Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Future for Kolkata

There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away.

People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves.

The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly true in India: The diaspora Indians are mostly reviled, because they left, by those who stayed, for one reason or other, and enjoyed the return to prosperity. But, that's harsh - because people leave for a variety of reasons, and no one leaves the land where one's parents have lived and died. A procedural exclusion is possible, but unreasonable and inhuman indeed.

So, without apologies, I talk about Kolkata. Without being ashamed or hesitant, this remains my home and always will be. I travelled to know the world, and I have been away for a decade. Many things have changed: My life situation, the things I believe in, the values I cherish and the things I love, but regardless, Kolkata remained at the centre of my identity. It is a place I wish to go back, and that return, and that alone, can complete my journey.

I have always been an idealist, a bit romantic. Earlier, I used to be ashamed about my flights of idealism; no longer, because I have realized that the idealism is a central ingredient of being human. It is that dream that keeps me alive, not content and dead, but alive and wanting. It is the idealism that allows me to think of future rather than the past, and go beyond the mediocrity of my unfulfilled life and dream of world-changing accomplishments. In a way, my quixotic enterprise is my identity, but living through it, every bit is as real as someone else's selfish dreams could be.

So, with this love, this idealism, I think of Kolkata. This is not to deny its air of hopelessness and sloth, that any visitor invariably feels everywhere. Thirty years of unchanged bureaucratic rule have taken away all forms of imagination from the city. The cosy builder/politician nexus, deep politicization of police, health care and education - have helped the city into irreversible decline. While the other Indian cities have taken the bus to modernity and growth, Kolkata has been left behind. Ernest Gellner saw one of the two principal planks of the modern state to be economic growth: The city has been deprived of growth, and the sense of growth, for a long time, and now nurture a deep sense of resentment to the state apparatus altogether.

But change is coming to Kolkata. I am not entirely comfortable with the shape of the change, because I see chaos. I, like others who love Kolkata, see hoodlums being replaced by a new set of hoodlums, one corrupt police officer replacing another, one inept school teacher getting upper hand on another inept colleague. But, at this point, I am possibly unduly pessimistic. Change often happen through chaos, a root-and-branch shake-up of layers which gathered over many years. This, possibly, the nature of any change.

So, just ahead of this inevitable mindlessness, we should gather strength and dream one last time. It is important that we return the imagination to Kolkata, because doing what has been done in other places will never help the city make up for lost time. This is where we saw the current government losing the plot: Pressured by the responsibility to provide economic growth and opportunity, they pursued what some of India's southern states have done, tried to attract large IT employers by providing out-of-turn incentives to set up shop in Kolkata. Some of it has been successful, but yet, it did not feel like growth.

This is the problem statement: Kolkata is so deep into hopelessness, that it will require a sort of great leap to restore its sense of identity. Yes, that 'great leap' bit was a deliberate play - we don't need the disastrous social engineering that Mao tried and failed - but nonetheless we need new ideas and new ways of thinking to make Kolkata count, in India and in the wider world.

I hope a conversation will start soon, involving people from Kolkata and of Kolkata, and others who have loved the city and admired its spirit. Hopefully, some of these will be knitted together in an organized effort - something like a Concern for Kolkata - and people will join in to make the endeavour meaningful. I also hope that this will be able to rise above the self-centeredness and egoticism that invariably mars such enterprises, and some of the words and ideas will be translated into action. As I mentioned, I am an optimist, and there is never a wrong time to do the right thing: We must now seek a future for Kolkata or be condemned in long decline and darkness.

Here are my ideas about a future for Kolkata:

I see Kolkata to be a truly global city, with respect for diversity and commitment to harmony; we would have none of the narrow provincialism and fundamentalism that mar India's other great cities: We must all be proud, to be from Kolkata, and accept and propagate openness and acceptance of others as our key values.

I see Kolkata to be India's bridge to Asia. I think it is one of the great follies of modern India to drift away from its Asian-ness, to undermine its deep ties with the great Eastern civilizations and neighbours, and seek, instead, a cocky individualism and materialism inherited from our colonial masters. I see a conscious rejuvenation of cultural and economic ties with Asian nations starting in Kolkata, with institutions offering courses on Asian cultures, people exchanges and businesses expanding eastwards, facilitated by increased transport links.

I see Kolkata to become a great centre to creative industries in India, in Asia; again, I see an expansion of educational opportunities, incentive-driven expansion of commerce in culture industries, and community-based activities which will expand the horizons of the office-bound Bengali middle class.

I see freedom to return to Kolkata without fear of persecution. This will indeed start with de-politicization of education, police and hospitals, and will need constant vigil by each individual citizen. We are closer to this than it feels; people are disgusted with the corruption and ineptness in every corner of the public sphere.

Finally, I see governance coming close to people in Kolkata. Like rest of India, the problem in Kolkata is that while politics have entered family homes, the government remained as far as ever. It can be said that the modern Indian government is farther from its people, and more insensitive to their feelings than the British Raj. And, nowhere this distance is hurting more than in Kolkata; and since this has to start from somewhere, before the whole country implodes into a civil war, this may as well start in Kolkata.

If this sounds all too Utopian, this is what it should have been. A government close to people, was that not we were trying for last three decades, but ended up degenerating everything into political dogmatism and factions? The linkage to Asia is as close as it gets in Bengal - the ports in Southern Bengal launched the ships of commerce to Java and elsewhere in South-East Asia many centuries ago. The Bengali creativity, conveniently protected by distance from the Indian heartlands of Hindu and later Muslim dominance, prospered with the air of non-conformity and inventiveness. We have indeed forgotten the spirit, but the forgetfulness is only recent and hopefully could be overturned.

