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Sylhet Division

Sylhet Division

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Sylhet Division also known as Greater Sylhet or Sylhet region, is the northeastern division
Divisions of Bangladesh
||Bangladesh is divided into seven major administrative regions called divisions . Each division is named after the major city within its jurisdiction that serves as the administrative capital of that division:...

 of Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

, named after its main city, Sylhet
Sylhet
Sylhet , is a major city in north-eastern Bangladesh. It is the main city of Sylhet Division and Sylhet District, and was granted metropolitan city status in March 2009. Sylhet is located on the banks of the Surma Valley and is surrounded by the Jaintia, Khasi and Tripura hills...

. It is bounded by Meghalaya
Meghalaya
Meghalaya is a state in north-eastern India. The word "Meghalaya" literally means the Abode of Clouds in Sanskrit and other Indic languages. Meghalaya is a hilly strip in the eastern part of the country about 300 km long and 100 km wide, with a total area of about 8,700 sq mi . The...

 State of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 on the north, Tripura
Tripura
Tripura is a state in North-East India, with an area of . It is the third smallest state of India, according to area. Tripura is surrounded by Bangladesh on the north, south, and west. The Indian states of Assam and Mizoram lie to the east. The capital is Agartala and the main languages spoken are...

 State on the south, Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

 State of India on the east and Dhaka division on the west and Chittagong division on the southwest.

One of the most picturesque and archeologically rich regions in South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

, is the Sylhet Division. Its bourgeoning economy has become a part of the attractions of the region, as landscapes are filled with fragrant orange and pineapple gardens and breathtaking tea plantations. Many Sylhet community members have found work and residence abroad, particularly in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and have been using remittances to fund projects and industries within the Sylhet Division, allowing the export industry and foreign investment sectors to grow.

Administrative Districts


The Division is subdivided into four districts (zilas) and thence into 36 sub-districts (upazilas
Upazilas of Bangladesh
||The districts of Bangladesh are divided into subdistricts called Upazila Parishad , or Thana . Upazilas are similar to the county subdivisions found in some Western countries....

).
Name Capital Area (km²) Population
1991 Census
Population
2001 Census
Population
2011 Census
(preliminary
results)
Habiganj District
Habiganj District
Habiganj is a district in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh. It is under Sylhet Division.Habiganj is the historical place where the Mukti Bahini started their first guerrilla movement against aggressor Pakistani Army. It is also the place full of memory of Syed Nasir Uddin, an associate of...

 
Habiganj 
Maulvi Bazar District  Maulvi Bazar 
Sunamganj District
Sunamganj District
The district of Sunamganj consists 3562 mosques, 560 temples and 61 churches.-History:The name Sunamganj is derived from its founder, Sipahi Sunamuddin, who established a bazaar on the bank of the river Surma. In the ancient period, Sunamganj was part of the Rarh Kingdom that included Sylhet,...

 
Sunamganj 
Sylhet District
Sylhet District
The district of Sylhet consists 6754 mosques, 453 temples, 96 churches and four Buddhist temples.-Places of Interests:-Historical:#The Shrine of Hazrat Shah Jalal#The Shrine of Hazrat Shah Paran#Shahi Eidgah#Gour Govinda Fort#Kean Bridge...

 
Sylhet
Sylhet
Sylhet , is a major city in north-eastern Bangladesh. It is the main city of Sylhet Division and Sylhet District, and was granted metropolitan city status in March 2009. Sylhet is located on the banks of the Surma Valley and is surrounded by the Jaintia, Khasi and Tripura hills...

 
Total Division Sylhet
Sylhet
Sylhet , is a major city in north-eastern Bangladesh. It is the main city of Sylhet Division and Sylhet District, and was granted metropolitan city status in March 2009. Sylhet is located on the banks of the Surma Valley and is surrounded by the Jaintia, Khasi and Tripura hills...

