What would a rare Bengali manuscript be doing in a Broken Hill mosque?

What would a rare Bengali manuscript be doing in a Broken Hill mosque?

This is the question driving Sydney PHD student Samia Khatun who is in Broken Hill studying the find.

The book, mistakenly identified in a history text as a copy of the Koran, is actually a ‘Puthi’, a type of songbook that would once have been performed in rural Bengal.

Samia, who was born in Bangladesh, says the discovery came about when she saw the photograph and recognised the Bengali language.

She then showed the image to her mother who identified it as a ‘Puthi’.

“It’s kind of a songbook, says Samia. “It’s meant to be sung because it’s not many people in rural Bengal would’ve been literate.”

The songs are based on stories of Islamic and Hindu prophets and would be ‘performed’ by the writer in various villages.

“It’s pretty special, says Samia. “They are very rare.”

Samia has been in contact with the Broken Hill Historical Society, where the manuscript is currently housed, and plans to trace the history of how the book found itself in Broken Hill.

“Everyone knows that there were camel men [in Broken Hill] and there were people from Afghanistan and North India, but Bengali’s aren’t really camel people – they’re more sailors,” says Samia.

The next step of her journey will take her to India where she will attempt to trace where the manuscript was printed.

It will be interesting to learn what new aspects of Broken Hill’s rich history she uncovers!

This ‘Puthi’ was written by Kazee Shofeedeeen and published in c.1894

The Bengali text on the first page, part of the author’s introduction

Samia Khatun outside the Broken Hill Mosque (ABC Local: Emma Sleath)

Link requested by Chowdhury Md. SADARUDDIN | original source

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