Bangladesh officially the People’s Republic of Bangladesh ,is a country in South Asia. It shares land borders with India and Myanmar (Burma). The country’s maritime territory in the Bay of Bengal is roughly equal to the size of its land area. Bangladesh is the world’s eighth most populous country as well as its most densely-populated, to the exclusion of small island nations and city-states. Dhaka is its capital and largest city, followed by Chittagong, which has the country’s largest port. Bangladesh forms the largest and easternmost part of the Bengal region.Bangladeshis include people from a range of ethnic groups and religions. Bengalis, who speak the official Bengali language, make up 98% of the population.The politically dominant Bengali Muslims make the nation the world’s third largest Muslim-majority country. Islam is the official religion of Bangladesh.
Most of Bangladesh is covered by the Bengal Delta, the largest delta on Earth. The country has 700 rivers and 8,046 km (5,000 mi) of inland waterways. Highlands with evergreen forests are found in the northeastern and southeastern regions of the country. Bangladesh has many islands and a coral reef. The second longest unbroken sea beach of the world, Cox’s Bazar Beach, is located in the southeast. It is home to the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world. The country’s biodiversity includes a vast array of plant and wildlife, including endangered Bengal tigers, the national animal.
The Greeks and Romans identified the region as Gangaridai, a powerful kingdom of the historical Indian subcontinent, in the 3rd century BCE. Archaeological research has unearthed several ancient cities in Bangladesh, which enjoyed international trade links for millennia.The Bengal Sultanate and Mughal Bengal transformed the region into a cosmopolitan Islamic imperial power between the 14th and 18th centuries. The region was home to many principalities that made use of their inland naval prowess.It was also a notable center of the global muslin and silk trade. As part of British India, the region was influenced by the Bengali renaissance and played an important role in anti-colonial movements. The Partition of British India made East Bengal a part of the Dominion of Pakistan; and renamed it as East Pakistan. The region witnessed the Bengali Language Movement in 1952 and the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. After independence was achieved, a parliamentary republic was established. A presidential government was in place between 1975 and 1990, followed by a return to parliamentary democracy. The country continues to face challenges in the areas of poverty, education, healthcare, and corruption.
Bangladesh is a middle power and a developing nation. Listed as one of the Next Eleven, its economy ranks 43rd in terms of nominal gross domestic product and 29th in terms of purchasing power parity. It is one of the largest textile exporters in the world. Its major trading partners are the European Union, the United States, China, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. With its strategically vital location between South, East and Southeast Asia, Bangladesh is an important promoter of regional connectivity and cooperation. It is a founding member of SAARC, BIMSTEC, the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation and the Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Initiative. It is also a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Commonwealth of Nations, the Developing 8 Countries, the OIC, the Indian-Ocean Rim Association, the Non Aligned Movement, the Group of 77 and the World Trade Organization. Bangladesh is one of the largest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping forces.
The etymology of Bangladesh (Country of Bengal) can be traced to the early 20th century, when Bengali patriotic songs, such as Namo Namo Namo Bangladesh Momo by Kazi Nazrul Islam and Aaji Bangladesher Hridoy by Rabindranath Tagore, used the term.The term Bangladesh was often written as two words, Bangla Desh, in the past. Starting in the 1950s, Bengali nationalists used the term in political rallies in East Pakistan. The term Bangla is a major name for both the Bengal region and the Bengali language. The earliest known usage of the term is the Nesari plate in 805 AD. The term Vangaladesa is found in 11th-century South Indian records.
The term gained official status during the Sultanate of Bengal in the 14th century.Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah proclaimed himself as the first “Shah of Bangala” in 1342.The word Bangla became the most common name for the region during the Islamic period. The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the 16th century.
The origins of the term Bangla are unclear, with theories pointing to a Bronze Age proto-Dravidian tribe,the Austric word “Bonga” (Sun god), and the Iron Age Vanga Kingdom.The Indo-Aryan suffix Desh is derived from the Sanskrit word deśha, which means “land” or “country”. Hence, the name Bangladesh means “Land of Bengal” or “Country of Bengal”.
