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About Bangladesh

About Bangladesh

Bangladesh- the land of Royal Bengal Tiger , nature has bestowed it with all the beautiful shades of green. This large delta rises from the Bay of Bengal and does up to the footsteps of the west, north and east, a little strip of the south-east is connected with Myanmar . The mighty Bay of Bengal guards its coasts in the southern part. As a new destination, Bangladesh has excellent tourist attractions, which includes archaeological sites, historic monument, pagodas, temples, mosques and churches, tea gardens, beautiful lakes, tribal people & hills, resorts and enchanting sea beaches, deep forest and wild life. Bangladesh though a small country has many diverse attractions for the nature lovers as well as is rich in culture and heritage.

AREA :   1,47,570 Sq.km .

POPULATION :   Approx. 130 Million

CLIMATE  The climate is sub-tropical with temperatures ranging from an average day time low of 150 C in the cold season to a maximum 380 C in the summer with an average annual rainfall of 78.8 inches. The country has mainly four seasons i.e. the Winter (Dec-Feb), Summer (mar-May), Monsoon (June-sep) and Autumn (Oct-Nov).

BEST SEASON :   Specially October to march, when the sun is mild and pleasant.

CURRENCY :  The Unit is Taka, made up of 100 paisa. At present US $ 1 = Tk.59

DHAKA :  The Capital

The capital city of Dhaka, gateway to Bangladesh for most international visitors, is a colorful and thriving metropolis of some 12 million people. It bears an exciting history and rich culture. Known all over the world as the city of mosques and rickshaws, it has attracted travellers from far and near through the ages. According to recorded history it was founded in 1608 A.D. as the seat of the imperial Mughal viceroy of Bengal . Having a splendoured blending of old and new architectural trends, Dhaka has been developing fast as a modern city and is vibrating with activities in all spheres of life. It is the center of industrial, commercial, cultural, educational and political activities for Bangladesh . Motijheel is the main commercial area of the city. Dhaka ‘s main waterfront sadarghat is on the bank of the river Buriganga and is crowded with all kinds of river craft, yachts, country-boats, motor launches, paddle steamers, fishermen’s boats
all bustling with activity. Colorful rickshaws (tricycle) on the city streets are common attractions for the visitors.

CHITTAGONG :  The commercial capital of Bangladesh

The commercial capital and the largest international seaport of Bangladesh , the health city (declared by UNESCO), Chittagong is located in a picturesque hinterland of large hill forests and lakes. It is really an amazing vacation spot. Its green hills and forests, broad sandy beaches and fine cool climate always attract holidaymakers. It combines the hum of a restless sea-port with the pleasure of a charming hill-town with its undulating topography. Chittagong is connected with Dhaka by rail, road, air and water. It is also connected with Cox’s Bazar, Kolkata, Pukhet, singapore and middle east by air. Bangladesh Biman and private GMG airlines operate daily services from Dhaka to Chittagong .

COX’S BAZAR :  The world’s longest unbroken white sandy beach

A conglomeration of miles of golden sands, towering cliffs, surfing waves, rare conch shells, colourful pagodas, Buddhist temples and tribes, delightful sea-food- this is Cox’s Bazar – the tourist capital of Bangladesh, having the world’s longest unbroken (120 km). Smooth, sandy, shark-free beach sloping down to the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal against the picturesque background of a chain of hills covered with deep forests. Cox’s Bazar is one of the most attractive tourist spots in the world. The beach is good for bathing, sun-bathing and swimming. The breath- taking beauty of the setting-sun behind the waves of the sea is captivating.  Located at a distance of 152 km south of Chittagong , Cox’s Bazar is connected both by air and road from Dhaka and Chittagong .

SAINT MARTIN`S ISLAND :   St. Martin is the country’s only Coral island.

Forty eight km from Teknaf – St. Martin is the country’s only Coral island and unspoilt paradise with friendly people. Named Narikel Gingira ( coconut Island ) by the local, the dumb-bell shaped St. Martin has an area of only eight sq. km from one to four meters above sea level during sea level during high tide.

RANGAMATI :  The Lake District

From Chittagong , a 77km road amidst lush green fields and winding hills will take you to Rangamati- which is a wonderful repository of scenic splendours with flora and fauna of varied descriptions. The township is located on the western bank of Kaptai Lake . Rangamati is a favourite holiday resort because of its beautiful landscape, scenic beauty, lake, colourful tribes, hanging bridge, and tribal museum. For tourists the attractions of Rangamati are numerous – tribal life, fishing, speed boat cruising, water skiing, bathing or merely enjoying nature as it is. It is a rare spot for ecotourism.BANDARBAN :   The roof of Bangladesh

Ninety two km from Chittagong by road – Bandarban is the district headquarters of the Bandarban Hill District. It is the home town of the Bhomang Chief who is the head of the Mogh tribe. The Moghs are of Myanmar origin and Buddhists by religion. The moghs are simple and hospitable people. Bandarban is also the home of the Murangs who are famous for their music and dances. Several other tribes of great interest live in the remote areas of the district. The highest peak of Bangladesh- Tahjin dong (4632 ft) is located in the Bandarban district.

