Bangladeshis (Bengali: বাংলাদেশী [ˈbaŋladeʃi]; formerly known as Bangalees) are the citizens of Bangladesh. The country is named after the historical region of Bengal, of which it constitutes the largest and easternmost part. Bangladeshi citizenship was formed in 1971, when the permanent residents of the former East Pakistan were transformed into citizens of a new republic. Bangladesh is the world's eighth most populous nation. The vast majority of Bangladeshis are ethnolingustically Indo-Aryan people who speak Bengali and other Bengali-Assamese languages and follow the Islamic religion. The population of Bangladesh is concentrated in the fertile Bengal delta, which has been the center of urban and agrarian civilizations for millennia. The country's highlands, including the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the Sylhet Division, are home to various tribal minorities.
|c. 168 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Diaspora||c. 4.5 million|
|Bengali, Chittagonian, Sylheti, Rangpuri and other dialects, English and others|
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Bengali Muslims are the predominant ethnoreligious group of Bangladesh with a population of 146 million, which makes up majority of the country's population. The minority Bengali Hindu population in Bangladesh is over 16,238,167 which makes up 12.07% of the total country population. Non-Bengali Muslims make up the largest immigrant community; while the Tibeto-Burman Chakmas, who speak the Indo-Aryan Chakma language, are the largest indigenous ethnic group after Indo-Aryan Bengali peoples. The Austroasiatic Santhals are the largest aboriginal community.
The Bangladeshi diaspora is concentrated in the Arab world, North America and the United Kingdom. Several hundred thousand Non-Resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) have dual citizenship in Commonwealth countries like the United Kingdom and Canada.
Bangladeshis have been known by several terms:
- Bangladeshis, the most widely used term to refer to the citizens of Bangladesh, comes from Bangladesh (meaning "Country of Bengal"), and can be traced to the early 20th century. Then, the term was used by Bengali patriotic songs like Namo Namo Namo Bangladesh Momo, by Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Aaji Bangladesher Hridoy, by Rabindranath Tagore.
- Bangalees, an exonym for Bengalis, was used between 1972 and 1978 by the Constitution of Bangladesh for all citizens of Bangladesh, despite 2% of the population being indigenous and immigrant non-Bengalis. Under President Ziaur Rahman, the constitutional term was changed to Bangladeshi, as part of efforts to promote Bangladeshi nationalism.
- East Bengalis, a term used in reference to Bangladesh being a political unit based on the Partition of Bengal. The territory was known as East Bengal twice in the 20th century. It was used for Eastern Bengal and Assam in the British Raj between 1906 and 1912. It was again used for the Dominion of Pakistan's province of East Bengal between 1947 and 1955.
- Bangals, a term used informally in neighboring India to refer to Bangladeshis. Bangal is also the Hindustani term for Bengal. In West Bengal, Bangal is widely used among upper-class subgroups to differentiate families from Bangladesh, the opposite then being Ghoti, which once referred to people from West Bengal.
Approximately 98% of the Bangladeshi population are Bengalis. Most are native to East Bengal. The Bengali people have multiethnic origins, including Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman and Austroasiatic ancestry. East Bengal was a prosperous melting pot for centuries. It witnessed a synthesis of Islamic, North Indian and indigenous Bengali cultures. Today, Bengalis enjoy strong cultural homogeneity with a common standardized language and a variety of dialects.
90% of the population are Bengali Muslims (146 million). This makes Bangladesh the world's third largest Muslim majority country after Indonesia and Pakistan. Bengali Muslims also make up the world's second largest Muslim ethnic group after Arab Muslims. Most Bangladeshi Muslims are member of the Sunni branch of Islam. There are significant minorities of the Shia and Ahmadiya branches. Bengali Hindus are the largest minority of Bangladesh, with a population between 10–12 million. Bangladesh has the third largest Hindu population in the world after India and Nepal. There are an estimated 400,000 Bengali Christians and 500,000 Bengali Buddhists.
The Bengali population is concentrated in Bengal delta, the coastal areas of Chittagong Division and the river valleys of Sylhet Division.
An estimated 3 million Bangladeshi citizens are non-Bengali Muslim immigrants from different parts of South Asia. They include affluent sections of the country's merchant and business class, particularly Nizari Ismailism adherents. They also include former Stranded Pakistanis and their descendants. Bangladesh's non-Bengali Muslims are usually fluent in both Bengali and Hindustani.
Tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts
In southeastern Bangladesh, the Chittagong Hill Tracts frontier has a district history. It was an exclusive zone for Tibeto-Burman tribes in Bengal during the British Raj. Today, the area makes up 10% of Bangladesh's territory. It is home to several indigenous ethnic groups in the three hill districts of Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari. The three largest communities in the region have a Raja as their tribal chief who is recognized by the Government of Bangladesh.
- The Chakma people are the largest tribe of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and the second largest indigenous ethnic group of Bangladesh after Bengalis. A Tibeto-Burman community, they have been greatly influenced by Bengali culture, including in their native Chakma language, a branch of the Bengali-Assamese languages. Most Chakmas are concentrated in Rangamati District. The community is headed by the Chakma Raja. The majority of Chakmas are Therevada Buddhists, with a minority being Hindu.
- The Marma people are second largest community in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. They have a Raja and are concentrated in the districts of Bandarban and Khagrachari. The Marmas are originally Arakanese people who moved to the territory in the 17th century in order to escape Burmese persecution.
- The Mro people are the third largest community in the region and have a Raja. Buddhism, Christianity and animist beliefs are among the chief faiths of the Mros. Their population is concentrated in Bandarban District. Mros are originally related to the Chin people of Myanmar.
- The Tanchangya people are among the oldest native indigenous tribes of the region. They speak the Indo-Aryan Tanchangya language and adhere to Therevada Buddhism.
