Bangladeshis

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Bangladeshis
Flag of Bangladesh.svg
Total population
c. 173 million
Regions with significant populations
 Bangladesh 168,957,745 (2015)[1]
 Saudi Arabia 1,309,004 (2013)[2]
 UAE 1,089,917 (2013)[3]
 UK 451,529 (2011)[4]
 Malaysia 352,005 (2013)[5]
 Kuwait 279,169 (2013)[6]
 Qatar 220,403 (2013)[7]
 Singapore 150,000 (2015)[8]
 Oman 148,314 (2013)[9]
 Italy 113,811 (2011)[10]
 Bahrain 100,444 (2013)[11]
 Maldives 47,951 (2013)[12]
 Australia 27,809 (2011)[13]
 Canada 24,600 (2006)[14]
 USA 12,099 (2016)[15]
 Japan 9,641 (2014)[16]
 South Korea 8,514 (2014)[17]
 Greece 11,000[18]
 Spain 7,000[18]
 Russia 392[19]
Languages
Bengali, Chatgaya, Sylheti, Rangpuri and other dialects, English and others[20]
Religion
Allah-green.svg Islam 86.6% (incl. Cultural Muslims)[21]
Om.svg Hinduism 12%
Dharma Wheel.svg Buddhism 1%
Christian cross.svg Christianity[22] and others (such as Animists and non-religious) 0.4%.[23]

Bangladeshis (Bengali: বাংলাদেশী[24] [baŋlad̪eʃi]) are a nation and the citizens of Bangladesh. The country is named after the historical region of Bengal, of which it constitutes the largest and eastern segment. Bangladeshi citizenship was formed in 1971, when the permanent residents of the former East Pakistan were transformed into citizens of a new republic.[25] Bangladesh is the world's eighth most populous nation.

Bangladeshi identity is closely linked with language and geography. The country's lingua franca is Bengali, an eastern Indo-Aryan language of the Indo-European language family. The population of Bangladesh is concentrated in the fertile Bengal delta, which has been the center of urban and agrarian civilizations for millennia. The country's highlands, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Sylhet Division, are home to various tribal minorities.

Bengali Muslims are the predominant ethnoreligious group of Bangladesh, with a population of 146 million which makes up 89% of the country's population and majority adhering to Sunni Islam, alongside a Shia minority and the prevalence of Sufism. The Bengali Hindu population in Bangladesh is 15,726,800 which makes up 9.6% of the total country population. Non-Bengali Muslims make up the largest immigrant community; while the Tibeto-Burman Chakmas, who speak the Indo-Aryan Chakma language, are the second largest indigenous ethnic group after Bengalis.[26] The Austroasiatic Santhals are the largest aboriginal community.

The Bangladeshi diaspora is concentrated in the Middle East, North America and the United Kingdom. Several hundred thousand Non-Resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) have dual citizenship in Commonwealth countries like the UK and Canada.

Terminology[edit]

Bangladesh in Asia

Bangladeshis receive or have received several names:

  • Bangladeshis, the most widely used term to refer to the citizens of Bangladesh. The etymology of Bangladesh (Country of Bengal) can be traced to the early 20th century, when Bengali patriotic songs, such as Namo Namo Namo Bangladesh Momo by Kazi Nazrul Islam and Aaji Bangladesher Hridoy by Rabindranath Tagore, used the term.[27][28]
  • Bangalees, an exonym for Bengalis. Between 1972 and 1978, the Constitution of Bangladesh referred all citizens of Bangladesh as Bangalees. This was an inaccuracy, as 2% of the population are indigenous and immigrant non-Bengalis. Under President Ziaur Rahman, the constitutional term was changed to Bangladeshi as part of efforts to promote Bangladeshi nationalism.[29]
  • East Bengalis, a term used in reference to Bangladesh being a political unit based on the partition of Bengal. The territory was known as East Bengal twice in the 20th century. The first was as Eastern Bengal and Assam in the British Raj between 1906 and 1912. The second was as the Dominion of Pakistan's province of East Bengal between 1947 and 1955.
  • Bangals, a term used informally in neighboring India to refer to Bangladeshis. Bangal is also the Hindustani term for Bengal. In West Bengal, the term is widely used among upper class subgroups to differentiate families from Bangladesh. The opposite of Bangal in this social setting is Ghoti, a term used to refer to people from West Bengal.