SYLHET :  The land of two leaves and a bud

Immaculately nestled in the picturesque Surma Valley amidst scenic tea plantations and lush green tropical forests, it is a prime attraction for all tourists. Its terraced tea gardens, eye-soothing orange groves and pineapple plantations and hills covered with tropical forests form a beautiful landscape. The Sylhet valley has a good number of haors which are big natural wetlands. These haors which provide sanctuary to the millions of migratory birds who fly from Siberia across the Himalayas to avoid the severe cold.

SRIMONGAL in Moulvibazar district known as the tea capital of Bangladesh is the main tea centre of the area. For miles and miles around the visitors can see the tea gardens spread like green carpet over the plain land or on the slopping hills. Sylhet, the tea granary of Bangladesh , not only has over 150 tea gardens. A stay in one of the rest-houses of tea gardens would be an enchanting one.

Sylhet is also known as the land of the famous Muslim Saint Hazrat Shah Jalal (RA) , the great torch bearer of Islam to this region. The shrine of this great saint is located at Sylhet town. Another shrine of this town is the Shrine of Hazrat Shah Paran (RA). Colourful Monipuri, Khasia and Garo tribes live in Sylhet. Monipuris are famous for their wide variety of exquisite handicrafts of cane and bamboo. Sylhet is linked with Dhaka by rail, road and air.

THE HISTORY AND HERITAGE OF BANGLADESH

The History of Bangladesh

  1. The birth of Bangladesh –the formation of the land of Bangladesh :

Our mother earth is a member of the Solar System. The Solar System was born about 5000 million years ago. That means the earth is 5000 million years old. One-third of the Earth is covered by land, and the rest two-third, by water. At present we have seven continents.

About 230 million years ago there was only one continent comprising several plates, such as Eurasian Plate, Indian Plate, East Asian Plate, Australian Plate and African Plate. Each plate is a separate landmass, having a thickness of about 40-50 miles, set on the layer of very large chunks of rock.

All the plates drift continuously in the oceans. The Earth moves around the Sun, and again spins on its axis at a very high speed, about 18.5 miles a minute. Due to these movements, the chunks of rock on which the plates are set also move, and their movement makes the plates drift.

About 200 million years ago the plates of the super-continent started drifting apart. About 40-50 million years ago through drifting the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate came closer and then collided head on to each other. The Himalayan Mountain Range was born due to that collision.

Another significant result of that collision was that, a part of the Indian Plate, at the north-east corner, broke off and went under the sea water. This skinning of the land took place about 30 million years ago. Then the two mighty rivers, Ganges and Brahmmaputra, started carrying alluvial soil from the Himalayas to throw them into the sea on the submerged part of the broken plate. Through the gradual deposition of alluvial soils on the broken part of the Indian plate, a new land emerged from the womb of the sea about ten thousand years ago. This new land is our Bangladesh and the Indian State of West Bengal , together known as Bengal . In the beginning our country was not as big as it is now. Even 3 thousand years back, a sea port was somewhere near Gopalganj.

Every year Ganges and Bhrammaputra carry about 30 million tons of alluvial soil from the Himalayas down to the Bay of Bengal . Satellite pictures say that we are going to get about 12 thousand sq. miles of new land from the Bay of Bengal within the next fifty years.

1. Ethnic Origin of the People of Bangladesh :

During the pre-historic period human beings were nomads, living in small groups. They did not know how to grow food; so, they were hunter-food gatherers, moving place to place to hunt wild beasts and to gather wild food to quench their appetite. Afterwards they learnt how to domesticate wild animals. Still they remained nomads. In search of new pasture lands for their herds they used to move from one place to another place. The first group of human beings who came to Bangladesh was Mongoloid people from Tibet and China . They crossed the Himalayas to reach this land.

After the Mongoloid race came the Austro-Asiatic people to Bangladesh from Indo-China region. Perhaps this people came to Indo-China region from the Polynesian and Melanesian islands in the South Pacific Ocean .
The Arian used to live in the Austro-Hungarian region, or on the banks of River Volga. Some groups of them started eastward journey; and reached, through Central Asia and Afghanistan , to India in 15 th Century BC.

