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Bengali Individuals: Tradition, Dialects, and Extra



The Bengalis are one of many largest ethnic teams in South Asia and in addition on the planet. So who’re the Bengali individuals and the place are they from? Let me stroll you thru somewhat bit about this fascinating group of individuals and their cultures.

The place Are the Bengalis?

The nation with the most important variety of Bengalis is Bangladesh. So are all Bangladeshis Bengali, and are all Bengalis Bangladeshi? Not fairly!

The Bengalis originated from the Bengal area of South Asia. For a big a part of historical past, this was one unified area. Nonetheless, after Britain’s partition of India in 1947, Bengal grew to become divided into two elements: West Bengal in India and East Bengal in Pakistan. After a number of tumultuous a long time, East Bengal gained independence and have become Bangladesh in 1971.

Why was Bengal divided like this? Britain determined to separate the 2 primarily based on non secular traces: Muslim Pakistan (together with modern-day Bangladesh) and Hindu India. Nonetheless, this methodology prompted one of many largest human migrations in historical past. Widespread violence additionally prompted one of many largest refugee crises in historical past.

Demographics in Bangladesh

At present, Bangladesh is residence to about 165 million individuals.

Bengalis are estimated to make up 98% of the inhabitants, however that is contested by ethnic minorities. There are at the very least 50 non-Bengali ethnic teams in Bangladesh! Whereas the 2022 census counted solely about 1,650,000 individuals from ethnic communities, indigenous rights activists say that this quantity needs to be at the very least double – a whopping 3 million or extra non-Bengalis!

Bangladesh can also be internet hosting about 1 million Rohingya refugees, making it one of many international locations with the most important numbers of refugees on the planet. Due to this fact, not all Bangladeshis are Bengalis, however there definitely are plenty of them!

I lived in Chittagong, the second-largest metropolis and near many indigenous communities, for nearly two years. Throughout that point, I met plenty of Bangladeshis from non-Bengali heritage, resembling Chakma, Marma, Tripuri, Garo, and Rohingya. Lots of them share histories and cultures related to ethnic teams in neighboring international locations, resembling Myanmar and India.

A typical trait of Bengalis in Bangladesh is their faith. About 91% of the inhabitants of Bangladesh is Muslim. About 8% are Hindu, and the remainder are largely Buddhist or Christian.

Demographics in West Bengal (India)

As of 2011 (the final census), the inhabitants of West Bengal was over 91 million. Nonetheless, that is believed to be over 100 million these days. This large inhabitants makes West Bengal probably the most populous states in India.

Though it’s residence to a Bengali majority, home migration has introduced giant numbers of non-Bengalis to many elements of West Bengal. There’s additionally important worldwide migration to West Bengal. For instance, you will discover India’s solely Chinatown in Kolkata, the state’s capital!

The identical census discovered that solely about 86% of individuals in West Bengal converse Bengali, the language of the Bengal area. The truth is, West Bengal is residence to 12 completely different official languages! About 5% of individuals statewide converse Hindi, however this was recorded as excessive as 22% in Kolkata.

Different West Bengali residents converse the minority language Santali, Urdu, Nepali, or one other language.

About 70% of West Bengal residents are Hindu, which is considerably decrease than the residents of Bangladesh. Regardless of the historic partition of India, roughly 27% of individuals in West Bengal are Muslim. Lower than 1% are Christian, Buddhist, or different religions.

Bengalis Exterior of Bengal

The Bengal area just isn’t the one residence to the Bengalis. Whereas it’s tough to search out combination numbers for all the Bengali diaspora, there are an estimated 13 million individuals from Bangladesh alone dwelling overseas.

There are well-established Bengali communities all through the Center East, Pakistan, the UK, america, Malaysia, Singapore, and plenty of different international locations.

What’s Bengali Tradition Like?

Regardless of belonging to 2 completely different international locations, there are some elements of Bengali tradition that carry all of them collectively.

Bengali Festivals and Holidays

Most holidays Bengalis have a good time are related to their faith.

Holidays are one such facet of tradition. Bengalis all over the place will have a good time Pohela Boishakh (পহেলা বৈশাখ), often known as the Bengali new 12 months. Pohela Boishakh marks the arrival of summer season in April–typically the most popular month in Bengal.

Bengalis will have a good time with music and dancing, vibrant conventional clothes, and parades. In case you meet a Bengali throughout this time, don’t overlook to want them শুভ নববর্ষ (shubho noboborsho, “Glad new 12 months”)!

One other main Bengali vacation is Pohela Falgun (পহেলা ফাল্গুন), which marks the start of spring on the Bengali calendar. Pohela Falgun is well known in mid-February, coinciding with Valentine’s Day. Dhaka College college students popularized this pageant within the Nineteen Nineties, and in the present day it’s extremely well-liked with the youthful generations, particularly in Bangladesh.

Bengalis will gown up in yellow, orange, and purple clothes to have a good time the approaching of spring.

Bengali Clothes

Clothes is one other a part of tradition that Bengalis share.

