Bangladesh History


Figure 1.--Here a Mukti Bahini (Bengali Indeoendence) soldier in 1971 stomps a boy who attempted to aid an execution victim in Dacca. The wire service caotion read,"Death in Dacca: A Mukti Bahini soldier stomps a dying boy who ran towards one of the execution victims in Dacca, East Pakistan, December 18." This is one of five photos which Indian authorities refused to tranhsmit Sunday from Calcutta. Source: Dacca Wire Photo

Bangledash is a modern creation, but Bengal has a long history. The area which is now modern Bangladesh has a rich and cultural history. Many varied peoples and cultures have played aole in the area's history. Thesec have included the Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Mongol-Mughul, Arab, Persian, Turkic, and European cultures. Bengal was included in a succession of Indian empires. During this era there was struggle for religious dominance between Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam reached northern India (late-12th century). Mohammed Bakhtiar Khalzhi from Turkistan captured Bengal with only 20 men (1199). Northeastern India was was probably the wealthiest part of the subcontinent up till the 16th century. The area was ruled by Mughal viceroys. During the Nughal era, the arts flourished and overland trade expanded. The Portuguese reached India (15th century). This opened Bengal to maritime trade. This would slowky undermine Mughal power. Europeans began to establish trading posts. The Bengals ousted the Portuguese (1633). The British East India Company negotiated the right to build a fortified trading post in Calcutta (1690). As Mughal power wained, provincial autonomy increased. A virtually independent dynasty of the Nengal nawabs roise to power. One of those nawabs attacked the British enclave in Calcutta and cramed the British he was able to seize in an airless underground cellar--the Black Hole of Calcutta. The British retook Calcutta a year later and the British Government replaced the East India Company following the Indian Mutiny (1857). East India Company clerk Robert Clive found himself effectively ruling Bengal. Today it is one of the poorest countries in the world. When Briritain gave India its independence. Bengal became East Pakistan in political union with West Pakistan. Gradually Bengali nationalism exerted itself, especialy when politically dominant West Pakistan attemoted to make Urdu the national language. The Pakistani Army attemoted to reverse an election won by Bengali nationalists. A horific 11-day war ensued in which the Indian Army intervened. The result was an independent Bangladesh (1971).

Pre-history

Archeologists have found evidence of pre-historic human habitation and culture in many parts of the Bengal basin. The first human migration out of Africa est to Australia must have passed along thge Bengali coast. must have occurred along the coast. This was followed by subsequent migrations. The most important pre-history site is the Lalmai hills and the higher areas of Sylhet, Habiganj, and Chittagong and Madhupur

Early History

The Hindu epic Mahabharata mentions that the Vanga and Pundra kings fought the battle of Kurukshetra. near Delhi (about 1,000 BC).

Budhist Empires (4th century BC-11th century AD)

The area of modern Bangladesh was included in a succession of Indian empires. During this era there was struggle for religious dominance between Hinduism and Buddhism. Buddhism played a major role in the history of Bengal. Bodhgaya in modern India is close to Bengal and it is here the Buddha reached enlightenment. And Bengal played a major role in the development of Buddhism, especually mystical Tantric Buddhism. The Buddhist emperor Ashoka (304Ė232 BC) was one of the great Indian leaders. By the time of his rein, Buddhism was firmly entrenched among the Bengali people. Sasanaka, a notable Buddhist king, founded the Gauda Empire in Bengal. The Gauda Empire was conuered by the great warrior king Sri Harsa. He ruled Bengal until the 8th century. Gopala, a Kshatriya tribal chief from Varendra, founded another Buddhist dynasty--the Pala (8th to 11th centuries). He was followed by his son Dharmapala who built the gigantic Somapura Vihara in Varendra, now called Paharpur.

Hindu Senas (12th century)

Hindu kings sent senas (armies) into Bengal (12th century). After conquering Bengal, the senas saw Budhism as a threat and set out to supress it. Buddhists survived mostly in the Chittagong area. The Hindus senas did not hold Bengal long. They werec soon overcome by Islamic invaders from the north. . Bengal proved to be was the the last stronghold of Buddhism in an increasingly Hindu and Muslim dominated subcontinent.

Islam and the Mugal Empire (13th-19th centuries)

Islam reached northern India (late-12th century). Bengal was the first area of India to fall under Islamic control. Th Muslim invaders were influenced by Sufi misticism. Mohammed Bakhtiar Khalzhi from Turkistan captured Bengal with only 20 men (1199). Islam rapidly supplanted Hindu and Buddhist dynasties. Islam has since played a central role in the region's history and politics. Northeastern India was was probably the wealthiest part of the subcontinent up till the 16th century. The Mughul Empire conquered Bengal (16th century). The Mugals ruled through viceroys. During the Mughal era, the arts flourished and overland trade expanded.

Europeans (16th-18th centuries)

The Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope (late-15th century). The Indian Ocean until this time wasan Arab lake. This opened European mnaritimne trade with Asia, including Bengal. The Europeanswoulkd gradualy uundermine Mugal power. The Portuguese traders brough with them missionries establishing trading posts. The Bengals ousted the Portuguese (1633). The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch, the French, and the British East India Companies. The British East India Company negotiated the right to build a fortified trading post in Calcutta (1690). The British and French vied for control of India. The British defeated the French during the karger Seven Years War (1757). The British gradually extended their commercial interests and administrative control beyond Calcutta into the remainder of Bengal and northwestern India up to the Ganges River valley.

Nawabs of Bengal (18th-19th centuries)

As Mughal power declined, provinces were anle gto etablish incresing degrees of autonomy. This led to the rise of the independent dynasty of the nawabs.

British Raj (19th-20th centuries)

One of the nawabs attacked the British enclave in Calcutta in what came to be called the Indian or Seapoy Mutiny (1857). They cramed the British captives n an airless underground cellar--the Black Hole of Calcutta. The British retook Calcutta a year later. The British Government took over the administration of India from the East India Company (1859). East India Company clerk Robert Clive found himself effectively ruling Bengal. The British moved to expand cointrol from Bengal in the east to the Indus River in the west and created the Raj. Bengal had been one of the wealthiest areas of India, but by the 19th century had become one of the poorest.

Independence: East Pakistan (1947-71)

When Britain gave India its independence. Bengal became East Pakistan in political union with West Pakistan. Gradually Bengali nationalism exerted itself, especialy when politically dominant West Pakistan attemoted to make Urdu the national language. The Pakistani Army attemoted to reverse an election won by Bengali nationalists. A horific 11-day war ensued in which the Indian Army intervened. The result was an independent Bangladesh (1971).








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Created: 3:15 AM 4/1/2012
Last updated: 3:15 AM 4/1/2012