In the Indian Sub-continent they first settled down in Punjab . By 8 th Century BC or 2800 years ago a group of them reached in Bihar near the border of Bangladesh . Arians proceeded eastward, from Punjab , along the course of the Ganges . On the way they subjugated many nations. From Bihar they tried to conquer Bangladesh , the most fertile land on the earth, again and again, but in vain. Though the Arian failed to come in Bangladesh as conquerors, they came, in a great number, and settled down in this land as traders, farmers etc. Thus the fusion of Mongoloid, Austro-Asiatic and Arian bloods took place in the veins of our ancestor. The word ‘Arian’ means alien or foreigner.

In the veins of every nation of present day world, flow the blended bloods of different races. The English blood is the blend of Mediterranean , Saxon, Den, and Norman bloods. Arab blood is a blend of Assyrian, Babylonian and Hittite bloods.

During the first part of the last millennium, some Turks, Arabs, Abyssinian and Afghans came to Bangladesh . They came as mercenary solders, many of them settled down in this country, and thus another fusion of blood took place in this land. In the 13 th Century AD, Chakma, Marma, Bomang etc. small nationalities belonged to Mongoloid stock, more precisely to Bhot-Tibetan race, migrated to Bangladesh through Myanmar and settled at the peripheries of the country.

In 18 th and 19 th century a few Portuguese and even English settled down in Bangladesh .

2. The political History of Bangladesh:

During ancient time people all over the world used to live in tribe or clan. Two dominant tribes, Vanga and Pundra, used to live in Bangladesh during ancient time. They were our ancestors. The dominant ancient tribe of West Bengal was known as Shumma. Mentions are there in Mahabharata — the great Hindu epic written in 4 th century BC–of Vanga and Pundra tribes. Their kings took part, according to the epic, in the battle of Kuruskhetra. Kurus and Pandavas fought this battle near Delhi about three thousand years back.Present day North Bangladesh plus some part of northern West Bengal was the territory of Pundra tribe, and their Capital City was Pundranagara, now known as Mahasthangar—a ruins in Bogra. The heartland of Vanga tribe was comprised of the greater districts of Maymensing, Dhaka , and Faridpur. Some historians think that Jessor, Khulna and the district of 24-Paragana of West Bengal were also the part of Vanga. Gange was the Capital of Vanga Kingdom. Might be the present day Barabazar in Magura (Jessore) was the location of Gange.

Another great city of Vangas was located at Warri-Bateshwar in Narsingdi. This City as well as Gange had maritime trades with Roman Empire , Middle East and Far East . Garments made of Muslin textile produced in Vanga were the liking of the emperors, kings and noblemen all over the world, including Roman Emperors and Egyptian Pharaohs. Muslin was used to make the garments for the mummies of the Pharaohs. Muslin imported from Bangladesh by the Middle East traders used to be sold in Mosul , now a Kurd (Kurdi) township in North Iraq , for the European markets. The highly specialized textile of Bangladesh , Muslin, got its name from the City of Mosul —its international trading center. Muslin was so fine that European used to say, it was made of air.

The best quality of cotton to produce the best quality of Muslin used to be grown at Sonargawn, Kapasia, Dhamrai and on the banks of River Megna from Sonargawn to Chandpur.

The British rulers of Bengal destroyed the Muslin industry in the nineteenth century AD., say about 150 years ago. It is alleged that they chopped off the thumbs of Muslin weavers, that the weavers should not be able to produce the textile.

Ptolemy, the ancient Greek writer, wrote that there was a gold mine at Sonargawn. So when we say ‘Golden Bengal’, it was not a poetic imagination.

The Mughal Emperor Aurangajeb used to call Bangaldesh ‘Soobah jennat ul Belaod Bengala’–the paradise of Nations, the Subah Bengal. Lord Carzon (1785-93), the Governor General of British India , once wrote, in a letter, about Bengal , that ‘ England is fortunate enough to establish dominion over one of the richest regions on the earth.’

Just before the invasion of India by Alexander, Vanga was a mighty kingdom.

At that time the northern boundary of Vanga Empire was along the east bank of Bias River in Punjab . In the year of 327 BC, Alexander, with his army, reached on the west bank of River Bias. His Army, on being learnt of the strength of Vanga Army, refused to cross the river to fight against that mighty enemy. So Alexander backed out from his India Expedition, and went toward Iran . At that time the king of Vanga was Dhanananda. All this history of Vanga was written by the Sicilian historian, Diadorous. He wrote that Vanga army had the strength of two hundred thousand infantry solders, twenty thousand cavalry and 3-4 thousand trained elephants.

Greek and Sicilian historians mentioned Vanga as Gangaderoi or the heart of Ganges , and its capital as Gange.

