arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh/India


nakshikatha by suraya


Listen human brother
There is no truth greater
Than man himself
Vaisnava Padabali

Sinking in a sea of nectar,
I forget the world,
sun and moon disappear.
I see no country, no history, no border -
an image of love awakes in my heart,
I cannot contain my joy-
Rabinranath Tagore


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  • 2.1 Lotus Buddhist temple of the 7th century AD at Kamrabo, Dhupirtek of the Narshingd
  • 3.THE PALAS (750-1161 AD)
  • 3.1.Temple Architecture
  • 9.1. Physiographic regions in Bangladesh
  • 9.2. Literacy
  • 9.3. Madrasas mushroom with state favour
  • 9.4. Blasts rock every corner of country , AUGUST 18, 2005
  • 9.5. 'WB linked with fundamentalism’ August 21, 2005?
  • 9.6. Biharis
  • 9.7. Tea-pickers:Oppressed, low paid and socially excluded
  • 10. Health
  • 10. 1. Killer TB
  • 11. Farmers are not getting back the Genuine Price
  • 13. Pavemenet Dwellers of Dhaka
  • 14.Songs and historical evidences
  • 15. ARTICLES
  • bengalIt is not easy to give a historical account of ancient Bengal. It used to be accepted that the Brahmins and other high castes of bengal were descended from the aryans invaders who imposed their culture upon the'primitive barbarian tribes' of Bengal. It is now generally believed that foundation of agricultural-based village life, were laid by the Nishadas or Austric speaking people of Bengal.

    For most of its history, the area known as Bangladesh was a political backwater--an observer rather than a participant in the great political and military events of the Indian subcontinent. Historians believe that Bengal, the area comprising present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, was settled in about 1000 B.C. by Dravidian-speaking peoples who were later known as the Bang. Their homeland bore various titles that reflected earlier tribal names, such as Vanga, Banga, Bangala, Bangal, and Bengal.

    Bangladesh is a new state in an ancient land. It has been described by an American political scientist as "a country challenged by contradictions". On the face of it, the recent twists and turns of her history are often inconsistent. It is neither a distinct geographical entity, nor a well-defined historical unit. Nevertheless, it is the homeland of the ninth largest nation in the world whose gropings for a political identity were protracted, intense and agonizing. The key to these apparent contradictions lies in her history

    The first great indigenous empire to spread over most of present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh was the Mauryan Empire (ca. 320-180 B.C.), whose most famous ruler was Asoka (ca. 273-232 B.C.). Although the empire was well administered and politically integrated, little is known of any reciprocal benefits between it and eastern Bengal. The western part of Bengal, however, achieved some importance during the Mauryan period because vessels sailed from its ports to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. During the time of the Mauryan Empire, Buddhism came to Bengal, and it was from there that Asoka's son, Mahinda, carried the message of the Enlightened One to Sri Lanka. After the decline of the Mauryan Empire the eastern portion of Bengal became the kingdom of Samatata; although politically independent, it was a tributary state of the Indian Gupta Empire (A.D. ca. 319-ca. 540).

    The original inhabitants were non-Aryan. From the historical point of view, Bengal spread over a much larger area than the current political boundaries of the nation of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. However very little recorded information about the early ages is available. The early history of Bengal is based on the legends and epics and known as heroic. The Bodhayana Dharmasutra made the first unambiguous reference to Vangas as a historical area.The name Bengal is probably derived from Vanga, one of the many names of this region.Historical information about the Bengal region is available only from the Gupta period (320-520 AD). The Guptas ruled from Magadh (modern Bihar) and this period is considered to be the golden age of India. After the decline of the Guptas, the kingdom of Gaur in Bengal became well known. The first known independent Bengal king was Shashanka (circa 606 AD).

    The major pre-Aryan racial elements in Bengal were the proto-Austroloids. There is a striking similarity between the language of the aborigines of Bengal and the people in South-East Asia, the archipelago and the aborigines of Australia. The Dravidian languages of South India also belong to proto-Australoid group. Bangladesh, being the frontier of South Asia, also came into contact with the Mongoloid tribes who lived in the adjoining areas. The Mongoloid influence was dominant in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region where Chakmas and other tribes belong to this category.

    There is a place in this world-the most beautiful, compassionate.
    There the green delta is awash with honey-sweet grass.
    Trees have names like jackfruit, aswattha, banyan, jamarul, cashew.
    There in clouds at dawn awakes the nata fruitlike red round sun.
    There Varuni resides at the mouth of the Ganges-and there Varuna
    Yields abundant river waters to the Karnafuli, Dhaleswari, Padma,
    Jalangi .
    There a white hawk is as full of movement as betel leaves in the wind.
    There a spotted owl is as subtly young as the smell of paddy fields.
    Jibanananda Das


    ganges(l)-brahmaputra (r) deltaEtymologically, the word Bangladesh is derived from the cognate "Vanga" which was first mentioned in the Hindu scripture Aitareya Aranyaka (composed between 500 B C and 500 A D). Legend has it that Bengal was first colonized by Prince Vanga, the son of King Bali and Queen Sudeshna of the Lunar dynasty. According to linguists, the roots of the term Vanga may be traced to languages in the adjoining areas. One school of linguists maintain that the word "Vanga" is derived from the Tibetan word "Bans" which implies "wet and moist". According to this interpretation, Bangladesh literally refers to a wetland. Another school is of the opinion that the term "Vangla" is derived from Bodo (aborigines of Assam) words "Bang" and "la" which connote "wide plains."

    Bangladesh is the frontier of South Asian civilization. It is the natural bridge between South and South East Asia. Because of its location, Bangladesh was the intermediary in trade and commerce between the South Asian sub-continent and the Far East. This region, as a distinguished historian observed, "played an important part in the great cultural association between the diverse civilizations of Eastern and South Eastern Asia which forms such a distinguished feature in the history of this great continent for nearly one thousand and five hundred years."

    Tradition has it that Sri Lanka was colonized by a Bengalee Prince Vijayasingha who established the first political organization in that island. Gadadhara, another Bengalee, founded a kingdom in the Madras state in South India.

    Bangladesh region also played a seminal role in disseminating her beliefs, art and architecture in the wider world of Asia. The Bengali missionaries preached Mahayana Buddhism in the Indonesian archipelago. Kumaraghosha, the royal preceptor of the Sailendra emperors of Java, Sumatra and Malaya peninsula, was born in Gauda. The Bengali scholar Santirakshit was one of the founders of the Buddhist monastic order in Tibet. The great Buddhist sage Dipankara Srijnana, also known as Atish ( 10th-l1th century) reformed the monastic order in Tibet. The Bengalee scholars Shilabhadra, Chandragomin, Abhayakaragupta, Jetari and Jnanasrimitra were venerated as great theologians in the Buddhist world.

    Ancient Bangladesh also witnessed the flowering of temple, stupa and monastic architecture as well as Buddhist art and sculpture. There was discernible influence of the Pala art of Bengal on Javanese art. There was a close affinity between the scripts used on certain Javanese sculptures and proto-Bengali alphabet. A group of temples in Burma were built on the model of Bangladeshi temples. The architecture and iconographic ideas of Bengal inspired architects, sculptors and artists in Cambodia and the Indonesian archipelago. The influence of Pala art in Bengal could be easily traced in Nepalese and Tibetan paintings, as well as in Tang Art of China.

    The Vedas, the ancient Holy Scriptures, uphold the timeless truth of eternal existence of the supreme power Mother Vision of Divinity -- Durga. The Hindu tradition, followed by over 900 million people today, is one of the oldest, richest, and most influential traditions on earth. Whatever sphere of the human mind one selects for study -- language, customs, art, traditional sciences, polity, literature, architecture, painting or music -- one has to look into this, because some of the most valuable and insightful materials in the history of humankind are encompassed within this tradition. For example, Aurveda, Yoga, Dhyana , astronomy, astrology, vegetarian experiments and spiritual disciplines have all been of continuous interest and much sought after by people cutting across all national and religious barriers

    The Hindu tradition does not derive from any one prophet or founder. It has neither a uniform creed nor any organised church. Its history and prehistory are ageless.

    Major Rulers of Bangla


    Age of Glory

  • Pre 5-6th century BC Barman/Singh Rulers
    Different Dravir principalities: Garh, Banga, Samatata, Pundhrabardhan etc. (probably Barman/Singh Rulers)

  • 6-500 BC to 320 AD Barman/Singh Rulers
    United into Gangaridai and Prasoi Empires
    (Expansion in East Asia as far as Vietnam and Bali and south into Sri Lanka)

    Age of Empires

  • 320 -500 AD Part of Gupta Empire

    Gupta rulers

    500-650 AD Different local rulers (chaos)
    7th century AD Emperor Shashanka Gaur (Garh) independent and becomes nucleus of Shahanka's Empire.

    Pal Dynasty

  • 750 AD - 775 AD Gopal dev
    Bangla is unified and Pal Empire (last Bangla Empire) is formed.
  • 775 - 810 AD Dharma Pal

    Conquers Northern India and Gandhara (Afganistan) and expands empire after intial defeats. Founded 50 religious colleges -- the learning centres that India is much famed for. Married Rastrakuta princess. (Rastrakuta was the most powerful empire of India at the time and ruled South India)
  • 810 - 847 AD Dev Pal
    Another conqueror, he defeated the Huns, Utkala, Pragjyotisha, Dravid and Gurjarat.
  • 847 - 860 AD Shur Pal (Ras Pal)
  • 860 - 861 AD Vigraha Pal Saw begining of decline of empire.
  • 861 - 917 AD Narayan Pal Empire declined to central Banga and Bihar. He attempts to restore empire but unsuccessful as Rastra kutas invaded... later Barman emperors (Dravir nations, like Bangla, were ruled by Varmans in ancient times) from South and North attacked.
  • 917 - 952 AD Rajyo Pal
  • 952 - 972 AD Bigraha Pal II
    Magadha is lost and Banga also starts breaking up. End of First Pal period. Chandra and Deva dynasties rise in Central, South and East parts. Rise of mysterious Kambojas in the North.
  • 977 - 1027 AD Mahi Pal
    Empire reconstituted somewhat. His empire did not have the great expanse of his predecessors but maintained a dignified extent. Second Pal period begins at this point.
  • 1027 - 1043 AD Naya Pal
  • 1043 - 1070 AD Bigraha Pal III MahaMandalikas rise on the Western part (remnants of the mighty Rashtrakutas) and helps Bigraha Pal.
  • 1070 - 1071 AD Mahi Pal II
    Sens form small kingdom under Mahi Pal II.
  • 1071 - 1072 AD Shura Pal II
  • 1072 - 1126 AD Ram Pal
    He tried hard to regain empire but had to fight harder to maintain whatever was left.

    End of Second Pal Period.

  • 1126 - 1128 AD Kumar Pal Third Pal Period.
  • 1128 - 1143 AD Gopal III
  • 1143 - 1161 AD Madan Pal
    Kumar Pal's brother. He loses Asam to his general. Sens become independent in the south. Fought with Ganga and lost Patna. The sun starts to set for the last time over the Pal Empire.
  • 1161 - 1174 AD Govinda Pal (not major ruler but one of the last notable Pal rulers)
    Rules over small kingdom. However in parts of the first empire (Dharma Pal) ShahiPals continued to rule until much later some till the independence of India. Small local Pal kings continued in different parts of Bangla until recently.
    NOTE: Varman Kings ruled SinghPur (SimhaPur or even SingaPur) with capital at BikramPur in Eastern Bangla from the 5th to the 11th century. They were eventually taken over by the Sens.

    Sen Dynasty

  • 1070 AD Hemanta Sen s/o Samanta Sen establishes small kingdom under Emperor Mahi Pal.
    (Vira Sen of the mythical candra or lunar dynasty of vaidya caste)
  • 1096-1159 AD Vijay Sen
    Conquered most of Bangla under smaller dynasties such as the Devas.
    Married Vilasadevi, daughter of the Shura dynasty. Adi Shura was probably the founder of the Shura dynasty that ruled in Southern Bangla (he brought Aryan Brahmins to Bangla from Kanauj)
  • 1159 - 1179 AD Ballal Sen
    Conquered Gaur from probably Govinda Pal and married daughter of Malla king in southwest Bangla established their total control of Bangla by 1168. He established the caste system and Brahmin rule.
  • 1179 - 1206 AD Lakshman Sen
    Expanded rule atleast to Asam (Kamrup), Kalinga (Orissa), and maybe even to Kashi (the most sacred city of India) and probably warred with Cedi, the Mlechha king. Muslims had taken over most of Northern India by then and started attacks on Bangla. Ikhtiyaruddin Mohammed Bokhtiar Khilji (a murderous Turkish general) conquered and carried out massacres in Bihar and burned Vihars (the learning centres) with all its manuscripts robbing all humanity from accumulated knowledge. Then he invaded Bangla in 1201 or 1204 AD. He defeated Lakshan Sen at their capital in South Bangla. The Sens then ruled from BikramPur in central Eastern Bangla.
  • 1206 - 1225 AD Vishvarup Sen
    Defends Banga well from marauding invaders.
  • 1225-1230 Keshab Sen
    Vishvarup Sen and Keshab Sen (brothers) defend Banga from waves of marauding invaders. The Sens however capitulate ... but small independent Sen kings hold out as does other Deva kings. Bangla becomes fragmanted and some parts become loosely connected to the Turkish Sultanate at Delhi. Bangla became the stepping stone to power in Delhi for some.

    Age of Darkness

    Loose Rule by the Sultanate

  • 1271 - 1278 AD Amin Khan
    Bangla is lost to the foreigners for good before the end of the 13th century and for almost a millennium the foreigners would rule. Amin Khan was the governor of Bangla under the Delhi Sultan. The Sultanate at this point was Turk.
  • 1278 - 1282 AD Tughril Khan (Sultan Mughis Uddin) He was Amin Khan's assistant but in reality was de-facto ruler of conquered parts of Bangla. He conquered JAjaNagar that ruled large portions of South Bangla. Defeats Amin Khan and declares Bangla independent and becomes Sultan Mughis-ud-din. He defends bangla several times from Delhi until 1282. Tries to flee to JajaNagar but caught and killed by Hashim-ud-din.
  • 1282 AD Hashim Uddin
    Appointed by Delhi Sultan, Ghias Uddin Balban Ulugh Khan (1266-1286) as ruler of Bangla to hunt Tughril Khan.
  • 1282 - 1289 AD Nasir Uddin Mahmud Bughra Khan
    Delhi Sultan appoints Bughra Khan (his youngest son) as governor of Bangla. Burga Khan's nephew was named heir to the throne in Delhi but his son, Kay Qubadh attained throne in Delhi. Bughra declares himself as Sultan of Bangla and goes to war with his son. However he stops and makes peace with son. But his son was killed by his general, Jalaluddin Khilji who founded the Khilji dynasty.
  • 1301 - 1321 AD Shams Uddin Firuz Shah According to Ibn Batuta, Shams Uddin was Bughrra's son. He conquered many parts of Bangla. All but one of his sons were tyranical rulers.
  • 1322 - 1324 AD Shihab Uddin Bughra Khan
    Son of Firuz Shah
  • 1324-1225 Ghiyas Uddin Bahadur Shah
    Another son of Firuz Shah. He was the tyranical governor of Assam under his father. Defeated Shihab Uddin and killed all the brothers except Nasir Uddin and Shihab Uddin and took over.
  • 1325 - 1351 AD Muhammad shah Tughlaq
    Ghiyas Uddin did not get to enjoy his rule. His two brothers joined the new Delhi ruler (Jauna Khan, son of Ghiasuddin Tughluq, known as Muh.ammad shah Tuglaq), now of the Tughlaq dynasty, and attacked Ghiyas Uddin. Ghiyas was defeated and Bangla once again came under Delhi's rule. Several governors were appointed in Bangla by Tughlaq. Tughlaq ruled Delhi from 1325 to 1351 AD.
  • 1338 - 1341 AD Mukhlis
    The governor of SonarGaon (Central Bangla) died and his guard Fakhr-ud-din Mubarak Khan takes over. He is attacked and defeated by another governor, Kadar Khan, but Kadar is killed by Fakhr's supporters. Fakhr reconquers SonarGaon. He becomes ruler of most of Bangla (rules Sonargaon until 1350 ... he heavily taxed the Hindus). He appointed Mukhlis in power at Laknauti (centre of power).
  • 1341 - 1342 AlaUddin Ali Shah
    Ali Mubarak assasinated Mukhlis and called for Delhi to send a governor. The governor however died on the way. Ali Mubarak then continued to rule as Ala-ud-din Ali Shah. He fought a lot with Fakhr Uddin.

    Shahi Dynasty

  • 1342 - 1358 AD Shams Uddin Iliyas Shah
    Malik Iliyas Haji kills AlaUddin and captures power. He was probably from Eastern Persia (Iran). He ruled under the name of Shams Uddin Iliyas Shah. He conquered much more of Bangla and defeated Nepal and Orissa and looted them. He destroyed many temples. The Delhi ruler came to war with him but failed to defeat him. He established the first strong Muslim dynasty in Bangla
  • 1358 - 1390 AD Sikandar Shah His son took over and rebuffed more attacks from Delhi. He even meddled in TriPura politics.
  • 1390 - 1410 (or 1396) AD Ghiyas Uddin Azam Shah
    Sikandar was killed by his son Ghiyas Uddin. He was a poet and had contact with Hafiz of Iran and built Madrasas (Islamic school) in Mecca and Medina. He had very good diplomatic relations with China and other small neighbouring kingdoms. At the begining of the century he removed all high ranking Hindu officials (these were probably Brahmins) and Raja Gobinda (Hindu) has him assasinated.
  • 1410 - 1412 or 1396 -1405 AD Sultan-us-salatin Saif Uddin Hamza Shah
    Ghiyas' son takes over but is promptly killed by his slave Shihab Uddin Bayazid Shah.
  • 1412-1414 or 1405-1415 AD ShihabUddin Bayazid Shah Also killed (probably by Raja Gobinda) who already is the real ruler. Was he an infiltrator really working for Raja Gobinda and maybe ... maybe ... was not really a Muslim.
  • 1414 - 1415 AD AlaUddin Firoz Shah
    Promptly deposed by Raja Gobinda. Delhi was in chaos at the time suffering from infighting and foreign invasions. Thus ends the first Shahi period.

    Gobinda Dynasty

  • 1415 AD Raja Gobinda
    In 1415, Raja Gobinda assumes the role as king and is a good ruler but destroyed some Mosques but also renovated a few. He also removed Muslims from political arena. Almost immediately, he was attacked by Muslims from within and without. Raja Gobinda was supported by Shiva Singh, the Hindu king of Mithila but is defeated. Even his son, Yadu, converted to Islam and fought against him assuming the name Sultan Jalal Uddin. He joined invading Ibrahim Shah Sharqui from JaunPur and took over Bangla in the same year. But as soon as Ibrahim Shah left, Yadu reverted back to Hindu.
    He ruled later in a small Hindu Kingdom where later his other son probably ruled after him. He died in 1417.
  • 1415 - 1431 or 33 AD Sultan Jalal Uddin (Yadu)
    Yadu later reverted to Islam after his father's death and helped the king of Arakan regain his kingdom from Burma and became overlord of Arakan. His rule covered Bangla, parts of Bihar, Arakan and parts of Tripura.
    The last attempt of self determination was stiffled. But it appears that he might have converted from political considerations and this is even seen in his son who was viewed as somewhat pro-hindu.
  • 1431/33 - 1435/37 AD Shams Uddin Ahmad Shah
    Raja Gobinda's grandson. He was possibly assasinated by slaves Nasir Khan and Sadi Khan and with him ended the Ganesh dynasty. Were they infiltrators too?

    Shahi Dynasty (II)

  • 1435/37 - 1459 AD Nasir Uddin Mahmud Shah
    Nasir Khan took over power and either assumed the name Nasir Uddin Mahmud Shah or Nasir Uddin assumed power. Nasir Uddin was a grandson of Shams Uddin Ilyas Shah. If Nasir Khan was the grandson, he must have been a grandson through a slave or there my be some other intrigue. Under his rule, Muslim rule expanded in Bangla. Contact with China stopped at this point.
  • 1455 - 1476 AD Rukn Uddin Barbak Shah
    Nasir Uddin made his son Rukn Uddin joint ruler in 1455 AD. He expanded Muslim rule into more parts of Bangla and force coverted a Hindu King. But he also appointed many Hindus to high ranking positions. He also brought a lot of Afgans and Abyssinians to Bangla.
  • 1474 - 1481/83 AD Shams Uddin Yusuf Shah
    Rukn Uddin appointed his son joint ruler in 1474 and he further expanded into the Northwestern part. He converted many temples to mosques and destroyed idols.
  • 1481/83 Sultan Sikandar Shah II
    Shams Uddin's son. He was removed for his insanity within a few months. This insanity could have been induced using a poison that is used in Bangla.
  • 1482 - 1487 or 1484 - assassinated in 1485 Jalal Uddin Fateh Shah
    He was the next ruler. Under his rule, Hindus suffered. He was assasinated by Khoja Barbak, Palace chief in a conspiracy of Abyssinians living in Bangla.
  • 1487 Khoja Barbak
    He was assasinated by the Abyssinian, Malik Andil Khan Sultan, who was Jalal Uddin's Prime Minister.

    Abyssinian Interlude

  • 1487 - 1490 Saif-ud-din Firoz Shah
    He became first Abyssinian ruler of Bangla.
  • 1490 Nasir Uddin Mahmud Shah II
    Firoz Shah was succeeded by Nasir Uddin who was either the son of Saif Uddin Firoz Shah or of Jalal Uddin Fateh Shah.
  • 1490 - 1493 Shams Uddin Abu Nasir Muhammad Shah
    The real power was an Abyssinian called Habsh Khan. He was killed by another Abyssinian, Sidi Badr Khan. He also killed Nasir Uddin II and became ruler under the name Shams Uddin Abu Nasir Muhammad Shah. He is reputed to have been a tyrant. Interesting to note the name was similar to his predecessor.

    Hussain-Shahi Dynasty

  • 1493 - 1519 Alauddin Hussain Shah
    Hussain Shah killed the last tyrannical Abyssinian ruler and assumed power creating the Hussain-Shahi dynasty. He established law by killing a lot of people and he replaced all the palace guards (who were involved in previous assasinations) and transfered all the Abyssinians to south India and Gujarat. He destroyed a lot of idols. His rule was marked by oppression of Hindus. A large number of Hindus converted to Islam during this period.
  • 1519 - 1533 Nasir Uddin Nusrat Shah
    Nasib Shah became Nasir Uddin Nusrat Shah. During his time Mogul ruler (not emperor) took Delhi from its ruler Ibrahim Lodhi an Afgan. The Afgan nobles were given refuge in Bangla and Nasiruddin married a daughter of Ibrahim Lodhi. These Afgans tried to recapture power in Delhi but were defeated but managed to capture JaunPur. Nasir Uddin was assasinated in 1533.
  • 1533 Alauddin-Firuz-Shah
  • 1533 - 1538 Ghiasuddin Mahmud

    Last Hussain-Shahi ruler.

  • 1538 Muhammad Khan
    Farid Khan (Shir Shah Sur) who became ruler of Bihar conquered Bangla. He appointed Muhammad Khan as governor. Gaur was ransacked. Humayun, son of Babur (Moghul ruler) took back Gaur in 1539 but lost it the next year.
  • 1555 Muhammad Shah
    In Delhi there was quick changes in power as different Shah's came to power. When Adil Shah became Emperor of India (at Delhi) Muhammad Shah, who was governor of Bangla from 1540 to 1555 declared independence. He took over Bihar and JaunPur but was killed in battle.
  • 155 - 1560 Ghiasuddin Bahadur Shah
    Khizr took over after Muhammad Shah and defeated Adil Shah. He became ruler as Ghiasuddin Bahadur Shah.
  • 1560 - 1563 Ghiasuddin Abul Muzaffar Jalal Shah
    Jalal Din took over after Khizr and became known as Ghiasuddin Abul Muzaffar Jalal Shah.

    Karrani Dynasty

  • 1564 -1566 Taj Khan Karrani
    Taj Khan captures power in Bangla.
  • 1565 - 1572 Sulaiman (II) Khan Karrani
    Conquered Orissa and Kooch Bihar.
  • 1572 Bayazid Karrani
    He tried to assert his independence from the Afgan chiefs of India.
  • 1574 - 75 Daud Khan
    Afgan ruler of Bangla. Moguls conquer Bangla from Daud Khan in 1575. Bangla becomes a province.

  • Radha-Krishna and Hindu heritage
    Country profile: Bangladesh

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    Mahastan, Earliest Budhist Relicts

    Budha, 350 BC, Mahastan, BangladeshBuddhism originated from the teachings of Gautama Buddha, a prince from the Nepalese terai, who relinquished palace life for a life of meditation and spiritual upliftment, emphasized "dhamma" or right conduct, and organized monks and nuns into monasteries called "samghas". The philosophy of Buddhism is to take the Middle Path, avoiding the extremes of getting addicted to worldly pleasures and subjecting oneself to unnecessary rigours.
    During the 3rd century BC Bengal became a part of the Mauryan kingdom (records discovered at Mahastangarh, Bangladesh). Chandragupta ruled for 24 years over a large area of India icluding Bengal. His grandson Asoka (273 BC-298 BC) inherited his greatness but became famous for spreading Budhism in Asia. He banned Hindu animal sacrifice rituals. Ponds excavated during Asoka's time are still to be found in bengal. He established medical clinics for animals and people. He introduced many medical plants and fruit bearing trees. He banned fishing during breeding times and banned sealing or marking trees. The bhakti.(devotion) and kindness preached by later reformers borrowed from Asoka's humanism.
    Bengal had ancient links with Srilanka (Ceylon), and the founder of Srilanka is belived to have hailed from Bengal. Through Buddhism Bengal was connected with Tibet and China. From the 4th century AD, Chinese travellers Fa Hien, hung Tsang and Yet Sing traveled Bengal and wrote valuable details of contemporary society.
    With the fall of the last Pala king at the hand of the Senas, Buddhism collapsed in Bengal. According to Dr. D. C. Sen, the Brahmins were resposible for wiping out Buddhism and Jainism from Bengal. The Budhists priests and tantric sidhas were forced to live as the lowest caste.
    Of all budddhist scholars, Atisa Srigana Diphankara was the most famous and he is still worshipped in Tibet second only to Budha. Dipankara was born in 980 AD in the royal family of Gauda in Vikrampur, a site now identified in a rice field in Bangladesh. Dipankara succeeded in removing Tantric elements from Budhism. He wrote more than 200 books on buddhism.

    Buddhism in Bangladesh

    According to the scriptures, "Buddha" actually means "an aware person," and was more of an adjective than a name in the beginning. Later, Gotama, who was a real person, came to be called "Buddha" only after the realization of the truth of life.

    What exactly was it that Buddha realized? Through his acute awareness he realized that "the world is full of sufferings." It was his discovery of the law of life, and it was the only true concept. The word "Buddha-hood" literally means "a level without burning," and is meant to mean "a level of calmness of the mind."

    The Buddha defined four kinds of suffering, and described eight effects of suffering on humanity. The four kinds of pain or suffering generated by human existence in this world are: birth, old age, sickness and death.

    The Buddha suggested several ways of overcoming the pain and suffering of life. He said that if we are aware of the inconsistence of life, and accept the non-existence of material things in the world, we can eliminate the addictions and desires from our everyday lives, and achieve true freedom through the sufferings in life.

    Buddhism teaches that suffering can be banished by reaching Buddhahood. People can reach this stage by abolishing anger, temptation and ignorance about the truth of life. Buddhism is based on the belief in non-violence, peace, universal love and compassion.

    The first sermon of the Buddha is: "Go ye Bhikkhus and wander forth for the gain of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, for the welfare of men. Proclaim O Bhikkhus the doctrine glorious, Preach ye a life of holiness, perfection and purification." We all know that a glorious chapter in human civilization began with Buddha in the sixth century B.C., in India. Confucius in China and Socrates in Greece were born in this century, and they brought about a radical change in the consciousness of mankind.

    Bangladesh was once the cradle of Buddhism still bearing trances in the various architectural remains of temples and monasteries with large number of Buddha image, relics, copper and stone plates discovered at different times from various parts of the country.

    There is difference of opinion among researchers as regards spread of Buddhism in Bangladesh. Much currency is given to the theory that the teaching of Buddha propagated during the lifetime of Buddha since he himself came to Bangladesh (Samatata) on a visit while preaching his new thoughts.The religion of Buddha could thrive and persist over a long time in Eastern India as it was outside the zone of traditional Vedic culture

    Fa-Hien (5th Century), Hieun-Tsang (middle of the 7th century), It-Sing (end of the 7th century) and others in their travel accounts referred that Buddha came to the Pundra-Bardhan (northern part of Bangladesh). He preached his principles also at Samatata (south-eastern part of Bengal) presently Chittagong, Noakhali Kamasbama (now Murshidabad West Bengal). The Chinese travelers saw hundreds of monasteries and centers of Theravada and Mahayana Schools in these parts of Bangladesh and as well as in the West Bengal of India. The description in ancient Buddhist literature like Anguttara-nikaya, Samjutta-nikaya, Divyabadana, Asokabadana and Avadana-kalpalata also testify the truth of the above. The names of two prominent disciples of the Buddha, 'Bangisha' and 'Bangantaputta' show that they might have derived their names from Bangala (Bangladesh).

    The copper plates, stone inscription found at Mahasthagar (Bogra), Paharpur, Sumpuri mahavihara (Rajshahi), Mainamati (Comilla) and Ashrafpur (Dhaka) were dated between 6th-10th Centuries. Very recently similar evidence discovered at Salimpur and Barauthan in Chittagong were dated between 10th-13th Centuries, speak highly of flourishing state of Buddhism in ancient Bangladesh.

    The epigraphic findings and antiquities reveal hitherto unknown facts and cover wide area of information besides the Holy Scriptures and other religio-philosophical writings. Plenty of legends, folk-lore, popular devotional songs, tales relating to Buddhist life and teaching of Buddha as well as other followers and devotees of Buddha are spread over the interior of Bangladesh, enriching over the historical findings.

    The Chinese traveler Fa-Hien visited India during thetime of Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya of Gupta dynasty. He records that there were twenty- two Buddhist monasteries at Tamralipi. Buddhism was in a flourishing condition in Samatata and in capital itself there were 2000 monks and thirty monasteries. Hiuen-Tsang states that Gautama Buddha stayed for sometime at Vasu Vihara, which was situated on the outskirts of Pundravardhana. At the close of the 7th Century AD the Chinese pilgrim Sheng Chi visited Samatata, the capital city of Vangrastra.

    He described that as many as 4000 monks lived in Samatata, Buddhism was a predominant religion in the then Bengal. King Rajarajabhatha was a strong supporter of the Three Jewels (ti-ratana).

    The rich ruins of Trikutaka Vasu at Mahasthangarh (Bogra), Jagaddal Somapuri mahavihara at Paharpur (Rajshahi), Salbana and Banakastupa Vihara (Comilla), Vikrampuri and Dhammarajika Vihara at Vikrampur (Dhaka) and Chakrashala Vihara at Hiaidgaon and Pandit Vihara at Chittagong were the glaring examples of seat of learning and Buddhist civilization. The ruins of Pandit Vihara are believed to be lying buried under the Deyang hills on the bank of the river Karnaphuly just on the other side of Patenga Airport, Chittagong.

    The terracotta figures from Paharpur Monastery (Rajshahi) arouse great popular interest. A few words can be added here on Vikrampur Vihara, which is only a few miles away from Vikrampur, the oldest historically recorded city in the neighborhood of Dhaka. It was an important place during the hey-day of Pala rulers of Bengal. According to some historians, the name Vikrampur is derived from the title Vikramaditya, said to have been assumed by Dharmapaladeva, the second and the greatest of the Pala dynasty who built a Buddhist monastery there.

    After the death of Buddha in 646/647 AD his empire fell to pieces and independent kings established themselves in Bengal. For some centuries, knowledge about East Bengal (Bangladesh) remains scanty after the death of Sasanka in 639 AD for about a century from 650 AD to 750 AD. But certain amount of information has been derived from inscribed copper plates was to record their grant of land, but they are also of historical value. Preambles of these grants mention the king or chief in whose time the grant was made and record his ancestry.

    The early traditions that have come down speak that Dhaka and some of the neighboring districts were originally under the sway of Buddhist King. The numerous Viharas scattered all over the country were meant not only for monastic way of teaching but also for imparting lessons on subjects like arts, crafts, astronomy, geography, agriculture, herbal medicines, pottery and so on. Thousands of monks and students used to reside in these viharas for equipping themselves with different skills and knowledge, in addition to their scriptural lessons.

    Ancient religious writings speak of 'Vanga' (Benga/Bangalsdeh) which was later described by Kalidas, the great poet of the 5th Century A.D. as the territory situated within the Gangetic basin.

    Hiuen-Tsang who traveled in different parts of India from 630-643 AD when Harsha was at the height of his power. According to his account, Samatata corresponded to the ancient Vanga, a low-lying country bordering the sea, rich in crops, flowers and fruits. The climate was soft, the manner of the people was agreeable. The inhabitants were of small stature and of dark complexion but diligent in acquisition of learning.

    Ruins of stupas built by Asoka in the village Dhamrai (Dhaka) still stands as a witness of supposed to have derived its name from Dharmarajika. The historians Jatindra Nath Bose corroborated this view. The nomenclature itself has a significant background. Savar, not far from Dhaka was visited by Buddha according to Buddhist literature and was confirmed by the Bengal historian J. N. Bose. It has mount created by King Asoka. In course of time the place has been known as Dharmarajika which again turned into Dhammarajika. Like the ruins in Dhaka district bearing theatrics of rich Buddhist culture another district, Dinajpur (northern part of Bangladesh) also bears evidence of Buddhism, highly patronized by the ruler themselves. The Pala kings were princes of Gaur, a name that seems to have applied rather to the whole province, of which Dinajpur formed the principal part. The founder of this dynasty appears to have come from Western India and had become Buddhist. Francis Buchanan (Hamilton) while describing of education in the district of Dinajpur in the beginning the state of 19th century still found the trances of Buddhism there. He wrote, "the only vocabulary used in Dinajpur is the Omarkosh or Omorsinghe, whom the Pandit as usual considers a person belonging to the sect of Buddha. Since Buddhism flourished there in the court of Vikram". Buddhism has traveled a long way under the patronage of series of ruling dynasties (Prof. Latifa Akanda, 2004)

    In 1973-4, excavation had laid bare at Bhasu Vihara a semi cruciform temple and two comparatively small monasteries. The shrine has three terraced ambulatory passage with the entrance on the north and a square mandapa at the center. Like Paharpur and Mainamati, the basement of the shrine is embellished with terra cotta plaques. Eighty-six bronze objects have been discovered during the excavation near Mahasthan and Bhasu Vihara.

    Near the modern Ompur are found the ruins of Somapura Mahavihara, popularly known as Paharpur in the district of Rajshahi in northern Bangladesh. The central shrine of the Vihara measures 356x314 with a height well over one hundred feet. The general plan of the shrine is in the form of a cross with projections in between the arms. Above the basement it has three raised terraces with Caityangana (circumambulatory path). A continuous frieze of teracotta plaques runs on the inner wall of the path. K. N. Dikshit describes the Somapur Vihara as 'the biggest single sangharama that was ever erected in India for Buddhist monks'

    Hiuen-Tsang came to Samatata and noticed thirty Buddhist monasteries with 2000 priests of the Sthavira School. There was a stupa nearby, the construction of which is traditionally attributed to Emperor Asoka. An image of Buddha made from green jade was found in a monastery near it. When Seng-Chi came to Samatata during the reign of King Rajabhata there was a population of 4000 monks and nuns in its capital. From the epigraphic and literary records we come to learn about the names of Pattikera Vihara, Asrama Vihara, Raja Vihara, Sanghamitra Vihara, Vendamati Vihara and Pandita Vihara.

    A glimpse of Buddhism in ancient Bangladesh

    Did Lord Buddha visit Bengal during his life-time while he was preaching the Dhamma walking long distances on foot in Magadha (present-day Bihar state of India), Uttar Pradesh and his birth place Kapilavastu in Nepal? Legends and a later-day Buddhist treatise named 'Bodhisattva Avadan Kalpalata' suggest that Buddha visited ancient Bengal probably along the river route of the Ganges. Historians, however, do not find authentic proof to support the view of his visit to this region. In any case Buddhism reached ancient Bangladesh shortly after his passing away.

    The reign of Emperor Asoka, the Great is the most remarkable period in Buddhist history, under his royal patronage Buddhism took roots in the soil of entire Indian sub-continent. He built 84,000 Stupas or monuments throughout India and inscribed Buddha's messages in rock edicts, hills and mountains which defied time and exist till today. His emissaries preached the Dhamma in Sri Lanka to the south, Afghanistan, Egypt and some other countries to the west, Siam (Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar) to south-east. Asoka's consecration to the throne took place 218 years after Buddha's passing away. Chinese pilgrim Fa Hien (359-415) during his visit to India in the Fifth Century came to ancient Bengal and found Buddhism in a flourishing condition through impact of Asoka's religious expedition. In the Seventh Century, the most outstanding traveller-pilgrim Hieun Tsang toured India for 16 years from 629 to 645 AD. While touring ancient Bengal he noted that Buddhism existed in Northern Bangladesh, Pundravardan and Mahastan, the first city of this ancient land. He visited Samatata region in 639 AD in present-day Comilla and recorded in his travel diary as having seen 30 Sangharams or monasteries here inhabited by 2000 monks of Thervada school.

    In fact Buddhism is the original religion of Bangladesh for more than 2000 years and made deep impact on Bengali life, culture and civilisation through centuries in the midst of rise and fall of dynasties and kingdoms. Names of two devotees from Bengal, Dharmadatta and Rishinandan of Pundravardhan are inscribed in the entrance gate of Sanchi Stupa, constructed during Emperor Asoka's reign. The name 'Banga' appears in the stone inscription of Nagarjunikonda dated Fourth Century BC.

    From the Fourth Century AD the Gupta kings of ancient Bengal who professed Hinduism and the Vaisnava cult showed exemplary tolerance to Buddhism. Fa Hien in his travel diary during Gupta rule wrote that Buddhism and Hinduism coexisted in an atmosphere of peace and tolerance. The Gupta period was marked in ancient Bengal's history for remarkable excellence in religion, philosophy, literature, poetry, sculpture and paintings.

    In the Seventh Century, Bhikkhu Shilabhadra, born in present-day Comilla was the most outstanding monk who became the Principal of then the biggest University of world, Nalanda. Hieun Tsang studied Yogashastra under him for two years and paid glowing tributes to his Master as the most profound scholar and philosopher of ancient India. Acharya Chandragomin of this period was known as an outstanding grammarian who wrote grammar deviating from the traditional Sanskrit vocabulary of Panini.

    The Seventh Century in ancient Bangladesh was marked by total social anarchy, lawlessness and feuds among sections of people. This period continuing for more than half a century is described as 'Matsyanyaya' which means big fishes eating small fishes, implying oppression of the weak by the strong. Under the circumstances, the people elected a local chieftain named Gopala as their King in Eighth Century to bring about order and discipline in the society. Gopala is the founder of the Pala Dynasty who professed Buddhism and created a new social order based on justice and equality among all people. Nearly 400 years of the Pala Rule (850-1250) witnessed the birth of a new civilisation.

    The First King of the Pala Dynasty, Gopala established Buddhist monasteries in different parts of the country. Famous Buddhist Philosopher Acharya Santarakhshit visited Tibet and stayed there till 762 AD for reformation and regeneration of Buddhism. He is known as 'Pandita Bodhisattva' in Tibet. The Second Pala Emperor, Dharmapala was the founder of our 'Prajnaparamita Sutra' of Buddhism. He constructed 50 monasteries and founded the famous Vikramshila Vihara and Sompuri Vihara.

    Buddhism created a rich culture and civilisation in ancient Bangladesh from Eighth to Thirteenth Centuries. The compassionate teachings of the Buddha swept away discrimination among men in the society and generated a new spirit of equality, fraternity and humanism. During the Pala age there was a movement against caste discrimination. Poet Sarahapad composed songs and poems against the futility of caste system. Quoting Gautama Buddha's teachings, a poem said : 'If among the Brahmins, some engaged themselves in education and learning and led pure lives and if some others remain engaged in killing and theft, will the two types of Brahmins be placed in the same category?'

    Buddhism emerged as the dominant religion of the masses and exercised profound influence on the social, cultural and intellectual lives of the people. During this period big monasteries like Vikramshila, Somapuri, Agrapuri, Kanakastupa, Jagaddala, Odantapuri etc flourished as centres of learning on Buddhism as well as secular arts and sciences. The most significant of these monasteries was Sompuri Vihara whose massive ruins had been unearthed at Paharpur of Rajshahi district in northern part of Bangladesh by British archeologists. Unique in ancient temple architecture, this Mahavihara developed during Pala Dynasty from the Eighth to Eleventh Centuries and is described as the biggest monument south of the Himalayas. The architecture of this Vihara has influenced the style of monasteries in South East Asia up to Indonesia where monumental Borobudhur Temple of Java has been modelled after it. Archaeological excavations at Mainamati in the Comilla district led to the discovery of Salvana Vihara which constitutes the ruins of the historic Kanakastupa Vihara witnessed by Hieun Tsang.

    One of the greatest centres of Buddhism in the sub-continent after the decline of Nalanda was Pandita Vihara located somewhere in Chittagong as the major establishment of the Tantric Mahayana school. Atish Dipankar Srijanan, the outstanding saint and philosopher and another scholar monk, Tilopa or Tilopad of Chittagong who had preached Buddhism in Bhutan studied in this Vihara.

    Buddhist scholars and saints exercised their influence far beyond the frontiers of Bangladesh. Atish Dipankar Srijanan of Ten-Eleventh Century AD was one of the most outstanding saints and scholars of the sub-continent and Principal of a number of big monasteries including Vikramshila Vihara. He was born in Bajrayogini village of Vikrampur, not far from the city of Dhaka. He visited Tibet at the invitation of its King for revival of Buddhism and lived there for 13 years until his death at the age of 73.

    He wrote more than 100 religious and philosophical books on Buddhism which are preserved in ancient temples of Tibet. He is still worshipped in Tibet, China, Mongolia and northern Asian countries as the incarnation of Lord Buddha.

    The period of Buddhist rule in ancient Bangladesh was marked by remarkable development in the style of architecture, arts and sculpture. The massive monasteries in Paharpur, Mainamati and Mahastangarh were built in Bengal style of architecture. Terracotta pieces in the walls exemplify development of secular arts reflecting life, nature and social scene of those days.

    Sculptors chiselled out images of Buddha, Bodhisattvas and other deities in stone, bronze and other metals which are specimens of intricate style of workmanship. Numerous Buddha images in meditation, mainly in the Bhumisparsa Mudra or earth-touching attitude with Buddha's right hand touching the Mother Earth as witness to his attainment of Supreme Enlightenment in the face of Mara's onslaught were unearthed from beneath the soil. Among the Mahayana Tantric gods and goddesses, Avalokiteswar in particular inspired the artists who depicted him as the presiding Bodhisattva of the time looking upon mankind with infinite compassion and vowing not to seek Niruana for himself until all human beings are liberated from the bondage of sufferings.

    Bengali language owes its origin to the work of Buddhist monks from the crust of prevailing Prakrit and Apabrahmsa language. In the year 1906 some ancient manuscripts lying buried in obscure chambers of monasteries in Nepal were discovered. They were found to be lyrics and songs written in an ancient form of Bengal language by monks known as 'Siddhacharyas'. Sitting in the monasteries of ancient Bengal from 10th to 13th Centuries, they created poetry in lyrical verses in a language spoken by the common folk which has come to be recognised as first ever germination of Bengali language. These poems known as 'Bouddha Gan O Doha' (Buddhist songs and lyrics), the first ever in the history of Bengali literature were unique as lyrical verses expressing Buddhist thoughts as well as the society and nature. Continuous cultivation of this language was carried out for several centuries till Buddhist lyrics found logical fulfilment in the composition of 'Vaisnava Padabali'.

    The final disappearance of Buddhism in ancient Bangladesh is mainly attributed to the degeneration of Buddhism into obscure Tantric cults and also emergence of religious and social conservatism in the subsequent Sena Rule. At that declining stage of Buddhism, the Senas supporting the Brahminical doctrines came from south India and destroyed the social structure founded on equality of all people in the Pala Age. A sizeable number of Buddhist monks fled to Nepal and Tibet with their manuscripts and religious books while some others continued their existence here under various camouflages.

    Subsequently a group of orthodox Buddhists from Magadha, Vajji and Vaishali of North India migrated to the Eastern regions to escape the rising tide of militant Brahminism there in the 13th-14th Century. They first came to Assam and then continued long journey to reach Chittagong where they found safe shelter merging with surviving Buddhists of ancient Bengal amidst geographical landscape of sea on one side and ranges of hills on the other. The newly-settled immigrants from Magadha lived for about two centuries under Arakanese rule (1459 to 1666) when they adopted Theravada Buddhism. These Buddhists under ethnic nomenclature as Barua still uphold the ancient tradition and have taken advantage of English education in early 20th century during nearly 200 years of British colonial rule. They constitute a highly-educated middle class segment. Professor Benimadhav Barua (1888-1948) of the Calcutta University was the first D.Litt of the Indian sub-continent and Asia in 1917 from the London University.

    The tribal Buddhists of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are believed to be belonging to Burmese-Tibetian races with their own distinctive culture. Bangladesh is rooted to an age-old Buddhist culture and civilisation which is an integral part of national heritage of Bangladesh. (DP Barua, is Secretary General of Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace (ABCP), Bangladesh National Centre, Lord Buddha, May 24, 2005).

    Artefacts at Mohasthan Museum

    Artefacts from various historical periods are on display at the Mohasthan Archaeological Museum premises. These priceless objets d' art are rapidly being damaged due to lack of proper maintenance.

    Department of Archaeology officials admitted to the fact and said that the shortage of manpower and fund constraints as well as lack of chemical treatment of most of the images, sculptures and art of different dynasties had put them at great risk.

    Mohammad Mahabub-Ul-Alam, custodian of the museum, said that to preserve the original artefacts, the museum needed a laboratory and sufficient manpower. “A huge number of art, sculptures and images from the 7th-8th to the 18th century have been preserved in Mohasthan Museum premises,” he said.

    The department has failed to maintain a museum ambience due to the lack of modern museum facilities and technological support, said an official of the department. To keep alive the arts and sculptures of different dynasties in the museum, the department should set up a modern laboratory, stores and adequate rooms in the 40- year- old museum and its premises, said an archaeologist.