Demographics[edit]

Bengalis[edit]

A Bangladeshi woman dressed in traditional attire during the Bengali New Year festival

Approximately 98% of the Bangladeshi population are Bengalis. Most are native to East Bengal. The Bengali people have hybrid multiracial origins, including Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Middle Eastern and Austroasiatic ancestry. East Bengal was a prosperous melting pot for centuries. It witnessed a synthesis of Islamic, North Indian and indigenous Bengali cultures. Today, Bengalis enjoy strong cultural homogeneity with a common standardized language and a variety of dialects.

90% of the population are Bengali Muslims (146 million). This makes Bangladesh the world's third largest Muslim majority country after Indonesia and Pakistan. Bengali Muslims also make up the world's second largest Muslim ethnic group after Arab Muslims. Most Bangladeshi Muslims are member of the Sunni branch of Islam. There are significant minorities of the Shia and Ahmadiya branches. Bengali Hindus are the largest minority of Bangladesh, with a population between 10-12 million. Bangladesh has the third largest Hindu population in the world after India and Nepal. There are an estimated 500,000 Bengali Christians and 400,000 Bengali Buddhists.

The Bengali population is concentrated in Bengal delta, the coastal areas of Chittagong Division and the river valleys of Sylhet Division.

Non-Bengali Muslims[edit]

An estimated 3 million Bangladeshi citizens are non-Bengali Muslim immigrants from different parts of South Asia. They include affluent sections of the country's merchant and business class, particularly Nizari Ismailism adherents.[30] They also include former Stranded Pakistanis and their descendants. Bangladesh's non-Bengali Muslims are usually fluent in both Bengali and Hindustani.

Tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts[edit]

A Bawm woman (centre) selling handicrafts to domestic tourists in Bandarban
Tribal men in the hills of southeastern Bangladesh

In southeastern Bangladesh, the Chittagong Hill Tracts frontier has a district history. It was an exclusive zone for Tibeto-Burman tribes in Bengal during the British Raj. Today, the area makes up 10% of Bangladesh's territory. It is home to several indigenous ethnic groups in the three hill districts of Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari. The three largest communities in the region have a Raja as their tribal chief who is recognized by the Government of Bangladesh.

Tribes of North and Northeast Bangladesh[edit]

There are several Austroasiatic, Tibeto-Burman and Indo-Aryan tribes which inhabit parts of northern and northeastern Bangladesh.

Tribes of Southern Bangladesh[edit]

  • An Arakanese Rakhine community has resided in Barisal Division for three centuries. They arrived by the sea after escaping Burmese conquests in the 17th century.[51][52]

Rural society[edit]

The basic social unit in a village is the family (poribar or gushti), generally consisting of a complete or incomplete patrilineally extended household (chula) and residing in a homestead (bari). The individual nuclear family often is submerged in the larger unit and might be known as the house (ghor). Above the bari level, patrilineal kin ties are linked into sequentially larger groups based on real, fictional, or assumed relationships.[53]

A significant unit larger than that of close kin is the voluntary religious and mutual benefit association known as "the society" (shomaj or milat). Among the functions of a shomaj might be the maintenance of a Mosque and support of a mullah. An informal council of shomaj elders (matabdars or shordars) settles village disputes. Factional competition between the motobdars is a major dynamic of social and political interaction.[53]

Groups of homes in a village are called Paras, and each para has its own name. Several paras constitute a mauza, the basic revenue and census survey unit. The traditional character of rural villages was changing in the latter half of the 20th century with the addition of brick structures of one or more stories scattered among the more common thatched bamboo huts.[53]

Although farming has traditionally ranked among the most desirable occupations, villagers in the 1980s began to encourage their children to leave the increasingly overcrowded countryside to seek more secure employment in the towns. Traditional sources of prestige, such as landholding, distinguished lineage, and religious piety were beginning to be replaced by modern education, higher income, and steadier work. These changes, however, did not prevent rural poverty from increasing greatly.

