? Introduction to the country: “Bangladesh” is a combination of the Bengali words, Bangla and Desh, meaning the country or land where the Bangla language is spoken. The country formerly was known as East Pakistan. ? What is Culture: o The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group. o The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. o Culture has been taken as constituting the way of life of an entire society, including the codes of manners, language, rituals, norms of behavior, and systems of belief. Geographical location of Bangladesh: Bangladesh, a country in South Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and India. It lies between latitudes 20° and 27°N, and longitudes 88° and 93°E. It is located in the delta of Padma (Ganges [Ganga]) and Jamuna (Brahmaputra) rivers in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent. Bangladesh has a total area of 144,000 sq km, of which 133,910 sq km consists of land and 10,090 sq km area on water. ? History of the country:
The riverine country of Bangladesh (“Land of the Bengals”) is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and its people are predominantly Muslim. As the eastern portion of the historical region of Bengal, the area once formed, along with what is now the Indian state of West Bengal, the province of Bengal in British India. With the partition of India in 1947, it became the Pakistani province of East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan), one of five provinces of Pakistan, separated from the other four by 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of Indian territory.
In 1971 it became the independent country of Bangladesh, with its capital at Dhaka. ? Main culture of the country: ? Hierarchy • Bangladesh is a hierarchical society. • People are respected because of their age and position. • Older people are naturally viewed as wise and are granted respect. • Bangladeshis expect the most senior male, by age or position, to make decisions that are in the best interest of the group. This is also valid in businesses, the majority of which will be family owned/run. ? Religion • The majority of Bangladeshis are Muslim.
However, most still very much mix this with pre-Islam folk traditions. • Bangladeshis identify with the folk traditions of Bengali culture. This includes belief in shamanism and the powers of fakirs (Muslim holy men who are exorcists and faith healers), ojhaa (shamins with magical healing powers), and Bauls (religious mendicants and wandering musicians). • There is a strong tradition of music, dance, and literature that includes classical devotions of Hindu and Muslim music. ? Festivals : • Islam defines many of the festivals in Bangaldesh.
These include two Eids (one after Ramadan and one after the Hajj) Shab-e-Qadr (the night of power), Milad un-Nabi (birth date of the Prophet Muhammad) and Shab-e-Barat (the night of the fortune). • Hindu influences festivals include Durga Puja and Kali Puja (community worshipping of Goddess Durga and Kali). • On the whole an entire community participates in each other’s religious ceremonies. ? Sub cultures of the country: Bangladesh is ethnically homogeneous, with Bengalis comprising 98% of the population. The majority of Bangladeshis (about 90%) are Muslims, and a small number of Hindus, Christians and Buddhists are also in the country.
But due to immense cultural diversity, multiple dialects, hybridization of social traits and norms as well as cultural upbringing, Bangladeshis can not be stereotyped very easily, except for the only fact that they are very resilient in nature. ? Cultural and social norms of the country: The components of bangladeshi culture are discussed below: ? Linguistic affiliation: • The primary language is Bangla, called Bengali by most nonnatives, an Indo-European language spoken not just by . The primary language is Bangla, Bangladeshis, but also by people who are culturally Bengali. • The language dates from well before the birth of Christ.
Language differences mirror social and religious divisions. Bangla is divided into two fairly distinct forms: sadhu basha, learned or formal language, and cholit basha, common language. • Sadhu basha is the language of the literate tradition, formal essays and poetry, and the well educated • Cholit basha is the spoken vernacular, the language of the great majority of Bengalis. • There are also small usage variations between Muslims and Hindus, along with minor vocabulary differences. ? Symbolism: The most important symbol of national identity is the Bangla language. The flag is a dark green rectangle with a red circle just left of center.
Green symbolizes the trees and fields of the countryside; red represents the rising sun and the blood spilled in the 1971 war for liberation. The national anthem was taken from a poem by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and links a love of the natural realm and land with the national identity. ? Food in daily life: Rice and fish are the foundation of the diet; a day without a meal with rice is nearly inconceivable. Fish, meats, poultry, and vegetables are cooked in spicy curry ( torkari ) sauces that incorporate cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and other spices. Muslims do not consume pork and Hindus do not consume beef.
Increasingly common is the preparation of ruti, a whole wheat circular flatbread, in the morning, which is eaten with curries from the night before. Also important to the diet is dal, a thin soup based on ground lentils, chickpeas, or other legumes that is poured over rice. A sweet homemade yogurt commonly finishes a meal. A typical meal consists of a large bowl of rice to which is added small portions of fish and vegetable curries. Breakfast is the meal that varies the most, being rice- or bread-based. A favorite breakfast dish is panthabhat, leftover cold rice in water or milk mixed with gur (date palm sugar).
