Persian Persian language and literature originated and developed in
Iran. Basically, the first major civilization in what is now Iran was that of
the Elamites, who may have settled in southeastern Iran as early as 3000 BC.
At present about two-thirds of the people of Iran are descended from Aryans
who are believed to have begun migrating to Iran from the plains of central
Asia during the middle of the second millenium BC. A new language and culture
merged as a result of this contact between the new settlers and the original
inhabitants. The development of the Persian language may be divided into four
phases: (1) Avesta (2) Old Persian (3) Middle Persian (4) Modern Persian.
Avestathe language of Kitab-e-Avesta, composed by Zoroaster (c
1100 BC) the founder of Zoroastrianism. Avesta originated in the Media region
of North Iran. Kitab-e-Avesta is in five parts, with the most significant and
ancient portion of the book, known as Gatha, at more or less the same
linguistic stage as the vedas.
The remaining parts of the Avesta are later than the Gatha and contain texts
written at various times. The Kitab-e-Avesta was an oral text and by the time
it had been written down, Avesta was a dead language.
Old PersianThis form of the language may be dated to the period of
the Achaemanian kings around 550 BC. It was written in what is known as the
cuneiform system of writing. However, it was used only for royal
inscriptions, because few people could read it. Some examples of Old Persian
can be found in the cuneiform inscriptions engraved on the rocks of Besotun
and Naqsh-i-Rustam, and on the walls and the massive columns of Persepolis.
The language of these inscriptions is very closely allied to Avesta. Old
Persian is highly inflectional and possesses most of the grammatical
peculiarities of Avesta, Sanskrit, and other ancient languages of the
Middle Persian or Pahlavi, a simplified form of
Avesta and Old
Persian, originated in Iran during the Ashkani era (249-226 BC). Later,
during the reign of Sassanides (226 BC-652 AD), remarkable improvements took
place in the pronunciation and form of this language. Thus Pahlavi lasted for
about a thousand years, being used both during the reigns of the Ashkanides
and the Sassanides. A few books written in Pahlavi dating back to the Ashkani
era are still extant.
The reign of the Sassanides is considered to be the golden era of ancient
Iran. Iranian art, literature and culture etc developed immensely during this
era. The Sassanides, for the first time, began to translate valuable Greek
and Indian books into Pahlavi. The Sassanide emperor, Anushirwan, got Panchatantra,
a noted Indian book, translated into Pahlavi. Later, Rudaki, a blind poet of
the Samanide era, rendered it into a metrical composition.
Innumerable lyrical compositions, diaries, tales, poems, songs are
available in Pahlavi, some of which were later rendered into Persian poetry
by Persian poets. Pieces worth mentioning in particular are Khoshrow O
Iskandernamah, Bahramnamah, Rostomnamah etc. The Hezar Dastan (literally, a
thousand stories) dating from the Sassanide era, was rendered into Persian
and later from Persian into arabic under the title of Alfa Layla wa Layla (One
Thousand and One Nights).
Modern PersianIranians embraced Islam in huge numbers during the
Muslim conquest of the country in the reign of the last Sassanide emperor,
Yazdgard III (634-652 AD). Consequently, under the influence of Arabic,
Pahlavi began to be transformed gradually into Persian. Many books written in
Pahlavi were destroyed.
Development of Persian in Bengal From ancient times Bengal and Iran
had been in contact with each other. There was trade between the Indian ports
of Daybul, Nirun, Suparaka, Barygaza, Tagara, Muziris, Nelkynda, Ariake,
Tamralipti, Gange, Saptagrama, and Sarandip and the ports of Ubulla, Omana,
Eudaimon, Siraf, Qais, and Hormuz along the Persian Gulf. The ancient city
ports of Bengal, viz Tamralipti, Gange and Saptagram or Satgaon were great
centres of maritime trade and commerce in ancient days, attracting sailors
and merchants from both the eastern and western seas. The importance of
Tamralipti increased at the beginning of the Christian era due to the
establishment of a brisk trade between Bengal, the Middle East and the
Consequently, Bengal came into contact with the Middle East and Iran.
Along with Iranian merchants and commodities came soldiers and generals,
engineers and craftsmen, Sufis and darwishes. The cultivation of the Persian
language and the propagation of islam started from before the establishment of the
Muslim rule in Bengal. As people converted to Islam, they became acquainted
with the quran and
Sunnah in Arabic, as well as with Persian, the language of the Sufi preacher.
The compilation of numerous books on theology and mysticism by the Sufis,
influenced the development of Persian language in Bengal.
Sultanate Period(1203-1576 AD)Though traders and mystics
had contributed greatly to the spread of Persian language in the subcontinent
as well as in Bengal, the language spread rapidly throughout the subcontinent
after Persian gained the status of court language.
