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Midweek Review

 
 

MULTILINGUALISM AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT



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As a Sri Lankan, I feel happy to be in Bangladesh on the UNESCO Mother Language Day for two simple reasons. Firstly, I belong to the ethnic group known as the Sinhalese who trace their origins to your land which was then called ‘Vanga’. ‘Vanga’ is the name used in Pali chronicles written in the fifth century ACE.

The Sinhalese call themselves ‘Sinhala’ because they believe that they descend from a prince named Vijaya who was the grandson of a lion, sinha, who roamed the jungles of Vanga. Hence the symbol of the lion in our national flag.

Vanga has been identified as the land that covers the modern state of West Bengal and modern Bangladesh. In the distant past, Vanga was not a part of Bharat (India). It was an independent kingdom which was not included among the 16 maha-janapadas (great states) mentioned in Buddhist literature. I have a feeling that Bengal was made a part and parcel of India by the East India Company of England in the mid-18th century.

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