    An engraved lion and human sculpture in a piece of black stone along with other arts are one of the important artefacts in the museum premises. They are kept under an open sky along with other artefacts. The broken image shows a human form in prey-like mode before a lion. An ancient decorated stone pillar has been lying in the open space for a long time. Most of the artefacts in the museum premises have lain uncared for and without any chemical treatment for years together. It is believed that in the past the pillar was part of a drainage system, said an archaeologist. In addition, flower engraved artefacts, about 1,000 years old, are strewn about like the other artefacts, including engraved feminine images (Hasibur Rahman Bilu, Bogra November 30, 2008).


    recently discovered at maynamatiThe biggest assemblage of ancient Buddhist monastic sites can be found on the Mainamati-Lalmai hills. The ruins were discovered during the second world war. As many as 32 important mounds are being protected by the archaeology department in this area. Of these mounds excavations were carried out only on the ruins known as Salban Vihara, Kutila Mura, Charpatra Mura, the Palace and Temple of Queen Mainamati and Ananda Vihara. The Mainamati excavations have yielded an exceptionally rich harvest of valuable antiquities including 11 lengthy copper-plate grants, shorter image inscriptions, over 400 gold, silver and copper coins, innumerable baked-clay and terra cotta ceilings, a panoply of sculptural pieces in stone, bronze and terra cotta, semiprecious stone and terra cotta beads, gold and silver ornaments, copper vessels, earthenware pots, pans and utensils, oil lamps stone dabbler, and a variety of other objects of antiquity and works of art.

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    Structures older than Pala Era found at Paharpur site

    Evidence of the rise of Mahayana Buddhism in Bengal from the 7th century onwards, Somapura Mahavira, or the Great Monastery, was a renowned intellectual centre until the 12th century. Its layout perfectly adapted to its religious function, this monastery-city represents a unique artistic achievement. With its simple, harmonious lines and its profusion of carved decoration, it influenced Buddhist architecture as far away as Cambodia.

    By far the most spectacular Buddhist site to be discovered is the gigantic temple and monastery of Paharpur, dating from the eighth century A.D. Paharpur is about 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Mahasthan via the busy market town of Jaipurhat. Access from Jaipurhat is along a rutted cart track that is sometimes passable in an ordinary car. Paharpur has been identified from a series of inscribed clay seals as the Somapura Vihara from the great Pala Dynasty. It is the biggest single vihara (image house) south of the Himalayas, measuring approximately 900 feet (273 meters) along each side and enclosed by an outer wall with 177 monastic cells built into it. In the center of the 22-acre (nine-hectare) courtyard are the ruins of a mighty temple which rises to a height of 72 feet (22 meters)- an unusual hillock giving the local village of Paharpur its name (pahar meaning 'hill'). The temple is cruciform in plan, built in high quality brick with thousands of terra-cotta plaques depicting the art form of that period, whether it be religious or secular, human or animal, mythological or purely an artist's whim .

    During recent exploratory excavations, an important archaeological find of a large bronze Buddha dating from the Gupta period was accidentally discovered in one of the monks cells. It is considered to be one of the most splendid specimens of mature Pala art of the ninth century, cast using the 'wax loss' process. Paharpur's later history is uncertain but it seems to have been abandoned in the 12th century A.D., probably due to flooding. Today the site is under water during the monsoon.

    Paharpur Buddisst Bihar, the Gupta Dynasty

    the Paharpur world heritage site which they believe belonged to a period even earlier than the site's known time, the Pala Era. The department earlier found several stone statues, including Mithun and Vayu, from the Gupta Dynasty before the recent excavation.

    Archaeology Department Director Dr Md Shafiqul Alam confirmed the recent finds, saying the brick-built structures were found under the foundation of the main temple at Paharpur. He said another structure was found outside the temple area. "These structures confirm that there was a civilization before the Pala Dynasty," he said.

    Mahbubul Alam, assistant custodian of Paharpur site, said an ancient broken terracotta piece was found under the basement of the temple near the newly discovered structure while a decorated brick was found in the lower portion of the northern side of the temple. Meanwhile, archaeologists dug out another brick-built structure from an earth-filled base on top of the 72-feet high temple. They believe the structure was made for beautification.

    Nahid Sultana, custodian of Rabindra Kacharibari Site of Shajadpur in Sirajganj and a member of the Paharpur excavation team, said an almost similar brick-built wall was found outside the temple premises. Both the structures were built with bigger size bricks. According to archaeological documents, at least 53 stone statues have been lying in the wall niches in the lower portion of the temple underground. Thirteen statues have so far been found during several archaeological excavations, according to officials ( Daily Star, March 15, 2008).

  • Paharpur

  • World heritage site left in ruins

    Terracotta artefacts at the Paharpur Buddhist Monastery, a world heritage site, are on the verge of ruination due to sheer negligence of the Department of Archaeology. The Monastery, one of the most important archeological sites in South Asia, was declared as a protected site dates back to 1919 during the British colonial rule.

    Custodian of the ancient site Abdul Latif Pramanik said lack of proper maintenance, shortage of manpower, fund constraint, soil salinity and heavy rainfall contributed to the decay of rare terracotta artworks. “Even the main temple and other artifacts have been eroding day by day due to lack of proper maintenance,” he added.

    King Dharma Pal made the temple dates back to 770-810 century AD, according to the archeological documents. Badrul Alam, field officer of Rajshahi Regional Office in Bogra, said the site was declared as the 'World Heritage Site' in 1985.

    “As many as 2305 terracotta plaques were found in 2004,” said Mahabub-ul-Alam, former custodian of the historical site. A total of 595 terracotta sculptures of the temple completely eroded due to high salinity of the soil, lack of proper maintenance, heavy rainfall and negligence, said a high official of the department.

    At least 1810 rare terracotta figures in the storeroom of the site are now a pile of ruins due to lack of preservation, sources said. Prominent archeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham submitted a report after his visit to the site and other historical sites in India between 1861-1880. He was later made Director General, Archeological Survey India. Terracotta artworks depicted images of man, women, flowers, and animals but most of the images have already worn away while some rare terracotta plaques are now shrouded in thick cobwebs (Daily Star, April 25, 2009).

    Ancient ruins of Mainamoti-Lalmai Hills

    deva dynestyMainamati an isolated ridge of low hills in the eastern margins of deltaic Bangladesh, about 8 km to the west of Comilla town is a very familiar name in our cultural heritage, where archaeological excavations have revealed very significant materials. A landmark of our ancient history, it represents a small mass of quasi-lateritic old alluvium. The ridge, set in the vast expanse of the fertile lower Meghna basin, extends for about 17 km north-south from Mainamati village on the Gumti River to Chandi Mura near the Lalmai railway station. In its widest parts, the ridge is about 4.5 km across and its highest peaks attain a height of about 45 metres. These highlands were once thickly wooded with an abundance of wild life, but modern developments have rudely disturbed its serene and idyllic setting. With an ever-expanding Cantonment at Mainamati, in the northern half of the ridge, and a fast growing township at Kotbari in about its centre, the fairy-tale beauty of the place is already a thing of the past.

    The twin names - Lalmai- Mainamati - of the place have significant link with the past: Lalmai or the southern part is identical with Lalambi-vana of the Chandra epigraphs, while the northern part recalls the name of the legendary Chandra queen 'Maynamati', mentioned in local ballads and folk-songs. The archaeological finds have now established beyond any doubt that the cultural and political centre of ancient Vanga-Samatata (southeast Bengal) was located here. The glory and magnitude of that remarkable past is emphatically manifest in the innumerable monuments, mounds and excavated remains, adequately supplemented by an impressive array of stray finds from the area. Mainamati today is, however, better known for its Buddhist remains exposed by excavations. Here, indeed, lies the greatest assemblage of ancient Buddhist remains in Bangladesh.

    Devaparvata meaning 'the mountain of gods' is the name of an ancient city in samatata. It is situated on the isolated mainamati ridge near comilla. Recent archaeological excavations and explorations in the Mainamati area have revealed its extraordinary historical importance and archaeological wealth. They provide a large variety of epigraphic records, over 400 ancient gold and silver coins, innumerable seals and sealings, an exceptionally rich collection of stone, bronze and terracotta sculptures, an extraordinary variety of architectural treasures and various other objects of art and everyday use - original, authentic and contemporary source materials for reconstructing the long-forgotten history and civilization of this region. Devaparvata is indeed more than a mere city; it is a prominent landmark in the history of the region.

    The early Devas ruled Samatata from its capital at Devaparvata during the 8th and also probably 9th centuries AD. This was a period of unparalleled peace, prosperity and cultural developments, which is amply manifest in the Mainamati excavations. Two of their five inscriptions have so far been deciphered.

    annanda biharThe Calcutta ASB plate of Bhavadeva (originally recovered from ananda vihara) gives a very elaborate and vivid description of Devaparvata and its great river Ksiroda. The city has now gained substantially in stature and glory and its river has become the most sacred. Huge monastic establishments and temples including the famous Ratna-Traya shines began to grow and flourish under the active support and patronage of Deva Kings and the place became really fit for the residence of not only kings but also gods.

    The Discovery During the course of rebuilding the old axial road through these hills in 1875, workers accidentally uncovered the ruins of what at that time was thought to be 'a small brick fort'. It was actually a Buddhist monastery. Some 72 years earlier (1803), from the same area, was discovered the first Mainamati relic, the copperplate of Ranavankamalla Harikaladeva, dated 1220 AD, which records a description of the capital city of Pattikera as 'adorned with forts and monasteries'. The name now survives in the modern Patikara pargana of the locality.

    The Mainamati ruins were rediscovered during the Second World War. While setting up an advance camp, the military came across ancient remains at a number of points in the ridge. In the hurried survey that followed, 18 sites were recognised and protected by the government. In more regular and systematic surveys undertaken between 1955 and 1957, when the entire ridge was undisturbed by human occupation, more than 50 sites were located. Most of those sites lie in the northern half of the ridge, now within the Cantonment. Archaeological excavations started in January 1955. In several phases of excavation of the 50 odd sites nine have so far been exposed. Though the excavations have not yet been completed and have been limited in many respects, the results so far obtained and the information gained provide a sound archaeological basis for the reconstruction of the history and culture of the early period of this hitherto obscure region.

    Excavated Sites Most important among the excavated sites is shalvan vihara, which lies about the middle of the ridge in the vicinity of the present day Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) at Kotbari. Excavations have exposed a large paharpur type Buddhist monastery and a wealth of material objects datable from the 7th to 12th centuries AD. The discoveries from the site include eight inscribed copperplates, about 400 gold and silver coins, many terracotta and baked clay seals and sealings, a large number of sculptural specimens in stone, bronze and terracotta found in situ or otherwise. The grand monastery together with its central shrine was built by Shri Bhavadeva, the fourth ruler of the early deva dynasty of devaparvata, sometime towards the end of the 7th or early 8th century AD.

    At kutila mura, the highest mound in the northeastern part of the ridge near ananda vihara, were unearthed the most attractive monuments in Mainamati The excavated monuments include three principal stupas and a number of subsidiary chapels and chaitya-halls built around them, all of which were enclosed by a massive boundary wall. Interesting and intricate structural forms and decorative styles have been preserved at the site. Excavations have not yet been completed here; the monastery in the northern end and two grand stupas in two wings of the site remain to be cleared yet. The excavated evidence suggests 7th century AD as the date of the beginning of these monuments. The site continued to be occupied till the 13th century AD as indicated by an Abbasid gold coin recovered from an upper level of the site.

    charpatra mura is an interesting small site, situated in the northern part of the ridge in about the centre of the Cantonment area, where was uncovered the remains of a small Hindu temple dated in the Chandra period (10th-11th century AD). It is one of the earliest known examples of Hindu temple architecture in Bangladesh. Four copperplates were discovered in this monument and hence the name Charpatra (four plates) Mura.

    Largest among the Mainamati monuments is the Ananda Vihara. Situated in the archaeologically rich Kotbari central area, it represents a huge religious-cum-educational establishment of viharas, stupas and chapels all around. Together with the largest water tank in the area, this Vihara complex was built by Shri Anandadeva, the third ruler of the early Deva dynasty, sometime at the end of the 7th or beginning of the 8th century AD. Military contractors and brick hunters damaged this great establishment with its central shrine beyond recognition in 1944-45. Subsequently, the process of Cantonment building seriously affected the site. Excavations carried out here for a few seasons in the late seventies on a limited scale were incomplete in nature.

    Next to Shalvan Vihara and Ananda Vihara, the third most important and extensive monastic establishment in Mainamati is the bhoja vihara, situated almost in the centre of the Kotbari area adjacent to BARD. A huge water tank lies on its east. Excavations have revealed the outlines of a square monastery with a large cruciform shrine in the centre of its open courtyard, very similar to Shalvan Vihara and Ananda Vihara.

    Queen 'Maynamati's Palace Mound is the largest and highest mound in the northern extremity of the ridge near to the village that still bears the name of the queen, just east of Brahmanbaria road. The site is traditionally associated with the legendary Chandra queen Mainamati, mother of the last-known Chandra king, govindachandra. Excavations on a limited scale have uncovered here parts of a massive defense wall round different parts of the site, probably a citadel, and the corner of a substantial structure, probably a palace, at the centre of the site. This is probably the only site in Mainamati that has revealed structures of secular nature. rupban mura, an important site, lies on a hillock between modern BARD and BDR establishments in the Kotbari area on the south of the Comilla-Kalirbazar road. Excavations have revealed here the remains of a remarkable semi-cruciform shrine together with other subsidiary structures. Deep diggings have revealed three main periods of building and rebuilding, the earliest of which correspond to c.6th - 7th centuries AD. Very little of the last period remains (10th - 11th centuries AD) survive now in this very heavily disturbed site. Significant discoveries from the site include, besides the colossal stone Buddha, five debased gold coins of Balabhatta, the Khadga ruler.

    rupbahn muraRupban Mura an important archaeological site of mainamati lying on a hillock just between the modern BARD and BDR establishments in the Kotbari area on the south of the Comilla-Kalirbazar road. Excavations have revealed here the remains of a remarkable semi-cruciform shrine of medium size (28.2m east - west, 28m north - south), together with a number of subsidiary structures, including an octagonal stupa and another one on a square base. A boundary wall within the oblong stupa courtyard encloses all these. Its regular entrance is on the east, facing the monastery entrance. Deep diggings have revealed three main periods of building and repairs and rebuilding, the earliest corresponding to c.6th-7th centuries AD. Very few remains of the latest period (10th-11th century AD) survive now in this very heavily disturbed site.

    The archaeological remains of itakhola mura lie in three terraces on the hillock opposite to the Rupban Mura site across the Kotbari road. It served for long as a quarry for old bricks and hence the name. Excavations have revealed here a grand stupa complex with an attached monastery to its north. Of the five cultural phases the earlier three lie buried underneath the later remains. Mentionable antiquities from the site, besides the stucco image, are three round pellets of solid gold (19 tolas) and a copperplate, which is still to be deciphered.

    Just near the Mainamati Bus Stop, north of the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, lies mainamati mound 1a, where limited excavations have revealed six long walls, straight and cross roads, gateways and other scant remains. The non-religious and secular features of the remains suggest the existence of a garrison barrack (?) here.

    Unexcavated Sites Among the many unexcavated sites, mention may be made of the Bairagir Mura, a medium sized high mound directly to the west of Kutila Mura in the Cantonment. Brickbats, potsherds and fragments of stone images found scattered on the surface strongly indicate its archaeological importance. The site has been badly damaged by the construction of two huge water tanks on its top for water supply to the Cantonment. A number of objects were discovered during construction work; only two (dated in the Chandra period) have found their place into the local museum - the lower part of an inscribed colossal stone image standing on a lotus throne, and the bronze life-size head of a Bodhisattva image.

    The discovery of a colossal bronze bell, large dressed stone square blocks (presumably pillar bases), one copperplate, and one stone plaque inscriptions, and a number of bronze and terracotta sculptures clearly indicate the importance of the Rupban Kanya Mura, situated in the middle of the Kotbari area. But the site has now been levelled to accommodate the parade ground and garages of the Cantonment.

    The Kotbari Mound showed clear traces of a Shalvan Vihara type monastery with a cruciform shrine in the centre. A grand mosque and its attached graveyard have taken over the site.

    Pakka Mura is an important unexcavated site (274m by 91m, 15m high) on the western edge of the ridge, about a mile and a half southwest of the Kotbari ruins. The importance of the site lies in its subsequent extension to its lower base on the west, presumably after the river had dried out or changed its course. A part of the silted up riverbed was turned into a huge water reservoir called Tara Dighi, the deeper central part of which has now been turned into two modern tanks. While constructing the larger tank, about two acres in size, two interesting black stone images of Visnu, one life-size and the other slightly smaller, showing mature Sena-Deva characteristics, were found. Among other associated finds most significant is a copperplate inscription of Dasharathadeva (13th century), son and successor of Damodaradeva of the later Deva dynasty.

    The extensive high mound on the western edge of the ridge, about 2.5 km to the northwest of the southernmost site of Chandi Mura, locally known as Rupban Mura, had visible structural remains in the shape of a circular dome at the top of the mound. Removal of bricks by local inhabitants has already caused destruction of the exposed structural remains. The site has the potential of yielding important remains.

    At the extreme southern end of the ridge, about 1.6 km to the northwest of Lalmai railway station, is a prominent mound (457m by 183m, 18m high), locally called Chandi Mura. The site derives its name from the twin temples of Chandi built on the summit of the mound, some 250 years back by a Maharaja of Tripura. The archaeological character of the site is undisturbed; the mound probably contains the remains of a large temple. The top of the mound was badly damaged, first by the construction of the Chandi temples, and later by modern constructions undertaken by people associated with the temples. However, the archaeological remains at the lower levels may still be intact.

    Among other unexcavated sites, mention may be made of Mainamati Mound 2, Abbas Ali Mura, Station Commander's Residence, Hatigara Mound, Ujirpur Mound, Ghila Mura and Balaghazir Mura. All these sites have yielded evidence of remains of archaeological importance. Most of these sites are now in bad shape due to willful or unwillful negligence of the people occupying the mounds or their neighbourhood.

    Antiquities The Mainamati excavations have yielded an exceptionally rich harvest of valuable antiquities including twelve copperplate grants and shorter image-inscriptions, over 400 gold and silver coins, innumerable terracotta and clay seals and sealings, some Neolithic stone axes and chisels, a large collection of stone, bronze, stucco and terracotta sculptures, stone and terracotta beads, gold, silver and bronze ornaments, decorative terracotta and architectural pieces, metal and earthenware pots, pans, vases and utensils, oil lamps and a variety of other objects of everyday use. The majority of these objects comes from Shalvan Vihara, the most systematically excavated site. Together, they contribute significantly to our knowledge of ancient Vanga-Samatata, covering a period of about seven hundred years from the 6th to 13th centuries AD.

    No fewer than twelve copperplate grants have been recovered from the excavations, which throw most welcome light on the history, culture, society, and economy of southeastern Bengal. Among the many short dedicatory or votive inscriptions the few bearing the original name of Shalvan Vihara and its royal builder are very significant.

    Mentionable among the numismatic finds are a few Gupta and post-Gupta imitation gold coins, a rare silver coin of shashanka, about a dozen gold coins of the Khadga ruler Balabhatta, few Arakanese and hundreds of harikela and 'Akara' dynasty coins, and one gold, and a few silver coins of Abbasid Caliphs.

    The sculptural finds in stone, bronze, stucco and terracotta represent the largest single group of antiquities other than pottery. Stone sculptures are rare, but include a fine stucco sculpture though damaged, it is an interesting specimen. The bronzes primarily represent religious art and show a perplexing variety of iconographic types, revealing the gradual transformation of the popular faith Mahayana to Tantric and ultimately to polytheistic forms in which Buddhism became inextricably mixed with Hindu and aboriginal elements. The sculptured terracotta plaques are the most numerous, attractive and representative of local folk art. They are remarkable both for their crude but vigorous style and local characteristics.

    About a dozen ground and polished narrow-butted hand-axes and chisels, mainly of fossil wood, have been recovered from the excavations. Recent explorations have uncovered a few Neolithic settlements in the southern part of the Mainamati ridge. The collected specimens must have originally come from there. They show clear affinity with the Neolithic industries of West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

    Mainamati excavations have, thus, thrown a flood of light on almost every aspect of the life and culture of the southeastern part of Bengal. It has supplied detailed information regarding the social, political and economic condition of the region and has led to the discovery of the remarkable early Deva dynasty and of Balabhatta, the founder of Devaparvata. It has settled a number of historical and geographical questions, for instance, concerning the extent and bounds of Samatata, the location of Devaparvata, Pattikera and Lalambi-vana, and the situation of Harikela. More important, with the studies and analysis of terracotta and the classification and sequence dating of the pottery types and other common objects, Mainamati has now provided set a workable basis for further investigations and research in the field. Mainamati finds have no doubt broadened the horizon of our understanding of our past.

    The primary significance of this collection lies in the fact that it represents the only available authentic and contemporary stratified materials from southeast Bengal that provide for the first time a dependable archaeological basis for the reconstruction of the history and civilisation of this region of Bengal. (M Harunur Rashid]

    MoinamotiA rough date between 7-13th AD is assigned to the ancient ruins of Mainamoti-Lalmai hills in Comilla. Interestingly this archeological marvel even contains traces of pre-historic life with a number or fossils found in the Lalmai region. According to Imam Abu in Excavations At Mainamoti: An Exploratory Study, this area during the making of the Mainamoti monasteries, was known as Samatata, or eastern-Bengal, and the capital was Devaparvata, also referred to as Pattikera. Mainamoti was the name of the queen Maynamati (Madanavati), wife of Manikchandra, ruler of the Chandra dynasty who ruled in the 10-11th AD.

    Maynamati-Gopichandrer Gan is the story of Queen Maynamati and her husband, Manik Chandra, which propagates yoga-guidelines. Queen Maynamati, who was a disciple of Goraksanath, advised Manik Chandra to renounce the temporal world through accepting the life of sannyas (asceticism). Manik Chandra refused to listen to his wife and died prematurely. The queen then advised her son, Gopichandra, to accept the path of asceticism under the guidance of Hadipa, a stable sweeper. Gopichandra listened to his other and became Hadipa's disciple and lived the life of an ascetic for twelve years. Gopichandra had learned a number of magic tricks during his sannyas and, after returning home, he entertained his wives with these tricks. Hadipa rebuked his disciple, at which Gopichandra grew angry and, at the advice of his wives, buried his master alive. Kanupa, a disciple of Hadipa, rescued his master. Gopichandra repented and renounced his kingdom permanently and became a saint.

    Nath Literature medieval bangla literature, based on the Nath cult or yoga-sadhana, and part of the ancient religious heritage of India. The main god of the Naths is shiva, who is also called Adinath. The five Nath siddhas (or enlightened ones), Minanath, Goraksanath, Hadipa, Kanupa and Chauranginath, are described as having been born from different parts of the body of Adinath. Nath literature was of two types, didactic and narrative. Didactic literature was in the form of doha, prahelika or chara, where secrecy was observed with the abundant use of code words and sentences. Instructive doha or verses by Kanupa and Jalandharipa are to be found in Charyagitikos. Other dohas are included in collections such as Goraksa-Sanghita and Yogachintamani. Minanath and Goraksanath left no individual texts. Goraksanath's compositions were mainly oral.

    Narrative Nath literature was based on legends and stories about the siddhas. The aim of the stories was to attract people to the cult. Narrative Nath literature follows dohas by about two centuries. Perhaps the most popular of these tales and legends was goraksavijay. Raja Manik Chandrer Git, Maynamatir Gan, and gopichandrer gan are different versions of the same story. Apart from Bangla, versions of these stories are available in different Indian languages such as Hindi, Oriya, Marathi, Gujrati, Nepali, and Tibetan. Goraksa-Vijay is based on the contrast between Goraksanath, the perfect yogi, and his guru Minanath, who went astray. Minanath was cursed twice in his life: once, when in the shape of a fish at Jalatungi he secretly listened to the mahajnan recited by Shiva and the second time when he was attracted to Shiva's wife, Gauri. He was punished for listening to the mahajnan by losing his memory. For his second offence he was forced to spend an immoral life surrounded by 1600 women in Kadali. Minanath was rescued by his disciple Goraksanath in the guise of a female dancer.

    Gopichandrer Gan famous Nath poem, based on the life of Prince Gopichandra of Meherkul. This poem, which was once very popular in north-eastern India, is an allegory describing the true yogic way of sannyas (life of a saint). On the advice of his ascetic mother, Maynamati, Gopichandra became a disciple of the sage, Hadipa. After twelve years of ascetic life, Gopichandra returned home. However, he did not understand the true implication of yoga and used the magical skills he had learned to amuse his wives. Hadipa became annoyed at this misuse of yogic lore. Gopichandra realized his mistake and rectified his ways. Finally understanding the meaning of yoga, he permanently accepted sannyas. The story is familiar to Bengalis under three names: Maynamatir Gan, Govindachandrer Git and Gopichandrer Sannyas. The three poets who are associated with these versions are Durlabh Mallick, Bhabani Das and Sukur Mohammad.

    She was a famous yogic scholar and many famous Bangla ballads are sung in her honor. The ruins lie about 8 km from the main city, the hills sloping up and down a region that is now interspersed with the BARD and cantonment area, along with markets and the general hullabaloo of a bustling town. This area was home to intense Buddhist activities, visited by scholar and traveler Hiuen Tsang in the 7th century AD who found 70 monasteries, about 2000 Buddhist monks and an Ashoka stupa from the 2nd century BC. The likes of such an establishment are unparalleled, even in India's Nalanda ruins. However, an additive to its mysterious past is the fact that no Tibetan text acknowledges its presence! Or we just never found them.

    The main part of Mainamoti that is flashed on covers of any brochure or travel documentary of Bangladesh, is actually one of the many mounds that were mapped, and only 1 out of 9 other excavated. This is the Salbon Vihara, (Vihara means Monastery) possibly named due to the presence of Sal trees, of which I forced myself to believe I could still spot a few. The remains of a bygone monastery reveal the typical structure of the ones found in Paharpur and the famous Nalanda ruins in Bihar, India. The reason why this particular site is so famous is because it is the only one thoroughly excavated and shows the perfect cruciform design, (following the popular style as Angkor Wat or other Javan, Burmese sites of those days) a crucifix shaped structure, than the other sites excavated.

    The structure is built of red brick and if its presence bang in the middle of a huge vast and empty plot is not enough to give one an eerie feeling, the staircases leading to nowhere are a sure winner. These may have led to a terrace but archaeologists are not entirely sure. However this main building is not the only resident of the Mainamoti ruins. Other similar stupas stretch across the Lalmai hills and most of them follow the same basic structure of a cruciform temple, except for Itakhola Mura, (Mura means Mound) which is also well known for housing the largest headless Stucco (plaster) image found in Bangladesh. The other major site of interest to historians and any lover of archaeology would be the Kutila Mura, where three stupas are found side by side representing the Buddhist "Trinity" or three jewels i.e. the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The first cruciform structure however was detected in Rupban Mura, where the famous sandstone Buddha was discovered. This image demonstrates Gupta influence, which means it was most probably installed in the 7th century. The statue has a final resting home in the Mainamoti museum right next to the Salbon Vihar site.

    The Terracotta plaques found in Ananda Vihar are fashioned after similar ones found in Burma, Siam and Java, depicting carvings of divine, semi-divine human & animal forms. The plaques are also on display in the Mainamoti museum, but interestingly, do not try to read too much into them, since when excavated, the archaeologists noticed adjoining plaques were not related to one another. However, plaques from other sites depict an interesting medley of scenes from everyday life. The other winner of a find housed in the museum is the bronze Vajrasattva from Bhoja vihara sitting at 1.5 m high, in the typical position of a Boddhisatva.

    However, one first needs to overcome the overpowering feeling that there is still enormous scope for discovery at the Mainamoti ruins, where lack of funding and neglect make things worse. To be casually viewing a place which was once the hub of all Buddhist religious activities, with a string of dynasties ruling it and an entire infrastructure of management personnel, catering to the needs of the students and visitors alike, among the many other everyday activities that went on, is a very overwhelming feeling to return with. A feeling that nonetheless instills a veritable amount of pride in our rich past (Daily Star, november 10, 2006)



    Mainnamati was once a self-contained Buddhist monastery where, a thousand years ago, monks lived, studied and prayed. Its square shape - sides measuring 169 metres - was surrounded by a wall 3 metres thick with only one entrance. The monks lived in 115 tiny rooms laid out along the square's edges; they prayed at a central temple. Standing on top of the temple's remains, I could see all these and more.

    An ancient Buddhist civilisation preceded Muslims, Hindus and British in Bangladesh. Remains of this civilisation are spread nationwide; the ones in Mainamati are probably closest to Dhaka. The ruins lie northwest of Comilla, to the right of the highway. It took us three hours from Dhaka to reach the main attraction: Shalban Bihar and its adjoining museum.

    Originally, the monastery was called Bhavadev Bihar after the king, but today the Shalban name comes from a grove of Shal (shorea robusta) trees just outside. You can relax in this peaceful grove while sipping tea. The adventurous can even enjoy a horseback ride

    Behind Mainamati's idyllic setting is a sad story.

    During the Second World War, the British military decided to build an airport in Comilla. Their contractors discovered an unexpected windfall: they could get all the bricks they needed for construction from ancient ruins in nearby Mainamati hills. Thus Comilla's airport and British military buildings were made from thousand year old bricks. The plunder was stopped when a government Archaeology official heard about it but by then much damage was done.

    Indeed, bricks intrude my thoughts as my friends and I explore Shalban Bihar. Their size and relatively new condition remind me that reconstruction has taken place. Reconstructing ancient structures to their original specification is common in many sites including Angkor Wat and even parts of Rome. This is called Anastylosis. While I admire the splendid large-scale job done here, part of me longs for a few imperfections. (Ihtisham Kabir, Daily Star, December 17, 2011)

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    2.1 Lotus Buddhist temple of the 7th century AD at Kamrabo, Dhupirtek of the Narshingd

    On March 2010, fresh discovery of a Lotus Buddhist temple of the 7th century AD at Kamrabo, Dhupirtek of the Narshingdi district reconfirmed the archaeological importance of the area. After excavation work was started in 2000 by the archaeological team of Jahangirnagar University, headed by Prof Sufi Mostafizur Rahman, discovery of a number of century old brick structures and artifacts were made. This proved the existence of an ancient, powerful nation; a well planned fortified city, where there was trade and commerce. It was however a schoolteacher of the village named Wari in Belabo, Narshingdi, who first realised the historical significance of the treasures hidden underground. The relentless effort of Mohammad Hanif Pathan and his son Habibullah Pathan in collection of these artifacts and persuading experts of the field for further research unravels yet another story.

    It was like any other day for Mohammad Hanif Pathan, a teacher of Bengali, walking towards his home at Wari, a village in the Narshingdi district of Bangladesh. The year was 1933. He stopped, hearing the sounds of a commotion coming from a group of labourers who were digging the earth in a field nearby. They had found an earthen hoard underground and breaking it open brought out thousands of silver punch marked coins. The educated eyes of Pathan quickly realised the importance of the coins and he collected a few from the labourers. Returning home, he sent the news to “Shaptahik Mohammadi” a newspaper that was published from Kolkata at that time, under the heading “Prachin Mudra Prapti” (Discovery of historical coins).

    It was the beginning of the Pathan family's relentless endeavour to unearth the history of ancient Bangladesh and bring it to the public's attention. Although copper plates with inscriptions had been found in the Narshingdi region at another village called Ashrafpur in1885, no further exploration or excavation was carried out immediately. Nevertheless, the inscription in the copper plates was deciphered by experts and identified as that of Raja Devakhadga who had donated land for four Vihara and Viharikas (Buddhist Monasteries) in the region. Similar plates found later in Mynamati Vihara confirmed the time frame of the plates of Ashrafpur, Chakbari as that of seventh century AD The punch marked silver coins received similar treatment. Nalinikanta Bhattashali, the first curator of Bangladesh National Museum, studied the coins found in another village of Narshingdi named Marjal by the bank of Arial Kha River and identified two series of coins. One series belonged to the pre-Mauryan period and the other to the Mauryan era. He recorded his findings in 1942. Yet again, archaeologists of the British and Pakistan period did not venture to explore the Narshingdi region in search of the early history of Bengal.

    Prof Emeritus Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti, of South Asian Archaeology Department at Cambridge University, was a visiting professor at Jahangirnagar University in 1989. He then visited Wari-Bateshwar and for the first time the region received an expert opinion about its importance in Chakrabarti's book “Ancient Bangladesh: A Study of Archaeological Sources” which was published in 1992. His student Professor Sufi Mostafizur Rahman of Jahangirnagar University explored the area in 1996 and immediately felt the need for intensive excavation. “In archaeology, there is no alternative to excavation. Although Pathan had done a lot of work, he could not carry out any professional digging; as a result people did not accept his theories. However, excavation brings out evidence in a systematic, methodical way and people will have to accept it then,” says Prof Sufi.

    In 2000, excavation work was started after mapping 48 sites in the Madhupur tract of the Narshingdi district. Soon discoveries of artifacts and mud and brick structures were made. artifacts included, semiprecious stones beads, terracotta, punch marked silver coins, broken parts of black-and red earthenware, knobbed ware, rouletted ware and northern black polished ware. Large structures found in the region included a 180-metre long, 6-metre wide and 21-35 cm thick road with a by-lane. Recent excavation also unearthed a brick made structure shaped as an inverted pyramid. Among other interesting discoveries a pit dwelling, an underground complex for habitation was found which consisted of a separate sleeping quarter, hearth and granary. Besides, brick walls were often found in different places including Ashrafpur. The most recent findings include a Lotus Buddhist temple at Kamrabo, Dhupirtek.

    To determine the age of the archaeological sites two methods had been used absolute and relative dating. Absolute dating or Carbon-14 dating could not be carried out in our country. As a result, charcoal samples extracted from the dig were sent to Netherlands's Centrum Voor Isotopen Onderzoek, which does archaeological laboratory testing. Carbon-14 is a naturally radioactive carbon isotope with atomic mass 14 and a half-life of 5,730 years, used in determining the age of ancient organic specimens. With improved technology, this method can calculate the age of an object as old as 100,000 years. Centrum Voor Isotopen Onderzoek confirmed the age of the charcoal to be of 450 BC.

    Therefore the age of the layer at which the charcoal was found could be claimed as about twenty-five hundred years old. The discovery of Black-and-Red Ware, Northern Black Polished Ware, and punch marked silver coins of Janapada and Imperial series at different layers of excavation had been used to fix the relative chronology of the sites. Previous archaeological studies had already established Black- and-Red ware as being characteristic of the Chalcolithic era, referring to 1900 BC - 700 BC. Similarly, Northern Black Polished Ware refers to a time period of 600 BC to 100 BC. The punched marked silver coins could be categorised into two series; the Janapada ones belonging to pre-Mauryan era (600 BC to 400 BC) and the Imperial ones belonging to the Mauryan period (400 BC to 200 BC). The layers of the site at which these artifacts were found can therefore be deduced of the same time period.

    The Archaeological foundation of ancient India” published in 2006. He said that Wari- Bateshwar could be Souanagoura, a prosperous town of the east described by Greek scholar Ptolemy, which had trading ties with the Mediterranean. Amulet, knobbed ware and painted ware threw some light on the religious practice of the people of the Wari-Bateshwar civilisation. According to Ian Glover, Emeritus Reader in Southeast Asian Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London, knobbed ware, whether made of bronze, stone or pottery, were not used in household chores but served a certain religious purpose. The raised centre and the circles surrounding centre resembled the concentric pattern of the Mandala, a Buddhist sacred art form. The discovery of knobbed ware, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, at the 3rd and 4th century BC layer also carried important implication for the history of Buddhism in Bengal. The recent discovery of the Padma Mandir (Lotus Temple) also implied the practice of Buddhism in the region.

    The Janapada series of Wari-Bateshwar coins have given even more exciting leads. Prof Sufi Mostafizur Rahman says that the coins indicate that the region was one of the Mahajanapadas mentioned in ancient Buddhist and Jain texts.

    According to Dilip K Chakrabarti's argument, the Mahajanapada of Wari-Bateshwar was part of the Samatata civilisation, which, so far had been identified with the ancient civilisation of the Comilla- Mynamati region. Prof Sufi explains that although the history of Samatata started from the 7th century AD in Bangladesh, King Samudragupta, who ruled in the 4th century AD, had mentioned the term Samatata in his Allahabad inscription. He could not have done so had there been no such nation. “Still, there is a missing link of approximately 700 years. If the Mahajanapada civilisation started in Wari-Bateshwar in the 6th century BC and flourished till the 1st century BC, what happened within the 1st century BC to 7th century AD is yet to be discovered,” said Sufi. Commenting on the volume of work that needs to be carried out Prof Sufi adds,“We have completed only a infinitesimal fraction of a humungous excavation and research work.”

    Prof Sufi Mostafizur Rahman says that the coins indicate that the region was one of the Mahajanapadas mentioned in ancient Buddhist and Jain texts. According to Dilip K Chakrabarti's argument, the Mahajanapada of Wari-Bateshwar was part of the Samatata civilisation, which, so far had been identified with the ancient civilisation of the Comilla- Mynamati region.

    Prof Sufi explains that although the history of Samatata started from the 7th century AD in Bangladesh, King Samudragupta, who ruled in the 4th century AD, had mentioned the term Samatata in his Allahabad inscription. He could not have done so had there been no such nation.

    “Still, there is a missing link of approximately 700 years. If the Mahajanapada civilisation started in Wari-Bateshwar in the 6th century BC and flourished till the 1st century BC, what happened within the 1st century BC to 7th century AD is yet to be discovered,” said Sufi. Commenting on the volume of work that needs to be carried out Prof Sufi adds,“We have completed only a infinitesimal fraction of a humungous excavation and research work.” (Tamanna Khan, Daily Star, May 20, 2010)

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    3. THE PALAS (750-1161 AD)

    In 750 AD Gopala was elected the king of Gaur. This led to foundation of the Pala dynasty in Bengal. Gopala ( reign 750-775) was succeeded by his son Dharmapala (reign 775-810). Devapala (reign 810-850) ascended the throne after his father. All the three consolidated their positions in Bengal and the surrounding regions making the Palas one of the most powerful dynasties of this period. The reign of Narayanpala (reign 854-908) witnessed the beginning of the dynasty's decline. Mahipala I's (reign 977-1027) reign saw a period of ascendacy for the Pala power. Although Mahipala I regained control of large parts of lost territories, he was defeated by the Chola king from southern India. A series of lost wars and internal dissensions weakened the Palas and consequently various independent kingdoms were established in Bengal. Rampala's reign (1077-1133) saw some consolidation of the Pala hold in Bengal. Madanpala (1143-1161) is considered to be the last of the Pala kings. The other important dynasty in Bengal at this time included the Chandras in south Bengal. It may be noted here that the Palas and the Chandras were Buddhists.

    Prospects of eco-tourism and Buddhist heritage tourism in Bangladesh

    THE SENAS (1095-1260 AD)

    The Senas were originally from Karnat. The first Sena king Hemantasena ascended the throne in 1095 AD and was probably one of the petty rulers under the Pala king Rampala. The Senas were Hindus and Hindu traditions became stronger and prevalent in their kingdom. After Rampala's death, it is assumed that Hemantasena probably established independent rule. Under his son Vijaysena (reign 1096-1159) the Senas became one of the important powers in Bengal. In 1158, Ballalsena ascended the throne. He conquered Gaur (from the Palas).
    Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen, a leading historian, noted that a time when Bengalis sailed the seas and excellent in sea trade, sea travel was banned by the Hindu Sena rulers. Before Bengal was connected with Java, Bali and Sumatra by sea-. The Sena kings banned sea journey for fear of losing Hindu control and influence. Bengal remained trapped during Sena period.

    Sonargao, capital  of Bengal

    Northern India had by this time fallen to the Turkish invaders from Central Asia. In 1203/1204, Muhammed Bakhtiyar Khilji, a Turkish general, attacked Nabadwip. Laxmansena was defeated but he managed to escape. After his death, his sons Vishwarupsena and Keshavsena ruled and were the last important Sena rulers. The Deva dynasty, which ruled in eastern Bengal, was probably the last independent Hindu dynasty of Bengal. Their capital is believed to be in Sonargaon (near present day Dhaka).

    The period of the Palas and the Senas witnessed the growth of Bengali language. Joydev (12th century), the famous poet of Bengal, was one of the Pancharatnas in the court of Laxmansena. Joydev composed the Geeta Govinda one of the first literary works in Bengali language.

    Durga Puja (worship) - Victory over the Ugliness and Terror

    The Hindu tradition, followed by over 900 million people today, is one of the oldest and the richest, and most influential traditions on earth. Whatever sphere of the human mind one selects for study whether it be language, customs, art, ancient sciences, polity, literature, architecture, painting or music-one has to look to this heritage, because some of the most valuable and insightful materials in the history of humankind are encompassed within this tradition. For example, Ayurveda, Yoga, Dhyana, Astronomy, Astrology, Vegetarian experiments and Spiritual Disciplines have all been of continuous interest and much sought after by people cutting across all national and religious barriers.

    The Hindu tradition does not derive from any one prophet or founder. It has neither a uniform creed nor any organized church. Its history and prehistory are ageless. The Vedas, which are the scriptures of the Hindus, are unique in character. We find in the Vedas a great variety of subjects and a great flexibility of doctrines. For example, there are several interpretations of the Upanishads, Brahmasutras and the Bhagavadgita, and they are all considered authoritative.

    This is the result of freedom from dogma. Man has created such an environment that it reacts unwholesomely upon him. Mankind is terribly heading as if towards a total annihilation by committing licentious suicide. Heart rendering cry for peace happiness and poise is heard from all corners of this bewildered world. The state of affairs resembles that of the Devas in the reign of Mahisasura. In the course of the eternal strife of the Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons), the former being defeated the latter reigned supreme in the heaven inflicting inhuman suffering to the Devas The helpless Devas came to Brahma, the creator of their distress, led the commission of the Gods to Vishnu and Shiva for appraisal of the grave situation and redress.

    The tales of intolerable atrocities of Mashisasura raged vehement anger in Vishnu and Shiva and in a feat of this their vital energies in the form of burning flashes came out from them. This created similar reaction among the Gods whose vital energies too came out in like manner. These energies took the form of an unmatchable, sublime and superb woman. She is Divine Durga. This Divine-embodiment of all spiritual energies had decoration with the numerous weapons offered by the Gods. Thus descends the Divine mother, the Supreme Being. Energy incarnate who embodies in herself the multifarious modes of life. She happens to be too affectionate to Her Children to become fierce to those who tend to do evil to them. On the other hand Durga is also daughter of Bengali Hindu.

    durgaDurga is the progenitor of the universal process in its entirety. She is the presiding principle of the cosmic manifestation and the source of ultimate goal of all perfection and attainment of all existence She is essentially Unique and One. She is the fountain-head of the highest good both spiritual attainment and material prosperity. The worship of the Mother Durga would ensure our communion with her. The constant communion universal fraternity. We pray to the Divine Mother for succor to save us from a confused world order (P. R. Dev, October20, 2004).

    The essence of this deepest layer of Hindu religious conduct is conveyed in a prayer to the Goddess Durga : "O great Goddess Durga thou art fame, thou art prosperity, thou art steadiness, thou art success, thou art knowledge, thou art intellect; and as I bow to thee ... O Supreme Goddess grant me protection."

    The devotional songs in our culture -- the devotional approach to the divine -- place the devotee himself in relation to the Godhead as a child to his parent; he seeks forgiveness for transgressions and tries to evoke the parental response. To give two illustrations: the first a short poem by Saint Kabir of fifteenth century: " Mother, I am your child why not forgive my faults?...Kabir says, it is evident child's unhappiness is the mother's pain." Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam also wrote quite a considerable number of devotional songs i.e. Shyama sangit. The second is by the Bengali poet and saint Ramprosad: "O Mother! my desires are unfulfilled, my hopes are ungratified; but my life is fast coming to an end. Let me call thee, Mother, for the last time; come and take me in thy arms ..." The attributes of the child ( a devotee) emphasised are his yearning for infinite and unconditional love, the wish for a forgiving acceptance of his imperfections and his search for the Mother's responsive blessing.

    The conception of which Devi Durga is made is the stuff of eternal challenge and fight and victory over the ugliness and terror that forms the morass of the world out of which like the lotus from slush the beauty of the good arises.

    According to Vedanta on Vedas (the paramount scriptures of the Hindus) consists of three propositions. First, that man's real nature is divine. Secondly, that the aim of human life is to realise this divine nature. Thirdly, that all religions are essentially in agreement. A little elaboration will make the propositions clearer. What does it mean that man's real nature is divine? Vedanta asserts that the Universe, which is perceived by our senses, is only an appearance.Man's sole aim should be to realize himself, the divinity in him, which is atman (soul), and the Supreme Godhead is the Paramatman (pronounced as Paramatma), and enjoy unlimited ananda or ecstasy. This realization will make any human being sublime and liberate him from the bondage of the cycle of birth and rebirth, meaning that he undergoes eternal salvation.

    Bangladesh is a homogenous society and a monolingual nation, a great strength that is seldom utilised to our advantage, but is often manipulated to divide the nation into religious groups.

    Goddess Durga who is usually called by Hindus as "Ma Durga" is worshipped by Hindus in Bangladesh, all over India and around the globe annually usually in the month of Ashwina/Kartika and Falguna as per Bengali calendar corresponding to September - October and February - March respectively of Gregorian calendar. However, Durga Puja held in September - October is the greatest festival of North Eastern India and Bengali Hindus in Bangladesh and other parts of the world. According to Hindu mythology, goddess Durga is one of many forms of 'Shakti' or Power and the consort of Lord Shiva. She was created, for the purpose of slaying the buffalo-demon Mahisasura, out of flames and flashes of light ensued from the mouths of Brahma, Bishnu, Shiva (Maheshwara) - Trinity and other gods and goddesses. She was born fully grown and beautiful; nevertheless presented herself a fiercely menacing form to the demons. She is depicted in painting and sculpture riding a lion with 10 arms, each holding the special weapon of one or another of the gods, who gave them to her for her battle against the buffalo-demon.

    Durga, the originator of the universal process in its entirety, is praised and worshipped in the last five days of Durga Puja, a festival specially set-aside for her:

    "O great goddess Durga,
    thou art fame, thou art prosperity, thou art steadiness, thou art success, thou art knowledge, thou art intellect;
    and as I bow to thee …
    O supreme goddess, grant me protection".

    During the Durga Puja (Rite of Durga), special idols of goddess Durga commemorating her victory over the buffalo-headed demon surrounded by gods Kartikeya, Ganesha, and goddesses Saraswati and Lakshmi, are worshipped daily during 'Navaratra', a festival of nine days, particularly from Shasthi to Navami (6th to 9th day) and on the 10th day, Dashahara, are taken in jubilant processions to nearby rivers or reservoirs for immersion in water.

    Durga Puja is not only a religious festival but it has strong social dimension - message of Hinduism, that is, the message of love for mankind, compassion for all living beings, respect for all religions and peace that Hinduism and Durga Puja have been propagating for ages, will reverberate during the Durga Puja and beyond and devotees will focus on the social aspect equally well, as one of the basic tenets of Hinduism, to make it more cosmopolitan and meaningful to the followers of other religions

    Sri Ramakrishna Paramahangsa, who is regarded by Hindus as one of the incarnations of God, followed the scriptures of all major religions, including Islam and realised the same God. Mahendranath Gupta, Headmaster of a renowned high school in Calcutta (Kolkata), recorded everything, which was said and done in his presence by Ramakrishna and his disciples. The result is a very large volume of religious biography known in English as The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. The book states that his appetite for spiritual experience in all its forms was insatiable. "Cake tastes nice", he used to say, "Whichever way you eat it". In 1866, people saw him practising the disciplines of Islam, dressing as a Muslim and repeating the name of Allah, under the direction of a Muslim teacher. Eight years later, he became fascinated by the personality of Jesus. The Bible was read aloud to him. He went into ecstasy before a painting of Madonna and Child.

