Bengalis

There are approximately 500,000 Bengalis currently living in the UK. Not much history of those Bengalis who settled in the UK currently exists (except two books written by Caroline Adams & Yousuf Chowdhury). Many of the first settlers are now elderly (sadly some have already passed away) and their memories and experiences are being lost as their testimonies have not been recorded and preserved. Many young Bengalis do not know the history of their elders and cannot easily access information related to Bengali community. The project aims to preserve the memories and experiences of the elders before this loss.

The project will offer unique opportunity to Bengali young people to research, document and celebrate Bengali heritage & history by recording the experience of three generation Bengalis in the UK. Interviews (interviews will be translated into Bengali or vice versa) will be recorded on audio (and if possible on video), materials (including photographs) will be used for exhibition, publication (including learning packs for schools) and website. Original material will be held with the Swadhinata Trust (for its proposed Bengali Resource Centre) and CRONEM but copies will be deposited in the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and other institutions Swadhinata Trust works with in partnership.

Bengali history

 

An Austro-Asian race first inhabited the region of Bangladesh in an unknown pre-historic age. Then came the Dravidians, Aryans and Mongolians. Archaeological excavations show signs of powerful dynasties who ruled the land till the Turks, Persians and Afghans conquered it in the 11th century and established their rule. After their rule the British in the 18th century took over. In 1947, the British left and the country became the eastern province of Pakistan.

Note: Please note that Swadhinata Trust may not necessarily share the views shown in external links from this site

The neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal shared a common history with the people of Bangladesh until 1947.

For more information about the West Bengal visit:

In 1971 following a nine month National Liberation War waged against Pakistan (see the Wikipedia page on the attrocaties of this war) the people’s Republic of Bangladesh was born. The first President was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Watch a short video clip depicting Bangladesh’s volatile history since 1971 to present.

A DVD of the historical Concert for Bangladesh (1971) featuring George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Ravi Shankar, Allerekha and others has been released.

To learn more, visit www.theconcertforbangladesh.com

For more information on the liberation war see:

See also:

The following links give information from various perspectives on the history of Bangladesh:

 

 

Bangladesh independence videos:

 

Indian sites:

 

Pakistani site:

Desh

 

Desh means Country in Bengali. Bangladesh is a beautiful country with rolling hills and vast green fields. Bangladesh is bordered on one side by India and on the other by Burma (Myanmar).

The country is 147,570 sq. Km populated by 130 million people. It has the Bay of Bengal lapping its shores. (See the Bengali Info magazine article Facts on Bangladesh

It has six marked seasons in a year, Winter,Spring, Summer, Pre-Monsoon, Monsoon and Autumn (Post-Monsoon).

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the founder of Bangladesh.

The current President is Professor Iajuddin Ahmed. (See the official Bangladeshi Government website.)

The capital of Bangladesh is Dhaka and the official language is Bengali.

There are many rivers, the principle ones being: Padma, Meghna and Jamuna.

The principle crops and fruits are rice, wheat, jute, mango and jackfruit. Bangladesh is well established by many different industries for example, readymade garments, jute and cotton textile, tea processing, etc. These are the main areas of exports for the country including leather goods and newspaper and fish.

There are other established industries as well, such as steel making, shipbuilding, assembling buses and trucks. There are of course the assembling of radios, TV’s and the newly growing computer industry.

The largest forest of the country is known as Sundarban, which is along the southwestern seacoast and it is this forest that gives refuge to the famous Royal Bengal Tiger.

The popular sports played by many in the country are football, cricket, kabadi, swimming and chess. The range of religions of Bangladesh consists of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

For more information on the history, location, climate, economy, politics and other information on Bangladesh see the Secular Voice of Bangladeshwebsite and the Bangladesh Live website.
  See a short video – Rajakar of Bangladesh

Culture

 

Bangladesh is home to much diversity and culture . The country has ruins dating back to ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim dynasties. The ancestors of the people of Bangladesh came from many races; Austric, Dravidian,Mongolian, Aryan and so on. It is against this rich background that the cultural aspects of the Bengali people have been shaped which reflects a rich aesthetic past. The Music of Bangladesh derived from the rural beleifs and cultural patterns. The music of Bangladesh has developed through the centuries along three mainstreams : Namely folk, classical and modern

The fusion of Bengali music with influences of the club scene in the UK have combined to create a whole new form of Music. The pioneers of this music are groups like Joi, State of Bengal, Osmani sound, Joi Bangla Banned and of course Asian Dub Foundation The earliest literary compositions in Bengali are the songs called Charypadas composed by the buddhists in the 7th century.

From the 8th century onwards many writers wrote to create the classical Bengali literary traditions. Singers and songwriters such as Lalon Fakir, Pagla Kanai and Hason Raja composed verses which are still heard on the lips of Bengalis today.

Language

The 21st February has been designated by the UN(United Nations) as International Mother Language Day. On this day Bengalis will remember those who lost their lives fighting for the right to speak their mother tongue on that date in 1952.

When the Indian Sub-Continent was partitioned into India and Pakistan in 1947, Pakistan was divided into two parts on both sides of India. The Eastern wing (present day Bangladesh) was populated by the majority of the population of Pakistan, who spoke Bengali, however the leaders in the Western wing declared that Urdu would be the state language of Pakistan.

There was opposition to this from the people from East Pakistan, and demonstrations and processions led to violent dispersal by Police and hired thugs. The leaders in West Pakistan ignored message of the protests, instead they passed a law “Section 144 CrPC” to suppress any protests.

