The majority of Bengalis are able to communicate in more than one dialect – often, speakers are fluent in Cholito-bhasha, one or more Ancholik dialect, and one or more forms of Grammo Bengali (“rural Bengali”), dialects specific to a village or town.

Bengali dialects are divided into eight dialects groups and these are Western, Southwestern, Central (or West-Central), Northern, Bahe, Eastern, Ganda, and Vanga. Often Chittagonian is added to this list as well. The differences of dialects reflect the vocabulary of the standard varieties of Bengali in West Bengali and Bangladesh. Variation in the vocabulary of the countless regional dialects of both West Bengal and Bangladesh is even more pronounced and diverse.

National Anthem Of India Is Written In Bengali

jana gana mana

Bangla is the second most commonly spoken language in India (after Hindi). As a result of the Bengal renaissance in the 19th and 20th centuries, much of India’s most famous literature, poetry, and songs are in Bangla: the works of Rabindranath Tagore (the first Asian to be awarded a Nobel Prize), for example, were written in Bangla. Jana Gana Mana, the National Anthem of India is written in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore. Additionally, many of the reformist religious, philosophical, and political movements that began in that era were led by Bengalis.

Once a Bengali poet said that – ‘A mori Bangla bhasa, moder garab moder asha’ which roughly translates to – ‘Oh! How I praise Bengali language, it is our pride, it is our only hope’.

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Simmi Kamboj

Simmi Kamboj is the Founder and Administrator of Ritiriwaz, your one-stop guide to Indian Culture and Tradition. She had a passion for writing about India's lifestyle, culture, tradition, travel, and is trying to cover all Indian Cultural aspects of Daily Life.

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