All of this can happen, but will not happen without Education, Community and Public Action. The 'intellectuals' of Kolkata have manifestly failed, over years, to provide leadership and contribute in public action: Their rare gestures were self interested, egoistic and disconnected from the aspirations of the proverbial people on the street. It is time for a new generation, people in Kolkata and outside, people in business, education and government, to seize the initiative. We all can do our bits to change, indeed, create a future for Kolkata: Let us not fail yet again, like the generation before us, to make a difference.








30 comments:

Arnab Dasgupta said...

Hear, hear! As one Probashi Bengali to another, I say: Carry on dreaming, Dada!

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

Thanks Arnab. Everything starts with dreams, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Change is inevitable. Good or bad, it is bound to come. The pessimist in me doesn't expect any good too soon. The optimist in me says it will but only after history repeats itself -- total decadence and subsequent collapse of a civilisation. Time and again a civilisation has come up on the ruins of a past one. That will happen here too. And, yes, I call it civilisation because what we have in the form of Kolkatans today is largely a population that revels in the ability to ape the West, or for that matter any other part of the country rather than be themselves and revel in that. But soon all that will pass. May be I won't be around to see that day but come it WILL.

Anonymous said...

1. Famous Hindu mathematicians, poets, and philosophers: 

Aryabhatta (Kerala), Aryabhatta (Bihar), Bhaskara (Andhra), Brahmagupta (Gujarat), Susruta (North), Panini (Punjab), Kalidas (MP), Tansen (MP), Baiju Bawra (MP), Jayadeva (Orissa), Guru Nanak (Punjab), Buddha (Bihar), Mahavira (Bihar), Vatsyayana (Gujarat), Kabir (UP), Soordas (UP), Amir Khusrau (MP), Ramanuja (Tamil Nadu), Adi Shankara (Kerala), Mirabai (Rajasthan), Tulsidas (UP).

NOT EVEN ONE FAMOUS BENGALI! 




2. Famous Indian kings and emperors:

Ashoka (Bihar), Chandragupta Maurya (Bihar), Samudragupta (UP), Bimbisara (Bihar), Raja Raja Chola (Tamil), Akbar (Delhi), Krishna Deva Raya (Karnataka), Tipu Sultan (Andhra), Shivaji (Maharashtra), Kanishka (North India), Prithviraj Chauhan (Rajasthan), Vikramaditya (MP), Rani Lakshmiba of Jhansi (MP), Rajendra Chola (Tamil), Harsha (Haryana), Zamorin (Kerala), Ranjit Singh (Punjab).

NOT EVEN ONE PROMINENT MONARCH FROM BENGAL! 




3. Famous Indian battles: 

Kurukshetra (Haryana), Panipat (Haryana), Haldi Ghati (Rajasthan), Pataliputra (Bihar), Puru-Alexander (Punjab), Vijayanagar-Bahmani (Andhra-Karnataka), Ashoka-Kalinga (Orissa).

NOT ONE SITE IN BENGAL! 




4. Ancient Indian religious and philosophical centers:

Varanasi (UP), Tirupati (Tamil Nadu), Haridwar (Uttarakhand), Nashik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (MP), Dwarka (Gujarat), Puri (Orissa), Prayag (UP), Mathura (UP), Ayodhya (UP), Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu), Gaya (Bihar).

BUT NOT A SINGLE ANCIENT CITY FROM BENGAL!




5. Classical Dances in India: 

Bharatanatyam (Tamil), Odissi (Orissa), Kuchipudi (Andhra), Manipuri (North East), Mohiniaattam (Kerala), Sattriya (Assam), Kathakali (Kerala), Kathak (Hindi states).

BUT NOT A SINGLE CLASSICAL DANCE FROM BENGAL!




6a. Ancient UNESCO world heritage sites:

Mahabodhi (Bihar), Hampi (Karnataka), Ellora (Maharashtra), Ajanta (Maharashtra), Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu), Konarak (Orissa), Khajuraho (MP).



6b. Medieval UNESCO world heritage sites: 

Qutb Minar (Delhi), Taj Mahal (UP), Red Fort (Delhi).

6c. Majestic palaces and forts: 

Lake palace, Udaipur (Rajasthan), Amber Fort (Rajasthan), Gwalior Fort (MP), Hawa Mahal (Rajasthan), Jantar Mantar (Delhi, Rajasthan). 



6c. Ancient universities and monasteries: 

Nalanda (Bihar), Taxila (Punjab/Pak), Ratnagiri (Orissa), Sanchi Stupa (MP), Vikramashila (Bihar).

BUT NOT A SINGLE MONUMENT IN BENGAL!

Bengalis are 15-20% of the entire population of South Asia. Yet they accomplished NOTHING until the British came and gifted them with Kolkata city and modern education.

These Bengalis profited from British invasion when the rest of India was ruined.

All Kolkata monuments are British gifts: Victoria memorial, Howrah bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, Esplanade, etc. 



Tagore, Bankim Chatterjee, Jagdish Bose - all a result of sycophancy towards the British. British sycophant Tagore wrote Jana Gana Mana only to kowtow to the British overlords. The only truly "patriotic" poem he wrote was for ANOTHER country (Bangladesh). The rest of the Bengali "freedom fighters" were only motivated by the partition of Bengal. They hadn't raised a finger during 1857 when Mangal Pandey of UP had to lead the uprising in Kolkata.


Anonymous said...

