Ancient History

Human settlement in Bengal can be traced back 20,000 years. Remnants of Copper Age settlements date back 4,300 years. Archaeological evidence confirms that by the second millennium BCE, rice-cultivating communities inhabited the region. By the 11th century BCE, the people of the area lived in systemically-aligned housing, used human cemeteries and manufactured copper ornaments and fine black and red pottery. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers were natural arteries for communication and transportation. Estuaries on the Bay of Bengal allowed for maritime trade. The early Iron Age saw the development of metal weaponry, coinage, permanent field agriculture and irrigation. From 600 BCE, the second wave of urbanization engulfed the north Indian subcontinent, as part of the Northern Black Polished Ware culture.

The name of Bengal is derived from the ancient kingdom of Banga, the earliest records of which date back to the Mahabharata epic in the first millennium BCE. Theories on the origin of the term Banga point to the Proto-Dravidian Bong tribe that settled in the area circa 1000 BCE and the Austric word Bong (Sun-god).[ Others say that the land mass with hundreds of rivers lokked like a ‘broken’ or ‘bhanga’ land mass with hundreds of islands. The term Vangaladesa is used to describe the region in 11th-century South Indian records. The modern term Bangla is prominent from the 14th century, which saw the establishment of the Sultanate of Bengal, whose first ruler Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah was known as the Shah of Bangala.The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the Age of Discovery.

The modern English name Bengal is an exonym derived from the Bengal Sultanate period.