    Divine Mother worship or Durga Puja

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    3.1. Temple Architecture

    Temple architecture secures one of the fascinating sectors of Bangladesh's architectural heritage. Temples had been built in various forms, shapes and designs and according to their stylistic features they have been categorised into the traditional Rekh and Pira, the hut-shaped style (Bangla- Ak bangla with one roof and the two roofed Jor bangla. Chala Char Chala or four roofed, Aat Chala or eight roofed and Baro Chala or twelve roofed), Indo-Islamic (Ratna Ak Ratna, Pancha Ratna, Navaratna etc), European Influence (Shikhara, Flat roof and with verandah, Dolmancha, Raashmancha etc) too fall into other categories.

    Temple architecture dates far back, but no presence of Pre-Muslim temples are seen. What testify their presence in history are epigraphic and literary records and a few illuminated old manuscripts. As a result of the non-existence of the early temples, the newer instances have been divided into three main groups. They are Chala (roof type), Ratna type and the Shikhara type. Many temples of Bangladesh were constructed to the Jor Bangla style, which evolved with a blend of the Indian subcontinent temple architecture and the traditional hut of Bangla.

    These plaques silently depict tales from the war of Ramayan and Ravan, of Krishna, Balram, gods and goddesses, draws various animals and their activities. On another side are pictures showing a procession of drummers, dancers and a palanquin bearer while another group holding weapons and their hunt is seen returning with much joy. The popularity of hunting in that area can be easily anticipated from these expressions. Like all the terracotta works that Bengal has borne with it along the ages, this temple also has helped in contributing the cultural history of the area. These are not mere decorations but also the mute mines of information. Stories from the Ramayana or Mahabharat endow moral lessons benefiting people who had studied the panels. Dresses and costumes, ornaments and hair styles of a particular time or place or the different aspects of daily life regarding sports, leisure, music, dance and hunting had been modelled skilfully by clay craftsmen and clad on such religious edifices.

    Kantanagar Temple, Dinajpur

    The most ornate among the late medieval temple of Bangladesh is the Kantanagar temple near Dinajpur town. which was built in 1752 by Maharaja Pran Nath of Dinajpur. The temple. a 50' square three storied edifice, rests on a slightly curved raised plinth of sandstone blocks, believed to have been quarried from the ruins of the ancient city of Bangarh near Gangarampur in West Bengal. It was originally a navaratna temple, crowned with four richly ornamental corner towers on two floors and a central one over the third floor. Unfortunately these ornate towers collapsed during an earthquake at the end of the 19th Century. Inspite of this. the monument rightly claims to be the finest extant example of its type in brick and terra-cotta, built by Bengali artisans. The central cella is surrounded on all sides by a covered verandah. each pierced by three entrances. which are separated by equally ornate dwarf brick pillars. Corresponding to the three delicately caused entrances of the balcony, the sanctum has also three richly decorated arched openings on each face.

    Every inch of the temple surface is beautifully embellished with exquisite terra-cotta plaques, representing flora, fauna, geometric motifs, mythological scenes and an astonishing array of contemporary social scenes and favourite pastimes.

    Dinajpur: Terracotta

    The early 7th century Baroshivaloy temple in Joypurhat

    The early 7th century temples in Joypurhat decorated with terracotta plaques, which were indiscreetly painted white recentlyThe early 7th century Baroshivaloy temple in Joypurhat is on the verge of ruin due to sheer negligence of the authorities, lack of maintenance and high salinity in the soil seeping through the structures. The Baroshivaloy is a large brick-built temple with clay terracotta plaques and 11 other smaller similar temples surrounding it, according to Department of Archaeology officials. They said they cannot maintain the temples, at Delamla about four kilometres from Joypurhat town, due to lack of funds.

    According to sources, poor maintenance work and high ground salinity have caused much of the ornamental terracotta plaques and the walls of the temples to erode over the years. The Daily Star correspondent saw that the temples have lost much of their charm of terracotta beauty as the archaeology department turned a blind eye to them. The situation got worse when the locals painted the brickworks of the temple with white lime. The terracotta plaques bear images of religious events but the beauty of the walls, pillars and the rooms is almost all gone.

    According to local historians, the temples were built between 700AD and 800AD by the devotees of Shiva for their prayer needs. Shituram Mohanto, caretaker of the temples, said high salinity, lack of maintenance and protection from the weather have eroded a large number of the terracotta plaques and there has never been any renovation work.

    A number of the plaques and bricks on the walls have also been stolen. Fearing further theft, the maintenance committee of the temples encircled the temples with concrete walls. The archaeology department officials, however, claimed the temples could be restored to their former glory if funds were made available (Kongkon Karmaker, Dinajpur ; Daily Star, January 21, 2008).

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    Since Islam, as a system of faith and social values, made an entry into Bengal without political or military overtones or objective, neither the Muslims nor the Hindus had, initially, cause for security concerns. As Islam gradually sought to attract converts to its growing fold by offering a respectable human status to the outcasts like Buddhists and lower-caste Hindus a cause for political alarm arose. As hostility against the Muslims gained momentum among the upper caste Hindus. With the conquest of Bengal by Bakhtiyar Khalji in 1204 A.D. the Muslims found themselves in a superior position in political and military context. This change in the political frame of reference signalled the dawn of a new era of Muslim consciousness in Bangladesh.

    There is no historical evidence that Muslims in Bengal and for that matter anywhere else in India resorted to force in large scale conversion of locals to their faith. On the contrary, socio-anthropological evidence tends to confirm the success of nonviolent and humanitarian approach of Muslims in spreading the message of Islam.

    Classless Islamic philosophy: convergence with Hindus, Buddhists

    The period of almost six centuries (1204 to 1757 AD) of Muslim rule in Bengal was thus characterised by a glorious period of communal peace and harmony, spread of Islam by the sheer merit of its superior spiritual and moral appeal, spread of education at a popular level and above all by a historic process of restoring human dignity, respect and social justice among all classes of the population.

    The classless mystic philosophy of Islam, introduced in Benga1 by Muslim Sufis and saints, brought a new message of hope in terms of human dignity and honour for the Buddhists, monotheistic school of Hinduism, and the lower caste Hindu untouchables. The popular acceptance and universal veneration of Muslim saints and savants were a significant tribute by the local population, of all persuasions of faiths, about the non-military and non-political nature of introduction of Islam in Bengal

    battleThe Senas continued to rule over eastern Bengal until the later part part of the 13 th century. According to Dr. D. C. Sen (Brihat Banga, p. 530) , at the end of Buddhist rul in Bengal and the begining of of Brahmin rule under the Sena kings, the common people felt helpless at the hand of Hindu rulers supporting cast system. The newly created caste system built walls around the people, and they lost the close contact with their ruler they had enjoyed under Pala rulers. So when Muslims invaded Bengal, ordinary people sighed relief (Sen, 1993).
    With the victory in Nabadwip, Bakhtiyar Khilji established Muslim rule in parts of Bengal. Slowly most of Bengal came under Muslim rule. The control of Bengal's destiny shifted to the north Indian power center of Delhi. The power struggle between the Turk and the Afghan invaders resulted in Delhi and northern India changing hands from one dynasty to another. Bengal didn't remain unaffected and the rulers of Bengal were often under the control of the various rulers of Delhi and northern India.

    The early Sultans of Bengal ruled till 1282. This was followed by the rule of several successive dynasties. Iliyas Shahi (reign 1342-1358) of the Iliyas Shahi dynasty (1342-1412) established full control of Bengal and shifted the capital to Sonargaon (near present day Dhaka, Bangladesh). He was one of the independent rulers of Bengal. His son Sikandar Shah (reign 1358 - c1390) built the Adina Masjid at Pandua (near Gaur), the subcontinent's largest mosque.


    Meanwhile in north India, the emergence of one of Asia's greatest powers - the Mughals had a strong impact on Bengal's status. Babur was a Turk and related to Timur and Chengiz Khan. He invaded northern India and in 1526 he defeated the Afghan king Ibrahim Lodhi of Delhi's Lodhi Dynasty. Babur became the first ruler (1526-1530) of the Mughal dynasty. After his death, his son Humayun became the emperor.

    AkabarHumayun was succeeded by Akbar whose reign (1556-1605) is considered to be the greatest amongst the Mughal rulers. Akbar promoted a unifying religion and literature but his propogation of a unified religion and literature did not survive. The mystic appeal of Bhakti and Sufism blossomed through literature to this day because it was spontaneous, unconscios and it appealed to the people. Akbar defeated Dawood Khan Karnani of Bengal's Karnani dynasty (1564-1576). With this, Bengal's rule passed into the hands of Governors appointed by the Mughal emperors. These Governors ruled Bengal from 1575 till 1716.

  • Mass Islamization occurred under the Mughals and followed by British Colonization

    Akbar, the Great Mughal Emperor: The story of Islam in South Asia

    Islamic City Of The Mughal Empire

    akbarA little over four hundred years ago, a monarch ruled South Asia with an élan never seen before in these lands. His Empire was truly massive. It was larger than the famous Ottoman Empire; also larger than the neighbouring Safavid Empire. It was larger than Ashoka’s great empire, as it was than the empire of the mighty Guptas. While this monarch held sway, his armies pummeled English and French armies off the coasts of Hindustan. One must not forget that European presence in Indian lands was a threat long before the infamous East India Company set up shop in Bengal in 1757. But while this monarch was in power, European armies were no match for his. Such was his military prowess and confidence, the legend goes, that his soldiers, while stationed in front of enemy fortresses, instead of always bringing ready made cannons with themselves - would make them cannons from scratch. while stationed in front of enemy fortresses.

    The monarch was also famous for his kindness and altruism. During his reign, religious harmony reached levels never known before. Although he was Muslim by birth just like his famous forefathers, Hindu Rajputs proliferated in his army and in the upper echelons of his administration. He also greatly loved and married a Rajput woman.

    The monarch was none other than Akbar, the Great Mughal Emperor. The Mughals were originally Turkic tribes who came from what’s today Uzbekistan. The first great Mughal Emperor Babur summarily defeated the Afghani Lodis near Delhi in 1526. Thus started an empire that could surpass some of history’s best, in its size, statescraft, prosperity, intellectual endeavours and artistic feats. The magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra is a fitting archive of this great Empire. The story of Islam in South Asia was very different four hundred years ago, than the ones you or I could try to tell of our times. Fast forward about three hundred years: the year is 1857. The British had broken the back of most Indian and Muslim rulers of the subcontinent.

    Bahadur Shah Zafar

    The last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, a token ruler if there ever was one, yet the titular head of a great rebellion, was sent packing to Rangoon. The rebellion was sizable and spread all across North India. Bullets rained from British guns on the Indian rebels. Bullet holes on various edifices of the once great city, Lucknow, will bear testimony to the event’s tremendous violence. Soldiers, peasants, landlords, and a variety of other groups had united in trying to overthrow the British. Yet the British Empire did not fall. And in the aftermath, the wrath of the Empire came crashing on the Muslims of South Asia. Muslims, predictably or unpredictably, were seen as the chief architects of the event.

    Muslims didn’t like being ruled by others and they yearned for days when they ruled South Asia, the British thought. Muslims were seen as perfidious and jihadis. Those weren’t heady days if you were a Muslim; they perhaps signaled the beginning of a fall. Fast forward now to the late 19th century: the year is 1895, give or take five years.

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  • Hindu- Muslim tensions

    Hindu- Muslim tensions had taken a turn for the worst. The census, an instrument seemingly innocuous, but greatly aiding British policies of divide and rule, had helped sharpen religious identities in South Asia. Thanks to the census, for the first time ever, it was possible for various caste and religious communities to think of themselves as monolithic aggregates that could compete for patronage from the colonial state. Then there were various reform movements within Indian Islam. The Deobandis of UP and the Aligarh School of Sir Sayyid Ahmed Khan tried to uplift the falling Muslims of South Asia, the first with more spiritual ends in mind, and the second more secular and political. Then there were the Urdu-Hindi language riots which often turned ugly. Slowly but surely, fault lines between the two communities -– which, come to think of it, were hardly all-pan-Indian wide communities before – started to deepen. The culmination perhaps was the Partition of Bengal in 1905 along religious lines with a Muslim majority East and a Hindu majority West - seen by many as a necessary precursor to the Partition of India itself about forty years later. Surely then, the All India Muslim League’s founding in Dhaka in 1906, to fight for an independent Muslim polity, must not have surprised anyone.

    Seeds of a national awakening

    Fast forward once again, to 1955. Less than a decade earlier, a momentous historical event, the Partition of the Indian subcontinent had resulted in a blood bath that uprooted 10 million from their homes and claimed at least a million lives. Women, with their bodies upheld as sites where nationalist paranoia could be sketched, paid a tragic price. The nation-states of India and Pakistan had been born. Within months, they were locked in war over the disputed territory of Kashmir. But by 1955, Kashmir was not the only region where Pakistan and India’s nationalist imaginations wrestled. The eastern wing of Pakistan, East Pakistan, sat uncomfortably, separated from the central government by a thousand miles of Indian territory. In 1952, the Language Movement of East Pakistan, ended with Bengalis experiencing martyrdom for the first time. Seeds of a national awakening were sown.

    Exactly 36 years earlier, in 1971, the third partition of the Indian subcontinent witnessed the violent birth of Bangladesh. Muslim nationalism in South Asia had to re-imagine itself in only 24 years after it created Pakistan. Thereafter, under the hands of Zia-ul Huq, the Pakistani state not only reimagined its nationalist paradigms, aligning more with West Asia, than South Asia, it also took active part in the mujahideen resistance in Afghanistan to drive out the invading Soviets, culminating with the ISI becoming one of the foremost intelligence agency in the Third World. Pakistan had already gone nuclear in response to India’s own programme. Nuclear weapons promised to deter each state from attacking each other, and taken a step further, assumed to be a harbinger of status in the international community. But weapons of mass destruction would do precious little in the wake of September 11, as the Pakistani state, military and the ISI, had to turn their backs on the Afghan mujahideens and unconditionally aid America in its effort to root out Osama bin Laden. Of course, a general was in power yet again after a short democratic interregnum through Nawaz Sharif.

    Muslims in India and Bangladesh did not have it much better. Indian Muslims confronted the wrath of the Hindutva, first in 1992 through the annihilation of the Babri Masjid and then in the pogroms in Gujarat in 2002, when Muslim homes were picked out and razed to the ground. In such moments, Partition appeared strangely necessary and at the same time unnecessary. To the east, the more demographically homogenuous Bangladeshi state continued to be ravaged by the war of its identity politics waged by the families of its founding fathers. And after shaky attempts at maintaining a democracy hard earned, the country once again, fell under military rule. Bangladesh, a part of undivided Bengal, more prosperous than Europe’s finest in the time of the Mughals, continued another war, a war against unending poverty. The nation also continued its unbroken run of topping Transparency Index’s list of corrupt nations. Meanwhile, Balochis and Sindhis continued their secessionist designs in Pakistan.

    The story of Islam in South Asia has come a long way since the heady days of the Mughal Empire. No longer are South Asian Muslims setting standards in building stupendous monuments, producing powerful art, or setting standards in statecraft. They are battling corruption, dictatorships, poverty, nepotistic politics, or chauvinistic majoritarianism; to say nothing of their increasing limelight in the spectacle that is the war on terror. Akbar would have certainly been dismayed (Sajid Huq, June 1, 2007).

  • Splendours of Lalbagh Fort

    The Glory of Mediaeval Bengal (1204-l757)

    In 1342, a powerful noble, Shams-al-din Ilyas Shah, wrested Bengal free from Delhi’s grip and established the first of several dynasties that remained independent from North India for the next two and half centuries. The Muslim rulers followed a policy of religious tolerance and granted perfect freedom of belief to the people. There is no reference in the chronicles of any of the rulers having ever attempted to impose Islam by force on anyone of the conquered people. There is no evidence of the destruction of any Hindu temples or Buddhist’s monasteries. The Muslim rulers in fact identified themselves with the land, encouraged the cultivation of Bengali language and extended their patronage to both Muslim and Hindu writers and scholars. Although the Sultanate aligned itself ideologically to the Middle East, it was rooted politically in Bengal.

    The reigns of Sultan Hussain Shah (1493 - 1519) and his son Nusrat Shah (1519 - 1532) are generally regarded as the Golden Age of Bengal Sultanate. Secure in power, these kings now presented themselves to all Bengalis as indigenous rulers. They had become Bengali kings.

    The Mughal period in Bengal starts with the overthrow of the last independent Sultan Daud Karani in 1575 by Akbar’s governor Khan Jahan. Soon after the advent of the Mughals there was the rise of an illustrious noble Isa Khan. He virtually ruled Bengal for fifteen years as the Mughal governors failed to subdue him. This period also saw the rise of the twelve Bhuiyans which was a sort of a joint venture among the Bengali and Afghan nobles. In fact I find Isa Khan as one of the most colourful personalities in the history of Bengal. Akbar finally had to send his most powerful General Man Singh to bring Bengal under Mughal rule. To achieve his objective in 1602 Man Singh shifted his capital to what is today Dhaka. The conquest of the Baro Bhuiyans took several years and their resistance led by Musa Khan, son of Isa Khan, is a glorious chapter for the Bengalis.

    It was in emperor Jahangir’s reign (1605 - 1627) that the Baro Bhuiyans were finally defeated by the relentless efforts of Ala-al-Din Islam Khan. Islam Khan was the grandson of Salim Chishti, a direct descendent of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. Islam Khan was appointed governor of Bengal and he was an extraordinarily able and determined commander. A man of about thirty seven years of age at that time, Islam Khan enjoyed close ties with the emperor - the two had grown up together since childhood as foster brothers - and possessed remarkable powers of self discipline. “He had grown up with me from youth and was one year my junior”, wrote Emperor Jahangir in his memoirs about Islam Khan. “He was a brave man, of most excellent disposition, and in every respect distinguished above his tribe and family. Up to this day he has never tasted any stimulants, and his fidelity to me was such that I honoured him with the title of Farzand (son).” The above expression of opinion sufficiently indicates the high esteem in which the Founder of Dacca was held by his master, the Emperor of Delhi. Islam Khan came of a very respectable stock. His father was Shaikh Badruddin and his grandfather the celebrated saint, Shaikh Selim Chishti of Fatehpur, who was held in the utmost veneration by Emperor Akbar.

    It is worth getting a glimpse of Dhaka during Mughal rule. At the centre of all this political activity was Dhaka, or “Jahangirnagar”, as it was officially known, which in the seventeenth century attained a peak of power and influence.

    Fray Sebastiao Manrique, who was there in 1640, described the place as a “Gangetic emporium”, with a population of over two hundred thousand. Recalling that the population of Gaur had been estimated at only forty thousand at the height of the sultanate’s power around 1515, one sees how rapidly the Mughal capital must have grown in the thirty years since Islam Khan’s arrival. Manrique was especially impressed with the city’s wealth. “Many strange nations”, he wrote, ‘resort to this city on account of its vast trade and commerce in a great variety of commodities, which are produced in profusion in the rich and fertile lands of this region. These have raised the city to an eminence of wealth which is actually stupefying, especially when one sees and considers the large quantities of money which lie principally in the houses of the Cataris [Khatri], in such quantities indeed that, being difficult to count, it is usual commonly to be weighed.’

    The Bangladesh region reached the zenith of economic affluence during the mediaeval period. It was known as one of the most prosperous lands in the world. The Moorish traveller Ibn Batuta who visited Bengal in the fourteenth century described Bengal as the wealthiest and cheapest land of the world and states that it was known as "a hell full of bounties".

    In the same vein, the seventeenth century French traveller Francois Bernier observed: "Egypt has been represented in every age as the finest and most fruitful country in the world, and even our modern writers deny that there is any other land so peculiarly favoured by nature; but the knowledge I have acquired of Bengal, during two visits paid to that Kingdom inclines me to believe that pre-eminence ascribed to Egypt is rather due to Bengal".

    Because of her fertile land and abundance of seasonal rainfall, Bengal was a cornucopia of agricultural products. Famines and scarcity were virtually unknown as compared to other areas of Asia. Bengal was the focal point of free trade in the Indian Ocean since the 14th century. She was the virtual store-house of silk and cotton not only of India and neighbouring countries but also of Europe.

    The Dhaka region used to produce the finest cotton in the world. A very large quantity of cotton cloth was produced in different areas of Bengal. The best and well-known variety of textile was muslin produced in Dhaka. Some of the muslins were so fine that, as the seventeenth century traveller Tavernier notes, "even if a 60 cubit long turban were held you would scarcely know what it was that you had in your hand".

    Some of the muslins were so fine that a full size muslin could be passed through a small ring. Bangladesh also had extensive export of silk clothes. According to Tavernier, Bengal silks were exported to other parts of India, Central Asia, Japan and Holland. The Bangladesh region was also one of the largest producers of sugar. The sugar from this region used to be exported to other parts of South Asia and the Middle East.

    One can, on the other hand, relate Bengal’s known price stability between ca. 1650 and 1725 to the economic boom then taking place in the province. Put simply, consumer prices remained stable because the production of agricultural and manufactured goods, together with the population base, grew at levels high enough to absorb the expanding money supply caused by the influx of outside silver. Moreover, since additional increments to the money supply did not flow out of the province, newly minted silver percolated freely throughout Bengali society, penetrating ever lower levels and facilitating the kinds of land transfers and cash advances that necessarily accompanied an expanding agrarian frontier.

    In sum, a number of factors—natural, political, and economic—combined to create the seventeenth century’s booming rice frontier in theeast: the eastward movement of Bengal’s rivers and hence of the active delta, the region’s political and commercial integration with Mughal India, and the growth in the money supply with the influx of outside silver in payment for locally manufactured textiles.

    Riverine Changes and Economic Growth

    1548 (Gastaldi) 1615 (de Barros)
    1660 (van den Broeke 1779 (Rennell)

    Changing Bengal Delta Map 1 - 1548 by Gastaldi, Map II - 1615 by de Barros, Map III 1660 by van den Broeke, Map IV - 1779 by Rennekl

    A distinguishing feature of East Bengal during the Mughal period—that is, in “Bhati”—was its far greater agricultural productivity and population growth relative to contemporary West Bengal. Ultimately, this arose from the long-term eastward movement of Bengal’s major river systems, which deposited the rich silt that made the cultivation of wet rice possible.

    Thus the delta as a whole experienced a gradual eastward movement of civilization as pioneers in the more ecologically active regions cut virgin forests, thereby throwing open a widening zone for field agriculture. From the fifteenth century on, writes the geographer R. K. Mukerjee, “man has carried on the work of reclamation here, fighting with the jungle, the tiger, the wild buffalo, the pig, and the crocodile, until at the present day nearly half of what was formerly an impenetrable forest has been converted into gardens of graceful palm and fields of waving rice.

    The late sixteenth century, southern and eastern Bengal were producing so much surplus grain that for the first time rice emerged as an important export crop. From two principal seaports, Chittagong in the east and Satgaon in the west, rice was exported throughout the Indian Ocean to points as far west as Goa and as far east as the Moluccas in Southeast Asia.[8] In this respect rice now joined cotton textiles, Bengal’s principal export commodity since at least the late fifteenth century, and a major one since at least the tenth. In 1567 Cesare Federici judged Sondwip to be “the fertilest Iland in all the world,” and recorded that one could obtain there “a sacke of fine Rice for a thing of nothing.”[9] Twenty years later, when ‘Isa Khan still held sway over Sonargaon, Ralph Fitch wrote: “Great store of Cotton doth goeth from hence, and much Rice, wherewith they serve all India, Ceilon, Pegu, Malacca, Sumatra, and many other places.

    François Pyrard in 1607 writes:

    There is such a quantity of rice, that, besides supplying the whole country, it is exported to all parts of India, as well to Goa and Malabar, as to Sumatra, the Moluccas, and all the islands of Sunda, to all of which lands Bengal is a very nursing mother, who supplies them and their entire subsistence and food. Thus, one sees arrive there [i.e., Chittagong] every day an infinite number of vessels from all parts of India for these provisions

    The most productive area of rice production gradually shifted eastward together with the locus of the active delta, the production of cash crops, especially cotton and silk, flourished throughout the delta in the Mughal period. The most important centers of cotton production were located around Dhaka

    The Mughal connection also made Bengal a major producer for the imperial court’s voracious appetite for luxury goods. This was especially so in the case of raw silk, whose major center of production was located in and around Cossimbazar in modern Murshidabad District.

    The Legendary Baro Bhuiyans of Bengal (12 Chiefs - 16th century)

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    Bengal had a very special place with the Mughal Emperors as Shahjahan’s son Prince Shuja was the governor in Dhaka for twenty one years (1639 - 1660) and subsequently Aurangzeb’s son’s Prince Azam and Prince Azim-al-din also served as governors. The capital of Bengal was shifted to Murshidabad by Murshid Quli Khan in around 1704 and Mughal rule finally ended with the defeat of Sirajuddowla in the Battle of Plassey in 1757.

    Undivided BengalThe Indian Subcontinent: The location of the province of undivided Bengal. Today the eastern half is the nation of Bangladesh with Dhaka as the capital and the western half is the Indian state of West Bengal with Calcutta as the capital.In a country steeped in 5000 years of history, Its history in a way represents the power struggle between the gradually declining Mughal empire based in Delhi, the Nawabs of Bengal trying to assert their independence and the East India Company trying to expand its hold over India. The Anglo French rivalry also added spice to the events of this time.

    In the sixteenth century, the Mughal empire was the most predominant power in the Indian subcontinent. Many of the provinces like Bengal were ruled by Governors appointed by the Mughals. At the same time the European traders started establishing trading outposts or factories in India. Permission for these settlements was granted by the Mughal emperors of Delhi. The province of Bengal, in eastern India, soon attracted the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, the Danish and the English traders.

    With Vasco da Gama's successful sea voyage (1492-1500 AD) to Calicut (not Calcutta), the Portuguese got a head start in India. They also became the first European power to establish footholds in Bengal. However of all the European trading companies, the England based East India Company went on to become the most successful. The East India Company received the Royal Charter, granting it the monopoly of eastern trade. In 1613, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir granted permission to the Company to establish its factory in Surat, western India. These were followed by Madras (Chennai), Bombay (Mumbai) and other locations.

    In Bengal, the Company established factories at Hooghly, Cassim Bazar and English Bazar. In 1658 all the Company settlements in India were brought under Fort St George, Madras. In the very same year Emperor Aurangzeb ascended the Mughal throne. Meanwhile the Company was not having a smooth passage in its bid to expand its trade in Bengal. Hostilities between the local administration and the Company continued. The company was forced to abandon some of its trading posts. Also the gradual silting up of the Hooghly river made access to some of the East India Company factories difficult.

    Lalbagh Fort Dhaka's incomplete sixteenth century Lalbagh Fort: From the early thirteenth century Bengal was ruled by several Muslim dynasties. From 1575 to 1717 Bengal was ruled by administrators appointed by the Mughal emperors. Dhaka served as the Mughal capital of Bengal from 1608-1704. Later the Nawabs of Bengal gained control of the province. The capital was shifted from Dhaka to Murshidabad. Named after Nawab Murshidkuli Khan, Murshidabad became the capital of Bengal in 1713.

    Rober CliveThe battles of Plassey and Buxar paved the way for almost two hundred years of British colonial rule of India. As the fortunes of the Company and its revenue area in eastern India increased, so did the importance of Calcutta, the company's administrative headquarters of this region.

    SirajdullahAs the East India Company grew in size so did its lust for power. The decline of the Mughal empire and the rise of regional provinces like Bengal, presented the Company an opportunity for political interference. In 1740, Nawab Alivardi Khan of Bengal became practically independent. In 1756, his death led to a power struggle between his widow Ghasiti Begum and grandson Siraj Ud Daulah who became the Nawab of Bengal. On 23rd June, 1757, the Company troops marched against Siraj. Betrayed by his own men Siraj was defeated in the Battle of Plassey, which is said to have lasted only a few hours. He was soon assassinated in his capital Murshidabad. From being traders, the Company turned kingmakers in Bengal and Mir Jafar was installed as the new Nawab. Clive got his pound of flesh from the Nawab in terms of 234,000 pounds and was awarded an annual salary of 30,000 pounds per year. This made him one of the richest Britons in the world.

  • Fall of the Great Mughal Empire
    Growth of the Mughal Empire

    Glimpses of Dacca

    The 'India Collection' at the India International Centre Library in New Delhi earlier constituted the 'Collection of British Books on India' of the British Council, New Delhi. Numbering over 3000 rare and old books, documents, personal accounts, prints, memoirs, maps and manuscripts; the 'India Collection' consists largely the works of British authors on India, particularly covering the British period. The Collection spans the period from the 17th century (the earliest title is dated 1672) to 1947.

    To the Right Honourable Charles W. Williams Wynn,
    Dacca, July 13, 1824.
    My Dear Wynn,

    …Two thirds of the vast area of Dacca are filled with ruins, some quite desolate and overgrown with jungle, others yet occupied by Mussulman chieftains the descendants of the followers of Shah Jehanguire, and all of the “Lions of war,” “Prudent and valiant Lords,” “Pillars of the Council,” “Swords of Battle,” and whatever other names of Cawn, Emir, or Omrah, the court of Delhi dispensed in the time of its greatness. These are to me a new study.

    I had seen abundance of Hindoo Baboos and some few Rajahs in Calcutta.

    But of the 300,000 inhabitants who yet roost like bats in these old buildings, or rear their huts amid their desolate gardens, three-fourths are still Mussulmans, and the few English, and Armenian, and Greek Christians who are found here, are not altogether more than sixty or eighty persons, who live more with the natives, and form less of an exclusive society than is the case in most parts of British India.

    All the Mussulmans of rank whom I have yet seen, in their comparatively fair complexions, their graceful and dignified demeanour, particularly on horseback, their shewy dresses, the martial curl of their whiskers, and the crowd, bustle, and ostentation of their followers, far outshine any Hindoos; but the Calcutta Baboos leave them behind toto coelo, in the elegance of their carriages, the beauty of their diamond rings, their Corinthian verandahs, and the other outward signs of thriving and luxury.

    Yet even among these Mahommedans, who have, of course, less reason to like us than any other inhabitants of India, there is a strong and growing disposition to learn the English language, and to adopt, by degrees, very many of the English customs and fashions.”

    “…The most whimsical instance of imitation, is perhaps that of Mirza Ishraf Ali, a Zemindar of 100,000 acres, and with a house like a ruinous convent, who in his English notes, signs here hereditary title of “Kureem Cawn Bahadur” in its initials, K.C.B.”

    “…a desire of learning our language is almost universal even here, and in these waste bazaars and sheds, where I should never have expected any thing of the kind, the dressing-boxes, writing-cases, cutlery, chintzes, pistols, and fowling-pieces engravings, and other English goods, or imitations of English, which are seen, evince how fond of them the middling and humbler classes are become…” '

    British India: Its History, Topography, Government, Military Defence, Finance, Commerce and Staple Products with an Explanation of the Social and Religious State of One Hundred Million Subjects of the Crown of England' by Robert Montgomery Martin, Esq.

    Published in London, 1855. Reprint 1983.

    (RH Note): Robert Montgomery Martin was Treasurer to Queen Victoria in Hong Kong and Member of Her Majesty's Legislative Council in China.

    Extract : “Dacca, - on the Burha Gunga, an offset of the Koniae or Jabuna; 4 m. long, and 1 and ¼ m. broad. It is at present a wide expanse of ruins.

    The castle of its founder, Shah Jehangir, the noble mosque he built, the palaces of the ancient newaubs, the factories and churches of the Dutch, French and the Portuguese, are all sunk into ruin, and overgrown with jungle.

    The city and suburbs are stated to possess ten bridges, thirteen ghauts, seven ferry-stations, twelve bazaars, three public wells, a variety of buildings for fiscal and judicial purposes, a gaol and gaol-hospital, a lunatic asylum, and a native hospital. Population, 200,000.

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    In less than a century the fortunes of the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent crashed from a pinnacle of glory to an abyss of ignominy. The contributing factors were (i) decline of the Mughal Empire after the death of Aurangzeb (ii) the Battle of Plassey (iii) Permanent Settlement in 1793 by Lord Cornwallis and (iv) the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Although the Mutiny was at best a joint venture between the Hindus and Muslims, the wrath of the British fell on the Muslims.

    With the humbling of the great Mughal empire, Delhi the traditional political hub of North India, was replaced by the British power centers in the three towns - Bombay in the west coast, Madras in the south east coast and Calcutta in the east. After Clive's departure a period of corruption set in. The plunder of the province of Bengal and complete mismanagement led to a major famine which is said to have killed a third of the population. In 1771 Warren Hastings, a Company official became the chief of the Calcutta Presidency. He became the Governor of Bengal in 1772. In 1773, with the passing of the Regulating Act in the British Parliament, Warren Hastings was appointed the first Governor General (Ft William, Bengal) with defacto control of the other regions. Calcutta became the capital city of British India and the Madras and the Bombay presidencies came under its control. In 1774, The British Parliament established a Supreme Court in Calcutta with Sir Elijiah Impey as the Chief Justice.

    The company continued its policy of expansion and consolidation of its base in India.1784 saw the passage of the Pitt's (William Pitt, Prime Minister of Britain) India Act whereby the Crown gained the administrative control of India's affairs. Calcutta's importance increased further with the passage of the bill. Lord Cornwallis was appointed the Governor General of India. In 1793 Lord Cornwallis executed the Permanent Settlement of Bengal guaranteeing a free flow of revenues to the Company coffers from the local Zamindars (landlords).

    Around Warren Hastings time (1732-1818), Calcutta's population had grown to over two hundred thousand. Calcutta became an important center for opium trade as the company earned huge amounts of money by exporting opium to China. The Company also traded in saltpetre, indigo, muslin, silk and spices. The seeds for Calcutta's growth as a premier trading center were sown. As British India's most important city, infrastructure improvements and the spread of western education began to have an effect on the citizens of Calcutta

    During the initial years of British administration in 1770 a terrible famine resulted through collection of revenue, where ten million Bengalis died, one-third of the population.

    Ray (1979) remarked that Permanent Settlement(1793) created a new class of landlords (Zamindars)

    The East India Company's profit earned from the exploitation of Bengali textile workers. Thousands of textile workers gave up their traditional employment fled from the city to the countryside. The vaccum which was created was filled by the import of textile goods produced in the mechanised of England (Allen, 1912).

    British Rule in Bangladesh (1757-1947)

    The greatest discontinuity in the history of Bengal region occurred on June 23, 1757 when the East India Company - a mercantile company of England became the virtual ruler of Bengal by defeating Nawab Siraj-ud Daulah through conspiracy. Territorial rule by a trading company resulted in the commercialization of power. The initial effects of the British rule were highly destructive. As the historian R.C. Dutt notes,
    "the people of Bengal had been used to tyranny, but had never lived under an oppression so far reaching in its effects, extending to every village market and every manufacturer's loom. They had been used to arbitrary acts from men in power, but had never suffered from a system which touched their trades, their occupations, their lives so closely. The springs of their industry were stopped, the sources of their wealth dried up".

    The plunder of Bengal directly contributed to the industrial revolution in England. The capital amassed in Bengal was invested in the nascent British industries. Lack of capital and fall of demand, on the other hand, resulted in deindustrialization in the Bangladesh region. The muslin industry virtually disappeared in the wake of the British rule.

    The Rising - India's Mutiny
    1857 The First War of Independence of India
    Warlocks of the Revolution

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    In the long run, the British rule in South Asia contributed to transformation of the traditional society in various ways. The introduction of British law, a modern bureaucracy, new modes of communication, the English language and a modern education system, and the opening of the local market to international trade opened new horizons for development in various spheres of life. The new ideas originating from the West produced a ferment in the South Asian mind. The upshot of this ferment were streams of intellectual movements which have often been compared to the Renaissance.The British rule in Bengal promoted simultaneously the forces of unity and division in the society. The city-based Hindu middle classes became the fiery champions of all-India based nationalism. At the same time, the British rule brought to surface the rivalry between the Hindus and Muslims.

    Ishwar Chandra VidasagarIshwarchandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891) was a social reformer and educationist. He was in the forefront of introducing modern education for women in Bengal. He helped John Bethune establish the Hindu female school in 1849-50. He fought for widow re-marriage and was against practices of child marriage and polygamy.
    The Asiatic Society was founded in 1784 by Sir William Jones. William Carey, a missionary, established a printing press in 1799 and Asia's first modern university in Serampore (a Danish settlement) in 1827. Bengali language, literature and culture went through a period of renaissance and Calcutta became the center of what is generally known as the Bengal Renaissance. Many of India's modern reform movements started in Calcutta. Some of the finest people of India came into limelight at this time. These include Raja Rammohan Roy (1774-1833) social reformer, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891) - reformer and educationist, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1809-1831) a poet and nationalist, Raibahadur Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1838-1899) father of modern Bengali literature and poet Michael Madhusudhan Dutt (1829-1873). Great spiritual leaders like Ramakrishna Paramahansa (Gadadhar Chattopadhyay; 1836-1886) also appeared on the scene


    The highhanded ways of the East India Company made it unpopular amongst the Indians. The pent up feelings snowballed over the use of cow and pig fat in bullets, which hurt the religious sentiments of the Indian troops. Just a century after the Battle of Plassey, in 1857, Mangal Pandey, shot his Sergeant Major in the Parade Grounds at Barrackpore, a cantonment near Calcutta. He was hanged and his infantry was disbanded. This was one of the first events of what is known as the First Battle of Independence or the Sepoy Mutiny depending on the perspective of the concerned historian. The revolt soon spread throughout the country in various forms but the Company was able to put down the struggle. The end of the struggle also ended the remnants of the once mighty Mughal empire. The last emperor of the Mughal Dynasty - Bahadur Shah II was deposed and died in Burma.

    Queen VictoriaThe highhanded ways of the East India Company made it unpopular amongst the Indians. The pent up feelings snowballed over the use of cow and pig fat in bullets, which hurt the religious sentiments of the Indian troops. Just a century after the Battle of Plassey, in 1857, Mangal Pandey, shot his Sergeant Major in the Parade Grounds at Barrackpore, a cantonment near Calcutta. He was hanged and his infantry was disbanded. This was one of the first events of what is known as the First Battle of Independence or the Sepoy Mutiny depending on the perspective of the concerned historian. The revolt soon spread throughout the country in various forms but the Company was able to put down the struggle. The end of the struggle also ended the remnants of the once mighty Mughal empire. The last emperor of the Mughal Dynasty - Bahadur Shah II was deposed and died in Burma. The revolt of 1857 led to the British Crown assuming complete control of the Indian territories. Queen Victoria assumed the Government of India on 1st November 1858.

    Mutiny 1857

    Last Mughal emperorThis year was the 150th anniversary of the bloody events of 1857. The year marks the beginning of the end (for 90 years) of South Asia ruled by the sons of soil. The events that followed led the symbolic power change seat from the imperial palace in Delhi to Buckingham Palace in London by 1858. It was then even the Peacock Throne of the Indian emperors as well as the legendary dazzling diamond of the imperial crown, known as Koh-i-Noor (literally: the mount of light) was looted and physically taken to Britain by the mutineers.

    The British call the war of 1857 as the great Mutiny. Mutiny, it definitely was, but not a "great" one. It was a mutiny of British officers of the company in the service of the Indian emperor against him, and not the other way round. That is why I have chosen the word "unique" for this mutiny since it is the first major mutiny the facts of which have been so disfigured by the new British rulers that our own textbooks sixty years after independence still call it as a mutiny of the Indian emperor against his British servants/subjects. What a mutilation and dishonesty towards history as well as a linguistic paradox. Mutiny is a rebellion by servants against master. A master cannot be said to be rebelling against servants.

    Let us understand the nature of the 1857 war first. In many parts of the Indian empire, it had been a franchise issue just like the governance itself in the last century of the imperial rule had been. Most provinces were fully or semi-independent and owed little or nominal allegiance to the emperor at Delhi. This all changed when the subjects of the emperor felt the existential threat to the empire due to the division and fragmentation. Bakht Khan, a military general from the independent state of Awdh, descended in and defended Delhi, while taking over the command of the imperial forces on the emperor's behalf. The Rani of Jhansi, Satay Ram, Maulvi Ahmadullah Khan, and many local political and military leaders rose to the occasion, professed their allegiance to the emperor and tried to expel the rapacious British servants of the East India Company from the India soil. It is a misfortunate that neither in India nor in Pakistan, any of the top military medals is named after the military heroes of the 1857 war.

    Till as late as 1835, Persian had remained the imperial language for the court and the country and official one for the Company too. The Company's so-called governor of Bengal paid ritual obeisance to the emperor every year. The emperor's was the de jure government and Company was exercising de facto delegated authority mainly on revenue and law and order matters in a limited part of his domains.

    Same was the case of around 564 other rulers, sultans, dukes and princes, who were ruling their own mini-kingdoms within the empire. Bahadur Shah Zafar (picture- left), the 38th ruler of united India and the 17th and the last one from the Mughul dynasty, was on the throne.

    At the beginning of the outbreak of hostilities, history tells us, the old and ailing poet-emperor was not hopeful of winning the war to expel the British intruders, but seeing the zeal of his subjects, he gave in and accepted to lead them as their symbolic head. Since it was the emperor who wanted to get rid of the British, it would be frivolous to call it as an independence struggle since emperor is not supposed to be getting "independence" from disloyal subjects. We can call his campaign as the one of retribution towards his British subjects who had shown seditionist tendencies, i.e. the officers of the British East India Trading Company that was operating under a license by the great ancestor of the incumbent, Emperor Shah Jehan in consideration of medical help that the British doctors had provided in a serious burn injury to a princess.

    It may be recalled that Indian sub-continent boasts of one of the oldest civilisations of the known history. The Indus valley civilisation whose relics are found in Punjab province of what is now Pakistan, date back to 2500 BC when people lived in properly designed urban settlements and were fairly advanced in arts and learning.

    The Arab Muslims first conquered and annexed parts of India between 668 to 712 AD. The latter date marks the conquest of Deebal a town near the present day Karachi, now a bustling port metropolis of 12 million people, by the Arabs. Between 998 and 1030 AD the Afghans, who had by then turned Muslims under Sultan Mahmood of Gazna, invaded India seventeen times for plunder. By 1206, the Muslims had captured Delhi and at least the northern half of the sub-continent had become a political unity under Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi and the founder of slaves' dynasty. The rule continued for around seven centuries under successive dynasties like the Tughlaqs, the Khiljis, the Syeds, the Lodhis, and the Suris. It was under the Mughals that the whole of India came under a single rule. By the early 19th century, anarchy and chaos best described Indian political landscape. A trading company, named East India Comapny became powerful and a time came that even the emperor was apprehensive of its power. Though the trouble started with Indian soldiers of the Company over the use of gun-lids allegedly made of cow fat, but once the emperor saw his opportunity to throw his weight behind and try to get rid of the British it became a national struggle. Now it was emperor and his loyalists fighting against the ones, whom the emperor wanted out of his realms (Saad S. Khan Daily Star, August 26, 2007).

    Military conflict and geopolitical brinkmanship have shaped the fate of the region since 1404 AD

    Geopolitically, the Bay of Bengal is a glittering feather in Bangladesh's semi-landlocked status and, Arakan played a vital role in shaping Bangladesh's destiny in the past. Stretching along the Bay of Bengal from the Naaf River (which separates Myanmar from Bangladesh) to Cape Negrais in southern Burma, the land and sea routes of Arakan connect it with Bengal to the west and Burma proper to the east, hence to the Far East and China.

    Military conflict and geopolitical brinkmanship have shaped the fate of the region since 1404 AD when the independent state of Arakan was invaded by Burmese forces, driving out king Min Saw Mun to seek refuge under the Sultanate of Gaur in Bengal. The reminiscences are pretty disturbing. The Bengal Sultanate, independent of Delhi, was founded in the mid-14th century and the genesis of today's Bangladesh remains hidden in the blood-soaked history of the era. Ever since, a predominant Muslim Bengal began to emerge gradually under an Islamic culture that had been laying roots since the 13th century, leading eventually to the formation of East Pakistan in 1947 and then to Bangladesh.

    In between came the Moguls, who too were Muslims as were West Pakistanis. Mugal emperor Humayan conquered the Sultanate of Gaur, sparking off a long period of civil war to provoke Arakan king Min Bin to take advantage of the instability and occupy East Bengal with a strong naval fleet and infantry. Bengal remained a vassal of Arakan for the next one hundred and twenty years, till 1666. Its administration was left in the hands of twelve local rajas who all paid annual tribute to the Arakan king's Chittagong-based viceroy. Almost similar power play characterised the region's colonization. From 1731-1784, instability gripped Arakan and thirteen kings vied for succession of the throne, the average rule of each not exceeding more than two years. The instability resulted in the annexation in 1784 of the entire region into the Kingdom of Burma, which in turn became part of the British dominion in 1826.

    Ever since, Burma enjoyed sovereignty over the territory, but Bangladesh has had to suffer an unwanted burden with respect to sheltering Muslim refugees from the region. The geopolitical significance of the region was intensely felt by Japan that occupied Arakan from 1942 to 1945. The allies and axis powers battled each other in the same region during Second World War.

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    Throughout the centuries Bengal was a comparative haven of peace and prosperity, gaining for itself the title of Golden Bengal. Communal strife was unknown in this region. Although this communal discord had manifested itself for a variety of reasons in nineteenth century India, it cannot be conclusively proved that it was a product of British machination. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that this discord served British imperial interests.

    The failure of the first movement of independence was followed by a national awakening. Awareness about the American Independence Movement (1773-1887) and the French Revolution (1789) influenced the educated middle class who were often in the forefront of the struggle against British rule

    In a bid to control the growing Bengali uprising, on October 16th, 1905, Bengal was partitioned by Lord Curzon, the then Governor General. A part of western Bengal, Bihar and Orissa were incorporated into Bengal. This made the Bengalis a minority in Bengal. The eastern half of Bengal became a separate province with a Muslim majority. The aim of the partition was to control the growing nationalist movement by toying a communal line on the basis of the perceived Hindu - Muslim divide. The year 1906 saw the birth of the Muslim League in Dhaka, Bengal. The British administration in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), which had a Muslim majority, tried to exploit the situation to the fullest extent. Hindu Muslim riots became a common feature.

    Rabinranath TagoreIn a bid to control the growing Bengali uprising, on October 16th, 1905, Bengal was partitioned by Lord Curzon, the then Governor General. A part of western Bengal, Bihar and Orissa were incorporated into Bengal. This made the Bengalis a minority in Bengal. The eastern half of Bengal became a separate province with a Muslim majority. The aim of the partition was to control the growing nationalist movement by toying a communal line on the basis of the perceived Hindu - Muslim divide. The year 1906 saw the birth of the Muslim League in Dhaka, Bengal. The British administration in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), which had a Muslim majority, tried to exploit the situation to the fullest extent. Hindu Muslim riots became a common feature.

