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Tales from Sonar Bangla

Uma Sehanavis

Children's literature in Bengal owes its first flowering to the awakened consciousness of Bengal's intellectuals even as early as the latter half of the nineteenth century. As it came into con­tact with the world abroad, Bengal began contributing to all spheres of intellectual and academic life. It was therefore not accidental that the first text-books in Bengali were written by that mighty stal­wart of the 19th century, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who translated Aesop's Fables (Kathamala) and published it. Thakurmar Jhuli (The Stories from Granny's Bag) or Thakurdada's Jhuli (Grandpa's Bag of Stories), a compilation of the fascinating fairy stories from the inexhaustible fund of tales of grand­mothers have been handed over from generation to generation. It may also be noted that as early as the beginning of the 20th century Bengal had a children's monthly magazine—Mukul—edited by Pandit Sivanath Sastri, the veteran leader of the Brahmo movement and published by the Brahmo Mission Press. But the child’s world of fantasy began to be seriously explored in all directions in the last hundred years by some of the dozens of Bengali literature headed by Rabindranath himself. The readers of this article need no introduction to Tagore's Sishu, a book of poems on the child's world of imagination or his play Mukui (The Crown), written for and staged by the students of Santiniketan. Even his first, second and third books on the lessons in Bengali include beautiful easy readings in prose and verse. The creative atmosphere prevailing in Jorasanko, the home of the Tagores, did not fail to leave its mark in the sphere of children's litera­ture. Abanindranath Tagore, the maestro in Indian painting urged by his uncle, Rabindranath, has delighted thousands of Bengali children for years. His Khirer Putul or the doll made of Khir or thic­kened milk is meant for very young chil­dren with illustrations by himself. Khatangir Khata (The Account Book of the Cashier) or Bhutpatrir Deshe (In an eerie land) with their beautiful illustrations de­light even the grown-ups of the complex world of today. Nalak narrates the birth of Gautam Buddha Shakuntala tells the story of Shakuntala in his inimitable language that is rich and pictorial. He was known to be the Tagore that 'writes' pictures. His Raj Kahini (Tales of Rajas­than) rouses an abiding interest in the heroic tales of India. But his Alar Phulki (A ...

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