Sylhet region

Sylhet (Sylheti: ꠍꠤꠟꠐ Silôţ, Bengali: সিলেট) is a geographical, historical, and cultural region in the north-eastern part of the Indian subcontinent and comprises the Sylhet Division in Bangladesh, which includes the Surma Valley, and the three districts of the Barak Valley in Assam, India. In 1947, when a plebiscite was held in Sylhet, the population decided to join the Pakistani province of East Bengal. However, when the Radcliffe Line was drawn up, the Barak Valley was given to India by the Commission as the result of a plea from a delegation led by Abdul Matlib Mazumdar. Nihar Ranjan Roy, author of Bangalir Itihas, says that "South Assam / Northeastern Bengal or Barak Valley is the extension of the Greater Surma/Meghna Valley of Bengal in every aspect from culture to geography".[2]

Sylhet

সিলেট
ꠍꠤꠟꠐ
The greater Sylhet region
Countries Bangladesh
 India
AreasSylhet Division, Bangladesh
Barak Valley, India
Area
  Total18,738.4 km2 (7,234.9 sq mi)
Elevation334.67 m (1,098 ft)
Population
 (2011)
  Total13,522,872
  Density720/km2 (1,900/sq mi)
 (Pop. of Sylhet Division and Barak Valley)
Demonym(s)Sylhetis
Time zonesUTC+6 (BST)
UTC+05:30 (IST)
Language(s)Sylheti, Bangla
Additional languagesAssamese, Khasi, Kuki, Meitei, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Garo, Tripuri, Kurmi creole, Bhumij, Hindi

Etymology and names

The name Sylhet is an anglicisation of Shilahatta or simply Shilhot. Its origins seem to come from the Sanskrit words of शिला śilā (meaning stone) and हट्ट haṭṭa (meaning marketplace). These words match the landscape and topography of the hilly region. The shila stones were abundant across Sylhet and the famous Hindu Raja Govinda Dev of the Gour Kingdom is known to have used stones to guard his capital. The word changed to Shilhot due to the elision of letter-final ô in the Bengali language.[3] After the British arrived in the region in the 18th century, the name was changed to Sylhet (pronounced Silhet) so that it is distinct from the name of the nearby town of Silchar. Eventually this name also became an endonym as it was officially adopted in the Bengali language as Śileṭ (সিলেট). Another endonym is also Siloṭ (ꠍꠤꠟꠐ) used more in the local Sylheti dialect.[4] Other European names included Sirote and Silhat.

Another theory is that the word is of Semitic origin and compares it to the Hebrew word שלט shelet. According to Hebrew researchers, the word shelet is used when something is guaranteed or protected. The word shelet has been used in the Hebrew Bible to mean shield or ruler.[5] However, there is no clear evidence that the name is derived from this.

An alternative name which also came from Shilahatta was Srihatta or Srihotto. The word shila eventually changed to sri meaning beauty. This name was used in Kamarupa, other petty kingdoms and even during the Mughal period. In the Mughal Empire's records, Srihatta was designated as a sarkar headquarter in the Bengal Subah.[6]

After Shah Jalal's Conquest of Sylhet in 1303, Govinda's kingdom was renamed as Jalalabad and incorporated into Sultan Shamsuddin Firoz Shah's principality of Lakhnauti. The name is of Persian origin as that was the official language of the sultanate. It is made up two words جلال Jalal (a name of Arabic origin meaning majesty but in this case referring to Shah Jalal) and آباد Abad meaning settlement.[7][8][9] This name was kept by the Mughals during their era however it was limited to the city of Sylhet rather than the whole region. The name became rarely used during the British period. Currently, in the Sylhet City Corporation, there exists a metropolitan thana known as the Jalalabad Thana as well an area in its 7th ward.[10]

