national flag consisting of a dark bluish green field (background) incorporating a large, off-centre orange-red disk. The flag's width-to-length ratio is 3 to 5. From its founding in 1949, the Awami League was the expression of Bengali nationalism in the territory then known as East Pakistan. Following elections in December 1970, which the league won, the military ruler of Pakistan canceled the National Assembly. Opposition to this by the Awami League led to the creation of a national flag for the Bengali homeland, Bangladesh. The flag of Bangladesh, like that of Pakistan, is dark green. This is a symbol of the Islamic faith of most of the population. Bengalis officially have a secular state, however, and therefore have defined the green as a symbol of the rich vegetation of their country and of the hope placed in their youth. The first flag, designed by a student named Serajul Alam, bore a red disk in the centre with a gold silhouette map of East Pakistan. When Mujibur Rahman (Sheikh Mujib), the leader of the Awami League, spoke out in favour of Bengali autonomy in March 1971, the new flag was displayed behind him. Pakistan soon undertook repressive measures and arrested Mujib, who responded by calling upon Bengalis to proclaim independence. With the support of Indian troops in December, the Bengalis were successful in their struggle, and a new government was proclaimed in January. On January 13, 1972, the national flag was modified. The silhouette map of the land was eliminated, and the red disk was shifted slightly off-centre toward the hoist. The symbolism of the red was defined as the blood shed by Bengalis in their fight for independence. The disk was said to be a symbol of the rising sun of a new country. Whitney Smith History Land, language, and religion Bangladesh has existed as an independent state only since 1971, yet its national character dates to the ancient past (see also the articles India, history of and Pakistan, history of). This identity consists in three distinctive attributesa land, a language, and a religion. The land is shaped by the two great rivers, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, which join in central Bangladesh to become the Padma. They are the greatest of a series of rivers winding down to the Bay of Bengal. This region has always been isolated from the north Indian plain. In early times eastern Bengal was called Vanga, while western Bengal was known as Gauda. The Bengali language began to assume a distinct form in the 7th century AD and by the 11th century had acquired its own literature. The Bengali Renaissance of the 19th century was centred in Calcutta, and its greatest figure was the poet Rabindranath Tagore. Almost all of the movement's literary and artistic celebrities were Hindus. The Buddhism that under the Mauryan emperor Asoka's patronage spread across the whole subcontinent in the 3rd century BC was driven out after the decline of Maurya power, as Brahmanical Hinduism reestablished its hold. In remote eastern Bengal, however, Buddhism lingered on under the Pala kings (8th12th century) until their overthrow by the Senas, who worshiped the Hindu god Vishnu. The Senas encouraged the settlement of high-caste Hindus as lords of the land, but this did not greatly affect the general populace. Then, in about AD 1200, Muslim invaders from the northwest overthrew the Senas, and Islam found a mass following among the Vanga people. In the eastern part of the countryNoakhali, Chittagong, and SylhetArab traders also spread Islamic teaching. Whereas in northern India the strength of caste Hinduism was enough to withstand centuries of Muslim dominance, culminating in the Mughal dynasty (16th18th century), in eastern Bengal, Islam became the religion of the majority. As Mughal authority declined, the Suba, or Dominion, of Bengalincluding Bihar and Orissabecame semi-independent. The threat to the Muslim rulers of the Suba came first from the east from Arakanese pirates and Portuguese raiders, and in 1608 the capital was moved from Rajmahal to Dhaka. When further invasion threatened from central India from the rising power of the Maratha kingdom, the capital was shifted to Murshidabad in 1704. It was during this period that the English East India Company established its base at Calcutta. From 1757 the British were the dominant political power in Bengal. Reluctant to become involved in Indian administration, the British confirmed the landed magnates, or zamindars, in their charge of vast estates. Some were Muslims (such as the Nawab of Dhaka), but most were Hindu rajas, even in eastern Bengal. They were required to collect revenue from the land, and they appointed agents to ensure regular collection. These agents formed the new middle class of Bengal, the bhadralok (respectable people). Mainly upper-caste Hindus, they collected the revenue from peasants, who were mainly Muslims. The