In 1203 AD Ikhtiyaruddin Mohammad bakhtiyar khalji, an army chief of
Kutubuddin Eibek, the Emperor of Delhi, conquered Nadia and Gouda. Later, he
spread his domain over all of Northern Bengal. The Muslim rule of Bengal
changed the entire course of history. Most of the population of Bengal,
specially of eastern Bengal, was converted to Islam. The importance of the
Brahmans along with their Sanskrit language was gradually obscured, and
Persian as the Muslim court language, became the most influential language.
The Islamic system of education was introduced in places where the
followers of Islam settled. The proliferation of the traditional centres of
instruction and learning, ie, mosques, madrasahs and maktabs, created a
congenial atmosphere for the development of literary writings in both Arabic
and Persian. These institutions were directly responsible for native efforts
at original composition in Persian, in both the religious and the secular
fields. Apart from extending their munificent patronage and encouragement to
writers and poets, the reigning monarchs of the day themselves took part in
intellectual pursuits. Among the reputed centres of study were those situated
Darasbari, Rangpur, Sonargaon, Dhaka, Sylhet, Bogra and Chittagong. The
number of madrasahs in Bengal at the beginning of British rule was nearly
For more than 600 years (from 1203-1837 AD) Persian was the state language
in Bengal. During this vast period, thousands of books were written in
Persian, and hundreds of poets composed their poems in Persian. Copies of
these contributions have been preserved in different libraries of Bengal as
well as in the subcontinent either in book or manuscript form. From the
middle of the 18th century to the end of the 19th century, five to six
Persian dailies, including Sultanul Akhbar and Durbeen, were published
regularly from Calcutta, suggesting that Persian was a popular language of
The earliest Persian work compiled in Bengal was the translation of
into Persian by Qadi Ruknu'd-Din Abu Hamid Muhammad bin Muhammad al-'Amidi of
Samarqand, a famous Hanafi jurist and Sufi. Amritakunda is a book on yoga. It
has ten chapters and fifty shlokas.
Nasiru'd-Din Mahmud Bogra Khan (1283-91 AD), eldest son of Sultan ghiyasuddin balban,
the Emperor of Delhi (1281-1291 AD), and Governor of Lakhnawati, assumed
independence after his father's death. He was a generous patron of art and
literature, and his assemblies were a popular rendezvous for poets. Many
writers like Shamsu'd-Din Dabir and Qadi Athir came to Bengal from Delhi and,
under his patronage, played a significant role in nurturing Persian
literature in Bengal.
sharafuddin abu tawwamah, the teacher and father-in-law of the
famous saint of Bihar, Shaikh Sharafu'd-Din Yahya Munyari, came to Sonargaon
between 1282-1287 AD. He maintained a madrasah for his students and a khanqah
for his disciples, which were the leading centres of learning in that age.
His book on mysticism, Maqamat, enjoyed an immense reputation even in the
author's own lifetime.
During the reign of Roknuddin Kaikaus (1291-1301 AD), son of Sultan
Nasiruddin Bogra Khan, Nam-i-Haq, a book on fiqh (jurisprudence), was written
in elegant Persian poetry, at Sonargaon, the then capital of Bengal. It is in
10 volumes and contains 180 poems. Though the authorship of this book has
been ascribed to Shaikh Sharafu'd-Din Abu Tawwama, the author's introduction
testifies that the book was actually written by one of the disciples of
Shaikh Sharafu'd-Din on the basis of his teachings.
During the reign of Sultan ghiyasuddin azam shah (1390-1409 AD), Sonargan
flourished as a centre for famous writers and faqihs ie lawyers well versed
in Islamic Law. So much Persian prose and poetry was written during this
period that it may well be called 'the Golden Age' of Persian literature in
Bengal. The flourishing of Persian in the region during this period is
evident from a lyric the mystic poet, Hafiz Shirazi, wrote in response to
Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah. Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah was writing a Persian ghazal,
but was able to complete only the first hemistich: Saqi hadise sarv o gul o
laleh mi ravad (O Saqi! The tale of the cypress, the rose and the tulip is
going on). Failing to complete the poem, he wrote to Hafiz, inviting him to
Bengal and requesting him to complete the lyric. The poet completed the poem,
acknowledging the grandeur of the king's court and the literary qualities of
the Persian poets of Bengal. Part of the poet's ghazal, which is included in
his divan, reads:
Vin bahas ba salase ghasaleh mi ravad
Shekar shekan shavand hamah totiane hind
Zin qande parsi keh beh bangaleh mi
(And with the three washers [cups of wine], this dispute is going on.
