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The Root of Bangladesh

Part-8


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The Root of Bangladesh

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Religion
Bangladesh contains the second largest (after Indonesia) Muslim population in the world. In 1981, 86.6 percent of the population was Muslim. The proportion of Muslims increased from 85.4 percent in 1974 to 86.6 percent in 1981. On the other hand, the proportion of Hindu population dropped from 13.5 percent in 1974 to 12.1 percent in 1981. The increase in proportion of Muslim population may be attributed to higher birth rate among the Muslims. Census records from 1872 to 1981 clearly indicate that birth rate among the Muslims was always higher than that of the Hindus. The Buddhists constituted about 0.6 percent of the population in both 1974 and 1981 censuses. There are about 175,000 Christians in Bangladesh. The percentage of Christians was about 0.3 percent.

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Art and Architecture
The Bangladesh region contains relics of the finest specimens of Buddhist monastic architecture. The Buddhist vihara at Paharpur occupied a quadrangle measuring more than 900 feet externally at each site. "No single monastery of such dimensions" asserts an art historian", has come to light in India, and the appellation mahavihara, the great monastery as designating the place, can be considered entirely appropriate". Similar vihara of Deva dynasty has been unearthed at Mainamati. The relics of Mahasthangarh where the ancient city of Pundravardhana was located suggest that a large monastery was built there. Of notable sculptures in ancient Bengal, stone figures of Buddha from Ujani in Faridpur district, Varaha avatara from Bogra (10th century) the Vishnu Stela from Comilla (11th century) and Chandi image from Dhaka district (12th century) deserve special mention. Another remarkable achievement was the terracotta art of Paharpur which drew its inspiration from the simple village life. This depicts the daily life of people with intense human interest. As an art historian observes, "It is impossible to find in the hieratic religious art of India at any given period such a large social content, such variety of human feelings, such intimacy of contact with the events and experiences of daily life, such spontaneous action and movements, depicted with such powerful and purposeful rhythm".

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The Middle Age in Bengal saw the construction of a large number of Islamic monuments which were characterized by massive arches and bold clean lines. The emphasis was on utility and simplicity. Among these monuments the Satgambuz mosque of Bagerhat, the mausoleum of Shah Ali Bagdadi at Mirpur and the mosque of Rasti Khan at Hathazari deserve special mention.

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Language
Bangla is the language of more than 99 percent of the population. Bangla is the seventh most extensively spoken language in the world after Chinese, English, Russian, Spanish, Hindi and Arabic. The Bengali script is derived directly from Gupta Brahmi script which has close affinity to Cambodian and Thai scripts. The origin of this language is usually traced to the 10th century. Bengali is a rich language capable of expressing the finest nuances of thought and feelings, a language that continuously mirrors the ever-changing play of life. It is rich in poetry, short story, novel, drama, essay and belles-lettres.

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