Bengali New Years celebration
Dad with daughter
Know Bangladesh (Land of the Bengals)
Bangladesh is one of the most friendly, intriguing and we like to think, exciting, countries in the world. Here's a little background...
A FEW HISTORICAL FACTS
Bangladesh was first part of the Mughal empire for more than five centuries.
It was once the eastern portion of the historical region of Bengal along with what is now the Indian state of West Bengal and the Pakistani province of East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan).
In 1971 it became the independent country of Bangladesh, with Dhaka as its capital,
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT GEOGRAPHY
Bangladesh is situated on the northern coast of the Bay of Bengal and is surrounded by India with the Indian states of West Bengal to the west and north, Assam to the north, Meghalaya to the north and northeast, and Tripura and Mizoram to the east. To the southeast, it shares a border with Myanmar (Burma).
It is the largest delta in the world with the sacred river Ganges, Brahmaputra and Jamuna all flowing through the country and finally into the Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh, ‘the mother land of rivers’, has a unique history of culture, dating back more than three thousand years. This long history has also created a many-sided and unique folk heritage which is remarkably different from any neighboring country. Over the centuries, the culture of Bangladesh has been shaped and influenced by Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Islam. Naturally, and traditionally, the inhabitants of Bangladesh are peaceful and tolerant, and as a result Bangladesh is well known worldwide as a friendly, moderate Muslim country.
A LITERARY NATION
Bangladesh boasts a rich literary heritage reflecting the long history of the region. Composed in the 8th century, ‘Charyapada’ is the earliest literary text in the Bengali language. The era of modern Bengali literature began in the nineteenth century, with the Nobel laureate poet Rabindra Nath Tagore and the National poet Kazi Nazrul Islam publishing great works. Michael Madhusudan Datta, Sarat Chandra Chattapadhaya, Mir Mosharraf Hossain, Bankim Chandra Chattapaddhya, Begum Rokeya, Sufia Kamal are the best-known pioneers of modern Bengali literature.
A MODERATELY RELIGIOUS COUNTRY
The major religion practiced in Bangladesh is Islam (89.7%) while a sizable minority is Hindu (9.2%). The majority of Muslims are Sunni, while the rest are Shia, Ahamadiyya or Sufi. Ethnic Biharis are predominantly Shia Muslims. Other religious groups include Buddhist (0.7% mostly Theravada), Christians (0.3% mostly Roman Catholic denomination), and animists (0.1%)
A MUSICAL POPULACE
There are many traditional and very popular forms of folk music throughout Bangladesh. These include Baul, Bhatiali , Marifati, Murshidi, Bhawaiya with lyrics rooted into vibrant tradition, mysticism, spirituality and devotion. Lalon Shah, Hason Raza, Romesh Shill, Kangal Harinath, Abbus Uddin, Shah Abdul Karim and many unknown lyricists have enriched the traditional folk songs of Bangladesh.
Today’s popular classical singers include Kishor Kumar , Manna Dey, Vhupen Hazarica, Lata Mungeshkar, Runa Laila, Sabina Yasmin, Abdul Zabbar and Subir Nandi.
A PLACE FOR FOODIES
Rice and Hilsha fish are the staple foods of Bangladesh and are available everywhere. Count too on discovering plenty of curries – many of which you will be familiar with from Indian menus – lentil soups and a huge range of sweets. Bangladeshis are also blessed with a mouthwatering array of fresh fruit.
Depending on the season, mango, jackfruit, banana, litchi, pineapple, lemon, guava, papaya, apple, wood apple, tamarind, watermelon, orange, pomegranates, are all available. Summer is treated as ‘fruit festival season’ in Bangladesh when almost all fruits are available.
WHAT TO WEAR?
Bangladeshi people wear different clothes depending on their age, location and social class. The sari is by far the most widely worn dress by women, followed by the salwar kameez. Bangladeshi men wear kurta-pajama combinations on religious and cultural occasions, the lungi, a kind of sarong as casual wear and shirts and trousers on more formal occasions. In urban areas some women wear western attire and it is more widely adopted among men. Travellers should dress modestly although a loose fitting t-shirt and trousers is also fine.
WEATHER TO TRAVEL
The climate of Bangladesh is subtropical. Temperatures range from an average daytime low of 21˚ in the cold season, to 35˚Celcius in the hot season. Bangladeshi climate has a mild winter from November to March, and a hot, humid Summer from March to June. Monsoon season lasts from June to October and supplies most rainfall of the country. Winter is the best time to visit Bangladesh, when the weather is dry and fresh, although the rainy season offers adventurers a unique opportunity to experience this ‘riverine’ country at its greenest.
Fairs and festivals play an important role in the life of Bangladeshis. The two Eids, Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Ajha, are the largest festivals in the Islamic calendar. Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja are two of the highly celebrated, major Hindu festivals. One of the most important Buddhist festivals is Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha while Christmas, called Bôŗodin (‘Great day’ in Bangla) is celebrated by the minority Christian population.
Bengali New Year (Pahela Baishakh) – April 14th–is a great time to visit, as the people of Bangladesh celebrate this day with characteristic splendor, especially in Dhaka city. Thousands of residents start this day by visiting ‘Ramna Park” during the first hours of dawn, where singers from local cultural clubs perform at music programs to embrace the New Year. Fairs are held in most villages, even the tiniest ones, where you’ll find all sorts of interesting things to photograph – from handicrafts and traditional snacks to snake charmers.
ESSENTIALS – HOLIDAYS, MONEY AND VISAS
21st February- International Mother Language Day
26th March-Independence Day
1st May-International Labor Day
1st Monday in July- Bank Holiday
16th December- Victory Day
31st December- New Year’s Eve
Islamic Holidays: Prophets Birthday: Feb 26th, Shab e Qadr: Sept 5th, Eid ul Fitr: Sept 10th, Eid ul Ajha: Oct 27th
Hindu Holidays: Janmashtami: Sept 2nd, Durga Puja: Oct 14, Diwalli: Nov 5th
Buddhist Holidays: Buddha purnima: 27th May.
Christian Holidays: Christmas Dec 25th
The Taka (BDT) is the name of Bangladeshi currency. There are notes of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100,500 and 1000 Taka and coins of 25, 50 paisa and 1, 2 and 5 Taka are available everywhere in Bangladesh. Notes from five Taka to one thousand taka are issued by Bangladeshi banks.
1 Taka =100 paisa and at present 1 USD (United States dollar) =80 Taka.
Visas are required to enter Bangladesh, on some occasions it is possible for certain nationalities to be granted a visa on arrival. Check with us before you travel as the rules sometimes change.