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Coordinates: 23°48′N 90°18′E / 23.8°N 90.3°E / 23.8; 90.3

Bangladesh (/ˌbæŋɡləˈdɛʃ/ or /ˌbɑːŋ-/; Bengali: বাংলাদেশ Bāṃlādēśa, pronounced [ˈbaŋlad̪eʃ], lit. "The country of Bengal"), officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh (গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ Gaṇaprajātantrī Bāṃlādēśa), is a country in South Asia. It shares land borders with India and Myanmar (Burma). Nepal, Bhutan and China are located near Bangladesh but do not share a border with it. The country's maritime territory in the Bay of Bengal is roughly equal to the size of its land area.[10] Bangladesh is the world's eighth most populous country. Dhaka is its capital and largest city, followed by Chittagong, which has the country's largest port.

People's Republic of Bangladesh
  • গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ (Bengali)
  • Gaṇaprajātantrī Bāṃlādēśa
Anthem: "Amar Sonar Bangla" (Bengali)
"My Golden Bengal"

March: "Notuner Gaan"
"The Song of Youth"[1]

Location of Bangladesh
and largest city
23°42′N 90°21′E / 23.700°N 90.350°E / 23.700; 90.350
Official language
and national language
Ethnic groups
Demonym Bangladeshi
Government Unitary parliamentary republic
Abdul Hamid
Sheikh Hasina
Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury
Surendra Kumar Sinha
Legislature Jatiya Sangsad
• Partition of Bengal and end of the British Raj
14–15 August 1947
• Independence declared from Pakistan
26 March 1971
16 December 1971
4 November 1972
31 July 2015
• Total
147,610[4] km2 (56,990 sq mi) (92nd)
• Water (%)
• 2017 estimate
163,187,000[5] (8th)
• 2011 census
149,772,364[6] (8th)
• Density
1,106/km2 (2,864.5/sq mi) (10th)
GDP (PPP) 2017 estimate
• Total
$686.598 billion[7] (33rd)
• Per capita
$4,207[7] (139th)
GDP (nominal) 2017 estimate
• Total
$248.853 billion[7] (45th)
• Per capita
$1,524[7] (148th)
Gini (2010) 32.1[8]
HDI (2016) Increase 0.579[9]
medium · 139th
Currency Taka () (BDT)
Time zone BST (UTC+6)
Date format
  • dd-mm-yyyy
  • BS দদ-মম-বববব (CE−594)
Drives on the left
Calling code +880
ISO 3166 code BD
Internet TLD .bd

Bangladesh forms the largest and easternmost part of the Bengal region.[11] Bangladeshis include people from a range of ethnic groups and religions. Bengalis, who speak the official Bengali language, make up 98% of the population.[2][3] The politically dominant Bengali Muslims make the nation the world's third largest Muslim-majority country. Most of Bangladesh is covered by the Bengal delta, the largest delta on Earth. The country has 700 rivers and 8,046 km (5,000 miles) of inland waterways. Highlands with evergreen forests are found in the northeastern and southeastern regions of the country. Bangladesh has many islands and a coral reef. The longest unbroken sea beach, Cox's Bazar Beach is located here. It is home to the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world. The country's biodiversity includes a vast array of plant and wildlife, including critically endangered Bengal tigers, the national animal.

The Greeks and Romans identified the region as Gangaridai, a powerful kingdom of the historical subcontinent, in the 3rd century BCE. Archaeological research has unearthed several ancient cities in Bangladesh, which enjoyed international trade links for millennia.[12] The Bengal Sultanate and Mughal Bengal transformed the region into a cosmopolitan Islamic imperial power between the 14th and 18th centuries. The region was home to many principalities that made use of their inland naval prowess.[13][14] It was also a notable center of the global muslin and silk trade. As part of British India, the region was influenced by the Bengali renaissance and played an important role in anti-colonial movements. The Partition of British India made East Bengal a part of the Dominion of Pakistan; and renamed it as East Pakistan. The region witnessed the Bengali Language Movement in 1952 and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. After independence, a parliamentary republic was established. A presidential government was in place between 1975 and 1990, followed by a return to parliamentary democracy. The country continues to face challenges in the areas of poverty, education, healthcare and corruption.

Bangladesh is a middle power and a major developing nation. Within South Asia, the country ranks first in gender equality, second in foreign exchange earnings and third in life expectancy and peacefulness. Listed as one of the Next Eleven, its economy ranks 46th in terms of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) and 29th in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). It is one of the largest textile exporters in the world. Its major trading partners are the European Union, the United States, China, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. With its strategically vital location between Southern, Eastern and Southeast Asia, Bangladesh is an important promoter of regional connectivity and cooperation. It is a founding member of SAARC, BIMSTEC, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation and the Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Initiative. It is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Developing 8 Countries, the OIC, the Non Aligned Movement, the Group of 77 and the World Trade Organization. Bangladesh is one of the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping forces.



The etymology of Bangladesh (Country of Bengal) can be traced to the early 20th century, when Bengali patriotic songs, such as Namo Namo Namo Bangladesh Momo by Kazi Nazrul Islam and Aaji Bangladesher Hridoy by Rabindranath Tagore, used the term.[15][16] The term Bangladesh was often written as two words, Bangla Desh, in the past. Starting in the 1950s, Bengali nationalists used the term in political rallies in East Pakistan. The term Bangla is a major name for both the Bengal region and the Bengali language. The earliest references to the term date to the Nesari plate in 805 AD. The term Vangaladesa is found in 11th century South Indian records.[17][18][19]

The term gained official status during the Sultanate of Bengal in the 14th century.[20][21] Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah proclaimed himself as the first "Shah of Bangala" in 1342.[20] The word Bangla became the most common name for the region during the Islamic period. The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the 16th century.[22]

The origins of the term Bangla are unclear, with theories pointing to a Bronze Age proto-Dravidian tribe,[23] the Austric word "Bonga" (Sun god),[24] and the Iron Age Vanga Kingdom.[24] The Indo-Aryan suffix Desh is derived from the Sanskrit word deśha, which means "land" or "country". Hence, the name Bangladesh means "Land of Bengal" or "Country of Bengal".[17][18][19]


Early and medieval periods

Gold coin circa 670 CE from the reign of King Rajabhata of the Khadga dynasty

Stone age tools found in Bangladesh indicate human habitation for over 20,000 years.[25] Remnants of Copper Age settlements date back 4,000 years.[25] Ancient Bengal was settled by Austroasiatics, Tibeto-Burmans, Dravidians and Indo-Aryans in consecutive waves of migration.[26][27] Archaeological evidence confirms that by the second millennium BCE, rice-cultivating communities inhabited the region. By the 11th century BCE, the people of the area lived in systemically-aligned housing, used human cemeteries and manufactured copper ornaments and fine black and red pottery.[28] The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers were natural arteries for communication and transportation.[28] Estuaries on the Bay of Bengal allowed for maritime trade. The early Iron Age saw the development of metal weaponry, coinage, permanent field agriculture and irrigation.[28] Major urban settlements formed during the late Iron Age in the middle of the first millennium BCE,[29] when the Northern Black Polished Ware culture developed.[30] In 1879, Sir Alexander Cunningham identified the archaeological ruins of Mahasthangarh as the capital of the Pundra Kingdom mentioned in the Rigveda.[31][32]

Greek and Roman records of the ancient Gangaridai Kingdom, which according to legend deterred the invasion of Alexander the Great, are linked to the fort city in Wari-Bateshwar.[33] The site is also identified with the prosperous trading center of Souanagoura mentioned in Ptolemy's world map.[34] Roman geographers noted the existence of a large and important seaport in southeastern Bengal, corresponding to the modern-day Chittagong region.[35]

The ancient Buddhist and Hindu states which ruled Bangladesh as part of their empires included the Vanga Kingdom, Samatata kingdom, Pundra kingdom, Mauryan Empire, Gupta Empire, Varman dynasty, Shashanka's kingdom, Khadga dynasty, Candra dynasty, the Pala Empire, Sena dynasty, Harikela kingdom and Deva dynasty. These states had well-developed currency, banking, shipping, architecture and art. The ancient universities of Bikrampur and Mainamati hosted scholars and students from other parts of Asia. Xuanzang of China was a notable scholar who resided at the Somapura Mahavihara, the largest monastery in ancient India. Atisa of Bengal traveled to Tibet to preach Buddhism. The earliest form of a distinct Bengali language began to the emerge in the 8th century.


The 15th-century Sixty Dome Mosque, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site

Early Muslim explorers and missionaries arrived in Bengal in the last centuries of the first millennium. The Islamic conquest of Bengal started with the invasion of Bakhtiar Khilji in 1204, who after annexing Bengal to the Delhi Sultanate, staged a military campaign in Tibet. Bengal was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate for a century under governors from the Khilji dynasty, Mamluk dynasty, Balban dynasty and Tughluq dynasty. In the 14th century, an independent Bengal Sultanate was established by rebellious governors. The Bengal Sultanate's ruling houses included the Ilyas Shahi dynasty, Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah's dynasty, Hussain Shahi dynasty, Suri dynasty and Karrani dynasty. The sultanate period saw the introduction of a distinct style of mosque architecture[36] and the tangka currency. It was visited by notable world explorers such as Ibn Battuta, Admiral Zheng He and Niccolo De Conti. In the late 16th-century, a confederation of Muslim and Hindu aristocrats known as the Baro-Bhuyan ruled eastern Bengal. The Baro-Bhuyan leader was styled as the Mansad-e-Ala.[14] The title was held by Isa Khan and his son Musa Khan. The Khan dynasty are regarded as local heroes for resisting North Indian invasions through their powerful river navies. The Mughal Empire firmly controlled Bengal by the 17th century. During the reign of Emperor Akbar, the Bengali agrarian calendar was significantly reformed as part of improving tax collection. The Mughals established Dhaka as a fort city and commercial metropolis. Dhaka was the capital of Mughal Bengal for 75 years.[37] In 1666, the Mughals expelled the Arakanese from Chittagong. Mughal Bengal attracted many foreign traders for its wealth of muslin and silk goods. A notable merchant community which settled in Bangladesh were the Armenians. A Portuguese settlement in Chittagong flourished in the southeast; while a Dutch settlement in Rajshahi existed in the north. In the 18th century, the gubernatorial Nawabs of Bengal became the de facto independent rulers of the region. The Nawabs entered into alliances with European colonial enterprises which made the region relatively prosperous in the early 18th century.

The Bengali Muslim population emerged as part of a process of both conversion and religious evolution.[38] Their pre-Islamic faiths included elements of Buddhism and Hinduism. The construction of mosques, Islamic academies (madrasas) and Sufi monasteries (khanqahs) facilitated the process of conversion. Islamic cosmology played an important role in developing Bengali Muslim society. Many scholars have theorized that Bengalis were attracted to Islam due to its egalitarian social order, in contrast with the Hindu caste system.[39] By the 15th century, Bengali Muslim poets were producing literature in the Bengali language. Some of the notable medieval Bengali Muslim poets included Daulat Qazi, Abdul Hakim and Alaol. On the fringes of Bengali Muslim society, emerged syncretic cults like the Baul movement.