1. Famous Hindu mathematicians, poets, and philosophers: 

Aryabhatta (Kerala), Aryabhatta (Bihar), Bhaskara (Andhra), Brahmagupta (Gujarat), Susruta (North), Panini (Punjab), Kalidas (MP), Tansen (MP), Baiju Bawra (MP), Jayadeva (Orissa), Guru Nanak (Punjab), Buddha (Bihar), Mahavira (Bihar), Vatsyayana (Gujarat), Kabir (UP), Soordas (UP), Amir Khusrau (MP), Ramanuja (Tamil Nadu), Adi Shankara (Kerala), Mirabai (Rajasthan), Tulsidas (UP).

NOT EVEN ONE FAMOUS BENGALI! 




2. Famous Indian kings and emperors:

Ashoka (Bihar), Chandragupta Maurya (Bihar), Samudragupta (UP), Bimbisara (Bihar), Raja Raja Chola (Tamil), Akbar (Delhi), Krishna Deva Raya (Karnataka), Tipu Sultan (Andhra), Shivaji (Maharashtra), Kanishka (North India), Prithviraj Chauhan (Rajasthan), Vikramaditya (MP), Rani Lakshmiba of Jhansi (MP), Rajendra Chola (Tamil), Harsha (Haryana), Zamorin (Kerala), Ranjit Singh (Punjab).

NOT EVEN ONE PROMINENT MONARCH FROM BENGAL! 




3. Famous Indian battles: 

Kurukshetra (Haryana), Panipat (Haryana), Haldi Ghati (Rajasthan), Pataliputra (Bihar), Puru-Alexander (Punjab), Vijayanagar-Bahmani (Andhra-Karnataka), Ashoka-Kalinga (Orissa).

NOT ONE SITE IN BENGAL! 




4. Ancient Indian religious and philosophical centers:

Varanasi (UP), Tirupati (Tamil Nadu), Haridwar (Uttarakhand), Nashik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (MP), Dwarka (Gujarat), Puri (Orissa), Prayag (UP), Mathura (UP), Ayodhya (UP), Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu), Gaya (Bihar).

BUT NOT A SINGLE ANCIENT CITY FROM BENGAL!




5. Classical Dances in India: 

Bharatanatyam (Tamil), Odissi (Orissa), Kuchipudi (Andhra), Manipuri (North East), Mohiniaattam (Kerala), Sattriya (Assam), Kathakali (Kerala), Kathak (Hindi states).

BUT NOT A SINGLE CLASSICAL DANCE FROM BENGAL!




6a. Ancient UNESCO world heritage sites:

Mahabodhi (Bihar), Hampi (Karnataka), Ellora (Maharashtra), Ajanta (Maharashtra), Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu), Konarak (Orissa), Khajuraho (MP).



6b. Medieval UNESCO world heritage sites: 

Qutb Minar (Delhi), Taj Mahal (UP), Red Fort (Delhi).

6c. Majestic palaces and forts: 

Lake palace, Udaipur (Rajasthan), Amber Fort (Rajasthan), Gwalior Fort (MP), Hawa Mahal (Rajasthan), Jantar Mantar (Delhi, Rajasthan). 



6c. Ancient universities and monasteries: 

Nalanda (Bihar), Taxila (Punjab/Pak), Ratnagiri (Orissa), Sanchi Stupa (MP), Vikramashila (Bihar).

BUT NOT A SINGLE MONUMENT IN BENGAL!

Anonymous said...

Bengalis are 15-20% of the entire population of South Asia. Yet they accomplished NOTHING until the British came and gifted them with Kolkata city and modern education.

These Bengalis profited from British invasion when the rest of India was ruined.

All Kolkata monuments are British gifts: Victoria memorial, Howrah bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, Esplanade, etc. 



Tagore, Bankim Chatterjee, Jagdish Bose - all a result of sycophancy towards the British. British sycophant Tagore wrote Jana Gana Mana only to kowtow to the British overlords. The only truly "patriotic" poem he wrote was for ANOTHER country (Bangladesh). The rest of the Bengali "freedom fighters" were only motivated by the partition of Bengal. They hadn't raised a finger during 1857 when Mangal Pandey of UP had to lead the uprising in Kolkata.


Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

Obviously, the comments here do not reflect a very high opinion about Bengalis. But, as I would have stated many times before, there isn't much point fighting over the past; what we need to talk about is the future.

Having said that, however, I must mention that the comments above are rather uninformed and reflect the prevailing bias in the Indian history. Bengal has a rich history and culture dating back many years, and 'Bengalis', if they could be called so, played their part in Indian religion [Vaishnav movement, for example, and the various religious expeditions to China] and public life.

Bengal remained outside the mainstream Indo-Gangetic Indian civilization, primarily due to geographic distance and its difficult riverine landscape. This has made Bengal quite unique in terms of religious thinking. Before the Bengalis got divided into two countries [which was dictated by the politics of Delhi rather than the politics of Bengal] and turned severely inward, Bengalis used to be one of the most mobile, most cosmopolitan of various tribes in India. I am not going as far as claiming Bengali influence on Angkor Bhat and Borbudur, but these are important parts of Indian history and influence, and the commentator here will do well to include this in his perspective.

One final point. As we know, Italy is not the most advanced nation in Europe. Rome used to be. But there is not much point in saying that England used to be a colonized nation in Roman times. Various 'nations' rise and fall at different times in history. Usually, statements like 'we used to be great' can be seen as 'we have fallen' at the same time. There is not much point in such discussion.

I am hopeful that India can emerge as a powerful, coherent nation, with a claim on the future and not get consumed by the rifts of the past. The internecine conflicts, as evidenced here, will not help. What will be needed is optimism and commitment to a shared future where every part has a part to play. Sadly, we are not yet there: I hope we will be.

Sujoy said...