bhadralok resided in Calcutta and the larger towns; in time they became the most active advocates of Indian self-government. The province of Bengal was almost impossible to administer, even though Assam was made a separate province in 1874. In 1905, largely at the initiative of the viceroy, Lord Curzon, two new provinces were created: Western Bengal, with Bihar and Orissa, and Eastern Bengal and Assam. The division, made on a geopolitical rather than an avowedly communal basis, followed one of the branch rivers of the Ganges from Rajmahal in the north to the sea. It gave Eastern Bengal, with its capital at Dhaka, a population of 31 million, all but 6 million being Bengalis. Behind Curzon's move, besides greater efficiency, was the intention of encouraging the Bengali Muslims as a counterweight to the seditious Bengali Hindus. The partition elicited vociferous protest in Western Bengal, especially in Calcutta. A prominent part was played by Tagore, whose family had vast holdings along the Padma. The campaign included a boycott of British manufactures under the slogan swadeshi (literally of our own country, but also meaning India-made goods). The Muslim notables, still loyal to the British, decided that they also needed to organize. Their principal leaders were in northern India, but in December 1906 they gathered at Dhaka under the patronage of Nawab Salimullah and set up the All-India Muslim League. Their efforts secured separate electorates and separate constituencies for the Muslims under the 1909 Reforms, but the campaign against the partition of Bengal went on, and in 1912 the province was reunited (Bihar and Orissa being separated and Assam reverting to separate status). Despite the separate electorates, the Muslim League had no majority in any province. In reunited Bengal, where Muslims formed a majority of the population (33 million in a total of 60 million), they received 117 seats in the Bengal Legislative Council numbering 250. It was necessary to adopt coalition tactics. The politician most adept at this was Fazl ul-Haq, chief minister of Bengal from 1937 to 1943. He set up his own Peasants and Tenants Party, but he was also active in the Muslim League from its inception. When in 1940 the Muslim League held its annual gathering at Lahore, Fazl ul-Haq proposed a resolution calling for independent states for the Muslims. The press labeled this the Pakistan Resolution, but for Fazl ul-Haq and many others it implied a plurality of states. Distrusted by the influential Indian Muslim politician Mohammed Ali Jinnah (the first governor-general of Pakistan ), Fazl ul-Haq was expelled from the league. In his place Khwaja Nazimuddin became chief minister. Nazimuddin, a relative of the nawab of Dhaka, was loyal to Jinnah but lacked political finesse. He was displaced in 1945 by the more sophisticated Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy. Suhrawardy was the main architect of the Muslim League's success in Bengal in the 1946 election. He became chief minister of Bengal in 1946. After protracted negotiations it became clear that the Congress Party (Indian National Congress) could not expect to preserve a united India. A major factor was the intense intercommunal conflict in August 1946 known as the Great Calcutta Killing. On his arrival as the new viceroy the following year, Admiral Lord Mountbatten drafted a plan to partition the subcontinent. Suhrawardy met with Sarat Chandra Bose, the acknowledged Hindu political leader in Bengal, and the two agreed that they should claim a separate, independent united Bengal. Jinnah was prepared to agree, as was Mountbatten, but Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress Party refused. When partition did come, it was decided by religion rather than language. The boundaries of East Pakistan The boundaries of East Pakistan, which the region became, were determined by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, chairman of the Boundary Commission, as there was total disagreement among his Hindu and Muslim colleagues. The boundary he defined did not follow any clear natural feature, as in the 1905 partition, nor was it wholly based on communal proportions. Excluded wholly or partly from East Pakistan were Murshidabad, Nadia, Jessore, and Dinajpur, each approximately 60 percent Muslim. Included were Khulna (49 percent Muslim) and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where Muslims formed only 3 percent of the population. In addition, following a plebiscite, the Sylhet area (61 percent Muslim), formerly a part of Assam province, and a small area of Cachar (38 percent) were included. On both sides of the new boundary, those who believed themselves a threatened minority moved into what they perceived as a place of refuge. Along with Muslim Bengalis arriving from Hindu majority districts, there were many Muslims who came from Bihar. One district, Purnea, had an actual Muslim majority and had been claimed by Jinnah. About one million Biharis settled in the new state. At independence, Suhrawardy lingered in Calcutta, and Nazimuddin became chief minister of East Pakistan. From the beginning, the link between the two parts of Pakistan was tenuous; indeed, their only common interest was fear of Indian domination. Jinnah and his advisers believed that unification might be achieved through a common language, Urdu, which was used in the army and administration. The Bengalis perceived this as a threat. Their other major grievance was that their export products, jute and tea, provided most of Pakistan's foreign exchange; yet the central government mainly stimulated development in the West. The Bengalis began to feel that they had no real power in Pakistan. When Jinnah died, Nazimuddin became governor-general; but when Liaquat Ali Khan, the prime minister, was shot in October 1951, Nazimuddin took over, installing a Punjabi, Ghulam Mohammad, as governor-general. Although Nazimuddin had a majority in the legislature, Ghulam Mohammad dismissed him in April 1953. The East Bengal electorate demonstrated its dissatisfaction when an election was held in March 1954. A United Front was formed, including the extreme right (religious fundamentalist) and left (quasi-Marxist). Its main leaders were the aged Fazl ul-Haq and his revamped Workers and Peasants Party and Suhrawardy, who made his comeback with a new party, the Awami League. The Front won 300 seats, while the Muslim League retained only 10. The Front ministers were dismissed after two months. Ghulam Mohammad appointed Major General Iskander Mirza governor of East Bengal. He announced a tough regime, and his task was simplified by the quarrels among the different elements of the United Front. The deputy speaker was killed in an assembly brawl. In 1956 Pakistan at last obtained a proper constitution in which both wings were equally represented. Thus far, prime ministers had come and gone; Suhrawardy, who took office in September 1956 with a motley group of supporters, lasted only one year. In 1958, government by politicians was superseded by a military regime. Under the military the elite civil servants assumed great importance, which adversely affected the East wing. In 1947 there had been only one Bengali Muslim in the Indian Civil Service (ICS), whereas the West wing had produced about 40. Although recruitment policy was designed to diminish the difference, by 1960 only about one-third of the personnel in the Civil Service of Pakistan (successor to the ICS) were Bengalis, with none in senior positions. Bengali discontent festered, finding a spokesman in Mujibur Rahman (known as Sheikh Mujib). Like previous leaders, Mujib belonged to a landed family. Mujib was one of the founders of the Awami League in 1949 and, after Suhrawardy's death, became its leading figure. Jailed repeatedly by the military, he acquired an aura of martyrdom, but he was an orator, not a statesman. He announced a six-point demand for autonomy. When in December 1970 President Yahya Khan ordered elections, the Awami League won 167 of the 169 seats allotted to East Pakistan, or Bangladesh as it was now popularly called, in the National Assembly. This gave the League an overall majority in a chamber of 313 members. In West Pakistan, however, the Pakistan People's Party, led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, won 81 of 144 seats; Bhutto saw himself as Mujib's rival. Throughout March 1971 President Yahya Khan negotiated at length in Dhaka with Mujib while government troops poured in from West Pakistan. Then, on March 25, the army launched a massive attack in which there were heavy casualties, including many students. Mujib was arrested and flown to West Pakistan. Most of the Awami League leaders fled and set up a government-in-exile in Calcutta, declaring Bangladesh an independent state. Internal resistance was mobilized by some Bengali units of the regular army, notably by Major Zia ur-Rahman, who held out for some days in Chittagong before the town's recapture by the Pakistan army. He then retreated to the border and began to organize bands of guerrillas. A different resistance was started by student militants, among whom Abdul Kader Siddiqi with his followers, known as Kader Bahini, acquired a reputation for ferocity. Some 10 million Bengalis, mainly Hindus, fled over the frontier into India. The Indian government watched the struggle with alarm. The Awami League, which they supported, was a moderate middle-class body like the Congress Party; but many guerrillas were leftist. The United States and China, for different reasons, were committed to a united Pakistan; India and the Soviet Union wanted a Bangladesh dependent on India. Eventually, on Dec. 3, 1971, the Indian army invaded the territory of its neighbour. The Pakistani defenses surrendered