26th March


1484 William Caxton’s translation of Aesop’s Fables printed – listen here.

Bangladesh Independence Day:

Ancient Bengal was conquered by the Iron Age Mauryan Empire, then the Gupta Empire (which was the Golden Age of India, making scientific discoveries and Hindu culture), then the Gauda kingdom rose up.

The 8th-11th centuries were ruled by the Buddhist Pala dynasty, followed by a Hindu Sena dynasty. In 1204 a Muslim Turk army defeated the Sena dynasty and Bengal was ruled by Muslims for a while. Then it was part of the Mughal Empire, led by Turko-Mongols from what is now Uzbekistan, such as Akbar the Great.

Medieval geographers thought the original Garden of Paradise was at the mouth of the Ganges.

The Hindu Maratha Empire pushed out the Mughal Empire in the 18th century. They kept raiding Bengal, taking Orissa and Western Bengal and imposing a tax in return for leaving the rest alone.

Portuguese traders began to settle the area from 1537, and in 1757 the constant embarrassment that is the British East India Company took the whole area. We treated them terribly and crushed ‘mutinies’, like the ‘Indian Rebellion of 1857’ ((the Indians called it their First War of Independence) which brought the whole country under Empress Victoria’s rule.

In 1943 Japan occupied nearby Burma and caused a famine that killed 3 million Bengalis.

In 1947 Britain withdrew from Bengal and split it, the Hindu west going to India and the Muslim east going to Pakistan.

The Awami League was formed to promote Bengali rights; its president, Mujibur Rahman, was arrested and when he won a majority election in 1970 was blocked from taking office.

Pakistan’s preisdent, Yahya Khan, invaded East Pakistan and began a genocide of Hindus, Bengali-speakers and dissidents. America and India helped until Pakistan surrendered in 1971.

Since Bangladesh was formed, presidents were regularly assassinated, and in 2007 the military installed a neutral caretaker government to root out corruption. In 2009 a fair election was held and the Awami League’s Sheikh Hasina won.

Learn about the Royal Bengal Tiger; the national fruit is the jackfruit; the national tree is the mango tree.

Make a biryani for dinner.

Other events that might inspire your play today:

  • Mali Day of Democracy – see 22nd September
  • Prince Kuhio Day (Hawaii) – see 11th June
  • Prophet Zoroaster’s Birthday (Founder of Zoroastrianism, 660 583 B.C.)

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