Some similar tide was going in my mind and was eager to know the pulse among the genx Bengalis. Goole lead me to your blog and I would say I am happy to find some resonance. Not that I am a revolutionary but yup everytime I watch a Uttamkumar movie I get diturbed thinking why am I out of my land. The landscape, the cultural contour of those times they are just superb. I feel we HAD all those, then I try to gauge how we are now by identifying some good things about Bengalis, some living Bengali lumunaries and so on. I also got a feeling, living outside my land (not that I am outisde India but ofoucrse outside WB). I also got guilty feeling and wonder -are we waiting to see SOMEBODY FROM SOMEWHERE WILL DO SOMETHING TO IMPROVE MY LAND MAKING IT A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE ON AND THEN WE WILL QUICKLY MOVE ON TO ENJOY THE FRUIT AND THEN LIVE HAPPILY THEREAFTER!!! BLAMING AND CURSING give some mental solace but is this the mattle that we are made of...

Anonymous said...

There is no Bengali influence in Angkor Wat or Borobudur. The Dravidian influence (which is extensive) was from the Chola, and a little from the Satavahanas, but some North Indian influence crept in from Kalinga. Bengal was never a maritime power, not even under the Palas (who had their capital in Pataliputra, Bihar anyway).

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

Well, let me present history as I know it.

In 544 BC, a Bengali Prince, Bijay Singha, sailed and established a kingdom in Sri Lanka. The ancient name of Sri Lanka, Singhal, is supposed to have come from his name.

The Sri Bijaya empire of Indonesia, recorded by the Chinese sea farers as late as 135 BC, comes from his name.

This makes me think Bengalees were an ancient sea faring nation. I am not too off the mark when I say the influence of Bengal was undermined - the efforts continue to this day.

Anonymous said...

Vijay Singha may have been from Orissa, not Bengal. The tooth relic in Kandy originally was housed in Puri town. But the fact is that Sinhalese is linguistically much closer to Western Indic than Eastern. Srivijaya empire borrowed most from the Cholas. Again, of the maritime powers in Eastern India, the Cholas rank way above anyone else. Your smaller neighbor Orissa was a much bigger maritime power (as Kalinga) than you. The Satavahanas reached greater heights in maritime glory than you. Ergo of the 4 east coast states, you come last.

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

I would love to say I defer to you, but I can't, as your comments are somewhat racially motivated.

My point was never to say that Bengalis are/were great, just that they have a distinct identity and history (where they can still lay claim on a number of things including Bijay Singha, Vaishnavism and a few Indian Noble winners) and that this identity was largely undermined in India.

In fact, your comments only illustrate what I am saying - that many Indians will go any length to undermine such an identity and tradition. I may not want to launch into a full scale historical treatise on the glories of Bengal now, and leave the task to other enterprising historians of Bengal (and not necessarily Bengali historians). However, this must not restrict me from imagining the future, which I would return to again and again. I would remain a believer, that we can recreate a glorious path, whether this was or was not the way of the past. And, I would also want to remain respectful, of the intellectual inheritance and my forebearers and my community.

I hope you will get the point some day: Loving my people and my tradition do not necessarily come at the cost of undermining others.

arnab said...

I left Calcuttta 3 years ago in search of greener pastures. I hated its inefficiency.. but when i left it I felt like i was exile and my love for the city grew each day. I dont want to start with the numerous reasons that we Bengalis should be proud of our city. WE ARE JUST PROUD- of our rich language and culture, heritage, literature, sports, food and everything else ...

@bogger: Feels good to see someone with hope. Despair is a way of life for Bengalis. But we must hope of a better future, after all, Bengal has produced the maximum no. of luminaries of the country. No other state has contributed so much to the building of modern India. CHANGE WILL SURELY BE THERE AND OUR LOST GLORY WILL BE REGAINED VERY SOON..!!
Every civilisation had its ups and downs. We gotta keep our love going.
@ Bengali Haters: Keep on hating.. the times you just mentioned does not figure in the modern idea of India and its linguistic-based states. please find some new reason to HATE.

Subhabrata Ghosh Chowdhury said...

well MR. ANonymous i think u r quite racial enough to understand anything...i think u forgot Rabindranath Tagore...it seems. U also Satyajit Ray...it seems to be yet again. Excuse me anonymous ji ki..people in Kolkata likes to preserve and follow their own culture and also tries to ape the good things about the west but in north India; in Delhi u can say that it is the America in India. Stop and Think a thousand times before u say anything. Kolkata is an ethical city...u might know that very well...but i think India is the place to be and that doesn't mean ki i hate other places in India...u need to grow up and change ur pre-conceived views about a specific place and also your worldviews...It seems that u say things by looking at them superficially. Try to improve ...this is ur high time.

Anonymous said...

the fact is most bengali are coward, cheap and lazy people. They dont believe in earning anything rather just want procession. Before its was handled by british, now by rajasthani and gujratis. Before the foolish Red mob now the foolish Green Mob. I am sorry to say all these but this is the obvious fact which all knows expect you (and bengalis). But I should say to you - Mr. Supriyo Chaudhuri, you belong to the existing very few great Bengali who are really great person.

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

I am surely don't agree on labeling the Bengalis, as I wouldn't agree to any such stereotyping of any other people. I, however, think that Bengal lost its way somewhat. The reason for this, despite many years of communist rule, Bengal remains one of the most elitist state in India. You can expect to see a lower caste Chief Minister in any other state, but not in Bengal: With its huge Muslim population, one does not even see many muslims in public life in Bengal. It is all limited to Upper Caste Bhadrolok in Bengal. One would hope that degeneration and disillusionment with Bengali ways of life will bring about a change, perhaps soon, and Bengal will experience the kind of social revolution that happened in the South. That'll be the start of a new renaissance of Bengal: I remain an optimist.

rahul mukherjee said...