All the parrots [poets] of Hindustan have become sugar shattering
That this Persian candy [Persian ode], to Bengal is going [on].)
muhammad shah (1415-1432 AD) was a patron of Islamic
knowledge and literature. He paid for the upkeep of a madrasah at Makka
which is said to have been awe-inspiring. The court of Rukunuddin Barbak Shah
(1459-1474 AD) was graced by the presence of numerous scholars like Amir
Zainuddin Harawi, poet laureate; Amir Shihabuddin Hakim Kirmani, physician
and compiler of a Persian lexicon entitled Farhangi Amir Shihabuddin
and poets such as Mansur Shirazi, Malik Yusuf bin Hamid, Sayyid Jalal, Sayyid
Muhammad Rukun, etc.
Farhang-i-Ibrahimi, the earliest Persian lexicon in the sub-continent and
perhaps the most important, was composed by Maulana Ibrahim Qawwam Faruqi
during this period. The work is better known as Sharafnamah, for it was dedicated
to the memory of Makhdum Sharafuddin Yahya Munyari. This remarkable
compilation marks a significant progress in the development of Persian
studies in Bengal. During the Hussein Shahi reign, specially during the time
of Alauddin husain
shah (1493-1519 AD), the usage of Persian and Arabic had greatly
spread in this locality. During this time Muhammad Budai, better known as
Sayyid Mir Alawi, wrote a book on archery entitled, Hidayatu-ur-Rumi,
containing twenty-seven chapters. Thus the Sultanate period of Bengal from
1203-1576 AD, when Bengal was ruled by the benevolent and cultured Sultans,
paved the ground for further development of Persian studies.
Mughal period(1576-1717 AD)During the Mughal period,
Persian language and literature reached the highest stages of development in
Bengal and greatly influenced the local language and literature. Contemporary
and later chronicles and biographers have referred to the dignitaries of
learning at the courts of the Mughal governors of Bengal: Munim Khan, Islam
Khan, Qasim Khan, Shah Shuja, Shayesta Khan and Mir Jumla. These governors
encouraged Persian poetry and offered asylums to many poets.
Mirza Jafar Beg Qazvini, another immigrant poet in Bengal, during akbar's
rule, complied a masnavi, titled Shirin-o-Khusrau, in the style of Nizami
Ganjawi, a renowned poet of Persia. Mirza Nathan, a petty military officer,
wrote Baharistan-i-Ghaibi which contains references to numerous soldier poets
such as Luqman, Mir Qasim and Malik Mubarak, who accompanied the army and
composed poems commemorating the victories and achievements of soldiers in
the battle-field. Mirza Nathan, who served in Bengal for about twenty years,
gives an explicit account of events that took place during Emperor Jahangir's
reign in Bengal and Assam. Mir Jumla who hailed from Isfahan was an
accomplished scholar and poet. His kulliyat (collection of poems) contained
20,000 verses. Shahabuddin Talish, a chronicler of Mir Jumla, who accompanied
his master on his military campaigns in Coochbihar and Assam, compiled an
authentic account of Assam entitled Fath-i-Ibriyya in 1663.
Muhammad Sadiq, who came to Bengal in the company of Qasim Khan, governor
of Bengal, in 1628, was the author of a historical and biographical work, Subh-i-Sadiq.
He attached himself to the court of Shah Shuja when the latter became the
governor of Bengal in 1639. The Subh-i-Sadiq contains the biographies of a
number of Persian writers resident in Jahangirnagar as well as examples of
verses of several poets, some of whom were professional soldiers. Abdul Hamid
Lahuri, the author of the Padshahnamah, describes Sadiq as an embodiment of
the sciences and traditions, excelling others in theology, medicine and
mathematics. Among the renowned historians of the age was meer
who compiled the Tarikh-i-Shah Shujai under the patronage of Shah Shuja.
In the early 18th century, Murshid Quli Khan established an independent
in Bengal. This led to another influx of poets and writers from strife-torn
Iran and northern India to the capital city of Murshidabad, which attracted
quite a number of intelligentsia and versifiers from the eastern parts of
Bengal, particularly Dhaka. Nawab Nusratjang, Nawab Nazim of Dhaka from 1796
to 1823, wrote a Persian history named Tarikh-i-Nusratjangi. It was published
by the Asiatic Society of Calcutta in 1908.
Persian during British rule In 1757 AD, Nawab sirajuddaula was defeated by the east india company
at the Battle of Plassey, ushering in British rule. Persian, however,
continued to be the dominating language during the first century of British
rule in Bengal. In 1765 Mirza I'tesamuddin accompanied Captain Archibald
Swinton to Europe and wrote his travels in Persian under the title of Shigurfnama-i-wilayat.
Among other Persian writings of this period are Seir-al Motaakkherin (1783 AD)
of Golam Hossein Tabatabai, Siraj-ussalatin (1787 AD) of Golam Hossein Selim,
Tarikhe Bangalah (1763 AD) of Munshi Salimullah. Considering the position of
Persian in society, the British Government was obliged to continue Persian as
an official language for eighty years (1757 to 1837 AD) after the
establishment of its dominance in the region.