Ladies will typically put on saris (or শাড়ি shari in Bengali), lengthy items of cloth that they are going to wrap round their our bodies, pleat on the waist, and drape over the shoulder.

Younger ladies and ladies particularly put on salwar kameez (salwar kamij, সালোয়ার-কামিজ), which is a well-liked outfit in lots of different elements of South Asia and the Center East. This consists of an extended shirt (kamij), free trousers (salwar), and often an extended scarf known as an orna (ওড়না) in Bengali.

Bengali males will typically put on a modified model of a kameez known as a kurta (কুর্তা). Ladies additionally put on kurta. The male salwar kameez is often referred to a Punjabi swimsuit within the Bengali area.

As a result of sizzling local weather, working-class males will typically put on a lungi (লুঙ্গি), a loose-fitting sarong tied on the waist. Males from all courses may put on this when lounging at residence.

Though in lots of different international locations, sarongs are ladies’s apparel, in Bengal they’re strictly just for males. I purchased a pair to put on at residence as a result of they’re so snug and entertained multiple Bangladeshi once I went out briefly to the nook retailer with out altering.

What a sight it will need to have been to see a overseas lady sporting males’s clothes!

As talked about, Bengalis of any nationality and faith could select to put on these conventional outfits. Nonetheless, Muslim Bengalis typically put on Islamic clothes shared by different Muslim communities world wide.

Nonetheless, there isn’t a prescribed clothes for Muslim Bengalis–some put on burkas, some put on hijabs, some put on ornas, and a few don’t put on any in any respect.

Bengali Meals

Bengali delicacies has centuries of historical past.

As a result of wealthy community of waterways and shoreline, fish is the core protein of a Bengali weight loss program. The staple can also be rice, which is long-grained, white, and boiled.

Since beef is prohibited in Hindu diets and pork is prohibited in Muslim diets, rooster and vegetarian dishes are additionally well-liked. Bengali individuals eat with their proper hand.

Dishes are sometimes flavored with mustard oil, ghee, yogurt, onions, cardamom, floor coriander, turmeric, ginger, chili, and different spices.

Widespread predominant programs embrace fried fish, curries, biriyani (বিরিয়ানি, spiced rice introduced from Persian/Arabic affect), khichuri (খিচুড়ি, rice boiled with greens, spices, and lentils), and bhorta (ভর্তা, mashed fish or greens).

Tea (চা, cha) can also be integral to Bengali tradition. You could find a tea stand on almost any city nook. It’s typically ready black with sugar, ginger, or condensed milk. At residence, individuals will typically use recent milk and generally different spices, resembling cardamom.

Individuals will typically collect at these tea stalls for আড্ডা (adda), a Bengali phrase which means “socializing over tea and snacks.”

What Do Bengalis Communicate?

Bengalis in India and Bangladesh converse Bengali (often known as “Bangla”), one of many most spoken languages on the planet.

Nonetheless, you’ll discover some dialectal variations between Bengali as spoken in Bangladesh in comparison with India!

Whereas there are greater than two dialects, I’ll deal with the 2 mostly encountered dialects: East Bengali (widespread in most of Bangladesh) and West Bengali (as spoken in Kolkata).

Vocabulary Variations in Bengali

Many vocabulary variations between Bengali dialects stem from faith, whereas others are simply geographical.

For instance, languages resembling Arabic and Urdu influenced Bengali spoken by Muslims. Due to this fact, vocabulary from different Islamic areas is especially outstanding in Bangladesh.

Widespread vocabulary variations embrace:

  • “water” – পানি (pani) in Bangladesh, জল (jol) in West Bengal
  • “salt” – লবণ / (lobon) in Bangladesh, নুন (nun) in West Bengal
  • “bathing” – গোসল (goshol) in Bangladesh, স্নান (snan) in West Bengal
  • “twenty” – বিশ (bish) in Bangladesh, কুড়ি (kuri) in India
  • “collectively,” সাথে (shathe) in Bangladesh, সঙ্গে (shonge) in West Bengal (though you’ll most likely hear each!)

Enjoyable truth: Kolkata Bengali nasalizes phrases greater than Bangladeshi Bengali does. Due to this fact, whereas you’ll most likely be taught phrases resembling এঁর (er, “his/hers” honorific) in a typical Bengali class, Bangladeshis will now typically say এনার (enar) as a substitute.

Household Members in Bengali

Variations in vocabulary are notably huge for members of the family. For instance, Bangladeshis will typically name their father “আব্বা (abba)” and mom “আম্মা (amma)”, whereas Indians will name their father “বাবা (baba)” and mom “মা (ma).”

This may get sophisticated as a result of there are sometimes completely different phrases for members of the family relying on whether or not they’re paternal or maternal or an older or youthful sibling. For instance, দাদা (dada) refers to a paternal grandfather in Bangladesh, however an older brother in India!

Right here is my suggestion: As a substitute of studying each phrases for every member of the family (and there are about 50 in every dialect!), deal with only one dialect. First be taught simply the members of the family you’ll discuss continuously, after which broaden from there.

