Culture of Bangladesh
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The Culture of Bangladesh (Bengali: বাংলাদেশের সংস্কৃতি — Bangladesher Sôngskr̥iti) refers to the way of life of the people of Bangladesh. The land, the rivers, and the lives of the Bengali people formed a rich heritage with marked differences from neighbouring regions. It has evolved over the centuries and encompasses the cultural diversity of several social groups of Bangladesh. The Bengal Renaissance of the 19th and early 20th centuries, noted Bengali writers, saints, authors, scientists, researchers, thinkers, music composers, painters, and film-makers have played a significant role in the development of Bengali culture. The Bengal Renaissance contained the seeds of a nascent political Indian nationalism and was the precursor in many ways to modern Indian artistic and cultural expression. The culture of Bangladesh is composite and over the centuries has assimilated influences of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. It is manifested in various forms, including music, dance, and drama; art and craft; folklore and folktale; languages and literature; philosophy and religion; festivals and celebrations; as well as in a distinct cuisine and culinary tradition.
Music, dance, drama
The music and dance styles of Bangladesh may be divided into three categories: classical, folk, and modern. The classical style has been influenced by other prevalent classical forms of music and dances of the Indian subcontinent, and accordingly show some influenced dance forms like Bharata Natyam and Kuchipudi. The folk and tribal music and dance forms of Bangladesh are of indigenous origin and rooted to the soil of Bangladesh. Several dancing styles in vogue in the north-eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, like monipuri and santal dances, are also practiced in Bangladesh, but Bangladesh has developed its own distinct dancing styles. Bangladesh has a rich tradition of folk songs, with lyrics rooted into vibrant tradition and spirituality, mysticism, and devotion. Such folk songs also revolve round several other themes, including love themes. Most prevalent of folk songs and music traditions include Bhatiali, Baul, Marfati, Murshidi, and Bhawaiya. Lyricists like Lalon Shah, Hason Raja, Kangal Harinath, Romesh Shill, Abbas Uddin, and many unknown anonymous lyricists have enriched the tradition of folk songs of Bangladesh. In relatively modern context, Robindro Shongit and Nazrul Giti form precious cultural heritage of Bangladesh. In recent time, western influences have given rise to several quality rock bands, particularly in urban centers like Dhaka. Several musical instruments, some of them of indigenous origin, are used in Bangladesh, and major musical instruments used are the bamboo flute (bashi), drums (dhol), a single stringed instrument named ektara, a four stringed instrument called dotara, and a pair of metal bawls used for rhythm effect called mandira, are important in the culture of Bangladesh. Currently, several musical instruments of western origin like guitars, drums, and the saxophone are also used, sometimes alongside with traditional instruments.(Muajj)
Festivals and celebrations
Festivals and celebrations are an integral part of the culture of Bangladesh. Prominent and widely celebrated festivals are Pohela Boishakh, Independence day, National Mourning Day, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, Durga puja, and Language Movement Day and other national days.
As the most important religious festival for the majority of Muslims, the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr has become a part of the culture of Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh declares the holiday for three days on Eid-ul Fitr. All outgoing public transport from the major cities have become highly crowded and in many cases the fares tend to rise in spite of government restrictions. On Eid day, the Eid prayer are held all over the country, in open areas like fields or inside mosques. After the Eid prayers, people return home, visit each other's home and eat sweet dishes called shirni. Throughout the day gentlemen embrace each other. It is also customary for junior members of the society to touch the feet of the seniors, and seniors returning blessings (sometimes with a small sum of money as a gift). In the rural areas, the Eid festival is observed with great fanfare. In some areas Eid fares are arranged. Different types of games including boat racing, kabaddi, and other traditional Bangladeshi games, as well as modern games like cricket and football are played on this occasion. In urban areas, people play music, visit each other's houses and eat special food. Watching movies and television programs has also become an integral part of the Eid celebration in urban areas. All local TV channels air special program for several days for this occasion.
The most important religion festival. The celebration of Eid ul-Adha is similar to Eid ul-Fitr in many ways. The only big difference is the Qurbani or sacrifice of domestic animals on Eid ul-Adha. Numerous temporary marketplaces of different sizes called hat operate in the big cities for sale of Qurbani animals (usually cows and goats). In the morning on the Eid day, immediately after the prayer, affluent people slaughter their animal of choice. Less affluent people also take part in the festivity by visiting houses of the affluent who are taking part in qurbani. After the qurbani, a large portion of the meat is given to the poor people. Although the religious doctrine allows the sacrifice anytime over a period of three days starting from the Eid day, most people prefer to perform the ritual on the first day of Eid. However, the public holiday spans over three to four days. Many people from the big cities go to their ancestral houses and homes in the villages to share the joy of the festival with friends and relatives.