In 1882 AD, Nawab abdool
luteef, highlighting the social importance of the study of Arabic
and Persian, expressed his comments to the Hunter Education Commission as
follows: 'Unless a Mohamedan is a Persian and Arabic scholar, he cannot
attain a respectable position in Mohamedan society, ie he will not be
regarded as a scholar. And unless he has such a position, he can have no
influence in the Mohamedan community'.
Dhaka contributed to both literary and scholarly work in Persian. Agha
Ahmad Ali, for example, was born in Dhaka around 1783 and earned considerable
fame by compiling Muayyid-i-Burhan and Shamshir-i-Tiztar, Persian dictionaries
that continue to be used in the subcontinent even today. Among his other
scholarly works are Risala-i-Tarana and Haft-Asman. khwaja haidar jan shayek was called Bulbul-i-Bangalah, ie parrot of Bengal, by Ghalib. He has left a diwan
(anthology) of Persian verses as well as a book of epistles. Other celebrated
Persian composers of Dhaka were Khwaja Abdur Rahim Saba, whose magnum opus in
Persian prose is called Tarikh-i-kashmiriyan-i-Dhaka; Khwaja Ahasanullah
Shaheen, a great patron of Persian poets and writers, who inspired Mirza
Mahmud Shirazi Makhmur to write in elegant Persian a history of the husaini dalan,
a historic imambara
of Dhaka; Maulvi Abdul Ghafur nassakh, a skilled writer of both poetry
and prose, whose major work in Persian is Tazkiratul Ma'asirin, a literary
biography; Syed Muhammad Baqir Tabataba'i, who migrated from Iran to Bengal
and settled in Dhaka where he died in 1910 and lies buried in the Husaini
Dalan. Tabatabai's anthology of exquisite odes and panegyrics were highly
regarded by literary critics. Other notable Persian poets of Dhaka were Abdul
Munim Zauqi, Munshi Waris Ali Zia, Agha Mahmud Ali, Masihuddin Shurish,
Kazimuddin Siddiqi, Maulana Fazlul Karim, Shah Burhanullah, Munshi Jalauddin
and Maulvi Muazzamuddin Sa'id.
al ubaidi suhrawardy (1834-1885 AD), superintendent of the Dhaka Alia
Madrasah, wrote verses in Persian reflective of classical masters like Sa'di,
Hafiz, Jami, Sa'ib, Naziri and Ghalib. His Dastan-i-Parsi Amuz, in five
volumes, is a standard work on Persian grammar. hakim habibur rahman (1881-1947
AD), another dignitary of Dhaka, was intimately connected with the
cultivation of Persian learning. His bibliographical work, Salasa-i-Ghassalah,
gives an account of 173 Persian works written in Bengal.
Apart from Dhaka, Chittagong was also a centre of Persian. Among the
prominent Persian writers from Chittagong were Hakim Mohammad Husain Alawi,
who wrote Makhzanul Adwiya, and Khan Bahadur Hamidullah, who published
Ahadisul Khawanin in 1871 AD. Among Chittagong's little known Persian poets
were Maulana Abdul Awwal of sandwip, Muhammad Abdul Ali, Maulvi Faizul Kabir Shauq, Maulvi Faizullah
Islamabadi, Muhammad Sulaiman Arman and Abdul Ali Durri.
Sylhet, which flourished during the medieval period as a leading centre of
Persian-speaking Muslim missionaries, played a remarkable role in the
dissemination of Persian learning. Writers from this region included Syed
Shah Israil, author of Ma'danu'l Fawa'id, and Muhammad Arshad of baniachang,
who wrote Zaraul Musannif. Syed Raihanuddin of Pail was a noted Persian poet
who wrote Khwabnamah and the masnavi, gule bakawali.
contributed to the promotion of Persian language and literature. The Qadi
family of Rajapur holds a pre-eminent position in this regard. The most
distinguished literary figure of the family was Abdul Ghafur Nassakh whose
contributions have been mentioned earlier. His father, Qazi Faqir Muhammad,
was the author of several works, chief among which is the Jamiut Tawarikh, a
universal history published in Kolkata in 1836. Faqir Muhammad's two other
sons, Abdul Hamid and Abdul Bari Sayd were accomplished poets.
Abu Muin Azduddin Azud, Shah Syed Reyazatullah, Nasiruddin Ahmad,
Samsamuddin Samsam and Ashrafuddin Shraf were leading Persian poets of comilla. barisal
produced poets like Muhammad Fazil, Ilaichiram Taleb. Versifiers such as Syed
Najmuddin Ahmad Nadir and Muhammad Abdul Hai Akhtar hailed from mymensingh.