The Turko-Persian tradition was highly influential in Bengal. The region was the easternmost haven of Indo-Iranian culture.[40]

British Empire period

The All India Muhammadan Educational Conference in Dacca, Eastern Bengal and Assam, 1906
A. K. Fazlul Huq, Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin and H. S. Suhrawardy. The three men served as the Prime Minister of Bengal
A. K. Fazlul Huq, the first Prime Minister of Bengal, with Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore
The All India Muslim League's Lahore Resolution Working Committee, in which Bengal was represented by A. K. Fazlul Huq and Sir Nazimuddin

Bengal was the first region conquered by the British East India Company in the Indian subcontinent after the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The company formed the Presidency of Fort William which administered the region until 1858. One of the notable aspects of Company rule was the Permanent Settlement, which established the feudal zamindari system. A number of Bengal famines took place under Company rule, and several rebellions were fought in the early 19th century, including the revolt of Titumir. British rule displaced the previous Muslim ruling class. A conservative Islamic cleric, Haji Shariatullah, sought to overthrow the British by propagating austere Islamic revivalism. Several towns in Bangladesh participated in the Indian Mutiny and pledged allegiance to the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar (who was later exiled to neighboring Burma).

The challenge posed to Company rule by the failed Indian Mutiny led to the official creation of the British Indian Empire as a crown colony. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Raja Ram Mohan Roy promoted modern and liberal education in the subcontinent, sparking the Aligarh movement and Bengal Renaissance respectively. In the late 19th century, novelists, social reformers and feminists emerged from the Muslim society of Bengal. The first railway was established in 1862.[41] Electricity and a civic water systems were introduced in the final decade of the 1800s. Cinemas appeared in many towns during the early 20th century. East Bengal was important to the British Empire for its plantation economy, particularly in jute and tea. The British established tax free river ports like the Port of Narayanganj and major seaports like the Port of Chittagong. However, social tensions also grew during British rule, particularly between wealthy Hindus and the Muslim majority population. The permanent settlement transformed millions of Muslim farmers and peasants into tenants of Hindu estates, and there was growing resentment at the influence of the Hindu landed gentry.[42] Supported by the Muslim aristocracy, the British government created the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1905. The new province saw increased investment in education, transport and industry. However, the first partition of Bengal sparked an uproar in Calcutta and the Indian National Congress. In response to growing Hindu nationalism, the All India Muslim League was formed in Dhaka during an education conference in 1906. The British government reorganized provinces in 1912, by reuniting east and west Bengal into a single province; and separating Assam into another province.

The British government was slow to allow self-rule in the colonial subcontinent. It established the Bengal Legislative Council in 1862, where native Bengali representation increased in the early 20th century. The Bengal Provincial Muslim League was formed in 1913 to advocate civil rights for Bengali Muslims within a constitutional framework. During the 1920s, the league was divided between factions supporting the Khilafat movement and factions favoring cooperation with the British to achieve self-rule. Sections of the Bengali elite provided support to the secularist forces of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.[43] In 1929, the All Bengal Tenants Association was formed in the Bengal Legislative Council to counter the influence of the Hindu landed gentry. The strength of the Indian Independence Movement and the Pakistan Movement grew in the 20th century. Following the Morley-Minto Reforms and the dyarchy era in the legislatures of British India, the British government promised limited provincial autonomy in 1935. The Bengal Legislative Assembly was established as the largest legislature in British India in 1937.

The Bengal Congress boycotted the legislature despite winning a majority of seats in 1937. A. K. Fazlul Huq from the Krishak Praja Party was elected as the first Prime Minister of Bengal. In 1940, Huq supported the Lahore Resolution which envisaged "independent states" in the northwestern and eastern Muslim majority parts of the subcontinent. The first Huq ministry in coalition with the Bengal Provincial Muslim League lasted until 1941, followed by a second Huq ministry with the Hindu Mahasabha, which lasted until 1943. Huq was succeeded by Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin, whose premiership grappled with the effects of the Burma Campaign in World War II, the Bengal famine of 1943 and the Quit India movement. In 1946, the Bengal Provincial Muslim League won the provincial election by taking 113 seats in the 250 member assembly, which was the largest mandate for the Muslim League in British India. H. S. Suhrawardy was the last premier of Bengal. Suhrawardy made a last ditch and ultimately failed effort for a United Bengal in 1946.

Partition of Bengal

The Mountbatten Plan on 3 June 1947 announced the partition of British India. On 20 June 1947, the Bengal Legislative Assembly met to decide on the partition of Bengal. At the preliminary joint meeting, it was decided by 120 votes to 90 that the province, if it remained united, should join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. At a separate meeting of legislators from West Bengal, it was decided by 58 votes to 21 that the province should be partitioned and that West Bengal should join the Constituent Assembly of India. At another separate meeting of legislators from East Bengal, it was decided by 106 votes to 35 that the province should not be partitioned and 107 votes to 34 that East Bengal should join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in the event of partition.[44] On 6 July 1947, the region of Sylhet in Assam voted in a referendum to join East Bengal.

Sir Cyril Radcliffe was tasked with drawing the borders of the new states of Pakistan and India. The Radcliffe Line established the borders of present-day Bangladesh. The Dominion of Pakistan was created on 14 August 1947.

Union with Pakistan (1947-1971)

The Dominion of Pakistan in 1947, with East Bengal as its eastern wing
Women students marching in defiance of the Section 144 prohibition on assembly, during the Bengali Language Movement in 1952.

East Bengal was the most populous province in the new Pakistani federation led by Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1947, with Dhaka as the provincial capital.[45] Jinnah pledged freedom of religion and secular democracy in the new state. East Bengal was Pakistan's most cosmopolitan province, being home to peoples of different faiths, cultures and ethnic groups. Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin became the first Chief Minister with Frederick Chalmers Bourne as governor. The All Pakistan Awami Muslim League was formed in 1949 as a centre-left alternative to the centre-right All Pakistan Muslim League. In 1950, the East Bengal Legislative Assembly enacted land reform which abolished the permanent settlement and feudal zamindari system.[46] The Bengali Language Movement in 1952 was the first sign of friction between the geographically non-contiguous two wings of the country. The Awami Muslim League was renamed as the more secular Awami League in 1953.[47] The first constituent assembly was dissolved in 1954, which was challenged by its East Bengali speaker Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan. The United Front coalition also swept away the Muslim League in a landslide victory during the East Bengali legislative election, 1954. In 1955, East Bengal was renamed as East Pakistan as part of the One Unit scheme. East Pakistan became a vital part of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization.

Pakistan adopted its first constitution in 1956. Three Bengalis served as Pakistan's Prime Minister until 1957, including Sir Nazimuddin, Mohammad Ali of Bogra and Suhrawardy. None of the three premiers could complete their terms and had to resign from office. The Pakistan Army declared military rule in 1958, leading Ayub Khan to become the country's strongman for 11 years. Political repression increased after the coup. Khan introduced a new constitution in 1962, which abolished the parliamentary system in favor of a presidential and gubernatorial system based on electoral college selection, which was dubbed "Basic Democracy". In 1962, Dhaka was designated as the seat of the National Assembly of Pakistan. The move was seen as an appeasement of growing Bengali political nationalism.[48] The Pakistani government also constructed the Kaptai Dam which controversially displaced the Chakma population from their indigenous homeland in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.[49] During the 1965 presidential election, Fatima Jinnah failed to defeat Ayub Khan despite strong support in East Pakistan.[50] In 1966, Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced the six point movement for a federal parliamentary democracy.

According to senior international bureaucrats in the World Bank, Pakistan applied extensive economic discrimination against the eastern wing, including higher government spending on West Pakistan, financial transfers from East to West and the use of the East's foreign exchange surpluses to finance the West's imports.[51] This was despite the fact that East Pakistan generated 70% of Pakistan's export earnings with jute and tea.[52] Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested in the Agartala Conspiracy Case on charges of treason. He was released during the 1969 uprising in East Pakistan, which also resulted in Ayub Khan's resignation. General Yahya Khan took over power and reintroduced martial law.

Ethnic and linguistic discrimination was abound in Pakistan's civil and military services, in which Bengalis were hugely under-represented. In Pakistan's central government, only 15% of offices were occupied by East Pakistanis and they formed only 10% of the military.[53][54] Cultural discrimination also prevailed, causing the eastern wing to forge a distinct political identity.[55] Pakistan imposed bans on Bengali literature and music in state media, including the works of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.[56] In 1970, a massive cyclone devastated the coast of East Pakistan killing up to half a million people;[57] the central government was criticized for its poor response.[58] After the elections of December 1970, calls for the independence of Bangladesh became stronger.[59] The Bengali nationalist Awami League won 167 of 169 East Pakistani seats in the National Assembly. The League claimed the right to form a government and develop a new constitution, but was strongly opposed by the Paksitani military and the Pakistan Peoples Party led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

War of Independence

The fury of the Bengali population was compounded when Prime Minister-elect Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was blocked from taking office.[60] A massive civil disobedience movement erupted across East Pakistan, with open calls for independence.[61] Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed a huge pro-independence rally in Dacca on 7 March 1971. The Bangladeshi flag was hoisted for the first time on 23 March 1971, Pakistan's Republic Day.[62] On the night of 25 March 1971, the Pakistani military junta led by Yahya Khan launched Operation Searchlight, a sustained military assault on East Pakistan,[63][64][65] and detained the Prime Minister-elect under military custody.[66][67][68] The Pakistan Army, with the help of supporting militias, massacred Bengali students, intellectuals, politicians, civil servants and military defectors during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.[69] Several million refugees fled to neighboring India. Estimates for those killed throughout the war range between 300,000 and 3 million.[70] Global public opinion turned against Pakistan as news of atrocities spread,[71] with the Bangladesh Movement gaining support from prominent political and cultural figures in the West, including Ted Kennedy, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Victoria Ocampo and Andre Malraux.[72][73][74][75] The Concert for Bangla Desh was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City to raise funds for Bangladeshi refugees. It was the first major benefit concert in history and was organized by Beatles star George Harrison and Indian Bengali sitarist Ravi Shankar.[76]