    The Government of India Act 1935 is the cornerstone of the Constitution of successive Independent States. Basically, the Act envisaged: (1) India would be a Federal State and (2) the Provinces would be autonomous. The Constitutions of India and Pakistan contain many of the clauses of the 1935 Act intact. It is very significant to note that constitutional democracy was first introduced in Bengal by the British. This certainly was a historical development for the subcontinent as the Bengal Legislative Assembly was the forerunner of parliamentary democracy in the Indian subcontinent. The seed of democratic government was initially sown by a memorandum containing the signatures of 1433 gentlemen which was sent to the British Parliament in 1861. The title of the memorandum was “Petition from Inhabitants and Tax-Payers of Calcutta and Bengal Proper”. So goes the saying, “What Bengal does today the rest of India thinks of doing it tomorrow”.

    In Bengal mainly three parties - the Congress, Muslim League and Krishak Praja Party - took part in the elections (1937). The Congress won a majority in the elections but failed to win an absolute majority. Some of the independent Muslim members joined the Muslim League and some the Krishak Praja Party after the election. This raised the number of members of the Muslim League to sixty and that of the Krishak Praja Party to fifty-eight. The Muslim League and the Krishak Praja Party formed a coalition ministry after the election. Those who became Ministers from the Muslim League were Khwaja Nazimuddin, Husain Shaheed Suhrawardy, Nawab Khwaja Habibullah and Nawab Mosharraf Hossain, while A.K. Fazlul Huq and Syed Nausher Ali became Ministers from the Krishak Praja Party. Those who became ministers from amongst the independent Hindu members were Nalini Ranjan Sarkar, Sris Chandra Nandy, B.P. Singh Roy and from amongst the Scheduled Caste Prasanna Dev Raikat and Mukunda Bihari Mallik. A.K. Fazlul Huq became the Chief Minister of Bengal. The above summary of political and constitutional developments in Bengal till 1940 suggests the emergence of two outstanding Muslim leaders viz. Fazlul Huq and Suhrawardy. Also in the Assembly there was a reasonable communal balance.


    mahatma gandhiDuring the Indian struggle for independence, Gandhi taught his followers to follow ahimsa. Many of the famous quotes by Gandhi that have been extracted from his writings and speeches reveal his belief that violence could never be the way to achieve any objective. In this selection, the famous quotes by Gandhi deal specifically with the concept of ahimsa which he upheld throughout his life.
    "To forgive is not to forget. The merit lies in loving in spite of the vivid knowledge that the one that must be loved is not a friend."

  • It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.
  • Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
  • The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
  • An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
  • Hate the sin, love the sinner.
  • I want freedom for the full expression of my personality.
  • Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.
  • Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
  • Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
  • Permanent good can never be the outcome of untruth and violence.
  • Non-violence, whether held as a moral philosophy or only employed as an action strategy, rejects the use of physical violence in efforts to attain social, economic or political change. As an alternative to both passive acceptance of oppression and armed struggle against it, non-violence (also non-violent resistance) offers a number of tactics for popular struggle, ranging from education, to persuasion, to civil disobedience, to non-violent direct action, and to non-cooperation with political, economic or social authorities.

    While frequently used as a synonym for pacifism, the terms non-violence or non-violent resistance have been adopted by many movements for social change since the mid 20th century.

    Every religion has contributed to the evolution of the idea of nonviolence. Non-violent movements, leaders, and advocates have at times referred to, drawn from, and utilised many diverse religious basis for nonviolence within their respective struggles. Likewise, secular political movements have utilised non-violence, either as a tactical tool or as a strategic program, on purely pragmatic and strategic levels, relying on its political effectiveness rather than as a claim to any religious moral or ethical worthiness.

    Non-violence can achieve things which violence can never achieve. Realists often find non-violence a Utopian idea, which is of "no use" in a world of realpolitik. But the fact remains that violence only makes the conflicts more protracted; it enhances the possibility of cyclic tendency of the conflicts.

    We all have non-violent instincts, but we do not have the motivation to utilise them in our life. Non-violence is often considered as a micro-concept, a bit too individualistic. But non-violence has great potential to bring about positive changes in the lives of the millions if practiced at macro-level.


    World War II saw the forcible alliance of India on the side of the Allies. Indian troops fought side by side with allied troops in various parts of the world.1942 saw the launch of the Quit India Movement by Mahatma Gandhi at a meeting in Bombay.

    Independence from British RuleWith the situation going out of control and world wide attention on the movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, Britain finally decided in principle to grant independence to India. The Muslim League under the leadership of M.K Jinnah became vocal about demands for a separate homeland for the subcontinent's Muslims. In February 1946, Calcutta witnessed the great Calcutta killings. Riots broke out again in August. Partition led to two nations (14 August, 1947) - India and Pakistan with two halves - East Pakistan & West Pakistan.

  • Gandhi and Jinnah in Bombay 1944
  • 1947: Pakistan Great Day - Independence
  • Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah - Aug 15, 1947
  • The Story Of Jinnah ,the Founder of Pakistan - Part 1
  • The Story Of Jinnah, the Founder Of Pakistan - Part 2

  • In his memoir, Bangalnama, written in lucid Bengali, Professor Tapan Raychaudhuri has boldly claimed and narrated what constitutes the mindset of a Bangal and what closely observed the socio-cultural and political developments during the pre-independence period that led to creation of India and Pakistan in 1947.

    Having a deep insight in the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Professor Chaudhuri said Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was "a staunch believer in a struggle for independence based on Hindu-Muslim unity". Almost certainly, this outlook was fostered in the liberal religious environment of his own family, professor Chaudhuri added.

    Congress led to Bengal's partition. On earlier occasion, Professor Chaudhuri pointed out that the upper caste Hindus and the non-cooperation from Congress led to partition of Bengal.

    He said in the first 100 years or so of British rule in India, one comes across few instances of Hindu-Muslim conflicts in India. Actually the Europeans decided that Hindus and Muslims were two mutually opposed communities who cut each other's throat and that was the law of nature. Professor Chaudhuri believes, one can not survive for centuries constantly fighting with neighbours. The social and economic structure would otherwise collapse.

    Bengal was partitioned again and the western half became the state of West Bengal in the Indian Union. The eastern half of Bengal became East Pakistan and in 1971, became an independent nation - Bangladesh.

    Separation from East Pakistan

    When the British finally left South Asia in the late 1940s, they left in a hurry. Not caring much about what would become of their former colony, they made a few hasty plans, then pulled out. In their wake, they left suffering, conflict, and ultimately war. As soon as World War II ended, the British decided it was time to get out of India. In 1945, they began drafting plans for an independent India. The first step was to create an Indian government free of British involvement.

    The planners decided to create an Indian parliament. The two main factions vying for seats in the parliament were the predominantly HINDU INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS (INC) and the Muslim League. When the votes were counted, the INC had won 90 percent of the seats in the parliament. Holding so many seats, however, did not mean that the INC could make all the decisions. Muslims and Hindus argued long and hard about how India could best be liberated from Britain.

    As the arguments continued, Britain grew impatient. Exhausted from the recent war, the British made hasty, poorly thought-out plans. Their most important decision was to divide South Asia into two countries: a mainly Hindu India and a new Muslim country called Pakistan.

    The British did a sloppy job of redrawing the maps. They gave about one fifth of the land to Pakistan, but in two different lumps. East Pakistan and West Pakistan — part of the same new country — were divided from each other by the large country of India, which received all the rest of the land.

    Pakistan and India were not through arguing. They bickered about where exactly to put the borders, fighting to nudge them as little as a mile in one direction or another. In the end, the British made the decisions. They drew the new borders using outdated maps while sitting far away from the regions that were the focus of the disputes.

    Pakistan faced its first identity crisis when government adopted Urdu as national language. Although Urdu was not just a regional language and was widely understood among the people of different provinces and so could better serve the purpose of inter-provincial communication but this language had not any deep roots in the East Pakistan, the largest province of the country. People of East Pakistan protested against the decision of making Urdu as national language and they raised the demand of making Bengali as a national language as this was the language of majority population of East and West Pakistan combined. But this demand could not be acceptable to the people of any of the provinces of the West Pakistan because Bengali language had no roots at all in any of the provinces of West Pakistan. Urdu language, finally became the official national language but without happy consent of the largest province of the country.

    In the 1970 National Assembly elections, the mandate of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman's Awami League Party was based on a Six-Point Program of regional autonomy in a federal Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman had presented the Six-Point Program as the constitutional solution of East Pakistan's problems, in relation to West Pakistan.

    Dairies of Field Marshall Mohammad Ayub Khan: 1966-72’, the book has come under huge criticism for its views on the 1971 war, where he finds fault with everyone —the ‘crooked’ Bangladeshis, the ‘devious’ Indians and the ‘unreliable’ Americans.

    Ayub KhanIn his diaries, Ayub Khan shows no understanding of Bangladeshi pride in the country’s linguistic and cultural heritage. He writes, ‘When thinking of the problems of East Pakistan, one cannot help feeling that their (Muslim Bengalis’) urge to isolate themselves from West Pakistan and revert to Hindu language and culture is close to the fact that they have no culture and language of their own, nor have they been able to assimilate the culture of the Muslims of the sub-continent, by turning their back on Urdu. ‘Further, by doing so they have forced two state languages on Pakistan. This has been a great tragedy for them and the rest of Pakistan. They lack literature on the philosophy of Islam.’

    Pakistani Songs


  • G Pathasarathy, India’s former ambassador to Pakistan, says the ‘Diaries’ show ‘Pakistan’s rulers never felt any remorse for the genocide of Bangladeshis they committed prior to and during 1971’.
    ‘Also, one cannot help noting how an opinionated military ruler, supremely confident of his abilities and contemptuous of democratic institutions, never understood the Bangladeshi pride and rich cultural lineage,’ Parthasarathy told the news agency.

    History of Independence

    History of Bangladesh Independence

  • The Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971
  • 25th March 1971 [The Liberation war Bangladesh]
  • 1971 Surrender
  • Bangladesh" an Introduction to the world..
  • 7 March, 1971- Speech of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
  • Father of The Nation of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
  • Bangabandhu The father of Bengali Nation
  • what mujib said
  • O Amar Bangladesh....

  • First enunciated on February 12, 1966, the six points are as below:
  • sk. mujib1. The Constitution should provide for a Federation of Pakistan in the true sense on the basis of the Lahore Resolution and for a parliamentary form of government based on the supremacy of a directly elected legislature on the basis of universal adult franchise.
  • 2. The Federal Government shall deal with only two subjects; Defense and Foreign Affairs. All residuary subjects will be vested in the federating states.
  • 3. There should be either two separate, freely convertible currencies for the two Wings, or one currency with two separate reserve banks to prevent inter-Wing flight of capital.
  • 4. The power of taxation and revenue collection shall be vested in the federating units. The Federal Government will receive a share to meet its financial obligations.
  • 5. Economic disparities between the two Wings shall disappear through a series of economic, fiscal, and legal reforms.
  • 6. A militia or paramilitary force must be created in East Pakistan, which at present has no defense of it own. After the elections of 1970, differences arose between the Government and Awami League on the transfer of power on the basis of this Six-Point Program.

    First ever nation wide parliamentary election in Pakistan was held in December 1970 to January 1971. Nationalist Forces lead by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won overwhelming victory in East Pakistan and became majority party in entire Pakistan. But Pakistan military regime conspired to stop his Awami League party to take over power. On March 7, 1971 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his historic address to mammoth gathering at race course, Dhaka announced non-cooperation movement and declared, "This is the struggle for liberation, the struggle for independence."

    Then came president general Yahya Khan and majority party leader of West Pakistan Zulfiker Ali Bhutto to Dhaka for negotiated settlement. While mock discussions were continuing, military rulers started planning for crushing nationalist struggle through military solution.


    And at fateful night of 25th March, systematic genocide started. No part of Bangladesh was spared. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman before his arrest in early hours of 26th March sent wireless message declaring independence of Bangladesh. On 27th March from Chittagong Radio Station Major Ziaur Rahman declared independence and appealed for international support.

    People from all walks of life responded through armed resistance. This liberation war culminated in final victory on 16th December 1971 with emergence of independent Bangladesh.

    The Chariot of Dhamrai - Poems of Independence

    The departure of Krishna is depicted in the festival of "Rath Jatra on the chariot ride, a popular Hindu festival. In Dhak district, a wooden chariot believed to be 300 years old was cherished as one of the greatest treasures of Bengali heritage. Every year on the auspicious day of Ashadh Sud 2, in early July, Hindus celebrate the Rath Yatra festival. Rath means chariot, Yatra - a pilgrimage or procession. Though this festival is celebrated all over India, it originated in Jagannath Puri on the eastern coast. Every year the deities of Jagannath Mandir - Lord Krishna, Balaram and Subhadra - are traditionally installed on huge chariots. Devotees pull the chariots in a yatra (procession) through the streets.

    Chariot races were popular festival in Indian Sub-continent during the Vedic era. The races still exist in Miniature from in Bangladesh as Chariot festival. Ancient holy book Rig Veda cited that the Gods used kaleidoscopic Chariot as their carrier to war fields. To commemorate these holy war's Chariot festival is observed by thousands of people in Various parts of Bangladesh, Nepal and India. Just a way from the the out skirts of Dhaka, 'Joshomadhav's Chariot' at Dhamrai conducts the festival for over 400 years.People of all ages including women, children and senior Citizens visit Dhamrai at least once a year to celebrate the ritual. '

    During 1971, Pakistan's fanatic army burnt it to ashes

    The Chariot of Dhamrai

    The Chariot of Dhamrai, engraved so beautifully
    Over how many years by which old carpenter of
    ancient times
    Whose skilled hands took hold of the blade
    And curved over the hard wood
    Images of fairies and flowers and forests.

    In front of the chariot, a pair of horses
    Are on the run from time immemorial.

    They are still running and have not stopped ever since
    Then came the folk painter whose touch of fine brush
    Brought down from heaven many god and goddesses
    And entaged them on the body of the Chariot
    With the magic colour and lines to live forever.

    What a great consolation he has created
    On the body of this mortal world! Krisna is leaving Mathura, the milkmaids
    Lay underneth the Chariot wheels
    Begging Lord of Love, do not leave us in pretence.

    And his beloved Radha, alas, her sorrows
    Surpassing years and years
    Are still pouring forth through the lines
    On the rural painter.

    Twice a year fairs were held around the Chariot
    Shops and stalls and circus parties
    Gathered on those occasions
    To the tune of gazi songs;

    Accompanied by the sweet sound of earthen drums
    Many kings and queens used to roam about.

    And they created the atmosphere of glorious deeds
    In the folk tunes the ideology of mortality and justice
    Soothed the ears of young and old,
    Who was the enchanter who built this temple out of
    scanty wood.

    What depth of affection evoked from his heart
    That millions of people made pilgrimage to see chariot
    And light the lamp of devotion?

    Thae gurdians of pakistan in the guise of false saviours Burnt this beautiful chariot to ashes.

    Agreat consolation for generations after generations
    For the work that had come from the hands of the artist
    What barbarian destroyed the solace forever.

    Jasim Uddin - Poems of War of Independence,1971,(Vhoaybhay Dinguli( Translated by: Hasna Jasimuddin Moudud)

  • Islamic Pakistan
  • Behind Pakistan's Defeat
  • Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

    1. Natural Indigo (Indigoferra tinctoria) and the unfinished Fight for Freedom
    2. Traditional Social Dynamics in Bangladesh

    Back to Content



    The Concert for Bangladesh”. Organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar to provide relief for Pakistani refugees, this event actually consisted of two concerts, both staged on August 1, 1971. Performed at Madison Square Garden, there was an evening show as well as a matinee that was added when the nighttime event sold out quickly. The shows didn’t boast a roster of participants that competes with massive outings like Live Aid or Live 8, but it still holds up very well. Harrison acted as the main performer and ringleader. This was a big deal since Bangladesh was his first-ever live solo concert. In another notable coup, Harrison enticed Bob Dylan to return to the stage for the first time in a while.

    As for other big names, Eric Clapton played guitar while Ringo Starr pounded on the drums. Starr also sang lead on “It Don’t Come Easy”, but Clapton took no vocals. Shankar did an opening number, while second-tier performers Billy Preston and Leon Russell added their own tracks.

    Make no mistake, however: Bangladesh was Harrison’s night to shine. Of the 16 songs, half of them feature Harrison lead vocals. Dylan accounts for one-fourth of the show, while the other four each get one turn in the spotlight. (Shankar’s track is a particularly long one, though; while cut down to a manageable 15 minutes or so here, I’ve heard that the original stage performance was much longer.)

    George does just fine for himself, though I must admit I think the show reaches its peak with a few of the guest spots. I absolutely adore Ringo’s take on “It Don’t Come Easy”. Arguably his best song, it really shines on stage, particularly when we get a tight, biting guitar solo. Preston takes us to church with “That’s the Way God Planned It” and provides one of the concert’s most fun moments when he dances at the front of the stage. Russell’s medley of “Jumping Jack Flash/Youngblood” doesn’t define the two songs, but he makes them work on his own terms.

    Dylan’s short set provides the evening’s biggest disappointment. Whether due to nerves or some other factor, Dylan never quite coalesces with the accompaniment of Harrison on electric guitar and Russell on bass. The performance improves a little as it progresses, but it doesn’t become anything noteworthy or memorable. Were it not for the Shankar set, Dylan’s pieces would be the most skip-worthy of the night.

    Plenty of sloppy camerawork abounds. We see iffy focus at times and ugly angles. That’s all part and parcel of a loosely organized shoot, though. In the end, there’s much more to like here than to criticize. The Concert for Bangladesh presents a surfeit of great music and strong performances. Despite messy technical work, it offers an adequate depiction of a legendary event.

    A few trivia notes, again thanks to Eight Arms to Hold You:

    -Dylan played “Mr. Tambourine Man” at the evening performance. This appears on the album but not in the movie. Since we also don’t find it in this package’s extras, I would guess that there’s no useable film footage of it.

    -Many anticipated a full Beatles reunion. Apparently this was never going to happen since McCartney flatly refused, allegedly due to animosity over legal wranglings. However, Lennon agreed to come but backed out due to a misunderstanding between himself and Harrison over Yoko’s role in the proceedings. -Mick Jagger also attempted to attend but was unable to get a visa to enter the US (Colin Jacobson, September 21, 2005) .

  • Concert for Bangladesh Introduction
  • George Harrison - Bangladesh
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps - George Harrison
  • Ravi Shankar - the heart of bangladesh
  • Ravi Shankar- Concert arranged by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison in 1971 to gather donations to help Bangladesh.
  • Tuning Sitar with Ravi Shankar - Ustad Rakha - Ustad Khan
  • George Harrison honoured for "Concert for Bangladesh"
  • Bob Dylan - Blowin' in the Wind (Concert For Bangladesh)
  • George Harrison - I am missing you (Live)

  • Bangladesh is the largest delta of the worldMukherjee (1971)after investigating six villages in Bengal argued that the 'self-suffient village economy' of pre-British Bengal, which was based on 'peasent production', 'disintegrated and was improverished by colonial intervention.
    Bangladesh is a country of rivers and green fields, with clusters of villages where according to a report from the London School of Economics in 1999, the happiest population of the world is to be found. The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta has about 237 rivers, the largest delta of the world.

    satelite imageBangladesh is most vulnerable to several natural disasters and every year natural calamities upset people's lives in some part of the country. The major disasters concerned here are the occurrences of flood, cyclone and storm surge, flash flood, drought, tornado, riverbank erosion, and landslide. These extreme natural events are termed disasters when they adversely affect the whole environment, including human beings, their shelters, or the resources essential for their livelihoods. The geographical setting of Bangladesh makes the country vulnerable to natural disasters. The mountains and hills bordering almost three-fourths of the country, along with the funnel shaped Bay of Bengal in the south, have made the country a meeting place of life-giving monsoon rains, but also makes it subjected to the catastrophic ravages of natural disasters. Its physiography and river morphology also contribute to recurring disasters.

    Timeline: Bangladesh A chronology of key events


  • 1947 - British colonial rule over India ends. A largely Muslim state comprising East and West Pakistan is established, either side of India. The two provinces are separated from each other by more than 1,500 km of Indian territory.

    Flooding is common in low-lying Bangladesh

  • On This Day 1988: Bangladesh cyclone 'worst for 20 years'
  • 1949 - The Awami League is established to campaign for East Pakistan's autonomy from West Pakistan.
  • 1970 - The Awami League, under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, wins an overwhelming election victory in East Pakistan. The government in West Pakistan refuses to recognise the results, leading to rioting. Cyclone hits East Pakistan - up to 500,000 people are killed.


  • 1971 - Sheikh Mujib arrested and taken to West Pakistan. In exile, Awami League leaders proclaim the independence of the province of East Pakistan on 26th March. The new country is called Bangladesh. Just under 10 million Bangladeshis flee to India as troops from West Pakistan are defeated with Indian assistance.
  • Sheikh Mujib: First president, assassinated in 1975
  • 1972 - Sheikh Mujib returns, becomes prime minister. He begins a programme of nationalising key industries in an attempt to improve living standards, but with little success.
  • 1974 - Severe floods devastate much of the grain crop, leading to an estimated 28,000 deaths. A national state of emergency is declared as political unrest grows.
  • 1975 - Sheikh Mujib becomes president of Bangladesh. The political situation worsens. He is assassinated in a military coup in August. Martial law is imposed.
  • 1976 - The military ban trade unions.
  • 1977 - General Zia Rahman assumes the presidency. Islam is adopted in the constitution.
  • 1979 - Martial law is lifted following elections, which Zia's Bangladesh National Party (BNP) wins.
  • 1981 - Zia is assassinated during abortive military coup. He is succeeded by Abdus Sattar.

    The Ershad era

  • 1982 - General Ershad assumes power in army coup. He suspends the constitution and political parties.

    Ex-military ruler General Ershad leads opposition Jatiya party

  • 1983 - Limited political activity is permitted. Ershad becomes president.
  • 1986 - Parliamentary and presidential elections. Ershad elected to a five-year term. He lifts martial law and reinstates the constitution.
  • 1987 - State of emergency declared after opposition demonstrations and strikes.
  • 1988 - Islam becomes state religion. Floods cover up to three-quarters of the country. Tens of millions are made homeless.
  • 1990 - Ershad steps down following mass protests.
  • 1991 - Ershad convicted and jailed for corruption and illegal possession of weapons. Begum Khaleda Zia, widow of President Zia Rahman, becomes prime minister. Constitution is changed to render the position of president ceremonial. The prime minister now has primary executive power. Cyclonic tidal wave kills up to 138,000.

    Awami League returns

  • 1996 - Two sets of elections eventually see the Awami League win power, with Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, becoming prime minister.
    Islamic school: Around 90% of Bangladeshis are Muslim
  • 1997 - Ershad is released from prison. The opposition BNP begins campaign of strikes against the government.
  • 1998 - Two-thirds of the country devastated by the worst floods ever. Fifteen former army officers sentenced to death for involvement in assassination of President Mujib in 1975.
  • 2000 September - Sheikh Hasina criticises military regimes in a UN speech, prompting Pakistani leader General Musharraf to cancel talks with her. Relations strained further by row over leaked Pakistani report on 1971 war of independence.
  • 2000 December - Bangladesh expels Pakistani diplomat for comments on the 1971 war. The diplomat had put the number of dead at 26,000, whereas Bangladesh says nearly three million were killed. Bangladesh wants Pakistan to apologise for alleged genocide it says Pakistani forces were guilty of during the war.

    Sheikh Hasina's Awami League was defeated in 2001

  • 2001: Analysis - A tale of two women
  • 2001 April - Seven killed in bomb blast at a Bengali New Year concert in Dhaka. Sixteen Indian and three Bangladeshi soldiers killed in their worst border clashes.
  • 2001 April - High Court confirms death sentences on 12 ex-army officers for killing Mujib. Only four are in custody.
  • 2001 June - Bomb kills 10 at Sunday mass at a Roman Catholic church in Baniarchar town. Bomb at Awami league office near Dhaka kills 22. Parliament approves bill providing protection for Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana, who feared that the killers of their father Mujib were out to get them too.
  • 2001 July - Hasina steps down, hands power to caretaker authority, becoming the first prime minister in the country's history to complete a five-year term. Coalition government
  • 2001 September - At least eight people are killed and hundreds injured as two bombs explode at an election rally in south-western Bangladesh.

    Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party won 2001 poll

  • 2001: New Bangladesh leader sworn in
  • 2001 October - Hasina loses at polls to Khaleda Zia's Nationalist Party and its three coalition partners.
  • 2001 November - Law repealed which guaranteed lifelong security to former prime minister Sheikh Hasina and sister Sheikh Rehana.
  • 2002 March - Government introduces law making acid attacks punishable by death amid public anger over escalating violence against women.
  • 2002 May - Government orders tightening of safety standards after up to 500 people die when a river ferry goes down in a storm.
  • 2002 June - President Chowdhury resigns after ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) accuses him of taking an anti-party line.
  • 2002 July - Pakistani President Musharraf visits; expresses regret over excesses carried out by Pakistan during 1971 war of independence.
  • 2002 September - Iajuddin Ahmed sworn in as president.
  • 2002 December - Simultaneous bomb blasts in cinemas in a town north of Dhaka kill 17 and injure hundreds.
  • 2003 April - More than 100 people killed in two almost-simultaneous ferry disasters.

    Many of those behind a string of explosions remain at large Government blames banned Islamist group for blasts US concerned that country could become platform for global terror

  • 2005: Bangladesh and Islamic militants
  • 2004: Analysis - Bangladesh bombings
  • 2004 Opposition calls 21 general strikes over the course of the year as part of a campaign to oust the government.
  • 2004 May - Parliament amends constitution to reserve 45 seats for female MPs.
  • 2005 17 August - Around 350 small bombs go off in towns and cities nationwide. Two people are killed and more than 100 are injured. A banned Islamic group claims responsibility.


  • Anti-poverty pioneer was awarded 2006 Nobel Peace Prize
  • 2006 February - Opposition Awami League ends year-long parliamentary boycott.

    Political crisis

  • 2006 October - Violent protests over government's choice of a caretaker administration to take over when Premier Zia completes her term at the end of the month. President Ahmed steps in and assumes caretaker role for period leading to elections due in January 2007.
  • 2007 January - A state of emergency is declared amid violence in the election run-up. President Ahmed postpones the 22 January poll. Fakhruddin Ahmed takes over as head of caretaker administration.
  • 2007 March - Six Islamist militants convicted of countrywide bomb attacks in 2005 are hanged. They include the leaders of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen.
  • 2007 April - Sheikh Hasina is charged with murder. Begum Khaleda Zia is under virtual house arrest. Several other politicians are held in an anti-corruption drive.
  • 2007 May - Interim government eases restrictions on former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia.


    Bangladeshi border guards launched the mutiny over pay and benefits 74, mainly army officers, killed About 1,700 arrested

  • Bangladesh Rifles mutiny 2007
  • 2008 December - The Awami League alliance led by former PM Sheikh Hasina wins a landslide victory in general elections, capturing more than 250 of 300 seats in parliament. International observers declare the vote broadly free and fair.
  • 2009 January - Sheikh Hasina sworn in as prime minister.
  • 2009 February - Around 74 people, mainly army officers, are killed in a mutiny by border guards unhappy with pay and conditions. Police arrest some 700 border guards in relation to the rebellion at their Dhaka compound headquarters.
  • 2009 May - Police arrest another 1,000 border guards in connection with the February mutiny.
  • 2009 June - In a ruling on the decades-old dispute between two main political parties, the High Court decides that it was the father of PM Sheikh Hasina, and not late husband of her arch-rival Khaleda Zia, who proclaimed independence from Pakistan in 1971.
  • 2009 October - The government bans the local branch of the global Islamist organisation Hizb-ut Tahrir, saying it poses a threat to peace.
  • 2010 January - Five former army officers are executed for the 1975 murder of Bangladesh's founding prime minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. (BBC, August 2010)

  • Yunus makes nation proud Shares Nobel Peace Prize with his Grameen Bank

    meeting riversIn this dramatic view of the northern Indian subcontinent, the Brahmaputra River courses from the top of the image (east) through Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal while the Ganges proceeds from the west also to the Bay. The Himalayas lie along the left side of this SeaWiFS image.

    Bangladesh Constitution

    The original framers of the Bangladesh Constitution in 1971-2, steeped in Anglo-Saxon political traditions as they were, instinctively plumped for the House of Commons model (characterised by an extremely powerful Lower House which combines in itself both the Legislative and the Executive functions of the state.) This was quite understandable as it was this model which was familiar to the political class, the intelligentsia and the common man, having been practised in British India for nearly a 100 years previously. When democracy was re-established in Bangladesh twenty years later, the backlash against the Presidential form of government, as practiced by Gen. Ershad in particular, once again propelled the nation into the Parliamentary model.

    The problem is that, as is increasingly becoming evident, the Parliamentary model has remarkably few built-in checks-and-balances. When it works at all it is due to a strong consensus among all the members of the political class about the limits of action. Such a system of self-imposed limits presupposes a highly developed sense of responsibility among the professional politicians of the country, something which is conspicuously absent in Bangladesh. Even in the contemporary United Kingdom, following the emasculation of the Parliamentary Parties and the decline of the Cabinet system, the House of Commons model is more likely to lead to an "elected dictatorship" than anything else. In her years in power Margaret Thatcher rode roughshod over all centres of potential opposition and was only brought down when her excesses became so grotesque as to provoke violent street demonstrations. Tony Blair barely disguises his contempt for the House of Commons and has been exploiting the weaknesses of the system to establish new standards of unchecked personal rule. In the Bangladesh context such autocratic tendencies, inherent anyway in the system of governance, have become even more magnified and the experience of the last 15 or so years has been profoundly alarming.

    Jatiya Sangsad

    Once a political party has gained, after general elections, a simple majority in the Jatiya Sangsad there is almost nothing to stop the Prime Minister of Bangladesh from passing any conceivable legislative bills. In effect then the Prime Minister acquires unlimited executive authority for the rest of the period of the mandate.

    The original Western perceptions of classical democracy have undergone a sea change, for the better, over the centuries — albeit in the face of ceaseless struggles by the oppressed classes, particularly the black and the women. Bangladesh, which has accepted democracy as a way of life, needs to realise that the country should not have to undergo the same painful, as well as suicidal, process of suppressing women in the political course of our development — social, political and economic.

    But the Bangladeshi elite’s discourse on democracy, as noted earlier, is devoid of many things, particularly the understanding that modern democracy envisages equal rights of both the male and female citizens of a country, and by that token, the females’ equal, and effective as well, participation in every sphere of life — familial, social, political and economic.

    Political naïfs often wonder as to why Bangladesh’s society and state is dominated by the males, especially when the machine of the state is being led, for about a decade and a half now, by two women — Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina. The answer is simple: Khaledas and Hasinas are the spontaneous product of a patriarchal political culture that produces and reproduces, in many forms, a belief system, the prisoners of which, male or female, can, and usually do, sincerely believe in the natural supremacy of man over woman. The truly democratic forces of the day, having an egalitarian approach to modern democracy, have to intervene forcefully in the patriarchal political culture in question.

    For five years the Government is subject to no formal accountability and does not have to take account of any alternative center of executive power. The President has been reduced to a figurehead. The Judiciary, and especially the higher Judiciary, has powers of redress over the government's executive actions but these are tangled up in convoluted procedure and, being essentially passive in nature, cannot be a substitute for an institution with an active checking role. The free Press and media do what they can to expose abuses but are not a source of institutional power. The field is absolutely clear for the government to exercise its power without any checks and what this boils down to in practice is rule by bureaucrats and shadowy advisers.

    In fact the Opposition starts to feel that its only role is as a cipher serving to legitimise all the actions of the governing party, no matter how unreasonable or whimsical these may be. In reaction the Opposition looks only for ways to de-legitimise the proceedings of the Jatiya Sangsad, either by disruptive behaviour in the House, or by not attending it at all.

    Bangladesh ranks 4th in democracy in Asia!

    Bangladesh secured the fourth position out of 16 Asian countries in the Asia Democracy Index, prepared by the Singapore-based Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia.

    In the overall ranking, Japan topped the list, followed by Hong Kong, Taiwan and Bangladesh. The other countries that were ranked are Philippines (5th), Thailand (6th), Indonesia (7th), Mongolia (8th), Sri Lanka (9th), South Korea (10th), Pakistan (11th), Cambodia (12th), Malaysia (13th), Nepal (14th), Singapore (15th) and Myanmar (16th). In the overall evaluation, Bangladesh’s score is 53.21%.

    In civil rights and elections and political process, Bangladesh occupied the 9th position with percentage scores of 62.34% and 45.14% respectively. In governance and corruption, Bangladesh’s position is 6th with 43.35 percentage score. In media and participation and representation, Bangladesh has been placed in 7th position with scores of 57.03% and 51.44% respectively. What is astonishing is that in rule of law, Bangladesh was ranked second (59.94%), only after Japan. Thus overall, Bangladesh has become an upper mid-ranking country in democratic progress among the 16 countries of Asia that were evaluated.

    This reflects the fact that despite the nation’s almost static position in the UNDP’s human development index and in spite of topping the list of the most corrupt countries of the world according to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), the people of Bangladesh are democratic in attitude and practice (New Age, September 27, 2004).

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    9.1 Physiographic regions in Bangladesh

    river-life in bangladesh The Ganges-. Padma, one of the greatest river of the world, originates from a glacier at 3,300 meters in Uttar Pradesh, India. After emerging out of its Himalayan source, it flows east and south-east for 2,500 km to the Bay of Bengal.

    Total dissolved solids (TDS) in the Brahmaputra and Ganges Rivers are about 100 ppm and 200 ppm, respectively, compared to about 270 ppm in the Mississippi. Thus both of these rivers entering Bangladesh have dissolved major element compositions quite similar to other major rivers, and have calcium and bicarbonate as their highest abundance ions. From dissolved ion data in the major rivers reaching Bangladesh, there would be no reason to expect any particular problems with groundwater chemical compositions.

    packed bus packed river transport without any security

    Most densely populated areas of the world and highest rate of road and river accidents.

    Quality of life in Bangladesh is better than Pakistan but worse than India and Sri Lanka. The quality of life index, prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister concern of the Economist Group, disclosed the quality of life in 111 countries for 2005. Nine factors came into consideration in preparing the ranking. These are: GDP per person, life expectancy at birth, political stability and security ratings, divorce rate, community life, climate and geography, job security, political freedom and gender equality (New Age, December 5, 2004).

    Bangladeshi wage earners who went in search of livelihood in different countries, remit fund to Bangladesh and annually maintain its foreign exchange reserve. It’s the main stay of economy of Bangladesh, but not productively used! It goes to formal and informal import of consumer goods, tours abroad by government ministers, officials and so called businessmen, high-rise buildings, grand shopping malls without any regard to principles of city and country planning, which are deepening poverty.

  • Most vessels in south ply without trained crew
  • Migrant worker:Exploited at home, unscrupulous recruitment practices irregular wages, terrible working conditions and, movements restrictions..

    Agricultural Economy

    Bangladesh, predominantly an agricultural economy with a high population pressure of 834 residents occupied per square kilometres, has a population where most rural Bangladeshis are dependent on rice cultivation for survival.

    At present agriculture contributes about 31.55 per cent in Gross Domestic Product. Crop sector contributes about 22.62 per cent of the total GDP and other crops and cereals contribute the rest. In addition rice crops dominates our agriculture in terms of both cropped area (75 percent of the cultivated area) and crop production.

    Landlessness structure in rural Bangladesh can be classified in five categories. The first category is households without household land and the second category without any cultivated land but homestead. The third category is households with homestead and cultivated land (upto 0.50 acre) while the fourth category is household with homestead and cultivated land (0.51-1.00 acre). Finally, the fifth category is households with homestead and cultivable land up to 1 acre or more

    Functional landless i.e. without cultivable land has increased sharply at the rate of 5.23 per cent per annum. Landlessness with homestead and cultivable land up to 0.50 acre has increased from 28.21 percent to 29.12 per cent. Functional landlessness, i.e. marginal farmers has increased from 12.32 per cent to 13.99 per cent and finally, the functionally landless people with one acre of cultivable land has reduced in some extent from 37.82 per cent to 27.91 per cent.

    The percentage distribution thus indicates that increasing tendency of landlessness and marginalization has reflected the unequal distribution of land ownership in the rural economy of Bangladesh.

    Bangladesh 'cheapest place' for investment in Asia

    The cost of investment in Bangladesh is falling, although some hidden expenses threaten to erode the country's competitiveness, a new survey reveals.

    The 17th survey of investment-related cost comparison said Bangladesh has emerged as "the cheapest place" in Asia in terms of nine cost components, including legal minimum wages, social security burden ratio and charges of utility services. "The relative position of Bangladesh against the components like salary of mid-level manager, legal minimum wage, rate of increase in nominal wage, telephone installation fees and call charges, mobile phone subscription fee, monthly basic mobile phone charge, cost of general use of per cubic meter gas, and cost of diesel has improved," noted the survey, conducted by the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO).

    It said the poor law and order situation, delay in the settlement of letter of credit (L/C) payment, sudden changes in government policies, inadequate infrastructure facilities, and problem related to Chittagong port need attention of the government to reduce the hidden cost of investment. (The Financial Express,June 21, 2007).


    river life in Bangladesh

    The rivers are life-giving to the still largely agrarian economy of Bangladesh. But most of these rivers, their tributaries and distributaries present a sorrowful spectacle today compared to their previous state. The rivers are common to both India and Bangladesh but have been unilaterally regulated on the Indian side through dams and other structures to divert water for various purposes in that country. The result has been the drying up of these rivers on the Bangladesh side and the silting of their beds. This means very lean flows of such rivers in Bangladesh during the dry season that make them practically useless or difficult for navigation or for irrigation of the agricultural hinterlands. In the wet seasons, the heavily silted river beds easily and frequently produce devastating floods.

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    9.2 Literacy in Bangladesh

    Large outlays in literacy programmes, in cash and kind, over the years have been marred by snags including mismanagement, excessive dropout rate, poor education quality, lack of good teachers and poor teacher-pupil ratio. Moreover, there is much controversy regarding the literacy rate of the country. "Almost 60 per cent of the adults (15 years and above) in Bangladesh are illiterate. Two thirds of them are women," said UNESCO country representative Wolfgang Volmann on Tuesday on the eve of the International Literacy Day.

    Bangladesh's current official literacy rate is about 65 per cent, while adult literacy is 55 per cent, showed a survey conducted by the Compulsory Primary Education Implementation Monitoring Unit. Although primary education was declared free, universal and compulsory, the dropout rate in primary classes is 37 per cent, according to the survey. "While there has been a rapid growth in enrolment and strong overall growth in the primary education system, the quality has stagnated. The overall pupil-teacher ratio is about 55:1 while it is 67:1 in government schools," said a study of the Asian Development Bank.

    The latest Education Watch Report revealed that almost half (49.3 per cent) of the population was "non-literate" (not totally illiterate but unable to use literacy functionally). "Even after five years of primary education, the principal means of acquiring literacy, one-third of the children remain non-literate. This is a serious indictment of the quality of primary education," said the report. It revealed that almost half of the population of the country are non-literate, and 10 per cent are semi-literate or still below initial literacy.

    The report said that the advanced level in literacy skills when people are able to apply the skills effectively in their life and use them on their own for further learning, had been achieved by only 20 per cent.

    According to the government survey, people enrolled in formal and non-formal schools were considered literate, he said. "The ability to sign or read and write a few lines does not confirm literacy. Literacy is not only a goal in itself," said Vollmann. He said the Human Development Index reflects the scenario of literacy in countries. "If the 65 per cent literacy rate is true for Bangladesh, her HDI should be very high. But Bangladesh's position is low in HDI ranking." He predicted that if the current pace of programmes under the Education for All project continues, Bangladesh would have 70 per cent literacy by 2015 (New Age, September 8, 2004).

    Corruption Osbtacle to Quality Education

    The workshop on 'Education for All' was organised by Mass-Line Media Centre, a non-government organisation, in the city. Noted academic Prof Sirajul Islam Chowdhury said corruption in the education sector is a major impediment to ensuring quality education.

    "Teachers are appointed in schools and colleges in exchange of money which hinders the delivery of quality education," he added. Prof Chowdhury said coaching centres have replaced classroom teachings at secondary level creating negative impact on education,

    Prof Ahmed Kamal of Dhaka University said bureaucracy is a major hindrance to the development of education. He said quality of education and quality of media are interrelated as without proper education it is not possible to ensure the quality of media (Daily Star, August 5, 2004).

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    9.3 Madrasas mushroom with state favour

    Many religious Muslims of our country send their children to madrassahs as they can learn Deen-e-Elm. Islam is a complete code of life-- so it's impossible to comprehend the teaching of Islam without the teaching of social, political, geographical and scientific knowledge. In our madrassahs students are taught various Islamic books written in Arabic, Persian and Urdu but as they are deprived of the knowledge of their surroundings it's very natural for them to misinterpret Islam. As a result when their teachers or leaders show them the way of being a Mujaheed by killing innocent people or by creating anarchy in the society- it's hard for them to understand what is right.

    22.22pc growth of madrasas against 9.74pc of general educational institutions during 2001-05

    madrasaMadrasa education has received more state favour than general education in the last four years, leading to the significant growth of madrasas in Bangladesh. The number of general educational institutions, which receive government funds, has increased 9.74 percent against a 22.22 percent growth of madrasas from 2001 to 2005, Bangladesh Economic Review statistics show. The growth of madrasas got such a boost especially after the BNP-led coalition involving Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote and Bangladesh Jatiya Party came to power in 2001.

    The picture was different during the 1996-2001 rule of Awami League (AL). In the first four years of the AL rule, the number of general educational institutions rose by 28 percent while that of madrasas by 17 percent. The number of madrasa teachers saw a significant rise in the last four years, compared to those in the general education. Teachers in the schools and colleges marked a 12.27 percent increase against 16.52 percent in the madrasas between 2001 and 2005. The number of students in general educational institutions rose 8.64 percent while the madrasas saw a 10.12 percent rise in enrolment during this period. But the number of students increased sharply during the AL period.

    Experts believe madrasas have negligible contributions in creating skilled human resources in the country, still they received on average 11.5 percent of the total education budget in the last few years. Apart from about 9,000 government-registered madrasas, there are numerous other institutions across the country offering religious education without registration. The national databank on education compiled by Bangladesh Bureau of Education Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) does not have information about these madrasas. Madrasa Education Board controls the Ebtedayee madrasas, but Qawmi madrasas are totally out of government control, said Professor Iqbal Aziz Muttaki of the Institute of Education and Research at Dhaka University. The Qawmi madrasas have their own curriculum. Abdul Jabbar, secretary general of Bangladesh Qawmi Madrasa Education Board, a private board of these madrasas, told The Daily Star that they have a list of about 15,000 Qawmi madrasas. Jabbar, however, said there are many such madrasas which are not enlisted with the board.

    Moreover, Education Minister Osman Farruk told parliament recently that the government is considering giving Fazil and Kamil degrees of madrasas the status equivalent to graduation and master's degrees of general education. Asked, the minister ruled out any extra favour to madrasa education. "It is not true that the government is promoting madrasa education ignoring the mainstream education." "Percentage does not always reflect the real situation," Farruk said. He, however, assured that he will examine whether the general educational institutions are not being given due importance.

    The education minister, who is not happy with the existing quality of madrasa graduates, said, "It needs modernisation. I feel the madrasa students should learn the same core subjects that the general educational institutions teach up to the higher secondary level." About the government move to give the Fazil and Kamil degrees equal status of graduation and master's degree of the general education, the minister said, "It is under process." "We are not upgrading the Fazil and Kamil degrees, rather we will recommend what is needed to make the degrees equivalent to graduation and master's degree," he said. Opposing the government move, Prof Muttaki said: "Educational institutions are for creating human resources, but the madrasas have failed to do it." "Contribution of madrasa graduates at the national level is negligible despite some recent moves to update the course curricula of madrasas," he observed. "Most of the madrasa graduates usually become imams at mosques and a few of them receive general education from universities and colleges," he said.

    The researcher said madrasa education seems to be a sensitive issue for all governments who always face a dilemma in taking any drastic step to modernise the madrasa education system or merge it with the mainstream education. In the last four years, as many as 1,720 general educational institutions (schools and colleges up to the higher secondary level) were set up, raising the total to 19,370. On the other hand, a total of 1,618 new madrasas were established during the period. The number of madrasas across the country is now 8,897. The number of teachers in the general education has grown by 25,882 pushing the total to 2,36,813, while that in madrasas has increased by 18,167, taking the total to 1,28,084.

    Different intelligence agencies launched investigations into the activities of the qoumi madrassahs after the countrywide series of bomb blasts on August 17, 2005, based on the information that these institutions provide guerrilla training to their students with the goal of establishing Islamic rule in Bangladesh.

    Rigorous investigation substantiated the information and the intelligence agencies marked out 323 qoumi madrassahs where militant training was taking place. The agencies also suggested that the government should monitor the activities of the madrassahs and trace the source of their funds. The government has recently imposed a ban on the enrolment of foreign students in qoumi madrassahs following allegations that there are about 1,000 foreign students involved in the training of militants (New Age, August 27, 2006).

    Growth: madrasas vs general educational institutions(Source: Bangladesh Economic Review)

    1996-2000 2001-2005
    Institutions General 28%, Madrasa 17% General 10%, Madrasa 22%
    Teachers Teachers General 12%, Madrasa 17%
    Students General 33%, Madrasa 58% General 9%, Madrasa 10%

    madrasa studentsThe AL(Awami League) government formed in 1997 another Education Commission, headed by Prof Shamsul Haque, which found ‘madrassah education an integral part of the national education system’, while making no changes in its syllabi that produces in hundreds of poor young boys a mediaeval world outlook, plagued by a deep sense of intolerance for opposing ideologies — political or religious.

    One of the major political agenda of the government of Sheikh Hasina was to prove, by means of patronising, both politically and financially, various Islamic organisations/institutions that the party in no way lags behind BNP in terms of detesting secular ideals. Before the last general elections in 2001, the contending political parties had even shed the last string of secular ideals. The BNP’s election manifesto proclaimed that the party, if voted to power, ‘will not enact any law contrary to Islam’.

    The Jamaat-e-Islami announced in unambiguous terms that the party, if voted to power, ‘will convert the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh into an Islamic Republic’. Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League also decided not to lag behind, at least, the BNP. “If returned to power,” the AL announced in its election, “no law will be enacted, which will be inconsistent with the dictates of Qur’an and Hadith”. The AL’s announcement reminded many people, secular and anti-secular alike, of the historical fact that the party was born with the name of Awami Muslim League. Only the 11-party alliance, a conglomeration of the left and liberal democratic parties and groups, pledged that they, if voted to power, would work for restoring secular ideals.

    The number of students in schools and colleges rose to 89,28,227 with an increase of 7,10,531 in the last four years. On the other hand, the number of madrasa students rose by 3,30,899 during the period to stand at 35,97,453. During 1996-2000, the number of general educational institutions rose by 3,694 to reach 16,882 while that of madrasas reached 7,122 with an increase of 1,022 institutions. The number of teachers in the general education during the AL regime grew by 30,911 pushing the total to 1,98,521, while in madrasas, the number of teachers increased by 10,967, taking the total to 98,089. The number of students in general educational institutions rose by 19,54,316 to stand at 77,97,163 while in madrasas the number of students increased to 29,59,867 with an addition of 10,84,950 during 1996-2000 (Rejaul Karim Byron and Shameem Mahmud,Daily Star, August 4. 2005)..