Geat work Supriyoda. Having been away from Kolkata for nearly 8 years now I echo the same sentiments that you do.Maybe things are not as it is supposed to be but then I still love my Kolkata as any other lame mecho bheto Bengali.
Mr. Anonymous you have annoyed me great deal with your biased reply but then I will take it up on me to reply back to you and incase you have any doubts please get back to me and I shall gleefully respond back.

Lets start with a touch of history....

The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown. According to Mahabharata, Purana, Harivamsha Vanga was one of the adopted sons of king Vali who founded the Vanga kingdom.[1] The earliest reference to "Vangala" (Bôngal) has been traced in the Nesari plates (805 AD) of Rashtrakuta Govinda III which speak of Dharmapala as the king of Vangala. Shams-ud-din Ilyas Shah took the title "Shah-e-Bangalah" and united the whole region under one government for the first time.[2]

Vanga Kingdom (also known as Banga) was a kingdom located in the eastern part of the Indian Subcontinent, comprising part of West Bengal, India and present-day modern Bangladesh.Vanga and Pundra were two dominant tribes in Bangladesh in ancient time. The Hindu epic Mahabharata mentions that the Vanga and Pundra kings took part in the battle of Kurukshetra. Kouravas and Pandavas fought this battle near Delhi about three thousand years back.

The Vanga Kingdom was a powerful seafaring nation of Ancient India. They had overseas trade relations with Java, Sumatra and Siam (modern day Thailand). According to Mahavamsa, the Vanga prince Vijaya Singha conquered Lanka (modern day Sri Lanka) in 544 BC and gave the name "Sinhala" to the country. Bengali people migrated to the Maritime Southeast Asia and Siam (in modern Thailand), establishing their own colonies there.

Though north and west Bengal were part of the Magadhan empire southern Bengal thrived and became powerful with her overseas trades. In 326 BCE, with the invasion of Alexander the Great the region again came to prominence. The Greek and Latin historians suggested that Alexander the Great withdrew from India anticipating the valiant counter attack of the mighty Gangaridai empire that was located in the Bengal region. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, was convinced that it was better to return. Diodorus Siculus mentions Gangaridai to be the most powerful empire in India whose king possessed an army of 20,000 horses, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots and 4,000 elephants trained and equipped for war. The allied forces of Gangaridai Empire and Nanda Empire (Prasii) were preparing a massive counter attack against the forces of Alexander on the banks of Ganges. Gangaridai, according to the Greek accounts, kept on flourishing at least up to the 1st century AD.

rahul mukherjee said...

Geat work Supriyoda. Having been away from Kolkata for nearly 8 years now I echo the same sentiments that you do.Maybe things are not as it is supposed to be but then I still love my Kolkata as any other lame mecho bheto Bengali.

Mr. Anonymous you have annoyed me great deal with your biased reply but then I will take it up on me to reply back to you and incase you have any doubts please get back to me and I shall gleefully respond back.

Lets start with a touch of history....

The exact origin of the word Bangla or Bengal is unknown. According to Mahabharata, Purana, Harivamsha Vanga was one of the adopted sons of king Vali who founded the Vanga kingdom.[1] The earliest reference to "Vangala" (Bôngal) has been traced in the Nesari plates (805 AD) of Rashtrakuta Govinda III which speak of Dharmapala as the king of Vangala. Shams-ud-din Ilyas Shah took the title "Shah-e-Bangalah" and united the whole region under one government for the first time.[2]

Vanga Kingdom (also known as Banga) was a kingdom located in the eastern part of the Indian Subcontinent, comprising part of West Bengal, India and present-day modern Bangladesh.Vanga and Pundra were two dominant tribes in Bangladesh in ancient time. The Hindu epic Mahabharata mentions that the Vanga and Pundra kings took part in the battle of Kurukshetra. Kouravas and Pandavas fought this battle near Delhi about three thousand years back.

The Vanga Kingdom was a powerful seafaring nation of Ancient India. They had overseas trade relations with Java, Sumatra and Siam (modern day Thailand). According to Mahavamsa, the Vanga prince Vijaya Singha conquered Lanka (modern day Sri Lanka) in 544 BC and gave the name "Sinhala" to the country. Bengali people migrated to the Maritime Southeast Asia and Siam (in modern Thailand), establishing their own colonies there.

Though north and west Bengal were part of the Magadhan empire southern Bengal thrived and became powerful with her overseas trades. In 326 BCE, with the invasion of Alexander the Great the region again came to prominence. The Greek and Latin historians suggested that Alexander the Great withdrew from India anticipating the valiant counter attack of the mighty Gangaridai empire that was located in the Bengal region. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, was convinced that it was better to return. Diodorus Siculus mentions Gangaridai to be the most powerful empire in India whose king possessed an army of 20,000 horses, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots and 4,000 elephants trained and equipped for war. The allied forces of Gangaridai Empire and Nanda Empire (Prasii) were preparing a massive counter attack against the forces of Alexander on the banks of Ganges. Gangaridai, according to the Greek accounts, kept on flourishing at least up to the 1st century AD.

rahul mukherjee said...

Other important battle: Battle of Plassey. I pardon you for your ignorance. See this is a classic example of your biased appoach but then being from the magnanimous race I forgive you.

