The rise and fall of ancient indigenous Buddhist Bengali civilization
Most of the history of ancient Bengali Civilization was narrated from a hateful perspective by the Indo-Aryans intelligentsia. Later, the modern interpretation of ancient Bengal's history was more distorted by the British Empire for its geopolitical and geostrategic ambitions. It always happen in that way when not you, but your enemy writes your history. And now, when we have entered into the age of information, we must objectively find the truth with objective study. I hope this paper will open up new windows to looking at a subjugated, often misunderstood but amazing civilization.
Let's start uncovering the beauty, spirituality and power of ancient Bengali civilization.
Manasa Mangal: A Matriarchal society
According to archaeological evidences, Bengali civilization started as non-Aryan civilization 4000 years ago. Ancient Bengalis were hunters, living in jungles and hills.
Ancient Bengalis had a very interesting tool of self-defense. Against any aggressor, their main weapons were snakes! Even the early civilization was run by a woman named 'Manasa' or 'Monosha'. She was the wife Jagatkaru - a spiritualist/ Sage/ Shadhu. Her brother Vasuki was the king of Naga (land of snakes). She had a son named Astika, who was a sage too. The word 'Astik' means a person who is a believer in spirituality. It also indicates that the Non-Aryan and ancient indigenous Bengali civilization had no relation with Paganism.
In early times, Bengali powerful women were perceived as deities, thus, Manasa was called as Manasa Devi. Ancient Bengalis worshipped her.
The history of Manasa is very important to understand the long hectic journey of Bengali civilization since she won the first ever defensive battle against the Aryan trader Chandra Banik or Chad Saudagar and his battalions. That ancient event of the history later enriched the collective confidence, self-determination and cultural development which gradually transform Bengal from a hunting society into an agricultural society.
The Bengal civilization: the cradle of Buddhism
‘Buddhi’ is a Bengali word that means intelligence, the word also relates the Bengali word 'Bodh', that means consciousness. A person who seeks knowledge through intelligence is called ‘Boddha’. Seeking knowledge with intelligence and spirituality was considered as religion in ancient Bengal and from the very beginning of our known Bengali civilization, seeking knowledge with intelligence and spirituality was indigenous to the society. As a matriarchal society, where value of women was the supreme, males usually followed the indigenous religion Buddhism unlike the Gautama Buddha preached ‘Buddhism’. The reader should know that Gautama Buddha* was the promoter of Buddhism but not the inventor of it though he gave the indigenous religion to an international exposure by compromising the ethnicity, intelligence and Bengali civilization’s safety. (*It will be discussed later)
After winning the battle with the Aryan trader Chad Saudagar/ Chandrabanik (around 4000 years ago), charged with confidence and aspiration for self determination, the Bengali civilization’s matriarchal society began to revolutionize their domestic power and labor politics. Gradually, the Bengal matriarchal society had been transforming into a patriarchal society. They started to begin big transportation ships and trading facilities. Instead of going west, Bengali merchants and ‘Buddha’s started going East Asia and South East Asia. Eventually, the superiority of smartness made the Buddha traders winner of the conquest and the whole East and South East Asia embraced Buddhism. Bengal civilization emerged as a great thalassocracy with specific ethno-religious, economic and empirical identity.
Meanwhile, the Aryans didn’t stop their occupational adventures in the Bengal civilization. They started to learn new techniques from western Arab, Persian and Greek civilizations to invade the Bengal land and the sea-the gate of the east. Aryans main aim was to occupy Bengal and implement act east policy and launch their invasion from Bengal to East and South East Asia but they failed miserably due to their inferior ethno-cultural representation with hostility and paganism against the Bengali civilizations. Aryans started hate campaign against the Bengal civilization amongst its citizens and to the western civilizations. According to the Aryan literature ‘Mahabharata’, Aryans called the Bengali civilization is a land of ‘Dasyus’ (English – Dacoits/ barbarians) because several Aryan aggressions were thwarted mercilessly by the Bengali war techniques. Indo-Aryan language stills mocks at Buddhism or indigenous Buddhist philosophy by naming foolishness as ‘Budhdhu’. Later, the Aryans started their Indo-Aryan religion which is now being called as 'Hinduism'. My reader must know that the 'orthodox Hinduism' is devised to infiltrate into cradle of Buddhism.
Bengal and the end of ancient Buddhist civilization
After destroying the Indus valley civilization, Aryans moved from the Indus valley region to Northern India and they often tried to invade the Ganges plain. They lived like nomads and didn’t have any civic-cultural representation for almost 1500 years. During this period, the Indo-Aryans formulated their knowledge which they acquired from clandestine mingling with the Persian and Bengali civilizations. When the Indo-Aryans got the knowledge of agricultural farming from Bengali civilization, they started to make a settling society. The Vedic period is the period of Indo-Aryan period of agriculture and formulation of religious-cultural identity and that is also very much inspired by Bengali civilization’s indigenous religion Buddhism. Therefore, it has become a fact that the Indo-Aryan nomads got civic-cultural orientation mostly from Bengali civilization and Persian Civilization.
