Bangladesh: Bengali Language Movement



Background preceding the Movement

The Bengali language movement Bhasha Andolon

Contributors to the movement

Personal experience

Celebrating Ekushe February
(21st February)

A brief account of post-language movement

Declaration ofInternational Mother Language Day

About the Bengali language and the Bangladesh National Anthem with translation


Contact me



Photo credits:media-bangladesh.blogspot;,


"Mother language is what a baby child communicates for the first time with mother and father. It is a language a person never forgets, wherever that person lives. The mother language is a prism that determines the first notions of the world to a baby child. The umbilical cord between mother tongue and thought is inseparable. It is the mother tongue that represents thought, culture and heritage of an individual."

-Barrister Harun ur Rashid,
Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva

Bangla (pronounced Baang-laa [ˈbaŋla])or Bengali is the native language to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. With nearly 230 million total speakers, Bengali is one of the most spoken languages (ranking fifth or sixth in the world With a long and rich literary heritage and a bloody history, Bengali binds together the people of this region , especially the people of Bangladesh , who predominantly speak in  this language. Apart from East Pakistan , movement for ensuring the due status of Bengali language also took place in the Indian state of Assam. On May 19, 1961, 11 Bengalis were killed in Police firing in Silchar Railway Station, Assam, while demanding state recognition of Bengali language. Subsequently, Bengali was given semi-official status in the three Bengali-majority districts of Assam.

Post-British colonial rule, the present nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh had been a single nation, as West and East Pakistan being its two far-flung wings, separated by India  (1600 kms distance),  emerged on the world map on 14th August , 1947. The creator of this nation only considered religion as the only strong bond and considered it  was sufficient enough to transform the people into a nation. They did not take into account the linguistic and cultural diversity between these two far-flung  wings .The language of the people of eastern wing of Pakistan, and they were the majority, was Bangla. It had a rich tradition of literature of over a thousand years. The Bengalis also had a highly developed culture that had little in common with the culture of the people of western wing of Pakistan. When in 1952 the central leaders and the Urdu-speaking intellectuals of Pakistan declared that 'Urdu and Urdu alone would be the state language of Pakistan, the people of East Pakistan underwent an uprising known later as the Language Movement of 1952.

Through a great struggle and bloodshed, the Bengalis had finally established Bengali as an official language of the state.  The struggle in order to preserve the right to speak and write in their mother tongue is a source of immense pride and inspiration among Bengalis all around the world today as they celebrate Ekushe February (21st February). As a mark of deep respect and commemoration of the devotion, love and bloodbath behind the establishment of such a right , which is unique in its character, the UN has declared 21st February as the International Mother Language Day in  the year 2000.

To commemorate this movement for establishing the linguistic right of theBengali speaking peopleand the fallen ones, Shaheed Minar, a solemn and symbolic sculpture, was erected in the place of the massacre near the Dhaka medical college in memory of the movement and its victims. The monument is the symbol of Bangladesh Nationalism. Each year on 21st February, starting from early morning, hundreds and thousands of people walks in bare feet to pay their respect to the martyrs singing remembrance songs with garlands in hand at the Shaheed Minar. The men and women wear only black and white cloths.

The Language Movement is considered to have laid the foundations for Bengali nationalism in East Pakistan , and many scholars and people today believe that the freedom struggle of Bangladesh originated from the Bengali language movement , and the emergence of sovereign Bangladesh is the culmination of  this linguistic nationalism.

This website attempts to cover a chronological background and accounts relating to the revolution that has forever changed the identity of Bengalis.

Scottish historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) called the language "the body of thought". This implies that if a mother tongue is crushed, thoughts and ideas will inevitably die.