Bangladeshi traditions and customs

What traditions and customs are there in Bangladesh?

Overview of the customs and traditions of Bangladesh, in Asia.

Food and economy

Food in daily life

Rice and fish are the basis of the diet; a day without a rice meal is almost inconceivable. Fish, meat, poultry, and vegetables are cooked in spicy curry sauces (“torkari”) that incorporate cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and other spices.

Muslims do not eat pork and Hindus do not eat beef. It is becoming more and more common to prepare ruti, a circular whole wheat flatbread, in the morning, which is eaten with curry from the night before. Also important to the diet is dal, a thin soup made from ground lentils, chick peas, or other legumes that is poured over rice.

A sweet homemade yogurt commonly ends a meal. A typical meal consists of a large bowl of rice to which small portions of fish and vegetable curry are added. Breakfast is the meal that varies the most, whether it is based on rice or bread. A favorite breakfast dish is panthabhat, leftover cold rice in water or milk mixed with gur (date palm sugar).

The food is eaten with the right hand by mixing the curry with the rice and then scooping up portions with the fingertips. In city restaurants that cater to foreigners, people can use cutlery.

Three meals a day are consumed. Water is the most common drink. Before the meal, the right hand is washed with water above the plate. With the clean knuckles of the right hand, the inside of the container is rubbed, the water is discarded and the container is filled with food. After the meal, he washes his right hand again, holding it over the empty bowl.

Snacks include fruits like banana, mango, and jackfruit, as well as puffed rice and small fried foods. For many men, especially in urbanized regions and bazaars, no day is complete without a cup of sweet milk tea from a small tea stall, sometimes accompanied by sweets.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

At weddings and major holidays, food plays an important role. On holidays or formal functions, guests are encouraged to eat to their capacity. At weddings, a common meal is biryani, a rice dish with lamb or beef and a mixture of spices, especially saffron.

On special occasions, the rice used is one of the finest, finest-grained. If biryani is not eaten, a full multicourse meal is served: foods are taken out sequentially and added to the rice bowl after the previous course is finished. A full dinner can include chicken, fish, vegetables, goat or curry and dal. The last piece of rice is finished with yogurt (“doi”).

On other important occasions, such as the Eid festivals, a goat or cow is slaughtered on the premises and curry is prepared from the fresh meat. Some of the meat is given to relatives and the poor.


Marriage is almost always an arranged affair and takes place when the parents, particularly the father, decide that a child should marry. Men typically marry around the age of twenty-five or older, and women marry between the ages of fifteen and twenty; therefore, the husband is usually at least ten years older than the wife.

Muslims allow polygamous marriage, but its occurrence is rare and depends on a man’s ability to maintain multiple households.

A parent who decides that a child is ready to marry may contact agencies, brokers, relatives, and friends to find a suitable mate. Of immediate concern are the situation and characteristics of the potential family of the in-laws.

Equality is generally sought in terms of family economic status, education, and piety. The father may allow her son to choose between five or six possible mates, providing the child with relevant data about each of the candidates. It is customary for the child to rule out clearly unacceptable candidates, leaving a list of candidates from which the parent can choose.

An agreement between two families can be sealed with an agreement on the dowry and the types of gifts to be given to the groom. Among the educated, the practice of dowry is no longer prevalent.

Divorce is a source of social stigma. A Muslim man can initiate a divorce by declaring “I divorce you” three times, but strong family pressure usually ensures that divorces do not occur. Divorce can be more difficult for the woman, who must return to her parents’ home.


The personal interaction begins with the greeting Assalam Waleykum (“peace be upon you”), to which the required response is, Waleykum Assalam (“and to you”). Among Hindus, the correct greeting is Nomoshkar, as the hands are joined under the chin. Men can shake hands if they have the same status but do not hold hands firmly.

Respect is expressed after a handshake by placing the right hand over the heart. Men and women do not shake hands. In same-sex conversations, petting is common and people may stand or sit in close proximity.

The closer the individuals are in terms of status, the closer their spatial interaction. The farewell is sealed with the phrase Khoda Hafez.

Differences in age and status are marked by linguistic conventions. Higher status individuals are not addressed by their personal name; instead, a title or kinship term is used.

Visitors are always asked to sit down, and if no chairs are available, a low stool or bamboo mat is provided. It is considered inappropriate for a visitor to sit on the ground or floor. It is the responsibility of the host to offer guests something to eat.

In busy public places that offer services, such as train stations, post offices or bazaars, there are no queues and receiving the service depends on pushing and holding one’s place within the crowd. The open stare is not considered impolite.


Religious beliefs

The symbols and sounds of Islam, such as the call to prayer, mark everyday life. Bangladeshis conceptualize themselves and others primarily through their religious heritage. For example, the nationality of foreigners is considered secondary to their religious identity.

Islam is part of everyday life in all parts of the country, and almost every village has at least one small mosque and one imam (cleric). The prayer is supposed to be performed five times a day, but only those who are committed maintain that rule. Friday evening prayers are often the only time the mosques get crowded.

Throughout the country it is believed in the spirits that inhabit natural spaces such as trees, holes and riverbanks. These beliefs are ridiculed by Islamic religious authorities.

Hinduism encompasses a number of deities, including Krishna, Ram, Durga, Kali, and Ganesh. Bangladeshi Hindus pay special attention to the female goddess Durga, and the rituals dedicated to her are among the most celebrated.