on December 16. Mujib was released from jail and returned to a hero's welcome, assuming leadership of the new Bangladesh government in January 1972. Hugh Russell Tinker Revenge was brought against those who had collaborated. Local paramilitary forces, known as Razakars, had been raised. The Bengali force was called Al-Badr, while another, Al-Shams, was recruited from Urdu speakersstill called Biharis, though most had been born locally. A terrible retribution ensued, with Kader Siddiqi as public executioner. The Biharis had to flee into enclaves where their numbers gave some security, but many were killed. Hundreds of thousands of Biharis were placed in overcrowded refugee camps, where decades later many still awaited immigration to Pakistan. Mujib preached a secular state, and the new national anthem was a poem by Tagore. In 1973 an election gave Mujib a landslide majority, but the euphoria soon turned sour. Prices escalated, and in 1974 a great famine claimed 50,000 lives. Faced with crisis, Mujib became a virtual dictator; corruption and nepotism reached new depths. On Aug. 15, 1975, Mujib was assassinated along with most of his family. Right-wing, pro-Pakistan army officers were behind the killing, but there also have been allegations of U.S. support. The reconstructed army split into rival factions. Some of those who had fought in the resistance were politicized, especially the soldiers. The 1,000 officers and 28,000 soldiers who had been serving in the West since 1970 were not repatriated until 197374; they were allegedly pro-Pakistan and jealous of the fighters whom Mujib had favoured. A third military group comprised those who had worked with the Pakistanis in their brutal repression. A second coup in November 1975 brought Major General Zia ur-Rahman into power. Despite his own resistance record he turned against India and favoured those considered pro-Pakistan. A referendum held in May 1977 gave him an enormous vote of confidence. This did not prevent several military coup attempts, however, and on May 30, 1981, he was assassinated by radical officers. The prompt action of the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Hossain Mohammad Ershad, foiled their plans, and the conspirators were hanged. The civilian vice-president, Abdus Sattar, was confirmed as president by a nationwide election in 1981, but he was ill, and real power was exercised by Ershad and a National Security Council. On March 24, 1982, Ershad ejected Sattar and took over as chief martial-law administrator. In December 1983 he assumed the office of president. To legitimize his authority he called elections for a National Assembly, and formed his own National Party. The election of May 1986 was contested by many parties. The National Party won 210 of the 330 seats in the legislature, just short of the two-thirds majority required to pass a fundamental law to legalize the martial-law regulations and revert to constitutional practice. Ershad retired from the military command the following August, demonstrating his confidence that the army was now under control. He called a presidential election for October, but the main opposition partiesthe Awami League, now led by Mujib's daughter, Sheikh Hasina Wajad, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, headed by Begum Khaleda Zia ur-Rahman, wife of the slain presidentboycotted the election. Ershad received 84 percent of the total. The opposition parties began a campaign of strikes and demonstrations to force Ershad's resignation. In the late 1980s the poor state of the country's economy brought greater pressure on Ershad, and in December 1990, after weeks of violent antigovernment demonstrations, he finally agreed to step down. A caretaker government, headed by Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, was chosen by the opposition parties. In parliamentary elections held just two months later, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party emerged as the single largest block, and Zia became prime minister. This political turmoil had little relevance to the country's basic problems. At the 1951 census the East Pakistan population numbered 42 million (about 12 million being Hindus); by the early 1990s there were more than 100 million, despite massive emigration to neighbouring Assam and Tripura in India and a smaller exodus over the Arakan border with Myanmar. Agriculture was still the occupation of more than half the labour force, and what economic development there had been was confined to the environs of Dhaka and Chittagong. Hugh Russell Tinker The Editors of the Encyclopdia Britannica The economy Agriculture Bangladesh is overwhelmingly agricultural, with some three-fifths of the population engaged in farming. Jute and tea, which are principal sources of foreign exchange, follow rice as the most important agricultural products. The country produces about one-fifth