) short intelligent sayings that convey the essence of human experience about life, society and the world. Etymologically, the Bangla word 'probad' means a particular 'saying' or 'statement'. Such expressions orally handed down from one generation to another are proverbs. In addition to the long experience of human beings, proverbs also hold the essence of everyday wisdom, talent, spirit, tradition, education and folk beliefs of a society or a nation They are an important segment of folk literature
. Although they grow out of things of the past, proverbs concern contemporary life as well.
Proverbs are epigrammatic: they may extend from a tiny sentence to a rhyming couplet, but convey a meaningful idea. These short statements are generally accepted observations of life based on experience. Some oft-quoted proverbs are: অনেক সন্যাসিতে গাজন নষ্ট/ anek sannyasite gajan nasta
(too many cooks spoil the broth), চোর পালালে বুদ্ধি বাড়ে/ chor palale buddhi bare
(getting wise after the event), জোর যার মুলুক তার/ jor jar muluk tar
(might is right), লাগে টাকা দেবে গৌরী সেন/ lage taka debe gaurisen
(don't worry, someone is there to pay). Proverbs are withy. No other form of folk literature can express so much in such few words.
Proverbs change over time before taking a final shape. Sometimes a proverb may have regional variations. Both the proverbs ধান ভানেত শিবের গীত/ dhan bhante shiver git
and ধান ভানেত মহীপালের গীত/ dhan bhante mahipaler git
mean the same thing - 'sounding high in mundane affairs'. The god of agriculture Shiva precedes Mahipala, so it is assumed that the former is the original proverb. Substituting Shiva with Mahipala is a later variation.
Proverbs change their meaning, from a literal meaning become figurative. The proverb অতি ভক্তি চোরের লক্ষণ ati bhakti chorer laksan
(too much reverence is the mark of a cheat) might be a specific experience of an individual, but it has widened its meaning and use. It now applies to anyone who shows good intentions but harbours a bad one. The proverbs চোরের মার বড় গলা/ chorer mar bada gala
(the mother of a thief is the loudest in denunciation), চোর না শোনে ধর্মের কাহিনী/ chor na shone dharmer kahini
(a rogue does not listen to a discourse on honesty), চোর পালালে বুদ্ধি বাড়ে chor palale buddhi bade
(getting wise after the event) etc are not necessarily related to thieves or theft, rather mean that sermons are futile after harm has been done. The proverb ঘোলা পানিতে মাছ শিকার/ ghola panite machh shikar
(to fish in troubled water) might be a fact but it means exploiting a situation for social or political gain. The proverb নাচতে না জানলে উঠান বাঁকা/ nachte na janle uthan banka
(a bad workman quarrels with his tools) might point to a dancer who once found fault with the place she was dancing on, but it now means finding an excuse for failure.
The Germans have a proverb about proverbs: As the country, so the proverb
. In Scotland, people say, As the people, so the proverb
. So, the nature of proverbs depends on the nature of the people of a country. This means that proverbs are based on the nature, environment, surroundings, trends in the national life, history, culture, religion, society and family of a country. Proverbs are the mirror of lifestyle of a people, and, although fragmentary, depict the real picture of a society.
Since the proverbs are the essence of the wisdom of human beings, it is assumed the people acquired the knowledge of proverbs after other branches of folk literature flourished. The use of proverbs can be traced back to a story written on papyrus in Egypt around the 5th century BC. Proverbs are also found in the vedas
and the upanisad
s. The oldest specimen of bangla literature
, the charyapada
, also has a few proverbs, including the proverb অাপনা মােস হিরণা ৌবির/ apna mase harina bairi
(the deer has enemies because of its flesh) used by Bhusuku. baru chandidas
in his srikrishnakirtan
used the same proverb in the 14th century while mukundaram chakravarti
used it in Chandimangal
in the 16th century.
The classification of proverbs is a complex task. Most compilations of proverbs list them in an alphabetical order. Archer Taylor and B J Whiting classify them on the basis of nouns, adjectives or some main words. According to their system, the proverbs অল্প শোকে কাতর৴ অধিক শোকে পাথর/ alpa shoke katar, adhik shoke pathar
(small misfortunes are distressing, huge ones are petrifying) and দুই সিতেনর ঘর৴ খোদায় রক্ষা কর/ dui satiner ghar, khoday raksa kar
(Only God can save the family of a man with co-wives) are classified under the headwords শোক/ shok
(misfortune) and সতীন satin
(co-wife). This system of classification is convenient for compilation but not for judging the merit of the proverbs.
