Bengal was absorbed into the Mughul Empire in the 16th century, and Dhaka, the seat of a nawab (the representative of the emperor), gained importance as a provincial center. But it remained remote and difficult to govern — especially the section east of the Brahmaputra River — outside the mainstream of Mughul politics.
In 1859, the British Crown replaced the East India Company, extending British dominion from Bengal, which became a region of India, in the east to the Indus River in the west.
When British India was partitioned and the independent dominions of India and Pakistan were created in 1947, the region of Bengal was divided along religious lines. The predominantly Muslim eastern half was designated East Pakistan — and made part of the newly independent Pakistan — while the predominantly Hindu western part became the Indian state of West Bengal.
In 1971, East and West Pakistan fought a civil war. Indian sympathies lay with East Pakistan, and in November, India intervened on the side of the Bangladeshis. On Dec. 16, 1971, Pakistani forces surrendered and Bangladesh — meaning "Bengal nation" — was born. The new country became a parliamentary democracy under a 1972 constitution.
Source: The World Factbook, 2014.
Bangladesh remains lacking in schools and cultural institutions, even though facilities were increased substantially in the 1970s. Primary school education is free, but at least one-third of all children are not enrolled in school. Of children enrolled in school, around 70 percent reach the fifth grade.
Education is highly respected in Bangladesh. The first question people ask is, "What year of education did you obtain?" Almost all office jobs require a university degree. People who lack education have a hard time finding employment. Most people without a primary education are day laborers or rickshaw pullers. Parents will work very hard to get their children the best education they can afford. Tutoring is necessary at all levels in Bangladesh to pass general testing. However, tutoring is expensive and poor people cannot afford it.
Bangladesh is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. Islam is the state religion, while the state also provides for the right to practice the religion of one's choice. The Muslim influence is evident in politics, and the government respects the Muslim consciousness of the majority of its citizens.
Religion is taught in government schools, and parents may chose to have their children taught in their own religion; however, many government-employed religious teachers are not members of the religions they teach.
When parents choose for their children to attend religion classes away from school, transportation arrangements are often worked out with local churches or temples, which then direct religious studies outside of school hours.
Holidays and Festivals
Bangladesh has a folk heritage influenced by animist, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim traditions. Art includes woven goods, pottery and terra cotta sculpture. Folk theater is common in villages and usually occurs during harvest time or at village fairs.
The rich tradition of music of Bangladesh can be divided into three distinct categories: classical, folk and modern.
Folk music, nurtured through the ages by village bards, is the most popular and timeless form of music in Bangladesh. Folk music is rich in devotional mysticism and lovelores. Modern Bengali music originated from two distinct schools. The first is a blend of East and West. The second, experimented with the synthesis of classical, folk and Middle Eastern musical strains, was spearheaded by the rebel poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Sports and Games
Besides the national holidays of New Year's Day, Independence Day and Christmas, Bangladesh is filled with Muslim and Hindu holidays and festivals. The Muslim festival of Shab-e-Barat is celebrated by giving alms and sweets to the poor. Hindu festivals include Durga Puja, when Hindus worship the god, Durga Puja.
Bangladeshis enjoy playing cricket, soccer and badminton.
A typical Bangladeshi meal is spicy and consists of beef and sometimes mutton, chicken, fish or egg. Vegetables are served with lentils and plain rice. A common and popular snack is jhal muri (hot puffed rice).
Reshmi Kabab Recipe
- 2 lbs. boneless chicken
- 4 medium sized onions
- 2 inches of ginger root
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch of coriander (cilantro) leaves
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- white pepper to taste (1 tsp.)
- 1 tsp. garam masala*
- 2 eggs
- salt to taste
- onions and lemon for garnish
Mince the chicken. Grind all the ingredients together, except the eggs and salt. Mix in the eggs and salt. Shape into sausages, put on skewers and cook over a charcoal fire or in a rotisserie until tender. Garnish with onions and lemon.
* Garam masala is a blend of up to 12 spices, which may include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, cardamom, dried chilies, fennel, mace and nutmeg. Purchase at your local health food store or an Indian market.
You may also like this recipe for murgir korma, a sweet chicken curry with yogurt.
Compassion in Bangladesh
Bangla (also known as Bengali)
AmAr nAM (My name is...),
Kemon Achho? (How are you?)
DhonnobAd (Thank you)
Bangladesh Facts and Figures
Compassion began its ministry in Bangladesh in June 2004, when the Child Sponsorship Program was started. The Child Survival Program began in 2010.
Child Sponsorship Program
Children typically meet at the child development center six days a week.
- 3 to 5 year olds: 8 hours on Saturday. 6 hours a day Monday through Friday for non-school going children. 5 hours a day Monday through Friday for school-going children.
- 6 to 8 year olds: 5 hours a day, Monday through Friday, and 8 hours on Saturday.
- 9 to 11 year olds: 4 hours a day, Monday through Friday (2 hours before school and 2 hours after school), and 8 hours on Saturday.
- 12 to 14 year olds: 4 hours a day, Monday through Friday (2 hours before school and 2 hours after school), and 8 hours on Saturday.
- 15 to 18 year olds: 4 hours a day, Monday through Friday (2 hours before school and 2 hours after school), and 8 hours on Saturday.
- Children also spend 8 hours at the development centers on holidays.
There are various extracurricular activities available to the children, such as adolescent camps, Cluster Camp (this is a camp that holds spiritual and cultural activities with groups of development cetners), inter-center sports competitions, singing/dancing classes and competitions, drama classes, drawing classes and competitions and Scripture Quizzes. The children also participate in outdoor games like football, cricket and volleyball.
Each child development center has a Parents Meeting once a month. In these meetings, the center staff tries to build awareness among the parents about cleanliness, hygiene and the importance of education for both male and female children. During the home visits, the social worker and tutors further educate the parents about the importance of education as well as suitable environments for children.
Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in Bangladesh, to watch a video about life in Bangladesh, by experiencing a day in the life of a sponsored child named Dipu, and to learn how Compassion serves the Santal and Garo communities in the country.
||166,280,712 (July 2014 estimate)
||Bangla (official, also known as Bengali), English
||Muslim 89.5%, Hindu 9.6%, other 0.9% (2004)
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.
|Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources
|Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities
||Tropical; mild winter (October to March); hot, humid summer (March to June); humid, warm rainy monsoon (June to October)
|Percentage of population urbanized
||28.4% (2011 estimate)
||Male: 68.75 years
Female: 72.63 years
|Under-5 mortality rate
||41/1,000 (2012 estimate)
|GDP per capita
||$2,100 (2013 estimate)
|Number of people living with HIV/AIDS
||8,000 (2012 estimate)
|Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day
||43% (2007-11 study)
Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014