Food is eaten with the right hand by mixing the curry into the rice and then gathering portions with the fingertips. In city restaurants that cater to foreigners, people may use silverware. Three meals are consumed daily. Water is the most common beverage. Before the meal, the right hand is washed with water above the eating bowl. With the clean knuckles of the right hand the interior of the bowl is rubbed, the water is discarded, and the bowl is filled with food. After the meal, one washes the right hand again, holding it over the emptied bowl.
Snacks include fruits such as banana, mango, and jackfruit, as well as puffed rice and small fried food items. For many men, especially in urbanized regions and bazaars, no day is complete without a cup of sweet tea with milk at a small tea stall, sometimes accompanied by confections. ? Food customs at ceremonial occasions: • At weddings and on important holidays, food plays an important role. At holiday or formal functions, guests are encouraged to eat to their capacity. At weddings, a common food is biryani, a rice dish with lamb or beef and a blend of spices, particularly saffron.
On special occasions, the rice used is one of the finer, thinner-grained types. If biryani is not eaten, a complete multicourse meal is served: foods are brought out sequentially and added to one’s rice bowl after the previous course is finished. A complete dinner may include chicken, fish, vegetable, goat, or beef curries and dal. The final bit of rice is finished with yogurt ( doi ). • On other important occasions, such as the Eid holidays, a goat or cow is slaughtered on the premises and curries are prepared from the fresh meat. Some of the meat is given to relatives and to the poor. ? Classes and Castes:
The Muslim class system is similar to a caste structure. The ashraf is a small upperclass of old-money descendants of early Muslim officials and merchants whose roots are in Afghanistan, Turkey, and Iran. Some ashraf families trace their lineage to the Prophet Mohammed. The rest of the population is conceived of as the indigenous majority atraf. This distinction mirrors the Hindu separation between the Brahman and those in lower castes. While both Muslim and Hindu categories are recognized by educated people, the vast majority of citizens envision class in a more localized, rural context. Symbol of social startification: One of the most obvious symbols of class status is dress. The traditional garment for men is the lungi, a cloth tube skirt that hangs to the ankles; for women, the sari is the norm. The lungi is worn by most men, except those who consider themselves to have high socioeconomic status, among whom pants and shirt are worn. Also indicative of high standing are loose white cotton pajama pants and a long white shirt. White dress among men symbolizes an occupation that does not require physical labor.
A man with high standing will not be seen physically carrying anything; that task is left to an assistant or laborer. Saris also serve as class markers, with elaborate and finely worked cloth symbolizing high status. Poverty is marked by the cheap, rough green or indigo cotton cloth saris of poor women. Gold jewelry indicates a high social standing among women. A concrete-faced house and a ceramic tile roof provide evidence of wealth. An automobile is well beyond the means of most people, and a motorcycle is a sign of status. Color televisions, telephones, and electricity are other symbols associated with wealth. Gender discrimination: Women traditionally are in charge of household affairs and are not encouraged to move outside the immediate neighborhood unaccompanied. Thus, most women’s economic and social lives revolve around the home, children, and family. Islamic practice reserves prayer inside the mosque for males only; women practice religion within the home. ? The relative status of men and women: The society is patriarchal in nearly every area of life, although some women have achieved significant positions of political power at the national level.
For ordinary women, movement is confined, education is stressed less than it is for men, and authority is reserved for a woman’s father, older brother, and husband. ? Marriage: Marriage is almost always an arranged affair and takes place when the parents, particularly the father, decide that a child should be married. Men marry typically around age twenty-five or older, and women marry between ages fifteen and twenty; thus the husband is usually at least ten years older than the wife. Muslims allow polygynous marriage, but its occurrence is rare and is dependent on a man’s ability to support multiple households.
A parent who decides that a child is ready to marry may contact agencies, go-betweens, relatives, and friends to find an appropriate mate. Of immediate concern are the status and characteristics of the potential in-law’s family. Generally an equal match is sought in terms of family economic status, educational background, and piousness. A father may allow his child to choose among five or six potential mates, providing the child with the relevant data on each candidate. It is customary for the child to rule out clearly unacceptable candidates, leaving a slate of candidates from which the father can choose.
An arrangement between two families may be sealed with an agreement on a dowry and the types of gifts to be made to the groom. ? Divorce: Divorce is a source of social stigma. A Muslim man may initiate a divorce by stating “I divorce you” three times, but very strong family pressure ordinarily ensures that divorces do not occur. A divorce can be most difficult for the woman, who must return to her parent’s household. ? Inheritance: Islamic inheritance rules specify that a daughter should receive one-half the share of a son.