    Qawami madrasa degree gets master's status

    The government has decided to recognise Dawra degree of Qawami madrasa equivalent to master's degree in Islamic studies or Arabic literature Prime Minister Khaleda announced the decision at a function of Islamic thinkers and teachers of Qawami madrasas at the International Conference Centre (ICC) yesterday. After the announcement, "Marhava", "marhava" sound reverberated through the conference hall. The prime minister told the function that she asked the authorities concerned to constitute a committee to frame necessary rules and regulations and institutional framework to implement the decision. Within next one month, the prime minister said, the committee will submit necessary planning and strategy guidelines to the government.

    Monday afternoon modernisation of Bangladesh suffered a major setback when Prime Minister Khaleda Zia announced that the highest degree awarded by the orthodox Qawami madrasa would be equated with the master's degree. The ramifications of her announcement are so far reaching that many think it will forever change the intellectual superstructure of the Bangladesh society. In time, nothing will be the same as before, and everything will change be it economy, politics, culture, society, civil administration and law and order. And all this had been done with one tunnel vision -- to win votes in the upcoming elections.

    But Bangladesh's history of this plunge into the abysmal darkness has not been unbroken. Bangladesh was a society of cultural and religious harmony with a thriving progressive political front. Born out of a two-nation theory with the Hindus and Muslims living in separate homelands, Pakistan from which Bangladesh broke away in 1971 through a bloody war still offered the Bangalees the resilience to maintain the religious harmony. In fact, to throw off the yoke of the West Pakistani psyche of mixing Islam with everything and to get closer to the people of Bengal, the Awami Muslim League showed in the mid 50s the courage to drop the middle name to become Awami League.

    Against the repressive march of the West Pakistani rulers in the name of Islam, Bangalee culture and society thrived in its own way. And then finally the birth of Bangladesh came with the state standing on the pillar of secularism where fundamentalism, use of religion in politics and using religion as a part of state ideology had no place through constitutional guarantee.

    When democracy finally returned in 1990, it was thought that use of religion for political gain would end. But it did not. The BNP immediately formed an unofficial electoral alliance with Jamaat and religion was dragged to election campaigns with slogans like "If you vote for the scale (election symbol of Jamaat), Allah will be happy." Finally, the BNP formed the government with Jamaat's support.

    But then Jamaat broke ties with BNP on the point of condemning Israeli attack on Hebron mosque. Awami League, still regarded by many as a secular party, threw off its veil and jumped at the opportunity. It formed another unwritten alliance with Jamaat and drummed up movement against the ruling BNP. Of course, it was election time again and the hunger for power made the AL forget the constitution the party had written in 1972. Sheikh Hasina also learnt the trick fast and her picture with a headgear beamed from posters on the wall. She won the race this time.

    In its effort to up the ante against the BNP and win hearts of the fundamentalists, the AL government kept on increasing funds channeled to the madrasas while the general education level dipped. And it played the most devious role when the religious extremists attacked an Independence Day programme at Brahmanbaria. The police remained silent and took no action.

    Election time came again and body politic took another beating as the BNP formed the four-party alliance with Jamaat and another fundamentalist party Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ) as the major partners. The formation of the 'Islamic' axis yielded dividends again and the alliance came to power with an overwhelming majority. This opened the door for Jamaat, for the first time ever, to enter into the government. Now a part of the state mechanism was in control of the religious forces. 'Islamisation of the society' gathered steam. Militant organisations crept up and thrived under the blind eye of the government and Bangladesh saw an unprecedented level of militant activities. To send the society back even further, demands for declaring the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims were echoed freely and the government even went to the extent of banning the religious book of the Ahmadiyyas.

    Now comes another election time and another dose of 'Islamisation' was shot in the arm of the body politic on Monday when Prime Minister Khaleda Zia equated the Qawami madrasa's Dawra degree with master's. She only made the announcement, leaving the onus of implementing it on the next government, whichever party may form it, or even on the caretaker government, which for many a reason will be under intense pressure unknown before. And what makes it distressing that all this 'Islamisation' was not done for the purpose of glorifying Islam as a great religion but for populism and bagging votes in elections.

    In a few years time, these Qawami students, whose curriculum are never under the government's control and of dubious quality due to lack of modern syllabus, will sit for civil service exams and qualify in greater numbers than the general students because of higher marks obtained in Arabic and Islamic studies. They will get into the police and armed forces. It is anybody's guess about the quality and direction of their policy decisions once they are in policymaking positions.

    Societies march ahead, on Monday afternoon Bangladesh walked backward. (Editorial, Daily Star, August 24, 2006)

    The case against kawmi(Qawami) madrasas

    How much longer will it take for our policy-makers to wake up to the reality that the so-called old-scheme -- "kawmi" -- madrasas are as anti-people and anti-social in nature as anti-Islamic in spirit? May be the governments since 1971 have all along been aware of their reactionary nature but none of them could muster enough moral and political courage or had enough integrity to ban them.

    But the recent proofs that many of these Kawmi madrasas are hotbeds of al-Qaeda-type, and probably al-Qaeda-linked, "Islamist" militancy gives utmost urgency to abolishing these breeding places of many social, political, economic, security, and religious evils.

    Economically, kawmi madrasas are an unwelcome burden on the society as they produce a class of citizens who have no productive skill. The only work they usually do is that of an imam or a muezzin of a mosque, besides presiding over milad mahfils, all in exchange of money. These institutions, often occupying public land and consuming power and water without paying the bills, also run on social charity.

    A poor economy like Bangladesh can ill-afford such schools that pay it back with nothing but numerous bigots and clergymen, who have no place in an Islamic society as perceived by its founder, Prophet Mohammed. It is in this aspect that kawmi madrasas go against the spirit of Islam. In Mohammed's lifetime and for many years after his death, Islam did not allow priesthood as a profession as it also discouraged monasticism.

    In Islam, every Muslim prays, observes other rituals and carries out other religious duties for the sake of Allah alone and in exchange for no earthly gains which tantamount to Shirk or acknowledging something/somebody else as partner to His absolute monopoly on worship. But, as in the case of every other religion, Islamic norms started to degenerate soon after the death of the Prophet. For example, the second Khaliph, Omar Ibn Khattab, prohibited women from taking part in mass prayers, Jamaats, which had been a customary practice during Mohammed's lifetime, on the pretext that the changed social circumstances no more permitted that tradition to continue.

    The circumstances changed indeed, and continued to change more and more, and, at one stage, priesthood, though much abhorred by the Prophet who held it as one of the major cause for the degeneration of Christianity, crept into Islam. The original practice was to elect/select the most knowledgeable, honourable and old person among the people gathered to pray to lead the congregation, and, of course, in exchange for nothing. By Islamic tenets, every Muslim is also bound to earn his/her bread by working, whether as a manual labourer, a farmer, an artisan, a professional, a trader, or a miller. It is because Islam did not want any of its followers to remain unproductive and thus not contributing to the common social good. That is why it discouraged also Rahbaniat or monasticism, another trait of many older religions.

    So, from the point of view of both economics and religion, the unproductive clerical and parasitic life the products of the parasitic Kawmi madrasas live should not be permitted to continue as they are as much contrary to the essence, spirit and norms of the religion they sell unashamedly to the ignorant masses to earn a living as they are to the economic well-being of the nation, especially of the vast majority of its poor people. The money wasted on these so-called educational institutes and their ill-educated graduates could be better utilised for ensuring healthcare and food security of the poor and the disadvantaged. Along with the students and graduates, the authorities of these kawmi madrasas and the quarters that have political, financial or other vested interests in them comprise a section of the society who, in keeping with its fanatic and reactionary tradition as was seen during the Liberation War, in recent times has emerged as the main population bank from which the Islamist militants draw their operatives to carry out the most atrocious acts like bombing innocent people to death in an attempt what it claims to establish an Islamic state.

    Although the situation in Bangladesh is far different than that in Afghanistan or Iraq, these quasi-Islamist bigots have their own hidden political agenda under the anti-US stance and love for Laden and the late Saddam they preach. They use the kawmi madrasas as their strongholds and ruthlessly use the graduates, students and supporters of these institutions to realise their political ambitions. Recent intelligence reports show that last year's crackdown on the banned JMB has not succeeded in stopping their anti-state and anti-social schemes which have taken new channels, and they have become more alert and cautious and are preparing to pounce upon the nation once again at any opportune time.

    Against this background, the people still having a sane mind feel the government should abolish these vice dens called kawmi madrasas, a number of which in Bagmara, Rajshahi had even been used as torture chambers of medieval cruelty, and thus deprive these regrouping militants of their safe havens and recruit banks and, at the same time, deliver the poor nation of an unwanted, and unwarranted, burden.

    For those who want to study Islamic theology there are plenty of institutions under the Madrasa Education Board which also offer their graduates opportunities to enrol in university or technical courses to acquire some professional skills and thereby become productive and worthy members of the society. I should reiterate again -- it is high time, may be the last one, to take a bold strategic decision on this issue of utmost national interest, however tough and daring it may seem to be, because the consequence of not doing that may prove disastrous by many more degrees, recovering from which may even be impossible (Afzar Aziz, Daily Star, May 13, 2007).

    Madrasas for Females Where life is under lock and key

    studentIt is a privately-owned residential madrasa along with an orphanage for 306 girls aged between three and fifteen. It is a single-room bamboo-made house, where all the students are herd together to sleep, eat, play and study. In the centre of the crowded neighbourhood of Chantek in Demra, the madrasa is kept under lock and key round the clock. Inside, helpless children cram the handful of windows to wave to passers-by. Most children show visible signs of malnourishment and anxiety. Their only ambition is to learn how to read the Quran and become religion instructors. "We will do what Allah wishes," Sajeda, a 12-year-old girl said when she was asked about her plans on completion of her studies in the madrasa established in 1988.

    The Jamia Islamia Ashraful Ulam Mahila Madrasa teaches only Arabic. Students receive no education in Bengali, English, Science or Mathematics, which is contradictory to the national education policy.

    Other female Qawmi madrasas in Dhaka also offer similar 'education', not officially recognised. The head of the madrasa, Mohammad Abdur Rahman, explained the principle behind this kind of education and said it is based on gaining 'access to paradise' after death and not aimed at gaining anything earthly. "We teach children how to lead a religious life and gather maximum spiritual wealth for eternal life," the principal said. He, however, did not explain his failure to address the problems that include unhygienic conditions in the madrasa. Of the 25 teachers of the madrasa, most are males. The principal stressed that he maintained strict segregation between the male teachers and the students by installing a curtain between them during class.

    In March 2002, seven students were burnt alive and a hundred others injured inside this madrasa as it was under lock and key when the fire occurred.

    The thatched house was burnt to ashes. Most of the students could not come out during the fire as the principal kept the key. "The bodies were so severely burnt that they could not be identified," said a student who was injured in the fire. "I am an orphan, where will I go? The madrasa at least offers me shelter," the girl said. The situation in Rashidia Ibrahimia Mahila Madrasa at Shanir Akhra about 500 metres away from this madrasa is more or less the same. With 210 students crammed inside two floors of a six-storey building, the children are confined to rooms under lock and key. On July 13, when the Star City correspondent visited the Rashidia Ibrahimia Mahila Madrasa established four years ago, the third floor was found to be opened, while the fourth floor was locked. Around 50 juveniles on the third floor surrounded the correspondent to meet her. "We rarely meet new people. The entrance and exit to this place are restricted," said eight-year-old Tania. "I was admitted here one and a half years ago and never had the opportunity to see outsiders." As Tania talked to the correspondent, a boy around 13 screamed seeing a female visitor inside the madrasa. He rebuked the correspondent and also the students for entertaining an 'outsider'. "You will be punished later," the boy threatened, locking the door (Morshed Ali Khan and Sultana Rahman, Daily Star, July 25, 2005)..

    The Shariah, Mullah and Muslims in Bangladesh

    Democratic Intervention

    The construction, and perpetuation, of a secular democratic society calls for a series of simultaneous politically conscious actions at different levels, especially including education and culture — not to mention the obvious need for organising perpetual protests, at the political level, against formulation and implementation of non-secular policies and programmes by the communal elite.

    As regards democratic intervention at the cultural and ideological level, fighting for formulation and implementation of secular democratic curricula remains one of the most important responsibilities. Because a secular and scientific education generates among the children, or the future citizens for that matter, a sense of demystification of the universe, which automatically encourages the students to constantly question and review all structures, processes, institutions and situations of the society from the point of view of democratic ideologies.

    Still, the lesson of the history of the civilisations is that the forces of regression get eventually defeated by the forces of progress. So now is the time for the democratic forces to take up the difficult task of fighting back the non-secular social, political and cultural adversaries to defend the sense of dignity of the members of the country’s minority communities, and thus virtually restore the human dignity of the members of the majority community.

    Back to Content

    9.4 Blasts rock every corner of country , AUGUST 17, 2005

    terrorists, leaflets, booksOn April 14, 2001, a powerful bomb exploded at Chhayanaut’s traditional Pahela Baishakh programme killing 10 people and injuring more than 30 others. The deadly explosion sent panic-stricken men, women and children running and screaming. The announcer said the programme would continue despite the explosion. But the dreadful scene of death brought the programme to an abrupt end. It was the first attack on a Bangla New Year’s Day celebration programme and the third such blast at rallies in the capital within three months of each other.. Some 400 small bombs exploded almost simultaneously in 63 of the 64 districts in the country Wednesday morning, killing at least two persons and injuring more than 150 people. The attackers also clearly took encouragement from subsequent governments’ absolute failure in identifying the perpetrators of so many bomb attacks that have gone unpunished in the past six-odd years. Regardless of whether self-styled Islamists were behind Wednesday’s attacks or not, the government has to take responsibility for its refusal to address the Islamist threat.

    The banned Islamist outfit Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh has apparently circulated leaflets near each blast site, although they have stopped short of actually claiming responsibility. This was not the real attack. This was merely a loud statement — of how wide their network spreads, of how coordinated their handiwork is, of how close-knit and tight-lipped their members are, and of how strong their will is to defy and destruct all that we hold dear in the form of laws and values in the land that is Bangladesh.

    Widespread corruption, political appointment and incompetence and lack of professionalism are responsible for the failure of the intelligence agencies to forewarn and unearth any ploy relating to national security, according to experts and retired intelligence officials. Failure of the agencies to warn the authorities of Wednesday’s massive bombings that seriously undermined the national security has also raised question whether they have ability to do the jobs they are assigned for.

    Holding responsible the National Security Intelligence and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence for Wednesday’s blasts, experts said the two agencies failed systematically because of ‘inadequate manpower, training facilities and budgetary allocation, and politicisation on the whole’.

    The government on Thursday confirmed the involvement of the banned Islamist outfit Jamaatul Mujaheedin in the August 17 countrywide blasts that left two people killed and more than 150 injured. Mohammad Mohsin, joint secretary (political) of the home ministry, at an investigation update, said the clues detected by the investigators following the statements of the suspects detained and quizzed proved the outlawed Islamist group was responsible for the blasts (New Age, August 26, 2005).

    Most of the arrested JMB or JMJB cadres who have confessed their participation in the 17/8 bomb blasts have said they did so at the call of Abdur Rahman, their leader, while some others have named Bangla Bhai, another top notch leader of the JMB. Another name that has come up time and again from the confessors is Ataur Rahman, who is also known to his fellow militants as Hasan and Sunny. "But that's all they seem to know, the name of their top leaders Abdur Rahman, Bangla Bhai and his brother Ataur Rahman. The arrested are giving information about activists of their ranks and level, but they do not appear to have any knowledge about the activities and whereabouts of JMB leaders of the higher echelons (Daily Star, September 16, 2005).

    bomb makingThe police in its hunt for militants involved in the August 17 series of blasts raided a suspected den, the house of a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, a coalition partner of the government, in northwest Rajshahi on Friday and seized arms and explosive. The police in the raid also arrested two suspected militants of the banned Islamist outfit Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh from the house at Tanore in the district. The law enforcers found a huge amount of bomb-making materials, including detonators, four firearms and books on jihad and bomb-making, in the pre-dawn raid of the house, owned by Nasirullah, a local Jamaat leader (New Age, September 17, 2005).

    A huge cache of bomb-making materials were seized by police from two houses in the city's Goran and Basabo area on September 8, only three weeks into the countrywide bomb blastsMeanwhile, the investigation into the near-simultaneous bomb blasts across the country is going on fairly well. The list of arrestees is growing almost every day; intense -- at times coercive -- interrogation is yielding more and more 'significant leads' and using them, various agencies are raiding different places, recovering arms, ammunition, bombs and rounding up more sus-pected militants almost on a daily basis. They have also had a prized catch in Abdur Rahman's brother, Moulana Obaidur Rahman Ibne Fazle recently, and a DB team discovered a lathe-machine factory in Old Dhaka where tools for making bomb-heads, dies and a sack of green raw materials were found.

    But, the fact remains that the masterminds of these organised attacks have still managed to elude arrest and the progress so far made will be tantamount to zero if the real culprits and their heinous intentions remain undiscovered. And there is every reason to believe that it's not going to be easy.

    Brig General Shakhawat Hussain, a security expert and columnist, sheds more light on the matter: "Those who have so far been arrested are the foot soldiers, the field level operatives, who only know their top leader, that too perhaps only by name. It is very likely that those who have named Abdur Rahman as their leader have never actually seen him, perhaps saw only his photographs." The real challenge for the investigators is to find the missing links and tie the loose ends. Again, catching Bangla Bhai or Abdur Rahman may not mean the investigation is over, as many experts and analysts are of the opinion that a stronger power, national or probably international, is plotting these attacks and using the JMB just as their pawn.

    Lack of coordination between various intelligence and law enforcement agencies is seriously hampering the drive to trace and arrest Jamaatul Mujahideen chief Abdur Rahman and his close aide Bangla Bhai. ‘Each of the law enforcing units is now desperately aiming to gain government’s trust by arresting the two chiefs and so they are not exchanging information with each other, let alone coordinating their activities,’ said an intelligence agency official. ‘In fact, each of the agencies is mapping out its own strategy to nab Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, so there is no central control to ensure the necessary coordination between the various agencies,’ he told New Age on Saturday. ‘Each agency is using its own informers and is not revealing any information it has gathered to its sister bodies,’(New Age, September 18, 2005).

    To establish a Taliban-like rule

    When the government arrested Galib in February 2005 and banned the JMB and JMJB, a government press note read, "The government notices with concern that two organisations called Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama'atul Mujahideen have been carrying out a series of murders, robberies, bomb attacks, threats and various kinds of terrorist acts causing deaths to peace-loving people and destruction of property."

    asadullah al galib(left) and bangla bhai.Chief of the JMB, Asadullah-al-Galib, a teacher at the Rajshahi University, is now in jail. One of the handbills procured from the Rajshahi city reads: we want to earn Almighty's satisfaction by establishing Khalis Tauhid (pure monotheism) by putting an end to bida't and want to make the people happy in the world here and hereafter. The leaflet says the JMB urged the government twice earlier to establish Islamic Hukumat (Islamic order), but every time the government arrested their workers. However, JMB did not resort to any retaliation.

  • In February 13, 2003, a JMB militant named Badal was killed in an explosion while making bombs in a house in Dinajpur town. Two arms and explosives cases were filed and seven were arrested. But all of them were released later.
  • In August 2003, the JMB, Bangla Bhai and JMB's top leader Shaikh Abdur Rahman were locked in a clash at a secret training camp with the police at Khetlal of Joypurhat. Most of the militants managed to escape leaving behind huge documents showing their subversive plans. Eighteen militants were arrested, including Rahman's brother. But a few days later, they were not only released, but the government transferred several police officials involved in the Khetlal operation.

    "We don't believe in the present political trend. We want to build a society based on the Islamic model laid out in the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith," Bangla Bhai told The Daily Star in an interview in May last year. The leaflets found yesterday at the blast sites echoed the same message. Bangla Bhai also said he wanted to establish a Taliban-like rule. His party has been active underground since 1998 and had three tiers of workers until last year. The party spent Tk 7 lakh per month for 10,000 full-time JMB workers across the country, while the total number of its activists is no less than a lakh, he claimed.

    At different times, all the confessions made by the arrested militants spelt out the names of Bangla Bhai, Abdur Rahman, Asadullah Al Galib and some other leaders. Earlier this year, they also stated that an explosion in Jamalpur was orchestrated by Abdur Rahman himself. Abdur Rahman's father late Moulana Abdullah Ibne Fazal was a member of Jamiatul Ahle Hadith which is now led by Galib. Moulana Fazal is accused of collaborating with the Pakistani forces in 1971. Shafiqullah, nabbed on January 17 for bombing a folk-drama programme in Lakkhikhola village, said the JMB has its separate bombing squads spread across the country. It has its separate working forces in the bomb squads and the tasks of every group are well defined, he said during his remand (Julfikar Ali Manik, August 18, 2005).

    "We're the soldiers of Allah. We've taken up arms for the implementation of Allah's law the way Prophet, Sahabis and heroic Mujahideen have done for centuries," the so-called Islamist outfit said in the leaflets circulated at the bombing sites.

  • Although leaflets of banned Islamist militant organisation Jama'atul Mujaheedin, Bangladesh (JMB) were found at all the explosion sites yesterday, State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar refrained from putting blame on the militant organisation for the act that sent a chill of horror through the bones of the countrymen.

    As newspapers carried a series of reports on Islamist militancy over the last two years, the government kept on denying the existence of the militants, terming Bangla Bhai's Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and other militant organisations as a creation of media. The government banned the JMJB and JMB on February 23 accusing them of series of bomb attacks and killings to create anarchy, eating its own words of denial of their existence. Newspapers investigations found links of both Bangla Bhai and his religious mentor, Abdur Rahman, both of whom are also involved with the JMB, with al-Qaeda and other Taliban leaders and the two told newspapers that they wanted to establish Taliban-like rule in Bangladesh.

    A senior Jamaatul Mujahidin leader, Moniruzzaman Munna, was arrested in Satkhira and reportedly confessed later that he had organised the bomb attack in the south-western district headquarters. The police arrested Munna from Itagachha area in Satkhira town early Thursday on the basis of a statement of Nasiruddin, another Mujaheedin activist. The police arrested Nasiruddin Wednesday afternoon and he had reportedly named Munna as the mastermind of the blast in the district town. Nasiruddin also confessed that he was responsible for the blasts at the Satkhira district judge court.

    Al-Haramain trained militants on how to make, use bombs

    mullahThe banned Islamic charity group, Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, has trained about 500 militants of Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh in the manufacture and use of bombs at an isolated place in Gazipur. Two intelligence agencies, while investigating an orphanage belonging to the organisation after the August 17 chain-bombing, found evidences of training and use of explosives on the soil around the centre. The intelligence agencies reported that a Sudanese national was in control of the centre located inside a forest near Pangshail village of Bhawal Mirzaur. The centre was closed down in November last year following a worldwide ban on the Riyadh-based charity group in 2004 on suspicion of funding the al-Qaeda. The report reveals that the head of the centre, who married a Bangladeshi girl, stayed in the village till the unprecedented chain-bombing throughout the country that left three persons dead and 150 wounded .

    It says that the centre was set amidst groves of trees to hide their activities from nearby people. Though the centre was closed down its building, where the Sudanese used stay with his wife and a few other persons, is still there. The investigators have found out that officials from Revival of Islamic Heritage Society used to visit the centre frequently. The Kuwait-based Islamic organisation is now hurriedly wrapping up after it was discovered that it had funded different Islamist extremist outfits for the cause of Jihad in Bangladesh.

    The report said seven experts on explosives — two each from Sudan and Yemen and three from Pakistan — used to assist the Sudanese to train militants to make various kinds of bombs. ‘The seven persons, who had fought in the Afghan war, left the country on the day of bombing,’ it added.

    Al-Haramain has spent crores of takas for establishing numerous madrassahs and orphanage centres throughout the country after it started working among the Rohingyas of Cox’s Bazar in 1992. Though its area of activity was centred in Cox’s Bazar in the beginning, it gradually spread all over the country before being banned by the government at the end of last year, following a request from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Intelligence agencies said many officials of the charity group are under cover, still working in different Islamic NGOs in Bangladesh, who should be traced out and apprehended to stop their illicit activities (New Age, September 15, 2005).

    The extremist Islamist group, Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, has been able to set up its explosive wing that is capable of manufacturing a certain type of grenade, which is not as destructive as other sophisticated grenades but is quite deadly. The country’s explosive experts, after examining the recovered bomb-making materials and tools of the workshops, are convinced that a good number of such grenades are already in the hands of the militant group. The grenade, similar to the Austrian-made Arges brand, is being produced by the trained experts of the militant outfit by assembling local and smuggled materials and equipment.

    The militant group, as per its long-standing plan, picked up intelligent youths from different institutions over the years and had them trained in making various kinds of bombs. It provided them all kinds of facilities, from money to materials to well-equipped workshops. Police and intelligence agency sources said that the youths had been sent to India in small groups to be trained. Some experts also came from outside to help them develop their expertise. ‘But it was their determination, passion and above all pressure from the leaders which made them attain a certain level of expertise,’ (New Age. September 21, 2005).

    Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh

    terroristsJamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh, an extremist Islamist organisation banned in February, has warned the government of counteraction if any Muslim is arrested for campaigning for the establishment of Islamic laws in Bangladesh. The warnings came in handbills, attributed to the organisation, which were found at every site of explosion across the country on Wednesday. A series of explosions rocked all the 64 district headquarters.

  • Jamaatul Mujaheedin rejects the existing constitution, the judiciary, and the so-called electoral process that are contradictory to the laws of Allah,’ reads the handbill.
  • ‘People who are against Allah are now running the country. The process, under which the head of the state and other officials are elected, is not in accordance with the Islamic rule.
  • 'Neither the Qur’an nor the Hadith approves democracy or socialism, formulated by Kafirs [non-believers] and Mushriks [pagans].’
  • It calls upon the government, the political parties in treasury and opposition benches in the parliament, the bureaucrats and the judges to ‘establish the rules of Allah on His land’.
  • The US president, George W Bush, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, and their followers ‘will not be safe anywhere in the world if repression on Muslim continues’.
  • The handbill also contains a warning for ‘anti-Islamic NGOs’. ‘Stop anti-Islamic activities in Muslim countries; otherwise, you will be annihilated.’
  • ‘It is the third call for the government to implement Islamic laws. If the government does no implement and arrests any Muslim for campaigning for Islamic laws or unleashes repression on Islamic scholars, Jamaatul Mujaheedin will retaliate,’ says the handbill. ‘Implement Allah’s laws, we will help you. We do not want power; rather, we want divine laws, instead of temporal rule,’ it adds. ‘Otherwise, the organisation will resort to “kittal” [all-out war] for the establishment of the rules of Allah on His land.’ The organisation urged people not to go to existing ‘temporal’ judiciary and go to Islamic scholars for judgement as per the rules of Allah.
  • Those who want to institutionalise democracy in the country are enemies of Islam. The system, formulated by non-believers, divides a nation into government and opposition parties and allows the political parties to harm the people through hartal, strikes, and siege programmes.’
  • The organisation called upon the Islamic Ummah (community) to force every government into establishing Islamic laws in their lands. ‘Establish Islamic government ousting the temporal rulers from the Muslim countries through armed jihad.’

    The bombers are fighting to violently overthrow our entire democratic system of government, which they termed as evil and against Islam. In the accompanying leaflet, the terrorists have clearly stated that they reject the Constitution and all the laws formed under it. The fact that in each district administrative offices and courts were bombed makes it abundantly clear that their target is the very foundation of the state.

    Each one of us in the country -- government, opposition, or neutral -- must today unite behind our common purpose to root out the terrorists and defend our democracy from this unprecedented assault (Editorial, Daily Star, August 18, 2005).

    The joint interrogation cell, meanwhile, started quizzing 32 suspects out of 123, most of them belonging to the Islamist group, at two JIC centres in Baridhara and Uttara on Saturday. Six of them were arrested from Dhaka and 26 from other districts after the wave of blasts. Two of the Mujaheedin activists — Moniruzzaman Munna and Nasiruddin Dafadar — confessed to planting the bombs, claimed the police. They said some other arrested Mujaheedin activists had also made confessions that they had carried out the blasts at the directive of the organisation chief, Shaikh Abdur Rahman, who has been on the run for more than a year (New Age, August 21, 2005).

    RAW behind blasts, claims Nizami

    The Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh amir, Motiur Rahman Nizami, on Saturday accused by name the Research and Analyses Wing of the Indian intelligence of setting up Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh to unleash militant activities to fit its propaganda offensive against Bangladesh and destabilise the polity. Nizami, a top leader of the BNP-led four-party ruling alliance, also blamed the main opposition Awami League for patronising the little-known Jamaatul Mujaheedin, which was banned along with Jagrata Muslim Janata in February. ‘The Indian intelligence agency RAW created Jamaatul Mujaheedin, which was primarily blamed for conducting the August 17 bomb blasts in Bangladesh,’ Nizami, also the industries minister, told a news conference at his party’s central office in Dhaka. ‘The Awami League is patronising the organisation.’ Nizami also criticised the Indian high commissioner in Dhaka, Veena Sikri, who had told Indian TV channel NDTV that the Islamic organisations, which wanted to rule Bangladesh, had conducted the August 17 blasts (New Age, August 21, 2005).

    Jamaat MP brokered Sarbahara involvement

    A Jamaat-e-Islami lawmaker who is known as the spiritual leader of the party used his ‘good relations’ with a family having both Jamaat and Sarbahara links to involve an outlawed party in the August 17 chain-bombings, intelligence sources claim. Sources close to NSI investigators working on the hunt for militants claimed the agency found that the family had opposed the country’s independence during the liberation war and some of its members later got involved with the outlawed party. Moulana Abdul Wahab had worked as a Razakar — an abettor of Pakistani war crimes — during the war. He was later named Bulbul-e-Bangladesh for the Islamic lectures he delivered across the country after independence (New Age, September 22, 2005).

    Link of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh with different Islamist militant organisations is becoming evident with the arrest of militants in connection with the attacks on different NGOs in northern districts in February and August 17 countrywide serial bomb blasts. While the Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) leaflets found at all the August 17 bomb blast spots demanded establishment of Islamic rule in the country, the Jamaat chief earlier openly declared that "Islamic rule will be established soon." Jamaat chief and Industries Minister Matiur Rahman Nizami on February 25 told his followers at a public rally at Jaldhaka in Nilphamari, "Wait and see…get ready for directive." A number of arrested militants confessed to having close ties with Jamaat and its front organisations. Moreover, Jamaat, a key constituent of the ruling coalition, has at times worked for the release of many such arrestees, which also prove its connections with the militant groups. Jamaat's intervention and success to free the militants also clearly show that the Islamist party is enjoying administrative support and using government machinery to achieve its target (Daily Star, September 22, 2005).

    Bangla Bhai, head of the killing squad of the banned Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), had been an active Shibir member until 1995. JMB chief Abdur Rahman and his father were also Jamaat workers. Many in the JMB leadership joined the organisation on special assignments from Jamaat and Shibir. Moreover, statements of the arrestees prove that Jamaat is involved with the JMB one way or the other. Nasiruddin, whom police arrested in Satkhira on August 17 and who first confessed that the JMB carried out the countrywide bomb attacks, told the police that he was a Jamaat worker until 1995.

    The police on Sunday (28.08. 05) raided a suspected training centre of the banned Islamist outfit Jamaatul Mujaheedin Bangladesh at Delduar in Tangail and arrested seven alleged militants. In Jessore, the police recovered a live bomb from a madrassah in the Noapara industrial town Sunday. Police sources said the Islamist militants now started regrouping themselves at different places, particularly in the northern part of the country, following the countrywide blasts on August 17 and subsequently the massive raids by police (New Age, September 29, 2005).

    Jamaat: the enemy within

    The poisonous weed of Jamaat-e-Islami is now threatening to strangle the very vitals of the BNP's banyan tree and getting increasingly bolder with its theocratic and other medieval political and social agenda. While the BNP looked the other way and allowed the Jamaat a free run of the critical areas of the state machine and superstructure and continued to slide into wild West accumulation at all levels, the Jamaat and its cadre organisations have scrupulously ascended to a moral high ground among all the ruling classes, past and present.

    It thought, in the course, that its umbilical cord with religious extremism, its medieval pursuit of a Shariah-based Islamic state and its violence-driven cadre warfare, now clearly directed on the campuses against the BNP's Chhatra Dal's dominance (in Rajshahi and Chittagong in particular) will somehow go unnoticed amid the usual outpourings and shadow-boxing between the BNP and the unrepentant Awami League. And in between the sound and fury, the Jamaat can advance its scheme of blue murder without arousing much suspicion.

    Recent home ministry press notices, appearing almost everyday, are identifying the August 17 bombers or the Jagrata Muslim Janata as closet members of the Jamaat. The extent of the JMJ's or Bangla Bhai's operations of Islamic vigilante terrorism till recent times would not have been possible without the organisational networks of these fringe terrorists both within and outside the government. The sheer spectacularity of the August 17 synchronised bombings in all district headquarters except one was the function of one such network within and inside the state apparatus, and now by evidence the Jamaat's organisational hierarchy. The cabal of the militants of the Jamaat variants is allowed to stay secure in the Jamaat's elaborate organisational closets - unleashed at the time of its choosing of an Islamic revolution, or for killer purposes or for pushing ahead with the strategic plan of back to the era of darkness. It must ask the Jamaat leadership to explain its organisational involvement in Islamist terror. There is no other organisation on the Islamic side which can provide a safe haven to the JMJ-JMB-Bangla Bhai elements. Why blame India or the United States when the enemy lurks within? ( Enayetullah Khan, Holiday, September 22, 2005).

    JMB leaflets call for agitation to free activists

    Jmaatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB), an outlawed outfit of religious zealots, is now sending leaflets to schools, colleges, madrashas, Imams of mosques and others in Daulatpur, calling for launching agitation to free three of its activists, arrested after the August 17 serial bomb blasts. The arrested persons are Shamsul Alam, Akbar and Nizam Uddin Inu, all hailing from Kishorinagar village in Daulatpur upazila. Of them, Shamsul was a 'regional leader' of the outfit and directly involved in the August 17 bomb explosions in Kushtia district, according to police.

    arrested bgm - member"Why the people of Daulatpur are silent while three of your brothers struggling to establish an Islamic state are passing inhuman life in jail?", the leaflets said. It also called upon the people to send their children to madrasas instead of 'modern schools and colleges' so that they can take lesson only on Islam. The leaflets also urged teachers of educational institutions to teach students about Islam. The distribution of leaflets has created panic in the area because it is widely believed by local people that a large number of JMB activists are active in the area. The activists had earlier asked local people to join them, sources there said (Daily Star, August 31, 2005).

    Agency reports militant camps in Sundarbans Combing operation begins; 16 more held

    location-mangrove forest Law enforcers have started a combing operation in the Sundarbans to find out the hideouts of Islamist militants after intelligence reports revealed that militants were trained up in several training camps in deep forest. Meanwhile, 16 more suspects of the August 17 countrywide serial bomb blasts, including Abdul Mannan, a convicted fugitive leader of the banned militant outfit Harkatul Jihad (Huji), and Waliullah, a prime coordinator of the August 17 bomb attacks, were arrested in the last 24 hours ending at 1:00pm yesterday. Our staff correspondent from Khulna informs quoting intelligence sources that some top Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) leaders used to visit the training camps in the Sundarbans. One Major (retd) Jainul Abedin in the guise of a fisherman used to give military training to JMB activists at these camps in the deep forest (Daily Star, August 31, 2005).

    Inside the Militant Groups - Trained in foreign lands, they spread inland

    A deep pocket filled by oil rich hands, virtually unrelenting access to arms, an insidious nexus with mainstream political parties and the government's blind eye to them -- the deadly concoction that have made it possible for the religious terrorist groups to thrive in Bangladesh. The Daily Star investigation spread over several months has found over 30 religious militant organisations have set up their network across the country since 1989 with the central objective of establishing an Islamic state. Many of them have given armed training to their members to conduct jihad.

    These militant organisations are Harkatul Jihad, Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Jagrata Muslim Janata, Bangladesh (JMJB), Islami Biplobi Parishad, Shahadat Al Hiqma, Hizbut Towhid, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Ahle Hadith Andolon, Towhidi Janata, Bishwa Islami Front, Juma'atul Sadat, Al Jomiatul Islamia, Iqra Islami Jote, Allahr Dal, Al Khidmat Bahini, Al Mujhid, Jama'ati Yahia Al Turag, Jihadi Party, Al Harkat al Islamia, Al Mahfuz Al Islami, Jama'atul Faladia, Shahadat-e-Nabuwat, Joish-e-Mostafa, Tahfize Haramaine Parishad, Hizbul Mojahedeen, Duranta Kafela and Muslim Guerrilla. Many of their activists are Afghanistan and Palestinian war veterans who fought there after receiving training in Pakistan, Libya and Palestine. After returning to Bangladesh, these militants scattered over the country and started militant activities since the early 1990s.

    According to intelligence agencies, about 7,000 members from different organisations including the Freedom Party were trained in Libya in the early 1980s and 1990s. Sources said over 200 Bangladeshi Jihadis were killed and 500 wounded in battles in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine.

    When they returned from foreign frontiers, a number of them set up madrasas as cover, mainly toeing the Qwami line, which is the more orthodox system of Islamic education and needs no government registration. They chose the forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, mosques and the Qwami madrasas mainly in the north to train their activists. They also set up their network in Dhaka, starting from Kamrangir-char, and later spreading to Kafrul, Adabar, Shekhertek, Basila and Demra.

    Operating under different names, the groups maintain close contact with each other. Although the intelligence agencies had made various reports on these militant groups and recommended their bans, the government remained mysteriously silent since 2002. Rather, some militants arrested at various places with evidence of subversive activities got free as the cases against them were not properly pursued.

    Although the government did not admit the existence of any extremist organisations, it banned Shahadat Al Hiqma on February 9, 2003, and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) on February 23 this year.


    In the wake of the recent bomb blasts, The Daily Star investigation found most JMB and JMJB leaders were in the past members of the Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), the student front of ruling coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami Bangla-desh. Sources said the militants hide their identity by using the names of different organisations. Many have joined the Tablig Jamaat, the religious movement supposed to be non-violent and non-political. Whenever the militant groups come under police suspicion, they quickly change name to continue their activities. The JMB is a case in point that has so far changed names 18 times, intelligence sources said.

    By their own claims, the militant groups have some 10 lakh members across the country. An intelligence report says about 80,000 of them took training in arms and explosives. Only the JMB has 10,000 full-timers, 1 lakh part-timers and 10 lakh trainees. JMJB leader Bangla Bhai on May 12 last year claimed in an interview with The Daily Star that he has over 30,000 activists working in 57 districts. Hizbut Towhid boasts of 1 lakh members while Al Hiqma Chairman Syed Kawsar Hossain Siddiki on February 8, 2003 claimed he has over 36,000 trained members. Harkat-ul Jihad (Huji) has over 25,000 trained activists, according to some Huji men. But intelligence source says the claim is exaggerated and the organisation has around 15,000 members who are now working for different Islamic parties after crackdown on the group in 1999.

    The militant members come from a varied spectrum -- several teachers of Dhaka University, Rajshahi University, Chittagong University, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), Kushtia Islamic University, North South University, and Victoria University are involved with these militant groups, mainly looking after finances, public relations, and foreign connections. Each group has various wings -- the largest looking after publicity and recruitment, the wing that takes armed training is comparatively small. Another branch works as 'intelligence wing', mixing up with the common people and activists of other parties and attending political and cultural programmes (Zayadul Ahsan, Daily Star, Augst 21, 2005).

    Extremists get trained in armed combat

    On January 22, 2001, Chittagong police held Salumullah Selim, a 45-year-old man, from a residence in the port city. On interrogation, they learned the true nature of his identity -- he is the army chief of an Arakan militant outfit called Arakan Rogingya National Organisation (ARNO). Records showed he was previously arrested in 2000. More quizzing brought out further startling information. He admitted to police that he trained local madrasa students in armed combat. According to him, more trainers from African and Middle Eastern countries frequently visit Bangladesh to train local Islamist militants. Away in the forest of Bandarban, police followed a narrow trail through rows of betel nut trees. The forest, about 25km from the town, was dense and dark. One had to walk for two and a half hours and cross two streams and hillocks to reach a thatched structure.

    The hut is a madrasa. Boys take religious lessons during the day; night turns it into a militant camp to train the same madrasa students in arms and explosives. This was one of the many madrasas that militants use as training centres. Three of them were sealed by the government after police raids found dummy rifles for training. They have mustered enough capability to create a dangerous situation, a Special Branch report in 2003 warned. A more revealing comment came from Sayed Kawsar Husain Siddiki, chairman of now banned militant group Shahadat Al Hiqma. On February 8, 2003, he said in a press conference in Rajshahi that Hiqma arranges arms training to its members. "Our commando fighters can conduct an attack at any place in 24 hours," Kawsar boasted. He was later arrested in a sedition case for making the comments.

    Intelligence agencies have reported the presence of militant camps in Ramu, Ukhia, Mongkhola, Dalujhiri, Chhagalnaiya and Jarulchhari. In the northern districts, such training is given at night along different rivers. Another militant, Abdur Rouf, arrested at Boalmari in Faridpur on September 19, 2003, also admitted taking training from Pakistan and working as a trainer at a madrasa at Bhaluka in Mymesingh. He was later released on bail.

    Modes of training

    Police arrested 11 suspected Islamic militants, including an infamous adherent of Bangla Bhai's Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), and two Rajshahi University (RU) students at a training camp some 15km off Rajshahi city on July 19. Police seized diaries from their possession that detailed training methods, descriptions of sophisticated arms and also contained revolutionary Islamic slogans and songs, some of them anti-US. The descriptions included the operations of the AK-47 rifle, how it works, its target range, the distances from which it can kill and injure a man. Police described the revelations as 'a scary matter for the investigators'.

    The diaries also described different types of detonators, their construction and operation, and where the bomb-making materials can be found. The notes also mentioned commonly used arms in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Russia. "Such lessons are not even given to police and the BDR [Bangladesh Rifles]," commented a highly placed source in the law enforcement agencies. One of the songs says: "

    Mother, I will die for Allah (in Jihad).
    I will kill and I will die.
    I will not listen to anyone.
    I must attack US dens repeatedly."

    Another said: "Awami League and BNP are two snakes and they are the same. Supporting them is a foolish act." According to police, the militants are trained in crossing war fields, and instructed what to do when they are shot or taken for police interrogation.

    "They are even taught to sense the presence of other persons in their sleep. They have instructions not to possess unnecessary information about colleagues to avoid chain arrests," said a police source. Arms and supplies. That the claims of the seized diaries are not empty was proven when police recovered both arms and explosives from militants at different places. The arrestees also admitted having links with international arms dealers and smugglers.

    On March 11, 2003, police recovered time bombs, detonators, petrol bombs, high-powered RDX explosives, bomb manufacturing equipment, audio recorders, mobile phones, cameras, several hundred cassettes, books on the operations of 200 militant groups and their donation receipts, and electronic wires from a Chapainawabganj house of a Jamaat leader rented by five Jama'atul Muhahideen Bangladesh (JMB) members. The recovery also included some books written by Maulana Masud Azahar, a close associate of Laden. On November 11 last year, 24 bombs made of gelatin and over 100 detonators were seized from 3 militants at Gaibandha.

    When Rogingya militant Salimullah Selim was arrested, he admitted to bringing in a cache of 200 AK-47s through Maheshkhali in 1994. A police case report said he gave the arms to criminals, including the cadres of Jamaat and Shibir. The JMB fought an overnight gun battle with police on August 14, 2003 when the law enforcers raided a militant training camp. The militants overpowered the police and took away three rifles and a wireless set from the law enforcers. According to intelligence reports, the militants buy arms from rebel groups in India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and China, which then come to Bangladesh by road and sea routes (Z. Ahsan, Daily Star, august 23, 2005).


    What is moderate Islam? The answer to that is there is no such thing, because accepting that terminology would also mean accepting the notion of ‘immoderate Islam’ or ‘terrorist Islam’. It would have been fair if the Americans had looked at ‘moderate Hinduism’ or ‘moderate Zionism’, but since that is not the case the arguments and logic for ‘moderate Islam’ are no longer relevant. What the Americans don’t know in their ignorance is that Islam is Islam, and the various connotations of Islam serve a purpose which has got more to do with US domestic and foreign policy and their multifarious dimensions rather than understanding its ‘new enemy’ Islam, again an overblown hate agenda of its Free Masonic media.

    Those arguing the daylight out of the ‘Talibanization’ of Bangladesh haven’t the foggiest notion about the country’s pluralistic society, and neither do they have any idea of insurrection, guerrilla warfare or revolution. The Talibans could only ride out of the rough-hewn villages in Afghanistan to capture State power because they had the solid backing of Pakistan, and to a large degree the US media that was fed up with the failures of the American backed ‘jihad’ that saw warlords at the helm of affairs. They also had the support of their Islamic neighbours.

    The conditions in Bangladesh are quite unfavourable for a Taliban-like uprising because the essence of guerrilla warfare is to ensure both internal and external supply and support bases. With a ‘fundamentalist Hindu’ India and Buddhist Myanmar on both flanks, the Muslims of Bangladesh, while being demographically a ‘majority community’ in Bangladesh, are actually a minority who will get no external assistance and no over-the-border bases.

    The ‘geographical minority’ of the subcontinent, the Muslims of Bangladesh, are thankfully not so naïve, neither do they believe that the Jamaat-e-Islam are the ‘sole agents’ for Allah or Islam, as the AL is no sole agent for the ‘War of Liberation’, and as the BNP is no ‘sole agent’ for Bangladeshi Nationalism (Maqsoodul Haque, Hoiliday, 2005).

    Where Is The Mastermind?

    What is it about Bangladesh that bombs explode without leaving any clues? The only rational explanation can be that the administration does not want to know. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. So far the government response has been lukewarm. There cannot be any doubt that Islamic fundamentalists with an agenda to promote Islamic revolution in the country were behind the blasts. They should be the prime suspects as the accompanying leaflets say so. Assuming that those leaflets were planted would be second hunch. By emphasizing the lesser chance the administration is trying to shield the real culprits. This will make the government an accessory to the crime. Is that what the government wants?

    To say that the more than five hundred near-simultaneous bombings were a case of intelligence failure will be an understatement given the enormity of the incidents that involved all but one of the sixty-four districts of the country. It was a failure of epic proportions that cannot admit of any excuse. The government will have to take the entirety of the blame for this failure.

    We are horrified, flabbergasted, awestruck and confounded by the utter incompetence and failures of our security apparatus. It will not be an exaggeration to suggest that those that are entrusted to ensure our security jeopardized it. We are similarly worried to see the operational proficiency of the perpetrators of the 17 Aug bombings, nearly five hundred of whom managed to evade the eyes of the SB, NSI, DGFI, local police intelligence, and other intelligence apparatuses in Bangladesh, and carry out the attacks. The fact that almost five hundred bombings were carried out must have involved very thorough and laborious logistics and planning. This was not planned overnight, certainly not in seven days. This must have also involved no less than five hundred ground operators, not to speak of the many that were involved in the planning and preparation stages. The whole operations involved movement of men and material over many days to almost five hundred different places and set off in very precisely synchronised a manner.

    Only last year there was the biggest arms haul in our country, which still remains a mystery, insofar as its destination, source and the brain behind the operation were concerned. August 21 grenade attacks, where 21 people were killed, remain unsolved. Apparently, no action beyond a so-called judicial inquiry has been taken in this regard. Given this background, the failure of our intelligence agencies to get a wind of the operation is as puzzling as deserving a thorough inquest into the affairs of our intelligence apparatus (Daily Star, August 19, 2005).

