Bangladesh (Bengali: বাংলাদেশ Bangladesh). ”The country of Bengal”), officially the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, is a country in South Asia. It is the world’s 8th-most populous country with a population exceeding 162,951,560 people. In area, it is the 92nd-largest country, spanning 147,570 square kilometres (56,980 sq mi). It shares land borders with India to the west and Myanmar to the east. It is also one of the most densely-populated countries in the world. Dhaka is its capital and largest city, and is also the economic, political and the cultural center of Bangladesh, followed by Chittagong, which has the country’s largest port. Bangladesh forms the largest and eastern part of the Bengal region. The country’s geography is dominated by the Bengal delta, the largest delta in the world. The country has many rivers and 8,046 km (5,000 mi) of inland waterways. Highlands with evergreen forests are found in the northeastern and southeastern regions of the country. The country also has the longest sea beach and the largest mangrove forest in the world. The country’s biodiversity includes a vast array of plants and wildlife, including the endangered Bengal tiger, the national animal.
According to the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Vanga Kingdom was known as an ally of the legendary Ayodhya and was notable for its strong navy. In the ancient and classical period of the Indian subcontinent, the territory of Bangladesh was home to many principalities, including the powerful Gangaridai, whose military power led Alexander the Great to withdraw from India. It was later dominated by the Pundra, Gauda, Samatata and Harikela. It was also a Mauryan province under the reign of Ashoka. The principalities were notable for their overseas trade, which involved contacts with the Roman world, the export of fine muslin and silk to the Middle East, and spreading philosophy and art to Southeast Asia. The principalities dominated the Bengal delta with powerful navies. The Pala Empire, the Chandra dynasty and the Sena dynasty were the last pre-Islamic Bengali middle kingdoms.
Islam was introduced during the Pala Empire, through trade with the Abbasid Caliphate, but following the early conquest of Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji and the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate and Shah Jalal in East Bengal, it fully spread across the entire region. During the Bengal Sultanate, founded in 1352, Bengal was transformed into a cosmopolitan Islamic superpower and became a major trading nation in the world, often referred by the Europeans as the richest country to trade with. Later, it was absorbed into the Mughal Empire in 1576, although part of the region was overran by the Suri Empire. The Bengal Subah, described as the Paradise of the Nations, was the empire’s wealthiest province, and a major global exporter, a notable center of worldwide industries such as muslin, cotton textiles, silk, and shipbuilding. Its citizens also enjoyed one of the world’s most superior living standards. The region was home to many principalities that made use of their inland naval prowess such as the Baro-Bhuyans. Bengal accounted for 40% of overall Dutch imports from Asia, for example, including more than 50% of textiles and around 80% of silks. Bengal’s economy have waved the period of proto-industrialization.
By the 18th century, Bengal briefly emerged as an independent state, under the Nawabs of Bengal, before being conquered by the British East India Company at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, which directly contributed to the Industrial Revolution in Britain, but led to deindustrialization in Bengal. The region was later administered by the United Kingdom as part of the Bengal Presidency (1757–1905; 1912–1947) and Eastern Bengal and Assam Province (1905–1912) in British India. Notable personalities of Bengal Renaissance played a pivotal role in the decolonization and the region was a hotbed of the independence movement. In 1947, the Bengal Legislative Council and the Bengal Legislative Assembly voted on the Partition of Bengal, while a referendum caused the Sylhet region to join East Bengal. The area became part of the Dominion of Pakistan and was renamed East Pakistan. Beginning with the Bengali Language Movement in 1952, the pro-democracy movement in East Pakistan thrived on Bengali nationalism, resulting in the Bangladesh Liberation War and Indian military intervention in 1971, eventually led creation of the nation of Bangladesh.
Bangladeshis include people from a range of ethnic groups and religions. Bengalis, who speak the official Bengali language, make up 98% of the population. The politically dominant Bengali Muslims make the nation the world’s fourth largest Muslim-majority country. While recognising Islam as the country’s established religion, the constitution grants freedom of religion to non-Muslims. A middle power, Bangladesh is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic in the Westminster tradition. The country is divided into eight administrative divisions and sixty-four districts. It is one of the emerging and growth-leading economies of the world, and is listed among the Next Eleven countries. It has one of the fastest real GDP growth rates in the world. Its gross domestic product ranks 39th largest in the world in terms of market exchange rates and 29th in purchasing power parity. Its per capita income ranks 143th and 136th in two measures.
Main article: Names of Bengal
The etymology of Bangladesh (Country of Bengal) can be traced to the early 20th century, when Bengali patriotic songs, such as Namo Namo Namo Bangladesh Momo by Kazi Nazrul Islam and Aaji Bangladesher Hridoy by Rabindranath Tagore, used the term. The term Bangladesh was often written as two words, Bangla Desh, in the past. Starting in the 1950s, Bengali nationalists used the term in political rallies in East Pakistan. The term Bangla is a major name for both the Bengal region and the Bengali language. The earliest known usage of the term is the Nesari plate in 805 AD. The term Vangaladesa is found in 11th-century South Indian records.
The term gained official status during the Sultanate of Bengal in the 14th century. Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah proclaimed himself as the first “Shah of Bangala” in 1342. The word Bangla became the most common name for the region during the Islamic period. The Portuguese referred to the region as Bengala in the 16th century.
The exact origin of the word Bangla is unknown, though it is believed to come from “Vanga”, an ancient kingdom and geopolitical division on the Ganges delta in the Indian subcontinent. It was located in southern Bengal, with the core region including present-day southern West Bengal (India) and southwestern Bangladesh. The suffix “al” came to be added to it from the fact that the ancient rajahs of this land raised mounds of earth 10 feet high and 20 in breadth in lowlands at the foot of the hills which were called “al”. From this suffix added to the Bung, the name Bengal arose and gained currency”. This is also mentioned in Ghulam Husain Salim’s Riyaz-us-Salatin.
Other theories point to a Bronze Age proto-Dravidian tribe, the Austric word “Bonga” (Sun god), and the Iron Age Vanga Kingdom. The Indo-Aryan suffix Desh is derived from the Sanskrit word deśha, which means “land” or “country”. Hence, the name Bangladesh means “Land of Bengal” or “Country of Bengal”.