Pôhela Boishakh is the first day of the Bengali calendar. It is usually celebrated on 14 April. Pohela Boishakh marks the start day of the crop season. Usually on Pôhela Boishakh, the home is thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned; people bathe early in the morning and dress in fine clothes. They spend much of the day visiting relatives, friends, and neighbours and going to the fair. Fairs are arranged in many parts of the country where various agricultural products, traditional handicrafts, toys, cosmetics, as well as various kinds of food and sweets are sold. The fairs also provide entertainment, with singers, dancers and traditional plays and songs. Horse races, bull races, bullfights, cockfights, flying pigeons, and boat racing were once popular. All gatherings and fairs consist a wide spread of Bengali food and sweets. The most colourful New Year's Day festival takes place in Dhaka. Large numbers of people gather early in the morning under the banyan tree at Ramna Park where Chhayanat artists open the day with Rabindranath Tagore's famous song, Esho, he Boishakh, Esho esho (Come, year, come, come). A similar ceremony welcoming the new year is also held at the Institute of Fine Arts (Dhaka) and University of Dhaka. Students and teachers of the institute take out a colourful procession and parade to round the campus. Social and cultural organisations celebrate the day with cultural programmes. Newspapers bring out special supplements. There are also special programmes on radio and television. Prior to this day, special discounts on clothes, furniture, electronics and various deals and shopping discounts are available. Special line of saree, usually cotton, white sarees with red print and embroidery is sold before this day as everyone dresses up for this day. Jasmine flowers are also a huge sale for this event which adorns the women's hair.
In 1952, the emerging middle classes of East Bengal underwent an uprising known later as the Bangla Language Movement. Bangladeshis (then East Pakistanis) were initially agitated by a decision by the Central Pakistan Government to establish Urdu, a minority language spoken only by the supposed elite class of West Pakistan, as the sole national language for all of Pakistan. The situation was worsened by an open declaration that "Urdu and only Urdu will be the national language of Pakistan" by the governor, Khawaja Nazimuddin. Protest
Police declared Section 144 which banned any sort of meeting. Defying this, the students of University of Dhaka and Dhaka Medical College and other political activists started a procession on February 21, 1952. Near the current Dhaka Medical College Hospital, police fired on the protesters and numerous people, including Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Sofiur Rahman, Abul Barkat and Abdul Jabbar, died.
The movement spread to the whole of East Pakistan and the whole province came to a standstill. Afterwards, the Government of Pakistan relented and gave Bengali equal status as a national language. Effects
This movement is thought to have sown the seeds for the independence movement which resulted in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Commemoration
To commemorate this movement, Shaheed Minar (শহীদ মিনার), a solemn and symbolic sculpture, was erected in the place of the massacre. The day is revered in Bangladesh and, to a somewhat lesser extent, in West Bengal as the Martyrs' Day.
This day is the public holiday in Bangladesh.
UNESCO decided to observe 21 February as International Mother Language Day. The UNESCO General Conference took a decision to that took effect on 17 November 1999 when it unanimously adopted a draft resolution submitted by Bangladesh and co-sponsored and supported by 28 other countries. In Assam and North-east India
A traditional wedding is arranged by Ghotoks (matchmakers), who are typically friends or relatives of the couple. The matchmakers facilitate the introduction, and also help agree the amount of any settlement. Bengali weddings are traditionally in five parts: first it is the bride and groom's Mehendi Shondha, the bride's Gaye Holud, the groom's Gaye Holud, the Beeya, and the Bou Bhaat. These often take place on separate days. The first event in a wedding is an informal one: the groom presents the bride with a ring marking the "engagement" which is gaining popularity. For the mehendi shondha the bride's side apply henna to each other as well as the bride for the bride's Gaye Holud, the groom's family – except the groom himself – go in procession to the bride's home. Bride's friends and family apply turmeric paste to her body as a part of Gaye Hoof bride, and they are traditionally all in matching clothes, mostly orange in colour. The bride is seated on a dais, and the henna is used to decorate the bride's hands and feet with elaborate abstract designs. The sweets are then fed to the bride by all involved, piece by piece. The actual wedding ceremony "Biye" follows the Gaye Holud ceremonies. The wedding ceremony is arranged by the bride's family. On the day, the younger members of the bride's family barricade the entrance to the venue, and demand a sort of admission charge from the groom in return for allowing him to enter. The bride and groom are seated separately, and a Kazi (authorized person by the govt. to perform the wedding), accompanied by the parents and a Wakil (witness) from each side formally asks the bride for her consent to the union, and then the groom for his. The bride's side of the family tries to play some kind of practical joke on the groom such as stealing the groom's shoe. The reception, also known as Bou-Bhaat (reception), is a party given by the groom's family in return for the wedding party. It is typically a much more relaxed affair, with only the second-best wedding outfit being worn.
Architecture and heritage
Bangladesh has appealing architecture from historic treasures to contemporary landmarks. It has evolved over centuries and assimilated influences from social, religious and exotic communities. Bangladesh has many architectural relics and monuments dating back thousands of years.
