Bangladesh is a country of Asia
with a surface area of 143,998 km² (density of 1,101.2 inhab./km²). The population of Bangladesh is 158,570,535 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Bangladesh is the city of Dhaka which has 6,737,774 inhabitants. The president of the Republic is Zillur Rahman.
Bangladesh or People's Republic of Bangladesh is an Asian country sharing borders with India and Burma.
Located north of the Bay of Bengal, it forms the Indian sub-continent with Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives.
Bangladesh at a glance
Capital: Dhaka or Dhaka
Administrative divisions: 8 bibhags (divisions) subdivided into 64 zila (districts)
Population: more than 156 million inhabitants
Main language: Bengali
Main religion: Islam (Sunni majority), State religion
Current President: Abdul Hamid
Current Prime Minister: Sheikh Hasina
Currency: Taka (1 taka = 100 poisha)
Conversion into euro: 100 takas = 1.13 euro
Tourism: Tourism in Bangladesh is not recommended due to the radical threat and health risks. The special authorization is required from local authorities to visit certain parts of the country
The world's largest mangrove
Apart from a few mountains and hills in the northeast and south-east of the country, Bangladesh has a uniformly flat relief with 80% of its territory not exceeding 2 meters of altitude. The highest peak of the country, the Mowdok Mountains, peaks at 1,052 meters above sea level. The mountainous Chittagong Hill Tracts along the border with India is covered by forests. The local population exploits its natural resources, bamboo, fruits and wood.
Due to many rivers, sometimes below sea level, and the monsoon, Bangladesh is under severe flooding. However, this sometimes catastrophic situation for the population makes it possible to take advantage of extremely fertile lands thanks to the sediments deposited on the flooded lands. The regular floods have favored the cultivation of the floating rice.
The lowlands of the delta formed by the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, which meet in Bangladesh and give birth to the Meghna before flowing into the Gulf of Bengal, are particularly marshy. Note that the Ganges and the Brahmaputra change their name to the border of Bangladesh and are called in this country respectively Padma and Jamuna.
The coastal strip is covered by a marshy jungle called Sundarbans named after an endemic plant of the marshes, the sundri. This area has a particular ecosystem and forms the largest mangrove forest in the world. The mangroves are characterized by marshy areas covered with specific vegetation, such as mangroves, recognizable by root outgrowths (pneumatophores) that fail to "breathe" in the wetlands.
The mangrove develops mainly along the coast and in the deltas and plays a protective role against erosion, rising water during the monsoon and tidal waves. Bangladesh mangrove forest is home to exceptional flora and fauna, including the endangered Bengal tiger, mongoose or crocodile, many species of birds, reptiles and insects, but also amphibious fish, the perophthalmus capable of living more or less two hours in the open air thanks to its dual respiratory system.
The Sundarbans mangrove forest has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is protected by the Ramsar Convention, whose mandate is to preserve "wetlands of international importance especially as waterfowl habitats.
Bangladesh is located at the Tropic of Cancer and therefore has a tropical climate with a warm and humid season from March to June, a dry season at a mild temperature from October to March and a summer monsoon from June to October. The country is exposed annually to major natural disasters in the form of tropical cyclones, tidal waves and tornadoes. The funnel shape of the country and its extensive hydrographic network, but also deforestation and the phenomenon of global warming multiply the risks of floods often deadly.
A fuzzy origin
The Bengal region currently divided between India and Bangladesh in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent was probably occupied four thousand years ago by various tribes expressing themselves in the Dravidian languages. The origin of the population of Bangladesh remains difficult to determine. Anthropological studies have determined that different peoples have succeeded each other on the subcontinent, including the Negritos (or Asian pygmies) and the proto-australoids, of the small, dark-skinned, frizzy-haired people of Malaysia, the Philippines and the Andama Islands, as well as the eastern Mediterranean type, probably the ancestors of the Dravidians.
According to some theories, the Dravidians come from a mountainous region of Central Asia, the Pamir. This people would have migrated to Iran and to Assam and India.
The Indian Union
The history of Bangladesh was linked to that of India until 1947 as its territories were included in the Indian Union. During the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, India was divided into a great number of kingdoms, the Mahajanapadas, whose borders were modified according to invasions and alliances. The Magadha including Bengal was the most important of these kingdoms. It gave birth to two important empires, the Empire Maurya, which will conquer most of the subcontinent from the 4th century BC and the Gupta Empire that will unify the north of the country and expand its possessions from 3rd to 6th century of our era before declining and disappearing, victim of both internal political tensions and invasions of nomadic tribes, the White Huns.
In the 7th century, India is again constituted of different kingdoms that have their own culture and their own organization. Despite various attempts, no dynasty succeeds in rebuilding a real empire. Bengal and Bihar were then ruled by the Pala dynasty, which will disappear in its turn, defeated by the Muslim invasions of the 11th century. The Indian Hindu dynasty Sena took advantage of the situation to seize Bengal and northern Bihar.
