Bengal Culture

Visual Arts

The recorded history of art in Bangladesh can be traced to the 3rd century BCE, when terracotta sculptures were made in the region. In classical antiquity, a notable school of sculptural Hindu, Jain and Buddhist art developed in the Pala Empire and the Sena dynasty. Islamic art evolved since the 14th century. The architecture of the Bengal Sultanate saw a distinct style of domed mosques with complex niche pillars that had no minarets. Mughal Bengal’s most celebrated artistic tradition was the weaving of Jamdani motifs on fine muslin, which is now classified by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. Jamdani motifs were similar to Iranian textile art (buta motifs) and Western textile art (paisley). The Jamdani weavers in Dhaka received imperial patronage. Ivory and brass were also widely used in Mughal art. Pottery is widely used in Bengali culture.

The modern art movement in Bangladesh took shape during the 1950s, particularly with the pioneering works of Zainul Abedin. East Bengal developed its own modernist painting and sculpture traditions, which were distinct from the art movements in West Bengal. The Art Institute Dhaka has been an important centre for visual art in the region. Its annual Bengali New Year parade was enlisted as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2016.

Modern Bangladesh has produced many of South Asia’s leading painters, including :

• SM Sultan

• Mohammad Kibria

• Shahabuddin Ahmed

• Kanak Chanpa Chakma

• Kafil Ahmed

• Saifuddin Ahmed

• Qayyum Chowdhury

• Rashid Choudhury

• Quamrul Hassan

• Rafiqun Nabi

• Syed Jahangir

among others. Novera Ahmed and Nitun Kundu were the country’s pioneers of modernist sculpture. The Chobi Mela is the largest photography festival in Asia.

Literature

Serious discussions

The oldest evidence of writing in Bangladesh is the Mahasthan Brahmi Inscription, which dates back to the 3rd century BCE in the Gupta Empire, Sanskrit literature thrived in the region. Bengali developed from Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit in the from the 8th to 10th century. Bengali literature is a millennium-old tradition; the Charyapadas are the earliest examples of Bengali poetry.

Sufi spiritualism inspired many Bengali Muslim writers. During the Bengal Sultanate, medieval Bengali writers were influenced by Arabic and Persian works. The Chandidas are the notable lyric poets from the early Medieval Age. Syed Alaol was a noted secular poet and translator from the Arakan region. The Bengal Renaissance shaped the emergence of modern Bengali literature, including novels, short stories and science fiction.

Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature and is described as the Bengali Shakespeare.

Kazi Nazrul Islam was a revolutionary poet who espoused political rebellion against colonialism and fascism.

Begum Rokeya is regarded as the pioneer feminist writer of Bangladesh.

Other renaissance icons included

• Michael Madhusudan Dutt

• Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.

The writer Syed Mujtaba Ali is noted for his cosmopolitan Bengali worldview. Jasimuddin was a renowned pastoral poet. Shamsur Rahman was the poet laureate of Bangladesh for many years.

• Al Mahmud is considered one of the greatest Bengali poets to have emerged in the 20th century.

Farrukh Ahmed, Sufia Kamal, and Nirmalendu Goon are important figures of modern Bangladeshi poetry.

• Ahmed Sofa is regarded as the most important Bangladeshi intellectual in the post-independence era.

• Humayun Ahmed was a popular writer of modern Bangladeshi magical realism and science fiction.

Notable writers of Bangladeshi fictions include

• Mir Mosharraf Hossain

• Akhteruzzaman Elias

• Syed Waliullah

• Shahidullah Kaiser

• Shawkat Osman

• Selina Hossain

• Taslima Nasreen

• Haripada Datta

• Razia Khan

• Anisul Hoque

• Bipradash Barua.

Many Bangladeshi writers, such as Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, and Farah Ghuznavi are acclaimed for their short stories.

The annual Ekushey Book Fair and Dhaka Literature Festival, organised by the Bangla Academy, are among the largest literary festivals in South Asia.