However, this practice is rarely followed, and upon a household head’s death, property is divided equally among his sons. Daughters may receive produce and gifts from their brothers when they visit as “compensation” for their lack of an inheritance. A widow may receive a share of her husband’s property, but this is rare. Sons, however, are custom-bound to care for their mothers, who retain significant power over the rest of the household. ? Ettiquette: Personal interaction is initiated with the greeting Assalam Waleykum (“peace be with you”), to which the required response is, Waleykum Assalam (“and with you”).
Among Hindus, the correct greeting is Nomoshkar, as the hands are brought together under the chin. Men may shake hands if they are of equal status but do not grasp hands firmly. Respect is expressed after a handshake by placing the right hand over the heart. Men and women do not shake hands with each other. In same-sex conversation, touching is common and individuals may stand or sit very close. The closer individuals are in terms of status, the closer their spatial interaction is. Leave-taking is sealed with the phrase Khoda Hafez. Differences in age and status are marked through language conventions.
Individuals with higher status are not addressed by personal name; instead, a title or kinship term is used. Visitors are always asked to sit, and if no chairs are available, a low stool or a bamboo mat is provided. It is considered improper for a visitor to sit on the floor or ground. It is incumbent on the host to offer guests something to eat. In crowded public places that provide services, such as train stations, the post office, or bazaars, queuing is not practiced and receiving service is dependent on pushing and maintaining one’s place within the throng.
Open staring is not considered impolite. ? Arts and Literature: Artists are largely self-supporting. Best known are the works of the two poet–heroes of the region: Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nurul Islam. Tagore are largely self-supporting. . His poem “Golden Bengal” was adopted as the national anthem. Some Hindu sculptors produce brightly painted works depicting Durga and other deities. Drawing and painting are most visible on the backs of rickshaws and the wooden sides of trucks. Bengali music encompasses a number of traditions and mirrors some of the country’s poetry.
The most common instruments are the harmonium, the tabla, and the sitar. Generally, classical musicians are adept at the rhythms and melodic properties associated with Hindu and Urdu devotional music. ? Social/cultural/religious festivals and events celebrated by the people of Bangladesh: ? Eid ul Fitr : This marks the celebration at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Bangladeshis mark this day by first taking part in a morning prayer with other Muslims. ? Eid ul Azha: Festival of sacrifice. The day marks the supreme devotion of Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) by his willingness to sacrifice his son.
Those who can afford to sacrifice cattle in the name of God, and the meat is then shared with friends, family, and the poor. This is also the culmination of the hajj or holy pilgrimage. Other significant days include Shab-e-Barat, Jamaat-ul-Wida, Shab-e-Qudr, and Muharram (Ashura). ? Pawhela Boishakh : Much of the traditioanal festivities in Bangladesh revolve around the Bengali Year, the most important of them being the Bengali New Year orPawhela Boishakh celebrations. The day is celebrated with much pomp and funfair. The picture to your left depicts a colorful rally in Dhaka City on that day.
The Bengali New Year begins at dawn, and the day is marked with singing, processios, and fairs. Traditionally, businesses start this day with a new ledgder, clearing out the old. Faits and festivals are held all over the country, where singers sing traditional songs welcoming the new year. Food vendors sell traditional foods and artisans sell traditional handricrafts. The Bengali Calendar is based on ancient sub-continental calendars which was codified and standardized by the Mughal Emperor Akbar about 6 centuries ago. The start date of the Begali calendar was made to coincide with the start date of the Islamic calendar (i. e. he date of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Hejira). The calendar is a solar one which is composed of six seasons that revolve around the region’s agricultural cycle. ? Pawhela Falgoon: Another traditional day (though not a national holiday) isPawhela Falgoon, the first day of spring, which is observed across the country through traditional festivities and colourful programmes. Spring fairs, cultural programmes and exchanges of greetings and gifts among friends and beloved ones mark the day. People from all walks of life tthrong the venues of different programmes wearing colorful dresses including traditional ‘spring sarees’ and ‘Panjabi’.
Other programmes of the day include exchange of flowers, gifts and ‘Rakhi-Bandhan’, and poetry recitations. ? Janmastami: Celebration of the birth of Rama. ? Durgapuja (Dashomi) : The 10 day festival associated with vanquishing demons, in particular Rama’s victory over Ravana in the Ramayana, and Durga’s victory over the buffalo-headed Mahishasura. People wash their vehicles clean on this day and decorate it with flowers and leaves of mango tree. Sweets are made. The young people distribute leaves of a particular tree which are of symbolic gold.
One can watch the Ram Lila which is a dramatic performance of the life of Rama. ? Christmas: Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. ? Buddho Purnima: Buddhists commemorate the birth and enlightenment of Buddha. This occurs on the first full-moon of the Bengali month of Baishakh. ? Language Movement Day: Language Movement Day is a unique part of the culture of Bangladesh. Every year on February 21 this day is observed to pay tribute to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives to establish Bengali as the official language of then East Pakistan in 1952.