Bangladesh

The People's Republic of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, is bounded to the west and northwest by West Bengal (India), to the north by Assam and Meghalaya (India), to the east by Assam and Tripura (India) and by Myanmar (Burma) to the southeast. Dhaka, the historic city and capital of Bangladesh, lies on the Buriganga River. The river connects the city with all major inland ports in the country, contributing to its trade and commerce, as it has done for centuries. Limited availability of Western food, although the best hotels and restaurants have continental dishes and Dhaka has many good international restaurants. There are many local specialities, usually served with rice and based on chicken and lamb. Seafood is also recommended, particularly prawns. Kebabs are widely available. Leading hotels have bars, but Western-style nightclubs do not exist. Displays of local dance and music are occasionally to be seen, particularly during religious festivals.

Environment

The People's Republic of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, is bounded to the west and northwest by West Bengal (India), to the north by Assam and Meghalaya (India), to the east by Assam and Tripura (India) and by Myanmar (Burma) to the southeast. The landscape is mainly flat with many bamboo, mango and palm-covered plains. A large part of Bangladesh is made up of alluvial plain, caused by the effects of the two great river systems of the Ganges (Padma) and the Brahmaputra (Jamuna) and their innumerable tributaries. In the northeast and east of the country the landscape rises to form forested hills. To the southeast, along the Burmese and Indian borders, the land is hilly and wooded. About a seventh of the country's area is under water and flooding occurs regularly.

History

"Bangladesh has a hundred gates open for entrance but not one for departure" -Bernier. Bangladesh is a new state in an ancient land. It has been described by an American political scientist as "a country challenged by contradictions". On the face of it, the recent twists and turns of her history are often inconsistent. It is neither a distinct geographical entity, nor a well-defined historical unit. Nevertheless, it is the homeland of the ninth largest nation in the world whose gropings for a political identity were protracted, intense and agonizing. The key to these apparent contradictions lies in her history. Etymologically, the word Bangladesh is derived from the cognate "Vanga" which was first mentioned in the Hindu scripture Aitareya Aranyaka (composed between 500 B C and 500 A D). Legend has it that Bengal was first colonized by Prince Vanga, the son of King Bali and Queen Sudeshna of the Lunar dynasty. According to linguists, the roots of the term Vanga may be traced to languages in the adjoining areas. One school of linguists maintain that the word "Vanga" is derived from the Tibetan word "Bans" which implies "wet and moist". According to this interpretation, Bangladesh literally refers to a wetland. Another school is of the opinion that the term "Vangla" is derived from Bodo (aborigines of Assam) words "Bang" and "la" which connote "wide plains."