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A nation steeped in history

To mark Bangladesh's National Day, Viet Nam News introduces a piece of writing exploring the country's unique cultural tourism by Ziaul Haque Howlader, deputy manager of Bangladesh Tourism Corporation.

A nation steeped in history

Canvas creation: Lady in Kitchen, a painting by Bangladesh's pioneer artist Kamrul Hasan (1921-88).

To mark Bangladesh's National Day, Viet Nam News introduces a piece of writing exploring the country's unique cultural tourism by Ziaul Haque Howlader, deputy manager of Bangladesh Tourism Corporation.

Bangladesh has been the cradle of civilisation and a centre of cultural diffusion since the dawn of mankind. It was the meeting ground of various peoples in different states of civilisation, from the most primitive to the most advanced.

Every Bangladeshi is legitimately proud of the country's glorious heritage.

Each phase in the history of Bangladesh has its distinct characteristics and left behind individual racial, religious and cultural traces in the form of temples, stupas, monasteries and mosques, along with their associated relics.

Bangladesh is a country of diverse attractions, bountiful nature and friendly people. The landscape looks like a magical green tapestry woven intricately by nature, crisscrossed by a network of major rivers and their tributaries.

In fact, Bangladesh is the largest river delta in the world, and the river systems are fundamental to the country's economy and the people's way of life.

In Bangladesh, cultural landmarks of antiquity range from the 3rd century BC to the 19th AD.

Before our independence, the total number of monuments and sites officially protected in the then East Pakistan was 80. Now the number has increased to 345.

The deep-rooted heritage in Bangladesh is amply reflected in its architecture, literature, dance, drama, music and painting. Influenced by great religions – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity – Bangladesh has been a diverse melting pot.

Sculpture, tapestry and engravings are developing alongside mainstream contemporary art, while drama – mainly of indigenous origin – has distinct features.

The cultural resources of Bangladesh are a draw for tourists and these are being developed, interpreted and managed. In many places, cultural traditions are being lost because of modern development, so cultural tourism can be an important vehicle for revitalising and conserving these traditions.

Visual arts and crafts are important attractions and can be a source of income for residents of tourism areas, including people living in rural villages. They create authentic souvenirs reflecting local designs, materials and craft skills.

Cultural tourism can also provide a market for contemporary paintings and sculpture that are well developed, often through university educational programmes, in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has a rich tradition of art. Specimens of ancient terracotta and pottery show remarkable artistry while modern painting styles were pioneered by artists like Zainul Abedin, Qamrul Hasan and S M Sultan.

A common and often successful approach for the presentation and sales of arts and crafts is the development of integrated craft centres or "villages".

The Government of Bangladesh has plans to set up more of these, particularly at Sonargaon, in the near future. These centres will be designed in the local traditional architectural style and will contain a large number of shops, art demonstrations, snacks bars, restaurants and other tourist facilities.

The traditional dance, music and drama performances of Bangladesh are also of much interest to many tourists.

The traditional music in Bangladesh shares much in common with its music from the Indian sub-continent and can be divided into three distinct categories – classical, folk and modern.

Classical music, both vocal and instrumental, is rooted in the remote-past. Contemporary music is more inclined to the West. Pop groups are becoming successful, mainly in Dhaka City.

The earliest available specimen of Bengali literature is about a thousand years old. During the mediaeval period, Bengali literature developed considerably with the patronage of Muslim rulers.

Chandi Das, Daulat Kazi and Alaol are some of the famous poets of the period. The era of modern Bengali literature began in the late 19th century, and Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate, is a vital part of Bangalee culture.

The other important segment of cultural tourism in Bangladesh is archaeological heritage, which exists due to the country's colourful history stretching more than two and a half millennia.

Though a total inventory of archaeological heritage sites in the country is not yet complete, surveys in the four divisions of Rajshahi, Khulna, Barisal and Dhaka indicate that the total may be more than two thousand.

So far only 417 have been declared as protected archaeological sites, which the Department of Archaeology is committed to preserving and promoting.

All these monuments are popular with the large number of visitors from home and abroad. Bangladesh has plenty of opportunity for developing cultural tourism, and tourists can observe harmony and peace prevailing among the people of different religions in this country. — VNS

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