I have noticed a peculiar problem with some of the online content related to Noboborsho/Bengali New Year for a couple of years at least. I’m sure you would have seen those cordial content pieces, which talk about how our cherished Bengali Calendar was promulgated by the Mughal ruler Akbar in order to align revenue collection better with the local season cycles. If the problem hasn’t hit you yet, think about this. We are sitting on 1426 BE or Bongabdo, on the verge of welcoming 1427. And the Mughal ruler Akbar’s reign started as recently as 1556 BCE… just around 5 centuries back. I didn’t know if this was shocking or hilarious… or outright sinister!
The Beginning of an era
Bongadbo or the Bengali Era begins in 594 CE. The reigning ruler was Maha Samanta, and later Gaudeshvara, Shashanka or Shashanka Deva. He has variously been deduced to be a feudatory of, or have been descended from, the Later Guptas of Magadha. In either case, he disassociated from Magadha towards the end of the 5th Century CE and established the first historically known independent kingdom of Bengal. It was called the Kingdom of Gauda then, with its capital at Karna Suvarna, modern day Murshidabad district of West Bengal.
The earliest archaeological references to Bongabdo are found in a couple of millennium old terracotta Shiva Temples in the villages of Dihargram & Sonatapan in the Bankura district of West Bengal, before the arrival of the Central Asian invaders in Bengal.
Detractors have been trying to credit Bongabdo variously to the 16th century CE Mughal ruler Akbar or an Allauddin Hussain Shah, a ruler of the Bengal Sultanate, striding the 15th & 16th centuries CE.
One wonders, how an entire millennium could have been cooked up into thin air by detractor theorists. Satyam Infotech account book cooks need to take note! The logic presented is, a Hussain Shah or an Akbar would have taken the Hijri Calendar, starting 622 CE, & adapted it to a solar format – to aid in agrarian revenue collection – with some support from existing native calendars. I again wonder why a Shashanka cannot at least figure in such a long list of possibilities.
Have you considered what such a proposition might entail, as against a straight native Indic Bengali Calendar theory? Lunar changes to Solar. Calendar terms, month names etc. change from Arabic/Farsi to Sanskrit/Bengali. This whole shebang is easily & conveniently avoided if we go by the Shashanka route, which is definitely more intuitive. But perhaps water flows against gravity for revisionist theorists.
Real Motive of Detractors
So, what is it actually about? The East Pakistani faction, though endorsing the ‘separate Muslim homeland’ theory, was more comfortable with a Bengali flavour to it. This was what they wanted with a Calendar too. They wanted a Bengali Calendar for sure, which they celebrate with considerable fanfare, now that they have political independence. Puritans might even consider such celebration idolatrous! And it’s in this context that the idea of a native Indic pre-Islamic origin Bengali Calendar may be adding further insult to injury for the fundamentalists. And that’s where emerges the idea of looking for Calendar heroes from Akbar to Hussain Shah.
What are we supposed to do
Now that was their perspective and their fight. But for an Indic Bengali, who cherishes the Bengali cultural framework, in the context of the broader Indic cultural context, & for other Indics as well, it is very important to know the devil & cull it from the cultural mind space without further delay. Honestly, there’s very less scope for any more delay, given how ‘idolators’ are becoming endangered globally with every passing century, decade & year.
That’s where the battle is, salvaging the people & the culture, concept by concept, year by year, if we are to see any semblance of free civilization remaining in the globe… or at least in the Subcontinent.
As a corollary, maybe, reconsider your thoughts on the CAA, if you’re still confused about ‘secular’ propriety. Notwithstanding which camp you belong to, this is plain civilization vs. savagery, and you would need to pick your choose, because though civilization may provide you with choice, savagery would never.
And what do the emergent ‘Bengali nationalists’ do?
Simple, stick to their ideas of Bengali pride but with some sprinkling of real history. What can be more glorious than the idea of a Bengali Calendar promulgated by the very founder of the conception of Bengal/Gauda/Vanga? A quick reading through Shashanka’s politico-military achievements should definitely aid. He was successful in uniting smaller geographical units from all over current West Bengal, Bangladesh, parts of Bihar and Assam. Shouldn’t the last bit be quite enough to quench the sub-national ethos, considering the ordeal of Bengalis under Assam NRC and cultural ordeals of the North East Bengalis in general? That’s some food for thought for such friends of mine.
Would wish for a very happy new year to all, with a hope that the Indic civilization shall be able to maintain its originality and defend itself against all invasions, political or cultural, for all times to come.