Independence movement:

Bengal played a major role in the Indian independence movement, in which revolutionary groups such as Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar were dominant. The 'Sepoy Mutiny' in 1857 started in Barrackpore,West Bengal which spread like wildfire all over the state of India. Bengalis also played a notable role in the Indian independence movement. Many of the early proponents of the freedom struggle, and subsequent leaders in movement were Bengalis such as Chittaranjan Das, Surendranath Banerjea, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chaki, Bagha Jatin, Khudiram Bose, Surya Sen, Binoy-Badal-Dinesh, Sarojini Naidu, Aurobindo Ghosh, Rashbehari Bose and many more. Some of these leaders, such as Netaji, did not subscribe to the view that non-violent civil disobedience was the only way to achieve Indian Independence, and were instrumental in armed resistance against the British force. During the Second World War Netaji escaped to Germany from house arrest in India and there he founded the Indian Legion an army to fight against the British Government, but the turning of the war compelled him to come to South-East Asia and there he became the co-founder and leader of the Indian National Army (distinct from the army of British India) that challenged British forces in several parts of India. He was also the head of state of a parallel regime named 'The Provisional Governmeent of Free India' or Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind, that was recognized and supported by the Axis powers. Bengal was also the fostering ground for several prominent revolutionary organisations, the most notable of which was Anushilan Samiti. A large number of Bengalis were martyred in the freedom struggle and many were exiled in Cellular Jail, the much dreaded prison located in Andaman.

rahul mukherjee said...

Mr. Anonymous a few pointers for you
Famous Bengali Writers:

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) - poet, novelist, essayist, nobel laureate
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (1876-1938) - novelist
Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay (1894-1950) - novelist
Tarashankar Bandopadhyay (1898-1971) - novelist
Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (1838-1894) - novelist, essayist, penned the Indian National Song of integrity Vande Mataram
Amit Chaudhuri, currently Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia, 2002 Sahitya Akademi Award for A New World
Jhumpa Lahiri, novelist, short story writer, Pulitzer prize winner.

Musicians:

Ravi Shankar, sitar virtuoso, composer, musicologist three-time Grammy award-winner
Ali Akbar, sarod virtuoso, composer, musicologist, international master, founder of the Ali Akbar College of Music in California, USA.
Kishore Kumar, multifaceted genius of Bollywood: playback singer, songwriter, composer, actor, comedian
Sandhya Mukhopadhyay singer of multiple genres, one ofthe greatest female voclaists of Bengal and India.
Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, singer of multiple genres -- film, Rabindrasangeet, folk -- Hindi and Bengali, and composer
Abhijeet, Bollywood playback singer
Bickram Ghosh table master, composer, actor, fusion musician
Shreya Ghoshal, Bollywood playback singer
Shantanu Moitra, Bollywood Music composer
Bappi Lahiri, Bollywood Music Composer
Salil Chowdhury, Bollywood Music Composer

Film makers:

Anurag Basu, filmmaker
Aparna Sen, filmmaker
Anjan Dutta, filmmaker, actor, musician
Rituporno Ghosh, filmmaker
Satyajit Ray, director, won the Bharat Ratna in 1992, won the Academy Honorary Award in 1992 for lifetime achievement, and Légion d'honneur award of France

More to follow....

rahul mukherjee said...

Religious leaders:
Sri Aurobindo, yogi, nationalist, philosopher, author, poet, visionary
Baba Lokenath Brahmachari, Yogi and philosopher
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, vaishnava mystic, missionary, monk and social reformer
Nityananda, great sahajiya mystic, social reformer, chief associate of Chaitanya and a primary figure within the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition of Bengal
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (Gadadhar Chattopadhaya) -- mystic, preacher
Swami Vivekananda(Narendranath Datta) monk, missionary and social reformer, founder of the Ramakrishna math and Mission
Swami Abhedananda(Kaliprasad Chandra) monk, author, philosopher, occultist, reformer the founder of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Math

Social leaders:
Srikumar Banerjee, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission of India
Muhammad Abdul Bari, Head, Muslim Council of Britain
Bagha Jatin, Bengali Indian revolutionary philosopher against British rule
Manabendra Nath Roy, pioneer Bengali Indian revolutionary philosopher. Founder of Mexican Communist Party and Indian Communist Party.
Shri Aurobindo, Indian nationalist, freedom fighter, scholar, poet, mystic, evolutionary philosopher, yogi and guru
Ram Mohan Roy, founder of the Brahmo Samaj
Debendranath Tagore, active Brahmo, and was against sati, idol worship
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, responsible for introducing major reforms in the educational system and was Women's right activist
Keshub Chunder Sen, intellectual and a noted religious reformer
Surya Sen, also known as Masterda Surya Sen, was an Indian freedom fighter and was the chief architect of anti-British freedom movement in Chittagong, Bengal
Sivanath Sastri, an important intellectual
Pritilata Waddedar, Anti-British, pro-India revolutionary
Rani Rashmoni, Nineteenth century philanthropist and anti-British activist
Sarojini Naidu, (Sarojini Chattopadhyaya) Freedom fighter

Business leaders:
Sunil Kanti Roy,founder, Peerless Group
Amar Bose, founder, Bose Corporation
Rono Dutta, Former President, United Airlines
Shuman Ghosemajumder, co-founder, TeachAIDS, former click fraud czar, Google
Rajat Gupta, former Chairman, McKinsey & Company
Jawed Karim, co-founder, YouTube, lead architect of PayPal
Bhaskar Pramanik, chairman, Microsoft India
Subir Raha, former head, ONGC
Raman Roy, father of BPO industry in India, founder, Quatrro
Subroto Roy Sahara, founder and chairman, Sahara India Pariwar
Bibi Russell, founder, Bibi Productions
Dwarkanath Tagore, known for partnership with the British East India Company

UNESCO world heritage place: Sunderbans. Get a life dude, be updated else you will be falling behind.

rahul mukherjee said...

