History of Bangladesh
Bangladesh was formerly East Pakistan, a constituent of the original state of Pakistan created by the British in 1947. The two halves of the country were separated by miles of Indian territory, creating an almost certain recipe for political tension.
Disputes over language and political power came to a head in 1970, when the pro-independence Awami League won an overwhelming majority in what turned out to be East Pakistan’s last general election. The Pakistani army blocked the Awami leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, from taking up the premiership.
The Awami leadership announced East Pakistan’s secession, after which the country was rapidly consumed by civil war. The war lasted for most of 1971, and was brought to an end by the intervention of India, which forced Pakistan to surrender. During the next 20 years, the country was overtaken by a succession of military coups along with frequent impositions of martial law and states of emergency.
However, since the beginning of the 1990s, civilian parties have established firm control over the government. Bangladesh’s geographical position and topography make it vulnerable to the regional climate, especially storms and flooding, and the government has been forced to make repeated requests for aid from the international community. July 2004 and months following that date bore witness to some of the worst flooding in Bangladesh in years – 800 died as a result, millions were left homeless or stranded and 20 million needed food aid.
90% Muslim, 9% Hindus and 1% Buddhist and Christian minorities. Religion is the main influence on attitudes and behaviour. Since 1988, Islam has been the official state religion.
In someone’s home it is acceptable to sit crossed-legged on cushions or the sofa. If a visitor wishes to bring a gift, money must not be given as it may cause offence. Religious customs should be respected by guests. There are severe penalties for possession and trafficking of illegal drugs. Some drugs-related offences are punishable by death. Local women should not be specifically photographed unless it is certain that there will be no objection. Women should wear trousers or long skirts; revealing clothes should be avoided, particularly when visiting religious places. Dress is generally informal for men, though modesty must be maintained. Same-sex relations are illegal.
Photography: In rural areas, people are becoming more used to tourists; however, permission should be requested before photographs are taken of individuals. Do not photograph military installations.
Language in Bangladesh
The official language is Bengali (Bangla). English is widely spoken, especially in government and commercial circles. Tribal dialects are also spoken.
Weather & climate
Hot, tropical climate with the monsoon season lasting from late May to October. Temperatures are highest from mid-March to May. Rainfall averages over 2,540mm (100 inches). The cool season is between November and early March. The country is prone to widespread flooding and is also a high-risk earthquake zone.
Lightweight cottons and linens throughout the year. Warmer clothes are needed in the evenings during the cool season. Waterproofs are necessary during the monsoon season.
Things to see and do
Located at about 320km. West of Dhaka. Here in the south, spread over an area of about 6000 sq. km. of delta swamps along the coastal belt of Khulna is the biggest mangrove forest, Sundarbans (beautiful forest) – the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger. These dense mangrove forests are criss-crossed by a network of rivers and creeks. One find here tides flowing in two directions in the same creek and often tigers swimming across a river or huge crocodiles basking in the sun. Other wildlife in this region is cheetahs, spotted deer, monkeys, pythons, wild bears and hyenas.
The forest is accessible by river from Khulna and Mongla. There are rest houses for the visitors to stay and enjoy the unspoiled nature with all its charm and majesty. Spending some times inside the forest can be a rare treat for the lovers of nature. BPC offers package tours to Sundarbans.
A rare scenic beauty spot on the southern most tip of Bangladesh in the district of Patuakhali. It has a wide sandy beach from where one can get the unique opportunity of seeing both the sunrise and sunsetting. It is located at a distance of 70 km. from the district headquarters of Patuakhali. Accessible by road, by air to Barisal and then by road, by river vessel.
Kuakata, locally known as Sagar Kannya (Daughter of the Sea) is a rare scenic beauty spot on the southernmost tip of Bangladesh. Kuakata in Latachapli union under Kalapara Police Station of Patuakhali district is about 30 km in length and 6 km in breadth. It is 70 km from Patuakhali district headquarters and 320 km from Dhaka. At Kuakata excellent combination of the picturesque natural beauty, sandy beach, blue sky, huge expanse of water of the Bay and evergreen forest in really eye-catching.
