This article examines how Bengali masculinity has been negotiated between national and ethnic/local notions of identity and suggests a new way of understanding this issue. Within the specific historiography of Bengali masculinity, concerns regarding physical strength, courage and virility of the Bengali male have been central tropes, challenged by the colonially constructed stereotype of the effeminate Bengali. The present article maps mainly nineteenth century discourses regarding Bengali masculinity and focuses on one particular strategy of three, namely, construction of a mode of mythic-historical discourse to reclaim a supposedly more masculine past for Bengali men. This suggests the notion of national-masculine as a gendered materialisation of the compensatory agency of Bengali masculinity. Shown to occur through the articulation of buddhibal in contrast with bahubal that negotiates with the hegemonic national-masculine, this throws new light on the emerging prominence of the bhadralok concept of a sophisticated Bengali gentleman. © 2011 SAGE Publications.