The area of Dhaka has been inhabited since the first millennium. The city rose to prominence in the 17th century as a provincial capital and commercial center of the Mughal Empire in South Asia. Dhaka was the capital of Mughal Bengal for 75 years. As the center of the muslin trade in Bengal, it was one of the most prosperous cities in the Indian subcontinent. The medieval city was named in honor of the Mughal emperor Jahangir and hosted the seat of the Mughal Subahdar (governor), Naib Nazims and Dewans (prime ministers). Medieval Dhaka's glory peaked in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was home to merchants from across Eurasia. The Mughals decorated the city with well-laid out gardens, tombs, mosques, palaces and forts. The city was once called the Venice of the East. Under the British Empire, the city saw the introduction of electricity, railways, cinemas, Western-style universities and colleges and a modern water supply. It became an important administrative and educational center in Eastern Bengal and Assam after 1905. In 1947, after ending of British rule, it became the administrative capital of the East Pakistan. It was declared as the legislative capital of Pakistan in 1962. In 1971, it became the capital of an independent Bangladesh. Article 5 of the Constitution of Bangladesh declares Dhaka as the capital of the republic.
Since its establishment as a modern capital city, the population, area, and social and economic diversity of Dhaka have grown tremendously. Dhaka is now one of the most densely industrialized regions in the country. By the 21st century, it emerged as a megacity, which is now listed as a Beta Global City by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC). Dhaka is a major financial center in the region, being home to many local and international companies. Its stock exchange has over 750 listed companies. The city hosts over 50 diplomatic missions and the headquarters of BIMSTEC. The city's culture is known for its cycle-rickshaws, cuisine, art festivals and religious diversity. The old city is home to around 2000 buildings from the Mughal and British periods, including notable structures such as the Bara Katra and Choto Katra caravansaries. The city's modernist national assembly is one of the largest parliaments in the world.
The origins of the name for Dhaka are uncertain. Once dhak trees were very common in the area and the name may have originated from it. Alternatively, this name may refer to the hidden goddessDhakeshwari, whose temple is located in the south-western part of the city. Another popular theory states that Dhaka refers to a membranophone instrument, dhak which was played by order of SubahdarIslam Khan I during the inaugurating of the Bengal capital in 1610.
Some references also say it was derived from a Prakrit dialect called Dhaka Bhasa; or Dhakka, used in the Rajtarangini for a watch-station; or it is the same as Davaka, mentioned in the Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudragupta as an eastern frontier kingdom. According to Rajatarangini written by a Kashmiri Brahman, Kalhana, the region was originally known as Dhakka. The word Dhakka means watchtower. Bikrampur and Sonargaon—the earlier strongholds of Bengal rulers were situated nearby. So Dhaka was most likely used as the watchtower for the fortification purpose.
The history of urban settlement in the area of modern-day Dhaka dates to the first millennium. The region was part of the ancient district of Bikrampur, which was ruled by the Sena dynasty. Under Islamic rule, it became part of the historic district of Sonargaon, the regional administrative hub of the Delhi and the Bengal Sultanates. The Grand Trunk Road passed through the region, connecting it with North India, Central Asia and the southeastern port city of Chittagong.
The Mughal Empire governed the region during the early modern period. Under Mughal rule, the Old City of Dhaka grew on the banks of the Buriganga River. Dhaka was proclaimed the capital of Mughal Bengal in 1608. Islam Khan Chishti was the first administrator of the city. Khan named it "Jahangirabad" (City of Jahangir) in honour of the Emperor Jahangir. The name was dropped soon after the English conquered. The main expansion of the city took place under Mughal governor Shaista Khan. The city then measured 19 by 13 kilometres (11.8 by 8.1 mi), with a population of nearly one million. Dhaka was one of the largest and most prosperous cities in South Asia. It grew into a regional economic center during the 17th and 18th centuries, serving as a hub for Eurasian traders, including Bengalis, Marwaris, Kashmiris, Gujaratis, Armenians, Arabs, Persians, Greeks, Dutch, French, English and the Portuguese. The city was a center of the worldwide muslin, cotton and jute industries, with 80,000 skilled weavers. Mughal Bengal generated 50% of the Mughal Empire's GDP, which at the time constituted 29% of world GDP. Dhaka was the commercial capital of the empire. The city had well-laid out gardens, monuments, mosques, temples, bazaars, churches and caravansaries. The Bara Katra was the largest caravansary. The riverbanks were dotted with tea houses and numerous stately mansions. Eurasian traders built neighborhoods in Farashganj (French Bazaar), Armanitola (Armenian Quarter) and Postogola (Portuguese Quarter).