How did Dhanananda, the king of Vanga, become the ruler of such a vast Empire? The Shishunag Dynasty based in Bihar used to rule the whole of North India . In the year of 354 BC, Dhanananda defeated Shishunags in a battle, and made the whole of North India a part of his Vanga Kingdom .

It is supposed by many historians that Chandragupta Morya, the founder of the Moryan Empire, was the son of Dhanananda by one of his maidservant or concubine. Chandragupta was not in the good book of his father. He revolted against his father and deposed him or curved out a vast portion of his father’s Empire. In the 3 rd BC during the Moryan Emperor, Asoka, the grandson of Chandragupta, almost all of Indian sub-continent came under the rule of Moryan Empire.

It is also supposed, based on logic, that the Gupta Empire, the most illustrious empire of the ancient India, was a Bengali Empire, as the Gupta rulers were originally of Bengali descents.

Guptas ruled India in 3 rd , 4 th and 5 th centuries. Within a few years after the fall of Letter Gupta Empire, Sasanka became the king of Bengal . During his time Bengal became known as Gawradesh.

Sasanka founded his capital in Karnasubarna. To mark the foundation of his capital, he introduced a new calendar now known as ‘Bangla Borsha’ or Bengali Calendar. As he founded his capital in the month of Baisakh, so the Bengali Calendar starts from this month. During the Turk rulers of Bengal , in the 13 th century AD, Bengali Calendar was replaced by the Hijri Calendar.

Bengali Calendar is a solar calendar and the Hijri Calendar is a lunar calendar. It became difficult to collect tax from the farmers of Bengal on the basis of a lunar calendar; so, the Mogul Emperor Akbar reintroduced the Bengali Calendar with some reformations. On the day of 1 st Baishakh we celebrate Bengali New Year. It has become a part of our culture.

After the death of Sasanka in 670 AD, anarchy gripped Bengal ; and that anarchy lasted for many years. There was no central rule in this land. At last in 730 AD people elected Gopala—a feudal lord of Pundra or Pundrabardana ( North Bengal ) as their king. He soon annexed Vanga ( East Bengal ) to his kingdom, and a golden age of Bengal started anew. With Gopala started the history of Pala Dynasty, which ruled Bengal as well as many parts of India for about four hundred years.

Pundranagara was the capital of Gopal. Dharmapala, the son of Gopala conquered Bihar and some other parts of North India . He shifted the capital of his Empire from Pundranagara to Pataliputra in Bihar . The ruins of Pataliputra lie at the outskirt of present day Patna City . Dharmapala built Paharpur Mahavihara. Dharmapala and the 3 rd Emperor of Pala Dynasty, Devapala–the son of Dharmapala established Bengali rule over many parts of North India as well as over Assam .

After four hundred years of Pala rule, the Senas, who came from Karnataka in South India , were able to occupy South-west Bengal from the Palas. This change of rule in that part of Bengal took place in the end of 11 th century AD; with that started the foreign rule in Bengal which lasted for about 1000 years. Senas soon conquered North Bengal . Gawr or Lakhanwati was their Capital. South part of Gawr fell in present day Nawabganj District of Bangladesh, and the north part, in Maldah district of West Bengal. When Senas were ruling North and South Bengal , East Bengal or Vanga was a separate kingdom, and its capital was Vikrampur–not far from Dhaka . Here in Vikrampur, in the year of 980 was born Atisha Dipankara–a great scholar.

In 1204 the Turks derived away the Senas from North Bengal . Sena King, Lasmansena fled to Vanga or East Bengal , and made Vikrampur his capital. These Turks were from Turkmenistan in Central Asia , not from Turkey . Many Turk rulers made Gawr their capital for Turk occupied North Bengal . From 1204 to next 80 years the Turks occupied almost all parts of Bengal . These Turks were very skilled in killing each other. In first fifty years of their rule in Bangladesh , they killed five Sultans or rulers. During that short span of time 12 Turks became the rulers of Bengal .

In the year of 1325, Turks made Sonargawn the capital of their Sonargawn or East Bengal province. Soon Sonargawn became the capital of whole of Bengal . At present Sonargawn lies only 17 miles off from the capital city of Dhaka on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway .

In the map prepared by Rennell in 1785, Sonargawn was shown as a large town. The decline of this city was due partly to the main rivers altering courses and partly due to the erosion of the River Megna, which devoured a large part of this fabulous city. The area of Sonargawn City was about 24 square miles.

