The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is located in South Asia, and is bordered by India in the west and Myanmar in the east. In the south lies the Bay of Bengal. Temperatures in Bangladesh range from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius in the cooler months, to the high 30s during the summer. Bangladesh has one of the highest rainfalls in the world, with most parts of the country receiving more than 1,500 mm of rain annually.
Considered an exotic country by people in the Western world, to the people who live there Bangladesh is just home. The country’s most popular sport is cricket, and the country’s national team received Test status in 2000 after competing in the 1999 World Cup. However, the national sport is Kabaddi, a team sport with a unique mode of play: a “raider” from one team inhales and holds their breath, then rushes the other team. The raider must tag as many opposition players as possible, then return to their home team before they are allowed to take another breath.
Despite its small size—less than 150,000 square kilometres—Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world, with nearly 170 million people, and a population density of 1,033 people per square kilometre.
People have been living in Bangladesh for more than 20,000 years, with major settlements developing in the Copper Age, and later in the Iron Age around 2,000 years ago. Bangladesh is part of a historic region called Bengal, and in relation to this is known as East Bengal, where West Bengal is part of the neighbouring country of India.
For many centuries the Bengal regions were under Buddhist rule. For a time—around the 10th century BCE—Hinduism came to dominate the country, but a few centuries later Bengal became a primarily Muslim country after becoming part of the Mughal Empire. This, too, was only temporary: by 1757 Bengal was part of the British Empire, and would remain so until 1947.
After the British withdrawal, the nation of Pakistan was founded, combining the nation of Punjab, located to the west of India, and East Bengal, located more than 2,000 km away on India’s eastern border. The practicality of governing a country divided by geography, politics, and culture soon lead to problems. In 1974, after years of increasingly violent strikes and riots—and eventually a short but bloody war—Bangladesh was officially recognised as an independent and autonomous country.
In Bangladesh there live several native animals considered iconic, including the Asian elephant, and the Bengal tiger, now so endangered that barely two thousand remain. Other animals in the region include the Asian black bear, which has a distinctive white patch on its chest, and two species of leopard. Also here are the python, which holds the title as the world’s longest snake, and the king cobra, the world’s longest venomous snake.
Bangladesh is geographically diverse, with tall mountains, lush floodplains, swamps, and forests. Within each ecosystem grow a wide variety of plants. Floating ferns and other aquatic plants abound in shallow floodplains waters, including the distinctive water hyacinth and water lily, which grow to cover waterways like colourful carpets. In rural areas are lush bamboo thickets, fruit and palm trees, and tall grasses and dense foliage.
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