An Indo-Islamic Culture
In the early 13th century, Muslim nomadic tribes from Central Asia continued their incursions into northern India. In 1206, they founded the Sultanate of Delhi which controls the north (including Bengal) and part of the south of the country. The relative peace is established through the protection of the Sultanate, which rejects Mongolian attacks while respecting the beliefs of non-Muslim indigenous peoples. This situation favors the mass arrival of populations from Central and Western Asia to flee the invaders. This ethnic mixing is at the origin of the Indo-Islamic culture and the emergence of Persian as the dominant language. Only the kingdom of Vijanâgura covering the entire southern tip of India remains Hindu until 1565.
The Mughal Empire
In 1526, the army of 12,000 men of the king of Kabul, Bâbur, a direct descendant of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, marched on Panipat, in northern India. Bashir emerged victorious from an important battle against the Sultan of Delhi Ibrahim Lodi. Nothing seems to stop the progression of the troops of the founder of the Mughal Empire who, despite a decline that began at the beginning of the 18th century, was not extinguished until 1857 when the last Mughal ruler was defeated by the British during the revolt of the Sepoys.
The East India Company
The Europeans attracted by the resources of Asia began trading as early as the 15th century. The British created the first European company, the British East India Company in 1600 to control the trade routes of the Indian Ocean. Their example was soon followed by the Netherlands in 1602 and by France in 1664. The French company only resisted a century against the Dutch and especially the British. It was officially liquidated in 1793 against a backdrop of financial scandal and fraud.
The Dutch and British East India companies, on the other hand, contribute to the expansion of the colonial empires of the two countries in Asia. The Netherlands control the present Indonesia while the influence of the United Kingdom extends over the whole former Mughal Empire and encompasses the former French possessions.
The British Raj
In 1857, the Revolt of the sepoys (Indian soldiers in the service of a foreign power), leading to a movement of popular rebellion against the British Company, was put down with difficulty and ended in its dissolution. As a result of this event, the British modified their colonial regime in the Indian subcontinent and the former possessions of the company now belong to the Crown, Queen Victoria becoming Empress of India. This regime called the British Raj concerns the present territories of India, Pakistan, Burma and Bangladesh grouped under the name of India and directed by a viceroy appointed by the British government.
From the beginning of the 20th century, a movement of independence was born and encouraged the Viceroy to grant social and administrative reforms. His decisions, and in particular the division of the province of Bengal into two on religious criteria (West Bengal predominantly Hindu and East Bengal corresponding to Bangladesh predominantly Muslim) are however badly perceived by the Bengali population who fear to become a minority. A boycott of British products (the Swadeshi meaning buying Indian) is established and the Bengali revolt quickly gains the other provinces under British authority. The partition of Bengal was finally abandoned in 1911.
To independence from India
During the First World War, Indian soldiers fighting in British troops were remarkable for their courage and temerity, which enabled India to be recognized by the international community. Now it has its place as a nation and the "British Indies" participate in the Olympic Games independently of the United Kingdom. Indians also obtain key positions in the viceroy's government.
At the same time, Gandhi, an Indian lawyer who studied law in England, returned to India after a stay of more than 20 years in South Africa where he defended the rights of blacks.
A supporter of non-violence (Satyagraha), he advocates the resistance through mass passive disobedience while exhorting the Indian people to learn to organize and govern themselves (swaraj) on the basis of solidarity. This movement compelled the British to accept the Government of India Act, which granted the provinces certain ministerial departments of secondary order, such as education or agriculture, in 1919. The power of the Indians, however, remained limited and under British control.
This first concession will cause the expansion of the independence movement and the gradual loss of British prerogatives.
The military engagement of the Viceroy of India during the Second World War was at the heart of a controversy. Only the Muslim League supports the government and, in 1942, Gandhi launched a call for independence from the country, a movement known as the Quit India, largely followed by the Indians. The imprisonment of Gandhi provoked sometimes violent demonstrations and national strikes. More than 100,000 people are arrested while clandestine resistance is being organized. Subhas Chandra Bose an independence activist manages to escape and joins the Axis forces (Japan, Germany and Italy) to fight the Allies. An Indian national army was created while Subhas Chandra Bose briefly became head of the provisional government of free India, which ended at the end of the war. Dead (or deported) in 1945, Bose became an emblematic figure of independence although his alliance with the Axis was violently criticized.
After the defeat of Germany, the Muslims demanded the independence of the majority Muslim states but met the opposition of the Congress.
The events nevertheless rushed into the Indian Partition and the creation of the Dominions of India and Pakistan by the Indian Independence Act in 1947.
To the Independence of Bangladesh
Bangladesh, which was then known as East Pakistan, is included in the Dominion of Pakistan, but as early as 1952, the tensions between the two countries echoed the creation of the Language Movement. Indeed, the inhabitants of eastern Pakistan want Bengali to become the national language of the country but the government imposes the Urdu which becomes the official language of Pakistan. A demonstration organized by the students of Dhaka is repressed by arms and is the starting point of conflicts that end in 1956 when Bengali is recognized as an official language.