Syed Abdur Rashid Shahzadpuri from pabna was a learned man with a
mystic bent of mind. He displayed his mastery in Persian verse by composing
excellent qasidas on the model of Iranian poets like Khaqani and Urfi.
With the introduction of the printing press and the establishment of the
modern libraries in the 19th century, the study of Persian rapidly spread in
Bengal. Hindus also studied Persian. For example, Raja rammohun roy, founder of the brahma samaj,
wrote the book Tuhfatul Mowwahhadin in Persian.
By the middle of the 19th century, however, the importance of Persian
faded in Bengal. The use of Persian as an official language was prohibited by
Act no. XXIX of 1837 passed by the president of the Council of India in
Council, on the 20th November 1837 which read in part:
It is hereby enacted, that from the First Day of December 1837, it
shall be lawful for the Governor General of India in Council, by an Order in
Council, to dispense, either generally, or within such local limits as may to
him seem meet, with any provision of any Regulation of the Bengal Code which
enjoins the use of the Persian language in any Judicial proceeding, or in any
proceeding relating to the Revenue and to prescribe the language and
character to be used in such proceedings.
And it is hereby enacted, that from the said day it will be lawful for
the said Governor General for India in Council, by an order in Council, to
delegate all or any of the powers given to him by this Act, to any
subordinate Authority, under such restrictions as may seem meet.
Protests followed immediately. A memorandum, signed by 800 dignitaries
from Kolkata, was submitted to the British Government, demanding cancellation
of this declaration. In 1839 another memorandum, signed by 481 dignitaries
from Dhaka, was submitted to the Government of Bengal through Justice JFG
Cook. It is important to note that 199 persons among the signatories were
from the Hindu community. An English translation of the original Persian,
included in the Report of the Madrasah Education Committee, 1941, reveals the
attitude of the signatories towards Persian.
The benefits from the use of Persian are - that it is used over a very
large extent of country and is the same in all parts - the letters are clear
and the subject written easily understood. To reject this for Bengalee cannot
be considered any good.
The cleanness of expressions in Persian cannot be reached in the
Bengalee language. The first may also be written in various styles, viz, with
care and clearly or in a careless and off- hand manner.
Many gentlemen understand Persian well, and people of all classes can
understand it, when read, as it is of much general use and sufficient for
common purpose may be learnt in a short time.
All persons whether Hindus or Mussalmans wish the language to be still
continued, and are sorry to hear that it is to be abolished, from this no
benefit can be arise to the Government and it is likely that detriment will
ensue from the use of Bengalee.
It is noteworthy that the above memorandum failed to bring any change in
the policy of the British Government. Despite the demand of the large number
of dignitaries from Calcutta and Dhaka the declaration was enacted.
Nevertheless, the study of Persian continued. Educated Bengali Muslims
cultivated Persian and the language continued to be taught at madrasahs,
schools, colleges and universities.
The Department of Persian and urdu formed one of the departments of the newly opened
dhaka in 1921. In East Pakistan, Persian was taught as an optional
language at schools till 1971. Though Persian is not offered in general
schools today, it continues to be taught at the University, as a classical
language in the Department of Persian and Urdu and as a contemporary language
at the Institute of Modern Languages. In addition to this, almost all the
public and private libraries in Bengal and India contain Persian manuscripts,
which scholars are studying and editing for publication.
Influence of Persian on Bangla Literature With the Persian-speaking
Turko-Afghan conquerors making Bengal their new home, an age of cultural
assimilation set in and continued for the subsequent seven hundred years. As
a consequence, bangla
language and literature were greatly affected by the dominant
language of the rulers. Muslim efforts at original Bangla composition or at
rendering Islamic matter into Bangla resulted in the introduction of numerous
Persian words into the native vernaculars. In most cases, the Muslims
accepted the existing forms but also made some additions and alternations in
order to eliminate or suppress typically non-Islamic elements. For example,
the Muslims replaced the invocation to Hindu gods and goddesses at the
beginning of the mangalkavya
with hamd and nat, praises of Allah and the Prophet muhammad (Sm) respectively
following Muslim, specially Iranian, tradition. This was a consistent
practice of the Iranian writers of epics and long narratives like Ferdousi,
Sadi, and Attar. Thus, when alaol wrote padmavati, the story of a Hindu
princess, or when Daulat Qazi wrote the story of Sati Maina, another Hindu
princess, they started by hymning the praises of Allah and His Prophet.
Persian influenced what is known as dobhasi literature, literally
literature of two languages. Even today the practice of using Arabic and
Persian words in order to describe a typically Muslim context is very common.