Urban society[edit]

View of downtown Dhaka, the largest city in Bangladesh and one of the world's most populated cities

In 2015, 34% of Bangladeshis lived in cities.[54] Dhaka is the largest city in Bangladesh and one of the world's most populous megacities. Other important cities include Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Rajshahi, Jessore, Barisal, Comilla, Narayanganj and Mymensingh. Most urban centers are rural administrative towns. Urban centers grew in number and population during the 1980s as a result of an administrative decentralization program that featured the creation of upazilas.[55]

Identity[edit]

Bangladesh is noted for cultural pluralism within a Bengali Muslim majority. Traditional Bengali secularism has been an important contributor to the nation's society and ethos. The Bengali language is a fundamental element of Bangladeshi identity. It is a secular language which evolved between the 7th and 10th centuries, with an indigenous alphabet, and unites people of different faiths and regions. The Bengali Language Movement sowed the seeds of East Pakistani nationalism, ultimately culminating in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Since independence, the relationship between religion and the state has been controversial. Between 1972 and 1975, Bangladesh experienced socialism under a secular parliamentary system. Military coups ushered a sixteen-year presidential regime, which restored the free market and promoted moderate Islamism. In 1988, Islam was made the state religion. In 2010, the Bangladesh Supreme Court reaffirmed the principle of separation of mosque and state in the constitution, although Islam remains the state religion.[56] The government generally respects freedom of religion and ensures protection for minorities.[57] Another debate on national identity concerns attitudes towards the Chittagong Hill Tracts. A low-level insurgency took place in the region to demand constitutional autonomy against Bengali settlements. Despite a peace treaty in 1997, the Bangladeshi government is yet to implement many of its commitments to protect adivasi land rights. However, the deletion in 1977 of Bangalee as the nationality term for the country's citizens, in order to be inclusive of non-Bengali minorities, also reflects attempts to build a more cosmopolitan Bangladeshi society.

Culture[edit]

Bangladeshi culture is a mainly a synthesis of indigenous Bengali and Islamic cultures. Festivals on the both the secular Bengali calendar and the Islamic calendar are widely celebrated. The tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts often follow the Burmese calendar, which reflect the country's links with Southeast Asia.

Languages[edit]

The word Wikipedia written in the Bengali script

The official language of Bangladesh is Bengali, which is shared with the neighboring Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. Bengali dialects vary between different regions of Bangladesh.

The oldest literary inscription in Bangladesh dates back to the 3rd century BCE. It was found at Mahasthangarh and is written in the Brahmi script. The language is Magadhi Prakrit.[58] The Bengali language developed from Magadhi Prakrit, and its written from Apabhramsa, between the 7th and 10th centuries. It once formed a single eastern Indo-Aryan language with Assamese and Odia, but later became distinct. It became an official language of the Sultanate of Bengal, where it was spoken as the main vernacular language. It absorbed vocubulary from Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit. Bengali is the 10th most spoken language in the world. The language was modernized during the Bengali renaissance in the 19th century. It has influenced other languages in the region, including Chakma, Rohingya, Assamese, Odia and Nepali. The indigenous Bengali alphabets descended from Brahmi serves as the Bengali script.

The Bengali Language Movement in East Pakistan was a key catalyst of forming Bangladeshi identity. It is commemorated by UNESCO as International Mother Language Day, as part of worldwide efforts to preserve linguistic heritage.

Bangladesh is also home to number of minority indigenous languages, including Santhali, Garo, Marma, Chakma and Bisnupriya Manipuri.

Surnames[edit]

Bangladeshis Muslims typically but not exclusively carry surnames that have Arabic and Persian origins. Bangladeshi Hindus have Sanskritized Bengali surnames. Many Bangladeshi Christians have Portuguese surnames. Buddhists have a mixture of Bengali and Tibeto-Burman surnames.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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