History of Bengali Literature by Sukumar Sen


History of Bengali Literature by Sukumar Sen.

The name of book is History of Bengali Literature,
Authors name is Sukumar Sen,
Language in English,
Book pages are 452,
Book Size is 17 MB.

History of Bengali Literature written by Sukumar Sen.

The ‘History of Bengali Literature‘ a golden bengali book has written by Dr. Sukumar Sen and foreword by Jawaharlal Nehru. This book has Published by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi and funded by Duke University Library.

The author Sukumar Sen intended to give a brief description of the literary activities in Bengali from the presence of that speech in the following languages. However, he has tried to give a complete survey. When the poet Rabindranath Tagore died and World War II was knocking on our door, our terminus ad quem is 1941. The introductory chapters sketch the linguistic and literary attachments of the New Indo-Aryan discourse (of which one is Bengali) and outline the origin and development of the Bengali script as well as the Bengali language. This move was always purposeful and the author Sukumar Sen never forgot while writing the book that it was meant for the general reader who probably knows no Bengali. The author expressed his deep gratitude to Shri Jawaharlal Nehru ji, President of Sahitya Akademi for the writings of his predecessor.

The Sukumar Sen write that the Bengali belongs to the easternmost branch, called Aryan or Indo-Iranian, of the Indo-European family of languages. Its direct ancestor is a form of Prakrit or Middle Indo-Aryan which had descended from Sanskrit or Old Indo-Aryan. Sanskrit was the spoken as well as the literary language of Aryandom until circa 500 b.c., after which it remained for nearly two thousand years the dominant literary language as well as the lingua franca among the cultured and the erudite throughout the subcontinent. Sanskrit has always been a potent influence in the evolution of Indo-Aryan through all its stages of linguistic and literary history.

By the fifth century b.c. Indo-Aryan (i.e. Sanskrit as spoken by the masses) had developed dialectal characteristics, and by 250 b.c. its structure had completed certain definite changes. The structural change was such that the language now presented a phase that was different from Old Indo- Aryan, although there was as yet no question of mutual un-intelligibility. This new phase of Indo-Aryan is called Middle Indo-Aryan, or in a broad sense Prakrit.

Bengali at the present day has two literary styles. One is called ‘Sadhubhasa’ (elegant language) and the other Calitbhasa (current language). The former is the traditional literary style based on Middle Bengali of the sixteenth century. The latter is practically a creation of the present century, and is based on the cultivated form of the dialect (the standard colloquial) spoken in Calcutta by the educated people originally coming from districts bordering on the lower reaches of the Hooghly. The difference between the two literary styles is not very sharp. The vocabulary is practically the same. The difference lies mainly in the forms of the pronoun and the verb. The Sadhubhasa has the old and heavier forms while the Calitbhasa uses the modern EVOLUTION OF THE LANGUAGE AND SCRIPT 9 and lighter forms. The former shows a partiality for lexical words and for compound words of the Sanskrit type, and the latter prefers colloquial words, phrases and idioms. The Calitbhasa was first seriously taken up by Pramatha Chaudhuri at the instance of Rabindranath Tagore during the early years of the first World War. Soon after Tagore practically discarded the Sadhubhasa, and Calitbhasa is now generally favored by writers who have no particular fascination for the traditional literary style. The Sadhubhasa is always easy to write but it is somewhat faded in signification and jaded in rhythm.

The Bengali script, like all other Indian scripts, originated from the Brahml alphabet of the Asokan inscriptions. The old Maurya alphabet of the Asokan inscriptions shows two varieties, the northern and the southern. From the northern Brahml was developed the Northern Indian Alphabet of the Gupta empire. This alphabet had an eastern variety which appears in the Dhanaidah copper-plate inscription of the time of Kumaragupta (a.d. 432), the oldest of such records found in Bengal. The next stages of development of this eastern alphabet are to be found in the Khalimpur grant of Dharmapala (latter half of the eighth century) and the Bangarh grant of Mahipala (latter half of the tenth century).

The letters of the latter inscription can be rightly called proto-Bengali. The fully articulated Bengali alphabet appears in the twelfth century, for instance in the Tarpandighi grant of Laksmanasena and in the Cambridge MSS of Yogaratnamald and Pancaraksa (a.d. 1200). Thus it appears that the evolution of the Bengali script almost synchronized with the evolution of the Bengali language.

After the twelfth century, the Bengali alphabet underwent normal development ; i.e. there were changes that were bound to happen in regard to the material (first palm leaf, then paper) and ease of writing. Up to the end of the eighteenth century there were so to say two styles of writing, the ornamental and the ordinary. The ornamental style was cultivated by the professional scribes who prepared records and documents and by Brahmin scholars when they made copies of valued texts. The ordinary style appears in the bulk of the Bengali MSS belonging to the seventeenth century and later. The ornamental style was bound to be archaic; it was practically identical with the Maithil script, and its original connection with Nagari is by no means obscure. The curious reader may compare the older style of writing found in the MS of Srikrsnakutan (copied in the seventeenth or the eighteenth century) with the Nagari MS of Somasundarasuri’s Balnvabodhani (copied in 1456; see Sastisataka, Baroda, 1953).

The Bengali alphabet in its present printed form took shape in 1778 when printing types were first cast by Charles Wilkins. There still remained a few archaic forms and these were finally replaced in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Author Sukumar Sen has beautifully described the origin and evolution of the Bengali language in his book History of Bengali Literature. There is no doubt that the reader will be appreciated by the society. So we have given the PDF file of the book on this webpage, so that the readers can easily collect this invaluable rare book and read it online.


The PDF file of History of Bengali Literature.

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