    Nobody wants the end of constitutional rule in this country but one cannot afford to have people harboring criminals. This way the government is not only endangering itself but also the state. If the government cannot do anything which is credible evidence of tracking the criminals it will be responsible for abetting crime. A mature political system must have the self-correcting mechanism of purging those who transgress the law however powerful they are. If it does not only anarchy will prevail. The near simultaneity of the explosions throughout the country would indicate a sophisticated organization of those who were behind the blasts. It is unimaginable that teenage madrassa students carried out the carnage without any help from more sophisticated people. The level of expertise indicates that they are professionals wherever they were trained. There cannot be many people with that kind of background in this country and the government cannot claim that they do not know.

    It is incredible. The most likely possibility is that they do not want to know and they want to pass on the buck to somebody else. This will not work this time. The whole world has taken note of the existence of such a militant outfit and nobody will leave it there as the implications reach beyond our borders (The Bangladesh Observer, August 19. 2005).

    10 Islamist NGOs funding militancy

    Intelligence agencies have identified 10 Islamist non-government organisations that are channelling funds to various Islamist extremist outfits and fuelling Islamic militancy in Bangladesh. A report of the intelligence agencies, submitted to the home ministry a week after the August 17 chain-bombing, suggested vigilant monitoring of the activities of these organisations and taking strict action against them. The organisations are Revival of the Islamic Heritage Society, Rabita Al Alam Al Islami, Society of Social Reforms, Qatar Charitable Society, Al Muntada Al Islami, Islamic Relief Agency, Al Forkan Foundation, International Relief Organisation, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee and the Muslim Aid Bangladesh.

    All these organisations are based in different Middle Eastern countries and have been active in Bangladesh for years. The report recommended immediate banning of the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society. The report was prepared by three intelligence agencies — the National Security Intelligence, the Special Branch of police and the Defence Forces Intelligence — after a six-month investigation of the Islamic NGOs working in Bangladesh.

    The investigators found that more than 100 foreigners, from different Middle East and African countries, have been working in the organisations illegally. ‘They came to Bangladesh with tourist visas and joined the organisations without getting work permits,’ said the report. The report said that no government agencies, not even the Bureau of NGO Affairs, were aware of the illegal foreigners who had been staying in the country for years (New Age, September 08, 2005)

    Islamic NGOs withdrew huge cash from banks before Aug 17, 2005

    The Detective Branch (DB) of police has detected more than fifty bank accounts belonging to different local and foreign Islamic NGOs, madrasas and found personal accounts of some Islamic leaders of different political parties, from which a huge amount of money were transacted during May and June this year, a highly placed source said . Intelligence agencies suspect that the money, which was withdrawn from the bank accounts, might have been used in August 17 countrywide bombings.

    Following the confessional statements of arrested militants the members of intelligence agencies with the help of some bank officials found the bank accounts, sources said. During the interrogation some militants of Tangail, Satkhira, Khulna, Jamalpur, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Feni, Khagrachhari, Bandarban and Gazipur in Dhaka, told the interrogators that they received training on how to handle sophisticated arms from different madrasas, sources added. According to sources, the militants also disclosed some names of their leaders who were involved with different Islamic NGOs and Madrasas in the city and elsewhere in the country.

    During the thorough search in different banks they found some accounts from which a huge amount of money was transacted during the last six months which they called abnormal transaction. The intelligence agencies are keeping strong vigilance in the activities of the local and foreign NGOs and Madrasas and also the activities of the leaders (The Independent, September 17, 2005).

    Banned Harkatul Jihad still active

    The detailed report of the activities of Harkatul Jihad, a religious extremist organisation, published in the local print media the other day, is not only alarming but also raises serious questions. Apparently an organisation that had been operating in the country for as long as 17 years was banned by the administration about four months back, and yet it continues to carry on with its activities freely. That many of the local religious schol-ars have openly declared their affiliation with this or-ganisation makes us feel more concerned. Whereas the present administration is high with its claims of raging a war against the extremists, it is not understandable why it seems indifferent towards Harkatul Jihad. Such attitude raises suspicion.

    One might ask with regard to the relative successes of the government in catching the JMB top rankers and its proud declaration, whether or not it was diverting pub-lic attention at gaining the much needed support for itself at this juncture of politics.

    The government simply must realise certain facts: that the kind of religious ter-rorism we are facing is part of the worldwide phenome-non; that the battle against this scourge is a continuous one; that it is an issue if left unattended may turn to the regime itself whenever there is an opportunity. People who run such organisations have a distinct agenda of their own backed by their highest level of commitment and absolute dedication. They are no ordinary crimi-nals in the traditional sense of the term. Mere rhetoric on honest intentions and so-called successes achieved here and there will not either scare or drive them away. In that we fail to understand how a banned organisa-tion is allowed to continue its recruitment, training and despatch of personnel to places abroad.

    It is our impression that two things are evidently missing in the administration's efforts with regard to dealing with the religious terrorists; first it has not dealt the matter at organisational level and secondly it has not probed the source and free flow of their funding. The administration must be mindful of such serious flaws so that it does not fail to stem the rot, (Editorial, Daily Star, June 24, 2006).

    'Top Bangladeshi militant' held

    Islam had been sentenced to 40 years in prison in absentia Security officials in Bangladesh say they have arrested a top Islamic militant leader after a gun battle in a northern district. Siddiqul Islam, alias Bangla Bhai, of the outlawed Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) was captured at his hideout in Mymensingh district, the police said. Last week, JMB leader Abdur Rahman surrendered to police in north-eastern Sylhet district. Officials blame the group for a wave of bombings that have left many dead.

    The BBC's Roland Buerk says Bangla Bhai came into prominence in 2004 when his group, Jagrata Muslim Janata (Vigilant Muslim Citizens), launched a reign of terror in the north of the country. He and the local authorities allegedly fought the Maoist rebels and imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law - forcing women to wear burqas and men to grow beards. Recently the government said Islam was the second most important leader in the JMB. In February, a Bangladeshi court sentenced Islam, Rahman and two others accused of Islamic militancy to 40 years in prison in absentia for a bomb attack that killed two judges last year.

    Last August,2005, some 500 bombs were set off in all but one of Bangladesh's 64 districts in the space of an hour. Three people were killed and about 100 injured. A number of subsequent bomb attacks have targeted judges and court rooms. More than 100 cases have been filed against alleged members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen in connection with the bombing campaign. The militant group has been demanding the introduction of Sharia law in the country (BBC, Monday, 6 March 2006, 10:09 GMT).

    After Abdur Rahman was arrested, Bangla Bhai was labeled the "next target" of the Bangladeshi government's crackdown on Islamist terrorists. Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai are believed to be the masterminds behind the well-coordinated bombing attacks across Bangladesh in 2005, where hundreds of bombs detonated within one hour of each other in all of Bangladesh's administrative districts save one. The attacks appear to have waken up the people of Bangladesh to the threat of Islamist extremism in their country, and the government of Bangladesh, while often accused of being blind to the threat, has made two very important arrests in the span of a week.

    VIP Treatment For Shaikh, Bangla Bhai

    The State of Religion

    barkhaOn the 30th of last month Bangladesh hanged six militants belonging to Jamaat-ul-Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB) who had masterminded numerous bomb blasts and suicide attacks to establish an Islamic rule in the country. Since its inception on January 11 this year, the interim government has carried out numerous raids to arrest suspected Islamic militants. But history suggests that arrests and punishment alone are not adequate to route out the terror that has threatened to destroy everything that Bangladesh stands for.

    In the face of a massive government crackdown most of the members of the JMB have gone into hiding. But newspaper reports reveal that the JMB has mutated itself and the extremist outfit has resurfaced in different parts of the country in new names--on the northern tip of the country, the existence of a new militant group has been detected, this group, formed by militant guru Abdur Rouf, who also founded the infamous Harkat-ul Jihad Al Islami in Bangladesh, tells us that the war on terror is a relentless process and cannot succeed without changing the existing social fabric of Bangladeshi society. One cannot expect a country free from fanaticism when all the major political parties use Islam indiscriminately only to get a taste of power, a society free from bigotry and religious intolerance cannot be established if its leaders themselves preach violence and lawlessness in the name of Islam. Hydra-like, Jihadist fanaticism has many faces with numerous colours and shapes; the JMB is just one tiny dot in a simulacrum of intolerance and bigotry that the country's politics have been plagued with.

    Political use of religious symbols such as topi, rosary and head-scarf has to be banned; the government has to take steps to encourage modern scientific thinking among ordinary citizens. One must keep this in mind that the arrest and hangings of a few zealots alone will not remove religious intolerance from our social fabric. Bigotry has many faces and it has to be fought at every possible front; nabbing the zealots and bringing them to the book is just a small battle in the big war on terrorism; the bigger battle is to win the hearts and minds of the toiling masses, who live in abject poverty, and where Jihadists spawn and thrive. (Daily Star,April 20, 2007)

    Islamic NGOs that are mushrooming all over Bangladesh

    With the JMB-six facing the gallows, the previous BNP-Jamaat alliance government claimed that they had ‘broken the backs of Islamist militancy in Bangladesh’. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The information from the six militants’ confessions to the law enforcers leaked to the press in the past months indicate that the JMB was merely one failed experiment of a larger Islamist militancy phenomenon that is slowly but surely spreading its wings across Bangladesh. Had the JMB not carried out their August 17 blasts, their story may have been different, and Baghmara would undoubtedly still be in the grips of their continuing violence.

    The Shaikh, Bangla Bhai and the JMB’s 10,000 or so members all have weapons and bomb-making training, and that training is part of a well-oiled machine that is still clanking away, rumoured to be funded by Islamic NGOs that masquerade as philanthropic organisations. The government — all governments — remain silent on whether there are indeed militant training camps along the Chittagong border with Burma. Most of the top leadership of the one organisation that mothered most of the militant factions, the Harkatul Jihad, still remain beyond the reach of the law. Meanwhile political patronage of militancy continues, to serve parochial interests. The government continues to treat Islamist militancy as a law and order problem rather than a political problem which, in reality, finds its roots in a madrassah education system that is largely beyond the ambit of the government’s control, and foreign jihad sponsors whose petro-dollars are flooding into Islamic NGOs that are mushrooming all over Bangladesh.

    The rise and fall of the JMB will likely not tell the story of the end of Islamist militancy in Bangladesh. It is perhaps only a portent of things to come (New Age,The Rise anf Fall of Banglabhai, April, 2007).

  • America learns of Bangla Bhai by Author: Kanchan Gupta
  • The Next Islamist Revolution? By ELIZA GRISWOLD Published in New York Times: January 23, 2005

    Militants buried, veil of mystery remains

    With the funerals of executed Istamist militant linchpins, many secrets and mysteries about the rise of the particular kind of militancy, its masterminds and patrons were also buried yesterday.

    Although the investigators since the August 17, 2005 orchestrated bomb blasts across the country had been saying that the mysteries behind the rise of Islamist militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and about its masterminds and patrons would be detected after the arrests of some sura members, the secrets were never disclosed even after JMB chief Abdur Rahman and his second-in-command Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai had been arrested. Although the names of some immediate past ruling party political leaders, ministers and lawmakers have surfaced since the JMB leaders started operating in the northern districts in 2004, the investigators have made no visible move to detect and expose them.

    The alleged patrons still remain untouched and no charge has yet been brought against them. Even they were not officially pointed out. In June 2004, Bangla Bhai told a journalist over the phone that four influential leaders of the immediate past ruling party, BNP, were patronising his operations. He also named four of the influential leaders, who are former telecommunications minister Aminul Haque, former state minister for housing Alamgir Kabir, former deputy minister for land Ruhul Quddus Talukder Dulu, and former lawmaker Nadim Mostafa. The report was published in different newspapers at the time. Legal expert and human rights activist Dr Shahdeen Malik told The Daily Star last night, "The executions are the end of a phase, but not the end of religious terrorism and fanaticism."

    Their access to financial and other resources, and their ability to utilise those still remain largely unknown and unaccounted for, he added.

    He also said, "Revelations of these are essential to root out this type of terrorism and I expect the government and the law enforcing agencies to find out these sources and the political support system for these terrorists so that we may really and actually be free of terrorism."

    Advocate ZI Khan Panna, chairman of the Human Rights and Legal Aid Committee of Bangladesh Bar Council said it is the right of the people to know who are the patrons of these fundamentalist criminals.

    He also said they believe that this government will take proper actions against the patrons of the fundamentalists who are responsible for the killings of innocent people in an attempt to destroy the secular and democratic image of our country. On different occasions the militant kingpins wanted to talk to the media, but the authorities did not allow them to do that. The authorities started strictly keeping the arrested militants away from the media after Harkat-ul Jihad Al Islami (HuJi) leader Mufti Abdul Hannan in a brief chance of talk to the media disclosed how he had gotten blessings from BNP and former home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury. Hannan's discloser caused a huge embarrassment for the then BNP-Jamaat-led alliance government. Even when they were taken to courts for trials they were not allowed to talk to newsmen. Different sections of the people also demanded that the militants should be allowed to talk to the media to uncover the mysteries and secrets, but the government never allowed it. Any hope of getting the secrets out of the six militants, five of whom were members of JMB's Majlish-e-Sura, was destroyed yesterday with their executions.

    JMB Chief Abdur Rahman was arrested on March 2, 2006 from Sylhet, Bangla Bhai was captured wounded from Muktagachha in Mymensingh on March 6, Ataur Rahman Sunny and Abdul Awal had been arrested before them while Khaled Saifullah was captured in Dhaka after Rahman and Bangla Bhai's arrests.

    Still two other sura members are in jails awaiting trials in several cases. They are Mohammad Rakib Hasan Russell alias Hafez Mahmud, an Afgan war veteran and also the Khulna divisional commander of JMB, and Salahuddin. However, the investigators could not extract any vital information from them excepting some common information that had already been found from JMB's low level leaders and activists.

    Sources said although the investigators unearthed as startling information as JMB's plan to attack army personnel and to overthrow the government, they did little to identify the political patrons and foreign links of the militants.

    While this correspondent was visiting the Bagmara area last Tuesday many victims of JMB torture, their family members and many other local people expressed their satisfaction knowing that the JMB linchpins would be executed. However, many of them at the same time expressed fear and concern, as many followers of Bangla Bhai are still present in the locality with their heads held high. Amzad Hossain Dugu, who has become crippled after being brutally tortured by Bangla Bhai's goons at one of his torture cells at Bagmara Hamir Kutsa High School, told The Daily Star, "Bangla Bhai's cadres are still issuing threats and scolding us. I and my family are still passing days with a sense of insecurity." He said fearing further attacks from Bangla Bhai's goons he usually does not allow his son to go out (Manik, J. A., March 31, 2007).

    Govt fears further JMB attacks Law enforcers alerted about militants' regrouping

    The government has alerted law enforcement and intelligence agencies to step up vigilance across the country following information that Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants are reorganising themselves under different banners. According to the alert buzz, operatives of the banned Islamist outfit JMB, which shook the whole nation with waves of bomb attacks since August last year, might go for further attacks at any place anytime. Reports from of our correspondents said the militants are trying to regroup in haor and beel areas of northern and north-eastern regions after a downturn in their activities due to arrest of most of their top leaders. Sources said the government move for extra alert came after it received reports from intelligence agencies that JMB operatives are reorganising themselves at different places in the country.

    The information itself appeared a wake up call for the government as it claimed credit on many occasions through statements at home and abroad that it has successfully tackled the militancy menace. The home ministry early this week sent urgent cyber message (coded message) to all deputy commissioners (DCs) and superintendents of police (SPs) to strengthen intelligence activities to track down where the militants are regrouping.

    The DCs and SPs then sat with the upazila nirbahi officers, officials of District Special Branch and Detective Branch and officers-in-charge of police stations in their areas, and asked them to trace militant activities. In the wake the August 17 countrywide bomb attacks last year, the people, just as the law enforcers, wanted capture of the militants, especially the top ones, as militancy appeared to be the most dangerous menace.

    The panic climaxed as JMB suicide bombers carried out blasts in different districts to destroy the existing democratic order and to publicise their vendetta. The people had a sigh of relief as the law enforcers captured JMB chief Abdur Rahman, the other top leader Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai and five other members of Majlish-e-Shura, the highest policy-making body of the militant outfit.

    But many other top JMB leaders, Ehsars (who are recruited on full time basis and act at the directives of their superiors), Gayeri Ehsars (part-timers), members of the suicide squads and their district level leaders are still outside the security dragnet.

    Sources said these JMB men are now reorganising their workers across the country, especially in the northern and north-eastern regions (The Daily Star, July 27, 2006).

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    Militants regrouping, three bodies unite under single banner

    Banned Islamist outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) cadres are regrouping along with the fellow militants of Insaf and Allar Dal to see through the job of establishing Islamic law in the country. According to intelligence sources and information obtained from detainees, the three outfits are now operating under a single banner whose name changes too frequently to keep track of it. Determined to make up for the loss of their spearheads, they have launched a fresh recruitment drive stealthily, said an intelligence official seeking anonymity.

    In a secret ballot immediately after the president had turned down the clemency pleas of militant leader Abdur Rahman and his deputies, the JMB, its offshoot Allar Dal, and Insaf, a group led by an Ahle Hadith faction, elected Moulana Sayeedur Rahman alias Abu Jafar as their ameer (commander). In a series of meetings, they reconstituted a six-member Majlish-e-Shura (highest policy-making body) and appointed nine chiefs for as many operational divisions.

    Besides, the militant remnants vowed to take up the job where it was left off by the executed JMB top brass. They set police, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), judges, Ahmadiyya mosques and NGOs as prime targets for attacks. Abdur Rahman, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai and four others were hanged on March 29 for killing two judges in Jhalakathi in 2005.

    Intelligence officials have gathered that the militants have plans to blast less powerful bombs and carry out the main attack when the law enforcers will be busy at the first explosion site. Despite knowing this beforehand, the law enforcers could not pre-empt the three near-simultaneous explosions at railway stations in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet on May 1.

    The failure to net the ones leading the regenerated militant campaign led to the blasts that harked back to the August 17 countrywide attacks. Besides, those detained for involvement in militancy did not give enough leads, said sources close to those working on the Islamist groups. The intelligence agencies are now examining if the latest blasts bear any links to the three groups.

    The post-Abdur Rahman JMB cadres have decided to remain clean-shaven and not to wear pajamas or punjabis. They believe this would make it difficult for the law enforcers to suspect them by the way they look, added the sources.

    Following intelligence reports, the authorities have directed the district administration to be on the alert for the regrouped militants. Accordingly, police in different districts have undertaken programmes seeking to aware the locals so that the militants cannot operate under cover (Daily Star, May 05, 2007).

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    May Day blasts pose new challenges for law enforcers

    Is the emergency caretaker regime beginning to experience some pinpricks of covert subversion by vested interests sorely affected by its tough actions and task forces? The question has come up in course of analyzing the slimy manner by which a child was trapped by two saboteurs to trigger two crude time bombs hidden in a box.

    After a relative calm following a spate of orgiastic serial bombing across Bangladesh by religious extremists, the country was again disturbed by a fresh round of blasts on May 1. To their utter shock and disgust, people watched on the TV screen the scary aftermath of the violence.

    'Jadid Al Qaeda Bangladesh' (JAQB) claimed responsibility for the blasts demanding stoppage of all activities of NGOs and the Quadiani Muslim community in Bangladesh by May 10. There was no report of any activities by an outfit called 'Jadid Al Qaeda Bangladesh' in the past . The crude blasts in the morning hours of May 1 occurred at three divisional railway stations, including the capital's Kamalapur Railway Station. The other spots were Chittagong and Sylhet stations (S. Khan, Holiday, May 04, 2007).

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    9.5. 'WB linked with fundamentalism’ August 21, 2005?

    WB - presidentThe World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz, is scheduled to arrive from India today on a visit that was shortened at the last minute. Sources in the Ministry of Finance said Saturday (20. 08. 05) evening that Wolfowitz, originally scheduled to stay in Dhaka for two days as part of his South Asia tour, will only be staying for eight hours on Sunday.

    The WB is doing nothing for alleviating poverty or for the welfare of the people living under poverty line, instead they are serving the vested interests of the imperialists, some economists charged at a roundtable discussion on "World Bank in Bangladesh" at the Jatiya Press Club. Organised by local NGO Unnayan Onneshan, the roundtable was addressed by Prof Anu Muhammad of Jahangirnagar University, general secretary of Bangladesh Economic Association Prof Abul Barakat and Prof MM Akash of Dhaka University.

    Prof Anu Muhammad termed Wolfwitz as a war monger and said the United States recently appointed someone as head of the WB who served the US government as deputy secretary of defence and inspired the administration to unleash terror attack on Iraq.

    "How such war lover could work for the betterment of the poor people and development of the world" he questioned.
    Prof Anu claimed that role of WB in Bangladesh was curbing education facilities in the name of spreading it, and increase in the number of poor people in the name of poverty alleviation. "After evaluating all the WB projects initiated in past 30 years, I can judge those as the projects of mass destruction," he said.

    Prof Abul Barakat said that the government always becomes happy if it gets assurance of loan from the donors.

    "It is because there are opportunities of embezzling the donor’s grant," Barakat said, adding "political criminalisation" resulted in misuse of maximum grant amount. Prof Akash underscored the need for breaking the ‘myth’ about the positivity of WB. "We are living in an illusion… we have to become conscious about the role of WB," he said (The Independent, August 21, 2005).

    The World Bank has not helped development in Bangladesh. In the context of countrywide bomb blasts on Wednesday, presumably carried out by fundamentalists, speakers said World Bank and fundamentalism were inextricably linked. Economists and professionals addressing a roundtable discussion, World Bank in Bangladesh, organised by a research organisation, the Innovators, on Saturday at the National Press Club criticised the lending agency’s programmes and highlighted how they favoured the commercial interests of the main financiers of the agency.

    MM Akash, professor of economics at Dhaka University, said in the context of the recent bomb blasts, ‘The World Bank in its own way is fundamentalist.’ Quoting Joseph Stiglitz, a former chief economist of the agency, Akash said the bank believed in ‘market fundamentalism’. ‘It believes in the supreme authority of the market, free from any kind of interventions,’ he said.

    Regarding the development activities of the agency Akash said as far as the World Bank and its financiers are concerned, it is doing its perfectly well, looking after the corporate interests of those countries. He said, ‘It is only natural that the financiers of the lending agency would like to see a return on their investment. It is we who are in an illusion that the bank is a development agency.’

    Abul Barakat, general secretary of the Bangladesh Economic Association, with a more pragmatic view said, ‘Fundamentalism and the World Bank have always had close links.’ He said people like Bin Laden and Mullah Omar had been created with donor funds and agency loans that include institutions like the World Bank.

    Referring to the World Bank’s jute sector adjustment programme, Barakat said the very institution that advocated for closing down Adamjee Jute Mills while it provided funds to open three new ones in West Bengal, India. ‘Sometimes the will of the political masters also determine how the funds are going to be used.’ Speakers agreed that the multilateral lending agencies thrived on the corruption in countries where they operate and are seldom interested in the development of their clients.

    Concern over rapid growth of NGO sector

    A World Bank report on non-government organisations (NGO) of the country has expresses concern over the rapid growth and diversification of the NGO sector. The Bank in the report that was made public on Thursday, also stressed the need for ensuring accountability and transparency of the NGOs.

    It also reveals that around 70 per cent of private charitable contributions in Bangladesh go to religious institutions, with educational establishments (15 per cent), a distant second followed by recreational events.

    "Most NGO advocacy focuses on issues affecting the poor, and is seen as fully legitimate (e.g. violence against women, dowry, land rights, access to justice, housing, education). However, recently a few NGOs were accused of stretching their advocacy work into partisan political activity and electioneering, and funding for their service delivery programmes was sequestered as a result. As Government funding for NGO services grows in importance, NGOs are less likely to want to antagonise Government," the report said.

    Hence the more prominent advocacy-oriented NGOs tend to be involved only slightly in direct service activities, and large, multi-activity NGOs tend to avoid issues that could seriously antagonise government. Nevertheless even without taking on contentious issues such as human rights and electoral reform, there are plenty of low-key advocacy activities that multi-activity NGOs engage in that are of significant benefit to the poor (e.g. RDRS’s campaigns on violence against women and promoting access to resources by the poor).

    It is quite ironic that at the same time that it has been exercising such strict control over non-religiously affiliated NGOs, that the government has been so lax in its oversight of the religiously affiliated NGOs -- specifically Islamic NGOs. As a result, these entities have been given a virtual free pass, and have been able to run with only minimal governmental oversight and supervision. There are 34 Islamic NGOs currently registered with the NGO bureau and funded from abroad. However, the oversight over these entities remains negligible. In addition, there are several hundred NGOs that are registered with the social welfare department, which has neither the resources nor the inclination to keep a tab on their activities. These NGOs are barely scrutinised, and little or no record of their activities is maintained. In light of recent events, now is the time for a comprehensive policy to regulate such NGOs. There is no justification for the fact that they are subject to less scrutiny than regular NGOs. This type of scrutiny should have been undertaken long ago. Better late than never ( Daily Star, September 01, 2005).

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    'Bangladesh better remain an example for Islamic world'

    The United States has said that it would like to see Bangladesh remain a moderate democratic country as an example for the rest of the Islamic world. Talking with leaders of Indian industry here Thursday on the situation in South Asia, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca said, "In Bangladesh, we seek a country that overcomes poverty and consistently remains a moderate democratic Muslim polity as an example for the rest of the Islamic world."

    She recalled US Secretary of State Colin Powell's words that "Bangladesh's democracy, Bangladesh's economic progress, Bangladesh's friendship and Bangladeshi people -- all matter to us" and said "I know India also shares that view." Rocca also touched on the situation in Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan and saw a joint role for India and the United States to help Nepal ward away threats of Maoist violence and re-establish democratic institutions in the Himalayan Kingdom. (Pallab Bhattacharya, New Delhi, The Daily Star, Sept 13, 2003).

    The US government has described Bangladesh as “a valued partner” in the “war on terror”. “With the fourth largest Muslim population in the world, Bangladesh is a valued partner in the war on terror, a moderate voice in regional and international fora, and a leading contributor to UN peacekeeping missions,” Assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca told the US House of Representatives committee on international relations on June 22. “Yet political rivalries and one of the most significant corruption problems in the world threaten democratic stability and impede economic growth” in Bangladesh, she said. (New Age, 24. 06. 04)

    Charge d’ Affaires of the US embassy Judith Chammas yesterday termed Bangladesh a moderate and tolerant society which has the potential for taking a leading role in South Asia as the country is pre-dominantly Muslim. The US diplomat was speaking at a seminar on "America’s Role in Asia" jointly organised by The Asia Foundation and Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) (The Independent, November 24, 2004).

    Prophetic Traditions

    Muslims were encouraged to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. Here below are some Prophetic Traditions regarding the importance of learning:

  • To seek knowledge is a religious duty for every Muslim man and woman.
  • The best treasure is the pursuit of knowledge, the prayers of worthy men, and the friendship of agreeable brothers.
  • Knowledge of God is my capital. Reason is the root of my faith.
  • Knowledge is a treasure house whose keys are queries.
  • One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by Allah thereby.
  • A person who goes (out of his house) in search of knowledge, he is on Allah’s way and he remains so till he returns.
  • To seek knowledge for one hour at night is better than keeping it (night) awake.
  • A Muslim is never satiated in his quest for good (knowledge) till it ends in paradise.
  • A learned person is superior to a worshipper as the full moon is superior to all the stars. The scholars are heirs of the prophets and the prophets do not leave any inheritance in the shape of dirhams and dinars (wealth), but they do leave knowledge as their legacy. As such a person who acquires knowledge acquires his full share.
  • A scholar who is asked about something (about the religion) and he conceals it, such a person will be bridled on the Day of Judgment with a bridle of fire
  • The word of wisdom is [like] the lost property of a wise man. So wherever he finds it, he is entitled to it.

    When the prophetic mission of Muhammad (S) started, there were only a handful of Arabs who could read and write. But within a short period of time, following the Prophetic encouragement, many Arabs became literate. (The educated prisoners of wars from the opposing camp could buy their freedom from imprisonment by educating Muslim children.) The caliphs that followed were all literate men, some even literary men of distinction, who were munificent patrons of education. The process did not stop there, it continued even during the Umayyad and Abbasid periods and then to those who came later, ending with the Ottomans. To believe otherwise would only reflect one’s prejudice or ignorance.

    The Qur’an, as we submitted above, gave a great impetus to learning, especially in the field of natural science; and if, as some scholars have declared, the inductive method, to which all the practical modern discoveries are primarily owing, can be traced to it, then it may be called the foundation of modern scientific and material progress. The Prophet of Islam, to whom the Qur’an was revealed, was a great patron of learning and so were those Muslims who ruled later the vast territories of Islam. Islam, the religion of free thought, is not against science nor against progress. It cannot be blamed for the current pitiable state of Muslim nation-states. The causes for decline lie elsewhere (Dr. Habib Siddiqui, West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA, 2005).

    The Bengalis became muslim through liberal sufi muslims

    woman working at tea estateBangladesh is one of the poorest and most densely populated (750 person per sq. km) countries of the world, and one of the most prone to natural disasters, which accounts for hundreds of thousands of deaths and billion dollars of crop and property damage. It is a country little larger than England, contains at present about 114 million people and expected to grow to 342 million by the year 2150 (FAO, 1990). Per capita annual income in Bangladesh is about US $184. The majority of the population is living below the poverty line. Bangladesh is caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, resource and environmental depletion and ill health. Three-quarters of the population, especially women and children, are ill and malnourished. The status of women is very low in Bangladesh. It is only one of four countries of the world where more girls than boys die below the age of five. High levels of chronic disability and severe malnutrition are common in Bangladesh. Per-capita public expenditure on education and health services are amongst the lowest in the world .

    This poor agro-based small country has developed over the centuries an excellent social situation based on humanism and secular thought. In 1986 Prof. Alan Dundes of the University of California, Berkeley wrote: "Bangladesh may be one of the poorest nations on the face of the earth, but I can tell you from the folklorist's perspective, it is clearly one of the richest."

    Quality Of Life

    As the country's focus is on the political turmoil, most of us have chosen not to promote—or are forced to do so—the issues that should have been the centrepiece of our national attention. Misplaced priorities have brought in some artificial and skewed affluence but the overwhelming large majority of the population have been deprived of the amenities needed for a decent living. Both national politics and global economy have been inimical to the poor and the down-trodden. The Social Watch, a network of citizens from different countries across the world, confirms the fact in its latest report released on Saturday. According to the report, Bangladesh ranks 164th among the 173 countries under scrutiny and fifth in South Asia on the Quality of Life Index (QLI).

    Economic and social justice is a challenging task for all governments but it is specially so for the developing countries. If a country like Bangladesh did have the right leadership and politicians who did not keep them busy only with building their own fortunes, the prospect of the majority would not have come to a dead end. One of the reasons why the country has failed to live up to its expectation is the failure of the politicians to plan with its human resources. Investment in the population for fulfilling its needs and also contributing to the task of nation-building has been extremely low (Editorial; The Bangladesh Observer,October 4, 2004).

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    9.6 Biharis

    With the surrender of the Pakistan Army, it was the Biharis who were now suddenly stranded in a devastated country looking for compensation and redress. International Community for Red Cross (ICRC) made a list of the Biharis living in the newly formed Bangladesh and asked them whether they wanted to stay there or go to Pakistan. All the Biharis stated their desire to go to Pakistan for safety. And so the ICRC registered nearly 540,000 of the surviving Urdu-speaking Pakistanis who wanted to be repatriated to Pakistan and built camps for their temporary security.

    biharis living in slumA young girl writes a poem where she asks a simple question -- one which no one can answer. She asks, “Who am I?” Her forefathers were born in India, they immigrated to Pakistan, she was born in Bangladesh. India has given up on them a long time back, Bangladesh will not accept them as the children of the land and Pakistan will not take them back. She says that she has many names 'Bihari', 'Maura', 'Muhajir', 'Non-Bangalee', 'Marwari', 'Urdu-speaker', 'Refugee', and 'Stranded Pakistani'. But she only wants one: human. This is the state of being of the 1.6 lakh camp-based Urdu-speaking community in Bangladesh.

    So is this an internal matter or does the Pakistan government have some responsibilities for their rehabilitation? “Pakistan has a moral responsibility,” says Abrar, “except for Benazir Bhutto's government, right from Zulfiqar Bhutto to Parvez Musharraf subsequent heads of state said that they are going to take these people to Pakistan for the sake of the Islamic solidarity. In the end all these hopes worked against the anchoring of these people here and the term 'stranded Pakistanis' came about.”

    Because of the half-hearted repatriation process hundreds of families have been divided between Bangladesh and Pakistan. There is a father who cannot attend his only daughter's wedding and there is a wife who cannot attend her husband's funeral. But the new generation who were born after the war and comprise the biggest chunk of camp-dwellers don't have any affiliations with either India or Pakistan. They were born in this country and identify themselves as Bangladeshis. Unfortunately the state is reluctant to accept them as such. It's a very complex issue because a lot of ambivalence from the majority population that is skeptical about these people's loyalty to the country they want to be citizens of. But the inhuman conditions they are living in and the subsequent effect it is bound to have on the society as a whole makes it imperative to resolve this painful issue (Daily Star, March 6, 2008).

    9.7 Tea-pickers:Oppressed, low paid and socially excluded

    Conditions on the tea gardens were grim. In 1911 the Head of Government in Assam spoke out against a labour system that, "treated its workers like medieval serfs." Every few years new laws were drawn up in an attempt to impose minimum standards to protect the labourers on the plantations but these laws were largely ignored and unenforced, particularly as the local magistrates were planters. Companies used beatings, fines and imprisonment to keep their workers in line. Under British imperial laws trade unions were forbidden on the estates. Organisers who attempted to contact tea pickers were seen as trouble makers and accused of trespass. --British writer Dan Jones, 1986.

    "The tea gardens are managed like an extreme hierarchy: the managers live like gods, distant, unapproachable, and incomprehensible. Some even begin to believe that they are gods, that they can do exactly what they like." -- Francis Rolt, British journalist, 1991.

    "Managers have anything up to a dozen labourers as their personal, domestic servants. They are made to tie the managers shoe laces to remind them that they are under managerial control and that they are bound to do whatever they are asked." --British writer Dan Jones, 1986.

    The most striking fact about tea production in Bangladesh is that after the partition of India most of the tea produced here used to be consumed by West Pakistan. After Independence, Pakistan remains to be the largest importer of Bangladeshi tea. However, now it is we who consume most of the tea that we produce. In 2007 Bangladesh produced 57.9 million kgs of tea of which only 10.6 million kgs were exported [82% of which was taken by Pakistan]. There is an apprehension that if the production of tea does not increase significantly and if domestic consumption continues to grow fast, Bangladesh will soon become an importer of tea. The bottom line is tea is no more an important export commodity and Bangladesh plays no significant role in the global tea trade although it ranked 10th among the tea-producing countries in 2007.

    A lush tea garden with towering shade trees is always a respite for the eyes and senses. The foliage obviously induces a sense of peace and tranquillity. But underneath the veneer of this beauty and serenity, remain stories of untold agony and muffled cries.

    The history of these communities in Bangladesh does not go that far back. Over 150 years ago the British companies brought their forefathers to the Sylhet region from different parts of India like Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Initially they were put into the Labour Line (residential area for tea-pickers) that alienated them from their roots as well as from the local people.

    Of the 163 tea gardens in Bangladesh, 90 are in the Maulvibazar district. As a result, a great number of tea-pickers live in this district. Most of the tea estates in the country are on government land -- a colonial legacy. In most of the gardens, women are well ahead as the tealeaf-pickers. A female tea-picker works 7/8 hours a day on an average, during a 30/35-year career. They spend most of their work hours standing under the merciless burning sun, and getting soaked in torrential rains. Harsh working conditions have severe consequences on their health, which escalates rapidly once they retire.

    After a hard day's work, tea-pickers assemble at authorised collectors' where the tealeaves are weighed. A worker earns Tk. 32.50 per day, according to a report in 2008. A tea-picker owns a house in the Labour Line. If a husband and wife work in the same garden they get one house. In winter, the workers enjoy a comparatively leisurely time, as it is the pruning season. Tea plants have to be pruned to keep at chest level, otherwise they can grow as high as 50 feet.

    Each tea-picker, in almost servitude, represents the face of oppressed. Their children's future is corded to theirs. The child of a tea-picker has no option but to follow the footsteps of his/her parents.

    The story of Ratna tea garden in Maulvibazar is particularly heart-rending. The garden was closed in 2004 and left behind by its owners. All workers at the estate suddenly found themselves jobless. Some of them were eventually forced to beg. Though citizens of Bangladesh, the tea-pickers community continue to remain socially excluded, low paid, overwhelmingly illiterate and deprived. (J. Mahmud, May 17, 2009).

    The government is showing the country a dream of a digital Bangladesh and changes in the lives of poor, marginal and Adivasi people The tea plantation workers are not just poor, they are a particularly deprived marginal community in captive situation. They have limited scope to integrate with the people of the majority community and they face great difficulties in exploring livelihood options outside the tea gardens. The tea plantation workers want the State to address to address their case with care and translate its commitment to them providing political and human protection. (Philip Gain , Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) June, 2009)

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    10. Health

    In terms of health and nutrition status Bangladesh still lags behind. The reasons for these, as identified, are poverty, illiteracy and largely inadequate health care. In Bangladesh 70 per cent mothers and children suffer from malnutrition. Every day 600 children die due to malnutrition and every year 28,000 mothers die due to pregnancy related diseases. Among the children under five years of age two thirds suffer from malnutrition. Children aged between 6 and 7 months do not have proper growth. During the childbirth, four expecting mothers die out of 1000 births. Roughly one in 10 deliveries takes place at home. One third of such deliveries suffer from pregnancy related post delivery diseases. One out of nine children dies before reaching the age of five. Among the poorest the rate is one out of six. It is also known that low birth weight of the child is one of the major causes of child mortality in Bangladesh (Dr. M Kabir is Professor of Statistics, Jahangirnagar University,The Daily Star, 17. 09. 02).

    People are increasingly turning to unqualified practitioners instead of government and private doctors for treatment, marking a drift away from government health services over the last five years, says a survey on service delivery under the Health and Population Sector Programme (HPSP).

    "If the poor want service, they (government doctors) give them a kick, but if the rich want service they give them a sofa to sit," said a respondent of the survey. The respondents said the government doctors work in private clinics more than they do in government hospitals and think all the time about private practice.

    Some 10 percent of the unqualified practitioners had had higher education and at the other end of the spectrum, 10 percent never reached the SSC level. Most unqualified practitioners received some training. Half of them had received Rural Medical Practitioner or Basic Rural Medical Practitioner training. The village doctors would come at midnight if they are called, commented members of the community focus groups in rural areas after the service delivery survey teams met them with their findings. "Most of the time we don't find any doctors in government hospitals, so we turn to village doctors. We go to village doctors because they give us medicine on credit" (Daily Star, October 24, 2004).

    Development planners should take note of UN Assistant Secretary General Hafiz Pasha's observations on the country's poverty alleviation scenario. Pasha has pointed out that 45 to 50 million Bangladeshis are still steeped in grinding poverty (Editorial, The daily Star,27. 02. 03).

    According to UNB, the child mortality rate in the country is still 60 per thousand as 40 newborns in 1000 die within one month of their birth. In the annual conference and scientific session of Bangladesh Neonatal forum June 2002, it was revealed that the child mortality rate in our country is higher than that of many developing countries of this region. Then pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles, and malnutrition are the main killers. Poverty is an overriding cause. Some 600 million children live on less than US$ 1 a day. Malnutrition contributes to 60 per cent of all deaths in childhood. Malnutrition and infectious diseases are a deadly duo that preys especially on the young.


    According to a UNICEF survey, the numbers of malnourished pregnant women and children under the age of six are among the highest in the world. In addition, almost 50 percent of children are born underweight and more than 90 per cent under five years of age are undernourished in one form or the other. Milk is a very important source of nutrition. However, a recent survey says a large section of the population has little access to milk. We are amazed to learn that less than twenty per cent of the demand is met from local market, the rest gets imported from abroad. And that's also with a high tax component. The price of imported milk has shot up rapidly. No wonder, milk has gone way out of most people's buying capacity. (Editorial, The Daily Star, 4. 03. 03).

    The fact that many children of the poor must work, either for their own survival or to augment family income, cannot be ignored, as alternatives are still not in place. Under these circumstances, preventing children from working is clearly immoral as some parents find it impossible to give their children the care and attention they need

    Perspectives on development revealed that nearly 700 Bangladeshi children die of hunger or other nutrition-related cases every day, a World Bank report warned. Bangladeshi street children and primary school children both are malnourished. According to UNICEF, half of Bangladesh's children are malnourished and many work instead of attending school. Despite the government's various steps to increase the nutrition status of the nation, the malnutrition level in the country still remains highest in the world, affecting the health and education of the children and productivity of its adult population.

    The World Bank says more than 60% of Bangladeshis, about 80 million people, have no access to modern health services other than immunisation and family planning. In a new report, the bank also says malnutrition and deaths of women from childbirth are among the highest in the world. And Bangladesh has the world's highest death rate from road accidents (BBC, 28 February, 2000, 12:25 GMT) .

    Most children in our country are exposed to insecurity and 40 percent are denied their inalienable right to education. Every year about 30,000 children become blind due to vitamin deficiency and a recent survey shows that around 8,70,000 children die from one of the six dangerous diseases that come our way. Guardians in villages are not sending their children to school due mainly to economic pressure, thus the rate of illiteracy in the country remains high. If this situation persists until the close of the Child Rights Decade in 2010, the number of illiterates in the country will reach 58 million (Editorial, The Bangladesh Observer, November 19, 2004).

    In a recent report published in this newspaper it was said that the number of HIV/AIDS patients is steadily increasing. The official figure of 20,000 HIV/AIDS patients in Bangladesh is much lower than the real situation (Independent, November 29, 2004). The fifth round of the nationwide behaviour and serological surveillance on HIV/AIDS — conducted by the ICDDR,B in collaboration with the government — has found that HIV prevalence among injection drug users very high in two areas in and around Dhaka. In one spot, it was found to be 4 per cent while in the other location the prevalence was 8.9 per cent — well above the epidemic boundary. The countrywide prevalence of the virus was found to be below 1 per cent (New Age Dec. 1, 2004).

    0.7 million Blind People in Bangladesh

    According to WHO, one person in the world goes blind every five seconds, while a child goes blind every minute. There are 45 million blind people in the world now and 135 million with low vision, comprising a total of nearly 180 million people with some degrees of visual impairment. Ninety per cent of the world’s blind people live in developing countries. People in the developing world are 10 times at risk of going blind than people who live in the industrialised countries.

    There are about 40,000 blind children in Bangladesh and more than two-thirds of blindness in children could have been prevented, 36 per cent of the cases is still treatable, which means over 12,000 blind children can see the light of the world through cataract surgery. About 32 per cent of the cases went blind due to corneal scarring caused from vitamin A deficiency, which means over 10,000 children went blind because of lack of primary health care and community awareness.

    At present there are about 50 million blind people worldwide and in every five minutes one person is becoming blind. Bangladesh is an overpopulated country with an estimated 0.7 million blind people. Major causes of blindness are Cataract, Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy, Refractive error etc. It is certainly possible to reduce the prevalence of blindness through creating mass awareness and community participation.

    It has been estimated that about 500,000 children become blind globally every year, mainly from corneal scarring due to vitamin A deficiency, measles and the use of harmful medicine. Much of this blindness could be prevented if the underlying causes could be addressed through PEC, ie, immunization to prevent measles infection, promotion of food supplies and proper nutrition, the availability of essential drugs to reduce dependence on harmful traditional remedies. The most common cause of blindness is cataract, a condition in which sight can be restored by surgery. Individuals requiring cataract surgery need to be identified and referred, an action which also comes within the purview of PEC.

    There are 12000 children blind in Bangladesh due to cataract. If any white reflex seen at pupil during birth or within few years of birth of an child, one should consult an eye specialist without delay. This white reflex is seen not only due to cataract, but there might be some other reasons. One of them is Retinoblastoma which is an ocular cancer. It affects not only the eye but also threatens life (Dr. Rabiul Hussain, October, 2004).

    There are 625 ophthalmologists and 618 mid-level eye care personnel in the country. In 2003, the existing forces operated upon 1.20 lakh eye patients. The speakers said although 80 per cent of the eye patients live in rural areas, the ophthalmologists are in town-based, said experts in a recent function, pointing out 350 of them live in Dhaka while 134 in Chittagong, 73 in Rajshahi, 50 in Khulna, 40 in Sylhet and 7 in Barisal. They observed that the rural communities do not have sufficient socio-economic and logistic support to access in services and they have been leading a miserable life and "begging supports to others."

    Dangerous Slums - dicing with death

    Smriti, like most children, forgot her horrifying brush with death and soon joined the games of other tiny skin-and-bone children in the long strip of slum on the two sides of the railway track from Malibagh to the outskirts of Tongi. Russel, Billal, Aleya, Rhidoy, Molly and some other children are among the lucky survivors of the juggernaut locomotives in the slums beside the tracks. Many have not been so lucky and have died prematurely under the iron wheels of trains.

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    10.1. Killer TB

    Massive advocacy campaign is needed to combat Tuberculosis (TB) which is still a major public health problem in the country, said the experts at a conference yesterday. They said due to lack of awareness largely, an estimated 70,000 patients die of TB while 300,000 being infected afresh every year. The 'National Tuberculosis Conference 2005' was organised by Natab with the support of Global Fund for Aids, TB and Malaria (GFATM) at Diploma Engineers' Institute Auditorium in the city. The speakers said in terms of infection risks TB and Aids are closely linked, so combating TB in the backdrop of increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country should be the highest priority. They said as the HIV infection rate has already reached beyond epidemic level among (8 percent) the intra-venous drug users (IDUs) it is time that massive advocacy on both the diseases should be launched immediately before it explodes (Daily Star, August 3, 2005).

    The enormity of the fact of tuberculosis killing 70,000 people every year and infecting another 300,000 often gets lost in the sheer size of the country's population and the monumental apathy of the authorities most concerned. Bangladesh has earned the dubious distinction of ranking fifth among the 22 countries most heavily burdened with this disease. This helpless scenario was revealed on Sunday prior to a conference to be held in Dhaka today under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in cooperation with the National Anti-Tuberculosis Association, BRAC and partner organisations of Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). The number of TB carriers in the country is estimated at around 188 per 100,000 people with one person dying every ten minutes and another one getting infected every two minutes. If this is not sufficiently shocking, what is?

    It is well known that most of the patients in the country are infected with pulmonary TB as the infections are spread by coughs and sneezes from other persons. Although TB has for ages been recognised as a major health problem severely debilitating the capacity of the working population, little attention has been given to it on the lame plea of fund crisis. The truth is, no government ever made an effort to frame a policy equal to combating this slow but sure killer of the nation's vitality until GFATM, formed in 2001, persuaded us to move and in support provided $42.5 million to the government and some NGOs to implement a five-year (2004-2009) programme to bring down the number of TB cases. The strategy includes identification of patients and motivating them to go to the available facilities for diagnosis and treatment

    TB is a curable disease and can be cured by way of early detection and uninterrupted treatment for a specified period. We hope the government will ensure execution of the programme with all the emphasis it deserves. Its success will, of course, depend to a large extent on enhancing the treatment facilities in the rural and industrial areas, where most of the working people live, and on persistently campaigning to raise awareness among the masses. A failure to arrest the spread of the disease is too frightening a prospect for the nation (Independent, August 2, 2005).