Seal of the King Shashanka, who created the first separate political entity in Bengal, called the Gauda Kingdom
Stone Age tools found in Bangladesh indicate human habitation for over 20,000 years,and remnants of Copper Age settlements date back 4,000 years.Ancient Bengal was settled by Austroasiatics, Tibeto-Burmans, Dravidians and Indo-Aryans in consecutive waves of migration.Archaeological evidence confirms that by the second millennium BCE, rice-cultivating communities inhabited the region. By the 11th century people lived in systemically-aligned housing, buried their dead, and manufactured copper ornaments and black and red pottery. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers were natural arteries for communication and transportation, and estuaries on the Bay of Bengal permitted maritime trade. The early Iron Age saw the development of metal weaponry, coinage, agriculture and irrigation. Major urban settlements formed during the late Iron Age, in the mid-first millennium BCE,when the Northern Black Polished Ware culture developed. In 1879, Alexander Cunningham identified Mahasthangarh as the capital of the Pundra Kingdom mentioned in the Rigveda.
The Somapura Mahavihara grew up during the Pala Empire, which originated in the region of Bengal
Greek and Roman records of the ancient Gangaridai Kingdom, which (according to legend) deterred the invasion of Alexander the Great, are linked to the fort city in Wari-Bateshwar.The site is also identified with the prosperous trading center of Souanagoura listed on Ptolemy’s world map.Roman geographers noted a large seaport in southeastern Bengal, corresponding to the present-day Chittagong region.
Ancient Buddhist and Hindu states which ruled Bangladesh included the Vanga, Samatata and Pundra kingdoms, the Maurya and Gupta Empires, the Varman dynasty, Shashanka’s kingdom, the Khadga and Candra dynasties, the Pala Empire, the Sena dynasty, the Harikela kingdom and the Deva dynasty. These states had well-developed currencies, banking, shipping, architecture and art, and the ancient universities of Bikrampur and Mainamati hosted scholars and students from other parts of Asia. Xuanzang of China was a noted scholar who resided at the Somapura Mahavihara (the largest monastery in ancient India), and Atisa traveled from Bengal to Tibet to preach Buddhism. The earliest form of the Bengali language began to the emerge during the eighth century.
The 15th-century Sixty Dome Mosque built during the Bengal Sultanate is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Early Muslim explorers and missionaries arrived in Bengal late in the first millennium CE. The Islamic conquest of Bengal began with the 1204 invasion by Bakhtiar Khilji; after annexing Bengal to the Delhi Sultanate, Khilji waged a military campaign in Tibet. Bengal was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate for a century by governors from the Mamluk, Balban and Tughluq dynasties. During the 14th century, an independent Bengal Sultanate was established by rebel governors. The sultanate’s ruling houses included the Ilyas Shahi, Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah, Hussain Shahi, Suri and Karrani dynasties, and the era saw the introduction of a distinct mosque architecture and the tangka currency. The Arakan region was brought under Bengali hegemony. The Bengal Sultanate was visited by explorers Ibn Battuta, Admiral Zheng He and Niccolo De Conti. During the late 16th century, the Baro-Bhuyan (a confederation of Muslim and Hindu aristocrats) ruled eastern Bengal; its leader was the Mansad-e-Ala, a title held by Isa Khan and his son Musa Khan. The Khan dynasty are considered local heroes for resisting North Indian invasions with their river navies.
Lalbagh Fort, a landmark built during the Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire controlled Bengal by the 17th century. During the reign of Emperor Akbar, the Bengali agrarian calendar was reformed to facilitate tax collection. The Mughals established Dhaka as a fort city and commercial metropolis, and it was the capital of Mughal Bengal for 75 years.In 1666, the Mughals expelled the Arakanese from Chittagong. Mughal Bengal attracted foreign traders for its muslin and silk goods, and the Armenians were a notable merchant community. A Portuguese settlement in Chittagong flourished in the southeast, and a Dutch settlement in Rajshahi existed in the north. During the 18th century, the Nawabs of Bengal became the region’s de facto rulers. The Nawabs forged alliances with European colonial companies, which made the region relatively prosperous early in the century.
The Bengali Muslim population was a product of conversion and religious evolution,and their pre-Islamic beliefs included elements of Buddhism and Hinduism. The construction of mosques, Islamic academies (madrasas) and Sufi monasteries (khanqahs) facilitated conversion, and Islamic cosmology played a significant role in developing Bengali Muslim society. Scholars have theorized that Bengalis were attracted to Islam by its egalitarian social order, which contrasted with the Hindu caste system.By the 15th century, Muslim poets were writing in the Bengali language. Notable medieval Bengali Muslim poets included Daulat Qazi, Abdul Hakim and Alaol. Syncretic cults, such as the Baul movement, emerged on the fringes of Bengali Muslim society. The Persianate culture was significant in Bengal, where cities like Sonargaon became the easternmost centers of Persian influence.