Cricket is the most popular sport in Bangladesh, followed by football. Kabaddi is the national sport in Bangladesh. Cricket is a game which has a massive and passionate following in Bangladesh. Bangladesh has joined the elite group of countries eligible to play Test Cricket since 2000. The Bangladesh national cricket team goes by the nickname of the Tigers – after the Royal Bengal Tiger. The people of Bangladesh enjoy watching live sports. Whenever there is a cricket or football match between popular local teams or international teams in any local stadium significant number of spectators gather to watch the match live. The people also celebrate major victories of the national teams with great enthusiasm for the live game. Victory processions are the most common element in such celebrations. A former prime minister even made an appearance after an International one day cricket match in which Bangladesh beat Australia, she came to congratulate the victory. Also in late 2006 and 2007, football legend Zinedine Zidane paid a visit to local teams and various events thanks to the invite of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Some traditional sports of Bangladesh include Nouka Baich, Kho Kho, Boli Khela, Lathi Khela etc.
Bangladesh is ethnically homogeneous, with Bengalis comprising 98% of the population. The majority of Bangladeshis (about 90%) are Muslim, while there are a large number of Hindus, Christians and Buddhists are also living in the country. But due to immense cultural diversity, multiple dialects, hybridization of social traits and norms as well as cultural upbringing, Bangladeshis cannot be stereotyped very easily, except for the only fact that they are very resilient in nature. People of different religions perform their religious rituals with festivity in Bangladesh. The Government has declared National Holidays on all important religious festivals of the four major religions. Durga Puja, Christmas, and Buddho Purnima are celebrated with enthusiasm in Bangladesh. All of these form an integral part of the cultural heritage of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a land of festivity. Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Eid-e-Miladunnabi, Muharram etc. Hindus observe Durga Puja, Kali Puja, and Saraswati Puja among others. Buddho Purnima is the biggest festival for Bengali Buddhists, and Borodin (Christmas) is celebrated by the Christians. People from several tribal communities also have their respective festival as well.
Apart from these religious and tribal celebrations there are also several secular festivals. Pohela Boishakh (Bengali New Year) is the biggest among all the festivals in Bangladesh. Bangladesh also observes 21 February as Shahid Dibash (as observed worldwide as International Mother Language Day), 26 March as Independence Day, and 16 December as Victory Day.
Bangladesh is famous for its distinctive culinary tradition, delicious food, snacks, and savories. Steamed rice constitutes the staple food, and is served with a variety of vegetables, fried as well with curry, thick lentil soups, fish and meat preparations of mutton, beef, and chicken, and very rarely pork only by certain ethnic minority groups. Sweetmeats of Bangladesh are mostly milk based, and consist of several delights including roshgulla, shondesh, roshomalai, gulap jam, kalo jam, and chom-chom. Several other sweet preparations are also available. Bengali cuisine is rich and varied with the use of many specialized spices and flavours. Fish is the dominant source of protein, cultivated in ponds and fished with nets in the fresh-water rivers of the Ganges delta. More than 40 types of mostly freshwater fish are common, including carp, varieties like rui (rohu), katla, magur (catfish), chingŗi (prawn or shrimp), as well as shuţki (dried sea fish) are popular. Salt water fish (not sea fish though) and Ilish are very popular among Bengalis, can be called an icon of Bengali cuisine.
Unlike neighbouring West Bengal, serving dishes with beef is not a taboo in Bangladesh. Beef curry is very common and an essential part of Bengal cuisine.
Bangladeshi people have unique dress preferences. Bangladeshi men sometimes wear kurta or fatua on religious and cultural occasions. Bangladeshi men wear lungi as casual wear (in rural areas) and shirt-pant or suits on formal occasions. The lungi is not considered proper to be worn outside the house except by the farmers and the low-income families. Male nudity is also culturally accepted among the lowest classes. Shalwar Kameez and Sharee are the main dresses of Bangladeshi women. The women also have a different preference to which types of Shalwar Kameez and Sharee they would like to wear. Whether it may be silk sharees, georgette sharees, or designer sharees, each particular fabric contributes to representing the culture overall. Weaving the fabric for these dresses is a traditional art in Bangladesh.
- Culture of Bengal
- Culture of West Bengal
- Culture of the Indian subcontinent
- List of museums in Bangladesh
- Textile arts of Bangladesh
- Iftikhar-ul-Awwal (2003) "Our Cultural Heritage and Museums" The New Nation (Bangladesh), March 5, 2003. Also published in "SDNP Website"
- Iftikhar-ul-Awwal (2003) "Heritage Management in Bangladesh: An Appraisal", Jadughar Samachar (Bangladesh National Museum Newsletter), Vol. 4, Issue 4 – Vol. 5, Issue 1, Oct.-Dec. 2002 & Jan.-Mar. 2003, pp. 7-10
- Power of Culture : Bangladeshi Spirit
- Culture and Development : UnnayanNews