    1. Cholera deaths: Government does not admit the presence of the disease
    2. Malaria in Bangladesh
    3. Dengue menace lurking in the wings
    4. Mysterious Disease, killer virus - ‘Nipah' in Bangladesh

    The fact that many children of the poor must work, either for their own survival or to augment family income, cannot be ignored, as alternatives are still not in place. Under these circumstances, preventing children from working is clearly immoral as some parents find it impossible to give their children the care and attention they need. However, encouraging results of a pilot project have given the country 'new hope' that it can break this most challenging development barrier. At present around eight million children are engaged in 425 types of jobs, 67 of them are hazardous (Nari Unnayan Shakti (NUS), June 15. 2003)..

    no place

    The economic realities in the country are quite diverse and widespread. Millions of people are found living under the open sky both in rural and urban areas. They are denied of any education that could ultimately enable them to enter into the employment market with necessary skill (Editorial, The Bangladesh Observer, 4. 12. 02).

    a crying slum boyChildren and adolescents living in slum areas of the city have urged the authorities to stop slum evictions and to provide safe shelters for all evicted people. The youngsters explained their daily living conditions, which include a total lack of consideration by the police during their many attacks on slum areas. Children are attacked and subjected to abusive language. Police also ransack the makeshift shelters of bamboo and polythene that serve as their simple homes.
    The children complained that the government brings large sums of money from abroad in the name of improving their plight although nothing ever seems to change. The government also proclaims its commitment to stopping child labour. However, they expressed their frustration mentioning that child labour is inevitable for them. They can not stop working since they need to bring in as much income for their family as possible. (Daily Star, 05. 9. 03)

    400 children still languishing in jails

    jailFour hundred children are still immured in 57 jails across the country in direct violation of the High Court’s verdict and the government’s directives to shift them to juvenile centres and safe homes.

    According to a source in social welfare ministry the children are still being kept in prisons although 411 seats in three state-run juvenile development centres and six safe homes remain vacant. A High Court bench comprising Justice Amirul Kabir Chowdhury and Justice Nizamul Haque Nasim issued the seven-point directive to the government on April 9, 2003 while disposing of a suo moto notice it had issued to the government on January 4 the same year. No juvenile delinquents should be kept in jail and should be transferred to correction homes and other approved places from the jails without any delay, the court directed. The directives have yet to be carried out in their entirety, according to information available with the national taskforce on juvenile justice. The taskforce comprises representatives of 27 government and non-governmental agencies.

    As the number of juvenile inmates increased gradually this year, the High Court on March 4 issued a fresh suo moto rule on the government to explain why necessary action would not be taken against it for keeping children in jails in violation of the High Court’s verdict delivered on April 9, 2003. Following the fresh High Court rule, the Chief Adviser’s Office on May 8 asked the authorities concerned to obey the High Court’s edict. The home ministry on May 13 ordered all deputy commissioners and superintendents of police to immediately take appropriate measures in accordance with the directives.

    The home ministry in June directed the authorities concerned — including district magistrates, prison authorities, police and social welfare officials — to go by seven-point recommendations made by a four-member committee on the rehabilitation of juvenile inmates, said a source. The recommendations include submission of weekly reports on juvenile inmates by the prison authorities, mandatory mentioning of the age of the juveniles in custody, informing concerned probation officers of the accused child, accountability of any officer-in-charge of a police station for increase of the number of juvenile inmates, strengthening the national taskforce and district taskforces to enable them to deliver justice to the juveniles and arranging workshops for magistrates in order to implement the Children Act 1974. According to sources in the national taskforce, 811 children were released from different prisons across the country in the first five months of this year while 801 were sent to prisons in the same period.

    They said the authorities have shown no interest at all in transferring the juvenile inmates to state-run juvenile development centres. The absence of juvenile courts and lack of knowledge and training on juvenile justice and related laws, including the Children Act 1974, are primarily responsible for children languishing in the prisons, said juvenile justice expert Shah Deen Malik and national taskforce member Habibun Nessa. The government has failed to make significant progress as the national taskforce and district taskforces are still practically dysfunctional, observed Habibun Nessa, also head of programme of Save the Children UK. According to sources, no meeting of the national taskforce has been held since September 3, 2006 (Shahiduzzaman, Newage, July 8, 2007).

    'I want to go home'

    When children go to jail, we force them to experience death. For them it's the death of innocence.It's the death of their future. For them it's a denial of justice. They have a right to a future, a right to innocence and a right to justice.In jails, we vioalate this sacred trust. It's a violation as violent as murder

    'I want to go home'

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    11. Farmers are not getting back the Genuine Price

    The real growers or farmers are not getting back the genuine price of their hard-grown agricultural produce on one side while on the other side the ordinary consumers are being compelled to buy the commodity at an exorbitantly high price.

    Due to the poor and faulty agricultural marketing system, the farmers are getting poorer and poorer day by day and they are losing their ability to make both ends meet from farming. Perhaps for this reason the oldest livelihood of the human civilisation, that is, "agriculture" is often branded as the 'Sunset Industry.' Even those people concerned with policy-making are plainly showing indifference when it comes to recognising the important contributions of the farmers and those agri-scientists or krishibids who are working relentlessly for raising farm production.

    "When death looks greener than starvation."

    The story behind the headline was that Dukhimon Begum, a 40-year old mother of four from Durgapur Upazila of Rajshahi district had a quarrel with her rickshaw-puller husband, Manik Chand, because she bought a saree for her niece on the occasion of the latter's marriage. The family did not have any food to eat that night and the husband went to pull rickshaw next morning hungry. Faced with starvation, Dukhimon fed her two small daughters pesticide-laced biscuits and took some herself in order to be free from the misery. Little Moni, 6, and Mitu, 8, died, but the mother survived.

    The Daily Prothom Alo (Bengali Daily Newspaper)of 18 September published another report under the headline "Mother said, 'no food, eat poison'; the haughty girl did so." As the story goes, Motalab Matubbar of Hajikandi village of Madaripur district left home six months ago in search of work. His wife, Chandra Banu, has been supporting the family of two daughters and a son by working as a maid in neighbours' houses. During the recent incessant rain, Chandra Banu could not work and get any food for her children. In Shibchar Hospital, the mother told the newsmen that for the last two days she had no food to cook. Starving Rumana asked her for food. Frustrated, she told the girl to take poison. That night Rumana drank pesticide to take her life.

    The above incidents represent the most cruel and ultimate solution to hunger. However, such incidents are not common, although there is a commonality in them. The commonality is that girls and women usually take their lives because of hunger, boys do not. Boys normally have other options -- other than committing suicide.

    It is not surprising that girls or women face cruel deaths in the face of hunger. Because of the prevailing patriarchal mindset, women are the poorest of the poor, hungriest of the hungry and most powerless among the powerless. Deprived throughout history, women suffer most in any calamity, whether natural or manmade. The society has also accepted it. For, most of us -- in our thoughts and actions, beliefs and attitudes, consciously and unconsciously -- are intolerant to women and some are even against women.

    Deprivation of women is almost as old as human history. Our sayings and our folklores are full of stories of marginalisation and dehumanisation of women -- which obviously reflect the conditions in the society. Even the sculptures found in historic Mohastangar depict the story of mistreatment of women by men. These clearly indicate that over centuries men spent a great deal of their creative energies on humiliating women.

    Along with physical and mental tortures, the society has also created an image of "ideal" women which does not serve them well. Women have been severely depriving themselves while trying to be perfect women and perfect wives. To meet these illusive images, they have been silently enduring mistreatments, compliantly accepting deprivations, and even eating last and the least. Such is the life of the women of Bangladesh -- discriminated against from the cradle to the grave. The consequence of this dehumanising condition can be truly fatal in poverty stricken societies. The cruel deaths of Mitu, Moni and Rumana is a blunt reminder of it. Yet we do not seem to get it!

    Even though such suicidal deaths seldom happen, people -- especially children -- regularly die of hunger. Causes of deaths of the Moni's are visible, but more devastating is invisible or silent hunger. According to the World Food Programme, worldwide 24,000 of our fellow human beings die of hunger everyday. By the estimates of the World Bank and UNICEF, 600-700 people die of hunger-related causes in Bangladesh per day. Victims are usually children, mostly girl children. These deaths have been happening day after day, week after week and year after year.

    According to UNICEF's State of the Children 2004, a total of 3,23,000 of Bangladeshi children under the age of five suffered from malnutrition in 2002. They suffered from invisible or chronic persistent hunger. Invisible hunger is a silent killer. The immune system of malnourished children does not fully develop. As a result, children die of diseases like diarrhea, which is not viewed as a fatal disease. Over 2,50,000 of our children die of diarrhea every year. However, diarrhea accounts for only 19 per cent of hunger related deaths. Others die of other hunger related diseases. For example, chronic respiratory infection kills 19 per cent, measles 7 per cent, malaria 5 per cent, perinatal 18 per cent and other diseases 32 per cent. Although the apparent causes of these deaths are different diseases, malnutrition is the hidden cause.

    Hunger related deaths are most unwarranted. There is no natural calamity behind them. Nor there is man-made conflict. Such deaths in a sense represent a "genocide," whose cause is invisible or chronic persistent hunger. In an increasingly prosperous world, hunger related deaths are a great affront to the humanity.

    The prevailing widespread malnutrition in Bangladesh has created a vicious "circle of malnutrition". Women are the unwilling conduits. Women are deprived from their childhoods. At infancy, they get less food and attention than the boys. At puberty, most of them get confined within four walls. They are denied of education and healthcare. Their development is thus thwarted. Before they reach adulthood and are physically and mentally ready, they are married off. Soon they become mothers, giving birth to children of low birth weight. Most newly born girls also go through a similar cycle of deprivations and despair. This is how the malnourished and marginalised women keep the cycle of malnutrition going, the consequences of which fall upon everyone over generations, irrespective of gender (Majumdar, B. A., September 30, 2004).

    149 slums demolished since 1975

    slumOne hundred and forty-nine slums were demolished in the Dhaka city between 1975 and November 29, said a survey of Ain O Salish Kendra and the Coalition for the Urban Poor. Thirteen slums were pulled down in 1975, 42 between 1981 and 1998, 30 in 1999, 20 in 2000, 24 in 2001 and 20 between 2002 and 2004, the survey said. And almost no rehabilitation for the people evicted from the slums has been taken as yet.

    One hundred and thirty-two slums were gutted in the Dhaka city between 2000 and November 2004. Property worth an estimated value of Tk 10.5 crore was burnt in the fires in which 21 were killed and 21 injured, according to records available with the Fire Service and Civil Defence. According to reports published in newspapers, there were 68 slum fires in the city between 2001 and November 2004. There were 32 casualties in the fires and 181 people received burn-injuries. About 21,490 shanties were razed down and the estimated losses stood at about Tk 5.05 crore.

    An official of the department said the fire fighters had found enough evidences of deliberate gutting of the slums by the vested quarters; he, however, would not quite cite those evidences because of legal and other implications.

    Article 15 of the Bangladesh constitution of 1972 recognises the state’s responsibility to ensure basic necessities — food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare — for the people. The Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust chairman, Dr Kamal Hossain, also one of the framers of the constitution, at a roundtable in November, said the constitution ensures the rights to accommodation for each citizen. The demolition of the slums without any rehabilitation measures is “totally unconstitutional and a violation of human rights. The governments have been showing a feudal attitude towards land reclamation which is anti-democratic,” he said.

    A 96 per cent of the slum dwellers, according to the survey, said they did not receive any support from the government or NGOs; an 84 per cent of the respondents said they wanted to get back to villages. The Coalition for the Urban Poor after a recent survey cited eight reasons for failure in resisting demolition or eviction. They are sudden eviction, lack of effective communication, lack of adequate time, administrative affairs, fear of criminals and police violence, lack of concerted efforts, non-cooperation from local people and threat from influential quarters (New Age, December 8, 2004).

    Slum dwellers in Dhaka city will cross 10 million

    The number of slum dwellers in Dhaka city will cross 10 million in the next five years as the rural poor are continuously pouring into capital, according to official statistics. The government's statistics say about 20 million people will live in the city after five years and almost half of them will take shelter in the slums. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, two-thirds of the rural poor do not own any land. Forty percent from the low-income group owns only two percent of the total land while 10 percent from the high-income group owns more than 50 per cent. Moreover, more than 3.3 million acres of government land has been grabbed by unscrupulous influential people over the years. The richest part of the people has also encroached wetlands and water bodies in the capital.

    Like in Dhaka, population pressure has also alarmingly increased in all other big cities in last one decade. Urban poverty has also increased while the disparity between the poor and the rich is also widened. "Decentralisation is necessary to stop this exodus from the villages towards the capital and it has to be done without any delay," said Dr Atiur Rahman, an economist and senior research fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).

    "Most of the migrants are too unskilled to find jobs in Dhaka. They either start plying rickshaws or become day labourers," Dr Rahman observed, adding, '"They live below the poverty level in slums," he added. Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna have around 3,000 slums, 88 per cent of which are in Dhaka alone. Abul Barakat, an economist, said migration of the poor is the main reason for the quick growth of slums in the capital. Dhaka City population will increase to 1.76 crore in 2010, equal to that of San Paolo, the second largest city in the world. In 1991, there was a shortage of 31 lakh housing units across the country which increased to 50 lakh in 2004 (Daily Star, December 26, 2004).

    Lack of transparency, good governance

    Lack of transparency, good governance and violation of human rights are taking a heavy toll on the people, specially the poor.

    Infant mortality rate has gone down but babies are still being infected with deadly diseases. And recently the threat of spreading HIV virus has increased the vulnerability of people to even greater risk, especially because of low awareness about the issue in general. The government has set up community hospitals with the assistance of some donor agencies, but these are besieged with problems. On the other hand, ensuring basic education for all still remains a tough task. We must do something about dearth of teachers and arrange proper and adequate funding to boost the education sector (Editorial, The Daily Star, 10. 12. 02)

    From the middle of the 1970s a large number of people from well-to-do rural families migrated to the Middle East. Manpower export is the main foreign earning of Bangladesh. But this money is spent on unproductive ways, such as urban hoiusing and imported consumers good.

    Labour Unrest

    The storied Adamjee Jute Mills have been shuttered since 2003, following the prescription of the World Bank and other donors. After all, it is easy to close down mills and factories in the interests of efficiency and productivity if one ignores the human toll and looks only at the bottom line. The state jute sector limps on in the Khulna-Jessore belt, once a busy industrial corridor, now sadly reduced to a shadow of its former self. Seven out of eight state-owned jute mills remain idle for want of cash to buy raw jute and keep the wheels turning. Workers and employees pass their days in tremendous hardship as the cash-strapped public sector mills are unable to pay them for months at a time. A good number of the workers have already sent their families back to their village homes as there is no way to provide for them.

    The workers number about 19,000 regular labourers while about 6,000 are working on temporary basis in the eight mills in the region. The temporary workers are kept on a "no work, no pay" basis. For every mill or factory that is shut down, thousands of workers and their families lose their means of livelihood. For every jute mill that sits idle or is unable to pay its workers, thousands suffer insecurity and uncertainty, wondering how they will scrape together enough to feed themselves and their families.

    The unintended outcomes

    Despite all these gains in aggregate food production, an unacceptably high proportion of Bangladeshis still remains food insecure. Hunger, malnutrition, and poverty persist and remain widespread, affecting millions of people. According to latest estimate, around 40% of the140 million people of Bangladesh still live below the poverty line, and the poorest 14 percent are recognized as being ultra food-deficient.

    In neighbouring India, which transformed itself from a food deficit to a food surplus country, a sizeable portion of its population is still deprived of three decent meals a day. This means that food insecurity is not just a function of domestic production, rather it is strongly linked to entitlement to food. A country may produce and/or make enough food available in aggregate terms by increasing commercial imports, but a significant portion of its citizens may remain food insecure due to inadequate purchasing power, which is a major determinant of food entitlement.

    Poor people's entitlements to food are considerably constrained by political, social, economic and environmental forces that tend to operate against them. Therefore, in a food deficit and land scarce country like Bangladesh, where agricultural productivity still remains significantly low and unabated environmental degradation continues, technical solutions to increase production can certainly help, but these need to be environment friendly, with no significant adverse effects on the natural resource base. However, techno-market solutions per se are unlikely to achieve food security for a large number of hungry and malnourished people, unless some deeper causes of insufficient food production and accessibility are addressed.

    Identifying the most vulnerable populations

    The largest category of food insecure households is the unskilled agricultural wage labourers. More than 60% of Bangladeshi rural households are either entirely or functionally landless. They mainly depend on wage earnings to maintain livelihoods. Given the predominant agrarian nature of the rural economy, and relatively underdeveloped non-farm sector, wage employment opportunities for unskilled rural labourers are directly linked to the local agricultural production systems. For example, an area which is relatively developed in agriculture with irrigation facility and higher cropping intensity generates more agricultural wage employment than an agriculturally depressed area. As agriculture generates seasonal employment with peak and lean periods, agricultural labourers suffer from high variability in income.

    Agricultural labourers are subject to more income variability than their urban counterparts, because seasonal ups and downs in labour demand are not as strong in urban areas as they are in rural areas. The second category of food insecure households is small and marginal farmers (including tenant farmers e.g. sharecroppers) who are mainly dependent on farming to maintain livelihoods. This group represents deficit farmers, and is unable to produce enough food mainly because of limited access to land and/or because of the exploitive terms and conditions under which they farm.

    Those who are engaged in non-farm sectors e.g. artisans, porters, construction workers and petty traders can be categorized as the third group. Their incomes tend to suffer from significant variability, and are insufficient to buy adequate food. In terms of extent of food insecurity, women-headed households, indigenous communities and households with chronic illness of breadwinner and high dependency ratios tend to suffer most. Food insecurity in lean periods tends to be severe in some geographic areas.

    Some examples are the remote and relatively inaccessible areas of Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) region, some parts of Nilphamari, Kurigram, Lamonirhat, and Jamalpur districts, most char and haor areas, and high barind tract areas in greater Rajshahi district. People living in drought prone areas tend to be more vulnerable to food insecurity than people living in flood prone areas, as agricultural production tend to be higher in the latter. In urban settings, the floating population, including the street children, are the worst sufferers of food insecurity.

    Denial of access to common property natural resources

    Poor households are often denied access to common natural resources, e.g. khas (government owned) land and water bodies. According to an estimate, there are 43,000 acres of khas land spread over the country. Although khas land distribution policy gives poor households preferential access, in practice it is the powerful rural elite who tend to monopolize access to khas land. Information on khas land is often not updated and difficult to access.

    A significant portion of khas land remains unidentified. Inadequate information coupled with inaction from the duty bearers (who have declared responsibilities to identify and distribute khas land among the poor households) result in illegal encroachment on khas land by the powerful. Common water bodies are seen as a source of revenue for the government, and these are often leased out to the non-poor who have better access to cash and information, and are well connected with officials who make decisions with regard to leasing.

    With increasing intensification and commercialization of agriculture the need for finance capital can hardly be over emphasized for cash-starved smallholders. An overwhelmingly large part of borrowings for smallholders still come from friends, relatives and local moneylenders. The interest rates levied by moneylenders are exorbitantly high.

    However, technical solutions alone are unlikely to sufficiently address the problem of food insecurity. Some of the underlying causes of hunger and food insecurity (e.g. exclusion based on gender, ethnicity and class, non-responsive governance, rights denial, discrimination, skewed ownership of productive resources) need to be addressed. Without creating sufficient space for the poor, who bear the brunt of poverty and hunger, to raise their voices and influence decisions at multiple levels that affect them, it is unlikely to achieve significant breakthroughs in increasing the responsiveness of relevant institutions and organizations to the poor, marginalized and vulnerable communities within a reasonable timeframe. (Mahbubul Islam Khan, Daily Star, May 30, 2007).

    INDIA-BANGLADESH: Battle for Water Sharing

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    national bird - doelPôhela Boishakh or Pôila Boishakh is the first day of the Bangla Calendar. Pôhela Boishakh is celebrated in a festive manner in both Bangladesh and West Bengal. In Bangladesh, Pôhela Boishakh is a public holiday and in West Bengal it is a national holiday. It falls on April 14 or April 15 of the Gregorian calendar depending on the use of the new amended or the old Bangla calendar respectively. In Bangladesh, it is celebrated on April 14 according to the official amended calendar designed by the Bangla Academy. Pôhela Boishakh is also known as Nôbo Bôrsho, Bengali New Year, as it is the first day of the first month of Boishakh in the Bônggabdo (Bangla Calendar). This day is a very festive time for Bengalis.

    national fish- hilsaUnder the Mughals, agricultural taxes were collected according to the Hijri calendar. However, as the Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar, it does not coincide with the harvest. As a result, farmers were hard-pressed to pay taxes out of season. In order to streamline tax collection, the Mughal Emperor Akbar ordered a reform of the calendar. Accordingly, Fatehullah Shirazi, a renowned scholar and astronomer, formulated the Bangla year on the basis of the lunar Hijri and Bangla solar calendars. The new Fasli San (agricultural year) was introduced on 10/11 March 1584, but was dated from Akbar's ascension to the throne in 1556. The new year subsequently became known as Bôngabdo or Bengali year. Celebrations of Pôhela Boishakh started from Akbar's reign. It was customary to clear up all dues on the last day of Choitro. On the next day, or the first day of the new year, landlords would entertain their tenants with sweets. On this occasion there used to be fairs and other festivities. In due course the occasion became part of domestic and social life, and turned into a day of merriment.

    Our Bangali cultural nationality is remarkably different from that of the rest of the world in two ways: first, we have a glorious history behind our language, and then, we have a vast treasure of music.there are many types of folk music from bengal baul, keertan, probhati, bhayaiya, dhankatergan, naban nergan, bhatiyali, brishtirgan, tusurgan, kabigan, chatka, murshidi, fakirigan and many more.....baul songs are mostly related in moods of spirituality, deep philosophy, human body and nature. keertan, songs of the vaishnavas. bhatiyali the boat songs of bengal. Also seasonal songs are there like rain songs (brishtirgan) festival songs celebrating the eating (nabannergan) and worship songs for different god and goddess are also a vital place in folk music of Bengal.


    Unlike the Islamic revivalist movements, popular Islam assimilated many local traditions and naturally became invigorated. The numerous Prophet-oriented folk songs may be taken as an illustration. Among the various Bengali folk songs in which the image of the Prophet is portrayed, the following forms should be noted.

  • Baul songs: The bauls of Bengal belonged to a community of mendicant singers noted for their liberal attitude to all religions. They were influenced both by sufism and vaishnavism (a sort of Hindu mysticism). The nineteenth century was the heyday of the bauls when the famous exponents of baul songs such as Faqir Lalan Shah, (d. 1891) , Panju Shah (b.1851) and Lalan's disciple Duddu Shah flourished (S.M Lutfor Rahman , Bangladeshi Jari Gan, Dacca ,1986).

  • Lalon - Bauls Mysticism
  • Bouls of Bengal

  • Jari Songs: Jari is a kind of dirge, which owes its origin to the tragic events of Medina and Karbala leading to the death of Hazrat Imam Hassan and Hussain. The shia community of South Asia commemorate the events of Karbala in the month of Muharram by singing marsiyas or dirges in Urdu, while jari is its Bengali version.
  • Rain Songs: In the oriental world where agricultural is the principal occupation of the people, proper rainfall is regarded as essential for good harvest. During, drought the peasants find it difficult to use the plough in the field. Under such circumstances, the religious minded people in the countryside pray to god for rain. They often offer their prayer in the form of songs, which can be called songs to invite rain, or simply rain songs. Unlike the baul and jari songs, much information about contemporary social, economic, or political conditions are not available from the rain songs.
  • Sarigaan :Sari (or Shaeri) songs are associated with boat races. Boat races used to be a popular pastime in East Bengal during the monsoon months. Village youths would draw immense courage, determination and pleasure to take part and win in the races. Large crowds would gather along the banks of the river to celebrate the occasions. Boats would be gracefully prepared with colorful decorations. Before the race began, and sometimes after it was completed, festivitivities continued all day long with sing-a-song-sing-along sarigaan.

    However, religious beliefs of the rural people are captured in these songs, which were often influenced by sufism. The sufi notion of creation owes its origin to the philosophical ideas of al-Farabi and Ibn Sina who tried to establish a connection between the divine light (nur) and the intellect, the former being communicated to the latter at the first instance by the prime cause, the Creator. The nur is the light of the sun around which everything revolves. And around this nuclear concept of nur , the Sufis developed the doctrine of nur-i-Muhammadi, believed to have been created before all things.

    It is significant to remember in this context that in the same period the bauls of Bengal were also singing songs on the concept of nur-i-Muhammadi , presenting the Prophet Muhammad and his mediatorship of creation as a source of authority

    In doing so, the bauls were probably responding in a subconscious way to the missionary enterprise aiming at enhancing the status of Jesus Christ and Christianity as compared to Islam and its Prophet. It may be mentioned here that the north Indian Muslim religious group called the Barelwis, who also had a rural base responded to the missionary challenge in a similar fashion by focusing on the sufi doctrine of nur-i-Muhammadi as a source of authority (S.M Lutfor Rahman , Bangladeshi Jari Gan, Dacca ,1986).

    Vaisnava perception not only influenced the jari singers, but the bauls as well. According to the baul philosophy, the Prophet Muhammad, Krishna and Chaitanya, have become both man and superman because of His sudden touch. In other words, the bauls regard Muhammad, Krishna and Chaitanya as God incarnate.
    As Radha is inseparable from Krishna who is the incarnation of God, similarly Fatima is also inseparable from Allah, being the beloved daughter of Muhammad who is the incarnation of God. Both Radha and Fatima enjoy a loftier position in the mystical tradition of Bengal. Both are also women, and it is not surprising that the bauls pose themselves as women because they believe that true love can only be experienced by transforming oneself into a woman. From this concept stemmed their idea of Shain or the Man of the Heart who is also the eternal Beloved of the sufi tradition.
    In the imagination of the Muslim mystic poet Radha (the beloved of Lord Krishna) appears as Fatima and Krishna as Allah.

    When scholars talk about nineteenth century Bengal Renaissance, they use lofty words for Rammohun Roy and others for their rationalist thinking or the spirit of enquiry. These scholars seldom shift their focus from urban to rural Bengal to explore the likes of Lalan Shah, a contemporary of Rammohun. Lalan did not receive western education unlike many of his urban counterparts. But many of his songs revealed a spirit of enquiry which was significant in its own way and which often went to the extent of challenging the established order. For example, Lalan once attacked the shariati Muslims by singing (Lutfor Rahman ed. Lalan Giti Chayan, Dhaka, 1985) :

    Mystical Sufi music staging a comeback

    Sufi music is a unique style of music that transports listeners into spiritual ecstasy, and it originated sometime in the 14th century. It is the music of submission and surrender that bonds humans with spirituality and mysticism, transcending all religious boundaries. It connects with the heart.

    Sufi music started in dargahs and mazaars years ago. In the beginning it was only performed in the shrines of the saints. Sufi saints used music as vehicles to send messages of peace, tolerance and love. In the Indian continent Sufi music arrived with the advent of Islam. With Sufism, saints from Persia and Arabia brought in Sufi music.

    Today it has metamorphosed into a singing culture. Sufism exists in various forms with different music all over the world. From Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Morocco, and even in the US each Sufi sect has different music, styles and beliefs.

    Its mass spread is attributed to Fakirs who travelled to different parts of the world and picked up local tones and styles giving birth to many new forms that still continues to mesmerise us.

    The range of Sufi music in this continent includes the highly structured genre of qawwali, kafi and various regional genres of similar ethos. Hazrat Moinnudin Chishti, Hazrat Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Baba Farid and Amir Khusrau have all been great Sufi poets who spread their message through hymns and qawwalis.

    Contemporary singers like the late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen from Pakistan, Indian Shubha Mudgal, Mohammed El-Sheikh Juma of Sudan, Rumi of Iran, the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey, Baul singers and Lalon enthusiasts from Bangladesh or even sufi-pop groups like Junoon or our very own Bangla have all contributed in re-vitalizing this unique religious singing. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was a phenomenal success during his time. Abida Parveen and Shubha Mudgal succeeded in mesmerising many more with their husky yet appealing voices. In Bangladesh Lalon's songs are accepted as the most spiritual form of music. Among the contemporary singers Farida Parveen creates sensation in every stage when she sings. Shamir Hossain, Chondona Majumdar or Mamun Nadia has admirers all over the country.

    Searching for the sufi soul

    Most Americans, if asked to name their most immediate associations with Islam and the Middle East, would unhesitatingly reply with words like “terrorism”, “fundamentalism”, and “fanaticism”.

    From the drama of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1978-9, to the frightful tyranny of Saddam Hossain in Iraq, to the tragic list of victims in the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation – the list of negative media impressions seem endless. Yet at a time when the U.S. government has been in a sharply antagonistic relation with Iran and other Muslim countries, an unofficial cultural encounter of profound proportions has quietly been taking place.

    A thirteenth-century Muslim mystic, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, is now the best-selling poet in America. Not only is the poetry of Rumi finding major audiences, but additional manifestations of Sufism, such as the mystic dance of the Whirling Dervishes, and the entrancing qawwali music of Pakistani singer, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, have now had remarkable impact on Western audiences and performers.

    For over a thousand years, Sufism – the mystical aspect of Islam – has been a major factor in the lives of most Muslims. For those who are accustomed to hearing only the authoritarian pronouncements of Muslim fundamentalists, this may come as a surprise.

    Yet if one looks beyond the level of media debates, there are numerous examples of Sufism's influence in Muslim societies today. Whether one visits Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, China, or Indonesia, Muslims reveal their great devotion to those Sufi saints who provide a model for how one becomes close to God. Based on the Qur'anic revelation and the model of the Prophet Muhammad, Sufism became a spiritual method that deeply penetrated all levels of Muslim society.

    It offered an interior vista on the practices of Islam, developed through the discipline of the Sufi orders in deepened prayer and meditation. There are literally hundreds of Sufi authors in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and other languages.

    Interest in Sufism is experiencing something of a major revival today not only in the West but throughout South Asia and among the South Asian diaspora, as witnessed in a sudden spurt of publications on the subject, plays and movies produced along Sufi themes, a new range of Sufi music tapes hitting the markets, and even haute couture taking ideas from Sufism. Muzaffar Ali, an Indian painter, filmmaker and designer with his architect wife Meera, founded their fashion label “Kotwara” in 1990, deeply inspired by Sufism, while in this year’s Lakmé India Fashion Week, renowned designer Manish Malhotra designed an all-white collection called “Freedom”, again inspired by Sufism.

    Undeniably, the genre that has gained the most popularity riding the Sufism bandwagon is music. The philosophy of Sufi music is very easy to understand – it’s about life, affinity, love, reality and the ultimate search for God. And Sufi music mixed with an international sound has proved to have quite a global appeal. The sound is exotic and very different from the run-of-the-mill music that plays all over.

    Is everyone exploiting the sudden interest in Sufism all for the sake of commercial breakthroughs? Is it merely another fad soon to be over-enthusiased to death? Apparently not. Luckily there are those conscientious few who do have a deeper agenda. Salman Ahmad, best known as lead guitarist of “Junoon”, a Pakistani rock band that has sold over 25 million albums (as many as Nirvana, ZZ Top and Janet Jackson have sold in the United States), has become a pivotal figure in the war between moderate and extremist Islam by promoting interfaith understanding.

    Junoon, which Ahmad formed in 1990, created a distinctive sound – electric rock braided with Pakistani folk music and lyrics that draw from the Qur'an and Sufi poets like Rumi and Baba Bullah Shah.

    And now, in our own soil, we have the folk fusion band Bangla, trying to convey the same ideas through their second album, “Prottutponnomotito” where all the songs are the baul geetis of Lalon Shah, the Baulshomrat. Bangla, through their fusion renditions of Lalon geeti, wanted to reach the youth as well as the old generation, with Lalon's lyrics that oppose religious intolerance, cartelism, sectarianism, and colonialism.

    All of this, in part, reflects a distaste for and a search for an alternative to an exclusivist, narrowly defined understanding of Islam that rightly repels many people – the search to replace the obscurantist and hate-spewing version of the faith championed by a range of radical Islamists who see all non-Muslims as, by definition, ‘enemies of God’.

    In contrast to the latter, Sufism is presented as generously ecumenical, and as reaching out and embracing people of every caste or creed. In short, Sufism is presented as the ‘gentle’ side of Islam and for many, to whom political news is simply inadequate to handle the larger human truths of the spirit, the language to teach the soul of acceptance (Simin Saifuddin, May 23, 2006)

    The cult of baulism

    lalonThe Bauls are members of a mystical group in Bangladesh, and in West Bengal, India. Some are Muslims, some are Hindus, and each sub-group celebrates its own religious festivals, but come together on certain occasions. They live together in "akhras" or monasteries; a Muslim baul may have a Hindu guru, or a Hindu baul may have a Muslim spiritual guide. Bauls believe that the human body is a miniature world, with the Sain, the Master, dwelling within.

    The cult of baulism draws its beliefs from ancient tribal faiths, Hindu and Buddhist philosophy and cults, from the mystical form of Islam (Sufism). Baulism, like faqirism was developed as a composite mysticism incorporating sexo-yogic practices taken from Buddhist and Hindu Shahajiya cults. The practitioners see no contradiction between their baulism and Islam or Hinduism.

    Lalon Shah [1774-1890] was a Baul faqir (ascetic, mendicant), considered the greatest and most prolific composer amongst Bauls. His compositions are richly layered with metaphors and underlying meanings, and are largely symbolic.

  • 1) Ham'd and Naat: Songs of praise and devotion. The boat theme regularly features in this type of songs, where the boat signifies the human soul, with God/Allah as the helmsman, the river being life, and the shore being the ultimate destination.
  • 2)Murshid Totto: Knowledge of the murshid, or spiritual guide. Bauls maintain a spiritual guide/guru/prophet according to their respective religions, who acts as a sort of intermediary between Man and God. Lalon's songs refer to the Islamic Prophet Muhammad as the murshid, and calls him the 'messenger of love'.
  • 3)Atma-totto: Spiritual and metaphysical knowledge. These songs deal with self-discovery; finding love i.e. God, within oneself.
  • 4)Deho-totto: The ruling philosophy behind these songs is that the human body is the seat of knowledge; it is a microcosm, and the Master (God) or Sain, is refered to here as the Elusive Bird, which sits within a cage that is the heart. To find Him is to open one's heart to the Truth and to Love.
  • 5)Param-totto: Knowledge of the ultimate. Devotional songs that ask the devotee to look beyond texts and seek Truth/Love within oneself. These songs maintain that total devotion ultimately leads to the Maker.
  • 6)Jiggasha: The question. This is where Lalon speaks in the voice of the new devotee seeking guidance from his guru.

    If shariat is the only way to salvation then why did the Prophet spend fifteen years in the solitary cave of Hira for meditation? It is said that those who do not perform the prayer and fasting are subject to punishment on the Day of Judgement. It should be remembered that the merciful Prophet did not perform the prayer during the first forty years of his life

    From time immemorial, Bangladesh has earned a reputation as the high quality producer of handloom, especially muslin. Poets of the Mughal Durbar (court) likened our muslins to Baft hawa (woven air), Abe rawan (running water) and Shabnam (morning dew). So fine was its texture and quality that it was said to be woven with the thread of the winds and the Greek and the Roman texts mention the Gangetic muslins as one of the most coveted luxury items.

    Green and yellow my paddy sways its shoots tenderly
    It calls me every day as I stand by the roadside.
    It stalks touching and kissing and parting in the breeze.

  • O Blind Cloud, You are my Brother!
    Give a little more rain so that we may eat good rice

    An ancient Bengali mystic poet describes:

    The mind is a tree, the five senses are its branches.
    Hope bears fruits and leaves in abundance.

    One who does not know the mystery
    of this tree's growth and destruction.
    Fool is he to have to come back again and again
    in samasara to receive pain.
    (From Cayapada 45, Kanhupada, Raga Mallari)

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    Folk songs, culture, heritage now receding

    traditional folk audienceThe traditional Bangla folk songs of the greater Mymensingh region are going to be extinct as folk singers have been leading a miserable life due to absence of patronisation from any circle. There are innumerable folk-songs sung by the rural people and singers in different parts of the region. The true picture of the people of the region comes to light in the soft strains of Bhatiali, Shari, Jari, Baul, Murshidi, Punthi Gan and many other such forms of folk songs. Folk culture of the region is also on the wane although it is expression of the totality of rural life from rice husking, sticking quilts, making cakes, harvesting of crops, boat oaring manifesting the active life of the village folk.

    Folk lore, folksongs and folktales are the integral part of the folk culture and tradition of simple rustic masses. The folk songs are an indispensable part of our folk culture, basing on rural as well as national beauty and oriental myths fascinate the audience through their lucid melody. Poets and lyricists of the locality usually compose the reflections of the nature with great empathy of joys and sorrows, woe and bliss, passion and peace. It is observed that the relation between human beings and nature is eternal as like as relation between nature and folk music.

    Nature here is adorned with seasons and every-seasons adds new enchantment to her changing beauty. Summer enriches nature of the region with different local fruits . Nature in the season becomes hot while the rainy season comes here with different colours. The green on the earth darkness, the clouds begin to swell and roar and frogs croak with full-throated each day and night as rain pours on. Peasants use to go to their fields and fishermen to the water bodies with the tune of mystic natures songs.

    With the arrival of Autumn, nature again takes a new turn. Gentle breeze begins to blow and peasants go to fields and sow seeds. It is prelude to a new life full of vigour and joy. Then comes the harvesting season. Rural people celebrate each season especially the harvesting one with dances and songs. Winter comes with rich worm and sunlight, the leaves of trees began to fall as such the nature gets ready to give birth to a new season spring.

    The flower blooms and one feels that the Nature is breathing a new life after the Winter. It is spring which is said the season of mirth and joy, songs and music celebration and festivals. However folk music like nature in this region is also varied and beautiful that it is difficult to remain insenate to its appeals. As it is very much a culture of each and everywhere of the region the people here have been obsessed by folk music invites earnest fervour. Songs were invited by the rich people and well-to-do people on different occasions and used to enjoy songs and singers to get handsome remuneration which they could run their livelihood.

    But the old culture is overwhelmingly shattered by electronic appliances like television, video cassette player and satellite television. Most people now-a-days are least interested in listening the traditional songs as perhaps these have had a lack of real portrayal of diverse aspects of lives and no new dimension could be added with the changing circumstances by the singers.

    We also have failed to uphold our traditional culture in the electronic media world with positive manners. As a consequence of all these, the earnings of them declined sharply and they have been passing hard days. Local devotees and elite opined that in order to know the folk culture people must know the folk songs and village folks. It is only when succeed in painting on our minds canvass the picture of what influences in moulding their life pattern. Shall we not in truth, be able to know of the folk culture and tradition, in short, the folk heritage? (The Bangladesh Observer, December 4, 2004).


    Manipuri DanceFrom history we learn that the 'Meities', early inhabitants of Manipur, performed certain ritualistic dances characterized by repetitive but disciplined movements to invoke the deity. The 'maibas', 'lai haroba' and the 'khamba thoibi' were a part of their repertoire. However, during the 17th century the advent of Hinduism, specifically Vaishnavism, brought about an evolution of a distinct dance form which shows mutual interaction between the earlier ritualistic dances and the Vaishnava 'bhakti' cult. The present form of the Manipuri dance is said to have evolved during the reign of Maharaja Bhagyachandra during 1964-1789.

    Jawaharlal Nehru once said, "The world would be more peaceful if people were to desist from imposing their ways of living on other people and countries." Tolerating and celebrating difference is the key to a successful and prosperous culture. Diversity only enriches us.

    Thousands of years before the Bangali nation existed in the domain we now call our motherland, the Santals and Bheems inhabited this land. They are the indigenous people of this land. The Adivasis of Bangladesh demonstrate an array of unique cultures, traditions and much more. Their diverse languages and cultural heritage enrich the collective culture of Bangladesh. Eleven indigenous communities in the southeast; Santal, Oraon, Munda, Malo, Mahato, Koch, Rajbangshi in the north; the Garos and Hajongs in the north-central plains; Monipuri, Khasi, Patra and tea garden communities in the northeast; Rakhaings in the coastal districts of Cox's Bazar, Barguna and Patuakhali districts have distinct features in their cultural life.

    Manipuri is a living force in this land of verdant hills and flowing landscapes. Every occasion worth celebrating merits a Manipuri performance be it a birth, a marriage, or any such festivity. In Manipur it is rare to see anyone without the knowledge of dance and music. Royalty, too, have been known to mingle with the commoners on the 'mandapa' or stage as a mark of their proficiency in the aesthetic arts.

    Manipuri Dance

    The first impression that one gets after viewing a Manipuri performance is the personification of power contained. Underlying the inherent fluidity and excruciating grace of the performance is the impression of control and restrain excercised by the performer. This characteristic of ease and fluidity contrasts distinctively from the precision and terse clarity of the South Indian style but in no way negates a high degree of technicality.

    The Repertoire

    The 'cholams', one of the three aspects of tandava dance, comprise a major portion of a Manipuri repertoire. Sri Chaitanya, a leading exponent of the Bhakti cult, popularised the 'kirtanas' or devotional songs performed en masse, as a mark or spiritual devotion. 'Cholams' are an extension of this ritual of 'Sankirtan' where the devotee in an excess of emotion embarks on dance. The 'cholams' are performed in groups and instruments like the 'karatali' and 'poong', used as accompaniments during 'kirtana', are incorporated within the dance. The ritual dances of the Shaivite period have, also, survived and are very much a part of the repertoire. Strictly speaking these dances are on the margin of classical and folk dances. They are invariably performed in groups and are known to the community at large.


    It is only when we come to the 'Raas' that we encounter the richness and classicism of both 'nritya' and 'abhinaya' in the Manipuri style. As per the 'Natyashastra', the 'Raas' is a drama performed on a circular stage.
    There are three main varieties of 'Raas Lila' prevalent today in Manipur.
    'Basanta Raas' performed on the full moon day of Chaitra (Bengali month) represents the amorous scenes of th eromance of Krishna and Radha.
    'Kunja Raas' performed during Dasara depicts the dance in an arbour made of leaves where the daily meetings of the divine lovers Radha and Krishna are enacted.
    'Maha Raas' performed on the full moon day of Kartik  (Bengali month - November) is the very romantic story Krishna as a lover- be it with the Gopis or with Radha.

    Despite the separation from their motherland, they never parted with their religion, culture and heritage. Defying the regional influence, they always maintained the practice of their traditional rites, their own religion and culture. Evidence of this is the Raash Festival, which has been observed from generation to generation by the Monipuri people every year. The magnificence and solemnity that the attire, the presentation and even the stage decorations of the Raashleela festival possess are seldom or even nowhere seen in any of our cultural presentations. Despite being the religious and cultural representation of the common people, the Raash Festival is often mistaken as being a royal ceremony. In reality although the festival had its origin in the royal court, the common people spontaneously accepted it as their own.

    Raas Mela (Festival)

    radha krishnaThousands of people congregated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal at Kuakata beach to attend the 3-day-long Raas Mela, a religious fair that started on November 25, 2004. Ranjit Karmakar, the president of the Kuakata Raas Ujjapan Committee, said that already about 50,000 people including tourists and devotees from all over the country and abroad has arrived in Kuakata (S. Bangladesh).

    The two hundred year old Raas Mela (fair) is arranged in accordance with the Raas Purnima Utsav (full moon festival) and the number of attendants will exceed one lakh on the closing day, he added. Seven pairs of joint statue (jugol protima) of goddess Radha and God Krishna were established at the side of the Kuakata Buddha Bihar. Arati (dance devoted to the god and goddess), recitations from the Bhagavat Gita and other holy books of Hindu religion, songs of Padaboli Kirtan, religious and philosophical discussion on the life and activities of the God Sree Krishna, Raas Puja (worship), Punnaya Snayan (holy bath) in the sea at the time of sun rise and setting and other religious functions would be observed with great enthusiasms, proper religious merit and honor during this three days long festival (Bangladesh Observer, November 27, 2004).

    Radha-KrishnaIndian mythological traditions
    Katyani Puja main religious festival of Hindus

    The Rabindra Nritya Dhaka & Manipur

    Famous painting by Gagenranath Tagore

    Deeply moved by the Raas Lila during his visit to Manipur in 1917, Rabindranath Tagore is credited with introducing this enchnting style of dance to the other parts of the world. Renowned teachers were invited to teach this dance form in tagore's idylic institute in Shantiniketan. Furthermore, Tagore borrowed elements liberally from this dance to mould his own dance-dramas like Chitrangada, Chandalika and Shapmochan. The softness and grace that form a characteristic feature of Tagore's own style and rightly attributed to the Manipuri elements incorporated in the dramas.
    (Sharmila Bandyopadhyay,Nov. 8, 2003).

    Manipuri Sari

    Aborigines celebrate 'Karam Puja'

    With a view to starting the festival the 'Thakur' (priest) along with some of the members of their community went to Jonepur, some two kilometres away from Natshal, to cut a branch of Karam or Kadamba tree. There they lighted an earthen lamp (Pradip) and offered worship at the foot of the tree. Then one of them climbed the tree and cut a branch of it. They returned to Natshal, one of the venues of the festival with that branch of the Karam tree and planted it.

    The aborigine men and women passed the whole night by singing and dancing surrounding the branch of the 'Karam' with 'Madal' and 'Karatal'. In the morning, they sank the branch in a nearby pond. This was the main ritual the aborigines had long been performing. But there is a story that they believe to be the cause of introduction of Karam Puja.

    The aborigines, who live mainly on agriculture, believe that to get proper benefit from agriculture they must worship the branch of Karma (Kadamba) in the name of the 'Karma God'.

    The story that they believe is like this : Karma and Dharam were two brothers. Karma worked hard but Dharma did not work. He only worshipped a branch of a tree.

    At this, being very angry Karma once threw away the branch which fell on an island across seven seas and thirteen rivers. Karma began to suffer for his neglect of the Kadamba branch and found no more success in agriculture. Karma realised his guilt and after toiling too much took back the branch and started worshipping it. At this he regained his success in agriculture. From that moment 'Dal Puja' or 'Karam festival' came in culture of the aborigines.

    Karam festival was actually the festival of the 'Orao' tribe who used to celebrate the festival at their respective areas. Jatiya Adibasi Parishad and Adibashi Sangskritik Parishad jointly started celebrating the festival about eight years ago at Natshal field on the next day of the main ritual. Now it has become a great communion of all the aborigines like Orao, Santal, Munda, Mahato and Raichatri.

    Sounds of 'dhol' and clapping of the aborigine men, women, old, young and children create a dancing excitement in the blood of all gathered there. But it was closely observed that a section of political personalities have spread their claws to take the minority group under their control. They make the total arrangement of the festival at Natshal field from background although they do not belong to that community (The Independent, September 4, 2004).