After Turks came Arabs, Abyssinians, Afghan, Moguls and British in Bengal as foreign rulers. Not even Sirajdaula was a Bengali ruler. His father was an Arab, his mother, a Turk; he was born in Bihar and he used to speak Farsi. His army was manned by Afghans, Uzbek, Rajput and Kashmiries. Mir Jafar was an Uzbek. In his youth he used to drive a mule cart in Uzbekistan . To change his fate he came to Bengal , and managed a job in the army of Alibordi Khan–the grandfather of Sirajdaula.

Moguls derived away Afghans from Bengal by the first quarter of 17 th Century. In 1612 the Mogul viceroy Islam Khan shifted the Capital from Sonargawn to Dhaka ; and that was the beginning of Dhaka as a capital. After about 100 years Murshid Kuli Khan shifted the capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad in 1717.

When the British became the ruler of Bengal and India , Kolkata became the capital of British-India Empire. In 1905 Dhaka was given the status of the capital of the newly formed East Bengal and Assam Province . It remained the capital till 1911. In the face of terrorism activities in Kolkata, the British shifted, in 1911, the capital of their Empire from Kolkata to New Delhi . In the same year East Bengal merged with West Bengal , together to be known as Bengal Province . Dhaka lost the status of a capital, and Kolkata became the capital of Bengal Province .

In 1947 we achieved our independence from the British rule as a part of Pakistan . Soon our independence turned into subjugation.

In 1952 we started Language Movement against the Pakistani rulers. In 21 February in that year four young men sacrificed their lives for the mother tongue. Every year we commemorate ‘Bhasha Dibash’ on 21 February. The commemoration of ‘Bhasha Dibash’ has become a part of our culture. Through the recognition by the United Nations, in 2001, ’21 February’ has become the International Language Day to be observed all other the world every year.

In 1971, through the victory in a nine-month long liberation war against Pakistan , at last we again have emerged as an independent nation.

3. The history of Bengali Language:

At present there are more than 3000 living languages in the world. Many languages have died, that means they are not spoken anymore. Bengali, our mother tongue, is a branch of the Indo-European language family. Some other language families are there, such as Dravidian, Semitic, Sino-Tibetan etc.

Of the Indo-European language family, Celtic-Irish language, which is spoken in Iceland , is westernmost language; and Ahomia language, which is spoken in Assam , is the easternmost language. The eight main groups of the Indo-European language Family are: Armenian, Slav-Baltic, Albanian, Hellenic, Italian, Celtic, Indo-Iranian, and Germanic.

English, German, Dutch languages belong to the Germanic Group of the family. French, Spanish, Italian belong to the Italian Group. Indo-Iranian Language Group has three main branches: Indic, Iranian and Dardic. Farsi, Kurdi, Pashtu, Baluchi languages belong to Iranian Language Group.

Indian branch of the language family has four main groups. They are: Udichchia, Pratichchia, Madhiadesha and Prachchia. The last group, Prachchia has two branches: Purba-Hindi and Maghadi. Our Bengali gradually took shape from Maghadi. The other three languages came out of the Maghadi are Maithali, Bhojpuri and Ahomi.

Bengali language first got its written shape in 9 th century AD. In that century some Buddhist monks wrote down their religious poems, known as ‘Charjiapada’. Those ‘Charjiapadas’ are considered to be the first written form of Bengali language. Some of the Charjiapada monk-poets used to live in Paharpur Monastery. In the beginning Bengali language was known as ‘Gawra bhasha’ or Gawr language, because at that time the country was known as ‘Gawradesh’.

Some of our medieval Arab rulers contributed a lot to the development of Bengali language. Under the patronage of Arab Sultan of Bengal, Hussain Shah, who reigned from the year of 1493 to the year of 1519, Hindu epic Ramayana and Srimat Bhagabat were translated from Sanskrit to Bengali. Again, under the patronage of Nusrat Shah, the next Sultan and the son of Hussain Shah, the whole of Mahabharata was translated from Sanskrit to Bengali.

The first bilingual dictionary of Bengali language along with Bengali grammar was written by a Portuguese missionary, Manoel. Assumpsaun (spelling of the name may not be correct). He used to live in Bhawal, not far from Dhaka . The book was published in 1743 in Lisbon , the capital of Portugal .

There is a misconception among many people that Bengali language derived from Sanskrit language. If we look at the chart of Indo-European Languages, we will see that Sanskrit is a distant ‘cousin’ of Bengali.

4. Religious history of Bangladesh :

Ancient Arabs used to worship different god and goddesses, such as Laat, Maanat; ancient Iraqis used to worship Enlil, Isthar, and Uruk. God and goddesses of ancient Greeks were Zeus, Appollo, Venus and many more. In fact during ancient time every nation had their deities of worship. Ancient people of Bangladesh used to worship a deity called Bangi. Perhaps the name of the country derived from the name of the deity worshiped by the people of the land or vice versa. In Arakani language ‘Banga’ means plain land. Our country is as plain as a sheet of paper. Might be our country has an Arakani name!