With the defeat of the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Buxar in 1764, the British East India Company gained the right to collect taxes from the principality of Bengal. The city formally passed to the control of the British East India Company in 1793 and Dhaka got plugged into the imperial mercantile networks of the British Empire. With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, Dhaka became a leading centre of the jute trade, as Bengal accounted for the largest share of the world's jute production.
Dhaka suffered stagnation and decline began during the mid 19th-century. Its muslin industry was destroyed by high colonial taxation, restriction of trade and forced imports of British manufactured textiles. The city's weavers starved to death during Bengal famines. The rise of the colonial capital Calcutta caused a sharp decline in the city's population. Dhaka became heavily impoverished. In 1824, an Anglican bishop described Dhaka as a city of magnificent ruins. During the mutiny of 1857, the city witnessed revolts by the Bengal Army. The British Indian rule was established following the mutiny. It bestowed privileges on the Dhaka Nawab Family, which dominated the city's political and social elite. The Dhaka Cantonment was established as a base for the British Indian Army. The British developed the modern city around Ramna, Shahbag Garden and Victoria Park. A modern civic water system was introduced in 1874. In 1885, the Dhaka State Railway was opened with a 144 km metre gauge (1000 mm) rail line connecting Mymensingh and the Port of Narayanganj through Dhaka. The city later became a hub of the Eastern Bengal State Railway. The first cinema was shown in Dhaka's riverfront Crown Theatre on 17 April 1898. The film show was organized by the Bedford Bioscope Company. The electricity supply began in 1901.
By the early-20th century, Dhaka projected itself as the standard bearer of Muslim minorities in British India; as opposed to the heavily Hindu-dominated city of Calcutta. During the abortive Partition of Bengal in 1905, Dhaka became the short lived capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam. In 1906, the All India Muslim League was formed at the Ahsan Manzil, during a conference on liberal education hosted by Nawab Sir Khawja Salimullah. Bengal was reunited in 1911. The University of Dhaka was established in 1921 by an Act passed in the Imperial Legislative Council. It started with 3 faculties and 12 departments, covering the subjects of Sanskrit, Bengali, English, Education, History, Arabic, Islamic Studies, Persian, Urdu, Philosophy, Economics, Politics, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Law.
As early as 1947, there were demands for Dhaka to host the parliament of the federation of Pakistan. Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah stated that the country's Constituent Assembly should meet in East Bengal due to the region's large population. In 1962, President Ayub Khan designated Dhaka as the seat of the proposed National Assembly outlined in the 1962 Constitution. The government appointed Louis Kahn and Muzharul Islam to design a capitol complex in Dhaka. The city was declared as the country's legislative capital. The Inter-Continental Hotel of Dhaka, designed by William B. Tabler, opened in 1966 in Ramna. The East Pakistan Helicopter Service connected Dhaka with other regional cities as part of the largest commercial helicopter network in the world.
On 25 March 1971, the Pakistan Army launched military operations under Operation Searchlight against the population of East Pakistan. Dhaka bore the brunt of the army's atrocities, witnessing a genocide and a campaign of widescale repression, with the arrest, torture and murder of the city's civilians, students, intelligentsia, political activists and religious minorities. The army faced mutinies from the East Pakistan Rifles and the Bengali police. Large parts of the city were burnt and destroyed, including Hindu neighborhoods. Much of the city's population was either displaced or forced to flee to the countryside. In the ensuing Bangladesh War of Independence, the Bangladesh Forces launched regular guerrilla attacks and ambush operations against Pakistani forces. Dhaka was struck with numerous air raids by the Indian Air Force in December. Dhaka witnessed the surrender of the west Pakistan forces in front of the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces on 16 December 1971 with the surrender of Pakistan.