During the Bangladesh Liberation War, Bengali nationalists announced a declaration of independence and formed the Mukti Bahini (the Bangladeshi National Liberation Army). The Provisional Government of Bangladesh was established on 17 April 1971. It converted the 469 elected members of the Pakistani national assembly and East Pakistani provincial assembly into the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh. The provisional government issued the Proclamation of Bangladeshi Independence, which served as the country's interim constitution and declared "equality, human dignity and social justice" as its fundamental principles. It had a presidential structure, but due to the detention of President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the acting president was Syed Nazrul Islam. Tajuddin Ahmad was Bangladesh's first prime minister. The military wing of the provisional government were the Bangladesh Forces. Led by General M. A. G. Osmani and eleven Sector Commanders, the Bangladesh Forces held the Bengali countryside during the war, and waged wide-scale guerrilla operations against Pakistani forces. Neighboring India and its leader Indira Gandhi, a longstanding nemesis of Pakistan, provided crucial support to the Bangladesh Forces and intervened in support of the provisional government on 3 December 1971. The Soviet Union and the United States dispatched naval forces to the Bay of Bengal amid a Cold War standoff during the Indo-Pakistani War. Lasting for nine months, the entire war ended with the surrender of Pakistan's military to the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces on 16 December 1971.[77][78] Under international pressure, Pakistan released Mujib from imprisonment on 8 January 1972, after which he was flown by the Royal Air Force to a million strong homecoming in Dhaka.[79][80] Indian troops were withdrawn by 12 March 1972, three months after the war ended.[81]

The cause of Bangladeshi self-determination was widely recognized around the world.[71] By the time of its admission for UN membership in August 1972, the new state was recognized by 86 countries.[71] Pakistan recognized Bangladesh in 1974 after pressure from most of the Muslim world.[82]


First parliamentary era

Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and American president Gerald Ford in 1974

The constituent assembly adopted Bangladesh's constitution on 4 November 1972, which established a secular multiparty parliamentary democracy. The new constitution also included references to socialism. Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman nationalized major industries in 1972.[83] A major reconstruction and rehabilitation program was launched. The Awami League won the country's first general election in 1973, securing a landslide in the Jatiyo Sangshad. Bangladesh joined the Commonwealth, the UN, the OIC and the Non-Aligned Movement. Rahman strengthened relations with neighboring India. Amid growing political agitation from the opposition National Awami Party and National Socialist Party, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became increasingly authoritarian. He amended the constitution to grant himself more emergency powers, including the suspension of fundamental rights. The Bangladesh famine of 1974 worsened the political situation.[84]

Presidential era and coups (1975-1991)

President Ziaur Rahman and First Lady Khaleda Zia with the Dutch royal family in 1979

In January 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman introduced one party socialist rule under BAKSAL. He banned most of the newspapers, except four state-owned publications. He assumed the presidency and amended the constitution to grant himself executive powers. President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated during a coup on 15 August 1975. Martial law was declared and the presidency passed to the usurper Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad for four months. Ahmad is widely regarded as a quisling among Bangladeshis.[85] The first prime minister Tajuddin Ahmad and four other independence leaders were assassinated on 4 November 1975. The chief justice Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem was installed as president by the military on 6 November 1975. The country was governed under a military junta led by the Chief Martial Law Administrator for three years. The army chief Ziaur Rahman took over the presidency in 1977. In 1979, Lt General Zia reinstated multiparty politics, privatized industries and newspapers, established BEPZA and held the country's second general election. A semi-presidential system evolved. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) governed until 1982. President Zia was assassinated in 1981. He was succeeded by his vice president, Justice Abdus Sattar. President Sattar received 65.5% of the vote in the 1981 presidential election.[86]

After a year in office, President Sattar was overthrown in the 1982 Bangladesh coup d'état. The chief justice A. F. M. Ahsanuddin Chowdhury was installed as president, while army chief Hussain Muhammad Ershad became the country's de facto leader. Lt General Ershad assumed the presidency in 1983. Ershad lifted martial law in 1986. President Ershad governed with assistance from four successive prime ministers, including Ataur Rahman Khan, Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury. Moudud Ahmed and Kazi Zafar Ahmed; and a parliament dominated by his Jatiyo Party. Two general elections were held in 1986 and 1988, although the latter was boycotted by the opposition BNP and Awami League. Ershad pursued administrative decentralization and divided the country into 64 districts. Ershad pushed parliament to declare Islam as the state religion in 1988.[87] In 1990, a mass uprising forced Ershad to resign. The chief justice Shahabuddin Ahmed led the country's first caretaker government as part of the transition to parliamentary rule.[86]

Current parliamentary era (1991-present)

The Parliament of Bangladesh, completed in 1982, is one of the world's largest legislative complexes

After the 1991 general election, the twelfth amendment to the constitution restored the parliamentary republic. Begum Khaleda Zia was elected as Bangladesh's first female prime minister. Begum Zia, a former first lady, led a BNP government between 1990 and 1996. In 1991, her finance minister Saifur Rahman launched a major liberalization program of the Bangladeshi economy.[84]

After a movement by the Awami League, the BNP introduced the system of caretaker governments to oversee free and fair elections. Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman became the first Chief Adviser of Bangladesh and oversaw the election period in 1996. The Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina won the seventh general election. Hasina's first tenure was marked by the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord and the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty with India. The second caretaker government led by Chief Adviser Justice Latifur Rahman oversaw the eighth general election in 2001, which returned Begum Zia and the BNP to power. The second Zia ministry saw improved economic growth, but political turmoil gripped the country between 2004 and 2006. A radical Islamist militant group, the JMB, carried out a series of bombings. Amid widespread political unrest, the Bangladeshi military pushed President Iajuddin Ahmed to impose a state of emergency and a caretaker government led by the technocrat Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed was installed.[84]

Emergency rule lasted for two years until the ninth general election in 2008, which returned Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League to power. In 2010, the Supreme Court declared martial law to be illegal and affirmed secular principles in the constitution. In 2011, the Awami League abolished the caretaker government system. The tenth general election in 2014 was boycotted by the BNP, resulting in a sweeping win by the Awami League.


A map of Bangladesh

The geography of Bangladesh is divided between three regions. Most of the country is dominated by the fertile Ganges-Brahmaputra delta; the northwest and central parts of the country are formed by the Madhupur and the Barind plateaus. The northeast and southeast are home to evergreen hill ranges. The Ganges delta is formed by the confluence of the Ganges (local name Padma or Pôdda), Brahmaputra (Jamuna or Jomuna), and Meghna rivers and their respective tributaries. The Ganges unites with the Jamuna (main channel of the Brahmaputra) and later joins the Meghna, finally flowing into the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh has 57 trans-boundary rivers, making the resolution of water issues to be politically complicated, in most cases, as the country is a lower riparian state to India.[88]

Bangladesh is predominately rich fertile flat land. Most parts of it is less than 12 m (39.4 ft) above sea level, and it is estimated that about 10% of its land would be flooded if the sea level were to rise by 1 m (3.28 ft).[89] 17% of the country is covered by forests and 12% is covered by hill systems. The country's haor wetlands are of significance to global environmental science.

In southeastern Bangladesh, experiments have been done since the 1960s to 'build with nature'. Construction of cross dams has induced a natural accretion of silt, creating new land. With Dutch funding, the Bangladeshi government began promoting the development of this new land in the late 1970s. The effort has become a multi-agency endeavor, building roads, culverts, embankments, cyclone shelters, toilets and ponds, as well as distributing land to settlers. It was expected that by fall 2010, the program would have allotted some 27,000 acres (10,927 ha) to 21,000 families.[90] With an elevation of 1,064 m (3,491 ft), the highest peak of Bangladesh is Keokradong, near the border with Myanmar.

Administrative geography

Rangpur DivisionRajshahi DivisionKhulna DivisionMymensingh DivisionDhaka DivisionBarisal DivisionSylhet DivisionChittagong Division 

Bangladesh is divided into eight administrative divisions,[91][92][93] each named after their respective divisional headquarters: Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Rangpur, and Sylhet.

Divisions are subdivided into districts (zila). There are 64 districts in Bangladesh, each further subdivided into upazila (subdistricts) or thana. The area within each police station, except for those in metropolitan areas, is divided into several unions, with each union consisting of multiple villages. In the metropolitan areas, police stations are divided into wards, which are further divided into mahallas.

There are no elected officials at the divisional or district levels, and the administration is composed only of government officials. Direct elections are held in each union (or ward) for a chairperson and a number of members. In 1997, a parliamentary act was passed to reserve three seats (out of 12) in every union for female candidates.[94]

Administrative Divisions of Bangladesh
Division Capital Established Area (km2)[95] Population[95] Density[95]
Barisal Barisal
1 January 1993
Chittagong Chittagong
Dhaka Dhaka
Khulna Khulna
1 October 1960
Mymensingh Mymensingh
14 September 2015
Rajshahi Rajshahi
Rangpur Rangpur
25 January 2010
Sylhet Sylhet
1 August 1995


Climate change is causing increasing river erosion in Bangladesh, threatening an estimated 20 million people

Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, Bangladesh's climate is tropical with a mild winter from October to March, and a hot, humid summer from March to June. The country has never recorded an air temperature below 0 °C (32 °F), with a record low of 1.1 °C (34.0 °F) in the north west city of Dinajpur on 3 February 1905.[96] A warm and humid monsoon season lasts from June to October and supplies most of the country's rainfall.

Natural calamities, such as floods, tropical cyclones, tornadoes, and tidal bores occur almost every year,[97] combined with the effects of deforestation, soil degradation and erosion. The cyclones of 1970 and 1991 were particularly devastating, the latter killing some 140,000 people.[98]

In September 1998, Bangladesh saw the most severe flooding in modern world history. As the Brahmaputra, the Ganges and Meghna spilt over and swallowed 300,000 houses, 9,700 km (6,000 mi) of road and 2,700 km (1,700 mi) of embankment, 1,000 people were killed and 30 million more made homeless, 135,000 cattle killed, 50 km2 (19 sq mi) of land destroyed and 11,000 km (6,800 mi) of roads damaged or destroyed. Effectively, two-thirds of the country was underwater. The severity of the flooding was attributed to unusually high monsoon rains, the shedding off of equally unusually large amounts of melt water from the Himalayas, and the widespread cutting down of trees (that would have intercepted rain water) for firewood or animal husbandry.[99]

Bangladesh is now widely recognised to be one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Natural hazards that come from increased rainfall, rising sea levels, and tropical cyclones are expected to increase as climate changes, each seriously affecting agriculture, water and food security, human health and shelter.[100] It is believed that in the coming decades the rising sea level alone will create more than 20 million[101] climate refugees.[102]

Bangladesh is prone to floods, tornadoes and cyclones.[103][104] Also, there is evidence that earthquakes pose a threat to the country, and that tectonics have caused rivers to shift course suddenly and dramatically. It has also been shown that rainy-season flooding in Bangladesh, on the world's largest river delta, can push the underlying crust down by as much as 6 centimetres, and possibly perturb faults.[105]

Bangladeshi water is frequently contaminated with arsenic because of the high arsenic content of the soil—up to 77 million people are exposed to toxic arsenic from drinking water.[106][107]


A Bengal tiger, the national animal, in the Sunderbans

Bangladesh ratified the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 3 May 1994.[108] As of 2014, the country was set to revise its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.[108]

Bangladesh is located in the Indomalaya ecozone. Its ecology includes a long sea coastline, numerous rivers and tributaries, lakes, wetlands, evergreen forests, semi evergreen forests, hill forests, moist deciduous forests, freshwater swamp forests and flat land with tall grass. The Bangladesh Plain is famous for its fertile alluvial soil which supports extensive cultivation. The country is dominated by lush vegetation, with villages often buried in groves of mango, jackfruit, bamboo, betel nut, coconut and date palm.[109] The country has up to 6000 species of plant life, including 5000 flowering plants.[110] Water bodies and wetland systems provide a habitat for many aquatic plants. Water lilies and lotuses grow vividly during the monsoon season. The country has 50 wildlife sanctuaries.