 

History


Historians believe that Sylhet was an expanded commercial center from the ancient period, which explains its original namesake. During this time, Sylhet was probably inhabited by Indo-Aryan
Indo-Aryans
Indo-Aryan is an ethno-linguistic term referring to the wide collection of peoples united as native speakers of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian family of Indo-European languages...

 Brahmins, though ethnically the population would also have traces of Assamese
Assamese people
The Assamese people are a well-defined subgroup of People of Assam. Though sometimes they are defined as the Assamese-speaking Indo-Aryans of the Brahmaputra valley,, this definition is not legally binding...

, Dravidian
Dravidian peoples
Dravidian peoples is a term used to refer to the diverse groups of people who natively speak languages belonging to the Dravidian language family. Populations of speakers of around 220 million are found mostly in Southern India. Other Dravidian people are found in parts of central India, Sri Lanka,...

s of Bengal, Arabs, Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

s and Turks
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

. It has also been suggested that the Ancient Kingdom of Harikela was situated in modern Sylhet.

The 14th century
Century
A century is one hundred consecutive years. Centuries are numbered ordinally in English and many other languages .-Start and end in the Gregorian Calendar:...

 marked the beginning of Islamic influence in Sylhet. A Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 saint, Hazrat Shaikh al Mushaek Jalal Uddin, popularly known as Shah Jalal, arrived in Sylhet in 1303 CE from Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 via Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

 with 360 Sufi saints and army generals such as Sikander Ghazi, Syed Nasiruddin and Khwaja Burhanuddin Qahtan defeating Govinda of Gaur. Sikander Ghazi was the direct nephew of Sultan Feroze Shah of Delhi. Under the spiritual leadership of Hazrat Shah Jalal and his 360 companions the local Hindus were brought under control and they began to spread Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. He died in Sylhet in or around the year 1350 CE. His shrine is located inside the parameter of the mosque complex known as Dargah-e-Shah Jalal. Even today Shah Jalal remains revered; visitors arrive from all over Bangladesh and beyond to pay homage. Saint Shah Jalal and his companions were responsible for the conversion of most of the populace from their earlier beliefs in Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 and Paganism
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 to Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. Shortly, thereafter, Sylhet became a centre of Islam in Bengal
Islam in Bangladesh
Islam is the largest religion of Bangladesh, the Muslim population is approximately 148.6 million, which is the third largest Muslim population in the world, constituting 90.4% of the total population as of 2010. Religion has always been a strong part of identity, but this has varied at different...

. In the official documents and historical papers, Sylhet was often referred to as Jalalabad
Jalalabad
Jalalabad , formerly called Adinapour, as documented by the 7th century Hsüan-tsang, is a city in eastern Afghanistan. Located at the junction of the Kabul River and Kunar River near the Laghman valley, Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province. It is linked by approximately of highway with...

 during the era of the Muslim rule.

In the late 18th century, the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

 became interested in Sylhet and saw it as an area of strategic importance in the war against Burma. Sylhet gradually was absorbed into British control and administration and was governed as a part of Bengal. After the British administrative reorganization of India, Sylhet was eventually incorporated into Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

. It remained a part of Assam for the rest of the era of British rule. In 1947, following a referendum, almost all of erstwhile Sylhet became a part of East Pakistan
East Pakistan
East Pakistan was a provincial state of Pakistan established in 14 August 1947. The provincial state existed until its declaration of independence on 26 March 1971 as the independent nation of Bangladesh. Pakistan recognized the new nation on 16 December 1971. East Pakistan was created from Bengal...

, barring the Karimganj subdivision
Karimganj district
Karimganj District is an administrative district in the state of Assam in India. The district headquarters are located at Karimganj.-Early period:...

 which was incorporated into the new Indian state of Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

. The referendum was held on 3 July 1947, there were a total of 546,815 votes cast on 239 polling stations, a majority of 43.8 per cent voted in favour of East Bengal. There were protests regarding bogus votes. However, the referendum was acknowledged by Article 3 of the India Independence Act of 18 July 1947. In 1971, Sylhet became part of the newly formed independent country of Bangladesh.

The Sylhet region has a "friendship link" with the city of St Albans
St Albans
St Albans is a city in southern Hertfordshire, England, around north of central London, which forms the main urban area of the City and District of St Albans. It is a historic market town, and is now a sought-after dormitory town within the London commuter belt...

, in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. The link was established in 1988 when the District council supported a housing project in Sylhet as part of the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. Sylhet was chosen because it is the area of origin for the largest ethnic minority group in St Albans.

According to the St. Albans District Council: The majority of British Bangladeshis are of Sylheti ethnic origin (see British Bangladeshi
British Bangladeshi
A British Bangladeshi is a person of Bangladeshi origin who resides in the United Kingdom having emigrated to the UK and attained citizenship through naturalisation or whose parents did so; they are also known as British Bengalis...

). It is a testiment of Sylhet in its history of trade relations with other parts of the world. "Sylhet" is thought to be a misnomer of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, from the time Syrians and Arabs were among the merchant peoples of the Bengal delta, as well some historical cultural ties to China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 can be evident.

Civic Administration



In 1995, Sylhet was declared the 6th division of the country. Prior to that it was part of the Chittagong Division. The Sylhet Division is subdivided into four districts (zillah
Districts of Bangladesh
The divisions of Bangladesh are divided into 64 districts, or zila . The districts are further subdivided into 493 sub-districts, or upazila ....

): Habiganj
Habiganj District
Habiganj is a district in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh. It is under Sylhet Division.Habiganj is the historical place where the Mukti Bahini started their first guerrilla movement against aggressor Pakistani Army. It is also the place full of memory of Syed Nasir Uddin, an associate of...

, Maulvibazar, Sunamganj
Sunamganj District
The district of Sunamganj consists 3562 mosques, 560 temples and 61 churches.-History:The name Sunamganj is derived from its founder, Sipahi Sunamuddin, who established a bazaar on the bank of the river Surma. In the ancient period, Sunamganj was part of the Rarh Kingdom that included Sylhet,...

 and Sylhet
Sylhet District
The district of Sylhet consists 6754 mosques, 453 temples, 96 churches and four Buddhist temples.-Places of Interests:-Historical:#The Shrine of Hazrat Shah Jalal#The Shrine of Hazrat Shah Paran#Shahi Eidgah#Gour Govinda Fort#Kean Bridge...

. Further, the Sylhet Division contains 35 sub-districts (upazila/thana
Administrative divisions of Bangladesh
Bangladesh is divided as follows#divisions 7 #districts 64 #subdistricts #Union ParishadsDhaka City has 90 wards and 725 mahallas.-Former regions:...

), 323 union parishad, 10,185 villages and 14 municipalities. Population: approximately 10 million, which is less than 7% of the total population of Bangladesh.

Culture




Sylheti attachment to their regional identity also continues in the efforts of many Sylhetis to keep marital relationships within the same regional, cultural, social and religious background. Sylheti people are considered as a distinct ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

 in Bangladesh; They are also generally more family oriented, follow and support Sylheti community
Community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...

 culture, and are more conformist
Conformist
In English history, Conformists were those whose religious practices conformed with the requirements of the Act of Uniformity and so were in concert with the Established Church, the Church of England, as opposed to those of Nonconformists whose practices were not acceptable to the Church of England....

 Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s. These tendencies have led to some rivalry between non-Sylhetis and Sylhetis, due to differences of customs.

Marriages are practiced in a traditional Muslim style, with henna ritual (mehendi), and prayers. Sylheti marriages often include contracts of marriage outlining both the rights and obligations of both partners. Marriages in Sylhet often take place with partners in the United Kingdom and the US.

Given its unique cultural and economic development, and linguistic differences
Sylheti language
Sylheti is the language of Sylhet, which is also known as the Surma Valley and is located in the north-eastern region of Bangladesh, and also spoken in parts of the Northeast Indian states of Assam and Tripura...

