July 26, 2003


Hooman has recently posted about the history of Iran. He was wondering whether others are interested in that topic. In fact his post inspired me to discover the influence of Iran in our culture. Hope this can add some value to those who want to spend some time reading this topic.

The Turks established Muslim rule in Hindu Bengal. Though Iran is neither contiguous to Bengal, nor did Iranians get a chance to establish their rule in this country, yet Iranian influence was consistently dominant in Bengal throughout the Muslim rule; First the Turks, then the Afghans & Mughals. Bengal is a large part of the former undivided India now divided into Bangladesh (former East Bengal) and the province of West Bengal in India. 'Bangla' is the main language of both the parts. The culture & heritage are common but Bengal was divided in 1947 by a farcical partition on the basis of religion. Muslims were compelled to choose East Bengal under Pakistan rule (now Bangladesh) and the Hindus were compelled to choose West Bengal under Indian rule. Millions of people migrated and lost their lives or valued possessions in the process. Some of them refused to migrate and were subject to racial discrimination. I will write about this event in another post.

It may be noted that even Arab culture came under the influence of Persia after its conquest by them. Persian language and culture was so rich and attractive that even the Turks and Afghans adopted Persian as the official language in Indian subcontinent under Muslim rule. The Iranian language, i.e. Persian, was the official language of Bengal throughout the Muslim Period and Persian literature enormously influenced Bangla literature. A great many Persian words entered Bangla language and literature, into official documents and the idiom of court circles. This was possible due to the immigration of many Iranians to Bengal in the train of Muslim conquest and in the service of the rulers. The Iranians came and engaged themselves either in peaceful pursuits or joined the army or the administration. Those of the first category included the Ulama, teachers, poets and those of the second category were the subahdars, nazims, and diwans. The famous Iranians who visited Bengal during Afghan & Mughal rules include Bakhtitar Khalji, Shaikh Jalaluddin Tabrizi & Qazi Minhaz-i-Siraj. In the 18th century many Shia Muslims from Iran came and settled in the cities of Bengal: Murshidabad, Dhaka, Hugli etc. Whenever any Iranian officer came to Bengal he was accompanied by a number of his adherents and supporters. In this way people of Iranian origin increased, some made this country their home and settled and died here, while others left for their homes or for northern India.


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