Bangladesh is home to much of the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, covering an area of 6,000 km2 in the southwest littoral region. It is divided into three protected sanctuaries–the South, East and West zones. The forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The northeastern Sylhet region is home to haor wetlands, which is a unique ecosystem. It also includes tropical and subtropical coniferous forests, a freshwater swamp forest and mixed deciduous forests. The southeastern Chittagong region covers evergreen and semi evergreen hilly jungles. Central Bangladesh includes the plainland Sal forest running along the districts of Gazipur, Tangail and Mymensingh. St. Martin's Island is the only coral reef in the country.

Bangladesh has an abundance of wildlife in its forests, marshes, woodlands and hills.[109] The vast majority of animals dwell within a habitat of 150,000 km2.[111] The Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, saltwater crocodile, black panther and fishing cat are among the chief predators in the Sundarbans.[112][113] Northern and eastern Bangladesh is home to the Asian elephant, hoolock gibbon, Asian black bear and oriental pied hornbill.[114]

The Chital deer are widely seen in southwestern woodlands. Other animals include the black giant squirrel, capped langur, Bengal fox, sambar deer, jungle cat, king cobra, wild boar, mongooses, pangolins, pythons and water monitors. Bangladesh has one of the largest population of Irrawaddy dolphins and Ganges dolphins. A 2009 census found 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins inhabiting the littoral rivers of Bangladesh.[115] The country has numerous species of amphibians (53), reptiles (139), marine reptiles (19) and marine mammals (5). It also has 628 species of birds.[116]

Several animals became extinct in Bangladesh during the last century, including the one horned and two horned rhinoceros and common peafowl. The human population is concentrated in urban areas, hence limiting deforestation to a certain extent. Rapid urban growth has threatened natural habitats. Though many areas are protected under law, a large portion of Bangladeshi wildlife is threatened by this growth. The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act was enacted in 1995. The government has designated several regions as Ecologically Critical Areas, including wetlands, forests and rivers. The Sundarbans Tiger Project and the Bangladesh Bear Project are among the key initiatives to strengthen conservation.[114]


Bangabhaban, the official residence of the president of Bangladesh

The Constitution of Bangladesh establishes a unitary, Westminster-style parliamentary republic with universal suffrage. A member of parliament supported by a parliamentary majority becomes the Prime Minister of Bangladesh—usually this is the chair of the largest party. The prime minister is the head of government and head of the cabinet. Bangladesh is governed by a 350-member parliament, known as the Jatiyo Sangshad. 300 members are elected to the Jatiyo Sangshad on a first past the post basis; while 50 seats are reserved for female nominees of political parties. Parliamentary elections are scheduled every five years; however, elections have often been delayed due to political crises, emergency rule or martial law. The President of Bangladesh is the head of state. Between 1975 and 1990, the presidency enjoyed executive powers, but it has been reduced to a largely ceremonial role by the Twelfth Amendment to the constitution.

In 2011, the Fifteenth Amendment prescribed the "highest punishment" for usurpers.[117] But the Fifteenth Amendment also became controversial for abolishing the caretaker government system, which acted as a neutral administration during election periods since the 1990s.[118] The national election in 2014 was boycotted by the largest opposition party, which argued that a free election cannot be held without a neutral interim government. The Jatiyo Sangshad is restrained from holding no-confidence motions, floor crossing and free votes by Article 70 of the Constitution of Bangladesh. Human rights violations have increased in recent years due to the growing powers of security forces, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion, which is accused of arbitrary arrests, summary executions and enforced disappearances.

Legal system

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Bangladesh is part of the common law world. The principal source of laws are Acts enacted by legislatures.[119] The Bangladesh Code includes a list of all laws in force in the country. The code begins in 1836 and the majority of its listed laws were crafted in the British Indian Empire, including by the Bengal Legislative Council, the Bengal Legislative Assembly, the Eastern Bengal and Assam Legislative Council, the Imperial Legislative Council and the Parliament of the United Kingdom. An example of British Raj-era laws is The Penal Code, 1860. Between 1947 and 1971, laws were enacted by Pakistan's national assembly and the East Pakistani legislature. The Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh was the provisional parliament of Bangladesh until 1973, when the first elected Jatiyo Sangshad was sworn in. Most of Bangladesh's laws were complied in English; but all laws are now primarily compiled in Bengali after a government circular in 1987. Marriage, divorce and inheritance are governed under Islamic, Hindu and Christian personal law. The judiciary is often influenced by legal developments in the Commonwealth of Nations, such as the doctrine of legitimate expectation.

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh, including its High Court Division and Appellate Division, is the apex court. The head of the judiciary is the Chief Justice of Bangladesh, who sits on benches in the supreme court. The courts have wide powers for judicial review. The principle of stare decisis is supported by the Article 111 in the constitution. The judiciary of Bangladesh includes district courts and metropolitan courts, which are divided between civil and criminal courts. Due to a shortage of judges, the judiciary faces a huge backlog of cases. The Bangladesh Judicial Service Commission is an independent body responsible for judicial appointments, salaries and discipline.


A map showing deployments of the Bangladesh UN Peacekeeping Force

The Bangladesh Armed Forces has inherited the institutional framework of the British military and the British Indian Army.[120] It was formed in 1971 by the military regiments of East Pakistan. As of 2012, the strength of the army was around 300,000, including reservists,[121] the air force (22,000), and navy (24,000).[122] In addition to traditional defence roles, the military has been called upon to provide support to civil authorities for disaster relief and internal security during periods of political unrest. For many years, Bangladesh has consistently been the world's largest contributor to UN peacekeeping forces. In February 2015, Bangladesh made major deployments to Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Golan Heights, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia, and South Sudan.[123]

The Bangladesh Navy has the third largest fleet (after India and Thailand) among countries dependent on the Bay of Bengal, including guided missile frigates, submarines, cutters and aircraft. The Bangladesh Air Force is equipped with several Russian multi-role fighter jets. Bangladesh has extensive defense cooperation with the United States Armed Forces, such as the CARAT exercises. Engagement between the Bangladeshi military and Indian military has increased in recent years, including high level exchange of visits by military chiefs of both countries.[124][125] 80% of Bangladesh's military equipment has been sourced from the People's Republic of China.[126]

Foreign relations

From left to right on top row: the President of Pakistan, President of the Maldives, King of Bhutan, President of Bangladesh, Prime Minister of India, King of Nepal and President of Sri Lanka. The picture shows the 1st SAARC Summit in Dhaka in 1985. Bangladesh pioneered the creation of SAARC.

The first major intergovernmental organization Bangladesh joined was the Commonwealth of Nations in 1972. As a Commonwealth nation, Bangladesh has obligations to be a democratic country. Bangladesh joined the United Nations in 1974. Since then, it has been elected twice to the UN Security Council. The UN General Assembly was headed by a Bangladeshi president, Ambassador Humayun Rashid Choudhury, between 1986 and 1987. Bangladesh places a heavy reliance on multilateral diplomacy, such as in the World Trade Organization. Bangladesh is a major contributor to UN peacekeeping, providing 113,000 personnel to 54 UN missions in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa and the Caribbean, as of 2014.[127]

In addition to its membership in the Commonwealth and United Nations, Bangladesh pioneered the concept of regional cooperation in South Asia. Bangladesh is a founding member of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), an organization designed to strengthen relations and promote economic and cultural growth among states in the South Asian region. It has hosted several summits and two of its diplomats served as the organization's Secretary-General.

Bangladesh joined the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1973. It has hosted the Summit of OIC Foreign Ministers, which serves to address issues, conflicts and disputes affecting Muslim-majority countries. Bangladesh is a founding member of the Developing 8 Countries, a bloc of eight major Muslim majority republics and economies.

Japan is Bangladesh's largest economic aid provider; and the two countries share common political goals.[128][129] The United Kingdom has longstanding economic, cultural and military links with Bangladesh. The United States is a major economic and security partner of Bangladesh, including its largest export market and foreign investor. 76% of Bangladeshis viewed the United States favorably in 2014, which was one of the highest ratings among the countries surveyed in Asia.[130][131] The European Union is Bangladesh's largest regional market. The EU conducts significant public diplomacy and development assistance in Bangladeshi civil society.

Relations with other nations are generally positive. Shared democratic values ease relations with Western countries while similar economic concerns help in relations with other developing countries. Despite issues such as poor working conditions and war affecting overseas Bangladeshi workers, relations with Middle Eastern countries are friendly and bounded by religion and culture, as seen in the continuous employment of more than a million overseas Bangladeshis living there. In 2016, the King of Saudi Arabia stressed that Bangladesh was "one of the most important Muslim countries".[132]

Bangladesh's most politically important bilateral relationship is with neighboring India. In 2015, major Indian newspapers described Bangladesh as a "trusted friend".[133] Bangladesh and India are the largest trading partners in South Asia. The two countries are driving regional economic and infrastructure projects, such as in Eastern South Asia through a regional motor vehicle agreement; and in the Bay of Bengal through a coastal shipping agreement. Indo-Bangladesh relations are bounded by a shared cultural heritage, common democratic values and the history of India's support for Bangladesh's independence. Despite the strong goodwill at political levels, border killings of Bangladeshi civilians and the lack of a comprehensive water sharing agreement covering 54 trans-boundary rivers is a major issue between the two nations.

Sino-Bangladesh relations date back to the 1950s and are relatively warm, despite the Chinese communist leadership siding with Pakistan during Bangladesh's war of independence. China and Bangladesh established bilateral relations in 1976. Since then, relations have strengthened significantly. China is considered a cost-effective source of arms for the Bangladeshi military.[134] Since the 1980s, 80% of Bangladesh's military equipment has been supplied by China, often on generous terms of credit. China is also Bangladesh's largest trading partner. The two countries are part of the BCIM Forum.

The neighbouring country of Myanmar was one of first countries to recognize Bangladesh.[135] Despite common regional interests, Bangladesh-Myanmar relations are historically strained by the Rohingya refugee issue and the isolationist policies of the influential Myanmarese military. In 2012, the two countries came to terms at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea over maritime disputes in the Bay of Bengal.[136]

Pakistan and Bangladesh have a U$550 million trade relationship,[137] particularly in Pakistani cotton imports for the Bangladeshi textile industry. Bangladeshi and Pakistani businesses have invested in each other's countries. But official diplomatic relations are strained due to genocide denial in Pakistan over the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.