When Jain Tirthankar, Mahavira started preaching Jainism in 6 th century BC, some people of Bengal got converted to the new faith. Gautama Buddha was born in 560 BC. He came to Bangladesh to preach Buddhism and stayed about six months in Pundranagara for that purpose. Perhaps he was staying at Basu Vihara.

During subsequent times, due to the efforts of Buddhist preachers, many people of Bangladesh accepted Buddhism as their faith. In fact, at that time Buddhism became the main religion of the people in India , Pakistan , Afghanistan , Uzbekistan , Turkmenistan , China , Korea , Japan and the South East Asia . In 7 th century AD, when Huen Shang visited different parts of Bengal , he found Jains and Buddhists were almost equal in number. He also found, side by side with Jains and Buddhists, many followers of indigenous religion as well as Vedic religion. In 9 th Century AD, the Vedic religion emerged as Hindu religion through a reform led by Sankaracharjia of Karnataka in South India . And soon Buddhism lost its foothold in the Indian sub-continent, except in Bengal , to Hinduism.

During the Pala Period in Bengal , Buddhism became the predominant faith of the people of this country. Palas were Buddhists. Among the three sects of Buddhism—Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana, the last one was the mainstream of Buddhism in Bangladesh at that time.

After the Palas, the Senas became the rulers of Bengal . Sena kings were Hindu by faith, and extremely intolerant towards the followers of other faiths. To save themselves from the wrath of the intolerant rulers, the Buddhists of Bangladesh accepted many Hindu god and goddesses in their pantheon of deities; many Buddhist monks fled the country.

After the Senas came Turks, Arabs, Afghans and Moguls. These foreign rulers were Muslim by faith; but they never encouraged local people to convert into Islam. Non-Muslim subjects of a Muslim ruler of a country used to pay a special tax known as ‘Jizya’ to the ruler. The foreign Muslim rulers of Bengal as well as India would not encourage local people to accept Islam as their faith, because in that case the number of their non-Muslim subjects would decrease and with that would decrease their income from the Jizya tax.

In 14 th century some Muslim saints from the Middle East and Iran started preaching Islam in Bangladesh , and soon Islam became the faith of the majority people. There is a misconception among the people of Bangladesh as well as foreigners that people of this country got converted to Islam from Hinduism. It was not Hinduism but Vajrayana Buddhism which was the mainstream faith in Bangladesh when Muslim saints started preaching Islam in this country.

After the Muslim foreign rulers came the Christian foreign rulers in Bangladesh . Christian preachers of this country did not receive any direct encouragement from the Christian British rulers for their efforts to preach their faith in this country. The British knew very well that the people, whether Muslim or Hindu, of this country were very sensitive of their faith. So they did not want to exasperate the people against their rule by hurting their religious sentiment. However, through the efforts of Jesuit and other Christian missionaries a few people of Bangladesh became Christian.

Heritage of Bangladesh

Heritage

Heritage is the features belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as traditions, languages or buildings, which still exist from the past and which have a historical importance.

Our rivers always change their courses. The ever shifting rivers courses, excessive monsoon and extremely humid climate of our country as well as brick vandalism or deliberate destruction of buildings caused by human beings have destroyed so many of our cities and building heritages! In the middle of the nineteenth century a European, Bishop Heber, came to Bangladesh . In Dhaka at Jinira on the bank of River Buriganga he saw a very big palace. The palace was standing opposite to the Bara Katra, and a wooden bridge across the river connected it with the Dhaka City . In his travelogue he wrote that the palace of Jinjira was bigger than the Kremlin Palace in Moscow . Mother of Nabob Sirajaddaula, his aunt, Ghasheti Begum and other female members of his family spent the last days of their lives in captivity in this palace after the battle at Palasy. Now there is no trace of that magnificent palace. What has happened to it? Perhaps the river has devoured that edifice, or some unscrupulous human beings have destroyed it.

Pre-Mogul Mosques

Among our mosques, Sat Gambus Mosque in Bagherhat, along with other pre-Mogul mosque at that place, is a world heritage. Other renowned mosques in Bangladesh are: Chhoto Sona Mosque in Chapai Nababganj, Kusumba and Bagha Mosque in Rajshahi, Baba Adam mosque in Munsigaj, Goaldi Mosque in Sonargawn, Sura Mosque in Dinajpur, Sailkupa Mosque in Jessore, Shahzadpur Mosque in Pabna, Atia Mosque in Tangail, Sat Mosjid mosque, Khawja Ambar Mosque, Kartalab Khan Mosque in Dhaka. Some of these mosques are pre-Mogul mosques built during 14 th and 15 th centuries, and some are Mogul mosques built during later period. Pre-Mogul and Mogul mosques differ in some architectural features. The shape of the dome of a pre-Mogul mosque is like upside down tumbler without any finial on its top. The finial is the crest on the top of a dome. The shape of the dome of a Mogul mosque is bulbous means fat and rounded. Mogul dome has ornamented finial on its top.

