Farah Najam presents the magic of Bangladesh
The erstwhile Bengali Babu (sir) is always delighted to engage in philosophical discourse upon the most esoteric subjects. In spite of pressure from so many directions, the people of Bengal have retained a very nice sense of humor. This has probably been their only salvation. They seem to enjoy life in-spite of the chaos and troubles they face.
Dhaka was founded during the 10th century. It served as the Mogul capital of Bengal from 1608 to 1704 and was a trading center for British, French, and Dutch interests before coming under British rule in 1765. In 1905, it was again named the capital of Bengal, and in 1956, it became the capital of East Pakistan. The Romanized spelling of the Bengali name was changed from Dacca to Dhaka in 1982.
Dhaka is divided into the old city and the new city, and many residential and industrial communities. It is located in one of the world’s leading rice and jute growing regions. Its industries include textiles (jute, muslin, cotton) and food processing, especially rice milling. A variety of other consumer goods are also manufactured here. Boasting a happy blend of old and new architectural trends, Dhaka has been developing fast as a modern city and is throbbing with activities in all spheres of life.
Chittagong was described by the Chinese traveler poet Huen Tsang (7th century) as “a sleeping beauty emerging from mists and water,” and given the title of “Porto Grande” by the 16th century Portuguese seafarers. Even today it remains true to both descriptions. Chittagong, the second largest city of Bangladesh and a busy international seaport, is an ideal vacation spot. Its green hills and forests, its broad sandy beaches, and its fine cool climate always attract holiday-makers. The city’s many industries, powered by a hydroelectric plant up the river, use the products of the area – jute, cotton, rice, tea, petroleum (from offshore installations), and bamboo.
Khulna, one of the country’s industrial cities with its nearly 2 million people, stands on the Rupsa River. Some of the biggest jute mills in the country are located here. Khulna is connected to Dhaka by road, boat and air via Jessore. Accommodation and eating facilities are available.
Pink Pearl: Pink pearls are the best buy in Dhaka. These natural products are unparallel in luster. The rich and exuberant cultural heritage of Bangladesh is depicted vividly in its traditional jewellery.
Pearl jewellery is all hand-made by artisans, belonging to a traditional class of craftsmen, who have practiced this fine art for generations.
Gold & Silver: A wide range of gold and silver ornaments, silver filigree works, etc., are considered by many travelers to be unparalleled.
Ornaments in Bangladesh have been used from pre-historic times and for a variety of reasons. In addition to their aesthetic charm, jewellery has been the traditional form of savings, prized because it can be easily converted into money.
Brass & Copperware: Among the best buys here are brass and copperware trays, wall decorations, vases, etc., all hand-made with fine engravings and filigree work. Products made from hides and skins of animals and reptiles, intricate woodcarvings, cane and bamboo products, conch shell, bangles, embroidered quilts, Jamdani and silk fabrics can also be bought. These are available in the DIT market and a number of exclusive shops on New Elephant Road in Dhaka.
In 1993, this museum was established and was called Dhaka Museum. In 1983, it was shifted to a new building and was renamed National Museum. It has 40 galleries and is a four storied building. It has four departments:
- Natural History,
- History and Classical Art,
- Ethnography and Decorative Art, and
- Contemporary Art and World Civilization.
Folk Art Museum
The Folk Art Museum was established in 1975 to fulfill the dream of celebrated painter Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin. There is a rich collection of different materials and forms of aesthetic and utilitarian values. All of this reflects the sentiments, impulses, temperament, moods, idiosyncrasies, and expertise of artists and artisans. It is a national museum depicting the art heritage of Bangladesh, exhibiting objects of exceptional design and skill.
In the national progress, the Ethnological Museum stands as a milestone. There are ample facilities available for ethnological research. It is one of the best-specialized museums in South East Asia.
Every place of archaeological importance houses a small archeological museum, i.e., at Lalbagh Fort, Mahasthangarh, Paharpur, and Mainamati.
The only Tribal Cultural Museum in the Hill Tracts region was established at Rangamati town in 1978, and is run by the Tribal Cultural Institute. It preserves valuable objects and articles of different tribes depicting their socio economic, cultural and historical tradition. These include typical tribal attire; ornaments; arms and ammunitions; coins; statues made of wood, bronze and other metals; ivory products; handicrafts; paintings on tribal life etc.
Bangladeshi cooking is a culinary art form. A taste tantalizing blend of wonderful and fragrant spices that will keep you coming back for more. Many non-Bangladeshis have probably eaten Bangladeshi food without knowing. For example, over 80 percent of the “Indian” restaurants in the U.K. serve Bangladeshi food. If you loved it, it was probably Bangladeshi. Bengali cooking is also known for it’s wide array of sweets made from milk: Rasho-gollah, Kalo-jam, Shandesh, Mishti doi, Shemai, Chamcham … the names go on and on.
Relations with Pakistan
In February 2006, Bangladesh Premier Khaleda Zia visited Pakistan. Four MoUs (memoranda of understanding) were signed and discussion was held to finalise the FTA (free trade agreement) aimed at enhancing bilateral trade. The MoUs pertained to agricultural research, tourism, import, export, setting up of a standardized and quality control authority in Pakistan and a standard testing institution in Bangladesh.
Pakistan wants to benefit from Bangladesh’s experiences in macro-finance, social sector and population welfare whereas it can extend support to Bangladesh in IT and some other sectors.
Contributed by Affaf Jamal
Nearly 83 percent of the population of Bangladesh claimed Islam as its religion in the 1980s, giving the country one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in the world. Muslims constitute 88 percent of the population of Bangladesh, most of them are Sunnis, but there is a small Shi’a community. The remainder of the population follow Hinduism (11%), Buddhism and Christianity. There are also small populations of Sikhs, Bahá’ís, animists and Ahmadis.
Religion has always been a strong part of identity. A survey in late 2003 confirmed that religion is the first choice by a citizen for self-identification; atheism is extremely rare. In spite of the general personal commitment to Islam by the Muslims of Bangladesh, observance of Islamic rituals and tenets varies according to social position, locale, and personal considerations.
Islam has made the peace loving people a brave and philanthropic community. Before Islam, the people of this region were chained in the caste system of Hinduism. The longing for a peaceful life with social justice has been the driving force of Bangladesh`s journey towards a true welfare society.