The Rajoshik sculpture, in front of the InterContinental Dhaka, displays a horse carriage that was once common in the city
In the 1990s and 2000s, Dhaka experienced improved economic growth and the emergence of affluent business districts and satellite towns. Between 1990 and 2005, the city's population doubled from 6 million to 12 million. There has been increased foreign investment in the city, particularly in the financial and textile manufacturing sectors. But frequent hartals by political parties have greatly hampered the city's economy. The hartal rate declined since 2014. In some years, the city experienced a widespread flash flood during the monsoon.
Dhaka is one of the fastest growing megacities in the world. It is predicted to be one of the world's largest metropolises by 2025, along with Tokyo, Mexico City, Shanghai, Beijing and New York City. Dhaka remains one of the poorest megacities. Most of its population are rural migrants, including climate refugees. Blue-collar workers are often housed in slums. Congestion is one of the most prominent features of modern Dhaka. In 2014, it was reported that only 7% of the city was covered by roads. The first phase of the Dhaka Metro Rail is planned for opening in 2021, coinciding with the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence.
Under the Köppen climate classification, Dhaka has a tropical savanna climate. The city has a distinct monsoonal season, with an annual average temperature of 26 °C (79 °F) and monthly means varying between 19 °C (66 °F) in January and 29 °C (84 °F) in May. Approximately 87% of the annual average rainfall of 2,123 millimetres (83.6 inches) occurs between May and October. Increasing air and water pollution emanating from traffic congestion and industrial waste are serious problems affecting public health and the quality of life in the city. Water bodies and wetlands around Dhaka are facing destruction as these are being filled up to construct multi-storied buildings and other real estate developments. Coupled with pollution, such erosion of natural habitats threatens to destroy much of the regional biodiversity.
Hatirjheel-Begunbari, which was once a slum area, has turned into a new place of recreation for city dwellers. Hatirjheel covering 320 acres (129 ha) is transformed into a place of festivity at night but with serenity settling down. However, the parks and the recreation places are often crowded and lacks security and cleanliness aspects, which is yet one of the big issues.
In 2011, Dhaka City Corporation was split into two separate corporations – Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation for ensuring better civic facilities. These two corporations are headed by two two mayor, who are elected by direct vote of the citizen for a 5-year period. Area within city corporations divided into several wards, which each have an elected commissioner. In total the city has 130 wards and 725 mohallas.
Unlike other mega cities around the world, Dhaka is serviced by over two dozen government organizations under different ministries. Lack of co-ordination among them and centralization of all powers by the Government of Bangladesh, keeps the development and maintenance of the city in a chaotic situation.
According to TIME magazine in 2011, "the newly minted megacity of Dhaka stands as the country's political and business center. The city has increasingly enveloped the surrounding rural towns as each year more than half a million laborers relocate from elsewhere in Bangladesh to the capital. The good news is foreign and domestic investment is bustling, but scientists fear that the city will not be able to support such a population explosion. Dhaka is three times larger than Bangladesh's second largest urban area of Chittagong and is already bursting at the seams. Additionally, the city's precarious location in the low-lying Ganges delta, coupled with a poor drainage system, makes the area prone to flooding during the monsoon. But despite its problems, the city is undeniably where the majority of job opportunities in the country reside — including 75% of the nation's factory jobs. In an attempt to curb the rapid urbanization, the government is in the process of implementing a tax holiday for new constructions outside the city". The Globalization and World Cities Research Network ranks Dhaka as a beta world city.