Bangladeshi aid agencies work in many developing countries worldwide. An example are the operations of BRAC in Afghanistan, which benefits 12 million people in that country.[138] Bangladesh has a strong record of nuclear nonproliferation as a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).[139] It is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Bangladeshi foreign policy is influenced by the principle of friendship to all and malice to none, which was first articulated by Bengali statesman H. S. Suhrawardy in 1957.[128][140] Suhrawardy also led East and West Pakistan to join the now-defunct Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, CENTO and the Regional Cooperation for Development.

Human rights

Fundamental rights in Bangladesh are enshrined by the country's constitution. However, the government and security forces have often flouted constitutional principles, and have been accused of human rights abuses. Bangladesh is ranked as "Partly Free" in the Freedom in the World report, published by Freedom House.[141] Press freedom in Bangladesh is ranked as "Not Free".[142] The Economist Intelligence Unit classifies the country as having a hybrid regime, which is the third best rank out of four in its Democracy Index.[143] Bangladesh ranked as the 3rd most peaceful country in South Asia in the Global Peace Index in 2015.[144] In recent years, the once vibrant civil society and media in Bangladesh have come under attack from both the ruling Awami League government and far-right Islamic extremists.[145]

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has been described as a "death squad". Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies have been accused of many human rights abuses.

According to Mizanur Rahman, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, 70% of allegations of human rights violations are against law enforcement agencies.[146] Targets have included Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, secularist bloggers, independent and pro-opposition newspapers and television networks. The United Nations has said that it was deeply concerned by government "measures that restrict freedom of expression and democratic space".[145]

Bangladeshi security forces, particularly the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), have faced strong international condemnation for human rights abuses, including enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings. Over 1,000 people have been said to be victims of extrajudicial killings by RAB since its inception under the last BNP government.[147] The agency has been singled out by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as a "death squad".[148][149] and they have called for the force to be disbanded.[148][149] The British and American governments have been widely criticized for funding and engaging the force in counter-terrorism operations.[150]

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the government is yet to fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord.[151] The Hill Tracts region remains heavily militarized despite the peace treaty with indigenous people led by the United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.[152]

Secularism in Bangladesh is legally enshrined in the constitution. Religious parties are banned from contesting elections, but the government is accused of courting religious extremist groups for votes. Ambiguities over Islam being the state religion have been criticized by the United Nations.[153] Despite relative inter-religious and communal harmony, minorities in Bangladesh have, on occasion, faced persecution. The Hindu and Buddhist communities have faced religious violence from Islamic groups, notably the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Shibir. The highest vote share achieved by Islamic far-right candidates during Bangladeshi elections was 12% in 2001; the lowest was 4% in 2008.[154]

Homosexuality is outlawed according to section 377 of the criminal code with the highest penalty being life imprisonment.[155]


According to Transparency International, Bangladesh ranked 14th in the list of countries with the most perceived corruption in 2014.[156] In 2015, the cost of bribery was at 3.7% of the national budget. [157] The country's Anti Corruption Commission was highly active under a state of emergency in 2007 and 2008, when it indicted many leading politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen for graft. After assuming power in 2009, the Awami League government greatly reduced the commission's independent powers for investigation and prosecution.[158] Land administration was the sector in Bangladesh with the largest cost of bibrery in 2015.[159] Education is among the sectors with significant corruption; [160] the police is said to be highly affected by corruption, too. [161] Corruption affects water supply significantly.[162]


Dhaka is the commercial and financial hub of the country, and the largest urban economic centre of Eastern South Asia

Bangladesh is a developing country, with a market-based mixed economy and is listed as one of the Next Eleven emerging markets. The per capita income of Bangladesh was US$1,190 in 2014, with a GDP of US$209 billion.[163] In South Asia, Bangladesh has the third-largest economy after those of India and Pakistan, and has the second highest foreign exchange reserves after India. The Bangladeshi diaspora contributed US$15.31 billion in remittances in 2015.[164]

In the first five years of independence, Bangladesh adopted socialist policies, which proved to be a critical blunder committed by the Awami League.[165] The subsequent military regime and BNP and Jatiya Party governments restored free markets and promoted the Bangladeshi private sector. In 1991, finance minister Saifur Rahman launched a range of liberal reforms. The Bangladeshi private sector has since rapidly expanded, with numerous conglomerates now driving the economy. Major industries include textiles, pharmaceuticals, shipbuilding, steel, electronics, energy, construction materials, chemicals, ceramics, food processing, and leather goods. Export-oriented industrialization has increased in recent years, with the country's exports amounting to US$30 billion in FY2014-15.[166] The predominant export earnings of Bangladesh come from its garments sector. The country also has a vibrant social enterprise sector, including the Nobel Peace Prize-winning microfinance institution, Grameen Bank, and the world's largest non-governmental development agency, BRAC.

Insufficient power supply is a significant obstacle to economic growth. According to the World Bank, poor governance, corruption and weak public institutions are major challenges to Bangladesh's development.[167] In April 2010, Standard & Poor's awarded Bangladesh a BB- long term credit rating, which is below India and well above Pakistan and Sri Lanka.[168]


Bangladesh is notable for its fertile land, including the Ganges delta, the Sylhet Division and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Agriculture is the single largest producing sector of the economy since it comprises about 18.6% (data released in November 2010) of the country's GDP and employs around 45% of the total work force.[169] The performance of this sector has an overwhelming impact on major macroeconomic objectives like employment generation, poverty alleviation, human resources development and food security. A plurality of Bangladeshis earn their living from agriculture. The country ranks among the top producers of rice (4th), potatoes (7th), tropical fruits (6th), jute (2nd), and farmed fish (5th).[170][171]

Bangladesh is the 7th largest natural gas producer in Asia, ahead of its neighbor Myanmar. Gas supplies generate 56% of the country's electricity. Major gas fields are located in northeastern (particularly Sylhet) and southern (including Barisal and Chittagong) regions. Petrobangla is the national energy company. The American multinational Chevron produces 50% of Bangladesh's natural gas.[172] According to geologists, the Bay of Bengal holds large untapped gas reserves in Bangladesh's exclusive economic zone.[173] The country also has substantial reserves of coal, with several coal mines operating in northwestern Bangladesh.

Jute exports continue to be significant, even though global jute trade has reduced considerably since it last peaked during World War II. Bangladesh has one of the oldest tea industries in the world. It is also major exporter of fish and seafood.


A shirt production line in a Bangladesh textile industry. Bangladesh is the world's second largest textile exporter after China

Bangladesh's textile and Ready Made Garments industry are the country's largest manufacturing sector, accounting for US$25 billion in exports in 2014.[174] Leather goods manufacturing, particularly in footwear, is the second largest export-oriented industrial sector. The pharmaceutical industry meets 97% of domestic demand and exports to up to 52 countries.[175][176] Shipbuilding in Bangladesh has seen rapid growth with exports to Europe.[177]

The steel industry in Bangladesh is concentrated in the port city of Chittagong, and the local ceramics industry is a prominent player in international trade. In 2005, Bangladesh was the world's 20th largest cement producer; the industry depends on limestone imports from North East India. Food processing is a major sector of the economy, with prominent local brands like PRAN increasingly gaining international market share. The electronics industry in Bangladesh is witnessing rapid growth, with the Walton Group being its dominant player.[178] Bangladesh also has its own defense industry, including establishments such as Bangladesh Ordnance Factories and the Khulna Shipyard.


Citigroup Bangladesh headquarters

The service sector accounts for 51% of GDP. Bangladesh ranks with Pakistan in having the second largest banking sector in South Asia.[179] The Dhaka Stock Exchange and the Chittagong Stock Exchange are the twin financial markets of the country. The telecoms industry in Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, with 114 million cellphone subscribers in December 2013.[180] The main telecom companies are Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi, and BTTB. Tourism in Bangladesh is still developing, with the beach resort town of Cox's Bazar being the center of the industry. The Sylhet region, home to Bangladesh's tea country, also receives a large number of visitors. Bangladesh has three UNESCO World Heritage Sitesthe Mosque City, the Buddhist Vihara, and the Sundarbans – and five tentative listed sites.

Microfinance was pioneered in Bangladesh by Muhammad Yunus and has been replicated in many countries. As of 2015, there were more than 35 million microcredit borrowers in the country.[181]


Transport is a major sector in the Bangladeshi economy. Aviation has seen rapid growth and includes the national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines and other privately owned airlines. Bangladesh a number of airports, including three international as well as several domestic and Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) airports. The busiest among them – the Shahjalal International Airport – connects the country's capital Dhaka with many major destinations.

Bangladesh has a 2,706-kilometre (1,681-mile) rail network operated by a state-owned agency, Bangladesh Railway. The total length of the country's road and highway network is nearly 21,000-kilometre (13,000-mile).

Bangladesh has one of the largest inland waterway networks in the world,[182] with 8,046 kilometres (5,000 miles) of navigable waters. The southeastern Port of Chittagong is its busiest seaport, handling over US$60 billion in annual trade—more than 80% of the country's export-import trade passes through it.[183] The second busiest seaport is Mongla.

Bangladesh has 3 seaports and 22 river ports.[184]

Top maritime and inland ports in Bangladesh


Rank Port Type of Harbour TEU traffic


1 Port of Chittagong Seaport 2.3 million
2 Port of Pangaon River port 116,000
3 Port of Mongla Seaport 70,000
4 Port of Dhaka River port
5 Port of Narayanganj River port
6 Port of Ashuganj River port
7 Port of Payra Seaport
8 Aricha Ghat River port
9 Goalondo River port


Coal and natural gas fields in Bangladesh, as of 2017

Electricity generation in Bangladesh had an installed capacity of 10,289 MW in January 2014.[185] Commercial energy consumption is mostly natural gas (around 56%), followed by oil, hydropower and coal. Bangladesh has planned to import hydropower from Bhutan and Nepal.[186] Nuclear energy is being developed with the support of Russia, in the landmark Ruppur Nuclear Power Plant project.[187]

In renewable energy, Bangladesh has the fifth-largest number of green jobs in the world; solar panels are increasingly used to power both urban and off-grid rural areas.[188]


The proportion of the population with access to improved water sources was estimated at 98% in 2004,[189] a very high level for a low-income country. This has been achieved to a large extent through the construction of handpumps with the support of external donors. However, in 1993 it was discovered that groundwater, the source of drinking water for 97% of the rural population and a significant share of the urban population, is in many cases naturally contaminated with arsenic.

Another challenge is the low level of cost recovery due to low tariffs and poor economic efficiency, especially in urban areas where revenues from water sales do not even cover operating costs. Concerning sanitation, an estimated 56% of the population had access to adequate sanitation facilities in 2010.[190] A new approach to improving sanitation coverage in rural areas – and first introduced in Bangladesh – the community-led total sanitation concept, is credited with having contributed significantly to increased sanitation coverage since 2000.[191]

Science and technology

The Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was founded in 1973, and traces its roots to the East Pakistan Regional Laboratories established in Dhaka (1955), Rajshahi (1965) and Chittagong (1967).

