III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > C. South and Southeast Asia, 500–1500 > 3. South Asia, 1000–1500 > b. Bengal
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS · SUBJECT INDEX · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
b. Bengal
 
From an area marked by strong adherence to Buddhism and Brahman-dominated Hinduism, Bengal began to change in this period into a culture marked by Islam-oriented devotional life. This reflected political, social, and economic changes that occurred at different rates. Monumental royal temples remain as witness to the fully elaborated style of medieval Hindu kingship that had emerged in deltaic Bengal, as do the Buddhist stupas. The conquest of Bengal by Muhammad of Ghazni in 1199 initiated the first political changes, as a Muslim elite was imported to serve as soldiers and administrators in the new territory.  1
Buddhism and Islam, both being institutionalized, proselytizing religions, attracted many of the same followers. This competition prompted attacks on Buddhist monasteries by the Muslim elite as it moved in, with a resulting exodus of Buddhists from eastern India into Southeast Asia. Indeed, Islam found its greatest support in areas previously dominated by Buddhism. Moreover, beginning in the 14th century, the vacuum left by the exodus of Buddhists began to be filled with a new form of popular devotionalism, bhakti, which also left room for Sufism as a related phenomenon.  2
Even with Persianized Turks as rulers, however, the population of the area remained Buddhist or Brahman-ordered for a very long time. Ultimately, as Sufi saints came to dominate popular religion in a world filled with saintly figures, Bengali cosmologies first used Islamicate terms interchangeably with local (Hindu) ones, and then began to prefer the Islamic concepts. But this slow, shifting form of conversion did not show concrete results (for example, in the choices of names for children) until well after the end of the period.  3
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

CONTENTS · SUBJECT INDEX · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUS NEXT