- The Bawm people are a Tibeto-Burman Christian community. They are among the oldest inhabitants of the region.
- The Tripuri people inhabit much of Khagrachari District. Their population is divided between Bangladesh and their larger indigenous homeland in the Indian state of Tripura.
- The Khumi people are one of the poorest and smallest tribes of the region. They originate from Arakan.
- The Kuki people are the Bangladeshi counterparts of Chins in northern Myanmar and Mizos in northeast India.
Tribes of North and Northeast Bangladesh
- The Santhal people are the largest aboriginal community of the country. They speak the Austroasiatic Santhali language. Their culture is noted for martial dance traditions. Their population is most concentrated in Rajshahi Division and Rangpur Division. The Santhals have been the focal point of land rights controversies as the Bangladeshi government seeks to develop open pit coal mining in their tribal hinterlands.
- The Garo people inhabit the Haluaghat Upazila of Mymensingh District. They have high literacy rates and are adherents of Christianity.
- The Bisnupriya Manipuri people are the second largest ethnic group in Sylhet Division. They are adherents of Hinduism and the speak the Indo-Aryan Bishnupriya Manipuri language. Their classical Manipuri dance tradition is a key part of Bangladesh's national culture.
- A negligible small minority of Marwari people live in various cities and towns of the country such as Dinajpur, Kushtia and Narayanganj. Although many of them have been assimilated into the larger Hindu Bengali demographics, they still use the marwari surnames such as Agarwal, Singhania etc. They are among the affluent sections of the country's merchant and business class.
The basic social unit in a village is the family (poribar or gushti), generally consisting of a complete or incomplete patrilineally extended household (chula) and residing in a homestead (bari). The individual nuclear family often is submerged in the larger unit and might be known as the house (ghor). Above the bari level, patrilineal kin ties are linked into sequentially larger groups based on real, fictional, or assumed relationships.
A significant unit larger than that of close kin is the voluntary religious and mutual benefit association known as "the society" (shomaj or milat). Among the functions of a shomaj might be the maintenance of a Mosque and support of a mullah. An informal council of shomaj elders (matabdars or shordars) settles village disputes. Factional competition between the motobdars is a major dynamic of social and political interaction.
Groups of homes in a village are called Paras, and each para has its own name. Several paras constitute a mauza, the basic revenue and census survey unit. The traditional character of rural villages was changing in the latter half of the 20th century with the addition of brick structures of one or more stories scattered among the more common thatched bamboo huts.
Although farming has traditionally ranked among the most desirable occupations, villagers in the 1980s began to encourage their children to leave the increasingly overcrowded countryside to seek more secure employment in the towns. Traditional sources of prestige, such as landholding, distinguished lineage, and religious piety were beginning to be replaced by modern education, higher income, and steadier work. These changes, however, did not prevent rural poverty from increasing greatly.
In 2015, 34% of Bangladeshis lived in cities. Dhaka is the largest city in Bangladesh and one of the world's most populous megacities. Other important cities include Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Rajshahi, Jessore, Barisal, Comilla, Narayanganj and Mymensingh. Most urban centers are rural administrative towns. Urban centers grew in number and population during the 1980s as a result of an administrative decentralization program that featured the creation of upazilas.
Bangladesh is noted for cultural pluralism within a Bengali Muslim majority. Traditional Bengali secularism has been an important contributor to the nation's society and ethos. The Bengali language is a fundamental element of Bangladeshi identity. It is a secular language which evolved between the 7th and 10th centuries, with an indigenous alphabet, and unites people of different faiths and regions. The Bengali Language Movement sowed the seeds of East Pakistani nationalism, ultimately culminating in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Since independence, the relationship between religion and the state has been controversial. Between 1972 and 1975, Bangladesh experienced socialism under a secular parliamentary system. Military coups ushered a sixteen-year presidential regime, which restored the free market and promoted moderate Islamism. In 1988, Islam was made the state religion. In 2010, the Bangladesh Supreme Court reaffirmed the principle of separation of mosque and state in the constitution, although Islam remains the state religion. The government generally respects freedom of religion and ensures protection for minorities. Another debate on national identity concerns attitudes towards the Chittagong Hill Tracts. A low-level insurgency took place in the region to demand constitutional autonomy against Bengali settlements. Despite a peace treaty in 1997, the Bangladeshi government is yet to implement many of its commitments to protect adivasi land rights. However, the deletion in 1977 of Bangalee as the nationality term for the country's citizens, in order to be inclusive of non-Bengali minorities, also reflects attempts to build a more cosmopolitan Bangladeshi society.
Culture of Bangladesh has evolved with influences from diverse social societies. Bangladesh's main religions are Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, which have played a critical part in influencing the country's culture.
The oldest literary inscription in Bangladesh dates back to the 3rd century BCE. It was found at Mahasthangarh and is written in the Brahmi script. The language is Magadhi Prakrit. The Bengali language developed from Magadhi Prakrit, and it's written from Apabhramsa, between the 7th and 10th centuries. It once formed a single eastern Indo-Aryan language with Assamese and Odia, but later became distinct. It became an official language of the Sultanate of Bengal, where it was spoken as the main vernacular language. It absorbed vocabulary from Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit. Bengali is the 10th most spoken language in the world. The language was modernized during the Bengali Renaissance in the 19th century. It has influenced other languages in the region, including Chakma, Rohingya, Assamese, Odia and Nepali. The indigenous Bengali alphabets descended from Brahmi serves as the Bengali script.
The Bengali Language Movement in East Pakistan was a key catalyst for forming Bangladeshi identity. It is commemorated by UNESCO as International Mother Language Day, as part of worldwide efforts to preserve linguistic heritage.
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