Religious practitioners

The imam is associated with a mosque and is an important person in both rural and urban society, leading a group of followers. The Imam’s power is based on his knowledge of the Koran and the memorization of phrases in Arabic. Relatively few imams understand Arabic in oral or written form.

An imam’s power is based on his ability to persuade groups of men to act in conjunction with Islamic rules. In many villages, the imam is believed to have access to the supernatural, with the ability to write amulets that protect individuals from evil spirits, imbue liquids with sacred healing properties, or ward off or reverse bad luck.

Brahmin priests perform rituals for the Hindu community during major festivals, when offerings are made, but also in daily acts of worship. They are respected, but Hinduism does not have the codified hierarchical structure of Islam. Therefore, a Brahmin priest cannot hold a leadership position outside of his religious duties. rituals and

holy places

Major Islamic holidays in Bangladesh include: Eid-ul-Azha (the 10th day of the Muslim month Zilhaj), in which a goat or cow is sacrificed in honor of Allah; Shob-i-Barat (the fourteenth or fifteenth day of Shaban), when Allah records an individual’s future for the rest of the year; Ramadan (the month of Ramzan), a month of fasting between dawn and dusk; Eid-ul-Fitr (the first day of the month of Shawal, after the end of Ramzan), characterized by giving alms to the poor; and Shob-i-Meraz (the twenty-seventh day of Rajab), which commemorates the night Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Islamic holidays are celebrated publicly at evening prayers in mosques and in open spaces in the open air, where many men gather and move in their prayers in unison.

Among the most important Hindu celebrations is Saraswati Puja (February), dedicated to the deity Saraswati, who takes the form of a swan. She is the patron saint of learning, and fostering her is important to students. Durga Puja (October) pays homage to the warrior goddess Durga, who has ten arms, carries a sword and rides a lion.

After a nine-day festival, images of Durga and her associates are placed in a procession and placed in a river. Kali Puja (November) is also called the Festival of Lights and honors Kali, a female deity who has the power to give and take life. Candles are lit in and around the houses.

Other Hindu and Islamic rituals are celebrated in villages and neighborhoods and depend on important family or local traditions. Celebrations take place at many local shrines and temples.

Death and afterlife

Muslims believe that after death the soul is judged and goes to heaven or hell. Funerals require that the body be washed, the nostrils and ears plugged with cotton or cloth, and the body wrapped in a white shroud. The body is buried or entombed in a brick or concrete structure.

In Hinduism, reincarnation is expected and one’s actions throughout life determine their future lives. As the family mourns and close relatives shave their heads, the body is carried to the funeral ghat (river bank), where prayers are recited. The body is to be placed on a pyre and cremated, and the ashes are thrown into the river.

Secular celebrations

Ekushee (February 21), also called Shaheed Dibash, is the National Martyrs’ Day that commemorates those who died defending the Bangla language in 1952.

Political speeches and a memorial service are held at the Shaheed Minar (Martyrs’ Monument) in Dhaka. Shadheenata Dibash, or Independence Day (March 26), marks the day that Bangladesh declared itself separate from Pakistan.

The event is marked with military parades and political speeches. Poila Boishakh, the Bengali New Year, is celebrated on the first day of the month of Boishakh (usually in April). Poetry readings and musical events are held.

May Day (May 1) celebrates workers with speeches and cultural events. Bijoy Dibosh, or Victory Day (December 16), commemorates the day in 1971 when Pakistani forces surrendered to a joint Bangladeshi- Indian force. Cultural and political events are held.

Arts and Humanities

Arts support

Artists are largely self-sufficient. The Bangla Academy in Dhaka offers support to some artists, particularly writers and poets. Many artists sell aesthetic works that have utilitarian functions.


Most people, regardless of their level of literacy, can recite more than one poem with a dramatic inflection. The best known are the works of the two hero poets of the region: Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nurul Islam. Tagore received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

Although he is from West Bengal, he is respected as a Bengali who championed the preservation of the Bangla language and culture. His poem “Golden Bengal” was adopted as the national anthem.

The most famous contemporary writer is Taslima Nasreen, whose novels and essays question the Islamic justification for the customary treatment of women. Conservative religious authorities have tried to have her arrested and have called for her death for blasphemy. She lives in exile.

Graphic arts

Most graphic arts are within the domain of traditional production of Hindu caste groups. The most widespread art form throughout the country is pottery, including red clay water jugs and bowls, often with a red slip and incisions.

Some Hindu sculptors produce brightly painted works depicting Durga and other deities. Drawing and painting are most visible on the backs of rickshaws and on the wooden sides of trucks.

Performing arts

Bengali music encompasses a number of traditions and reflects some of the country’s poetry. The most common instruments are the harmonium, the tabla and the sitar. Classical musicians are generally experts in the rhythms and melodic properties associated with Hindu and Urdu devotional music.

More popular today are the secular male-female duets that accompany Bengali and Hindi films. These songs are rooted in the classical tradition but have a freer contemporary melodic structure.

The traditional dance is characterized by a rural theme element with particular movements of the hands, feet and head. Dance is virtually a women-only enterprise. Plays are traditionally an important part of village life, with traveling shows stopping in the countryside.

TV dramas portray family relationships, love, and economic ups and downs. The plays in the cities, particularly in Dhaka, are attended by the educated youth.

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