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Bengali as a historical entity

Bengal, as a historical entity, historically refers to the land bounded on the north by himAlaya and the lands of nepAla, sikima, and bhoTAna; on the north east by the brahmaputra river and its highlands; extending to the northwest along the northern plains of bhAgirathi upto dvArbhAGga; bounded on the east by the gAro, khAsia, jaintiA, tripurA, and caTTagrAma ranges; and on the west by mountaineous forests of rAjamahala, sA~otAla parganA, choTanAgpura, mAnabhUma, dhalabhUma, keoJjar and mayUrabhaJja. It thus extends beyond the combined region comprising the present state of West Bengal in India and the country of Bangladesha; and is a people united by a common language, Bengali, a common social structure, a common religious mixture of Hindus and Muslims, and a largely shared history. The different peoples in this region: puNDra (upper ganges), gauD.a, rADh.a (used to mean harsh later), sumha (west of ganges; maybe related to zuSma or strong), vajra (hard, sometimes called brahma), tAmralipti, samataTa (the delta plains), vaGga (lower ganges) were being referred together already in the middle of the sixth century as the gauD.a peoples. From the eighth century onwards they were being referred to by the names puNDra (maybe a tribal name, the relation to sugarcane and silkworm may be secondary), puNDravardhana, gauD.a (may again be a tribal identity, but more probably related to jaggery, also used for northern as opposed to southern India as a whole in later periods), and vaGga (the oldest term recorded for a tribe from this region; the meaning ‘cotton’, though old, could be be secondary), even though the local names like harikela (maybe related to ‘green’), candradvIpa, samataTa in east and south bengal, barendrI in north bengal, daNDabhukti in tAmralipti, and N. and S. rADh.a in west bengal continued to be in use, sometime as names of political and geographical units, but no longer as cultural units. Finally, the name vaGga (originally for eastern) won over the name gauD.a (originally for northern varendra and western rADh.a and sumha regions) in the pAThAna period, although this supremacy was properly established only when it became subA baGla under Akbar. Historically they are bordered by the northern himalayan tribes, the western aGga (north of Ganges, tIrabhukti under guptas, now corrupted to trihuta) and magadha (south of Ganges, vihAra under the Turks), the eastern prAgjyotiSa (‘east of the fire’) and kAmarUpa, and the southern utkala (northern orissa) and kaliGga (middle orissa).

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