    Garaiya Dance - unique culture of the Tripura

    Garaiya dance

    As the third biggest tribal group in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the unique culture of the Tripura stands out among the other tribes with its legendary dances, songs and folklore. The 'Bottle Dance' and the "Garaiya Dance" are most popular among the folk dances that are steeped in the rich cultural heritage of the people of Tripura.

    The main attraction of Baisyu festival, the Garaiya dance, which goes on for three to seven days, has recently seen participation of women along with the traditional male dancers. The Garaiya god, often associated with Shiva as symbols of the Sky God, enjoys two pujas at his temple at the beginning and end of the Garaiya dance, which also starts and ends at the same house. The agri-based Tripura society dances in between the two pujas in their prayer for rain, protection of the Jum crops from evil and keep them safe from harm.

    The Tripura tribe has come to hold the belief that if they pray to the goddess Gauri, who is locally known as Gauraiya, she will send down the rains in return during the month of Chaitra (Bengali month) in the Bengali year. The ritual is conducted by a priest, the 22 rhythms and changes of pace of the Garaiya dance describes the journey of life and afterlife from birth through the 22 gestures or mudras, such as conquering front yards, planting Jum, calling women, and dancing like deers (Arunendu Tripura , August 15, 2004).

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    Chaitra Shankranti Puja

    The Kochs are believed to be the oldest and original inhabitants of the Bhawal forests. However, over the last few decades, they have become a minority in their own land, thanks to continuous Bangalee migration to the region. These indigenous people strive hard to keep alive their own ancient traditions of festivals, dances and rituals. Saying goes that the Kochs have 13 festivals a year. These festivals are Kal Baishakhi, Kali Puja, Kamakkha Puja, Poddo Puja, Maddhop Puja, Durga Puja, Roth Mela, Kartik Puja, Ganesh Puja, Bura-Buri Puja, Saraswati Puja, Chaitra Shankranti Puja and Chaitra Shankranti Mela. The Kochs believe that observing these festivals and rituals bring them closer to God. Chaitra Shankranti Puja .

    The Kochs celebrate Chaitra Shankranti by devoutly offering a puja to their god Mohadev. Legend goes that Mohadev used to live in isolated places such as graveyards and forests. Fond of drinking wine, he was disliked by everyone. When his wife Gouri died, he lost his mental balance and became homeless with the burnt ashes of Gouri. Hindu people celebrate the occasion of Mohadev's tour to Gouri's house. This event occurred in Chaitra, the last month of the Bangla calendar, and thus the Hindus offer pujas in the course of this month. The symbol of Mohadev is trishul and Gouri is pat (a wooden sculpture).

    The preparation for the festival begins a week before the arrival of Baishakh. The puja begins with the bathing ceremony of the pat on the first night of the festival, which is called patsnan. Ganga puja, Delghora, Purnago Pat puja, Phuljol puja, Bhikhkhamaga, Pater shesh puja, Bahirbhog puja follow and continue till two nights before the 1st of Baishakh. The monks go to every house to collect bhog (sacred food) during Delghora, the word "del" meaning house. Mohadev goes to the house of his father-in-law and takes a meal. To depict this, the Koch people make someone the father-in-law of Mohadev and go to his house and offer a Purnago pat puja with flower, banana, rice and incense. People partake of a special bhog. All the monks then get back to Mohadev's house with the images of Mohadev and Gouri at night. The priests prepare for the sacred rituals while a person, known as Maktoma, recites the mantra. Not all the priests but only two or three chosen ones believed to bring good luck offer the pujas.

    Chaitra Shankranti is one of the biggest festivals of the Kochs that bids farewell to the Bangla year. The Koch people gather at a huge fair on the Bahadurpur Primary School field. The fair sells sweets of different kinds--batasha, naru, mowa, kodma etc. Apart from food items, earthen dolls, money banks, pots and pans are also found in the fair that attract the children. About 1,56,000 Kochs lived in Bangladesh once. Now, they are mostly settled in Dhaka, Bogra, Rajshahi and Rangpur. These indigenous people have adopted so much of the Bangalee culture that their own culture is running the risk of being extinct (Tanveen Zaman & Khaled, 2005).

    Rong Chu Gala festival

    locationThe Pirgachha village of Modhupur thana is situated in the Tangail district. The Mandi community, widely known as the Garos, primarily inhabit this locality. Throughout the months of Bhadra and Ashwin (Autumn) the air around the villages of Modhupur is filled with the sounds of the Aduri, a traditional trumpet of the Mandis, made from an ox's horn. The Aduri is usually played during the festivals. Like any other autumn, the sounds of the Aduri vibrated in the air of Modhupur announcing the Rong Chu Gala festival. Mandis celebrate the Rong Chu Gala festival right after the sowing of the Aman rice. They worship Shaljong (the sun god), asking for his blessings for a good harvest.

    During the festival, everyone gathers at the house of the village chief. The festival starts at his house after the sowing is completed. The chief along with his team of dancers go from house to house and perform the War Dance. In every house the head of the family and elderly members of the clan join the dance. The War Dance is a group dance with wooden swords and shields. The women folk usually have a reunion during this festival. In every house they have a rice wine called Chu. It is a custom to share the wine with the members of the family and to offer every visitor a glass.

    Important event of the Rong Chu Gala festiva issymbolic offering to the dead. Every family offers a token amount of paddy as yearly ration to the departed members. They believe the dead need food too. A memorial is built in the backyard. Every dead member of the family gets a Khimma, a curved wooden pole fixed on the ground symbolising deceased elderly relatives.

    Dancers were sitting in the round shaped yard playing Aduri along with other instruments like the Dama and Natup ,both traditional drums. They say that the Dama is the mother drum and the Natup, a little drum of a similar shape, is the baby. The rice wine Chu was kept in one corner. Every adult member of the homestead was sipping from his or her own glass.

    Around the Khimma they hang paddy on bamboo poles. This freshly picked paddy is a token amount of the yearly ration. Rounds of Chu are also a part of this occasion.

    Today like every other indigenous community living in Bangladesh, the Mandis too are gradually altering their lifestyles, trying to fit in with the fast changing world. The majority of the Mandis being Christians, festivals like Rong Chu Gala is losing its touch. Many families do not celebrate the occasion anymore. Yet many still join in the celebration, praying to the sun god, hoping for a good harvest. The singing and dancing continues until the last house of the village is visited. Rong Chu Gala ends at the house of the chief, from where it had all started (Shahnaz Parveen, 21 Sept. 2005).

    Lyrics from Rivers

    river - lifeA long time ago, when man did not obstruct rivers to suit his petty needs, the river channels served as goodwill ambassadors to extensive geographical areas - a river originating in one country flowing through another, joining another river, forming a filigree of merging and diverging rivers - with the social and cultural heritage of one region blending into another, each drawing on the rich yet varied perspectives in the whole process of cultural evolution. This is perhaps most apparent in Bengal's rich and enviable variety of folksongs. Rivers form an integral part of the topography of Bengal: "Bangladesh is the land of rivers. Ganga, Meghna, Dhaleshwari, Shitalakshya, Gadai - in so many names and in such myriad forms these rivers encircle Bangladesh.

    Playing on the silvery strings of the rivers, an invisible musician has with his delicate touch composed the song of its heart - the bhatiyali. Several areas remain submerged in rainwater for almost six months in a year, with the boat the only mode of transport . . . separated from their families for months on end, they have for their companion only the river on which they row their boats, with the waters merging into the horizons, and the azure heavens above. It is as if the waters are limitless. And the boatman, in his solitude questions his own existence - where have I come from? Where do I go hence? such questions pervade the songs of boatmen. Like the lyrics of these songs which have taken shape from the waters of these rivers, the tunes too have blended into the lyrics from the lilting waters of the rivers (Jasim Uddin, "Murshida Gaan", Dhaka, 1977)."

    You've set me adrift
    You've sunk me
    The endless waters have no shore
    Limitless, with no shores, the waters have no banks
    O row with care boatman, my riven boat.

    What we require today is a serious and committed research which can save whatever is left of the fast depleting forms of folk music in Bengal. The rivers are ridden with the politics of water sharing. Where are the boatmen who can sing out into the blue heavens: "You've set me adrift..." ?

  • Jasimuddin- Poet of the people of Bangladesh- A film by Khan Ata 1978

    Jatra, the traditional open-air folk opera of Bangladesh

    audience jatra jatra2

    Jatra is known to have commenced in the 16th century. Especially in Chaitanyabhagavad (1548), Brindavan Das describes the dramatic performance of Sri Chaitanya in the role of Rukmini in the Krishnai Jatra. 'Beginning of a journey' is the literal meaning of the Bangla word jatra. This performing art is a form of folk drama combining acting, songs, music and dance. It is characterised by stylised delivery and exaggerated gestures and oration.

    The older palas were purely based on mythology and history. Now social palas are also performed. 'Especially during the period of mass uprising in 1969 and Liberation War in 1971, striking changes in the scripts of jatra were seen. Palas were staged to create awareness of this movement among the rural denizens,'

    'To stage the jatra was not as hard as it is today. Before the Liberation War, jatra was an unparalleled medium of entertainment for the rural people. Those were the good old days when people from all walks of life, including, the educated people formed the audience. This was also the time when jatras were staged for social reforms by aiding the schools, colleges and clubs.

    Jatra peaked in the period from 1947 to 1971 when 22 jatra troupes were established. Tracing the history of jatra in the country, Milon says 'At that point of time, most of the jatra groups dwelled at Brahmanbaria. Joydurga Opera (1947), Volanath Opera (1955) and Vagyalokkhi Opera (1960) of Brahmanbaria, Raycompany Jatraparty (1949) Bashanti Muktomancha Natyaprotishthan (1954) of Gopalgang, Babul Opera (1958) of Chittagong , Bulbul Opera (1967) of Mymensingh, New Bashanti Opera of Faridpur (1968) and Dipali Opera (1969) of Gopalgang were some of the noteworthy groups of this period. Babul Opera revolutionised jatra by casting women artistes in this art form for the first time in our country.

    This was the era when artistes such as Amalendu Biswas, Tusher Dasgupta, Manjusri Mukherji, Jotsna Biswas and Jahanara Begum appeared in the field of jatra. At this stage, the audience got a glimpse of the first ever Muslim female artiste Jahanara Begum.

    Jatra, the traditional open-air folk opera of Bangladesh, is an integral part of folk life. There are about 210 registered Jatra Groups but every year only 50 become active. This is the only source of income for almost 4000 people, and as such around 2,00,000 people depend on Jatra. But is now going to disapper due to protest of radical religious groups and introduction of western culture through modern communication system.

    The main attraction of Jatra, a loud and vigorous form of art, is the orchestra and body movements. Music and dance -- the very essence of Jatra, has gone through marked changes down the years. Dance has taken over and has now become Jatra's charm. This change has thrown aside the talent and skill of the Jatra artists. In a sense, Jatra has lost its characteristic flavour.

    The entire scenario is that Bengali art is losing its glory with the introduction of other forms of modern art. If local art is not protected, Jatra artists will have to soon look at other ways to earn their living. It is high time the public should think of preserving, at any cost, the originality of Jatra.

    Today, many of us are ignorant of Gazir Gaan, Gazir Yatra, Gazir Pat, Puthi Pat, Kiccha-Kahini jari and so on and on. Saymon Zakaria has been travelling to different parts of Bangladesh to find out and let others know of what remains of the indigenous cultural performances, which still survive like the flickering light of a burnt away candle.

    Traditional jatra artistes eke out miserable lives.

    Once jatra, a form of folk drama combining acting, songs, music, dance, characterised by stylised dialogue delivery and exaggerated gestures and orations, was an important form of entertainment. Nowadays, the genre has been sidelined by other modern theatrical forms. The taste of the audiences has also changed. Thus, the demand for jatra has diminished to a great extent. Jatra performances are therefore being modified, and are nowadays often merely the subject of seminars and symposiums. As a result the traditional jatra artistes eke out miserable lives.

    Known as Jatra Samragnee (queen of jatra), Jyotsna Biswas is a peerless actress of the decaying performing art form of jatra pala. She has taken initiatives for the preservation of the performing art form as well as for the welfare of the jatra artistes. Commenting on her recent endeavour, Jyotsna asserts, "My family has formed an organisation at Manikganj named Amalendu Biswas Kalyan Trust to extend patronage to jatra artistes, whose performing art has become endangered. The trust's aim is to arrange workshops for the newcomers and provide earning sources for seasoned jatra artistes. Moreover, we are giving these artistes a chance to perform in TV plays."

    "Around 20,000 jatra artistes from over 200 troupes have become almost jobless, as authorities do not allow them to stage shows. As a result they are shifting to menial jobs. What's worse is the neglect of these unfortunate artistes, though jatra is still a recognised performing art form in India. During the Rathjatra eminent film actors of Kolkata perform in the jatras. However, in our country the scenario is exactly the opposite. The Dramatic Performances Act of 1876 was abrogated in Bangladesh by the Jatiya Sangsad on January 30, 2001. To date, atra troupes have to take permission from the district authorities before staging shows, which is the continuation of the 'District Endorsement Act' enacted by the British raj. The Act sought to stymie legendary jatra artiste Mukunda Das (1878-1934) and his troupe, the Swadeshi Jatra Party, who performed jatras on several contemporary issues such as colonial exploitation, patriotism and anti-colonial struggle, oppression of feudal and caste system and others. What's more, after the recent nationwide bomb blast, jatra troupes don't get permission to stage shows."

    "In fact, jatra has the history of hundreds years and has been continuously modified. This performing art form was derived from rituals and by the 18th century, a good number of forms-- Shakti jatra, Nath jatra and Pala jatra. Krishna jatra and Chaitanya jatra-- of jatra had developed, which introduced comic characters and the gradual secularisation of the form. Later, being influenced by the 19th century colonial theatre, jatra performance has taken the form of 'five acts' performance, which is the existing form of jatra. When I began my career in the 1960s the situation was different." (Jyotsna Biswas, July 2006)

    Jatra Pala-e Bibeker Gaan

    jatra-palaIntroduced in 1894 the character "Bibek" (conscience) has become an indivisible part of Jatra Pala: A form of folk drama combining acting, songs, music, dance, characterised by exaggerated gestures and orations. The stentorian vocals of the actor in the role of "Bibek", who renders verses that represent our rationality, is the essence of a Jatra Pala. The character appears on the stage during the 'climax' to jolt the audience's conscience into awareness. Featuring 21 remarkable "Bibek" characters from 19 Jatra Palas -- from the character's introduction in Suroth Uddhar (1894) to contemporary Jatra Pala -- Department of Theatre and Film of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) arranged a show on May 29. Titled Jatra Pala-e Bibeker Gaan, the programme took place at the Experimental Theatre Stage. It was a research-based programme conducted by eminent Jatra Pala researcher-actor-writer Milon Kanti Dey.

    As in typical Jatra Palas in the rural areas, the event began with a performance by an orchestra incorporating a number of western instruments including the silver flute, harmonium and clarinet. Milon Kanti Dey appeared on the stage as a narrator and delivered a bold performance maintaining the authenticity of characterisation in Jatra. The thespian analysed the role of "Bibek" in Jatra.

    Throughout the evening seven professional Jatra artistes -- Balai Das, Chitta Ghosh, Shankar, Upen Das, Bachchu Khan, Mohammad Zahir and Gazi Shahid -- performed 21 songs of "Bibek" characters from popular Jatra Palas. To make way for the "Bibek", Jatra artistes performed the climax sequences on the stage (Daily Star, May 31, 2007).

    Age-old tradition of puppet theatre- A dying Art

    Gazir Gaan

    gazir gan performenceThe Fokre Paala of the Gazir Gaan (The Ascetical Drama of the Gazi Song) Dudhshar, a village in Shailkupa thana in Jhenaidaha district. There resides Rowshan Ali Jowardar, one of the lead singers or narrators (Gayen) of the Gazir Gaan (Gazi's song). The all time involvement with his performance keeps this man away from his home most of the time. In his absence, I get the address of Bhola, the leader of the troupe who resided in Bhatoi Bazar and succeed to meet him.

    The Gazir Gaan singers and the instrumentalists took their seats facing north on the square shaped mat. Then commenced the starting ritual. As the lead singer implanted the symbolic icon, Gazir Asha (Hope of Gazi) north of the audience, music played on. Among the musical instruments were flutes, harmonium, juri or Mandira (a small hollow pair of cymbals) and the dhol (instrument of percussion which is not so much in width as a drum but longer in size). After the group instrumental, the lead singer presented a devotional song with his troupe accompanying him in stages.

    If you come, Oh Merciful to rescue the destitute / (Merciful) Please take and make me cross
    (I) do not offer my prayers, nor do I fast / Please have mercy and make me cross
    (I) coming into this world / about you I have forgotten/ under the spell of infatuation . . .

    performerEach individual has the knowledge of good or bad and for the singers and the spectators or the audience of Gazir Gaan, the performance is as recreational as it is of devotion. Some show their devotion by praying, some by worshiping (Puja), some by offering a particular sacrifice to the deity on fulfillment of a prayer (Manot) and some may look for some other way to express their devotion. Gazir Gaan, whatsoever includes humour or even obscenity, ultimately it is something of sheer devotion.

    There are altogether 7 Paalas (episodes) in the Gazir Gaan performance:
    1. Marriage 2. Didar Badshah 3. Dharma Badshah 4. Erong Badshah 5. Taijel Badshah 6. Tara Dakait 7. Jamal Badshah

    But the performance commences with the “Fokre Paala" depicting the story behind Gazi and Kalu's becoming ascetics after which continues seven episodes. Gazi is very serious and sincere in his work, while the character of his brother Kalu is more comical and he is the one who creates the humour through his role. Through his jeers and meaningless dialogue and activities he very skillfully takes the audience into the embedded sorrow and depth of the story. Here are some quotes from the "Fokre Paala". After the dance performed by the "Chukris", the lead singer stands up and delivers some introducing words in his local accent.

    After the introductory words of the narrator, starts the instrumental and then the Dhua or starting chorus of the narrative passes from the lead singer to his members of the chorus.

    Singer starts the main narration of the Fokre Paala of Gazi and Kalu and at the beginning he requests Kalu earnestly to become Gazi's companion in his quest of becoming an ascetic leaving behind the earthly pleasures and luxury. As this song ends Kalu comes up and takes part in dialogue (in verse and prose)based drama with the lead singer. The statements and their replies are rather nonsense, comic in nature and sometimes with the use of indecent words (Saymon Zakaria, August 30, 2004) .

    Sonai Bibir Pala
    A play glorifying humanism

    palaThe narratives of our rural bards are wonderful treasures of literature. Beer-narayaner Pala, derived from Purba Bango Geetika (East bengal Ballet), is a love story of a Hindu Zamindar's son named Beernarayan and an ordinary Muslim girl named Sonai Bibi. However, young playwright Raihan Aktar's play Sonai Bibir Pala, an adaptation of Beernarayaner Pala, is not just a love story. Through the tragic end of the central characters' affair, the playwright has dealt with a contemporary issue -- the conflict between religion and humanism.

    On September 10, the Centre for Asian Theatre (CAT) staged the first show of Sonai Bibir Pala at the National Theatre Stage in Dhaka. The show followwed on the heels of the premiere of the play last June 25, at the International Theatre Festival in Taipei. To the acoustics of dhol and mandira, the troupe entered the theatre hall and recreated a procession on the stage. In the midst of the gathering, the gayen (bard) began narrating the love story of Sonai Bibi and Beernarayan.

    Director Kamaluddin Nilu has not only used the narrative technique (the traditional form of pala gaan), he has blended several other theatrical forms as well. Particularly in the 'post-marriage scene', Sanskrit theatre forms like Parikrama (circular movement) and Patti (using of curtain) have been used. And in the composition of the 'Zamindar's court scene', the artistes have followed the typical rhythmic high-pitched voice modulation used in jatra. The smooth transition of sequences in the play is the specialty of Nilu's directorial approach. Fifteen artistes on the stage have played different characters as well as given a choral rendering. There is a small interval during the transformation of 'characters' and 'choirs', which gave strength to the theatrical presentation. However, the blending of kirtan tune with palagaan was not effective.

    Only a few stage crafts have been used. The light design is simple. Shamima Akhtar, as Sonai Bibi, enthusiastically threw herself into her role. Her body language, especially in the last scene when her beloved is being punished by his zamindar father, moved the audience. Young talent Shahadat Hossain was not in his best element. His spontaneous performance in the role of Beernarayan could have been more entertaining. The rest of the cast was impressive. In fact, Sonai Bibir Pala is a good example of teamwork (Daily Star, September 12, 2005).

    Alpana: A medley of exquisite colours and designs

    village artistAlpana, a very popular form of art, has a long history. Though the motifs are mostly flowers, there are also folk motifs, horses, birds and elephants. The techniques of Alpana differ. In the villages it is made out of rice powder. Now in the cities, it is mostly made in acrylic.

    Alpana has a long tradition in our country. Alpana is used on many festive occasions like Ekushey, marriages and Bengali festivals like Pahela Baisakh. It is popular because it is related to every movement in the country. There have been changes in the form and design over the years. For instance, people are experimenting with geometrical forms.

    Just as life is changing, so are designs. People want to introduce an element of innovation. Flowers, animals, birds, folk art --these are the recurrent motifs of Alpana. This art form adds to the ambience of occasions such as marriages and special days in our tradition.

    Traditional Wisdom

    kanak chapaThe traditional wisdom that supported thousands of years of sustainable experience was extinguished and replaced by the wisdom from the North. Bengal's system of overflow irrigation in the 17th century ASD worked very well until the advent of the British. It not only enriched the soil, but also controlled maleria. According to Willcocks (1920), a British irrigation expert, riverwater in the early months of floods is gold. However, embankments have been constructed to inhibit fertile river water, fertiliser, pesticides and deep water wells. Hybrid seeds have been introduced since the 60's under the developing programme. Agarwal and Narain (1997) report:

    In many villages where people had cared to maintain their traditional water systems, even after the arrival of piped water supply systems, there was no drinking water scarcity. But in villages that had neglected their traditional system, the drying up of the Rajasthan Canal had meant waterless pipes and hence an acute water crisis.

    The capacity of American and European farmers to act and react to new technology that involves risk and dangers is not even a day-dream to the poor cultivators of Bangladesh and India.

    Introduction of Biotechnology in Bangladesh

    Indigenous People

    fighting for rightRights of Indigenous people are ignored all over the world and in Bangladesh the situation is even worse. To ensure their constitutional rights, even 33 years after the independence, people from different ethnic groups gathered in the city on August 9 like indigenous people of other countries. Dressed in ethnic clothes people from Chakma, Marma, Garo, Khashia, Tripura, Santal, Manipuri and others sang and danced to mark the World Indigenous People's Day dedicated to the cause of ethnic people. In Bangladesh there are nearly 45 groups who have been living for centuries and their rights have always been neglected though they have distinct cultural heritage, language, religion and life style that enrich us in many ways.

    Forest without Forest Dwellers

    Tribal People- Tangtha--children of the hills

    bomTangtha--this is what the people of hill-tracts call themselves. It means 'children of the hills'. In general, however, these people are known as an indigenous hunting tribe called Bomang or Bom. Bandarban's Bomang depicts the ethnic Bom's heritage and culture and their history of survival. The word Bom came from 'Bomjao' meaning 'united nation'. If we take a look into the Bom history we can see that two different groups named Pangthaoye and Sunthola formed today's Bom tribe.

    History has it that the ancestors of Bom came from China's Chingling Mountains and then settled into the Arakan province of present Myanmar. They came to the northeastern part of Bangladesh about 165 years back and at present around 10,000 Boms are living in the Bharatmoon Para of Bandarban district.

    Bom has its own distinguish features. Medium height, yellowish skin, flat nose and oriental eyes--all these features prove that the Bom people bear the Mongolian blood. Theirs is the hunting tribe with rituals relating mostly to hunting. They are praised as heroes when they hunt tigers or mountain buffaloes. Even the traditional Shing Nrittya or 'horn dance' is celebrated with the horns of the hunted animals.

    Bom youth named Santhuyang Sailuk Bom on a hunting spree where he uses the traditional flute called Tepoth for mimicking the sounds of the animals or birds to trap them. Another youth Lauthiyang Bom shows the traditional trap made of bamboo twigs, string and a wild red fruit for the bait to hunt wild fowls. Bamboo or Mautak is the most important material for the Bom's, from which artistic baskets and baby cots are made.

    Another interesting emblematic feature is the using of Komor Tant--a special kind of handloom which has a belt to tie around the hip of the weaver. The Bom blankets, produced with these handlooms, are made from old wool that make it warmer. Their clothes are also different from other tribes. The women wear nufen and the males wear rinta.

    The main source of income of the Bom is marketing of pineapple, wild banana, papaya and other crops, which are chiefly produced on the steps of hills by a process called Jhum or changing cultivation.

    Earlier, the Bom were the worshippers of nature but now most of them have embraced Christianity. But it had little effect on their life style. The modern trends have however harmed their own traditional values. The word Bom means unity and there is little doubt that almost 80% literate Boms give prime importance to their own tradition.

    Santal rebellion

    The 1855-57 Santal revolution enkindled the spirit of independence from the then British rule. The imperialist forces killed at least two million people, mostly Santals and farmers and suppressed the uprising.

    Hundreds of indigenous people yesterday observed the 151st anniversary of Santal Hul [revolution] in a festive manner in Godagari upazila calling upon all to prepare for a new revolution to establish their rights in society. The community through a daylong programme -- rally, discussion meeting and cultural programme -- narrated their plight under the oppression by land grabbers and social injustices in line with the repression of Zamindars (landlords) and British rulers 151 years ago. They also urged the government to constitutionally recognise the indigenous people. The 1855-57 Santal revolution is one of the major revolts against the British rule spreading across the then Birbhum to Bhagolpur in Bangla, Bihar and Orissa. The imperialist forces had killed around two million people, mostly Santals and farmers. A large colourful procession was brought out yesterday morning from Sundarpur of Godagari with traditional musical instruments playing. The indigenous people, wearing their traditional dresses, ended their procession at Sundarpur High School playground. The procession was organised by Adibashi Sangskritik Unnayan Sangstha.

    "Since the independence the Santal people were not given their minimum rights," said National Adibashi Parishad President Anil Marandi. During the meeting, several speakers talked about the problems and plights of the Santal community living in the northern part of the country.

    A tale of oppression

    santal dance dramaThe story of oppression on the colourful ethnic people named Santal in the play Raaraang reminds of other stories of discriminating the ethnic people in different parts of the country by the ruling Bangalees. Aranyak Natya Dal staged the premier show of the 40th production of the group on September 2 at the Experimental Theatre Stage. Mamunur Rashid's first ethnic play Raaraang--a Santal word meaning battle cry--depicts the miserable struggle of the poor Santal people in northern Bangladesh against different oppressive measures like feudalism, religion and others imposed by the dominating Bangalees. Not just a fragmented story of oppression, it is also a tale of the Santals' struggle since the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Through the true story of Alfred Shoren the playwright has portrayed their revolution against the discrimination. However, the 'battle cry' fails in the face of treachery of the Bangalees. Mamun has used standard Bangla as dialect for both Bangalee and Santal communities in the play. But, to represent the culture of the ethnic group, he has used some traditional Santal songs.

    Nacholer Rani: A tale of indomitable courage

    BASED on the tumultuous years (early 1950s) of Ila Mitra's life, Nacholer Rani, a feature film directed by Syed Wahiduzzaman Diamond and produced by Pankowri, was released in theatres recently.

    The Mitras were deeply involved in the 'Tebhaga Movement'. The objective of the movement was that a cultivating peasant must get two-third share of the total yield divided into three and rest one third would go to the land owner (mostly zamindars in British India). Zamindars and jotdars (middlemen) exploited the dirt-poor farmers to the brink of starvation. The British Raj ended with Partition (1947) but the plight of these have-nots did not change. The movement gained momentum. Ila and her comrades found themselves waging a war against the zamindars, backed by the law enforcement agencies in the newly formed East Pakistan. After a violent crack down, while trying to escape arrest, Ila disguised as a Santal and a few of her companions were spotted by the police near the Rohanpur Railway Station on January 7, 1950. They were immediately arrested and sent to Nachol police station.

    Then began the torture that was documented (Ila Mitra's statement at the Rajshahi Court in January 1951) but too hellish to fathom. The 'ingenious' methods of physical and psychological torture, aimed to demoralise her included downright beating, pressing hands and legs in between two bamboo sticks (the infamous 'Pakistani injection' scene), kicking delicate parts of the body with boots on, starvation, gang rape, verbal abuse and more. Ila was eventually released on parole and was allowed to go to Calcutta for medical treatment in 1954.

    santal delhi performenceLegendary theatre personality Richard Schechner, artistic director from USA, went to watch the play Raarang in New Delhi recently. He was full of praise for the show. In his words, "As I don't understand Bangla, I can't say much about the play. However, I do understand it's based on the tribal resistance to exploitation. I found the performances very energetic and I was impressed by the act."

    Mamunur Rashid's play depicts the story of oppression on the Santals, an indigenous group, since the Partition. Raarang -- a Santal word meaning battle cry -- zeroes in on the struggle of the indigenous people in northern Bangladesh against feudalism and religious bigotry. Through the true story of Alfred Shoren, the playwright has portrayed their plight effectively. However, the ‘battle cry’ fails in the face of treachery by some interested quarters. To present an authentic picture of the Santal culture, traditional Santal songs have been used.

    1st July was the 151st anniversary of the "Santal hool" (rebellion), against the British rulers and local landlords. Thousands of people, mostly the Santal farmers, sacrificed their lives during this great rebellion of 1855-57.Their demands like constitutional recognition, right to ancestral land, primary education in their mother language, protection of their culture for which they revolted need to be recognised. If we go through the Indian constitution, we will find that it recognises the tribals' existence. It also promises to protect their culture. But shockingly enough, our constitution remains silent on this issue. Another important fact is traditional land right of indigenous people for which they fought against the British rulers. So the existing laws need to be reviewed. Bangladesh is a pluralistic society. So our constitution should recognise this aspect of our existence.

    Dinajpur ethnic people doubly denied

    'Ghatu Gaan': In dire need of preservation
    Ghatu gaan depicts various aspects of life of the common people

    gatugan performenceGhatu Gaan (folk song) an element of traditional Bengali culture has almost gone into oblivion. Once it was popular in Mymensingh region, especially in Mymensingh, Netrokona and Kishoreganj districts. Now it is an antiquated art form for the younger generation though the nostalgic elders cling to its memory. Ghatu gaan depicts various aspects of life of the common people. The chorus, led by a young boy dressed up as a teenaged girl called 'Ghatu', homes in on the sorrows and happiness of the masses.

    The Ghatu Gaan, like other indigenous sources of entertainment such as Kabi gaan, Jari gaan, Shari gaan, Pala gaan, Baul songs and jatra pala, used to draw a large audience. It was performed widely in Trishal, Bhaluka, Gouripur and Iswarganj of Mymensingh; Khaliajuri, Mohanganj and Madan of Netrokona; Mithamoin of Kishoreganj and the haor areas of the two latter districts. In Mymensingh, Ghatu Gaan was performed mainly in the winter season while in haor areas the rainy season was an opportune time as the haor people were out of work, being inundated by flood water.

    From a book written by Mohammed Abdus Sattar, titled Folklore and Culture of Greater Mymensingh, it is learnt that Ghatu Gaan is performed by a group accompanied by instruments like drum, mandira, khanjani, bamboo flute, wooden chatti and harmonium. A young man, dressed as a girl with long hair, wearing string of bells (ghungroo) round the ankles and a coloured handkerchief in hand performs the lead role. The senior artiste who plays the commanding role is called 'Shakhin' in Mymensingh, Bayati in Netrokona and 'Sarker' in Kishoreganj. The artistes in the chorus are called 'Pail', 'Dohar' and 'Bahari' in different areas of this region.

    The zamindars of this region, aficionados of the local culture, extended patronage to Ghatu Gaan and such programmes were held round the year especially in the moonlit nights of Bhadro when the people in remote areas enjoyed a respite from the floods. However, such performances are very rare now. In recent years the Ghatu chorus is seen only on the completion of construction work of the buildings' roofs in the district town and other places of the district. "Once Ghat Gaan was the main source of entertainment for village dwellers and even townspeople. Today the cable TV has invaded our traditional culture and pushed it on the road to extinction," said 85-year-old Sohrab Hossain, of village Char Gobindapur in Sadar upazila.

    Another fan of this art form is Patit Paban Saha, a small vendor in the district town. "In my youth I enjoyed Ghatu Gaan. It was a good source of entertainment and even the village women enjoyed it. We should preserve this rich cultural heritage for our future generations," said Patit. Likewise, Afzalur Rahman Bhuiyan, a professor of Bengali Department, Government Ananda Mohan College, told The Daily Star that while Bengalis are getting westernised and reeling from the assault on their traditional culture, we should keep in mind, a civilised nation always remember its roots (Daily Star, August 26, 2006).

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    13. Pavemenet Dwellers of Dhaka

    pavement dweller

    "We eat on the streets, sleep on the streets, we are rogue vagabonds, our home is in Gulistan and our house is in Osmani."

    There are thousands of people who live on the pavements of Dhaka city, becoming natives of the streets. There are an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 pavement dwellers, which may seem a small number in the context of Bangladesh, but these are some of the most vulnerable people in the country, with few assets to help them cope with life in a political, social and economic system that virtually ignores them

    A significant cause of the city's rapid population growth is urban migration. This group consists of both people who are being pushed out of rural areas due to loss of resources caused by floods, debt or other disasters, and people who are being pulled to Dhaka city by the promise of better opportunities.

    Freedom, democracy, autocracy, human rights, fundamental, primary, secondary, demand, supply - these words are unknown to them; some they do not even want to know. They only want food, clothing and a place to sleep. They are mechanical about the core necessities of life. Yet these people are deprived of the basic necessities like food, shelter, health, and security. They are conscious about their identities as human beings, although they are living an inhumane life.

    It is a common trend to look down upon the pavement dwellers as outcasts of society. They live for the present. They do not worry about their past, nor do they think about the future, living one day at a time.

    Pavement dwellers engage in different types of work to earn a living. Some of these jobs are - porters in transport centres, labourers unloading trucks in markets, rickshaw pullers, maid servants, sex traders and solid waste recyclers

    Now is the right time to think about this community - the victims swept under by the seemingly unstoppable tide of urban migration. 'Amrao manush' is a Bangla phrase that means "We are People too". The name was proposed by two different women, pavement dwellers from two different locations in Dhaka. (Shehab Uddin, November 2008)

    Kazi Nazrul Islam’s popular image is that of the ‘Bidrohi’ who struggled against the British colonisation of India

    Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976)
    Kazi Nazrull is renowned as the National Poet of Bangladesh.

  • Nazrul Islam
  • Harano Hiyar Nikunjo Pothe - Nazrul geeti - Debipriya Das
  • Bidrohi [Agnibina] - Kazi Nazrul Islam

    I’m the Rebel Eternal,
    I’ll stamp my footprint on the bosom of Almighty!
    I’ll tear apart the ribcage of the whimsical Providence.

    That’s precisely how Kazi Nazrul Islam elected to describe himself in his arguably the best-known poem The Rebel – Bidrohi in original Bengali. And, not for nothing, he came to be known ever after as the Bidrohi Kabi, the Rebel Poet, of Bengal.

    Notwithstanding this deliberately asserted iconoclastic image, the most distinctive marker that runs through his very considerable literary output – consisting of mostly poems and songs but also including short stories, novels and essays – is, however, passion.

    Kazi Nazrul was born in a poor Muslim family in an interior village of what is now West Bengal by the fag end of the nineteenth century (May 25, 1899). While still in his early twenties, he made his Comet like entry into the literary scene of the then undivided Bengal of British-ruled India. His social, economic, cultural and religious backgrounds set him much apart from the overwhelming bulk of the contemporary practitioners of Bengali literature.

    Great poets always come to represent certain eras in history. Nazrul was no exception – he represents the era between the two World Wars, which was an extremely tumultuous era in terms of politics, economics, culture, and most importantly for India, the question of religion and communalism. Nazrul was a war veteran from the First World War – and though he did not go beyond Karachi, he had the opportunity to mix with members of the Bengal Regiment who did go to the European theatre and the Central Asian theatre. So he had a sort of orientation of what was happening in the rest of the world. Moreover, as one of his stories Byathar Daan reveals, he was also very conscious of the Bolshevik revolution – since one of his characters joins the ranks of the Bolshevik Red Army whose advance through Central Asia the British-Indian Army is trying to resist. All of this reveals that Nazrul benefited from his experience in the First World War because of the knowledge of the world that he acquired as a result of it.

    The Hindu-Muslim conflicts in British India alongside the war and the famine became too much for Nazrul to handle. It was the communal conflict that perhaps affected Nazrul the most, since his life’s dream was to see unity between the two, and he had to witness the disintegration of this dream. So I don’t think the ownership rationale really stands. Besides Nazrul is better described as non-communal than secular. In the classical sense of the word, as it is used in the West, secular implies separation of Church and state. Nazrul wrote haamd and naat side by side with shyamasangeet and kirtans and bhajans.

    Nazrul is more relevant now than ever before. His whole life was devoted to breaking down the walls that humanity erects to divide itself; the walls that separate the rich from the poor, the walls of religion, the walls of gender, or race. These walls persist more than ever before in spite of globalisation and the global information super-highway.

    The Bengalis became muslim through liberal sufi muslims. This is possibly due to our inheritence of traditional values of different religions but outside elements are trying to disintegrate them.

    On poverty rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (National Poet of Bangladesh) writes:

    O poverty, thou hast made me great.
    Thou hast made me honoured like Christ
    With his crown of thorns. Thou hast given me
    Courage to reveal all. To thee I owe
    My insolent, naked eyes and sharp tongue.
    Thy curse has turned my violin to a sword.

    O proud saint, thy terrible fire
    Has rendered my heaven barren.
    It has prematurely dried beauty.
    My feelings and my life.
    Time and again I stretched my lean, cupped hands
    To accept the gift of the beautiful.
    But those hungry ones always came before me.
    And did snatch it away ruthlessly,
    Now my word of imagination is
    Dry as a vast desert.
    And my own beautiful!

    I grow listless in the shadowy skirt of the earth
    And my dreams of beauty and goodness vanish!
    With a bitter tongue thou ask,
    "What's the use of nectar?
    It has no sting, no intoxication, no madness in it.
    The search for heaven's sacred drink
    Is not for thee in this sorrow-filled earth.

    Someone seems to have entwined my soul
    With that of Mother Earth. She comes forward
    And with her dust-adorned hands
    Offers me her presents.
    It seems to me that she is the youngest
    daughter of mine,
    My darling child! But suddenly I wake up with a start.
    O cruel saint, being my child,
    Thou weepest in my home, hungry and reviled!

    O my child, my darling one
    I could not give thee even a drop of milk
    No right have I to rejoice.
    Poverty weeps within my doors forever
    As my spouse and my child.
    Who will play the flute?
    Where shall I get the happy smile I have drunk deep the hemlock
    Of bitter tears!
    And still even today
    I hear the mournful tune of the Sanai (violin).

    Daridro ("Poverty"). Translation by Kabir Chowdhury

    Bangladesh 1971 - 2006 (The Struggle of a Nation

  • A child's appeal to government

    abondoned womanMy name is Fahim and I am an eleven years old boy. I study in class five. I am writing about educational facilities of children.

    In our country many children are illiterate. I do not think that we can blame their poor parents for their children's illiteracy. Some people are really poor and cannot afford much; even their children also work. They work as domestic servants and helpers in small motor garages, or as hawkers and so on. If we deeply think about these problems we will see that these problems have solutions. The government can help these poor children to overcome their problems. It makes me sad that children of my age do not get the chance of being educated. I hope that the problem will be solved sooner

    Maayer Kaache Proshno hey, this is Rose, she writes a lot of poems & I thought it'd be a good idea to record her & put her up on youtube, so here you have madam.R reciting her "Maayer Kaache Proshno" (In Bengali "Question to mother) to you

    (Daily Star, October 24, 2003).

    They have become the earning members of their families at a pretty young age, instead of going to school. Needless to say, all the child labourers are the victims of extreme poverty. We live in such a country where we find so many beggars and so many cars moving around simultaneously which indicates unequal distribution of resources among the people. For instance- in Brazil, their per capita GDP was higher than the per capita GDP of Kerala in India. Despite that Kerala was and is still developed for its proper distribution of wealth. If we want to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the following steps have to be taken.

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
  • Achieve universal primary education.
  • Promote gender equality and empower women.
  • Reduce infant and child mortality.
  • Improve maternal health.
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
  • Ensure environmental sustainability.
  • Develop a global partnership.

    Back to Content

    14.Songs and historical evidences

    The musical tradition of Bangladesh is lyrics-based (Baniprodhan), with minimal instrumental accompaniment. The Baul tradition is a unique heritage of Bangla folk music, and there are numerous other musical traditions in Bangladesh, which vary from one region to the other. Gombhira, Bhatiali, Bhawaiya are a few of the better-known musical forms. Folk music of Bengal is often accompanied by the ektara, an instrument with only one string. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. Bangladesh also has an active heritage in North Indian classical music. Similarly, Bangladeshi dance forms draw from folk traditions, especially those of the tribal groups, as well as the broader Indian dance tradition.

    The culinary tradition of Bangladesh has close relations to Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine as well as having many unique traits. Rice and fish are traditional favourites; leading to a common saying that "fish and rice make a Bengali" (machhe bhate bangali).

  • Amar Shonar Bangla
  • O Amar Desher Mati
  • Boats of Bangladesh Variety of Boats of Bangladesh is quite remarkable. Boats are made on different design according to purpose: Cargo, Passenger, Fishing, racing, etc. Different Name of Boats : Pansi, Goina, Kosha, Sampan etc
  • Joy Jatra
  • Ei Podma Ei Meghna
  • Ami banglar gaan gai
  • Shkal Desher Shera....
  • The God of Small Things cultural identity narrative that explores the individual's struggle in India to defy the constraints of the caste system. With excerpts from Arundhati Roy's Booker Prize Winner "The God of Small Things" and clips from "Swades."
  • We.. World's PoorSegment from the We documentary where Arundhati Roy talks about the growing gap between the rich and the poor. See the entire documentary at
  • Dola Re Dola - Devdas written by famous bengali novelist Sri Sarat Chandra
  • Devdas Shakira
  • Devdas *Spoilers*
  • Bairi priya Devdas
  • Dil dei diya hai
  • Bachpan Ki Mohabbat Ko Dil Se Na Juda Karna Lata
  • Gaan a more Agni Parikha, Suchitra Uttom
  • Phuler Kane Vomor AaneAgni Parikha, Suchitra Uttom
  • Harano Sur - Tumi Je amar
  • Ai Raat Tumar Amar
    Deep Jele Jai
  • Aaj Dujonar Duti Poth Hemmanto Mukherjee
  • Oki Garial Bhai
  • Shakhi ..
  • nana go...
  • Salama kakhon baze barota
  • Aawara hoon
  • Manna Dey - Lata - Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi - Chori Chori
  • Khushi Khushi Kar Do Vida
  • Ami Je Jolshaghare (Manna Dey)
  • Pahela Nasa
  • Surjo DoberIndrani Uttam Kumar, Suchitra
  • Ekti Raat - O Bashi BajeUttam Kumar, Suchitra, Singer: Sandhya Mukherjee
  • Sabina Yasmin : Ektara Lagena Amar Dotaro Lagena
  • It aint over till... Runa + Sabina Sings
  • Sabina Yasmin : Mago Ar Tomak
  • Shohagay Adoray - Drama -Sabina Yasmin Khalid Hasan Milu
  • Majhi tor Naam Janina beautiful bhatiali song
  • Daria Acho Tumi amar Ganer Pare
  • Rabindra Sangeet (Prem Porjai)    Artist: Bonna & saadi
  • o amar bangla desh
  • Titash eki nadir Nam
  • Nazrul Geeti - Kul Bhanga Nodi - Ferdous Ara
  • Bangla heart touching song - Koto din dekhina mayer mukh
  • Bangla patriotic songs (Bhulini Amra & Durjoy Runa Laila -- 2 Bangla patriotic songs (Bhulini Amra & Durjoy cholar a photh)
  • Mon faita jai by Momtaz most popular singer of bangladesh
  • nantu ghotok by Momtaz
  • moner guddiby Momtaz
  • Monoh Holeh Momtaz
  • Shaki Lo
  • Vara kara sut pairaby Momtaz
  • Morar Kokile by momtaz
  • Bangla Song: Lal Ekhla EkhshoSinger: Lal Bhai
  • O Baba Kellah-shah
  • Baba Bandari
  • Ami-neh Shakur
  • Ami- nehshakur
  • Kati Dhan Harvesting Paddy
  • Pather Panchali (1955) - The train scene This exhilarating scene is from Indian director, Satyajit Ray's refreshingly innovative first film made on a shoe string budget. In this scene simple sights and sounds are masterly transformed into a dazzling and awesome display.
  • Pather Panchali Part 1
  • Pather Panchali Part 2
  • Pather Panchali Part 3
  • Pather Panchali Part 4
  • Pather Panchali Part 5
  • Pather Panchali Part 6
  • Pather Panchali Part 7

    Satyajit Ray

  • Ami banglar gaan gai I am singing

  • Uttam Kumar: Undisputed King of the Bengali Silver Screen


    1. NationBangladesh
    8. Women and Child Export
    9. Lalon - Bauls Mysticism
    10. Liberal Sufism turned Begalis to change religion
    11. Give Farmers A Respite From Jotedars (Big Land Owners)
    12. Small pox claims one, 45 affected in Satkhira jail, South  Bangladesh
    13. Poor farmers losing lands to shrimp farm owners
    14.Cold Wave Kills Poor and Children in Bangladesh
    15. Cholera deaths: Government does not admit the presence of the disease
    16. Bangladesh blacklisted for human trafficking
    17. Police Corruption in Bangladesh
    18. The dying art of bronze, brass - traditional cottage industry in Bangladesh
    19. A near-famine situation the northern districts - Story of Rafique and Others
    20. BANNING RICKSHAW: Rich Blaming Rickshaws for Traffic Congestion: The World Bank for Withdraw of Rickshaw
    21. I want to go home
    22. The Oldest University in Asia, Terra Cotta Remains
    23. Pat and Patua important audio-visual mediums in Bangladesh in educating the masses since immortal
    24. Women and Child Trafficking in Bangladesh
    25. Mdieval Savagery. Young girls, women and children
    26. Education Systems in Bangladesh
    27. Political Terrorism And Attacks On Socio-Cultural Organisations
    28. The Shariah, Mullah and Muslims in Bangladesh
    29. Dinajpur ethnic people doubly denied
    30. Age-old tradition of puppet theatre- A dying Art
    31. The Bengalees And Indigenous Groups
    32. There can be no real peace without justice.
    33. Yunus makes nation proud Shares Nobel Peace Prize with his Grameen Bank
    34. BANGLADESH: A Million Mutinies Now
    35. On the democratic emancipation of women
    36. Migrant worker:Exploited at home, unscrupulous recruitment practices irregular wages, terrible working conditions and, movements restrictions..
    37. Hilsa fish, a recently extinct species?
    38. The long shadow of the August 1975 coup- Mujib's Death
    39. Heritage falls victim to apathy Elegant structure at Tantibazar



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    Last Modified December 17, 2011