History

Ancient and medieval

Sylhet was an expanded commercial centre inhabited by Brahmans under the realms of the Harikela and Kamarupa kingdoms of ancient Bengal and Assam. Buddhism was prevalent in the first millennium. In the early medieval period, the area was dominated by Hindu principalities under the nominal suzerainty of the Senas and Devas.[11][12] This is documented by their copper-plate charters.[13] The Mahabharata mentions the marriage of Duryodhana of the Kauravas into a family in Habiganj as well as Arjuna travelling to the Jaintia to regain his horse held captive by a princess.[14] The region was home to many petty kingdoms such as Taraf, Laur, Gour, Jaintia and Ita. Rajnagari inscriptions suggest there was an ancient university in Panchgaon.[15]

The 14th century marked the beginning of Islamic influence in Sylhet. In 1303, Shamsuddin Firoz Shah's army defeated Raja Govinda Dev of Gour in the Conquest of Sylhet.[16][17] The army was aided by the missionary Shah Jalal and his companions.[16] Gour was then renamed as Jalalabad (settlement of Jalal).[8] Sikandar Khan Ghazi, one of the commanders of the battle, was then made the first Muslim wazir of Sylhet.[18] He was succeeded by Haydar Ghazi.[4][19]

Bengali Muslims began exploiting the fertile land of Sylhet for agricultural production and enjoyed relative prosperity innovating a contemporary agrarian society. The region experienced an influx of Turkic, Afghan, Arab, and Persian immigrants.[20]

Early modern

The Mughal conquests in Bengal started during the reigns of Emperors Humayun and Akbar. The Battle of Rajmahal in 1576 led to the execution of Daud Khan Karrani, ending the Karrani sultanate. During the reigns of Emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan, Sylhet came to be known as Bengal's Wild East due to the region becoming a refuge for Afghan chieftains and other independent insurgents.[21] Khwaja Usman of Bokainagar, Mymensingh fled to Sylhet where he allied with the likes of Bayazid Karrani II, Anwar Khan of Baniachong, Pahlawan of Matang and Mahmud Khan. The final raja of the Ita Kingdom', Subid Narayan, lost a battle in 1610 causing South Sylhet to come under the rule of Afghan chieftain Khwaja Usman. However, this rule was short-lived after Mughal General Islam Khan I's attack in 1612 leading to complete Mughal control of Sylhet.[22]

Sylhet became a sarkar of the Bengal Subah. Its eight mahals/mahallahs included Pratapgarh-Panchakhanda, Bahua-Bajua, Jaintia, Habili (Sylhet), Sarail-Satra Khandal (North Tripura), Laur, Baniachong and Harinagar. Muhammad Zaman Karori of Tehran was made the Amil of Sylhet by Jahangir. Zaman took part in Islam Khan I's Assam expedition and was instrumental to the capture of Hajo in Gauhati. He later on became faujdar of Sylhet in 1636 by Shah Jahan and was made a mansabdar of 2,000 sowar.[23]

During Aurangzeb's reign in the 17th century, the Mughals benefited from the trade of slaves, oranges, timber and singing birds in the sarkar generating annual revenues of 167,000 takas.[22][24] Faujdar Isfandiyar Khan was known to have destroyed Majlis Alam's historic Adina Mosque replica in Choukidighi as the imam started Eid prayers without waiting for him. After its destruction, Khan attempted to rebuild it but it remains uncompleted today.[22]

Shukurullah Khan was dismissed of his faujdarship and replaced by Harkrishna Das in 1721. Nicknamed Mansur al-Mulk (Victor of the Nation), Das was murdered in 1723 by his own men presumed to be loyal to Shukurullah. Shukurullah returned to his post as faujdar in 1723.[25]

Late modern and contemporary

Sylhet came under British administration in 1765. Sylhet was strategically important for the British in their pursuit of conquering Northeast India and Upper Burma. In 1782, the first uprising in the subcontinent against British rule, the Muharram Rebellion, took place in Sylhet Shahi Eidgah in which Robert Lindsay, the supervisor of Sylhet, killed two of the leading rebels, the Pirzada and Hada Miah, with his own pistol. The other leader, Mada Miah was also killed in the conflict.

