Religion in West Bengal

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Religion in West Bengal is composed of diversified beliefs and practices. As per as 2011 census, Hinduism and Islam are the two biggest religion practiced by native Bengalis in the state. Smaller percentage of people adheres to Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Animism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism.

Quotes[edit]

  • Muslim conquest was not without its blessings in Bengal. There, as elsewhere, developed an understanding between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus offered sweets at Muslims shrines; consulted and kept copies of the Quran. Musalmans responded with similar acts.
    • K.S. Lal, Twilight of the Sultanate (1963)
  • [Bengal was conquered by...] Muslim militant saints, the Firs who cropped up after the seed or Islam had been broad cast in the plains of Bengal.
    • K.R. Qanango, quoted in K.S. Lal , Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973)
  • The fourteenth century was a period of expansion of Muslim authority in Bengal and the adjoining territories. A significant part was played in this process by the warrior saints who were eager to take up the cause of any persecuted community. This often resulted (in clash) with the native authority, followed, almost invariably, by annexation…” This also shows how elastic were the methods adopted by the Sufis. They acted mostly as peaceful missionaries, but if they saw that the espousal of some just cause required military action, they were not averse to fighting. The [Bengal] Sufis...did not adopt the Ismaili technique of gradual conversion...They established their khanqahs and shrines at places which had already had a reputation for sanctity before Islam. Thus some of the traditional gatherings were transformed into new festivals. As a result of these efforts, Bengal in course of time became a Muslim land...
    • Dr. Qureishi I.H. (1962) The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (610–1947), Monton & Co., S-Gravenhage, 1962, pp.70-71, 74-75. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1990). Indian muslims: Who are they. also quoted in Khan, M. A. (2011). Islamic Jihad: A legacy of forced conversion, imperialism and slavery. ch 4, quoted in K.S. Lal , Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973) 175 ff.
  • Barbosa was struck by the fact that in Bengal “everyday Gentiles turn Moors to obtain favour of the King and Governors”.
    • Barbosa, quoted in K.S. Lal , Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973) 175 ff.
  • But Bengal, especially eastern Bengal, calls for a special study, for Bengal did not lie on the route of the Muslim invaders, Nor did it form a base of operations for further conquests into India as were Punjab and Sind. But Bengal was another region where the rise of Muslim population was rapid, and probably in the medieval period itself eastern Bengal especially began to have a majority of Muslim Population. An explanation for this phenomenon has posed a Problem before scholars and demographers.
    • K.S. Lal , Growth of Muslim Population in Medieval India (1973) 174
  • The Mussulmans of Calcutta though adopting various Hindu practices, have never amalgamated with the Hindus. They seem to retain towards them the views of Timur who said, - 'The Hindu has nothing of humanity but the figure.' Ambitions characterized the Moslem here last century as much as avarice did the Gentoo, but the days are gone for ever when a Mussulamn like the Foujdar of Hooghly had Rs. 6000 monthly salary and when the kora or the whip was hung up in every Mofussil Court for the Mussulman officials to flagellate the Hindus.
    • The Muslims of Calcutta, Rev. James Long. cited in Nair, P. Thankappan ed., British Social Life in Ancient Calcutta 1750 to 1850, Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, 1983. p. 105. Also quoted in The India They Saw, ed. Jain Meenakshi, p. 404.
  • About a century after the military and political conquest of Bengal, there began the process of the moral and spiritual conquest of the land through the efforts of the Muslim religious fraternities that now arose in every comer. By destroying temples and monasteries, the Muslim warriors of earlier times had only appropriated their gold & silver; but the sword could not silence history, nor carry off their immortal spiritual treasure wherein lay rooted Hindu idolatry and Hindu nationalism. The ‘saints’ of Islam completed the process of conquest, moral and spiritual, by establishing dargahs & khanqahs deliberately on the sites of these ruined places of Hindu and Buddhist worship. This served a double purpose of preventing the revival of these places of heathen sanctity, and later on, of installing themselves as the guardian deities with tales of pious fraud invented by popular imagination. Hindus who had been accustomed for centuries to venerate these places gradually forgot their past history, and easily transferred their allegiance to the pirs and ghazis. The result of this rapprochement in the domain of faith ultimately created a more tolerant atmosphere which kept the Hindus indifferent to their political destiny. It prepared the ground for the further inroad of Islam into Hindu society, particularly among the lower classes who were gradually won over by an assiduous and persistent propaganda regarding the miracles of these saints and ghäzis, which were in many cases taken over in toto from old Hindu and Buddhist legends. The most notable example of the invasion of the sites of Hindu worship by Muslim saints is the transformation of the Sringi-Rishi-kund into the Makhdum-kund at Rajgir, and the translation of the miracle-working Buddha of the Deva-datta legend into a Muslim saint, Makhdum Sabib.
    • Jadunath Sarkar in his book on History of Bengal Volume II, [1] pp 69 ff.
  • (The Sufis) established their khanaqahs on the sites of Buddhist shrines, and (it) fitted well into the religious situation in Bengal.
    • Levtzion N (1979) in Conversion to Islam, p. 18 (in Iran, N. Levtzion ed., Conversion to Islam, Holmes and Meier Publishers Inc., New York,) in Khan, M. A. (2011). Islamic Jihad: A legacy of forced conversion, imperialism and slavery.Ch 4

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