Vanga and Pundra were two dominant tribes in Bangladesh in ancient time. The 4th century Hindu epic Mahavarata mentions that the Vanga and Pundra kings took part in the battle of Kurukshetra. Kouravas and Pandavas fought this battle near Delhi about three thousand years back.
Present day North Bangladesh plus some part of northern West Bengal was the territory of Pundra tribe, and their Capital City was Pundranagara, now known as Mahasthangar, a ruin in Bogra. The heartland of Vanga tribe was comprised of the greater districts of Maymensing, Dhaka, and Faridpur. Some historians think that Jessor, Khulna and the district of 24-Paragana of West Bengal were also the part of Vanga. Gange was the Capital of Vanga Kingdom. Barabazar in Magura (Jessore) might have been the location of Gange.
Another great city of Vangas was located at Warri-Bateshwar in Narsingdi. This City as well as Gange had maritime trades with Roman Empire, Middle East and Far East. Garments made of Muslin textile produced in Vanga were the liking of the emperors, kings and noblemen all over the world, including Roman Emperors and Egyptian Pharaohs. Muslin was used to make the garments for the mummies of the Pharaohs. Muslin imported from Bangladesh by the Middle East traders used to be sold in Mosul, now a Kurd township in North Iraq, for the European markets. The highly specialized textile of Bangladesh, Muslin, got its name from the City of Mosul. Muslin was so fine that European used to say, it was made of air.
The British rulers of Bengal destroyed the Muslin industry in the nineteenth century AD, allegedly by chopping off the thumbs of Muslin weavers.
The Mughal Emperor Aurangajeb used to call Bangladesh ‘Soobah jennat ul Belaod Bengala’ – the paradise of Nations, the Subah Bengal. Lord Carzon (1785-93), the Governor General of British India, once wrote, in a letter, about Bengal, that ‘England is fortunate enough to establish dominion over one of the richest regions on the earth.’
Just before the invasion of India by Alexander, Vanga was a mighty kingdom. At that time the northern boundary of Vanga Empire was along the east bank of Bias River in Punjab. In the year of 327 BC, Alexander, with his army, reached on the west bank of River Bias. His Army, having learnt about the strength of Vanga Army, refused to cross the river to fight against that mighty enemy. So Alexander backed out from his India Expedition, and went toward Iran. At that time the king of Vanga was Dhanananda. All this history of Vanga was written by the Sicilian historian, Diadorous. He wrote that Vanga army had the strength of two hundred thousand infantry soldiers, twenty thousand cavalry and 3 – 4 thousand trained elephants.
Greek and Sicilian historians mentioned Vanga as Gangaderoi or the heart of Ganges, and its capital as Gange.
The Shishunag Dynasty based in Bihar used to rule the whole of North India. In the year of 354 BC, Dhanananda defeated Shishunags in a battle, and made the whole of North India a part of his Vanga Kingdom.
It is supposed by many historians that Chandragupta Morya, the founder of the Moryan Empire, was the son of Dhanananda by one of his maidservant or concubine. Chandragupta was not in the good book of his father. He revolted against his father and deposed him or curved out a vast portion of his father’s Empire. In the 3rd century BC during the Moryan Emperor, Asoka, the grandson of Chandragupta, almost all of Indian sub-continent came under the rule of Moryan Empire.
It is also supposed, based on logic, that the Gupta Empire, the most illustrious empire of the ancient India, was a Bengali Empire, as the Gupta rulers were originally of Bengali descents.
Guptas ruled India during 3rd to 5th centuries. Within a few years after the fall of Letter Gupta Empire, Sasanka became the king of Bengal. During his time Bengal became known as Gawradesh.
Sasanka founded his capital in Karnasubarna. To mark the foundation of his capital, he introduced a new calendar now known as ‘Bangla Borsha’ or Bengali Calendar. As he founded his capital in the month of Baisakh, so the Bengali Calendar starts from this month. During the Turk rulers of Bengal, in the 13th century AD, Bengali Calendar was replaced by the Hijri Calendar.
Bengali Calendar is a solar calendar and the Hijri Calendar is a lunar calendar. It became difficult to collect tax from the farmers of Bengal on the basis of a lunar calendar; so the Mughals Emperor Akbar reintroduced the Bengali Calendar with some reformations. On the day of 1st Baishakh we celebrate Bengali New Year. It has become a part of our culture.