The so called Vedic period which started from around 1500 BCE, was the main milestone of the Indo-Aryan civilization because in that period the Indo-Aryans proposed Vedas. The Vedas had two interesting objectives, to religionize a semi-nomadic ethnic group for cultural representation and to marginalize indigenous Buddhist philosophy of Bengal in order to occupy Bengal civilization and move towards East and South East Asia. The Veda word is derived from the root vid- "to know". This is reconstructed as being derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *u̯eid-, meaning "see" or "know". There is another argument of the etymological root of the Vedas, like it could be derived from the word ‘vidya’ (the way of acquiring knowledge) or ‘Bidhan’ which is close to the Bengali word ‘Bodh’. Vedas were composed in Vedic Sanskrit. As it was intended, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature (Totally influenced by Bengali civilization’s verbal and aesthetic cultural representation with Proto-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Indo-European linguistic ancestry) and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.
During the Vedic period of the Indo-Aryan ethno-religious-civilization was further developed when the Indo-Aryans migrated into the Ganges Plain around 1100 BCE and became settled farmer’s further syncretising with the native cultures of Bengali civilization.
On the other hand, after the first defensive war around 4000 BCE, the development of Bengali civilization went through intensive changes. Bengali civilization with the spirit of indigenous Buddhism flourished its ethno-religious trade empire towards the East and South East Asia for nearly 800 hundred years. Such a long empirical time with such conservative ethno-religious-cultural-economic practices also brought political fatigue which laid the foundation for Indo-Aryan hybrid infiltration into an organic civilization of Bengal. The long empirical journey of Bengali civilization also created enormous professional and labor divisions like Shipping line traders, farmers, Fishermen, Wood traders, monks. The thalassocratic civilization was divided into 8 kingdoms which were Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Suhma, Pundra, Samatata, Harikela and Kamarupa. The Indo-Aryan literature Mahabharata mentioned battles between the kings within the Bengali civilization. Mahabharata also indicated that that Indo-Aryans had exploited the internal political crisis of the ancient Bengal region.
During the period of Indo-Aryan Vedic-ethno-religious-cultural aggression into the Ganges plain, they invoked caste system. The system had four divisions, Brahmin priests were on the top of the hierarchy and warrior stood second to them, free peasants and traders were the third, and slaves, laborers and artisans, many belonging to the indigenous people, were the fourth.
Since Bengali civilization was indigenous people to the indo-Aryan invaders, they treated the whole Bengali civilization as the landmass of lower caste people.
Upon exploiting the internal political struggle within the Bengali civilization, the Indo-Aryan ‘act east’ policy seekers started to extend the Vedic culture into the western Ganges Plain centering on Kuru and Panchala, and had some influence at the central Ganges Plain after 500 BCE.
The real final blow to the ancient Bengali civilization came from Sankaracharya around 500 BCE. Sankaracharya was a philosopher and theologian from Indo-Aryan civilization who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, and he is also credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism. He also explained and misinterpreted the key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, stating that Hinduism asserts "Atman (Soul, Self) exists", while Buddhism asserts that there is "no Soul, no Self".
Sankaracharya’s ethno-religious philosophy made a great impact in contemporary Indo-Aryian society especially into Haryanka dynasty in Magadha and later the philosophy went more east to cover the whole Bengali civilization. According to historian Prof. H.C. Raychaudhuri, the Nandas- backed by the Indo-Aryan hindus, usurped the throne of the Shishunaga dynasty and massacred ethnic Bengali Buddhist population in 345 BCE. The event can be considered as the first known ethnic cleansing by the indo-aryans hindus against ancient Bengali civilization. Shishunaga – a Buddhist, the founder of the dynasty, was initially an amatya or "minister" of the last Haryanka dynasty ruler Nāgadāsaka and ascended to the throne after a rebellion against Indo-Aryan Hinduism supported Haryanka dynasty in 435 BCE.
After holding the power of Magadha by usurping the Shishunaga dynasty, the Nanda dynasty- though living in a religious quandary between indigenous Buddhism and Sankaracharya promoted Hinduism, had extended its kingdom from Bengal in the east, to the Punjab region in the west and as far south as the Vindhya Range. The rulers of this dynasty were famed for the great wealth which they accumulated. The empire had huge military forces, although Magadha was later conquered by Chandragupta Maurya, who founded the Maurya Empire and brought an end to ancient Bengali-Buddhist-indigenous-civilization.
From the beginning to the end of ancient Bengali civilizations we saw a very significant resistance from the indigenous people against the Aryans and later Indo-Aryans civilization. It also appears that the beginning of the real geopolitical threat to the Bengali civilization came from the west, not from the east. The civilization was very nature conscious since they had to live in the grandeur of forest and river oriented organic matriarchal ancient society of Bengal that later faded away by resisting the periodic patriarchal Indo-Aryan aggression. We can also learn from the history that Bengal has indigenous spiritual identity, whereas, the Indo-Aryans were non believers, Pagans. Therefore, the ancient civilizational conflict between Bengal and Indo-Aryans had a root in spirituality and its denial. The ancient history of Bengali civilization also suggests that unlike the west, Bengalis were respectfully received in East and South Asia for their indigenous Buddhism (Intelligence with Spirituality). We also learned that Bengal civilization’s ancient development came through thalassocracy, not from agriculture.