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0090 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 90 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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74   55. BANGALA

Polo's account which makes me conclude, notwithstanding YULE, that Polo got his information on Bengal not from seamen, but in Yün-nan from land-travellers.

The name of « Bengal » is a fairly late development of the old native name Vanga. Vangâla (Vangâla) occurs already in texts of the 11th and 12th cents., including the Tanjore inscription of 1030. But the two names Vanga and Vangàla are not equivalent; the Vangâla seem to have invaded and occupied part of Vanga or Bengal (cf. R. Ch. BANERJI, in Indian Culture, 1936, 755-760). It does not seem that we are justified in identifying Bengal with the M If a P'êngch'ieh-lo of Chao Ju-kua writing in 1225; this latter is more likely to be the same as they

P'êng-chia-lo of the Tao-i chih-lio of 1349-1350, Bacanor (?) according to ROCKHILL, but perhaps Mangalor (cf. HR, 97, 102; TP, 1915, 466). So Polo is, up till now, the first non-Indian source to name « Bengal »; and from him, the name has passed into mediaeval cartography (cf. HALLBERG, 66-67). He is closely followed by Rasidu-'d-Din who describes an itinerary from

the Coast of Coromandel to Yün-nan via   Bangaia (cf. Y', III, 131-132; ELLIOT, History of

India, I, 72). Towards the middle of the 14th cent., Ibn Battûtah speaks of all   Banjâla

(arabized form). In 1349-1350, the Tao-i chih-lio devotes a paragraph to 9A fill 4 IJ P'êng-chiala, which is certainly Bengal (TP, 1915, 435-436). There are important mentions or notices of Bengal in Chinese texts of the first half of the 15th cent. (cf. TP, 1915, 436-444; 1933, 313-322, 422-430; DUYVENDAK, Ma Huan re-examined, 62-64). Barbosa has a chapter on Bengal (cf. DAMES, Barbosa, u, 135-148). For other mentions of Bengal, cf. YULE, Hobson-Jobson2, 85; Fe, 693. From the time of the Moors in Spain, al-bangala was the name of a fine muslin, and that form has survived in Spanish; for bengala meaning a bamboo stick in Portuguese, and Port. bengala and Eng. bengal as names of textiles, cf. Hobson-Jobson2, 86, and DALGADO, Glossârio LusoAsiktico, I, 116-117.

The Mongols did not conquer Bengal, and in any case certainly not from China, but they seem to have planned to do something in that way. In 1295, the Mongol governor of Yün-nan asked to have garrisons and postal relays established among the Chin-ch'ih (see « Çardandan »)

to keep them quiet, and also because there were two sorts of barbarians in   sti   Kan-ma-lu
who had not yet submitted. Kan-ma-lu (then Kam-ma-lu) can only be a transcription of *Kamarup = Kamarûpa, Assam (cf. BEFEO, iv, 177-182; Fe, Index, 709; S. Ltvi, in JA, 1923, II, 46-49), and it is quite possible that, in Qubilai's time, Polo should have heard of a scheme for the conquest of Bengal.

YULE (Y, II, 115) has already said that the would-be invasion of India in 1244 by the Mongols via China or Tibet, which is quoted from the Äin-i Akbari by PAUTHIER (Pa, 81) to support part of Polo's account of « Bangala », is simply the result of a corrupt reading in the ,7'abagât-i Nâsiri, the indirect source of the Ain-i Akbari. It may be worth while here to repeat YULE'S perfectly correct statement, since the corrupt text given by the Ain-i Akbari has been translated again without comment by JARRETT, H, 304 (cf. also RAVERTY, The Tabakât-i Nâsiri, I, 665-666).

In the (unpublished) section devoted to the history of China, Rasidu-'d-Din says that âkyamuni's father came from the country of Kashmir and ?; the second name, miswritten in many forms, seems to represent « Bangal », or perhaps « Nipal ».