There aren’t many better examples of India’s diverse culture than its linguistic diversity. The country is home to 780 languages with over 120 of them holding the ‘official’ status. But the other side of the story is that India currently heads the list of UNESCO’s world’s languages in danger. The constitution, in its eighth schedule, lists 22 languages as the official regional languages in the country. This series of articles is an attempt to focus on these 22 languages, their pasts and present, and cherish our linguistic diversity. After discussing Assamese, Bodo, Kashmiri and Konkani in the previous write-up, today, we shift our focus towards Bengali.
It is human nature to identify fellow beings and their habits based on the language they speak. Hence, we assume that those living in Bengal spoke Bengali from the very beginning. While it is a well-accepted fact that Bengali is heavily inspired and derived from the Sanskrit language, a closer look at the Sanskrit texts from the first half of the first millennium BCE suggest that the first residents of Bengal didn’t use languages related to Sanskrit.