Tea trade in the subcontinent first initiated in the hills of Sylhet.[26][27] The first commercial tea plantation in British India was the Mulnicherra Estate launched in 1857. The region emerged as the centre of tea cultivation in Bengal and major export. Syed Abdul Majid pioneered the development and native involvement in the agricultural and tea industry in British India.

In the anti-British Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, 300 sepoys looted the Chittagong Treasury and then took shelter with Nawab Gaus Ali Khan of Prithimpassa.[28] The treasury remained under rebel control for several days. A rebellion also took place in Latu, Barlekha.

Despite protests from its Bengali-majority, Sylhet was made part of the Chief Commissioner's Province of Assam (Northeast Frontier) in 1874 to facilitate Assam's commercial development.[29] The Assam Bengal Railway was established to connect Assam and Sylhet with the port city of Chittagong and served as a lifeline for the tea industry, transporting tea to exporters in the Port of Chittagong.[30][31]

Due to the size of Sylhet's Bengali Muslim majority, the All India Muslim League formed the first elected government in British Assam.

By the 1920s, organisations such as the Sylhet Peoples' Association and Sylhet-Bengal Reunion League mobilised public opinion demanding its incorporation into Bengal.[32] In 1946, Gopinath Bordoloi, Prime Minister of Assam, brought forward his wish to hand over Sylhet to East Bengal.[33] Following a referendum, almost all of Sylhet joined East Bengal in the Dominion of Pakistan. After being pleaded by a delegation led by Abdul Matlib Mazumdar, the Barak Valley was barred and joined the Dominion of India.[34][35][36]

During the Bangladesh Liberation War, many non-Bengali language printing presses were damaged and this included the Sylheti Nagari script.[37][38] Sylhet was home to General M. A. G. Osmani, the commander-in-chief of Bangladesh Forces and Panchgaon Factory in Rajnagar produced cannons under his command. The Battle of Sylhet raged between the Pakistani military and the allied forces of Bangladesh and India from 7 to 15 December 1971, eventually leading to Pakistani surrender and the liberation of Sylhet.

Governance

The region is partitioned between Bangladesh and India. Bangladesh governs over the majority, covering over 12,298.4 km2 of area, known as the Sylhet Division. The Indian side covers just under 7,000 km2 of area and is known as the Barak Valley, located in the southern part of the Assam state.

Historically, the entire region was part of the Surma Valley and Hill Districts Division as part of the Assam Province. Sylhet (including Karimganj) and Cachar (including Hailakandi) were two separate districts in the division. The Sylhet District was divided into 5 collectory zilas or mahakumas; North Sylhet (modern-day Sylhet District), South Sylhet (modern-day Moulvibazar District), Habiganj, Sunamganj and Karimganj. After the Partition of India, Karimganj was also divided with the Jolodhup thana joining East Bengal and becoming a part of the Dominion of Pakistan. The Jolodhup thana later split into Beanibazar and Barlekha.

The Sylhet Division is one of the 8 bibhags of Bangladesh, and is split into zilas (districts) and further divided into upazilas (sub-districts). Upazilas are further divided into Union parishads, which are roughly divided into 9 wards. The Division hosts 19 Municipal corporations known as pourashavas, and one city corporation in Sylhet city. It also has 19 Parliamentary constituencies. The headquarters of the Sylhet Division is the city of Sylhet in Sylhet Sadar Upazila, Sylhet District.

India's Assam state is split into five regional divisions, one of which is the Hills and Barak Valley Division. The divisional office lies in Silchar – also the capital of the Cachar district. The other districts of the Barak Valley are Karimganj district and Hailakandi district.