Many pre-Mogul mosques in Bengal have Chauchala or hut-shape vaults in the center of their roofs. Chhoto Sona Mosque has three, and Sat Gombuz Mosque has seven vaults of this type. Chauchala is a Bengali architecture. Because of heavy rainfall in this country our bamboo houses have chauchala thatched roof that rainwater may easily flow down. Sat Gambuz or 60-dome mosque has 77 domes including 7 chauchala, but it has 60 pillars inside. Some people say that the word ‘Gambuz’ is a distortion of ‘Khambuz’ or ‘Khamba’ means pillar. Chhoto Sona Mosque is one of the few surviving monuments of the ancient city, Gauda or Gawr. As the domes of the mosque were gilded, so it got its name ‘sona’ or gold mosque. Gild means to cover a surface with a thin layer of gold. So old was the city of Gawr that, Panini, the famous Sanskrit grammarian of 4 th century BC, mentioned of Gaudapura in one of his books. Pura (Pur) means city. This ancient city is now divided between Bangladesh and West Bengal . The City was sacked and burnt down by Afghan Sher Shah in 1538 when Mogul Emperor Humaun was chasing him. Afterwards the vast number of buildings of that city, which could survive the destruction of Sher Shah, was demolished by some Zamindars to carry away the bricks, tiles and stone to build new cities, Rajmahal, Thunda and even Kolkata. Thus we have been deprived by those brick vandal Zamindars of a heritage city. Only the mosques of Gawr were able to survive the brick vandalism, as the zamindars for fear of invoking the wrath of Allah did not dare to touch the religious structures. The same sort of brick vandalism took place at Mainamati. There, during the Second World War, contractors demolished the magnificent Buddhist structures of 7 th and 8 th centuries for bricks to build a war time airport in Cumilla.
Gauda or Gawr was the capital of Bengal during the Sena, Turk, Arab and Afghan periods. During its time it was one of the biggest cities in the world. In the middle of 13 th century a Portuguese, Faria Y Souza wrote that 12 lac families used to live in the city of Gauda . That means the population of the city was not less than 40-50 lac. In the second half of the 17 th century, the population of London was less than 2 hundred thousand.

Kantaji Temple

It is a Vishnu temple in Dinajpur. There are mainly three types of Hindu temple: Vishnu mandir, Siva mandir and Kali mandir. The construction of the temple started in 1704 AD, and ended in 1752 AD, five years before the battle of Palasy took place. The whole building looks like a chariot of the type driven by Lord Krishna in Kurukshetra battle.
This is a ‘Nava Ratna’ or nine-jewel temple means it has nine towers—we better say turret or small circular tower. None is there now; as all the turrets got destroyed during the earthquake which took place in 1897. That earthquake was so vigorous that it changed the course of the River Bhammaputra. So now we got two courses of the River—the Old Bhammaputra and Jamuna.

There are a few ‘Pancha Ratna’ or five-jewel temples and only one ‘Shaptadasha Ratna’ temple in our country. Nava Ratna temples are three storied, with four turrets at four corners of each ground and first story, and one turret at the top of the second story. Pancha Ratna temples are two storied.
The walls of the Kantaji Temple are embellished with terracotta plaques. Terracotta means hard, baked reddish brown clay. These plaques tell stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and events from contemporary social life.
Besides ‘Ratna’ temples, Bangla Style or hut-shape Hindu temples can be seen in many places of Bangladesh . A single hut of this type is called ‘ek-bangla’, while two huts together is called ‘jor-bangla’. According to the shape of their roof, they can be called ‘do-chala’, ‘char-chala’, or ‘aat-chala’ temple.

Some famous temples in Bangladesh are: Jor-bangla in Pabna, Raja ram Temple in Fairport, Chachra Siva Temple in Jessore, Siva Temple in Putia, Rajshahi, and Dhakeshwari Temple in Dhaka .

Paharpur Mahavihara

Paharpur Monastery is the largest Buddhist monastery in the world. The Nalanda Mahavihara in the Indian State of Bihar has one Chayta, three temples and eleven monasteries on 14 hectares of land. In Paharpur a single monastery with a central shrine covers 11 hectares of land, so it is said to be the largest monastery in the world. The Paharpur Monastery is now a World Heritage declared by the UNESCO in 1985. The Monastery was built during the later half of the 8 th century AD, on a site of a Jain monastery of 5 th Century AD, by a Bengali monarch, Dharmapala, who was a Buddhist by faith.