Thus, in dobhasi literature, if a Muslim court was described, a Muslim king
addressed, Islamic thoughts and ideals and the Quran or the holy books
referred to, Muslim saints and learned men mentioned, Arabic and Persian
words were used. This was true of both Muslim and Hindu writers. shah muhammad sagir,
the great Bengali poet of the court of Sultan Ghiasuddin Azam Shah (1389-1410
AD), referred to holy books as kitab, learned men as aliman. Zainuddin (15th
century AD) used a host of these prototypical phrases and words in his Rasulbijay:
taj was used instead of mukut, sawar instead of arohi,
dada instead of
pitamaha. This becomes more conspicuous in a later poet like syed sultan
(1550-1648 AD) who, in Shab-i-Miraj, used words such as Allah, Rasule
Khuda, Noore Muhammadi, peer paigambar, in addition to kitab,
Romantic Narratives There was considerable Persian influence on the
different genres of bangla
literature, the most important perhaps being the romantic,
humanistic love story. The most significant writers in the field were Shah
Muhammad Sagir, the author of yusuf-zulekha, an adaption of Jami's poem of the same
title; daulat uzir
bahram khan, the writer of laily-majnu; Daulat Qazi of Arakan
(c 1600-1638 AD), author of Chandrani or Sati Maina; Alaol (c 1607-1680 AD), the
writer of Padmavati, Saiful Mulk Badiuzzamal, Haft Paikar and Sikander
Nama; abdul hakim
(c 1620-1680 AD), author of Yusuf-Zulekha; quraishi magan thakur, author of
Abdul Nabi, author of amir
mamud (1693-1760 AD), author of janganama; muhammad mukim writer of Mrigavati.
Of the dobhasi puthi writers following this tradition, the most famous are
Gharibullah, author of Yusuf-Zulekha and Amir Hamza (1st part) and
The traditional dobhasi love-story has certain common features:
immutability in love, bravery and heroism. During the early eighteenth
century, this tradition of writing got mixed up with the tradition of writing
on the fantastic exploits of heroes in bijay kavyas. In most of the
narratives of dobhasi literature there was a growing tradition of escapism, fairy tale,
romance and fantastic adventures.
The first works in this tradition are Yusuf-Zulekha and
Amir Hamza (1st
part) of Gharibullah. The next important poet is syed hamza who wrote Madhumalati
in the traditional linguistic style but resorted to Persianized dobhasi style
in Amir Hamza (2nd part), jaiguner puthi and Hatem Tai. Arif's Mrigavati and Shahnama
and Janab Ali's Shaheede Karbala can also be mentioned here. Moreover, the
tales of the Arabian Nights were adapted in this linguistic and thematic
style. There were at least three such versions: Mafizuddin Ahmad's Keccha
Alif-Laila, Raushan Ali's Alif Laila and the third, and the most popular,
version by Syed Nasir Ali, Habibul Hossain and Aizuddin Ahmed.
Heroic Verse The bijay kavya illustrate the romantic, imaginative,
miraculous exploits of the Holy Prophet (Sm) his companions and well-known
Muslim heroes. These verses were the product of the urge to popularize
Islamic precepts and glorify Muslim heroes. Hence they relate the bijay or
victories of the Holy Prophet over his non-Muslim adversaries. Zainuddin's Rasulbijay
is the earliest known work in this genre. Rasulbijay and Hanifer
Shah Barid (or Sabirid) Khan followed the pattern set by jainuddin. This pattern was also
followed in Syed Sultan's Rasulbijay, Muhammad Khan's Hanifar
Gharibullah's Janganama, Heyat Mahmud's Janganama and Syed Hamza's
Historical Narratives The first important writer in this tradition
is Syed Sultan (c 1555-1648 AD), a Chittagonian poet of genuine merit. In nabi bangsha
he narrates the life and history of the Prophet Muhammad (Sm) from the
creation to the death of Imam Hussain (R), the Prophet's grandson, at Karbala.
Muhammad Khan had earlier written a book titled
Maqtul Hussain. The
central theme of these poems is the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. The entire
story leads to the catastrophe at Karbala but does not end with it. In every
poem from Muhammad Khan's Maqtul Hussain, the earliest book so far known in
this tradition, to Muharram Shareef of kaikobad, there is a marsia (elegy),
following the death of Imam Hussain (R). The chief characteristic of these
laments is the freedom with which the imaginations of the poets roam from
earth to heaven and describe not only the lamentation of trees and the skies
and the earth, but also of the angels and departed souls.
Religious Verse: Historical and theological The 16-17th centuries
were the period of Muslim cultural expansion. Many Muslims poets described
the creation of the world or the life of the Prophet Muhammad (Sm) and
prescribed the ways of Islam. Thus, Muzammil (1430 AD), one of the earliest
writers in this genre, turns his Neeti-Shastravarta into a simple
enunciation of rules. Afzal Ali preaches the rules and regulations of Islam
in his Nasihatnamah, which follows the style of the Mangalkavyas. He describes how his
pir, Shah Rustam, appeared to him in a dream and gave him instructions. The
poet then conveyed what he dreamt in the poem. Syed Sultan's Nabibangsa,
Wafat-i-Rasul and Muhammad Khan's Maqtul Hussain and Kiyamatnamah describe
the Muslim concept of the origin, evolution, and destruction of the Earth and
of the final judgement of good and wicked souls.