Women of Bangladesh

Irene Khan, Secretary General Amnesty International 2007

Although, as of 2015, several women occupied major political office in Bangladesh, its women continue to live under a patriarchal social regime where violence is common. Whereas in India and Pakistan women participate less in the workforce as their education increases, the reverse is the case in Bangladesh.

Bengal has a long history of feminist activism dating back to the 19th century. Begum Rokeya and Faizunnessa Chowdhurani played an important role in emancipating Bengali Muslim women from purdah, prior to the country’s division, as well as promoting girls’ education. Several women were elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in the British Raj. The first women’s magazine, Begum, was published in 1948.

In 2008, Bangladeshi female workforce participation stood at 26%. Women dominate blue collar jobs in the Bangladeshi garment industry. Agriculture, social services, healthcare and education are also major occupations for Bangladeshi women, while their employment in white collar positions has steadily increased.

Architecture

The architectural traditions of Bangladesh have a 2,500-year-old heritage. Terracotta architecture is a distinct feature of Bengal. Pre-Islamic Bengali architecture reached its pinnacle in the Pala Empire, when the Pala School of Sculptural Art established grand structures such as the Somapura Mahavihara. Islamic architecture began developing under the Bengal Sultanate, when local terracotta styles influenced medieval mosque construction. The Adina Mosque of united Bengal was the largest mosque built on the Indian subcontinent.

The Sixty Dome Mosque was the largest medieval mosque built in Bangladesh, and is a fine example of Turkic-Bengali architecture. The Mughal style replaced indigenous architecture when Bengal became a province of the Mughal Empire and influenced the development of urban housing. The Kantajew Temple and Dhakeshwari Temple are excellent examples of late medieval Hindu temple architecture. Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, based on Indo-Islamic styles, flourished during the British period. The zamindar gentry in Bangladesh built numerous Indo-Saracenic palaces and country mansions, such as the Ahsan Manzil, Tajhat Palace, Dighapatia Palace, Puthia Rajbari and Natore Rajbari.

The bungalow, which originated in Bengal, is a common sight. The roof style seen in the picture is common in the hilly areas of Sylhet and Chittagong

Bengali vernacular architecture is noted for pioneering the bungalow. Bangladeshi villages consist of thatched roofed houses made of natural materials like mud, straw, wood and bamboo. In modern times, village bungalows are increasingly made of tin.

Muzharul Islam was the pioneer of Bangladeshi modern architecture. His varied works set the course of modern architectural practice in the country. Islam brought leading global architects, including Louis Kahn, Richard Neutra, Stanley Tigerman, Paul Rudolph, Robert Boughey and Konstantinos Doxiadis, to work in erstwhile East Pakistan. Louis Kahn was chosen to design the National Parliament Complex in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. Kahn’s monumental designs, combining regional red brick aesthetics, his own concrete and marble brutalism and the use of lakes to represent Bengali geography, are regarded as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. In more recent times, award-winning architects like Rafiq Azam have set the course of contemporary architecture by adopting influences from the works of Islam and Kahn.

Performing Arts

Theatre in Bangladesh includes various forms with a history dating back to the 4th century CE. It includes narrative forms, song and dance forms, supra-personae forms, performances with scroll paintings, puppet theatre and processional forms. The Jatra is the most popular form of Bengali folk theatre. The dance traditions of Bangladesh include indigenous tribal and Bengali dance forms, as well as classical Indian dances, including the Kathak, Odissi and Manipuri dances.

The music of Bangladesh features the Baul mystical tradition, listed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Numerous lyric-based musical traditions, varying from one region to the next, exist, including Gombhira, Bhatiali and Bhawaiya. Folk music is accompanied by a one-stringed instrument known as the ektara. Other instruments include the dotara, dhol, flute, and tabla. Bengali classical music includes Tagore songs and Nazrul geeti. Bangladesh has a rich tradition of Indian classical music, which uses instruments like the sitar, tabla, sarod and santoor. Musician Ayub Bachchu is credited with popularising Bengali rock music in Bangladesh.

Textiles

A woman wearing jamdani in 1787. Bengal has manufactured textiles for many centuries, as recorded in ancient hand-written and printed documents.

The Nakshi Kantha is a centuries-old embroidery tradition for quilts, said to be indigenous to eastern Bengal (i.e. Bangladesh). The sari is the national dress for Bangladeshi women. Mughal Dhaka was renowned for producing the finest Muslin saris, including the famed Dhakai and Jamdani, the weaving of which is listed by UNESCO as one of the masterpieces of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage. Bangladesh also produces the Rajshahi silk. The shalwar kameez is also widely worn by Bangladeshi women. In urban areas some women can be seen in western clothing. The kurta and sherwani are the national dress of Bangladeshi men; the lungi and dhoti are worn by them in informal settings. Aside from ethnic wear, domestically tailored suits and neckties are customarily worn by the country’s men in offices, in schools and at social events.

The handloom industry supplies 60–65% of the country’s clothing demand. The Bengali ethnic fashion industry has flourished in the changing environment of the fashion world. The retailer Aarong is one of the most successful ethnic wear brands in South Asia. The development of the Bangladesh textile industry, which supplies leading international brands, has promoted the production and retail of modern Western attire locally, with the country now having a number of expanding local brands like Westecs and Yellow. Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garments exporter.

Among Bangladesh’s fashion designers, Bibi Russell has received international acclaim for her “Fashion for Development” shows.

Cuisine

White rice is the staple of Bangladeshi cuisine, along with many vegetables and lentils. Rice preparations also include Bengali biryanis, pulaos, and khichuris. Mustard sauce, ghee, sunflower oil and fruit chutneys are widely used in Bangladeshi cooking. Fish is the main source of protein in Bengali cuisine. The Hilsa is the national fish and immensely popular across Bangladesh. Other kinds of fish eaten include rohu, butterfish, catfish, tilapia and barramundi. Fish eggs are a gourmet delicacy. Seafood holds an important place in Bengali cuisine, especially lobsters, shrimps and dried fish. Meat consumption includes chicken, beef, mutton, venison, duck and squab. In Chittagong, Mezban feasts are a popular tradition featuring the serving of hot beef curry. In Sylhet, the shatkora lemons are used to marinate dishes. In the tribal Hill Tracts, bamboo shoot cooking is prevalent. Bangladesh has a vast spread of desserts, including distinctive sweets like Rôshogolla, Rôshomalai, Chomchom, Mishti Doi and Kalojaam. Pithas are traditional boiled desserts made with rice or fruits. Halwa is served during religious festivities. Naan, paratha, luchi and bakarkhani are the main local breads. Black tea is offered to guests as a gesture of welcome. Kebabs are widely popular across Bangladesh, particularly seekh kebabs, chicken tikka and shashliks.

Bangladesh shares its culinary heritage with the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal. The two regions have several differences, however. In Muslim-majority Bangladesh, meat consumption is greater; whereas in Hindu-majority West Bengal, vegetarianism is more prevalent. The Bangladeshi diaspora dominates the South Asian restaurant industry in many Western countries, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Festivals

The annual Bengali New Year parade

Pohela Boishakh, the Bengali new year, is the major festival of Bengali culture and sees widespread festivities. Of the major holidays celebrated in Bangladesh, only Pohela Boishakh comes without any preexisting expectations (specific religious identity, culture of gift-giving, etc.). Unlike holidays like Eid al-Fitr, where dressing up in lavish clothes has become a norm, or Christmas where exchanging gifts has become an integral part of the holiday, Pohela Boishakh is really about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal. As a result, more people can participate in the festivities together without the burden of having to reveal one’s class, religion, or financial capacity. Other cultural festivals include Nabonno, and Poush Parbon both of which are Bengali harvest festivals.

The Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Milad un Nabi, Muharram, Chand Raat, Shab-e-Barat; the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja, Janmashtami and Rath Yatra; the Buddhist festival of Buddha Purnima, which marks the birth of Gautama Buddha, and Christian festival of Christmas are national holidays in Bangladesh and see the most widespread celebrations in the country.

Alongside are national days like the remembrance of 21 February 1952 Language Movement Day (International Mother Language Day), Independence Day and Victory Day. On Language Movement Day, people congregate at the Shaheed Minar in Dhaka to remember the national heroes of the Bengali Language Movement, and at the Jatiyo Smriti Soudho on Independence Day and Victory Day to remember the national heroes of the Bangladesh Liberation War. These occasions are observed with public ceremonies, parades, rallies by citizens, political speeches, fairs, concerts, and various other public and private events, celebrating the history and traditions of Bangladesh. TV and radio stations broadcast special programs and patriotic songs, and many schools and colleges organise fairs, festivals, and concerts that draw the participation of citizens from all levels of Bangladeshi society.

Sports

The Bangladesh cricket team celebrating the fall of a wicket against Zimbabwe

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in Bangladesh, followed by football. The national cricket team participated in their first Cricket World Cup in 1999, and the following year was granted elite Test cricket status. They have however struggled, recording only ten test match victories: one against Australia, one against England, one against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, five against Zimbabwe (one in 2005, one in 2013 in Zimbabwe, and three in 2014), two in a 2–0 series victory over the West Indies in the West Indies in 2009. Six of Bangladesh’s ten test match victories came in between the years 2014 to 2017.

The team has been more successful in One Day International cricket (ODI). They reached the quarter-final of the 2015 Cricket World Cup. They also reached the semi-final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. They whitewashed Pakistan in a home ODI series in 2015 followed by home ODI series wins against India and South Africa. They also won home ODI series by 4–0 in 2010 against New Zealand and whitewashed them in the home ODI series in 2013. In July 2010, they celebrated their first-ever win over England in England.

In late 2012, they won a five-match home ODI series 3-2 against a full-strength West Indies National team.

In 2011, Bangladesh successfully co-hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 with India and Sri Lanka. They also hosted the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 championship. Bangladesh hosted the Asia Cup on four occasions in 2000, 2012, 2014, and 2016.

In 2012 Asia Cup, Bangladesh beat India and Sri Lanka but lost the final game against Pakistan. However, it was the first time Bangladesh had advanced to the final of any top-class international cricket tournament. They reached the final again at the 2016 Asia Cup and 2018 Asia Cup. They participated at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, defeating Afghanistan to claim their Gold Medal in the first-ever cricket tournament held in the Asian Games. Bangladeshi cricketer Sakib Al Hasan is No.1 on the ICC’s all-rounder rankings in all three formats of the cricket.

Women’s sports saw tremendous progress in the 2010s decade in Bangladesh. In 2018 the Bangladesh women’s national cricket team the 2018 Women’s Twenty20 Asia Cup defeating India women’s national cricket team in the final.

Kabaddi—very popular in Bangladesh—is the national game. Other popular sports include field hockey, tennis, badminton, handball, football, chess, shooting, angling. The National Sports Council regulates 42 different sporting federations. On 4 November 2018, Bangladesh national under-15 football team won the 2018 SAFF U-15 Championship, defeating Pakistan national under-15 football team in the final. Bangladesh has five grandmasters in chess. Among them, Niaz Murshed was the first grandmaster in South Asia. In another achievement, Margarita Mamun, a Russian rhythmic gymnast of Bangladeshi origin, won gold medal in 2016 Summer Olympics and became world champion in the years 2013 and 2014.

Media and Cinema

Anwar Hossain in the film “Nawab Sir

The Bangladeshi press is diverse, outspoken and privately owned. Over 200 newspapers are published in the country. Bangladesh Betar is the state-run radio service. The British Broadcasting Corporation operates the popular BBC Bangla news and current affairs service. Bengali broadcasts from Voice of America are also very popular. Bangladesh Television (BTV) is the state-owned television network. There more than 20 privately owned television networks, including several news channels. Freedom of the media remains a major concern, due to government attempts at censorship and the harassment of journalists.