Kuakata is one of the rarest places which has the unique beauty of offering the full view of the rising and setting of crimson sun in the water of the Bay of Bengal in a calm environment. That perhaps makes kuakata one of the world’s unique beaches. The long and wide beach at Kuakata has a typical natural setting. This sandy beach has gentle slopes into the Bay of Bengal and bathing there is as pleasant as is walking or diving. Kuakata is truly a virgin beach-a sanctuary for migratory winter birds, a series of coconut trees, sandy beach of blue Bay, a feast for the eye. Forest, boats plying in the Bay of Bengal with colourful sails, fishing, towering cliffs, surfing waves everything here touches every visitor’s heart. The unique customs and costumes of the ‘Rakhyne’ tribal families and Buddhist Temple of about hundred years old indicate the ancient tradition and cultural heritage, which are objects of great pleasure Kuakata is the place of pilgrimage of the Hindus and Buddhist communities. Innumerable devotees arrive here at the festival of ‘Rush Purnima’ and ‘Maghi Purnima’. On these two days they take holy bath and traditional fairs are held here. All these additional offers to panoramic beauty make the beach more attractive to the visitors. One should visit Kuakata and discover the lovely grace of Bangladesh.
Tamabil & Jaflong
Situated amidst splendid panorama, Tamabil is a border outpost on Sylhet-Shilong road, about 55 km. away from Sylhet town. Beside enchanting views of the area one can also have a glimpse of the waterfall across the border from Tamabil. Jaflong is also a scenic spot nearby amidst tea gardens and rare beauty of rolling stones from hills.
An isolated low, dimpled range of hills, dotted -with more than 50 ancient Buddhist settlements of the 8th to 12th century A.D. known as Mainamati-Laimai range are extended through the centre of the district of Comilla.
Salban Vihara, almost in the middle of the Mainamati-Lalmai hill range consists of 115 cells, built around a spacious courtyard with cruciform temple in the centre facing its only gateway complex to the north resembling that of the Paharpur Monastery.
Kotila Mura situated on a flaftened hillock, about 5 km north of Salban Vihara inside the Comilla Cantonment are is picturesque Buddhist establishment. Here three stupas are found side by side representing the Buddhist “Trinity” or three jewels i.e. the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Charpatra Mura is an isolated small oblong shrinesituated about 2.5 krn. north-west of kotila Mura stupas. The only approach to the shrine is from the East through agateway which leads to a spacious hall.
The Mainamati site Museum has a rich and varied collection of copper plates, gold and silver coins and 86 bronze objects. Over 150 bronze statues havo been recovered mostly from the monastic cells, bronze stupas, stone sculptures and hundreds of terracotta plaques each measuring on an average of 9″ higli and 8″ to 12″ wide. Mairiamati is only 114 km. from Dhaka City and is just a day’s trip by road on way to Chittagong.
Located at a distance of 152 km. to the south of Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar is the tourist capital of Bangladesh. Having the world’s longest unbroken (120 km.) beach sloping gently down to the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal against the picturesque background of a chain of hill covered with deep green forests, Cox’s Bazar is one of the most attractive tourist spots in the world. Miles of golden sands, towering cliffs surfing waves, rare conch shells, colorful pagodas, Buddhist temples and tribes, delightful seafood – these are specialties of Cox’s Bazar.
The beach is good for bathing, sunbathing and swimming. The breath-taking beauty of the sun-setting behind the waves of the sea is captivating. Attractive local variety of cigars and handloom products of the Rakhyne tribal families are good buys. Their unique customs and costumes attract visitors.
Cox’s Bazar is connected both by air and road from Dhaka and Chittagong. Visits to the fascinating picnic spot at Himchari, Teknaf, Buddhist temple at Ramu and nearby island of Sonadia, St. Martin and Mohaskhali are memorable experience of one’s lifetime.
The Aggameda Khyang, Cox’s Bazar : Equally elaborate in plan, elevation and decoration is the Aggameda Khyang near the entrance to the Cox’s Bazar town which nestles at the foot of a hill under heavy cover of a stand of large trees. The main sanctuary-cum-monastery is carried on a series of round timber columns, which apart from accommodating the prayer chamber and an assembly hall, also is the repository of a large of small bronze Buddha images-mostly of Burmese origin– and some old manuscripts. Beyond the main khyang to the south there is an elevated wooden pavilion and a smaller brick temple with a timber and corrugated metal root. Apart from bearing an inscription in Burmese over its entrance the temple contains some large stucco and bronze Buddha images.
It is about 32 km. South of Cox’s Bazar along the beach, a nice place for picnic and shooting. The famous “Broken Hills” and waterfalls here are rare sights.
It is about 32 km. South of Cox’s Bazar and just on the beach, with the sea to the west and a background of steep hills to the east. Inani casts a magic spell on those who step into that dreamland. It is only half an hour’s drive from Cox’s Bazar and an ideal place for Sea-bathing and picnic.
An island off the coast of Cox’s Bazar. It has an area of 268 square kilometers. Through the centre of the island and along the eastern coast line rises a range of low hills, 300 feet high; but the coast to the west and north is a lowlying treat, fringed by mangrove jungle. In the hills on the coast is built the shrine of Adinath, dedicated to siva. By its side on the same hill is Buddhist Pagoda.