Liquat Ali Khan who was prime minister from 1948 gave a religious decree that Urdu was the language of Muslims and Bengali was the language of Hindus, so Urdu must be spoken by the Pakistanis. When he was assassinated in 1951, Khaja Nazimuddin took over and also ordered that everyone who lived in Pakistan would adopt Urdu as its state language. He came down harder on the protestors, and even when the protests were calling for food for the starving people of East Pakistan due to the food crisis and economic crisis, they arrested the student leaders and attacked them with batons and tear gas.

Among these student leaders was Bangabandu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who went onto lead the country to Independence and become the founder of Bangladesh and the first President. The Student leaders kept campaigning for the right to speak their mother tongue and other injustices imposed by West Pakistan, leading procession after procession.

At 4p.m. on the 21st February 1952, police fired on a procession killing Salam,Barkat,Rafik, Jabbar and many other students. This day shall never be forgotten and a monument has been built, The Shahid Minar, to remember these people, and the date is commemorated in Bangladesh as “Shahid Dibosh” or “Martyrs’ Day”.

See the Shahid Minar in various cities and towns

See also the website of the International Mother Language Institute .

 

Language Movement in India
In addition to the language movement that took place in Bangladesh, in 1961 in the Indian state of Assam, 11 Bengalis were shot dead while on strike opposing the Assam Government’s ruling that the Assamese language will be the only recognised state language. For further information click on the May 19 link.

HISTORY OF BENGALIS IN THE UK

 

Bengalis in the UK settled in big cities with industrial employment. In London Bengali’s settled in the East End. For centuries the East End has been the first port of call for many immigrant groups. The Mosque in Brick lane is the living witness to this tradition. The mosque has previously been a synagogue of the Jews and prior to that, it was a church of the French Huguenots. See South Asian Migration Histories Timeline on the Moving Here website and the website of the East End council, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The Bengali people are proud of their history and Bangladesh is home to much diversity and culture. The country has ruins dating back to ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim dynasties.The ancestors of the people of Bangladesh came from many races: Austric, Dravidian, Mongolian, Aryan and so on.It is against this rich background that the cultural aspects of the Bengali people have been shaped reflecting a rich aesthetic past. There are little opportunities for young Bengali’s to gain insight into their background. The Swadhinata Trust aims to provide opportunities for all of this.

UK BASED BENGALI ORGANISATIONS

 

There are a number of UK based Bengali organisations working for the betterment of the Bengali community:

BoB Professionals
At present the UK has a population of about half a million Bengalis. The first generation Bengalis tended to maintain close contact as they established themselves in the UK. To this day, they continue to maintain this informal contact and provide a ‘sense of community’ through local community associations, mosques and other such organisations.

The last few years has seen the second generation establishing itself in the British society, excelling in education and progressing to professional jobs both in private and public sectors. However there is an ever-growing vacuum among these Bengalis who are increasingly feeling the distance and seclusion from their local communities. BoB was formed to provide these professionals with the opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss.

BritBangla
BritBangla is a celebration of the achievements of British Bengalis from all over the country. The aim is to promote these extraordinary talents and draw attention to the remarkable contribution Bengalis have made to British society.

BritBangla achieve to do this by bringing together like-minded people and build up a strong network of professional Bengalis to collectively share their successes and raise the Brit Bengali profile. British Bengalis who feel they have something to offer are encouraged to take part in the various programmes and projects which will hopefully benefit the community as a whole.

BBPA
The British-Bangladeshi Professional Association is a not-for-profit organisation founded to foster educational attainment and the pursuit of professional excellence in the Bangladeshi community in the United Kingdom.

Banglabangla
Banglabangla enables young people to learn about life in Bangladesh, through information provided by young people with experience of the culture and community. The site’s development, co-ordinated by the Humanities Education Centre in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, UK has involved young people at all stages.

24 Hour Museum – Bengali Heritage in London
Forging a Unique Identity: Bengali Heritage in London Article by By Shruti Ganapathy 23/06/2005

British Bangla Youth
Connecting young British Bangladeshis with Bangladeshi youth project This project was set in motion by RMMRU and aims to develop links between young British-Bangladeshis and their counterparts in Bangladesh.

BENGALIS AROUND THE UK

 

Birmingham

A brief history of the Bangladesh Community in Birmingham;

London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Textile workers in east London;

See  History Walk for information about a Bengali history walk produced by Tower Hamlets Council with Swadhinata Trust’s assistance Visit Brick Lane

Gloucestershire

Luton

National

Poetry

 

The first three poems featured were written by young people at the workshops with Joyti Grecht.

The first poem, ‘Chi Chi Chi’ is by Juned reflecting on the damage caused by drug abuse.

The second is by Halima Begum about how parents always worry about what people will say about their children’s behaviour.

The third poem is by Foyzur Basit about the terrible loss of his father.

Further poems were included in the Swadhinata Trust magazine and have been reproduced here: ‘Txt bhondu’ by Khudeja Mannan; ‘No Escape’ by Nilima Ali; ‘Observer’ by Tahimina Sharmin and ‘A Cup of Cha’ by Rabeya Alam.

More recent additions to the poems on the site are, ‘Time’ by Jamirun Nessa and ‘What will you do?’ by Husne. These are from the March 2004 edition of Bengali Info magazine.

Also reproduced here are poems by established and classical Bengali Poets. Examples are the Beginning by Rabindranath Tagore, one of Bengal’s greatest poets and a translation of Lalon from Songs of Lalon Fakir By Samir Dasgupta. Also included is Prayer for Rains and the Brave of Heart by Abu Zafar Obaidullah.

Jewish museum in Calcutta

 

The Jewish museum, Magen David Synagogue, opened in Kolkata in September this year.

To find out more information on the museum please click the link below

Jewish Museum in Calcutta