Geography

Geographically the region is surrounded by hillocks (known as tilas) from all three sides except its western plain boundary with the rest of Bengal. In the south of the region (Habiganj, Moulvibazar and Karimganj), eight hill ranges enter the plains of Sylhet running uniformly from the west to the east. They are: Raghunandan, Dinarpur-Shatgaon, Balishira, Bhanugach-Rajkandi, Hararganj-Singla, Patharia, Pratapgarh-Duhalia and Sorrispur-Siddheswar hill ranges. At the centre of the region is also an isolated range known as the Ita Hills.[39]

The region is considered one of the most picturesque and archaeologically rich regions in South Asia. Its burgeoning economy has contributed to the regional attractions of landscapes filled with fragrant orange and pineapple gardens as well as tea plantations. The region has a tropical monsoon climate (Köppen Am) bordering on a humid subtropical climate (Cwa) at higher elevations. The rainy season from April to October is hot and humid with very heavy showers and thunderstorms almost every day, whilst the short dry season from November to February is very warm and fairly clear. Nearly 80% of the annual average rainfall of 4,200 millimetres (170 in) occurs between May and September.[40]

The physiography of the region consists mainly of hill soils, encompassing a few large depressions known locally as "beels" which can be mainly classified as oxbow lakes, caused by tectonic subsidence primarily during the earthquake of 1762. The largest beel in the region is Son Beel in Karimganj.[39]

Geologically, the region is complex having diverse sacrificial geomorphology; high topography of Plio-Miocene age such as the Khasi and Jaintia Hills and small hillocks along the border. At the centre there is a vast low laying flood plain of recent origin with saucer shaped depressions, locally called haors. There are many haors in the region and the largest ones include Hakaluki, Kawadighi, Tanguar and Hail. Available limestone deposits in different parts of the region suggest that the whole area was under the ocean in the Oligo-Miocene. In the last 150 years, three major earthquakes hit the city, at a magnitude of at least 7.5 on the Richter Scale, the last one took place in 1918, although many people are unaware that Sylhet lies on an earthquake prone zone.[41]

Wildlife

The region is home to the Asian elephant and the Two-horned rhinoceros, mostly towards the south. Tigers and leopards were once found throughout the region. Other notable fauna include the Sambar deer, Indian hog deer and Sylhet roofed turtle.[42]

The Asian elephant were once found in small numbers in places such as Chapghat, Bhanugach, Chamtolla, Mahram and the Raghunandan hills. More abundantly they are found near streams in Singla and Langai.[39]

Demography

As the Sylhet region consists of the Bangladeshi division of Sylhet and the Indian valley of Barak, the combined population is over 13.5 million. The Sylhetis make up a large majority of the region's population. It is debated whether Sylhetis are a separate ethnic group from the Bengalis and most Sylhetis today maintain a distinct identity separate from or in addition to having a Bengali identity, due to linguistic differences, geographical uniqueness and historical reasons.[43][44]

There are also many Bengali people from the Chittagong and Dhaka Divisions who have migrated to the region for employment opportunities. The Rohingya population has also grown in the past few years due to the increase of attacks by the Rakhine Buddhists. In the Indian side, there is also a large Assamese population due to the Barak Valley being a part of the state of Assam.

The indigenous Adivasi population tend to live in secluded rural areas of the region primarily near the hills and tea gardens. They are made up of several ethnic groups such as the Bishnupriya Manipuris, Khasi, Tripuris, Meiteis, Garos, and Kukis. In the nineteenth century, the British brought over indigenous peoples from other parts of British India to work as tea garden labourers such as the Kurmis, Musahars, Bauris and Bhumijes amongst others.[45]

Language

The official languages recognised by the Bangladeshi and Indian governments are Standard Bengali and Assamese respectively. These languages are used in education. The most common spoken language is Sylheti, although this is considered as a dialect of Bengali to both governments. Other Bengali dialects that are spoken include the Bangali dialect (including varieties such as Dhakaiya Kutti and Sundarbani/Barishailla) as well as Rohingya. The Adivasis and tea labourers brought over during British rule also have their own native languages which they speak in addition to Sylheti and Bengali such as Khasi, Kuki, Meitei, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Hajong, Garo, Kurmi creole, Hindi, Bhumij and Tripuri.[46]

