The ekushey matrix, rural dimensions and adages
Mohammad Zamir |
February 20, 2022 9:23:40 p.m.
Adages and Bachans have left an indelible mark on our rural cultural heritage and hold special significance for Ekushey and the month of February. This association between Bachans and Bangla as a language in Bengal has ancient roots. Historical records are not precise as to when the people of Bengal started their agricultural profession, but it is more likely than not that it predates 400 BC. Different excavations carried out in 24 Parganas, Mednipore, Murshidabad and Birbhum in the present Indian state of West Bengal have indicated clear evidence of a continuous civilization rich in agricultural knowledge (‘The Eastern Anthropologist’, vol.31, no.4, 1978, pp. 543-555). Excavations carried out at Chandraketugarh in 24 Parganas in West Bengal also provided terracotta samples of a flourishing agricultural pattern which included the presence of coconut palms, betel nut and ‘tal’ trees.
From these records, it is evident that in ancient times, religion in Bengal was mainly associated with agriculture. This in turn was reflected in the evolution of the body of the Bangla Bachans.
Another aspect that needs to be highlighted is the point raised by Mohammad Hanif Pathan in his publications “Bangla Probad Parichiti”, published by the Bangla Academy, Dhaka in 1976 and 1985. He realistically identified the difficulties associated with collecting and to the publication of the proverbs. He also correctly explained the important factor of sayings based on oral tradition. This creates its own dynamic and practical daily interaction. It also shapes the collective experience and contributes to the evolution of terminology and idioms.
Therefore, I believe that the genius and spirit of a nation, especially a country like Bangladesh, can be discovered through its proverbs. The importance of this sociological factor has been further underlined by the idea that adages like religious rituals tend to have a significant influence on the ethnic moral structure of our rural societies. A historical appreciation of the Bangla Bachans and their relevance to rural Bengal would, however, be incomplete without reference to our ancient seer – Khana. Khana’s words are part of the traditional agricultural norms of this country. They also constitute, in a way, a set of suggestions for public health. For many centuries, it has contributed to the understanding of the evolution of the civilization and culture of this country. He also helped to facilitate this process.
A careful analysis of the early economic history of Bengal indicates that farming and being associated with farming was considered highly honourable. Many references exist in Khana to the important role played by farmers in the economic life of Bengal. This was also evident in the poetry of the famous medieval poet Mukondoram, especially in his work – “Chandimongal”. Khana particularly noted more than once–
* Jar ghore nei Dheki moshal, shei boujhir nei koshol’;
*Goru, Joru, Dhan, e tine rakhe man’;
* Jar golai nai dhan, tar abar kothar tan’; and
* Jar nai goru, shey shobar horu’.
In all of these sayings, Khana emphasizes the importance of having healthy farm animals and farming tools – as these are essentially the factors of wealth creation in a household.
It would be interesting to note here that surveys carried out in the recent past in different districts of Bangladesh have revealed that if the inhabitants have not formally read about Dak or Khana, the two seers, however their adages, practiced locally, continue to have an impact on their daily lives. This was especially true in the districts of Mymensingh (Trishal Upazila), Comilla (Brahmanpara Upazila) and Dinajpur (Setabganj Upazila). In these localities, only 9% of the inhabitants seem to know Khana or Dak from having read their Bachans. Still, ninety-seven percent said they knew about Khana and her association with agriculture. Khana was also found to still influence nearly eighty-nine percent of the population, especially on matters of social significance.
Bachans and adages are found all over the world, and they provide insight into the effects of cultural conditions, language, and local variation on expression. Thus the biblical “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”, has an equivalent among the Nandi of East Africa – “A goatskin buys a goatskin and a gourd a gourd.” Both are part of codes of conduct and illustrate the use of each saying in the transmission of tribal and rural wisdom and rules of conduct. The only aspect that needs to be understood is that the same adage can be found in many variations.
The month of February and our commitment and struggle for Bengali as a mother tongue has a distinct osmotic aspect. Bengali as a language plays an important role not only in Bangladesh and the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, but also in the neighboring Indian states of Orissa, Assam, Bihar and Tamil Nadu and in the countries of Nepal and Bhutan.
It is also necessary to understand why we all place great importance on sayings in Bangladesh. As short as the proverbs are, they have a singular character, they generally have a philosophical content and connote a particular meaning. It should also be understood that such expressions are usually formulated on the basis of extensive experience and not on emotion. It is this aspect that generates respect for their use when a person wants to emphasize a particular point of view through an adage. From this point of view, we must realize that they are indeed landmarks and in a way fragments of “an older wisdom”. It is this aspect that was emphasized by WC Hazlitt, an American author who described adages and proverbs as “an expression or combination of words conveying a truth” in a figurative sense, as antithetical or as hyperbole.
Bengali proverbs and sayings normally consist of a descriptive element which contains a subject and a commentary. Based on common sense, they have over the years assumed the unwritten status of morality in the villages of Bangladesh. They also generally reflect the ethos and, in more ways than one, the cultural identity of the community or people living in that area.
Bangla proverbs usually have a distinct theme and meaning. Some of them are based on the contradictory nature of the construction, while others are complementary in nature. There are proverbs and Bachans that deal with principles of social science, politics or economics. There are also Bachans which deal with the weather, weather conditions, the supernatural, flora and fauna and also the importance of astrology in daily life.
Bangabandhu was fond of Khana and often referred to the observations she made regarding the matrix of agriculture and how agriculture could be improved to aid in food recovery and economic livelihoods in war-torn Bangladesh. . In this context, reference has been made to particular types of livestock and poultry – cows, oxen, goats, ducks and pigeons. He also drew attention to how Khana spoke about the importance of vegetables, especially squash and how they could help a farmer. In this context, he underlined the importance that Khana had attached to farmers also growing and growing fruit crops like mango and jackfruit, in addition to bananas.
In this regard, Bangabandhu also drew attention to Khana when, at different times, farmers pointed out to him during his visits outside Dhaka that they had problems finding the necessary assistance in concerns fertilizers for their crops. He was quick to refer to how Khana had discussed the importance of organic fertilizers (not only cow dung, which was readily available, but also ash, rotting leaves and grass) in agriculture and had also advised farmers on raising cattle. and create appropriate backfill.
On another occasion, he drew farmers’ attention to an interesting feature that Khana had also focused on. This was related to his observation of insects and frogs to determine weather patterns. It may be noted here that Khana seems to have made a comment similar to that which had become common in China and many other parts of Southeast Asia. This is related to the fact that if the frog calls often enough, this is a sign of impending rain.
Such advice could be imparted to farmers by Bangabandhu due to his close association with rural needs and how to overcome existing challenges in this area. Khana and her Bachans were there to help her after seven centuries.
Muhammad Zamir, former ambassador, is an analyst specializing in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance.