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History of Bangladesh:

Bangladesh came to today's shape through a long history of political evolution. Bengal was probably the wealthiest part of the subcontinent up till the 16th century. The area's early history featured a succession of Indian empires, internal squabbling, and a tussle between Hinduism and Buddhism for dominance. All of this was just a prelude to the unstoppable tide of Islam which washed over northern India at the end of the 12th century. Mohammed Bakhtiar Khalzhi from Turkistan captured Bengal in 1199 with only 20 men. Under the Mughal viceroys, art and literature flourished, overland trade expanded and Bengal was opened to world maritime trade - the latter marking the death knell of Mughal power as Europeans began to establish themselves in the region. The Portuguese arrived as early as the 15th century but were ousted in 1633 by local opposition. The East India Company negotiated terms to establish a fortified trading post in Calcutta in 1690.

The decline of Mughal power led to greater provincial autonomy, heralding the rise of the independent dynasty of the nawabs of Bengal. Humble East India Company clerk Robert Clive ended up effectively ruling Bengal when one of the impetuous nawabs attacked the thriving British enclave in Calcutta and stuffed those unlucky enough not to escape in an underground cellar. Clive retook Calcutta a year later and the British Government replaced the East India Company following the Indian Mutiny in 1857. The Britons established an organizational and social structure unparalleled in Bengal, and Calcutta became one of the most important centers for commerce, education and culture in the subcontinent. However, many Bangladeshi historians blame the British dictatorial agricultural policies and promotion of the semi-feudal zamindar system for draining the region of its wealth and damaging its social fabric. The British presence was a relief to the minority Hindus but a catastrophe for the Muslims. The Hindus cooperated with the Brits, entering British educational institutions and studying the English language, but the Muslims refused to cooperate, and rioted whenever crops failed or another local product was rendered unprofitable by government policy. At the closure of World War II it was clear that European colonialism had run its course and Indian independence was inevitable. Independence

was attained in 1947 but the struggle was bitter and divisive, especially in Bengal where the fight for self-government was complicated by internal religious conflict. The British, realizing any agreement between the Muslims and Hindus was impossible, decided to partition the subcontinent. That Bengal and Punjab, the two overwhelmingly Muslim regions, lay on opposite sides of India was only one stumbling block. The situation was complicated in Bengal where the major cash crop, jute, was produced in the Muslim-dominated east, but processed and shipped from the Hindu-dominated city of Calcutta in the west.

Inequalities between the two regions i.e. East and West Pakistan soon stirred up a sense of Bengali nationalism that had not been reckoned with during the push for Muslim independence. When the Pakistan government declared that `Urdu and only Urdu' would be the national language, the Bangla-speaking Bengalis decided it was time to assert their cultural identity. The drive to reinstate the Bangla language metamorphosed into a push for self-government and when the Awami League, a nationalistic party, won a majority in the 1971 national elections, the president of Pakistan, faced with this unacceptable result, postponed opening the National Assembly. Riots and strikes broke out in East Pakistan, the independent state of Bangladesh was unilaterally announced, and Pakistan sent troops to quell the rebellion. The ensuing war was one of the shortest and bloodiest of modern times, with the Pakistan army occupying all major towns, using napalm against villages, and slaughtering and raping villagers. Bangladeshis refer to Pakistan's brutal tactics as attempted genocide. Border clashes between Pakistan and India increased as Indian-trained Bangladeshi guerrillas crossed the border. When the Pakistani air force made a pre-emptive attack on Indian forces, open warfare ensued. Indian troops crossed the border and the Pakistani army found itself being attacked from the east by the Indian army, the north and east by guerrillas and from all quarters by the civilian population. In 11 days it was all over and Bangladesh, the world's 139th country, officially came into existence. Sheikh Mujib, one of the founders of the Awami League, became the country's first prime minister in January 1972 ; he was assassinated in 1975 during a period of crisis