Btw Supiyoda things are looking up Wipro is committed to generate another 2500 jobs by the next year or so and revenue worth 700crores are expected.
Also the TCs IT park is waiting to get unvieled.
New pocesses are also moving into TCS office at Infospace. I have a dream we could generate and contribute to more jobs there and currently I am fighting tooth and nail to get the jobs to be created there...Hopefully we will succeed...hioto khub taratari...
Just hope we have more manufacturing industries coming up there to sustain the economy in the long run. And whenever I feel low all i sing to myself is 'Dhanodhanne pushpe bhora amader ei basundhara...' you see I am a die had Bengali. Yes we are not perfect but we can get there with a bit of patience and hard work

Anonymous said...

The "Sepoy Mutiny" (we call it the First War of Independence) did start in Bengal, because the British had their capital in Kolkata. But the Bengalis did not lift a finger. The uprising was led by a youth from Gorakhpur, UP, MANGAL PANDEY.

Bengali "freedom fighters" rose against the British after the Partition of Bengal, i.e. for PAROCHIAL reasons rather than nationalistic sentiments.

Ali Akbar Khan was NOT a Bengali. His style belongs to the MAIHAR GHARANA (originally MP). His father, Allauddin Khan started the gharana in a town called Maihar in MP. Rest assured, Hindustani classical is North Indian, NOT Bengali.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's parents were from Jajpur, Orissa who emigrated to Bengal. His surname was "Mishra" which is not Bengali, but a common Oriya brahmin surname. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's father's surname was "Madhukar Mishra".

Rajat Gupta was arrested by the FBI in connection with the Rajaratnam case. You want to be proud of him, OK go ahead.....

The Battle of Plassey/Palasi: That is the only major battle fought inside Bengal, and guess who lost? Bengal was the first Indian state to succumb to the Brits, and reaped the rewards - Kolkata was established, Victoria Memorial and Howrah bridge were built, and the Bengali intelligentsia got exposed to British education, while the rest of India was reeling under exploitation and plunder!

Sundarbans: Yes, so what? Did the Bengalis build it??

(I hope that this post is allowed, else it would not reflect too well on the blogger.)

Anonymous said...

The "Sepoy Mutiny" (we call it the First War of Independence) did start in Bengal, because the British had their capital in Kolkata. But the Bengalis did not lift a finger. The uprising was led by a youth from Gorakhpur, UP, MANGAL PANDEY.

Bengali "freedom fighters" rose against the British after the Partition of Bengal, i.e. for PAROCHIAL reasons rather than nationalistic sentiments.

Ali Akbar Khan was NOT a Bengali. His style belongs to the MAIHAR GHARANA (originally MP). His father, Allauddin Khan started the gharana in a town called Maihar in MP. Rest assured, Hindustani classical is North Indian, NOT Bengali.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's parents were from Jajpur, Orissa who emigrated to Bengal. His surname was "Mishra" which is not Bengali, but a common Oriya brahmin surname. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's father's surname was "Madhukar Mishra".

Rajat Gupta was arrested by the FBI in connection with the Rajaratnam case. You want to be proud of him, OK go ahead.....

The Battle of Plassey/Palasi: That is the only major battle fought inside Bengal, and guess who lost? Bengal was the first Indian state to succumb to the Brits, and reaped the rewards - Kolkata was established, Victoria Memorial and Howrah bridge were built, and the Bengali intelligentsia got exposed to British education, while the rest of India was reeling under exploitation and plunder!

Sundarbans: Yes, so what? Did the Bengalis build it??

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

I would usually exclude bigoted comments, and judging by any standard, the last comment can be considered bigoted. It is indeed out of context, too. However, this goes on to show that the Indian union, a political effort, has not achieved much: It has become subverted to a Hindi nationalism, a perverse way of belittling and suppressing other cultures and people.

The political ideal of India is worth its sacrifices, though. It is an inclusive ideal that the world seems to need. However, that ideal can only be preserved with civil conversations and exclusion of bigotry of the kind displayed here.

Anonymous said...

"However, this goes on to show that the Indian union, a political effort, has not achieved much: "

How true. And efforts like naming a pan-Indian express train with a regional name underscores the futility of this effort.

Imagine calling a train running between Chennai and Coimbatore or between Mumbai and Ahmedabad as the "Duronto Express"!

MADmusic&movielover said...

Well,Mr.Anonymous-time for some reality check.

First,long before your Sepoy Mutiny,there was rebellion by the Sanyasis of bengal-which is infact the first protest of any kind against the british in india.Also,I don't think you have heard of Titumir-A bengali who led an armed rebellion against the British back in 1831-a whole 26 years before your Mangal Pandey.



Now,Ali Akbar Khan is a bengali unlike what you think.His father Allaudin khan was a bengali muslim from Shibpur,Comilla whose ancestors had converted from Hinduism to islam just two generations ago.[His family were originally poor bengali hindus who converted to islam just two generations before Allaudin].Now,this poor bengali muslim would later establish The famed Maihar Gharana In MP.Ali akbar khan himself was born in Sylhet in BENGAL.So,next time please don't forget to get your facts right when you are trying to justify your foolish hatred towards the bengalis.

Oh now the battles.Yup,Battle of Plassey is one of the most famous battles fought in indian history which Bengal lost to British [Foreigners].Well,what about the other great battles that you mentioned-1] Panipat-Three battles fought there and each time the native indians lost to foreigners.The winners-Babur,Akbar and Ahmad Shah Abdali all were foreigners.[iT'S A FACT EVEN IF YOU THINK OTHERWISE]
2]Haldighati-Again our brave native Rana Pratap lost to the Foreigner Akbar.
3]Battle between Alexander and Puru at the banks of Jhelum.Well,again our native Puru lost to the greek foreigner Alexander.
4]Battle Of Kalinga-Again the natives i.e the people of kalinga lost to Ashoka.In fact they were massacred.
So you see,in each and every battle ,the natives lost and the foreigners/aggressors won.So what bengal did was only carry forward our indian legacy of losing major battles.

