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Greatest Bengali of all time

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman:
Voted as the Greatest Bengali of all time in the 2004 BBC opinion poll

Soon after the completion of 100 Greatest Britons poll in 2002, the BBC organized a similar opinion poll to find out who is the greatest Bengali personality in Bengali nation's history of thousand years.[1][2][3] In 2004, BBC's Bengali Service conducted the opinion poll with the title Greatest Bengali of all time started from February 11 continued onto March 22. The poll was participated by Bengalis around the world including from Bangladesh, India (states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam) and overseas Bengali communities.[4][5][6][7]

Total 140 nominations had been produced from the poll. BBC started to announce the top 20 names from 26 March declaring one name each day starting from 20th position. On the final day of 14 April, which was also the Pahela Baishakh (Bengali New Year day), BBC announced Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh as the Greatest Bengali of all time voted by Bengalis worldwide.[4][6]


Describing the process of voting, BBC's Bengali Service stated that to avoid any flaw or controversy, they followed the most modern method of opinion polling. Participants were asked to nominate their five choices of greatest Bengali on the order of preference instead of one. The top nominee of each voter was given five points, second nominee four points, thus eventually the fifth nominee got one point. On the basis of total points, the final list of the greatest Bengali poll was generated.[5]


BBC informed that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman bagged almost double points than the second place holder Rabindranath Tagore, while Tagore himself secured double points than Kazi Nazrul Islam and Nazrul got double than A. K. Fazlul Huq. The other 17 personalities however had narrow differences of points with each other.[5][6] Along with highest six politicians, the list also contains several authors and social reformers. Also two religious preachers, one scientist and one economist got place in the final list. Begum Rokeya was the only woman and Amartya Sen only living personality to be voted in top 20.

Top 20 of the listEdit

Rank Name Title Image Introduction Notability
1 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Bangabandhu

(Friend of Bengal)


Leader of Independence


Prime Minister

Founding Father of Bangladesh. Firebrand politician who shook the foundation of Pakistan and carved out its eastern wing as sovereign Bangladesh.

Led Bengali's decade long struggle for independence against then autocratic regime, finally resulting the Bangladesh Liberation War and the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

Served twice as President and once as Prime Minister of Bangladesh after independence. Assassinated along with almost entire family in military coup.

2 Rabindranath Tagore Kobi Guru

(Teacher of Poems)


Nobel Prize Winner

Referred by many as the Bengali Shakespeare. Most successful and influential writer in Bengali literature. First Nobel Prize winner from Asia. Composer of national anthems of India and Bangladesh.
3 Kazi Nazrul Islam Bidrohi Kobi

(Rebel Poet)


National Poet

Renown for lifelong struggle and fiery writings against British colonial rule. Equally popular for romantic and religious (both Islamic and Hindu) poems and songs. Made National Poet of Bangladesh in 1972.
4 A. K. Fazlul Huq Sher-e-Bangla

(Tiger of Bengal)


Prime Minister

Chief Minister


First Prime Minister of undivided Bengal during British rule. First ever democratically elected leader of Bengali nation. Renown for unshakable stance on principles and for pro-poor policies. After partition, served as Chief Minister and Governor of East Pakistan.
5 Subash Chandra Bose Netaji

(Honorable Leader)


Nationalist Activist

One of the principal figures of Indian Independence Movement. Built own army to fight against British colonial rule. Visited around the globe to seek support and assistance for India's independence.
6 Begum Rokeya   Social Reformer Pioneer of Bengali women uprising. Within the conservative socio-system of her time, managed to educate herself and later became a popular writer and educationist. Inspired millions of girls and women to educate themselves and obtain self-reliance.
7 Jagadish Chandra Bose Acharya

(Influential Mentor)

  Scientist Major pioneer in researching radio and microwave optics. Made groundbreaking contributions to plant science. Laid the foundation of experimental science in Indian subcontinent.
8 Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani Mazlum Jananeta

(Leader of the Oppressed)

  Politician Influential political figure served during British India, Pakistan and Bangladesh period. Gained mass popularity for lifelong solidarity with the oppressed.
9 Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar Vidyasagar

(Ocean of Knowledge)

  Social Reformer Modified Bengali alphabet and typography. Introduced social reforms including widow marriage in the region.
10 Raja Ram Mohan Roy   Social Reformer Advocated for social reforms like demolition of satidah ritual, child marriage and giving property inheritance rights for women.
11 Syed Mir Nisar Ali Titumir   Rebel Activist Renown for confrontations with landlords and British colonial rulers. Became legend after building iconic bamboo fort and fought against British soldiers from there.
12 Lalon Shah Baul Shamrat

(Emperor of Bauls)

  Philosopher                            Cultural icon of Bengal and most celebrated Baul saint in history. Often compared with Confucius of China. Inspired prominent figures including from Tagore, Nazrul to Allen Ginsberg.
13 Satyajit Ray   Filmmaker

Academy Award Winner

Second Oscar winner from India. Started new era of Indian cinema. One of the most successful writers in modern age Bengali literature. Showed great talent in music and drawing too.
14 Amartya Sen   Economist

Nobel Prize Winner

Prominent economist. Won Nobel Prize in economics.
15 Language Movement Martyrs Bhasha Shaheed

(Language Martyrs)

  University Students Shot dead on 21 February 1952 while carrying mass procession against then Pakistan government's decision of not to proclaim Bengali as country's official language. The day is now observed worldwide as International Mother Language Day after UNESCO's declaration in 1999.
16 Muhammad Shahidullah   Educationist Prominent educationist, linguist and researcher on Bengali language.
17 Swami Vivekananda   Religious Preacher One of principal representatives of Hinduism to western world. Prominent promoter of Yoga.
18 Atisa Dipamkara   Religious Preacher Bengali Buddhist spiritual leader. Brought Buddhism to Bengal and helped to spread from Tibet to Sumatra.
19 Ziaur Rahman   Military Personal


Freedom Fighter

One of the war heroes of Bangladesh Liberation War. Announced Declaration of Independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Former President and former army chief of Bangladesh. Founder of SAARC.
20 Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy   Politician

Prime Minister

Influential Bengali politician served as Prime Minister of undivided Bengal during British rule and later Prime Minister of Pakistan.


  1. ^ "Listeners name 'greatest Bengali'". The Asian Age. 2016-01-10. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  2. ^ "News Details". BSS. 2016-04-13. Retrieved 2018-01-26.
  3. ^ Heath, Deana; Mathur, Chandana (2010-12-22). Communalism and Globalization in South Asia and Its Diaspora. Routledge. p. 145. ISBN 9781136867873.
  4. ^ a b "Listeners name 'greatest Bengali'". BBC News. 2004-04-14. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  5. ^ a b c "BBC Listeners' Poll". The Daily Star. 2004-04-16. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  6. ^ a b c Habib, Haroon (2004-04-17). "Mujib, Tagore, Bose among `greatest Bengalis of all time'". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  7. ^ "The speech that changed the course of history". The Independent. Dhaka. 2016-03-07. Retrieved 2018-01-26.

Further readingEdit