In madrasas across the region, Arabic is taught as a second language. It is seen by Muslims as a religious language in which they can understand the theology of Islam, the Qur'an, Sunnah and Hadith. The Sylheti diaspora in the Middle East has further increased the number of people who can speak Arabic in the region. A majority of Sylhet's Muslim population has had some form of formal or informal education in the reading, writing and pronunciation of the Arabic language as part of their religious education. Arabic is used in many Muslim congregations such as the weekly Jumu'ah Salah in which a sermon (khutbah) is given in Arabic. Historically, after the Conquest of Sylhet when the region was incorporated into Muslim Bengal, the Arabic language was an official language used by the Delhi and Bengal Sultanates in addition to Persian. Urdu is also sometimes taught, predominantly in Qawmi Madrasahs which follow the Islamic Deobandi model based in Darul Uloom Deoband, an Urdu-speaking Islamic university based in India.

Religion

Islam is the largest religion in the whole region practised by the Bengali Muslims. Sunni Islam is the largest denomination with majority following the Hanafi school of law although some also follow the Shafi'i madhhab.[47] There are significant numbers of people who follow Sufi ideals similar to the Barelvis, the most influential is the teachings of Abdul Latif of Fultoli, Zakiganj – a descendant of Shah Kamal Quhafa, the son of Burhanuddin Quhafa, one of the disciples of Shah Jalal.[48] The revivalist Deobandi movement is also popular in the region with Jamia Luthfia Anwarul Uloom Hamidnagar being a notable centre and many are part of the Tablighi Jamaat. Other Islamic institutions include the Sujaul Senior Fazil Madrasha, Sagornal Senior Alim Madrasha, Jamia Tawakkulia Renga and Faridpur Jamia Islamia Madrasah. Haji Shariatullah's Faraizi movement was very popular during the British period and Wahhabism is adopted by some upper-class families.[49]

There is a very small minority of Shia Muslims who gather every year during Ashura for the Mourning of Muharram processions. Places of procession include the Prithimpasha Nawab Bari in Kulaura, home to a Shia family, as well as Balaganj, Osmani Nagar and Rajtila.

Hinduism is the second largest religion practised by the Bengali Hindus as well as majority of the Bishnupriya Manipuri, Bhumij, Musahar, Kurmi, Bauris and Tripuri population. Sylhet has the largest concentration of Hindus in Eastern Bengal and is a part of the Shakti Peetha.

Other minority religions include Christianity (including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sylhet and Sylhet Presbyterian Synod), Ka Niam Khasi, Sanamahism, Songsarek as well as animism.

There was a presence of Sikhism in Sylhet after Guru Nanak's visit in 1508 to spread the religion. Kahn Singh Nabha has stated that in memory of Nanak's visit, Gurdwara Sahib Sylhet was established.[50] This Gurdwara was visited twice by Tegh Bahadur and many hukamnamas were issued to this temple by Guru Gobind Singh. In 1897, the gurdwara fell down after the earthquake. Nearly all the Sikhs of Sylhet in the early 18th century were found in North Cachar where they used to work for the Assam Bengal Railway.[51]

Culture

The unique culture and linguistic differences of Sylhetis developed in part because of its long history of being separate from the rest of Bengal during the British and pre-Islamic period as well as the high influx of Middle Eastern and Central Asian settlers after the arrival of Shah Jalal in 1303.

Architecture

The intense building of mosques which took place during the Sultanate era indicates the rapidity with which the locals converted to Islam. Today, mosques are present in every Muslim-inhabited village. Bengali mosques are normally be covered with several small domes and curved brick roofs decorated with terracotta. Ponds are often located beside a mosque.[52]

Faujdar Farhad Khan, also known as Nizam-e-Zamana (Prince of the Age), built Sylhet Shahi Eidgah in the 1660s under the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. It stands as the largest eidgah of the region.[53]

In 1872, Nawab Moulvi Ali Ahmed Khan of Prithimpassa constructed Ali Amjad's Clock, named after his son, in Sylhet City.[54][55][56] In 1936, a bridge was constructed across the Surma River known as the Keane Bridge. These two historic landmarks are known as the gateway to Sylhet city.