of the world's supply of raw jute. Other important agricultural products are wheat, pulses (leguminous plants, such as peas, beans, and lentils), sweet potatoes, oilseeds of various kinds, sugarcane, tobacco, and fruits such as bananas, mangoes, and pineapples. Agriculture has in the past been wholly dependent upon the vagaries of the monsoon. A poor monsoon has always meant poor harvests and the threat of famine. Among the remedial measures adopted has been the construction of a number of irrigation projects designed to control floods and to conserve rainwater for use in the dry months. The most important are the Karnaphuli Multipurpose Project in the southeast, the Tista Barrage Project in the north, and the Ganges-Kabadak Project, to serve the southwestern part of the country. Economic planning has encouraged double and triple cropping, intercropping, and the increased use of fertilizers. Fisheries The rivers of Bangladesh are suitable for breeding and raising fish. Its rivers and seacoast offer opportunities for the usual types of fisheries, mostly in the estuaries of the Bay of Bengal. Among the varieties of fish caught are the marine rupchanda, or pomfret, and the freshwater hilsa, a relative of the shad. The land Relief Bangladesh constitutes the eastern two-thirds of the Ganges-Brahmaputra deltaic plain, which stretches northward from the Bay of Bengal. Except for small higher areas of jungle-covered old alluvium (rising to about 100 feet [30 metres]) in the northwest and north-centrecalled, respectively, the Barind and Madhupur tractsthe plain is a flat surface of recent alluvium, having a gentle slope and generally with an elevation of less than 30 feet above sea level. In the northeast and southeast the alluvial plainscalled, respectively, the Sylhet and Chittagong hillsgive place to ridges, running mainly north-south, that form part of the mountain divide with Myanmar and India. Bangladesh is fringed on the south by the Sundarbans, a huge expanse of marshy deltaic forest. The Barind Tract is a triangular wedge of land in northwestern Bangladesh located between the floodplains of the Ganges (also known in Bangladesh as the Padma) and the Jamuna (the main channel of the lower Brahmaputra). The soil of this region is hard, reddish clay, and the region is comparatively elevated. A depression called the Bhar Basin extends southeast of the Barind Tract for about 100 miles between the floodplains of the Ganges and Jamuna rivers to their confluence. This area is inundated during the summer monsoon season, in some places to a depth of 12 feet. The drainage of the western part of the basin is centred in the vast marshy area called the Chalan wetlands, also known as Chalan Lake. The floodplains of the Jamuna, which lie north of the Bhar Basin and east of the Barind Tract, stretch from the border with Assam in the north to the confluence of the Ganges and Jamuna in the south. The area is dominated by the Jamuna, which frequently overflows its banks in devastating floods. South of the Bhar Basin is the floodplain of the Ganges. In north-central Bangladesh, east of the Jamuna floodplains, is the Madhupur Tract. It consists of an elevated plateau, with hillocks varying in height from 30 to 60 feet, and cultivated valleys. The Madhupur Tract contains sal trees, whose hardwood is comparable in value and utility to teak. East of the Madhupur Tract, in northeastern Bangladesh, is a region called the Northeastern Lowland. It encompasses the southern and southwestern parts of the Sylhet area (including the valley plain of the Surma River) and the northern part of the Mymensingh area and has a large number of lakes. The Sylhet Hills in the far northeast of the region consist of a number of hillocks and hills ranging from 100 feet to more than 1,100 feet in height. In east-central Bangladesh the Brahmaputra River in its old course built up the Meghna Flood Basin, which includes the low and fertile Meghna-Lakhya Doab (the land area between those rivers). This area is enriched by the Titas distributary, and land areas are formed and changed by the deposition of silt and sand in the riverbeds of the Meghna River, especially between Bhairab Bazar and Daudkandi. Dhaka is located in this region. In southern Bangladesh the Central Delta Basins include the extensive lakes in the central part of the Bengal Delta, to the south of the Ganges. The basin's total area is about 1,200 square miles. The belt of land in southwestern Bangladesh bordering the Bay of Bengal constitutes the Immature Delta. The belta lowland of some 3,000 square milescontains, in addition to the vast mangrove forest known as the Sundarbans, the reclaimed and cultivated lands to the north of it. The area nearest the Bay of Bengal is crisscrossed by a network of streams that flow around roughly oblong islands. The Active Delta, located north of the Central Delta Basins and