What is Bangladesh and its culture

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The estimated population of Bangladesh is over 140 million people (2004). The population density is 1024 people per square kilometer (km²) and is thus the highest among the large states; the people are relatively evenly distributed over the area, with the exception of the sparsely populated areas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Sundarbans in the south-west of the country. Bangladesh's population growth rate decreased to 1.6% in the 1990s and is now around 1.7%.

The majority of the Bangladeshi live in the countryside, only 27% are distributed among the cities. The most important of these are the capital Dhaka with at least 5 million inhabitants, Chittagong, the largest port city, with 1.6 million, Khulna, a steadily growing industrial city, with 600,000, Naranganj, the inland port city for Dhaka, with 270,000 and Rajshahi with 325,000 inhabitants as well the north-east lying Sylhet.

Ethnic composition

The overwhelming majority of the population of Bangladesh are Bengali, they are descended from Indo-Aryan immigrants who came in several waves of immigration since the 10th century B.C.E. settled the Indian subcontinent, and probably reached Bengal during the Buddha's lifetime (500 B.C.E.).

Among the few minorities are the so-called Biharis, about 1.5 million Urdu-speaking refugees who came to the Muslim-dominated delta plain from the Indian north-east during the conflict for independence for British India around 1948. During the war of secession of 1971, the majority of them confessed to Pakistan, which subsequently led to serious conflicts with the anti-Pakistani forces within the former East Pakistan and explains the fact that the Biharis were never really able to integrate.

The minorities also include around a million members of various ethnic groups who mainly live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The four largest include the Chakma, Tipras and Mros and Mogh. They are mostly of Sino-Tibetan descent and speak Tibetan-Burmese languages. In the course of major immigration from Bengal to this area, there were repeated clashes between the settlers, the police and the various ethnic groups who tried to obtain an autonomous status. Even after an agreement with the government in 1997 that provided for local autonomy for the Chittagong Hill Tract District, the situation has not changed significantly, as the agreement was poorly implemented.


The official language of the country is Bangla (Bengali), which is spoken by around 98% of Bangladeshis. Bangla has its own script, which is derived from Sanskrit. In addition, English is the lingua franca and business language. About 1.5 million Bangladeshis speak Urdu, which is the official language in Pakistan. In the border area with Myanmar, Tibetan-Burmese languages ​​are spoken sporadically.


The Bengali constitution guarantees freedom of belief. About 83% of Bangladeshis profess Islam, mainly Sunni, which is also the state religion. This makes Bangladesh one of the most populous Muslim countries in the world. The remaining 17% are made up for the most part from Hindus, who are spread all over Bangladesh, but also from smaller Buddhist, Christian and animist communities.

Family and social structure

In contrast to other developing countries, women make up less than half of the population with only 48%. Their death rate is also higher than that of men. A large number of women die in connection with pregnancy and childbirth, improper abortion or infection, or simply because they are too young. Many rural women are married off by their parents well before the age of 18.

The marriages are mostly arranged by so-called matchmakers. Paying dowry is officially forbidden, but is still practiced. Both divorce and polygamy, on the other hand, are permitted by law, but meet with rejection in society.

Bengali society is organized on a patriarchal basis, with women, apart from the richer sections of the population, playing a subordinate role.

The traditional center of life is the extended family, which often lives under one roof due to financial difficulties. However, the trend is towards the nuclear family, especially among younger people. For social security in old age or in the event of illness, the old family structures are still valid due to the lack of state social security systems: As a rule, the sons take care of their parents and grandmothers take care of the children while the parents go to work.

Education and Healthcare

The public education system leans heavily on the pre-1947 British model. Primary education is free and around 84% of all school-age children go to school, but there is no general compulsory education. However, this information is very imprecise. The enrollment rate has risen, but so has the rate of those who stay away from school afterwards or leave school without a school leaving certificate.

As a result, the number of school-goers in secondary school drops dramatically to 19%. In the higher grades, the proportion of girls is much lower than that of boys. Overall, there is a lack of teachers, school materials and schools.

Less than half (41%) of all Bangladeshis over the age of 15 are illiterate, among women it is as much as 73%. Bangladesh has 11 public and 18 private universities. The biggest is that University of Dhaka, also in the capital is the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and the Jahangirnagar University. Other universities are the Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh, the University of Chittagong and the University of Rajshahi.

Between 1993 and 2004, the government spent 7% of government spending on education and 18% on health care. Around a third of the population lives below the international poverty line. There is hardly any social security outside of the family. Only members of the public service enjoy limited government support.

The greatest health problems in Bangladesh are inadequate hygiene and the climate. However, the hunger situation has steadily improved since the state was founded. Nevertheless, between 1996 and 2004 48% of children under five were underweight. In rural areas in particular, diseases such as malaria, typhoid, smallpox and cholera are a constant threat.


Bangladesh's culture can hardly be separated from the rest of Bengal and the Indian subcontinent. The cultural development was shaped by the Buddhist and Hindu influences of early North Indian empires. From the 13th century, Islamic elements were added.

Since the early 19th century, Bengal was one of the cultural centers of British India. Numerous great poets and artists, both Hindus and Muslims, worked here. The most famous among them was the philosopher and poet Rabindranath Tagore, to whom the text of the national anthem of Bangladesh goes back.

The "higher" cultural life today is concentrated in the capital Dhaka, where the Bangla Acedemy which is dedicated to the dissemination and development of Bengali language and literature. The largest library is part of the Dhaka University. The National Museum is known for its artistic collections. The Varendra Research Museum, affiliated with the University of Rajshahi, is an important center for archaeological, anthropological and historical research.