After the death of Sasanka in 670 AD, anarchy gripped Bengal; and that anarchy lasted for many years. There was no central rule in this land. At last in 730 AD people elected Gopala, a feudal lord of Pundra or Pundrabardana (North Bengal) as their king. He soon annexed Vanga (East Bengal) to his kingdom, and a golden age of Bengal started anew. With Gopala started the history of Pala Dynasty, which ruled Bengal as well as many parts of India for about four hundred years.
Pundranagara was the capital of Gopal. Dharmapala, the son of Gopala conquered Bihar and some other parts of North India. He shifted the capital of his Empire from Pundranagara to Pataliputra in Bihar. The ruins of Pataliputra lie at the outskirt of present day Patna City. Dharmapala built Paharpur Mahavihara. Dharmapala and his son Devapala established Bengali rule over many parts of North India as well as over Assam.
After four hundred years of Pala rule, the Senas, who came from Karnataka in South India, were able to occupy South-west Bengal from the Palas. This change of rule in that part of Bengal took place in the end of 11th century AD; with that started the foreign rule in Bengal which lasted for about 1000 years. Senas soon conquered North Bengal. Gawra or Lakhanwati was their Capital. South part of Gawra fell in present day Nawabganj District of Bangladesh, and the north part, in Maldah district of West Bengal. When Senas were ruling North and south Bengal, East Bengal or Vanga was a separate kingdom, and its capital was Vikrampur – not far from Dhaka. Here in Vikrampur, in the year of 980 AD was born Atisha Dipankara, a great scholar.
In 1204 the Turks derived away the Senas from North Bengal. Sena King, Laksmansena fled to Vanga or East Bengal, and made Vikrampur his capital. These Turks were from Turkmenistan in Central Asia, not from Turkey. Many Turk rulers made Gawr their capital for Turk occupied North Bengal. From 1204 to next 80 years the Turks occupied almost all parts of Bengal. These Turks were very skilled in killing each other. In first fifty years of their rule in Bangladesh, they killed five Sultans or rulers. During that short span of time 12 Turks became the rulers of Bengal.
In the year of 1325, Turks made Sonargaon the capital of their East Bengal province. Soon Sonargaon became the capital of whole of Bengal. At present Sonargaon lies only 17 miles off the capital city of Dhaka on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway.
In the map prepared by Rennell in 1785, Sonargaon was shown as a large town. The decline of this city was due partly to the main rivers altering courses and partly due to the erosion of the River Meghna, which devoured a large part of this fabulous city. The area of Sonargaon City was about 24 square miles.
After Turks came Arabs, Abyssinians, Afghan, Mughals and British in Bengal as foreign rulers. Not even Sirajdaula was a Bengali ruler. His father was an Arab, his mother, a Turk; he was born in Bihar and he used to speak Farsi. His army was manned by Afghans, Uzbek, Rajput and Kashmiries. Mir Jafar was an Uzbek. In his youth he used to drive a mule cart in Uzbekistan. To change his fate he came to Bengal, and managed a job in the army of Alibordi Khan–the grandfather of Sirajdaula.
Mughals derived away Afghans from Bengal by the first quarter of 17th Century. In 1612 the Mughals viceroy Islam Khan shifted the Capital from Sonargaon to Dhaka; and that was the beginning of Dhaka as a capital. After about 100 years Murshid Kuli Khan shifted the capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad in 1717.
When the British became the ruler of Bengal and India, Kolkata became the capital of British-India Empire. In 1905 Dhaka was given the status of the capital of the newly formed East Bengal and Assam Province. It remained the capital till 1911. In 1911 In the face of “terrorism activities” the British shifted the capital of their Empire from Kolkata to New Delhi. In the same year East Bengal merged with West Bengal, together to be known as Bengal Province. Dhaka lost the status of a capital, and Kolkata became the capital of Bengal Province.
In 1947 we achieved our independence from the British rule as a part of Pakistan. Soon our independence turned into subjugation. In 1952 we started Language Movement against the Pakistani rulers. In 21 February in that year four young men sacrificed their lives for the mother tongue. Every year on 21 February, we commemorate ‘Bhasha Dibash’. The commemoration of ‘Bhasha Dibash’ has become a part of our culture. Through the recognition by the United Nations, in 2001, ’21 February’ has become the ‘International Mother Language Day’ to be observed all other the world every year. Fighting against Pakinastini brutal forces for more than nine months, Bangladesh acquired its independence on December 16, 1971. Followed by a armed coup in 1975 we entered into a dark period, which was whitened with a mass upsurge of 1990. Since the 90s, Bangladesh is having a healthy political culture and continuing its success in different sectors