Echoes of the East (3): The Oeuvre of Alphabets - Chronicles of the Bangla Script
In this symphony of letters that we embark upon today, let us traverse the intricate passages of history, and uncover the story of the magnificent tapestry that is the Bangla script. Just as the constellations in the night sky weave tales across the eons, the script of a language is an astronomical chart, guiding us through the universe of its culture.
From Ancient Brahmi to Bangla: A River of Ink
Imagine, if you will, the storied Brahmi script, akin to the ancient and nurturing rivers that flow through the tapestry of the Indian subcontinent. From this venerable script, the Bangla alphabet emerges like a nascent tributary from an ancient source, coursing its genesis. As the currents of time meander through the ages, the script evolves, drinking from the fountains of myriad cultures and sculpting an indelible identity on the parchment of history.
The Bangla script, resplendent in its nascent form, mirrored the symmetrical grandeur of its Brahmic heritage. The characters - ornate, and symmetrical - reflect the poetic cadence of an era long past. Through the annals of time, as the script embraced the whispers of the land, it became the very essence of its culture - flowing, mellifluous, and inextricably woven into the spoken tongue.
The Alchemy of Language: Transcending Terrestrial Borders
The script assumes a celestial mantle, where it becomes not merely an instrument for the mundane but a sanctified vessel for spiritual wisdom and cultural ethos. Picture yourself in an antiquarian chamber, where time-honored manuscripts tower in their solemn grandeur. The air is redolent with the whispers of a thousand civilizations. Herein lies the sacred communion of Bangla and Arabic, an embodiment of cultural syncretism. A page from Syed Sultan’s "Nabi Vamsa" gazes back at you; an ode to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), sung in the soulful verses of Bangla and penned with the divine grace of the Arabic script.
"বিবি আয়েশারও আগে পুছিতে লাগিলো
কী কারণে শুনিতেছি কান্দনের রোলকোন
হেতু লোক সবে করে কোলাহল।
তবে আয়েশায় শুনি কহিতে লাগিলো
তোমার কারণে সবে কান্দিতে লাগিলো
সমাজেত নমাজ করিতে না পারিলো
অধিক ব্যাধি হেন সক্কলে জানিলা।
তে কারণে উচ্চস্বরে কান্দে সর্বজন
উন্মত্ত হইয়া সবে করেস্ত রোদন।” — Ophat-e-Rasul (The Death of the Prophet), Nabi Vamsa, by Syed Sultan
Here, a picture of the Puthi (a Bangla poetry style) in Arabic alphabets will rest, a visual symphony accompanying the melodies of the verses. This sacred confluence of scripts in the Dobhashi literature (an ancient Bangla literary style that linguistically adapts Arabic or Persian alphabets, grammar, and often, vocabulary) is but one example of the boundless tapestry that the Bangla script has woven across centuries. From the sharp angles of ancient Brahmi to the graceful curves of Bengali, the script, like the river it has flowed beside, has both carved and embraced the land and its people.
This sacred confluence of scripts in the Dobhashi literature is but one thread in the boundless tapestry that the Bangla script has woven across centuries. From the sharp angles of ancient Brahmi to the graceful curves of Bengali, the script, like the river it has flowed beside, has both carved and embraced the land and its people.
A Script's Flourishing Foliage: The Unique Characteristics and Features
When we glance across the vast expanse of human culture, we find that the Bangla script, like an individual star in a galaxy, shares its sky with other celestial luminaries. The Devanagari script, an ethereal sibling in this cosmic dance, shares its ancestry in Brahmi. Oriya, Assamese, and the myriad scripts of the Indian subcontinent form a constellation that illuminates the literary heritage of the region.
The letters in Bangla script are a cascade, a torrent of sounds represented by intricate characters. Each character is akin to a leaf sprouting from the boughs of a mighty tree. The vowels, the warp, and the weft of the language weave a melodious tapestry with the consonants. The Bangla script, curvaceous and flowing, is as fluid as the very rivers of Bengal, as melodious as its lullabies that have cradled generations. When juxtaposed with the Arabic script, it's a symphony, a dance of curves and sounds, while the Devanagari script stands as its angular counterpoint. In the Bangla script, we find an echo of the songs of the earth and rivers, an embrace as warm and encompassing as the night sky itself. It is a luminescent testament to the rich tapestry of human culture, a sonorous symphony penned across millennia.
The Bangla script weaves an ethereal tapestry through time and space. It is a river of ink that has absorbed the whispers of aeons, flowing through the lands and nurturing the souls of its people. It is not just a script but the very soul of a land, an entity that has not merely recorded history but has, in its very essence, shaped it.
An Ode to the Script
With reverence, we stand on the shores of this mighty river. Let us pay homage to the Bangla script, for within its curves and lines, it holds the echoes of centuries, the hopes and dreams of a people. Join me, dear readers, as we continue to navigate through the realms of the Bangla language in the forthcoming chronicles. For in every letter, in every curve, there is a tale waiting to be unfurled – a tale as vast and ancient as the cosmos from whence it sprang.
19 June 2023