Folklore

Sylheti folklore is influenced by Hindu, Sufi, Turco-Persian and native ideas. It has unique elements, differentiating it from mainstream Bengali folklore. Common folkloric beings include foris, jinns, mermaids and personified animals. Stories may also include the presence of pirs, fakirs and Sufis. Folk stories are traditionally common in villages during an eshi mojlis (idle sitting). Chandra Kumar De of Mymensingh is known to be the first researcher of Sylheti folklore.[57] Archives of old works are kept in Kendriya Muslim Sahitya Sangsad in Sylhet (also known as the Sylhet Central Muslim Literary Society) – the oldest literary organisation in Bengal and one of the oldest in the subcontinent.

Faan and guwa are a typical meal concluder.
The Sylhet region's Sreemangal Upazila is nicknamed the tea capital of Bangladesh and is famous for the Seven Color Tea
Hutki satni (mashed dried fish) is a common Sylheti meal
Chicken tikka masala was invented by a British-Sylheti chef.

Cuisine

A Sylheti meal consists of many things such as bhat (rice) with mas (fish stew), gus/gusto (meat stew), dail (lentils), and anaz (greens and herbs), and shobzi (vegetables). Sylheti cuisine is similar to Bangladeshi and Assamese cuisines.

Hatkora (wild citruses) are used at times to flavour curries. Popular fish curries include gual, rou, ilish, or fabia. A main characteristic of a Sylheti meal is tenga (Preparations bearing a characteristically rich and tangy flavour). Commonly consumed varieties of meat include beef, chicken, Mutton and duck/goose.

Common beverages include shorbot, falooda, Rooh Afza, traditional fruit juices as well as basil seed or tukma-based drinks.

The food is often served in plates which have a distinct flowery pattern often in blue or pink.

Literature and poetry

Sylheti poets were writing in the Bengali language by the 16th century. Muslim literature was based upon historical affairs and biographies of prominent Islamic figures. Like the rest of Muslim Bengal, Bengali Muslim poetry was written in a colloquial dialect of Bengali which came to be known as Dobhashi, and has had a major influence on the current Sylheti dialect. Dobhashi featured the use of Arabic and Persian words in Bengali texts. A separate script was developed in Sylhet for the popular colloquial Dobhashi Bengali. Known as the Sylheti Nagari script, it is considered to have been developed during the rule of the Afghan chieftains due to the resemblance of its letters being found in Afghan coins.[58] Manuscripts have been found of works such as Rag Namah by Fazil Nasim Muhammad, Shonabhaner Puthi by Abdul Karim, Halatunnabi by Sadeq Ali, and the earliest known work Talib Huson (1549) by Gholam Huson.[59] Late Dobhashi writers include Muhammad Haidar Chaudhuri who wrote Ahwal-i-Zamana in 1907 and Muhammad Abdul Latif who wrote Pohela Kitab o Doikhurar Rag in 1930.[60] When Sylhet was under the rule of the Twipra Kingdom, medieval Sylheti writers using the Bengali script included the likes of Dwija Pashupati, the author of Chandravali – considered one of the earliest Sylheti works.[61] Syed Sultan, was the first person to translate the Prophetic biography into a Bengali epic poem in the 16th century.[62][63]

Sylhet was also an esteemed centre for the study of Persian, an official language up until the British period, due to the high population of foreign missionaries from Central Asia and Persia following the Conquest of Sylhet. Ma'dan al-Fawaid was written in 1534 by Syed Shah Israil of Murarband who is considered to be Sylhet's first author.[62] Other prominent literature included Zara al-Musannif by Muhammad Arshad of Baniachong.[64] Syed Rayhan al-Din of Poil was a poet known for his Khwaab-Nama as well as his own masnavi variation of Gul-e-Bakawali.[65] Moulvi Hamid Bakht Mazumdar was fluent in Persian and wrote the prose Ain-i-Hind, a history of the Indian subcontinent. Ala Bakhsh Mazumdar Hamed was known to have written Tuhfatul Muhsineen and Diwan-i-Hamed. Collectively, the works of these two people belonging to the Mazumdar family of Sylhet, are regarded amongst the most creative literary works in the Sylhet region.[66]