Like other branches of folk literature, proverbs also speak of human beings and their social and natural environment. The proverbs জলে কূমির ডাঙায় বাঘ/ jale kumir dangay bagh
(crocodile in the water and tiger on the land or
between the devil and the deep sea), [FONT=Bangsee Alpoযেখানে বাঘের ভয় সেখানে সন্ধ্যা হয়/[/FONT] yekhane bagher bhay, sekhane sandhya hay
(danger comes where danger is feared), মরা হাতির দাম লাখ টাকা/ mara hatir dam lakh taka
(a dead elephant can still yield a hundred thousand coins in value, meaning the ruins of the great are still great), হাতি খাদে পরলে ব্যাঙও লাথি মারে/ hati khade padle byangeo lathi mare
(even frogs may kick an elephant fallen in a ditch, oreven little birds may peck at a dead lion), হাতি ঘোড়া গেল তল৴ মশা বেল কত জল/ hati-ghoda gelo tal, masha bale kata jal
(fools rush in where angels fear to tread), ঘুঘু দেখেছ৴ ফাঁদ দেখনি/ ghughu dekhechha, phand dekhani
(you have seen the dove and not its trap) all relate to man's nature, characteristics and situation.
The proverbs খাওন োদওয়ার মুেরাদ োনই৴ িকল মারার োগঁাসাই/ khaon deoyar murod nei, kil marar gonsai
(a husband incapable of feeding the wife beats her like an expert), টাকা থাকেল বােঘর দুধ পাওয়া যায়/ taka thakle bagher dudh paoya yay
(money can buy even a tiger's milk, meaning money makes everything), খাজনার োচেয় বাজনা োবিশ/ khajnar cheye bajna beshi
(the music is louder than the substance) etc are based on wealth. These proverbs speak of the uneven distribution of wealth and exploitation, along with prodigality.
The proverbs চাচা অাপন পઝাণ বঁাচা/ chacha apan pran bancha
(o uncle! save yourself first, meaning self-preservation is the first law of nature), অাপ ভাল োতা জগত ভাল/ ap bhalo to jagat bhalo
(if you are good, everything will appear good to you), অাপিন বঁাচেল বােপর নাম apni banchle baper nam
(father's name will come if I survive, meaning self-preservation is the foremost task), etc express self-consciousness. Once again, proverbs like দেশর লািঠ এেকর োবাঝা/ dasher lathi eker bojha
(ten men's sticks are one man's load, meaning sharing makes the task simpler), দশচেਠઙ ভগবান ভুত/ dashchakre bhagaban bhut
(when ten people say so, God turns out to be a ghost, meaning the majority rules the world) and োযিদেক দশ োসিদেকই োখাদা/ yedike dash sedikei khoda
(the voice of the people is the voice of God) speak of unity and solidarity. Many proverbs are fatalistic in nature, for example, রােখ অালઇা মাের োক rakhe allah mare ke
(If God protects, none can destroy), কপােলর িলখন না যায় খਟন/ kapaler likhan na yay khandan
(you cannot erase fate, meaning destiny is inevitable), অভাগা োযিদেক চায় সাগর ੂকােয় যায়/ abhaga yedike chay, sagar shukaye yay
(whichever way the unlucky looks, the sea dries up, meaning once unlucky, always unlucky) etc.
Other proverbs relate to the ways of winning or losing wealth, for example, খােট খাটায় িਦਊণ পায়৴ বেস খাটায় অেধગক পায়/ khate khatay dvigun pay, base khatay ardhek pay
(he who works himself with the labours earns double, he who makes others work for him earns half), বেস োখেল রাজার ভাਟার ফূরায়/ base khele rajar bhandar phuray
(idle consumption empties even a king's treasure) etc all relate. Materialism and pessimism are evident in proverbs such as the following: োয গরઔ দুধ োদয়৴ তার লািথও ভাল/ ye garu dudh dey, tar lathio bhalo
(it is better if the kick comes from a milch cow, meaning give me the roast meat and beat me with the spit), দুੈ গরઔর োচেয় শূনઘ োগায়াল ভাল/ dusta garur cheye shunya goyal bhala
(better an empty shed than a wicket cow), etc.