In Shariatnamah, Nasrullah Khan (c 1560-1625 AD) tells Muslims what the
orders of God are and warns them against doing what God has forbidden. It is
clear that Nasrullah Khan did not mean this book for non-Muslims. He wanted
to make Muslims conscious of their religious laws. Similarly, Shaikh Muttalib
expresses the rules and regulations of namaz, roza, zakat and other essentials of
Islam in his Kifayat-ul-Muslemin. Nasrullah's Shariatnama and Shaikh
Muttalib's Kifayat-ul-Muslemin were popular books, which is testified by the
large number of extant manuscripts.
Mystic Literature The Sufis played a significant role in preaching
Islam in this country. Both the literary and folk traditions in Bangla were
shaped by Sufi mysticism. The literary tradition fall into two categories:
philosophical exposition of the theory and practice of mysticism, and the
tradition of songs, mainly padavalis. The folk tradition consists mainly of
the traditions of baul
songs, which describe the different stages that a disciple should pass
through in order to reach the final stage of illumination and self
annihilation. Among the writers of the philosophic tradition are Haji
Muhammad and Syed Sultan.
Haji Muhammad's Noor Jamal is more philosophical than Syed Sultan's
Jnan Pradip. Haji Muhammad tells his readers about Shariat, and then goes deep
into the philosophical expositions of different theories about wahdatul
pantheism. He also discusses the different theories of Ibn-ul-Arabi and
Mujaddid-i-Alf-e-Sani. The popular murshidi and baul songs are deeply
philosophical. Most of the murshidi songs found in Bengal are influenced by
Maulana Jalal Uddin Rumi's Masnavi and Shaikh Fariduddin Attar's Mantiq-ut-Tair.
Influence of Persian on Bangla Language Under the Turk and Afghan
rulers, the administration of Bengal was left in the hands of Hindu
feudatories, who were mostly kayasthas, by caste. Usually very little influence
could be exerted on the life and language of the people from the Muslim court
The Muslims who settled down in Bengal came themselves to be influenced by
their subjects. Undoubtedly, at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of
the sixteenth centuries, the Muslim kings of Bengal were active patrons of
Bangla literature. Nevertheless, contact between the indigenous population
and the Muslims brought in a number of Persian words into Bangla during the
early period of Muslim rule.
The Mughal rule in Bengal, which began with Akbar's conquest of the
province, caused Bangla to be exposed to a greater degree than before to the
influence of Persian. By 1605, when Akbar died, a synthesis had been
effected, out of which rose an Indo-Muslim culture, with Hindustani (Urdu) as
its vehicle. Hindustani made itself the inheritor and propagator of the
Persian and Muslim spirit in India, during the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. It came to Bengal, and Persian words, which formerly were brought
into Bangla directly, now began to be admitted in larger numbers into Bangla
through Hindustani. The result was that, towards the end of the eighteenth
century, the Bangla speech of the upper classes, even the among Hindus, was
highly Persianized. Munshis from the Upper Provinces, Bihar, and Bengal
taught Persian to sons of rich people, and there were maktabs and madrasahs
frequented both by Hindus and Muslims. This is evidenced from the following
lines from raymangal
by Krishnaram Das, written in 1686 AD:
অিবলেਹ উওিরল রাজার নগের৷
বালেক পারসী পেড় অাখন ਗ਼জুেরਂ
কােনেত োসানার কলম োদায়াত
িকতাবত িনপুণ কায়એઐগণ োলেখਂ
(In the city of the king
The boy is learning Persian from his master;
With a golden pen on the ear
And an inkpot in front of him,
The Kayastha is busy writing.)
influence of Persian on Bangla language is apparent in three areas: vocabulary,
gender formation, and sentence structure. In the first instance, Persian
influenced Bangla vocabulary in two ways: a) by substituting Persian words
for Bangla ones, and b) by incorporating many Persian words into Bangla.
Thus, many Persian words, as well as Arabic and Turkish words through
Persian, not only began to be used increasingly, but, in a few cases,
drove out some genuine Bengali words as the following examples show:
Bangla vocabulary was greatly influenced by Persian in almost all areas.
However, with the ascendance of Muslims to power, a great number of words relating
to revenue, administration, the kingly state, warfare, business, etc, found
their way into Bangla. The following is a list of Persian words, and Arabic
through Persian words, which are in vogue in Bangla:
Words relating to revenue and administration and to law, for example, অাইন (ain),
োজরা (jera), দােরাগা (daroga), নািলশ
(faisala), ফিরয়াদ (fariad), রায় (ray), বঃপ (bhp).
