Bengali Literature


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Bengali Literature

 

literature of the Bengali nationality in India and Pakistan. The earliest literary monument in the Bengali language is generally considered to be the Carya, a collection of hymns, ritualistic in content, which were compiled in the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries. The flowering of lyrics in the 16th and 17th centuries was linked to the bhakti movement. In medieval Bengali literature, narrative poems (mangalkavya) were very important; these were dedicated to the “preservative” or “active” gods, such as Manasa (goddess of serpents) and Candi (protectress of animals). The majority of mangalkavya were recorded in writing in the 17th and 18th centuries, but they had been created earlier. Their authors were Vijay Gupta (15th century) and Dvij Madhavacarya (16th century). The Poem in Praise of Candi by Mukundaram Chokrobortti (also known as Kabikonkon or Kabikankan) is outstanding.

The Muslim poets Daulat Kaji (17th century) and Saiya Alaol (17th century) were the first to turn toward secular themes and to synthesize Hindu and Muslim culture in Bengal. Composed primarily at the courts of feudal aristocrats, Bengali poetry lost its popular character toward the beginning of the 18th century. There was a renaissance of Sanskrit poetics, a “decorative” style was cultivated, and the erotic element predominated; these factors are exemplified in the works of Bharatcandra Ray (1707–60) and the poet-songwriter Ramprasad Sen (1720–75). However, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries religious-mythological subject matter gave way to philosophical poetry. The religious reformer, philosopher, and writer Ram Mohun Roy (1774–1833); the publicist Aksay Kumar Datta (1820–86); and the writers Isvarcandra Gupta (1811–59) and Isvar-candra Bidyasagar (1820–91) were the pioneers of Bengali prose. The role they played as enlighteners promoted the creation of a modern Bengali national literature. The novel, the novella, the drama, the heroic poem, the ballad, and the sonnet arose. Historical-patriotic and social problems were integral to the novels of Pyaricad Mitra (1814–83), Bankim-candra Cattopadhyay (1838–94), and Ramascandra Datta (1848–1909); the dramas of Ramnarayan Tarkaratna (1822–86), Dinabandhu Mitra (1829–74), and Madhusudan Datta (1824–73); and the poetry of the romantics Rangalal Bandyopadhyay (1827–87), Hemcandra Bandyopadhyay (1838–1903), and Nabincandra Sen (1847–1909). The most outstanding representative of Bengali literature in the 19th and 20th centuries was Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), who influenced the writers of all of India. The writers Sarat-candra Cattopadhyay (1876–1938) and Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay (1896–1950) joined Tagore’s realistic school.

Since 1947 (the partition and independence of India) Bengali literature has been developing in the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, and Orissa and in East Pakistan. The most important genres are the one-act play, the short story, and civic and romantic lyrics. The basic themes of the period from the 1940’s to the 1960’s—social problems, the struggle for a new India, and others—are expressed in the works of the contemporary prose writers Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay (1908–56), and Narayan Bandyopadhyay (born 1918); and the poets Nazrul Islam (born 1899), Joshim Uddin (born 1902), Bimolcandra Ghos (born 1908), and others.

REFERENCES

Novikova, V. A. Ocherki istorii bengal’skoi literatury 10–18 νν. Leningrad, 1965.
Ray, N. Bengal’skaia poeziia X1X-XX vv. Moscow, 1963.
Tovstykh, I. Bengal’skaia literatura. Moscow, 1965.
Sen, Sukumar. Bangala sahityer itihasa, vols. 1–4. Calcutta, 1948–58.
Haq, Muhammad Enamul. Muslim Bangala sahitya. Dacca 1965.
Sen, Sukumar. History of Bengali Literature. New Delhi, 1960.

V. A. NOVIKOVA

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