The city is home to the country's monetary authority, the Bangladesh Bank, and the largest stock market, the Dhaka Stock Exchange. The central business district in Motijheel & Dilkusha is the largest in Bangladesh. Other emerging CBDs include Kawran Bazar, Paltan, Mohakhali, Gulshan, Bashundhara, Uttara and Banani. The city has a growing middle class, driving the market for modern consumer and luxury goods.Restaurants, shopping malls and luxury hotels continue to serve as vital elements in the city's economy. The city has historically attracted numerous migrant workers.Hawkers, peddlers, small shops, rickshaw transport, roadside vendors and stalls employ a large segment of the population – rickshaw-drivers alone number as many as 400,000. Half the workforce is employed in household and unorganised labour, while about 800,000 work in the textile industry. The unemployment rate in Dhaka was 23% in 2013.
Dhaka has rising congestion and inadequate infrastructure; the national government has recently implemented a policy for rapid urbanization of surrounding areas and beyond by the introduction of a ten-year relief on income tax for new construction of facilities and buildings outside Dhaka. Education, healthcare, engineering and consultancy services are major sectors of city's economy. Administrative and security services are also concentrated in the city.
NASA animation showing the urban growth of Dhaka from 1972 to 2001.
The city, in combination with localities forming the wider metropolitan area, is home to over 15 million as of 2013[update]. The population is growing by an estimated 4.2% per year, one of the highest rates amongst the Asian cities. The continuing growth reflects ongoing migration from rural areas to the Dhaka urban region, which accounted for 60% of the city's growth in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently, the city's population has also grown with the expansion of city boundaries, a process that added more than a million people to the city in the 1980s. According to the Far Eastern Economic Review, Dhaka will be home to 25 million people by the end of 2025.
The literacy rate in Dhaka is also increasing quickly. It was estimated at 69.2% in 2001. The literacy rate had gone up to 74.6% by 2011 which is significantly higher than the national average of 51.77%.
The city population is composed of people from virtually every region of Bangladesh. The long-standing inhabitants of the old city are known as Dhakaite (ঢাকাইয়া) and have a distinctive dialect and culture. Dhaka is also home to large number of Bihari refugees, who are descendants of migrant Muslims from eastern India during 1947 and settled down in East Pakistan. The correct population of Biharis living in the city is ambiguous, but it is estimated that there are at least 300,000 Urdu-speakers in all of Bangladesh, mostly residing in refugee camps in Dhaka, although official figures estimates only 40,000. Between 15,000 and 20,000 of the Rohingya, Santal, Khasi, Garo, Chakma and Mandi tribal peoples reside in the city. Dhaka also has a large population of European, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, Nepali, Burmese and Sri Lankan expatriates working in executive jobs in different industries.
Bengali, the national language, is spoken by the predominant majority population of Dhaka. English is the principal second language and widely spoken by educated peoples. People of old part of the city speaks Kutti language, which is a Bengali-based Creole language with large amount of Persian, Arabic & Hindi-Urdu vocabulary. There is a minority Urdu-speaking Bihari population, who are descendants of migrant Muslims from eastern India.
Islam is the dominant religion of the city, with 90% of the population being Muslim, and a majority belonging to the Sunni sect. There is also a small Shia sect, and an Ahmadiya community. Hinduism is the second-largest religion and comprises 8.2% of the population. Smaller segments practice Christianity and Buddhism. The city also has Ismaili, Sikh, Hrishi & Bahá'í Faith communities.