Thereare countless proverbs in Bangla relating to the ways of men and women and the peculiarities of their positions in family and society. But proverbs in this category are generally satirical and highlight only their faults. Parents, uncles and aunts, in-laws, grandchildren, co-wives, stepmothers, friends etc are the subjects of such proverbs. Only fathers, mothers and maternal aunts have been spared.
Women are most severely denounced in these proverbs; for instance, িঝ জਲ਼ িশেল৴ বউ জਲ਼ িকেল/ jhi jabda shile, bau jabda kile
(teach your maid-servant a lesson by giving her a tough tool to use and teach your daughter-in-law with your fist, meaning maid-servants should be given hard tasks and a daughter-in-law a beating), শাੂিড় মল সকােল৴ োখেয় োদেয় সময় থােক োতা কঁাদব অািম িবকােল/ shashudi mala sakale, kheye deye samay thake to kandba ami bikale
(my mother-in-law died in the morning and I'll try to weep over her if I have time at the day's end, meaning indifference on the part of a wife to her mother-in-law), ননিদনী রায়বািঘনী৴ দঁািড়েয় অােছ কাল-সািপনী/ nanadini raybaghini, dandiye achhe kal-sapini
(my husband's sister is like a tigress, standing like a venomous snake, referring to the rivalry between the wife and the husband's sister), শੴੂড়বািড় মধুর হািড়৴ িতন িদন পর ঝঁাটার বািড় shvashurbadi madhur hadi, tin din par jhantar badi
(a father-in-law's house is most hospitable, but only for three days, meaning fish and visitors smell in three days), দুই সিতেনর ঘর৴ োখাদায় রਉা কর dui satiner ghar, khoday raksa kar
(Only God can save the family of a man with co-wives), etc.
There are proverbs related to occupations: অিত োলােভ তঁািত নੈ/ ati lobhe tanti nasta
(grasp all, lose all), োমাগল-পাঠান হਣ হল ফারসী পেড় তঁািত/ moghal pathan hadda hala, pharsi pade tanti
(when Mughals and Pathans fail, a weaver comes forward to read Persian, meaning fools rush in where angels fear to tread), ঢাল নাই তেলায়ার নাই িনিধরাম সদગার/ dhal nai taloyar nai nidhiram sardar
(Nidhiram poses as a captain without shield or sword, meaning a carpet knight), অানািড় ৈবেদઘ কান নੈ৴ কাঠেমালઇায় ঈমান নੈ/ anadi baidya kan nasta, kathmollay iman nasta
(a quack is always a bad healer and an ill-educated man is a bad religious leader, meaning a little learning is a dangerous thing), ঘুষ োপেল অামলা তূੈ/ ghus pele amla tusta
(bureaucrats are gratified by bribes, meaning every man has his price), কিড় িদেয় িকনব দই৴ গয়লানী োমার িকেসর সই/ kadi diye kinba dai, gaylani mor kiser sai
(If I'm to pay for the curd, why on earth is the milkwoman my friend? or there is nothing as free milk), হািকম নেড় োতা ਗ਼কূম নেড় না/ hakim nade to hukum nade na
(the judge may change but not his verdict, meaning justice goes its own way), ঝেড় বক মের৴ ফিকেরর োকরামিত বােড়/ jhade bak mare, fakirer keramati bade
(the heron is struck down by the storm but the fakir takes the credit, referring to someone who takes credit for something done by someone else), গঁােয় মােন না অাপিন োমাড়ল/ ganye mane na apni modal
(a headman without support in his village, meaning a self-styled leader)
Proverbs are the gems of a language. These gems make language crisp and meaningful. In the words of muhammad shahidullah
, 'Sundarir alak-tilaker nyay probadbakyaguli bhasay saundarya phutaiya tole
' (Just as beauty spots and hair beautify women, proverbs beautify language). [Wakil Ahmed]Source: http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/P_0297.htm