|Trans||Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften||15. Nr.||Mai 2004|
5.3. I First Learned about
Russia from Dostoievski. Literature as an Imaginary Way of
Understanding Another Country
Aminur Rahman (Bangladesh)
One of the main tools that the various cultures in the world have in common, besides a complex set of values, beliefs, attitudes, customs, etc. is language. Language helps individuals to communicate, interpret, evaluate ideas as a member of society, and form a bridge from one specific culture to another. Culture has an important influence on individuals. Individuals from different cultures may respond in different ways to many things even though they speak a common language. The good thing about transformation of culture into another individual is indeed an excellent part of a unifying aspect of any culture.
The history of literature is mainly a history of the nourishment of humankind. As a result of this history the nation get exposed and is closely linked with art, culture and literature.
In the beginning, the solutions offered by the arts remained dormant and cannot be analyzed in the true light of knowledge. But as the nation grows art and culture are reflected in their way of life and life styles.
The word "Banga" occurs in history many a time but it has never been a name for a country, now however, Bangladesh has been formed as a nation. The people from South Asia who spoke the Bangla language could be called Banga in the history but it had no clear definition. Presently, the people of West Bengal, India and Bangladesh regions speak Bangla. But this "Banga" culture was not constrained to these two regions only. The Maharastra of India during the Pal Dynasty had an art and culture which was in reality an extension of Bangla culture. During these days these cultures spread to Nepal, Tibet and South East Asia as well.
In order to understand the Bangla literature we have to search and discover Buddha's rules and regulations during the period of the Pal Dynasty regime and would have to examine these first and consider them accordingly. In the light of this consideration we have Buddhist thinking and values very active in the beginning of the Bangla language. Also the influence of Islam was felt because of Arab merchants traveled to these parts, and some of the Islamic scholars also visited this place, side by side with Hinduism which was there.
Mainly during the Pal Dynasty Bengal's geographical region has been defined. The origin of Bangladesh dates back to the Pundra Civilization of the 3rd century BC. From the 8th to the 12th centuries AD, Palas - the Buddhist King - ruled Bangladesh. The following four hundred years saw Bangladesh prosper and enjoy a golden age and great achievements in education, culture, trade and commerce.
From the early 13th century until the British occupation in 1757, the political, cultural, and social life of Bengal is dominated by an overwhelming Muslim presence. The six hundred years of Muslim rule in Bengal brought about a significant change in the lives of the people. The liberal patronage of the Muslim rulers to scholars, poets, and educational institutions helped to create a great intellectual awaking in Bengal. Bengali cultures were created through the interaction of various religious traditions and different languages, which accounts for its secular philosophy and liberal ideas.
The British East India Company ruled the sub-continent autocratically, and as a result different classes of people appeared: One who supported the British and the other who went against them. During this time many revolutionary movements took place and in 1947 British divided the sub-continent into two parts and left the sub-continent. These divisions were not done with a focused thinking, rather they were biased towards religion and politically motivated. After the colonial period two religion-based states emerged: India and Pakistan. As a Muslim region Bangladesh was then a part of Pakistan.
The creation of Pakistan was not viable if we look at it geographically. In between East and West Pakistan around 15 hundred miles were occupied by other countries. These two parts were so different in their own culture, language, tradition, economy, etc. and the only common thing between these two parts was their religion. After the partition in 1948, West Pakistan's ruler oppressed the East Pakistan in all areas and by all means, and there has been another history of 25 years' of oppression.
There were basic cultural differences between two parts of Pakistan. They even denied the Bengali language the status of a national language. Pakistani rulers tried to dominate Bengali culture in the name of Islam. The Father of Nation of Pakistan Mr Mohammed Ali Jinnah himself declared in 1947 in an open meeting in Dhaka, "Urdu" to be the only national language, whereas the majority of East Pakistan people spoke Bangla only. This decision, along with other discriminations, gradually evoked resistance and there was a great protest from the Bengalis and finally these upheavals reached a climax on 21st February 1952, when police opened fired on people and many people gave their life for their language.
All these historical events have to be highlighted, because the independence of Bangladesh is not only political. The main reason behind the struggle for liberation was the difference of language and culture between the two parts of the same country. On the other hand, religion alone could not prevent the division.
The people of Bangladesh are not only Muslims but they are Bengali Muslims. Although the Muslim culture contradicts Bengali culture in some cases; Bengali culture generally has a lot of customs and rituals that were incorporated within Islam.
This is because people of Bangladesh are a wide spectrum, consisting of Hindus and Buddhist from time immemorial, and because of this closeness and proximity the cultures got intermingled, and this became the way of life for Bengali Muslims.
In 1952, many people of Bangladesh sacrificed their lives for
their mother tongue. Bangladesh is the only country in the world
that brought about such a movement. Language-based nationalism
eventually gave birth to a new state known today as Bangladesh.
The years 1952 and 1971 are two milestones in the modern history
of Bangladesh that finally liberated the country. All this happened,
although the religion was same, but because the culture and language
© Aminur Rahman (Bangladesh)
5.3. I First Learned about Russia from Dostoievski. Literature as an Imaginary Way of Understanding Another Country
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For quotation purposes:
Aminur Rahman (Bangladesh): Language is a bridge that unifies the culture and can liberate a country as well. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003. WWW: http://www.inst.at/trans/15Nr/05_03/rahman15.htm