As the most populous city of Bangladesh, Dhaka has a vibrant cultural life. Annual celebrations for Independence Day (26 March), Language Martyrs' Day (21 February) and Victory Day (16 December) are prominently celebrated across the city. Dhaka's people congregate at the Shaheed Minar and the Jatiyo Smriti Soudho to remember the national heroes of the liberation war. These occasions are observed with public ceremonies and rallies in public grounds. Many schools and colleges organise fairs, festivals and concerts in which citizens from all levels of society participate.Pohela Baishakh, the Bengali New Year, falls annually on 14 April and is popularly celebrated across the city. Large crowds of people gather on the streets of Shahbag, Ramna Park and the campus of the University of Dhaka for celebrations. Pahela Falgun (Bengali: পহেলা ফাল্গুন, first day of Spring of Bengali month Falgun, of the Bengali calendar, also celebrated in the city in a festive manner. This day is marked with colourful celebration and traditionally, women wear yellow saris to celebrate this day. This celebration is also known as Basanta Utsab (Bengali: বসন্ত উৎসব; Spring Festival). Nabanna is a celebration for harvest, usually celebrated with food and dance and music on the 1st day of the month of Agrahayan of Bengali year. Birthdays of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam are observed respectively as Rabindra Jayanti and Nazrul Jayanti. Ekushey Book Fair, which is arranged each year by Bangla Academy and takes place for the whole month of February. This event is dedicated to the martyrs who died on 21 February 1952 in a demonstration calling for the establishment of Bengali as one of the state languages of former East Pakistan.
The most popular dressing style for women are sarees or salwar kameez, while men usually prefer western clothing to the traditional lungi with Panjabi. Jamdani saree of Dhaka is part of its cultural heritage, originate from the Mughal era. Jamdani sarees are 100% hand weaved and a single saree may take as long as 3 months to complete.
Despite the growing popularity of music groups and rock bands, traditional folk music remains widely popular. The works of the national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and national anthem writer Rabindranath Tagore have a widespread following across Dhaka. The Baily Road area is known as Natak Para (Theatre Neighbourhood) which is the center of Dhaka's thriving theatre movement. Indian and Western music and films are popular with large segments of Dhaka's population.
For much of recent history, Dhaka was characterized by roadside markets and small shops that sold a wide variety of goods. Recent years have seen the widespread construction of shopping malls. Two of the largest shopping malls in Dhaka and perhaps in the Indian subcontinent are Jamuna Future Park and Bashundhara City shopping mall.
Dhaka is reputed for its unique traditional festivities and food delicacies from way back. It hosts a wide-ranging menu of distinctive dishes many of which were introduced during the regime of Sultani and Mughal Period. Due to different ruling periods, the cuisine of Dhaka is versatile and with a rich culinary tradition.
Like other parts of the country, everyday meals generally include plain steamed rice as staple food with fish, meat, vegetable curries and lentil soup is common accompaniment. Plain rice is often replaced by roti or parata. Curry is the most popular style of preparing dishes.
But Old Dhaka area has its own unique food tradition, known as Dhakaite (ঢাকাইয়া) food. Old Dhaka is famous for its Morog (Chicken) Pulao" it is different from traditional biryani by using both turmeric and malai or cream of milk together. Famous dishes of Old Dhaka are kebabs, naans, bakharkhani, kachchi and pakki biryani, mutton bhuni kichuri, mutton tehari etc. Dhakai Bakarkhani is the traditional food or snack of the people of old Dhaka. It is famous for its quality and taste and it was highly praised by the royal court of the Mughal Empire in Delhi.
Along with Bangladeshi cuisine and South Asian variants, a large variety of Western and Chinese cuisine is served at numerous restaurants and eateries. Often many restaurants customize fusion dishes which blends foreign and local cuisines to meet local taste. Local and international fast food shops and chains serve burgers, fries and other readily available foods. Street foods like Burhani, Lassi and Phuchka are highly popular among locals and tourists. Chita Pitha/ছিটা পিঠা & Bhapha Pitha/ভাপা পিঠা, a type of easy cake, made from rice flour also popular as street food.