Variations in Grammar

Bangladeshi Bengali Grammar Traits

Bangladeshi Bengali is usually thought of to be extra colloquial and informal in comparison with the Kolkata dialect. That is notably mirrored in distinctive traits of Bangladeshi grammar.

Bangladeshis typically change grammatical ছ (chh) sounds to a (s) sound in grammatical conjugations used for the current steady and current good. Nonetheless, this is probably not mirrored in how the phrase is written.

For instance, খেয়েছি (kheechhi, “I’ve eaten”) is usually colloquially pronounced as kheesi, and গিয়েছি (giecchi, “I’ve gone”) typically turns into giesi.

These identical constructions are sometimes shortened to খাইছি (khaisi) and গেছি (gesi), and the like. Bangladeshis generally change e sounds to ai sounds, which is mirrored within the instance I simply talked about.

Equally, Bangladeshi Bengali typically combines the infinitive তে (te) conjugation with chh / s to specific the current steady tense.

For instance, commonplace Bengali খাচ্ছি (khachhi, “I’m consuming”) is expressed as খাইতেছি (khaitechhi / khaitesi), and যাচ্ছি (jachhi / “I’m going”) is expressed as যাইতেছি (jaitechhi / jaitesi).

There’s a tendency to make use of টা in Bangladesh the place India makes use of one other kind. You’ll hear টি (ti) extra typically in India than Bangladesh used because the definitive article.

Bangladeshis additionally rely “two” objects as দুটা (duta), whereas Indians would say দুটো (duto).

Indian Bengali Grammar Traits

The Kolkata dialect could be very near written Bengali. This makes it well-liked for standardized Bengali programs, so there are fewer dialectal variations to notice right here.

For instance, the honorific current crucial tense um (করুন / korun, বলুন / bolun, and so on.) is taught in each Bengali textbook I personal.

Whereas that is widespread in commonplace or Indian Bengali, it’s hardly ever utilized in spoken Bangladeshi Bengali. (Bangladeshis will extra typically use the honorific future crucial tense even for the current tense as a substitute.)

Probably the most attribute variations of Kolkata Bengali is its use of লুম (lum) as a substitute of লম (lam) for the first-person easy previous tense, and তুম (tum) as a substitute of তাম (tam) for first-person routine previous tense.

Who Are Some Well-known Bengalis?

Are you acquainted with any well-known Bengalis? You might know greater than you suppose! Try our checklist of a few of the most notable Bengalis under.

Well-known Bengalis within the Arts

  • Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941): A Bengali artist often called the “Bard of Bengal” and who’s credited with modernizing Bengali literature. He was the primary non-European and first lyricist to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. His compositions are used within the Indian and Bangladeshi nationwide anthems and influenced Sri Lanka’s.
  • Begum Rokeya (1880 – 1932): A outstanding author and feminist activist. She is called a pioneer of ladies’s liberation in South Asia. She helped hundreds of thousands of women turn into educated and is well known each December 9 in Bangladesh.
  • Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899 – 1976): Typically thought of one of many biggest Bengali poets and the nationwide poet of Bangladesh. He was influential within the Indian and subsequent Bangladeshi independence actions.
  • Satyajit Ray (1921 – 1992): Typically thought of one of many biggest filmmakers and credited with serving to carry the Golden Age of Bengali cinema.

Well-known Bengalis in Science

  • Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858 – 1937): A scientist who made important contributions notably to plant and radio sciences. He’s additionally thought of the daddy of Bengali science fiction.
  • Khan Bahadur Qazi Azizul Haque (1872 – 1935): An inventor who helped create the mathematical foundation for forensic fingerprint classification.
  • Abdus Suttar Khan (1941 – 2008): A scientist who invented over 40 alloys for area shuttles, jet and practice engines, and industrial fuel generators.

Well-known Bengalis in Politics and Economics

  • Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq (1873 – 1962): The primary prime minister and democratically elected chief of an undivided Bengal below British rule. He was celebrated for his ideas and insurance policies serving to the poor.
  • Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920 – 1975): The Founding Father of Bangladesh. He was the chief of the Bangladeshi independence motion and served because the nation’s first president and later prime minister.
  • Muhammad Yunus (1940 ~ ): An entrepreneur, banker, and civil society activist who pioneered microfinance. He began Grameen Financial institution, a monetary group to make small loans accessible to the poor. He gained the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
  • Sheikh Hasina (1947 ~): Bangladesh’s present and longest-serving prime minister. She can also be the longest-serving elected feminine chief on the planet. She is Bangladesh’s second feminine prime minister, after Khaleda Zia.

Hold Exploring!

Bengali tradition is so wealthy and various, that it’s inconceivable to cowl all of it in only one article. Whether or not you have an interest in language, meals, films, trend, historical past, or one thing else, you’ll definitely be fascinated by the Bengali individuals’s variations!

Stick round to be taught extra about Bengali and the way to be taught the language with these articles:

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