Yes,we might have have succumbed to the british first,but then why the other so called great indian communities also succumbed to the British later on.These other Indian Communities which in your opinion, are far better than the bongs,why did they fail too.If they are so great,then they should have succeeded where the bongs failed.But sorry,My dear,they were also useless like us.

You say that while bengal came under the british rule in 1757 first and benefited from it,the rest of india which although free from the british at that time,was hugely exploited and plundered.Plundered by whom? They were independent from the british at that time and were ruled by their own kingdoms.Were the kings of so called great indian communities so bad that they plundered their own people and states.

Continued in part two...

MADmusic&movielover said...

Part two-


Please,cut the crap.The British brought education to whole of india and not just bengal.By the way,British not just founded Kolkata but also Chennai.In fact,22nd august is celebrated in whole of tamil naldu as Madras day coz it was on this day in 1639 that british founded the modern city of Madras,now Chennai.The modern city of Mumbai too was built by the Portuguese first and later on by the british.It was also the british who shifted the capital to delhi and founded the modern city of New Delhi.If British gave Howrah Bridge to Kolkata,then it also Gave Gateway of India to Mumbai and India Gate to New Delhi.So,please cut this crap that only Kolkata and Bengalis benefited from the British rule.Whole India including the major cities of New Delhi,Mumbai and Chennai benefited from the British rule.

Another point-The bengali revolutionaries did not fight against the British because of the Bengal partition in 1905 as is evident from the protests by the Sanyasis and Titumir.The very fact that you can think of something like this [Bongs fighting for Bengal Partition and not for the country] shows how little and skewed sense of history you have.Of course,it is expected from a person who is so poor in history that he mentions Tipu Sultan as king of Andhra Pradesh & Samudragupta as king of Uttar Pradesh when in reality they were kings of Mysore [Karnataka] and Magadha[Bihar] respectively.Also what more can one expect from a person who has such poor sense of geography that he states Tirupati to be in Tamil Nadu when it is actually located in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.Here,i have only pointed to three of your mistakes,which isn't even half of all the wrong information that you gave to justify your statements,which by the way lacked all logic,sense and reason.

It is well known that the British wanted to partition Bengal because it was the hotbed of Indian Nationalism back then under the pretext of administrative difficulties.People like Bal Gangadhar Tilak,Jawaharlal Nehru,Subramania Bharati-truly great and unbiased people unlike you-saw through this game of the british and widely protested against the partition of Bengal since they know that the partition of Bengal would have been a great blow to indian nationalism as Bengal was the center of indian Independence struggle at that time.Even the British themselves acknowledged that they wanted to partition Bengal in 1905 because it was the focal point of indian freedom struggle back then.

Of course,your heart having lost all semblance of sense and reason,won't accept any of this truth.But that won't change the truth,my dear.

Continued in part-3.....

MADmusic&movielover said...

PART-3

Of course you know more than the historians,government of India,the world and great men like Subramania Bharati,G.K.Gokhale,Nehruji,Mahatma Gandhi,B.G.Tilak etc.Don't you? But sadly my dear friend only you think so and no one else does.

Great men Like Subramania Bharati,G.K.Gokhale,B.G.Tilak,Mahatma Gandhi etc have praised and hailed bengal and bengalis in the past.It doesn't matter what you say about our past,present and future.Your Hated opinion just doesn't count.It is the opinion of such truly great luminaries,whom i have mentioned,which counts and matters.And these luminaries have praised us-which is enough.You along with your opinion just don't matter.


You know you belong to that sort of people who because of reasons only known to themselves,start to hate or criticize a community without rhyme or reason.Of course such a person thinks that his reasons are justified and also thinks that everybody around him thinks the same way,something,which sadly does not happen.It's something like this-a mad person thinks that only he is sane and all others around him are mad.But then that is not reality.But poor mad guy/girl never realises that.

MR OR MS OR MRS.ANONYMOUS,whoever you are,you have been blinded by hatred to such an extent that you have lost all sense of rhyme and reason.Stating wrong facts and writing pieces of fictional history seem to be your forte.

No sane person in this world would appreciate a person who hates or criticises a particular community,race,nationality or followers of a particular religion for reasons known only to him/her.In fact every decently good person would despise such a guy/gal.And i am sorry to say that you belong to that group of despised/hated people,for whom i and most of us have nothing but pity.

Of course,you like that poor mad guy,will continue to blabber and think that what you say is right.You will continue to justify your unwanted and stupid arguments,which while making no sense,would only help in highlighting your sick and evil soul to the whole world.But,my dear,you will find no support other than from very few similar people with sick,demented and hated minds and hearts.And this small group of fools will continue to indulge in their stupid talk,bereft of any logic just like the Nazis and Hitler.

And Supriyoda,I would like you to ban this Anonymous from making any further comments coz i am in severe doubt whether this guy will stop or will continue to make ridiculous statements,even though i have tried to cure this person through my thoroughly logical statement.It would be a miracle if he/she stops from making any further comments!And above all,we (you and me) can't afford to encourage such a Hitler like person like this guy/gal.He/she is an anonymous and please let him/her remain so.

Santanu said...

Anonymous ke kan dhore bar kore deoa hok.I dont like the idea when some people discuss something good and anonymous comes and posts crap.

Last but not the least.Hope he has already understood that amar thik ohingso noi..palta dieto jani..

Supriyo Da..chalie jao..Bangla akdin Sonar Bangla hobei

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