Fast-food chains like A&W, Burger King, KFC, Nando's, Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn and Sbarro have opened up their outlets in major areas of the city. Dhaka's delicacies such as Biriani from Haji's, Nanna's and Fakhruddin, Dhaka Cheese, Star Kabab still remain popular for dine. The city has numerous venerable Bengali confectionery chains, including Banoful, Alauddin, Bikrampur Mishti Bhandar and Rashmela
Dhaka has the largest number of schools, colleges and universities of any Bangladeshi city. The education system is divided into 5 levels: Primary (from grades 1 to 6), Junior (from grades 6 to 8), Secondary (from grades 9 to 10), Higher Secondary (from grades 11 to 12) and tertiary. The five years of Primary education concludes with a Primary School Completion (PSC) Examination, the three years of Junior education concludes with Junior School Certificate (JSC) Examination, and next two years of Secondary education concludes with a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) Examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years of Higher Secondary or intermediate training, which culminate in a Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) Examination. Education is mainly offered in Bengali, but English is also widely taught and used. Many Muslim families send their children to attend part-time courses or even to pursue full-time religious education alongside other subjects, which is imparted in Bengali and Arabic in schools, colleges and madrasas.
Alongside public institutes of higher education there are some forty-five private universities in Dhaka. Bangladesh(see:List of universities in Bangladesh), most of which are located in Mohakhali, Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Bashundhara, Uttara and Dhanmondi areas of the city.
Cycle rickshaws are the most popular mode of transport in Dhaka
Double-decker bus of BRTC
Dhaka is connected to the other parts of the country through highway and railway links. Five of the eight major national highways of Bangladesh start from the city. They are- N1, N2, N3, N5 and N8. Dhaka is also directly connected to two longest routes of Asian Highway Network- AH1 and AH2, as well as to AH41 route. Highway links to the Indian cities of Kolkata, Agartala, Guwahati and Shillong have been established by the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) and private bus companies which also run regular international bus services to those cities from Dhaka.
An elevated expressway system is under construction. The Dhaka Elevated Expressway would run from Shahjalal International Airport-Kuril-Banani-Mohakhali-Tejgaon-Saatrasta-Moghbazar Rail Crossing-Khilgaon-Kamalapur-Golapbagh to Dhaka-Chittagong Highway at Kutubkhali Point. A longer second elevated expressway from Airport-Ashulia is currently undergoing feasibility study. There are 3 inter-district bus terminals in Dhaka, which are located at Mohakhali, Saidabad and Gabtoli area of the city.
Dhaka suffers some of the worst traffic congestion in the world. The city lacks an organized public transport system. Construction of MRT and a BRT is currently going on to solve the problem. Cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws are the main mode of transport within metro area, with close to 400,000 rickshaws running each day: the highest number in any city in the world. However, only about 85,000 rickshaws are licensed by the city government. Relatively low-cost and non-polluting cycle rickshaws, nevertheless, cause traffic congestion and have been banned from many parts of the city. The government has overseen the replacement of two-stroke engine auto rickshaws with "Green auto-rickshaws" locally called CNG auto-rickshaw or Baby-taxi, which run on compressed natural gas.
Public buses are operated by the state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) and by numerous private companies and operators. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Pathao, Scooters, taxis and privately owned cars are rapidly becoming popular with the city's growing middle class. Limited numbers of Taxis are available. It is planned to raise the total number of taxis to 18,000 gradually.Uber has started mobile app based taxi service in the city, whereas few local companies operate motor-bike service. The Cabinet of Bangladesh has approved the draft of a guideline legalizing smartphone application-based ride-hailing services such as Uber and Pathao.
The Dhaka Metro Rail feasibility study has been completed. A 20.1 kilometres (12.5 mi), $1.7 Billion Phase 1, metro route is being negotiated by the Government with Japan International Cooperation Agency. The first route will start from Uttara, northern suburb of Dhaka to Sayedabad, southern section of Dhaka. The route consists of 16 elevated stations each of 180m long. Construction began on 26 June 2016.
The Sadarghat River Port on the banks of the Buriganga River serves for the transport of goods and passengers upriver and to other ports in Bangladesh. Inter-city and inter-district motor vessels and passenger-ferry services are used by many people to travel riverine regions of the country from the city. Water bus services are available on Buriganga River and Hatirjheel and Gulshan lakes. Water buses of Buriganga River ferry passengers on Sadarghat to Gabtali route. Water taxis in Hatirjheel and Gulshan lakes provide connectivity via two routes, one route between Tejgaon and Gulshan, another route between Tejgaon and Rampura areas.
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