The ruined and decimated new country experienced famine in 1973-74, followed by martial law, successive military coups and political assassinations. In 1979, Bangladesh began a short-lived experiment with democracy led by the overwhelmingly popular President Zia, who established good relationships with the West and the oil-rich Islamic countries. His assassination in 1981 ultimately returned the country to a military government that periodically made vague announcements that elections would be held `soon'. While these announcements were rapturously greeted by the local press as proof that Bangladesh was indeed a democracy, nothing came of them until 1991. That year the military dictator General Ershad was forced to resign by an unprecedented popular movement led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League. Democracy was re-established and the economy ticked along at a 4.5% growth rate, which hardly made it an 'Asian tiger' but was at least respectable. Political dog-fighting between the BNP and the Awami League became acrimonious in the run up to national elections in February 1996 leaving the country strike-ridden and rudderless. The election was marred by violence and boycotted by the three main opposition parties, resulting in a BNP shoo-in. However, low voter turnout and reports of ballot-box stuffing by polling officials raised serious questions about the government's legitimacy and in April 1996 Prime Minister Begum Khaleda agreed to stand down and appointed an interim caretaker administration, pending new elections scheduled for 12 June 1996.In the elections Awami League got the largest number of seats. Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the leader of the Awami League, was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Government. Modern Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation in 1971 after achieving independence from Pakistan in the Bangladesh Liberation War. The country's borders coincide with the major portion of the ancient and historic region of Bengal in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, where civilization dates back over four millennia, to the Copper Age. The history of the region is closely intertwined with the history of Bengal and the history of India.

The area's early history featured a succession of Indian empires, internal squabbling, and a tussle between Hinduism and Buddhism for dominance. Islam made its appearance during the 8th century when Sunni missionaries arrived. Later, Muslim rulers reinforced the process of conversion by building mosques, madrassas.The borders of modern Bangladesh were established with the partition of Bengal and India in August 1947, when the region became East Pakistan as a part of the newly formed State of Pakistan following the Radcliffe Line. However, it was separated from West Pakistan by 1,600 km (994 mi) of Indian territory. Due to political exclusion, ethnic and linguistic discrimination, as well as economic neglect by the politically dominant western-wing, popular agitation and civil disobedience led to the war of independence in 1971. After independence, the new state endured famine, natural disasters and widespread poverty, as well as political turmoil and military coups. The restoration of democracy in 1991 has been followed by relative calm and economic progress.

Geography of Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a low-lying, riverine country located in South Asia with a largely marshy jungle coastline of 580 km (360 mi) on the northern littoral of the Bay of Bengal. Formed by a delta plain at the confluence of the Ganges (Padma), Brahmaputra (Jamuna), and Meghna Rivers and their tributaries, Bangladesh's alluvial soil is highly fertile, but vulnerable to flood and drought. Hills rise above the plain only in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the far southeast and the Sylhet division in the northeast. Straddling the Tropic of Cancer, Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon climate characterized by heavy seasonal rainfall, high temperatures, and high humidity. Natural disasters, such as floods, tornadoes, and tidal bores affect the country yearly. Bangladesh also is affected by major cyclones, on average 16 times a decade. A cyclone struck the southeastern coast in May 1991, killing 136,000 people. Cyclone Sidr struck the southwestern coast on November 15, 2007, affecting not only the coastal districts of the administrative division Khulna but also about half of the tropical forest Sundarbans.

The physical geography of Bangladesh is varied and has an area characterized by two distinctive features: a broad deltaic plain subject to frequent flooding, and a small hilly region crossed by swiftly flowing rivers.The country has an area of 147,570 square kilometers and extends 820 kilometers north to south and 600 kilometers east to west. Bangladesh is bordered on the west, north, and east by a 4,095-kilometer land frontier with India and, in the southeast, by a short land and water frontier (193 km) with Burma (Myanmar). On the south is a highly irregular deltaic coastline of about 580 kilometers, fissured by many rivers and streams flowing into the Bay of Bengal. The territorial waters of Bangladesh extend 12 nautical miles (22 km), and the exclusive economic zone of the country is 200 nautical miles (370 km).

Roughly 80% of the landmass is made up of fertile alluvial lowland called the Bangladesh Plain. The plain is part of the larger Plain of Bengal, which is sometimes called the Lower Gangetic Plain. Although altitudes up to 105 meters above sea level occur in the northern part of the plain, most elevations are less than 10 meters above sea level; elevations decrease in the coastal south, where the terrain is generally at sea level. With such low elevations and numerous rivers, water—and concomitant flooding—is a predominant physical feature. About 10,000 square kilometers of the total area of Bangladesh is covered with water, and larger areas are routinely flooded during the monsoon season.