Words pertaining to kingly state, warfare, chase: জিমদার
(zamidar), তখত (takhat),
(kaman), তীর (tir),
(fauj), শহর (shahar) etc.
Words relating to nations: িহ੯দু
(Hindu), িফিরিਔ (Firingi)
Words relating to business: কািরগর
(karigar), খানসামা (khansama), খানা
(khansama), িখদমত (khidmat), িখদমাতগার (khidmatgar), চাকর (chakar), োদাকানদার (dokandar), বািজকর
Words relating to family and relatives: বাবা (baba), মা (ma), োবরাদার
(beradar), দাদা (dada), খালা (khala), দামাদ (damad), শওহার (shaohar), কানীজ (kanij), োদাએ੪ (dost), ইয়ার (iyar) etc.
Words relating to male and female names: িদল- অাফরઔয (Dil-aphruz), িদলরઔবা (Dilruba), নুরজাহান (Nurjahan), জামশীদ
Words relating to places: হাઃমামখানা
(hammamkhana), োগাসলখানা (gosalkhana), সরাইখানা (saraikhana), োমাসােফরখানা (mosapherkhana), ইয়াতীমখানা (yatimkhana), কারখানা (karkhana), অাসমান (asman), যমীন (zamin), বাজার (bazar) etc.
Words relating to birds and animals: বুলবুল
(bulbul), কবুতর (kabutar), বায (baz), োতাতা (tota), গাভী (gabhi), খরেগাশ (khargosh), হাইওয়ান (haiwan), জােনায়ার
Words relating to common things and notions of life: অাওয়ায
(aphsos), কম (kam), োকামর (komar), গরম
(taja), নরম (naram), োপশা (pesha), লাল (lal), সবুজ (sabuj), সেফদ (saphed), ਗ਼িশয়ার
(hushiyar), হরদম (hardam), োসতার (sitar) etc.
Words relating to the names of cities as well as provinces: নওয়াবপুর
(Gulistan), রাজশাহী (Rajshahi), রংপুর
More than two thousand such words have come to have a permanent place in
Persian also influenced Bangla grammar. For example, gender is
often indicated by using the words nar, madi and marda
(marda is a distorted
form of Persian mard): nar-kabutar (নর-কবুতর)৴
madi-kabutar(মাদী-কবুতর)৵ marda-kukur(মদગা-কুকুর)৴ madi kukur(মাদী-কুকুর) etc. In
these gender indicatives are used after the nouns. For instance: ahuye nar (male
deer) ahuye madi (female deer). In Bangla, however, these words are used
before the nouns. On the other hand, the Persian word morg means both cock
and hen, but in Bangla the word morg is used only for cock while hen is
Bangla vocabulary has also been increased by attaching Persian prefixes
and suffixes to Bangla words. In the process of borrowings from Persian,
numerous changes take place, some of them in pronuciation. For example, in
many cases, the Persian a (অা)
or sign া has been elided: কামার
(kamar) > কমর (kamar), গারম
(garam) > গরম (garam), নারম
(naram) > নরম (naram) etc. In many cases
Persian prefixes and suffixes form compounds with Bangla words. For example: োকরানীিগির
The influence of Persian can also be observed in Bangla
sentence-construction as may be noted in the following instances:
অািম একাজ কেরিছলাম
(man yin kar kardebudam)
(ami ekaj karechhilam)
অািম একটা নান োখলাম
(man yek ta nan Khordam)
(ami ekta nan khelam)
তুই োকাথায় োগিল
(to kuja rafti)
(tui kothay geli)
As in Persian, in Bangla as well, verbs are not affected by gender. For example:
Both Bangla and Persian verbs end with a stop-sound, called
Bangla and saken in Persian.
Adjectives are not affected by number or gender in either Persian or Bangla. For example:
Though the study of Persian is relegated to a minuscule minority in
today, the legacy of seven hundred years has become permanently embedded in
Bangla language. Thousands of Persian words are part of not only standard
Bangla but also of many local dialects of the region. Words and sentences that
are familiar to us may often be more likely than not derived from Persian.
The sentence Abahawa ekhan bexi garam achhe (The weather is very warm now) in
Bangla is very similar in both vocabulary and syntax to Abohawa aknon besh garm
ast in Persian.
[Abu Musa Mohammad Arif Billah]
ME Haq, Muslim Bangla Sahitya, Dhaka, 1965; Abdul Karim, Banglar
Itihas: Sultani Amal, Dhaka, 1967; AKM Morshed ed, Shahidullah
Rachanabali (3rd Part), Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1995; SK Chatterji,
The Origin and Development of the Bengali Language, Kolkata, 1993;
Sirajul Islam ed, History of Bangladesh, Vol. III, Asiatic Society
of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1997.