Listeners of the BBC's Bengali service have voted Bangladesh's first president, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the "Greatest Bengali of All Time".Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur, assassinated in 1975, easily beat Nobel prize-winning poet and playwright Rabindranath Tagore.Another Nobel laureate, economist Amartya Sen, was the only living person in the top 20 at number 14.He was one place behind Satyajit Ray, director of classic films such as Pather Panchali and the Chess Players.Sheikh Mujib, popularly known as Bangabandhu or Friend of Bengal, is credited by many with leading Bangladesh to independence from Pakistan in 1971.Tagore is revered widely - regarded by many as the Bengali Shakespeare - and is the composer of both the Indian and Bangladeshi national anthems.In the survey, popular fascination with poetry and rebellion was reflected in the listeners' choice for number three - Kazi Nazrul Islam, a firebrand poet who was jailed by the British for writing subversive verses.
Still revered by Bengalis as the Rebel Poet, Nazrul Islam also composed hundreds of love songs and religious chants.The radio survey was conducted over February and March, when listeners were asked to nominate their five greatest Bengalis.The Bengali Service announced the names through a countdown over 20 days, starting on 26 March - Bangladesh's independence day - and ending on Bengali New Year's Day on 14 April.
The survey put only one woman in the Top 20, Rokeya Sakhawaat Hossain, at number six.
Chronology of top 20 greatest Bengali in the polls survey of BBC Bangla Service - Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1st), Poet Rabindranath Tagore (2nd), Kazi Nazrul Islam (3rd), Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haque (4th), Shubhash Chandra Bose (5th), Begum Rokeya Sakhawat (6th), Jagadish Chandra Bose (7th), Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (8th), Mawlana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani (9th), Raza Ram Mohon Ray (10th), Shaheed Meer Misar Ali - Titumir (11th), Lalon Shah (12th), Satyajit Ray (13th), Amartya Sen (14th), martyrs of language movement (15th), Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah (16th), Swami Vivekananda (17th), Attish Diponkar (18th), Former President Ziaur Rahman (19th) and Hossain Shaheed Suhrawardi (20th).
The BBC's Bengali Service has nearly 12 million listeners in Bangladesh and eastern India, home to some 250 million Bengali-speakers. The survey produced well over 100 names, and the top 20 was compiled on points awarded according to listeners' order of preference.
The author is BBC Bengali Editor
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