Geography & Population
Bangladesh lies between 20"34' and 26"38' North Latitude and 88"01' and 92"41' East Longitude with a total landmass of 147,570 square kilometers (56,977 Sq. miles). Bangladesh is surrounded by India on the West, North and Northeast, Myanmar on the Southeast and the Bay of Bengal on the South. Bangladesh has a strategic location and acts as bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. It has a population of 154,7 million people. In other words, it is roughly the size of New York State with half the entire population of the United States crammed into this area.
Most of Bangladesh is at low elevations and is divided into five physical regions: (I) the Ganges Delta to the Southwest, (II) the Para delta to the Northwest, (III) the East Central plains and the Sylhet Hills in the Northeast, and (IV) the Chittagong region in the Southeast. Bangladesh is the largest deltaic region in the world. The Ganges Delta is geologically the most recent compared with other deltas. Mangrove forests thrive in the lower delta, which is flooded by fresh tidal waters. The soil base is new alluvium. The Sundarbans to the Southwest is the largest mangrove forest in the world. The Para delta, like the delta proper, is a plain but its elevations are higher at 100 to 300 feet above sea level. Its soils are varied - silt and sandy clays and old alluvium. It lies between the Ganges and the (Brahmaputra) Jamuna Rivers. The East Central plains with the Meghna River almost at its centre, consists of plains and active floodplains in which the main rivers, including the Brahmaputra, have altered their channels in the past. At the centre of this plain lies Madhupur Forest, a former site for tiger hunting. To the Northeast is the Meghna depression, part of which is only 10 feet above sea level; during the rainy season it turns into a huge lake, covering most of its 7,250 square kilometer (2,800 square mile) basin. Bangladesh is a riverine country and is criss˗crossed by innumerable rivers, rivulets and their tributaries.
Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon climate with heavy summer rain and high summer temperatures. Winters are dry and cool. South and Southwest winds dominate from mid-April to mid-October and bring enormous amounts of moisture from the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. 95% of the total rainfall, which averages about 80 inches (2,040 millimeters), occurs during that period. The temperatures range from an average of about 68 F (18C) in January to about 86 F (30C) in April.
Bengali tradition divides the year into six seasons; Grishmo(summer), Barsha(rainy), Sarat(early autumn),Hemanta(late autumn), Sheet(winter) and Boshonto (spring). For practical purposes, however, four seasons are clearly distinguishable; Summer, Rainy, late Autumn (when harvesting takes place) and Winter. Rains begin in April accompanied by Nor’wester or 'Kalbaishakhi'. With the onset of monsoon in the first week of June heavy downpour starts, and average temperature falls to low 80F. These heavy rains last for about two to three months causing floods and inundation of fields and riverbanks. Winter is moderate while the Spring is mellow and pleasant.
Bangladesh enjoys a great bio-diversity in its flora and fauna. The flower "Shapla" (nympoea-nouchali) is the national emblem, Magpie Robin (Doel) is the national bird, while the Royal Bengal Tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh which abounds in the Sunderbans, a world heritage site designated by UNESCO.
Building upon firm ethnological roots and an entrepreneurial spirit as well as innovative skill, the people of Bangladesh are creating a special niche for themselves on the global plank. Given the fascinating land with a variegated history and a rich cultural tapestry, the people are endowed with a native intellect, capacity for hard work and resilience. Bangladeshis are simple, friendly and hospitable in nature. With a 147 million population, Bangladesh ranks as the world's 8th most populous country. It is also one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The staple food of the people is rice, which is generally eaten with fish curry and lentil. Most women in Bangladesh wear a "Sari", and men "Lungi". Bengalees descended from several racial and sub-racial groups entering South Asia over the past five thousand years. By and large, they are now a single homogenous race with one common language - Bangla. There are, however, several other small ethnic groups with their own languages/dialects and distinctive cultures. Birth rate in 2006 came down to 1.5% while the percentage of literacy rate is now over 60, the highest in South Asia after Sri Lanka. Life expectancy at birth is now over 62.4 according to 2005 Census.
Bangla, the official language, is spoken by more than 99 percent of the population but English is also generally understood and spoken particularly in urban areas. Bangla is one of the most extensively spoken languages of the world. Bengali script is derived directly from Gupta Brahmi script having close affinity with Thai and Cambodian scripts. The origin of this script is generally traced to 10th century AD. Bengali is a rich language capable of expressing the finest nuances of thought and feeling, a language that continuously mirrors the ever-changing play of life. Bengalees passionately love their language. While under the neocolonial subjugation, the Bengalees on February 21, 1952 shed their blood for protecting and preserving their mother tongue from the encroachment of alien language. The day has been declared by UNESCO in 1999 as the International Mother Language Day to be observed all over the world in commemoration of the Bengali language movement. Bangla is rich in poetry, short story, novel, essay and drama. Two major Bangla poets are Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1863-1941), and Bangladesh's national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976). The latter's birth centenary was celebrated in 2000 with great acclaim.
Islam is the predominant religion with over 88% adherents. Hindus comprise about 10% of the population. The rest are Buddhists, Christians and animists. People are generally pious and keen in observing their respective religious rites and festivities with fervor. Bangladesh is a model of religious harmony and tolerance. Different religious communities and groups live in peace and the minorities are well represented in all tiers of society as well as in the government machinery.
Standard time of Bangladesh is 6 hours ahead of GMT. Friday and Saturday are weekly government holidays while private offices and enterprises observe Friday as the weekly day-off and remain open on Saturday. Office hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In less than a year after Bangladesh's Independence, the then Prime Minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman presented the nation with a Constitution which was secular in character and egalitarian in nature guaranteeing full fundamental rights to all citizens irrespective of religion, caste, creed, class and sex. In 1991, all the political parties in the opposition opted for a parliamentary system of governance in place of then existing presidential system. In 1996 the provision of holding general elections in the country under a non-party neutral caretaker government was incorporated in the Constitution. This was designed to safeguard the franchise of the people. The Constitution of Bangladesh provides for three organs - the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary - for ensuring accountability, transparency and checks and balances of the government. All the three organs function harmoniously.