Bangladesh's space agency, SPARRSO, was founded in 1983 with assistance from the United States.[192] Bangladesh plans to launch the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite in 2018.[193] The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission operates a TRIGA research reactor at its atomic energy facility in Savar.[194]

In 2015, the country is ranked the 26th global IT outsourcing destination.[195]


Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1971 67.8 —    
1980 80.6 +1.94%
1990 105.3 +2.71%
2000 129.6 +2.10%
2010 148.7 +1.38%
2012 161.1 +4.09%
Source: OECD/World Bank[196]

Estimates of the Bangladeshi population vary but most recent data suggest 162 to 168 million people (2015). However, the 2011 census estimated 142.3 million,[197] much less than recent (2007–2010) estimates of Bangladesh's population ranging from 150 to 170 million. Bangladesh is thus the 8th most populous nation in the world. In 1951, the population was only 44 million.[198] It is also the most densely populated large country in the world, and it ranks 11th in population density, when very small countries and city-states are included.[199]

Bangladesh's population growth rate was among the highest in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, when its population grew from 65 to 110 million. With the promotion of birth control in the 1980s, the growth rate began to slow. The fertility rate now stands at 2.55, lower than India (2.58) and Pakistan (3.07). The population is relatively young, with 34% aged 15 or younger and 5% 65 or older. Life expectancy at birth was estimated to be 70 years for both males and females in 2012.[92] Despite the rapid economic growth, 43% of the country still lives below the international poverty line on less than $1.25 per day.[200]


Bengalis constitute 98% of the population.[201] Among Bengalis, Bengali Muslims are the predominant majority, followed by Bengali Hindus, Bengali Christians and Bengali Buddhists.


The Adivasi population includes the Chakma, Marma, Tanchangya, Tripuri, Kuki, Khiang, Khumi, Murang, Mru, Chak, Lushei, Bawm, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Khasi, Jaintia, Garo, Santal, Munda and Oraon tribes. The Chittagong Hill Tracts region suffered unrest and an insurgency from 1975 to 1997 due to a movement by indigenous people for autonomy. Although a peace accord was signed in 1997, the region remains heavily militarized.[202]


Bangladesh is home to a significant Ismaili community.[203] It also hosts many Urdu-speaking immigrants who migrated after the partition of India. Stranded Pakistanis were given citizenship by the supreme court in 2008.[204]


There are an estimated 300,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, who live in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar District in southeastern Bangladesh.[205] The southeastern region has received influxes of Rohingya refugees during Burmese military crackdowns in 1978, 1991, 2012 and 2016.[206][207]

Urban centres

Dhaka is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. The cities with a city corporation, having mayoral elections, include Dhaka South, Dhaka North, Chittagong, Khulna, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Barisal, Rangpur, Comilla and Gazipur. Other major cities and municipalities elect a chairperson; they include Mymensingh, Gopalganj, Jessore, Bogra, Dinajpur, Saidpur, Narayanganj and Rangamati. Both categories of municipal heads are elected for a span of five years.


More than 98% of Bangladeshis (Bengalis) speak Bangla as their native language.[211][212] In different parts of the country, regional languages or dialects are spoken, which include Chittagonian, Sylheti and Rangpuri. Pakistani Biharis, stranded since 1971 and living in various camps in Bangladesh, speak Urdu.[213] Similarly, Rohingya refugees from Myanmar living in various camps in Bangladesh since 1978 speak Rohingya.[214] There are also several indigenous minority languages.

Bangla is the sole official language,[215] but English is sometimes used secondarily for official purposes, especially in the judiciary and legal system. Historically, laws were written in English and were not translated into Bangla until 1987. Bangladesh's constitution and all laws now exist in both English and Bangla.[216] English is also used as a second language among the middle and upper classes and is also widely used in higher education.[217]


Religions in Bangladesh[3]
Religion Percent
A typical Bangladeshi mosque

Islam is the largest religion in Bangladesh, adhered to by about 86.6% of the population. The country is home to most Bengali Muslims, the second largest ethnic group in the Muslim world. The majority of Bangladeshi Muslims are Sunni, followed by the Shia and Ahmadiya. Roughly 4% are non-denominational Muslims.[218] Bangladesh has the fourth-largest Muslim population in the world and is the third-largest Muslim-majority country after Indonesia and Pakistan.[219]

Hinduism is followed by about 12.1% of the population, with most being Bengali Hindus and a small segment being ethnic people. Bangladeshi Hindus are the country's second biggest religious group and the third largest Hindu community in the world after those of India and Nepal. Hindus in Bangladesh are almost evenly distributed in all regions, with large concentrations in Gopalganj, Dinajpur, Sylhet, Sunamganj, Mymensingh, Khulna, Jessore, Chittagong and parts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. And despite their dwindling numbers, Hindus are the second-largest religious community after the Muslims in Dhaka.

Buddhism is the third largest religion, at 0.6%. Bangladeshi Buddhists are largely concentrated among ethnic groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, particularly the Chakma, Marma and Tanchangya peoples; while coastal Chittagong is home to a large number of Bengali Buddhists. Christianity is the fourth largest religion at 0.4%.[220] Yhe remaining 0.3% population follow various folk religions and animistic faiths.

Many people in Bangladesh practice Sufism, which has a long heritage in the region.[221] The largest gathering of Muslims in the country is the Bishwa Ijtema, held annually by the Tablighi Jamaat. The Ijtema is the second largest Muslim congregation in the world after the Hajj.

The Constitution of Bangladesh declares Islam as the state religion, but bans religion-based politics. It proclaims equal recognition of Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and people of all faiths.[222] Earlier in 1972, Bangladesh became the first constitutionally secular country in South Asia.[223] The U. S. State Department describes Bangladesh as a secular pluralistic democracy.[224]


Bangladesh has a low literacy rate, estimated at 66.5% for males and 63.1% for females in 2014.[92] The educational system in Bangladesh is three-tiered and heavily subsidized. The government operates many schools in the primary, secondary, and higher secondary levels. It subsidizes the funding of many private schools. In the tertiary education sector, the government funds more than 15 state universities through the University Grants Commission.

The education system is divided into five levels: Primary (from grades 1 to 5), Junior Secondary (from grades 6 to 8), Secondary (from grades 9 to 10), Higher Secondary (from grades 11 to 12) and tertiary.[225] The five years of secondary education are concluded with a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination, but since 2009 it is the Primary Education Closing (PEC) examination. Earlier, students who pass this examination proceed to four years secondary or matriculation training, which culminate in a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Examination.[225]

Bangladeshi schoolchildren performing on a stage

Primary Education Closing (PEC) graduands proceed to three years of Junior Secondary, which culminate in a Junior School Certificate (JSC) Examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years secondary or matriculation training, which culminate in a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years of Higher Secondary or intermediate training, which culminate in a Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) examination.[225]

Education is mainly offered in Bengali, but English is commonly taught and used. A large number of Muslim families send their children to attend part-time courses or even to pursue full-time religious education, which is imparted in Bengali and Arabic in madrasahs.[225]

Bangladesh conforms fully to the Education For All (EFA) objectives, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and international declarations. Article 17 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides that all children between the ages of six and ten years receive a basic education free of charge.

Universities in Bangladesh are mainly categorized into three types: public (government owned and subsidized), private (private sector owned universities) and international (operated and funded by international organizations). Bangladesh has 34 public, 64 private and two international universities. Among these, Bangladesh National University has the largest enrollment and University of Dhaka (established 1921) is the oldest. Islamic University of Technology, commonly known as IUT, is a subsidiary organ of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), representing 57 member countries from Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. Asian University for Women in Chittagong is the preeminent liberal arts university for women in South Asia, representing 14 Asian countries—the faculty members are from many well-known academic institutions of North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.[226] BUET, CUET, KUET, RUET are the four public engineering universities in the country. BUTex and DUET are two specialized engineering universities, where BUTex specializes in Textile Engineering and DUET offers higher education to Diploma Engineers.There is only one public-private partnership specialized institute, NITER, which provides Textile Engineering higher education. There are some science and technology universities including SUST, PUST, JUST, NSTU etc.

Bangladeshi universities are accredited by and affiliated to the University Grants Commission (UGC), created according to the Presidential Order (P.O. No 10 of 1973) of the government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.[227]

Medical education is provided by 29 government and some other private medical colleges. All medical colleges are affiliated to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Recently, the literacy rate of Bangladesh improved as it now stands at 71% as of 2015 due to the modernization of schools and education funding. At present, 16,087 schools and 2,363 colleges were getting Monthly Pay Order (MPO) facilities. 27,558 madrasas, and technical and vocational institutions were enlisted for the facility. 6,036 educational institutions were outside the MPO coverage and the ruling party enlisted 1,624 private schools for MPO in 2010.[228][229]


Health and education levels remain relatively low, although they have improved recently as poverty levels have decreased. In rural areas, village doctors with little or no formal training constitute 62% of healthcare providers practising "modern medicine" and formally trained providers represent a mere 4% of the total health workforce. A survey conducted by Future Health Systems revealed significant deficiencies in the treatment practices of village doctors, with a wide prevalence of harmful and inappropriate drug prescriptions.[230] There are market incentives for accessing health care through informal providers and it is important to understand these markets in order to facilitate collaboration across actors and institutions in order to provide incentives for better performance.[231]

A 2007 study of 1,000 households in rural Bangladesh found that direct costs (payment to formal and informal healthcare providers) and indirect costs (loss of earnings associated with workdays lost because of illness) associated with illness were important deterrents to accessing healthcare from qualified providers.[230] A community survey of 6,183 individuals in rural Bangladesh found a clear gender difference in treatment-seeking behaviour, with women less likely to seek treatment compared to men.[232] The utilization of skilled birth attendant (SBA) services, however, has risen between 2005 and 2007 among women from all socioeconomic quintiles except the highest quintile.[233] A pilot community empowerment tool, called a health watch, was successfully developed and implemented in south-eastern Bangladesh in order to improve uptake and monitoring of public health services.[234]

The poor health conditions in Bangladesh are attributed to the lack of healthcare service provision by the government. The total expenditure on healthcare as a percentage of GDP was only 3.35% in 2009, according to a World Bank report published in 2010.[235] The number of hospital beds is 3 per 10,000 population.[236] The general government expenditure on healthcare as a percentage of the total was only 7.9% as of 2009 and the citizens pay most of their health care bills as the out-of-pocket expenditure as a percentage of private expenditure on health is 96.5%.[235]

Malnutrition has been a persistent problem in the poverty-stricken country. The World Bank estimates that Bangladesh is ranked 1st in the world of the number of children suffering from malnutrition.[237][238] In Bangladesh, 26% of the population (two-thirds of children under the age of five years) are undernourished[239] and 46% of the children suffers from moderate to severe underweight.[240] 43%–60% of children under 5 years old are stunted; one in five preschool children are vitamin A deficient and one in two are anemic.[241][242] More than 45 percent of rural families and 76 percent of urban families were below the acceptable caloric intake level.[243]


Visual arts

A sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka

The recorded history of art in Bangladesh can be traced to the 3rd century BCE, when terracotta sculptures were made in the region. In classical antiquity, a notable school of sculptural Hindu, Jain and Buddhist art developed in the Pala Empire and the Sena dynasty. Islamic art evolved since the 14th century. The architecture of the Bengal Sultanate saw a distinct style of domed mosques with complex niche pillars that had no minarets. Mughal Bengal's most celebrated artistic tradition was the weaving of Jamdani motifs on fine muslin, which is now classified by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. Jamdani motifs were similar to Iranian textile art (buta motifs) and Western textile art (paisley). The Jamdani weavers in Dhaka received imperial patronage.[244][245] Ivory and brass were also widely used in Mughal art. Pottery is widely used in Bengali culture.