This is a typical Buddhist village, about 16 km. from Cox’s Bazar, on the main road to Chittagong. There are monasteries, khyangs and pagodas containing images of Buddha in gold, bronze and other metals inilaid with precious stones.
One of the most interesting of these temples is on the bank of the Baghkhali river. It houses not only interesting relics and Burmes handicrafts but also a large bronze statue of Buddha measuring thirteen feet high and rests on a six feet high pedestal. The wood carving of this khyang is very delicate and refined.
The village has a charm of its own. Weavers ply there trade in open workshops and craftsmen make handmade cigars in their pagoda like houses.
It is about seven kilometer of Cox’s Bazar and about nine square kilometer in area. The western side of the island is sandy and different kinds of shells are found on the beach. Off the northern part of the island, there are beds of window pane oysters. During winter, fisherman set up temporary camps on the island and dry their catches of sea fish.
Southernmost tip of Bangladesh, Teknaf situated on the Naaf river and just at the end of the hilly regions of the district. Mayanmar is on the opposite bank of Naaf river. Wild animals and birds are available but the most interesting thing is a journey on the river. Wide sandy beach in the backdrop of high hills with green forests is an enchanting scene never to be forgotten.
Located at a distance of 18 km. to the north of Bogra town. Mahasthangarh is the oldest archaeological site of Bangladesh on the western bank of river Karotoa. The spectacular site is an imposing landmark in the area having a fortified long enclosure. Beyond the fortified area, other ancient ruins fan out within a semi-circle of about 8-km. radius. Several isolated mounds, the local names of which are Govinda Bhita Temple, Khodai Pathar Mound, Mankalir Kunda, Parasuramer Bedi, Jiyat Kunda etc. surround the fortified city.
This 3rd century BC archaeological site is still held to be of great sanctity by the Hindus. Every year (mid-April) and once in every 12 years (December) thousands of Hindu devotees join the bathing ceremony on the bank of river Karatoa. A visit to the Mahasthangarh site museum will open up for one a wide variety of antiquities, ranging from terracotta objects to gold ornaments and coins recovered from the site.
Also noteworthy are the shrine of Shah Sultan Bulki Mahisawary and Gokul Medh in the neighborhood of Mahasthangarh.
In Paharpur, a small village 5 km. west of Jamalganj railway station in the greater Rajshahi district, the remains of the most important and the largest known monastery south of the Himalayas has bee excavated. This 8th century A.D. archaeological find covers approximately an area of 27 acres of land. The entire establishment occupies a quadrangular court, measuring more than 900 ft. and from 12fh to 15ft. in height with elaborate gateway complex on the north. There are 45 cells on the north and 44 in each of other three sides with a total number of 177 rooms. The architecture of the pyramidal cruciform temple is profoundly influenced by those of South-East Asia, especially Myanmar and Java. It had taken its name from a high mound, which looked like pahar or hillock. A site museum built recently houses the representative coactions of objects recovered from the area. The excavated findings have also been preserved at the Veranda Research museum at Rajshahi. The antiquities of the museum include terracotta plaques, images of different gods and goddesses, potteries, coins, inscriptions, ornamental bricks and other minor clay objects . It has been declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Before you go
Are you planning on traveling to Bangladesh? We provide you with a useful Bangladesh Traveler’s Guide, with basic information such as time zones, safety, visas and so on. We are sure that this travel guide to Bangladesh will contribute to a pleasant stay in this fascinating country.
Passport and Visa
Passports must be valid for three months or more following departure. Visas are required by all those entering the country with certain exceptions (Bangladeshis with stamped British passports, Hong Kong nationals, Macau nationals, Maldives national and transit passengers). Members from certain countries can obtain a thirty day visa when they arrive. Tourist and business visas are issued. Prices will depend on traveler’s nationality. Application for visas are handled by the consular section of the High Commission or Embassy. Applications take three to seven days or more.
Clashes in the Chittagong Hill Tract region have created a risk and therefore travelers are advised to avoid this area. This does not encompass Chittagong city. It is important that tourists be aware that terrorism is a threat in Bangladesh and Embassies will be able to provide you with up-to-date information on the political and safety situation in Bangladesh. As is the case throughout the world, crime is increasing – especially in the larger cities. Be aware of pick pocketing and purse-snatching. Do not walk alone at night or carry valuables. Keep jewelry and money in safety deposit boxes at the hotel. Penalties for breaking Bangladesh’s laws are quite severe and very strict. Drug possession is not taken lightly and is likely to lead to imprisonment. Bangladesh’s judicial system is slow and prison conditions poor, so it is best to avoid engaging in any sort of wrongdoing.