Benga, Bengalis, Bangalore..Oxford mixes it up


Bangalore : The venerable Oxford University Press (OUP) has bungled on Bangalore and Bengalis. Angry historians in Karnataka as well as the state government want an apology for the ridiculous mistake on the origin and name of Bangalore, withdrawal of the publication and its re-issue with correction.

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The Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Place Names, 2005, has turned the history of both Bangalore and Bengalis upside down. According to it, Bangalore is "a city which takes its name from the fact that it was founded as a mud fort in 1537 by Kempe Gowda, a local chief of Hoysala Kingdom, in an area where the population spoke mainly Bengali. Bengalis took their name from a local chief called Benga."

Apparently nobody had noticed the mistake till now in the 2005 edition.

First, Kempe Gowda, the local chieftain who built Bangalore, was born some 200 years after the Hoysala dynasty had ended.

There are several versions on how the name Bangalore came into existence. The most popular is that it is derived from 'Benda Kalu Ooru" (boiled beans city). Legend has it that an elderly woman offered boiled beans to a tired king who was passing through the area and he named the place 'Benda Kalu Ooru'. It has been anglicised to make it Bangalore.

Apart from the 200-odd year gap between the rule of Kempe Gowda and the Hoysala dynasty, it is surprising how the editor of the dictionary John Everett-Heath found it convincing that Bengali was spoken in this area and the Bengalis got their name from a chief called Benga, say historians.

A demonstration in front of the OUP office in Bangalore is planned for Monday and angry Kannada activists are planning to burn a copy of the dictionary for the "ridiculous mistakes".