This victory revived the Bengali nationalist movement and led little by little to the Bangladeshi Liberation War led by the Bangladeshi resistance in March 1971. After 9 months of fighting, Bangladesh militarily supported by India of Indira Gandhi obtains its independence which is proclaimed on December 16th. This war was particularly deadly and caused a high rate of emigration to India.
The independence, however, is not synonymous with peace for the country, which undergoes many bloody putschs and it was not until 1990 that a semblance of democracy emerged. Despite this political regime, the country is plagued by corruption and is regularly the target of Islamist attacks.
Since the 1991 elections, Bangladesh is a parliamentary democratic republic whose president is elected by indirect suffrage for a five-year term.
The President of Bangladesh (currently Abdul Hamid) plays only a representative role, the executive power being entrusted to the Prime Minister (currently Sheikh Hasina) who must necessarily come from the party of the parliamentary majority. He is responsible for composing his ministerial team.
The legislative power is entrusted to a unicameral parliament whose members are elected by direct universal suffrage.
The judiciary is entrusted to a Supreme Court.
A restrained economy
While Bangladesh is still regarded as a poor country today, the rate of growth is currently rising and is stabilizing at approximately 6%.
An effort is also made by the government to reduce illiteracy and disparity between girls and boys in school.
The agriculture, which has long been the only economic resource in the country, still occupies more than two-thirds of the Bangladeshi people who grow mainly rice, jute and to a lesser extent wheat.
Currently, Bangladesh's incomes are diversifying, notably thanks to the textile industry and foreign investors attracted by cheap labor and the creation of export processing zones.
However, the poor weather conditions, the poor management of the country's natural resources, the poorly managed transport infrastructure and, above all, the corrupted government and the risk of attacks prevent the country from developing faster despite its potential.
An overpopulated country
Bangladesh has a population density of more than 156 million inhabitants with a surface area of 143,000 km² (more than 1,000 inhabitants per km²). The capital Dakha (or Dacca) welcomes more than 15 million inhabitants.
The strong demographic growth (more than 6 children per woman), which has enabled the population to triple in a few decades, has slowed considerably since the introduction of a birth control policy. This exponential growth and a reduced life expectancy at 62 years means that more than one third of Bangladeshis are under 15 years old and only 4% of them are over 65 years of age.
98% of the inhabitants are Bengalis and only Chittagong Hill Tracts, a mountainous region in the south-east, are inhabited by indigenous Buddhist or Hindu ethnic groups speaking in Tibeto-Burmese languages grouped under the name Jumma.
The official language of Bangladesh is Bengali, an Indo-Iranian language derived from Sanskrit spoken by more than 75 percent of the country's population but also by nearly one hundred million Indians. English remains the second language of the country and is used in particular by the administrations.
Nearly 90 per cent of Bangladeshis are Muslims, mostly Sunni, making the country the third nation with the largest Muslim majority. Islam is a state religion since 1988. Just under 10% of the population is Hindu, while Buddhists, animists and Christians comprise only 1% of the population. This proportion is explained by the flight of many Hindus during the war of independence of the country.
The singing and the dancing are part of the traditions of Bangladesh. Very rarely accompanied by musical instruments, these arts are transmitted from generation to generation. The bands of traveling musicians called the Bulls travel over the country and carry a philosophy of non-violence, yoga or fasting and refuse to discriminate from caste or religion. Their songs are accompanied by rudimentary instruments, khamak and ektara, single-string instruments, khol, terracotta drum and manjiras and kartals reminiscent of castanets or small cymbals. The Bauls live on charity.
In the large cities, the male population of Bangladesh has often adopted Western fashion, but sari remains the most worn clothing by women. The traditional costume of men consists of a kurta, a long shirt, worn over loose pants, the payjama who gave birth to our pyjamas.
The Bangladeshi cuisine mixes traditional Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. The rice is the main food and curry is abundantly used. Fish, meatballs are often cooked in tandoor.
Due to the general insecurity in the country following the attacks, the death threats against politicians and the worrying number of murders committed in Bangladesh, it is unwise to stay in Bangladesh for purely tourist reasons. In all cases, a few strict recommendations must be followed.
These include staying in a secure hotel, which is constantly monitored by law enforcement officials, not staying in the same premises for too long, using only hotel shuttles and avoiding public transport or walking, as well as Places of religious gatherings, political or cultural events.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts region is also to be avoided due to conflicts between the indigenous population and the Bengalis. The same applies to the regions on the Burmese border and the island of St. Martin.
The foreigners must get the prior authorization to travel in certain regions. They must never communicate their function or nationality. Their attire must be discreet and in keeping with traditions. The women should not show themselves in public in shorts, swimsuits, cleavage or short skirts and should have shoulders covered.
At present, Bangladesh has not developed its tourism and the travelers, even the baroudorurs, are almost pioneers on the road to the adventure. They appreciate, however, discovering the mixture of culture, a legacy of the history of a country long linked to India.
The hotel infrastructure is rudimentary or non-existent but life is particularly cheap.
Among the sites to be discovered are the ruins of the Buddhist Vihara of Paharpur, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Bagerhat Mosque, the Dakha capital and of course the mangrove forest.