In the 19th century, Urdu had a somewhat aristocratic background in Sylhet and notable families that spoke it included the Nawabs of Longla and the Mazumder Zamindars. Literature written in this period included Nazir Muhammad Abdullah Ashufta's Tanbeeh al-Ghafileen, written in 1894, and the poems of Moulvi Farzam Ali Bekhud of Baniachong. Hakim Ashraf Ali Mast and Fida Sylheti were prominent Urdu poets of Sylhet in the 19th century.[67] In 1946, the Anjuman-i Taraqqi-i Urdu performed a mushaira in Sylhet attracting the likes of Hafeez Jalandhari, the lyricist of the National Anthem of Pakistan.[68]

Popular modern writers and poets from the region include Abdur Rouf Choudhury and Chowdhury Gulam Akbar. Muhammad Mojlum Khan is a non-fiction writer best known for writing the English biographical dictionary, The Muslim 100. Prominent Bengali language non-fiction writers include Syed Murtaza Ali, Syed Mujtaba Ali and Dwijen Sharma.

Sribhumi

মমতাবিহীন কালস্রোতে, বাঙলার রাষ্ট্রসীমা হোতে,
Momotābihīn kālsrōte, Banglār rāshtroshīma hote
নির্বাসিতা তুমি, সুন্দরী শ্রীভূমি।
Nirbāshita tumi, shundorī srībhūmi

Rabindranath Tagore.[69]

Fashion and attire

Sylheti attire is shares similarities with Bengali and North Indian attire. In rural areas, older women wear the shari while the younger generation wear the selwar kamiz, both with simple designs. In urban areas, the selwar kamiz is more popular, and has distinct fashionable designs. Men also wear traditional costumes such as the fanjabi with selwar or pyjama.[39] The popularity of the fotua, a shorter upper garment, is also replacing the fanjabi in casual environments reducing the latter to be worn in more formal occasions. The longi and gamsa, is a common combination for men living in rural areas. Islamic clothing is also very common in the region. During special occasions, women commonly wear either modest sharis, selwar kamizes or abayas, covering their hair with hijab or unna; and men wear a fanjabi, also covering their hair with a tufi, toki, fagri or rumal.

Sports and games

Cricket is the most popular sport in Sylhet. Regional cricket teams include the Sylhet Sixers and the Sylhet Division cricket team. Many Sylheti cricketers have played for the Bangladesh national cricket team such as Alok Kapali, Enamul Haque Jr, Nazmul Hossain, Rajin Saleh and Tapash Baisya. The Government Boys' HS School Ground is a historical cricket ground in Karimganj.

Football is also a common sport and the multi-use Saifur Rahman Stadium and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Stadiums are known to host football matches. The home stadium of the football club, Sheikh Russel KC, is in Sylhet District Stadium. Alfaz Ahmed was a Sylheti who played for the Bangladesh national football team. Hamza Choudhury is the first Bangladeshi to play in the Premier League and is predicted to be the first British Asian to play for the England national football team.[70]

In 1897, the Cachar Club based in Silchar developed the modern version of Polo and introduced it to the Englishmen. It was also the first ever polo club in the world.[71] Bulbul Hussain was the first Sylheti professional wheelchair rugby player. Board and home games such as Fochishi and its modern counterpart Ludo, as well as Carrom Board, Sur-Fulish, Khanamasi and Chess, are very popular in the region. Rani Hamid is one of the most successful chess players in the world, winning championships in Asia and Europe multiple times. Ramnath Biswas was a revolutionary soldier who embarked on three world tours on a bicycle in the 19th century. Nowka Bais is a common traditional rowing competition during the monsoon season when rivers are filled up, and much of the land is under water. Fighting sports include Kabaddi, Latim and Lathi khela.

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