The modern art movement in Bangladesh took shape during the 1950s, particularly with the pioneering works of Zainul Abedin. East Bengal developed its own modernist painting and sculpture traditions, which were distinct from the art movements in West Bengal. The Art Institute Dhaka has been an important center for visual art in the region. Its annual Bengali New Year parade was enlisted as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2016.

Modern Bangladesh has produced many of South Asia's leading painters, including SM Sultan, Mohammad Kibria, Shahabuddin Ahmed, Kanak Chanpa Chakma, Kafil Ahmed, Saifuddin Ahmed, Qayyum Chowdhury, Rashid Choudhury, Quamrul Hassan, Rafiqun Nabi and Syed Jahangir, among others. Novera Ahmed and Nitun Kundu were the country's pioneers of modernist sculpture.

The Chobi Mela is the largest photography festival in Asia.


The oldest evidence of writing in Bangladesh is the Mahasthan Brahmi Inscription, which dates back to the 3rd century BCE.[246] In the Gupta Empire, Sanskrit literature thrived in the region. Bengali developed from Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit in the 11th century. Bengali literature is a millennium-old tradition; the Charyapada are the earliest examples of Bengali poetry. Sufi spiritualism inspired many Bengali Muslim writers. During the Bengal Sultanate, medieval Bengali writers were influenced by Arabic and Persian works. Syed Alaol was a noted secular poet and translator. The Chandidas are an example of the Bangladeshi folk literature that developed during the Middle Ages. The Bengal Renaissance shaped the emergence of modern Bengali literature, including novels, short stories and science fiction. Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature and is described as the Bengali Shakespeare.[247] Kazi Nazrul Islam was a revolutionary poet who espoused spiritual rebellion against colonialism and fascism. Begum Rokeya was a pioneer of Bengali writing in English, with her early of work of feminist science fiction. Other renaissance icons included Michael Madhusudan Dutt and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

The writer Syed Mujtaba Ali is noted for his cosmopolitan Bengali worldview.[248] Humayun Ahmed was a popular writer of modern Bangladeshi magical realism and science fiction. Shamsur Rahman was the poet laureate of Bangladesh for many years. Jasimuddin was a renowned pastoral poet. Farrukh Ahmed, Sufia Kamal, Kaiser Haq and Nirmalendu Goon are important figures of modern Bangladeshi poetry. Notable writers of Bangladeshi novels include Mir Mosharraf Hossain, Akhteruzzaman Elias, Syed Waliullah, Shahidullah Kaiser, Shawkat Osman, Selina Hossain, Taslima Nasreen, Haripada Datta, Razia Khan, Anisul Hoque, Al Mahmud, Bipradash Barua, Tahmima Anam, Neamat Imam, Monica Ali, and Zia Haider Rahman. Many Bangladeshi writers, such as Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, K. Anis Ahmed and Farah Ghuznavi are acclaimed for their short stories.

The annual Ekushey Book Fair and Dhaka Literature Festival, organized by the Bangla Academy, are among the largest literary festivals in South Asia.

Women in Bangladesh

Begum Rokeya, was a prolific writer and a social worker in undivided Bengal . She is most famous for her efforts on behalf of gender equality and other social issues.

Although, as of 2015, several women occupied major political office in Bangladesh, its women continue to live under a patriarchal social regime where violence is common.[249] Whereas in India and Pakistan women participate less in the workforce as their education increases, the reverse is the case in Bangladesh.[249]

Bengal has a long history of feminist activism dating back to the 19th century. Begum Rokeya and Faizunnessa Chowdhurani played an important role in emancipating Bengali Muslim women from purdah, prior to the country's division, as well as promoting girls' education. Several women were elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in the British Raj. The first women's magazine, Begum, was published in 1948.

In 2008, Bangladeshi female workforce participation stood at 26%.[250] Women dominate blue collar jobs in the Bangladeshi garment industry. Agriculture, social services, healthcare and education are also major occupations for Bangladeshi women, while their employment in white collar positions has steadily increased.


The architectural traditions of Bangladesh have a 2,500-year-old heritage.[251] Terracotta architecture is a distinct feature of Bengal. Pre-Islamic Bengali architecture reached its pinnacle in the Pala Empire, when the Pala School of Sculptural Art established grand structures such as the Somapura Mahavihara. Islamic architecture began developing under the Bengal Sultanate, when local terracotta styles influenced medieval mosque construction. The Adina Mosque of united Bengal was the largest mosque built on the Indian subcontinent.

The Sixty Dome Mosque was the largest medieval mosque built in Bangladesh, and is a fine example of Turkic-Bengali architecture. The Mughal style replaced indigenous architecture when Bengal became a province of the Mughal Empire and influenced the development of urban housing. The Kantajew Temple and Dhakeshwari Temple are excellent examples of late medieval Hindu temple architecture. Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, based on Indo-Islamic styles, flourished during the British period. The zamindar gentry in Bangladesh built numerous Indo-Saracenic palaces and country mansions, such as the Ahsan Manzil, Tajhat Palace, Dighapatia Palace, Puthia Rajbari and Natore Rajbari.

Bengali vernacular architecture is noted for pioneering the bungalow. Bangladeshi villages consist of thatched roofed houses made of natural materials like mud, straw, wood and bamboo. In modern times, village bungalows are increasingly made of tin.

Muzharul Islam was the pioneer of Bangladeshi modern architecture. His varied works set the course of modern architectural practice in the country. Islam brought leading global architects, including Louis Kahn, Richard Neutra, Stanley Tigerman, Paul Rudolph, Robert Boughey and Konstantinos Doxiadis, to work in erstwhile East Pakistan. Louis Kahn was chosen to design the National Parliament Complex in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. Kahn's monumental designs, combining regional red brick aesthetics, his own concrete and marble brutalism and the use of lakes to represent Bengali geography, are regarded as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. In more recent times, award-winning architects like Rafiq Azam have set the course of contemporary architecture by adopting influences from the works of Islam and Kahn.

Performing arts

Bengali Jatra theatre.
The Baul tradition is a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Theatre in Bangladesh includes various forms with a history dating back to the 4th century CE.[252] It includes narrative forms, song and dance forms, supra-personae forms, performances with scroll paintings, puppet theatre and processional forms.[252] The Jatra is the most popular form of Bengali folk theatre. The dance traditions of Bangladesh include indigenous tribal and Bengali dance forms, as well as classical Indian dances, including the Kathak, Odissi and Manipuri dances.

The music of Bangladesh features the Baul mystical tradition, listed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage.[253] Numerous lyric-based musical traditions, varying from one region to the next, exist, including Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya. Folk music is accompanied by a one-stringed instrument known as the ektara. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. Bengali classical music includes Tagore songs and Nazrul geeti. Bangladesh has a rich tradition of Indian classical music, which uses instruments like the sitar, tabla, sarod and santoor.[254]

Martial arts

Bangladeshi martial arts evolved in villages where zamindars employed large private armies to protect their landholdings. The Lathi khela and Boli Khela are two major forms of Bengali martial arts.

Country boats

There are 150 different types of boats and canoes in Bangladesh.[citation needed] The timber used in boat-making is from local woods such as Jarul (dipterocarpus turbinatus), sal (shorea robusta), sundari (heritiera fomes) and Myanmar teak (tectons grandis). The region was renowned for shipbuilding during the medieval period, when its shipyards catered to major powers in Eurasia, including the Mughals and the Ottomans.[citation needed]


19th century Nakshi kantha

The Nakshi Kantha is a centuries-old embroidery tradition for quilts, said to be indigenous to eastern Bengal (i.e. Bangladesh). The sari is the national dress for Bangladeshi women. Mughal Dhaka was renowned for producing the finest muslin saris, including the famed Dhakai and Jamdani, the weaving of which is listed by UNESCO as one of the masterpieces of humanity's intangible cultural heritage.[255] Bangladesh also produces the Rajshahi silk. The shalwar kameez is also widely worn by Bangladeshi women. In urban areas some women can be seen in western clothing. The kurta and sherwani are the national dress of Bangladeshi men; the lungi and dhoti are worn by them in informal settings. Aside from ethnic wear, domestically tailored suits and neckties are customarily worn by the country's men in offices, in schools and at social events.

The handloom industry supplies 60–65% of the country's clothing demand.[256] The Bengali ethnic fashion industry has flourished in the changing environment of the fashion world. The retailer Aarong is one of the most successful ethnic wear brands in South Asia. The development of the Bangladesh textile industry, which supplies leading international brands, has promoted the production and retail of modern Western attire locally, with the country now having a number of expanding local brands like Westecs and Yellow. Bangladesh is the world's second largest garments exporter.

Among Bangladesh's fashion designers, Bibi Russell has received international acclaim for her "Fashion for Development" shows.[257]


A variety of Bangladeshi foods—smoked ilish with mustard-seeds, biryani and pithas

White rice is the staple of Bangladeshi cuisine, along with many vegetables and lentils. Rice preparations also include Bengali biryanis, pulaos, and khichuris. Mustard sauce, ghee, sunflower oil and fruit chutneys are widely used in Bangladeshi cooking. Fish is the main source of protein in Bengali cuisine. The Hilsa is the national fish and immensely popular across Bangladesh. Other kinds of fish eaten include rohu, butterfish, catfish, tilapia and barramundi. Fish eggs are a gourmet delicacy. Seafood holds an important place in Bengali cuisine, especially lobsters, shrimps and dried fish. Meat consumption includes chicken, beef, mutton, venison, duck and squab. In Chittagong, Mezban feasts are a popular tradition featuring the serving of hot beef curry. In Sylhet, the shatkora lemons are used to marinate dishes. In the tribal Hill Tracts, bamboo shoot cooking is prevalent. Bangladesh has a vast spread of desserts, including distinctive sweets like Rôshogolla, Rôshomalai, Chomchom, Mishti Doi and Kalojaam. Pithas are traditional boiled desserts made with rice or fruits. Halwa is served during religious festivities. Naan, paratha, luchi and bakarkhani are the main local breads. Black tea is offered to guests as a gesture of welcome. Kebabs are widely popular across Bangladesh, particularly seekh kebabs, chicken tikka and shashliks.