The quadrangular Paharpur Monastery measures 922 feet north-south and 919 feet east-west. It was a multistoried monastery, having 177 monastic cells in each floor. The thickness of the enclosure wall is 16 feet. The central temple of the monastery is 72 feet high in its present ruined state.

In the beginning of the 11 th Century Divya or Divyoka, a Hindu chieftain from the East Bengal , rebelled against the 12 th Pala King, Mahipala–II. He killed the King and set fire to the Paharpur Monastery. Kumarapala, the nephew of the slain King was able to regain Varendra or north Bengal from Vima, the successor of Divya. He rebuilt the Monastery.
In the middle of the 12 th Century AD, the Senas ousted Palas from power and established their sway over Bengal . The Senas were Hindu by faith and during their rule, Buddhist sculptures and terracotta plaques of the Paharpur Monastery were replaced by the sculptures and terracotta plaques of Hindu gods and goddesses.
The Turk came next in the beginning of the 13 th Century, to Bengal . They conquered Varendra from the Senas. Turks were Muslim by faith. During their reign, due to lack of royal patronage, maintaining such a huge monastery as Paharpur Vihara became very difficult. Soon it was abandoned by its ever decreasing inmates and gradually got lost in oblivion. A thick jungle covered the monastery. Archaeological excavation at the site of the monastery started in 1923 and ended, with intermissions, in 1934.

It is said by some people that Bakhtiar Kalji destroyed Paharpur monastery. Turk, Bakhtiar partially destroyed Nalanda Monastery. When he conquered Bihar , he took the monastery as a fort, and thought enormous wealth would be available in it. So his army sacked it, but got nothing there except books, bowls and saffron clothes. So no question arises that the same Turk would make the same mistakes again at Paharpur.

Mahasthangar

The ancient name of Mahastangar is Pundranagara. What we now see in Mahastangar are the ruined citadel or fortified part of Pundranagara, and a few Buddhist structures around that citadel. Citadel means a fortress or a castle protecting a town or a city. People can take shelter in it during war or danger.
How old is the civilization in Mahastangar? How old was the city? It is said that the Pundranagara civilization belongs to 3 rd -4 th century BC. In the beginning of 6 th century BC Gautama Buddha visited Pundranagara and spent six months in that city. It proves that the city is much older than it is said. The findings of excavations at the site, being conducted by a joint Bangladesh-French team since 1995(?) have revealed that the Pundranagara Civilization is as old as the Mohenjodaro, Harappa Civilization. Mohenjodaro Civilization is 5000 years old.

Almost every ancient city had a citadel, whether it is Athens in Greece or Jericho in Palestine . The area of the citadel of Mahasthangar is about 2 sq. miles, 4 and half meters or 15 feet above the surrounding land. The extension of the semi-circled suburbs of the city was 5 mile in radius from the citadel. We can easily imagine how vast the city was.
As like as Gauda, a great fire destroyed the city in 15 th century AD, and we have lost another heritage city.

We already have come to know that a great fire destroyed London in 1666 when it was a small township, having had an area of 540 acres. London was rebuilt after that great fire, but the Pundranagara was not rebuilt after its destruction by a fire.

The Sundarbans

We know that the Sundarbans Forest is the largest mangrove forest in the world. Mangroves are tropical trees found near water, whose twisted roots grow partly above ground. The second largest mangrove forest in the world is at Mastang in Malaysia , which is one tenth of the size of the Sundarbans. The area of the Sundarbans is 10,000 square kilometers. Two-third of the forest belongs to Bangladesh , the rest one third, to India . Sundarbans is a world heritage site.
To protect the wildlife in the Sundarbans, three wildlife sanctuaries in the forest– east, west and south have been established by the Government in 1973. The total area of the sanctuaries is 325 sq. kilometers.

The bees of the forest are migratory. Every year they come from the Himalayas to make beehives in the Sundarbans. Turtles of the Sundarbans swim as long as 3500 kilometers from the Indian Ocean to find nesting ground in this forest.

National Assembly Building

It is one of the most modern pieces of architecture in the world. A process is going on to declare this building a world heritage. 22 years was taken to build this building. It took 22 years to build Taj Mahal. Concrete and marble were used as building materials for this building.

We have many other heritages, to site a few are Lal Bager Kella, Ahsan Manjil, Tajhat Zamindar Bari, Uttara Ganabhaban. We are to protect and preserve our heritages for our future generations.