east of the Immature Delta, includes the Dhaleswari-Padma Doab and the estuarine islands of varying sizes that are found from the Pusur River in the southwest to the island of Sandwip near Chittagong in the southeast. Lying to the south of the Feni River in southeastern Bangladesh, the Chittagong region has many hills, hillocks, valleys, and forests and is quite different in aspect from other parts of the country. The coastal plain is partly sandy and partly composed of saline clay; it extends southward from the Feni River to the town of Cox's Bazar and varies in width from 1 to 10 miles. The region has a number of offshore islands and one coral reef, St. Martin's, off the coast of Myanmar. The hilly area known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the far southeast consists of low hills of soft rocks, mainly clay and shale. The north-south ranges are generally below 2,000 feet in height. Drainage Boat traffic on the Burhi Ganga River, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The most significant feature of the Bangladesh landscape is provided by the rivers, which have molded not only its physiography but also the way of life of the people. Rivers in Bangladesh, however, are subject to constant and sometimes rapid changes of course, which can affect the hydrology of a large region; consequently, no description of Bangladesh's topography retains its absolute accuracy for long. One spectacular example of such a change occurred in 1787, when the Tista River underwent exceptionally high flooding; its waters were suddenly diverted eastward, where they reinforced the Brahmaputra. The swollen Brahmaputra in turn began to cut into a minor stream, which by the early 1800s became the river's main lower course, now known as the Jamuna. A much smaller river (the Old Brahmaputra) now flows through the Brahmaputra's former course. Each year between June and October the rivers overflow their banks and inundate the countryside, rising most heavily in September or October and receding quickly in November. The inundations are both a blessing and a curse. Without them, the fertile silt deposits would not be replenished, but severe floods regularly damage crops and ruin hamlets and sometimes take a heavy toll on human and animal populations. The rivers may be divided into five systems: (1) The Ganges, or Padma, and its deltaic streams, (2) the Meghna and the Surma river system, (3) the Jamuna and its adjoining channels, (4) the North Bengal rivers, and (5) the rivers of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the adjoining plains. The Ganges is the pivot of the deltaic river system of Bengal. The river and its tributaries enclose a large area of southwestern Bangladesh, and the Ganges Delta covers about 20,000 square miles. The Ganges River system is divided into two segments, the Ganges and the Padma, although within Bangladesh the entire length of the river is called the Padma. The Ganges enters Bangladesh from the west and forms, for about 90 miles, the boundary between Bangladesh and West Bengal. It forms numerous distributaries and spill channels and reaches its confluence with the Jamuna west of Dhaka, after which their combined waters are known as the Padma. The Padma flows southeast to join the Meghna near Chandpur and enters the Bay of Bengal through the Meghna estuary and lesser channels. Except where it is confined by high banks, the Ganges' main channel changes course every two or three years. Its waters appear muddy owing to the volume of silt carried by the river. Silt deposits build temporary islands that reduce navigability but are so highly fertile that they have been for decades a source of feuds among peasants who rush to occupy them. The Meghna is formed by the union of the Sylhet-Surma and Kusiyara rivers. These two rivers are branches of the Barak River, which rises in the Nagar-Manipur watershed in India. The main branch of the Barak, the Surma, is joined near Azmiriganj in northeastern Bangladesh by the Kalni and farther down by the Kusiyara branch. The Dhaleswari, a distributary of the Jamuna River, joins the Meghna a few miles above the junction of the Padma and the Meghna. As it meanders south, the Meghna grows larger after receiving the waters of a number of rivers, including the Burhi Ganga and the Sitallakhya. The Jamuna and its adjoining channels cover a large area from north-central Bangladesh to the Meghna River in the southeast. The Jamuna receives waters from a number of rivers, especially on its right bank, and, with its notoriously shifting channels, not only prevents permanent settlement along its banks but also inhibits communication between the northern area of Bangladesh and the eastern part, where Dhaka is situated. The Tista is the most important water carrier of northwestern Bangladesh. Rising in the Himalayas near Sikkim, India, it flows southward, turning southeast