Bangladesh shares its culinary heritage with the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal. The two regions have several differences, however. In Muslim-majority Bangladesh, meat consumption is greater; whereas in Hindu-majority West Bengal, vegetarianism is more prevalent. The Bangladeshi diaspora dominates the South Asian restaurant industry in many Western countries, particularly in the United Kingdom.


The annual Bengali New Year parade

Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali new year, is the major festival of Bengali culture and sees widespread festivities. Of the major holidays celebrated in Bangladesh, only Pohela Boishakh comes without any preexisting expectations (specific religious identity, culture of gift-giving, etc.). Unlike holidays like Eid al-Fitr, where dressing up in lavish clothes has become a norm, or Christmas where exchanging gifts has become an integral part of the holiday, Pohela Boishakh is really about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal. As a result, more people can participate in the festivities together without the burden of having to reveal one's class, religion, or financial capacity. Other cultural festivals include Nabonno, and Poush Parbon both of which are Bengali harvest festivals.

The Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Milad un Nabi, Muharram, Chand Raat, Shab-e-Barat; the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja, Janmashtami and Rath Yatra; the Buddhist festival of Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha, and Christian festival of Christmas are national holidays in Bangladesh and see the most widespread celebrations in the country.

Alongside are national days like the remembrance of 21 February 1952 Language Movement Day (International Mother Language Day), Independence Day and Victory Day. On Language Movement Day, people congregate at the Shaheed Minar in Dhaka to remember the national heroes of the Bengali Language Movement, and at the Jatiyo Smriti Soudho on Independence Day and Victory Day to remember the national heroes of the Bangladesh Liberation War. These occasions are observed with public ceremonies, parades, rallies by citizens, political speeches, fairs, concerts, and various other public and private events, celebrating the history and traditions of Bangladesh. TV and radio stations broadcast special programs and patriotic songs, and many schools and colleges organise fairs, festivals, and concerts that draw the participation of citizens from all levels of Bangladeshi society.[citation needed]


Cricket is one of the most popular sports in Bangladesh, followed by football. The national cricket team participated in their first Cricket World Cup in 1999, and the following year was granted elite Test cricket status. They have however struggled, recording only ten Test match victories: eight against Zimbabwe (five in 2005 and three in 2014), and the other two in a 2–0 series victory over the West Indies (in 2009).[258]

The team has been more successful in One Day International cricket (ODI). In July 2010, they celebrated their first-ever win over England. Later in 2010, they beat New Zealand, also for the first time. In late 2012, they won a five-match home ODI series 3-2 against a full-strength West Indies National team. In 2011, Bangladesh successfully co-hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 with India and Sri Lanka. In 2012, the country hosted the Asia Cup. The team beat India and Sri Lanka but failed to keep the reputation in the final game against Pakistan. However, it was the first time Bangladesh had advanced to the final of any top-class international cricket tournament. They participated at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, defeating Afghanistan to claim their Gold Medal in the first-ever cricket tournament held in the Asian Games. Bangladeshi cricketer Sakib Al Hasan is No.1 on the ICC's all-rounder rankings in all three formats of the cricket.[259]

Kabaddi – very popular in Bangladesh – is the national game.[260] Other popular sports include field hockey, tennis, badminton, handball, basketball, volleyball, chess, shooting, angling. The National Sports Council regulates 42 different sporting federations.[261]

Bangladesh has five grandmasters in chess. Among them, Niaz Murshed was the first grandmaster in South Asia. In another achievement, Margarita Mamun, a Russian rhythmic gymnast of Bangladeshi origin, became world champion in 2013 and 2014.

Media and cinema

The Bangladeshi press is diverse, outspoken and privately owned. Over 200 newspapers are published in the country. Bangladesh Betar is the state-run radio service.[262] The British Broadcasting Corporation operates the popular BBC Bangla news and current affairs service. Bengali broadcasts from Voice of America are also very popular. Bangladesh Television (BTV) is the state-owned television network. There more than 20 privately owned television networks, including several news channels. Freedom of the media remains a major concern, due to government attempts at censorship and the harassment of journalists.

The cinema of Bangladesh dates back to 1898, when films began screening at the Crown Theatre in Dhaka. The first bioscope on the subcontinent was established in Dhaka that year. The Dhaka Nawab Family patronized the production of several silent films in the 1920s and 30s. In 1931, the East Bengal Cinematograph Society released the first full-length feature film in Bangladesh, titled the Last Kiss. The first feature film in East Pakistan, Mukh O Mukhosh, was released in 1956. During the 1960s, 25–30 films were produced annually in Dhaka. By the 2000s, Bangladesh produced 80–100 films a year. While the Bangladeshi film industry has achieved limited commercial success, the country has produced notable independent filmmakers. Zahir Raihan was a prominent documentary-maker who was assassinated in 1971. The late Tareque Masud is regarded as one of Bangladesh's outstanding directors due to his numerous productions on historical and social issues. Masud was honored by FIPRESCI at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival for his film The Clay Bird. Tanvir Mokammel, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Humayun Ahmed, Alamgir Kabir, and Chashi Nazrul Islam are some of the prominent directors of Bangladeshi cinema.


Bangladeshi rickshaws

Cycle rickshaws are the most popular form of public transport in Bangladesh. Dhaka, the nation's biggest city, is nicknamed the Rickshaw Capital of the World.[263] Rickshaws also ply the streets of other major cities, as well as the countryside. Bangladeshi rickshaws are decorated with colorful posters and boards, often depicting movie stars, national monuments or religious icons. Rickshaw art is considered a form of neo-romanticism. This unique trend started in Rajshahi and Dhaka in the 1950s. Each region of Bangladesh has a distinct style of rickshaw art. For example, rickshaw art in Chittagong and Comilla are dominated by floral scenery and Arabic texts. Auto-rickshaws are widely seen in urban centers. Cycle-driven carts are found in many parts of the country. Bangladeshi rickshaw art has received international fame, and has been called "people's art".

Rickshaw driving provides employment for many poor Bangladeshis coming from rural areas.[264]

Museums and libraries

Northbrook Hall, a public library opened in 1882 with rare book collections from the British Raj[265]

The Varendra Research Museum is the oldest museum in Bangladesh. It houses important collections from both the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods, including the sculptures of the Pala-Sena School of Art and the Indus Valley Civilization; as well as Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian manuscripts and inscriptions. The Ahsan Manzil, the former residence of the Nawab of Dhaka, is a national museum housing collections from the British Raj. It was the site of the founding conference of the All India Muslim League and hosted many British Viceroys in Dhaka.

The Tajhat Palace|Tajhat Palace Museum preserves artifacts of the rich cultural heritage of North Bengal, including Hindu-Buddhist sculptures and Islamic manuscripts. The Mymensingh Museum houses the personal antique collections of Bengali aristocrats in central Bengal. The Ethnological Museum of Chittagong showcases the lifestyle of various tribes in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh National Museum is located in Ramna, Dhaka and has a rich collection of antiquities. The Liberation War Museum documents the Bangladeshi struggle for independence and the 1971 genocide.

In ancient times, manuscripts were written on palm leaves, tree barks, parchment vellum and terracotta plates and preserved at monasteries known as viharas. The Hussain Shahi dynasty established royal libraries during the Bengal Sultanate. Libraries were established in each district of Bengal by the zamindar gentry during the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th-century. The trend of establishing libraries continued until the beginning of World War II. In 1854, four major public libraries were opened, including the Bogra Woodburn Library, the Rangpur Public Library, the Jessore Institute Public Library and the Barisal Public Library.

The Northbrook Hall Public Library was established in Dhaka in 1882 in honour of Lord Northbrook, the Governor-General. Other libraries established in the British period included the Victoria Public Library, Natore (1901), the Sirajganj Public Library (1882), the Rajshahi Public Library (1884), the Comilla Birchandra Library (1885), the Shah Makhdum Institute Public Library, Rajshahi (1891), the Noakhali Town Hall Public Library (1896), the Prize Memorial Library, Sylhet (1897), the Chittagong Municipality Public Library (1904) and the Varendra Research Library (1910). The Great Bengal Library Association was formed in 1925.[266] The Central Public Library of Dhaka was established in 1959. The National Library of Bangladesh was established in 1972. The World Literature Center, founded by Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Abdullah Abu Sayeed, is noted for operating numerous mobile libraries across Bangladesh and was awarded the UNESCO Jon Amos Comenius Medal.

See also


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Bibliography and further reading

  • Iftekhar Iqbal (2010) The Bengal Delta: Ecology, State and Social Change, 1840–1943, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, Pages: 288, ISBN 0-230-23183-7
  • M. Mufakharul Islam (edited) (2004) Socio-Economic History of Bangladesh: essays in memory of Professor Shafiqur Rahman, 1st Edition, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, OCLC 156800811
  • M. Mufakharul Islam (2007), Bengal Agriculture 1920–1946: A Quantitative Study, Cambridge South Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press, Pages: 300, ISBN 0-521-04985-7
  • Meghna Guhathakurta & Willem van Schendel (Edited) (2013) The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The World Readers), Duke University Press Books, Pages: 568, ISBN 0-8223-5304-0
  • Sirajul Islam (edited) (1997) History of Bangladesh 1704–1971(Three Volumes: Vol 1: Political History, Vol 2: Economic History Vol 3: Social and Cultural History), 2nd Edition (Revised New Edition), The Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Pages: 1846, ISBN 984-512-337-6
  • Sirajul Islam (Chief Editor) (2003) Banglapedia: A National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh.(10 Vols. Set), (written by 1300 scholars & 22 editors) The Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Pages: 4840, ISBN 984-32-0585-5
  • Srinath Raghavan (2013) '1971: A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh', Harvard University Press, Pages: 368, ISBN 0-674-72864-5
  • Ahmed, Salahuddin (2004). Bangladesh: Past and Present. APH Publishing. p. 367. ISBN 9788176484695. 
  • Schendel, Willem van (12 February 2009). A History of Bangladesh. Cambridge University Press. p. 347. ISBN 9780521861748. 
  • Sisson, Richard; Rose, Leo E (1991). War and Secession: Pakistan, India, and the Creation of Bangladesh. University of California Press. p. 338. ISBN 9780520076655. 
  • Robinson, Roger J (1999). Bangladesh: Progress Through Partnership : Country Assistance Review. World Bank Publications. p. 59. ISBN 9780821342930. 
  • Uddin, Sufia M (2006). Constructing Bangladesh: Religion, Ethnicity, and Language in an Islamic Nation. University of North Carolina Press. p. 248. ISBN 9780807877333. 
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