Bengali is spoken in the region known as Bengal, lying both in India and in the new nation of Bangladesh. In the latter it is spoken by virtually the entire population of 120 million; in India it is spoken by about 70 million people in the province known as West Bengal. Only five other languages in the world can claim as many as 190 million speakers.
Bengali like the other Indo-Aryan languages has no grammatical gender.
Bengali, like Hindi, is descended from Sanskrit, and is thus of the Indo-European family. It is written in a variety of the Sanskrit Devanagari alphabet, from which it began to diverge about the 11th century. Bengali literature is dominated by the towering figure of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.
Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.
I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter; I forget that there abides the old in the new, and that there also thou abideth.
Through birth and death, in this world or in others, wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same, the one companion of my endless life who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.
When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the one in the play of the many.
RABINDRANATH TAGORE, Gitanjali