near Darjiling (Darjeeling) to enter Bangladesh and eventually meeting the Jamuna. Navigation of its lower reaches is made difficult by the shoals and quicksand that form near the junction with the Brahmaputra. Four main rivers constitute the river system of the Chittagong Hills and the adjoining plainsthe Feni, the Karnaphuli, the Sangu, and the Matamuhari. Flowing generally west and southwest across the coastal plain, they empty into the Bay of Bengal. Of these rivers the longest is the Karnaphuli, which is dammed at Kaptai, about 30 miles upstream from its mouth near the city of Chittagong. None of the major rivers of Bangladesh originates within the country's territory. The headwaters of the Surma are in India; the Ganges rises in Nepal and the Brahmaputra in China, but they, too, reach Bangladesh across Indian territory. Thus, Bangladesh lacks full control over the flow of any of the streams that irrigate it. The construction of a barrage upstream at Farakka in West Bengal has led to the diversion of a considerable volume of water from the Ganges, and the flow to western Bangladesh is insufficient in the dry season from November to April. The equitable distribution of the river's waters has been since the 1970s a source of friction between India and Bangladesh. The people Ethnic composition and distribution Bangladesh is a melting pot of races. The proto-Australoids, sometimes called Veddas, were one of the earliest groups to enter the area. According to some ethnologists, they were followed by Mediterranean Caucasoids (whites), also known as Aryans. Armenoids (of Indo-European stock) are believed to have entered as well. With the coming of the Muslims in the 8th century AD, new elements were introduced; persons of Arab, Persian, and Turkish origin moved in large numbers to the subcontinent. By the beginning of the 13th century they had entered what is now Bangladesh. The contention that Bengali Muslims are all descended from lower-caste Hindus who were converted to Islam is incorrect; a substantial proportion are descendants of the Muslims who reached the subcontinent from elsewhere. Most of the tribal peoples of Bangladesh inhabit the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the southeast, the least densely settled area of the country. They are predominantly Buddhist, and some of the tribes are related to the peoples of Myanmar. Of the approximately 12 ethnolinguistic groups of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the four largest are the Chakma, the Marma (Magh or Mogh), the Tripura (Tipra), and the Mro. Since the mid-1970s ethnic tensions and periodic violence have marked the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where many tribal peoples object to the influx of Muslim Bengali settlers. Tribal peoples in other parts of Bangladesh include the Santals, of the proto-Australoid group, the Khasis, the Garo, and the Hajang. The Santals live in the northwestern part of Bangladesh, the Khasis in Sylhet in the Khasi Hills near the border with Assam, and the Garo and Hajang in the northeastern part of the country. Apart from these tribes, the rest of the people are Bengalisan ethnic as well as a linguistic group. The Bengalis, however, are not homogeneous in origin. In general, the people of the coastal areas, with whom the Muslim merchants of the Middle East were in close touch, show physical features that seem to be the result of the admixture of local people with those of Turkish and Semitic origin. Linguistic composition Bengali, the language spoken in Bangladesh, belongs to the Indo-Aryan group of languages and is related to Sanskrit. Like Pali, however, and various other forms of Prakrit in ancient India, Bengali originated beyond the influence of the Brahman society of the Aryans. The Pala rulers of Bengal (8th to 12th century), who were Buddhists and whose religious language was Pali, did not inhibit the emergence of a colloquial tongue known as Gaudiya Prakrit. This colloquial tongue was the language from which Bengali was derived. Bengali is the mother tongue of about 98 percent of the people. Tribal peoples have their own distinct dialects, some of which are related to the Tibeto-Burman group of languages. English is spoken in urban centres and among educated groups. Bengali has two distinct styles: sadhu bhasa, the literary language, which contains many words derived from Sanskrit, and calit bhasa, the colloquial language, which is the standard medium of informal discourse, both spoken and written. Until the 1930s sadhu bhasa was used for all printed matter, but calit bhasa is now the basic form used for modern literature. There are a number of dialects. Bengali contains a large number of loanwords from Portuguese, English, Arabic, Persian, and Hindi.
BANGLADESH, FLAG OF
Meaning of BANGLADESH, FLAG OF in English
Britannica English vocabulary. Английский словарь Британика. 2012