The cinema of Bangladesh dates back to 1898, when films began screening at the Crown Theatre in Dhaka. The first bioscope on the subcontinent was established in Dhaka that year. The Dhaka Nawab Family patronized the production of several silent films in the 1920s and 30s. In 1931, the East Bengal Cinematograph Society released the first full-length feature film in Bangladesh, titled the Last Kiss. The first feature film in East Pakistan, Mukh O Mukhosh, was released in 1956. During the 1960s, 25–30 films were produced annually in Dhaka. By the 2000s, Bangladesh produced 80–100 films a year. While the Bangladeshi film industry has achieved limited commercial success, the country has produced notable independent filmmakers. Zahir Raihan was a prominent documentary-maker who was assassinated in 1971. The late Tareque Masud is regarded as one of Bangladesh’s outstanding directors due to his numerous productions on historical and social issues. Masud was honored by FIPRESCI at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival for his film The Clay Bird. Tanvir Mokammel, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, Humayun Ahmed, Alamgir Kabir, and Chashi Nazrul Islam are some of the prominent directors of Bangladeshi cinema. Bangladesh have very active film society culture. its started in 1963 at Dhaka. Now around 40 Film Society active in all over Bangladesh. Federation of Film Societies of Bangladesh is the parent organization of the film society movement of Bangladesh. Active film societies include the Rainbow Film Society, Children’s Film Society, Moviyana Film Society & Dhaka University Film Society.

Museums and Libraries

Museum in old Dhaka

The Varendra Research Museum is the oldest museum in Bangladesh. It houses important collections from both the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods, including the sculptures of the Pala-Sena School of Art and the Indus Valley Civilization; as well as Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian manuscripts and inscriptions. The Ahsan Manzil, the former residence of the Nawab of Dhaka, is a national museum housing collections from the British Raj. It was the site of the founding conference of the All India Muslim League and hosted many British Viceroys in Dhaka.

The Tajhat Palace Museum preserves artifacts of the rich cultural heritage of North Bengal, including Hindu-Buddhist sculptures and Islamic manuscripts. The Mymensingh Museum houses the personal antique collections of Bengali aristocrats in central Bengal. The Ethnological Museum of Chittagong showcases the lifestyle of various tribes in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh National Museum is located in Ramna, Dhaka and has a rich collection of antiquities. The Liberation War Museum documents the Bangladeshi struggle for independence and the 1971 genocide.

In ancient times, manuscripts were written on palm leaves, tree barks, parchment vellum and terracotta plates and preserved at monasteries known as viharas. The Hussain Shahi dynasty established royal libraries during the Bengal Sultanate. Libraries were established in each district of Bengal by the zamindar gentry during the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th century. The trend of establishing libraries continued until the beginning of World War II. In 1854, four major public libraries were opened, including the Bogra Woodburn Library, the Rangpur Public Library, the Jessore Institute Public Library and the Barisal Public Library.

The Northbrook Hall Public Library was established in Dhaka in 1882 in honour of Lord Northbrook, the Governor-General. Other libraries established in the British period included the Victoria Public Library, Natore (1901), the Sirajganj Public Library (1882), the Rajshahi Public Library (1884), the Comilla Birchandra Library (1885), the Shah Makhdum Institute Public Library, Rajshahi (1891), the Noakhali Town Hall Public Library (1896), the Prize Memorial Library, Sylhet (1897), the Chittagong Municipality Public Library (1904) and the Varendra Research Library (1910). The Great Bengal Library Association was formed in 1925. The Central Public Library of Dhaka was established in 1959. The National Library of Bangladesh was established in 1972. The World Literature Centre founded by Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Abdullah Abu Sayeed, is noted for operating numerous mobile libraries across Bangladesh and was awarded the UNESCO Jon Amos Comenius Medal.

COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA.ORG

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