 (Greater Sylhet region was a part of Assam
Assam
Assam , also, rarely, Assam Valley and formerly the Assam Province , is a northeastern state of India and is one of the most culturally and geographically distinct regions of the country...

 and Surma Valley State for about 100 years during the British Raj
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

 in comparison to the rest of Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

), and given that Sylhet has, for much of its recent history, been a region of a larger entity. As so many Sylhetis are resident abroad, Sylhet has a major flow of foreign currency from non-resident Bangladeshis .

Economy


The area around Sylhet is a traditional tea growing area. The Surma Valley is covered with terraces of tea gardens and lush green tropical forests. Srimangal is known as the tea capital of Bangladesh and for miles around one can see the tea gardens on the hill slopes.

The area has over 150 tea gardens, including three of the largest tea gardens in the world both in terms of area and production. Nearly 300,000 workers, of which over 75% are women, are employed on the tea estates. Employers prefer to engage women for plucking tea leaves since they do a better job and are paid less than the men. Unfortunately recent drought has killed nearly a tenth of the tea shrubs.

The gardens are relics from the days of the British Raj. The plantations were started by the British and the managers still live in white timber homes as they did in those days. The bungalows stand on huge lawns and the service and lifestyle is pretty much unchanged.

A relatively new area that has come under tea cultivation is the sub-Himalayan terrain of Panchagarh. The soil and climate is highly favorable for growing tea here. In fact this area is contiguous with Assam and Bengal in India, where tea has been grown for decades. Beginning with only 300 acres (1.2 km²) of land in 2000, the cash crop is now being cultivated on over 3500 acres (14.2 km²) in Tentulia, Sadar and Atoari upazilas of Panchagarh.

The humus content in the soil here is more than in the traditional tea-growing areas of Sylhet. The tea produced in Panchagarh is supposedly much better in quality than that of Sylhet. Several nurseries have been set up in Panchagarh and Thakurgaon to supply saplings to the tea gardens. Bangladesh exports tea to Pakistan and Russia.

There are large numbers of investments and businesses in the city
Sylhet
Sylhet , is a major city in north-eastern Bangladesh. It is the main city of Sylhet Division and Sylhet District, and was granted metropolitan city status in March 2009. Sylhet is located on the banks of the Surma Valley and is surrounded by the Jaintia, Khasi and Tripura hills...

 and in large towns funded by Sylhetis living abroad, in particular by British Bangladeshi
British Bangladeshi
A British Bangladeshi is a person of Bangladeshi origin who resides in the United Kingdom having emigrated to the UK and attained citizenship through naturalisation or whose parents did so; they are also known as British Bengalis...

s, over 95 percent of whom come from this Sylhet region. The Bangladesh government has set up a special Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Sylhet, in order to attract foreign investors, mainly from the UK.

Religion and Faith


Sylhet is a holy place for both Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 and Hindus. It is a land of 360 awliyas. Notable Hindu saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a Vaishnava saint and social reformer in eastern India in the 16th century, believed by followers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism to be the full incarnation of Lord Krishna...

 visited his maternal and paternal family homes in Burunga (Balaganj), Dhaka Dakkhin (Gulapganaj) and Habiganj in Sylhet Division. Famous religious places include, the shrines of Shah Jalal, Shah Farhan (popularly known as Shah Paran, Shah Kamal Qattani in Shaharpara
Shaharpara
Shaharpara is a village in the northeastern part of Sunamganj District, Bangladesh and is approximately one hour drive away from Sylhet. It is at the heart of Sylhet Division and nestled beside the river Ratna....

,Hazrat Sayyed Zakir Shah Fatimi in Turuk Khola of South Surma and Sipahsalar Syed Nasiruddin in Habiganj for Muslims. Hindu temples like Shree Chaitanya Dev Mandir, Kali Mandir of Jainpur, Shakti Piths temple of Kirit Devi Kamala, Bagala Matar Mandir of Habiganj and Kalibari of Jaintiapur are known throughout the Indian Subcontinent.

Followers of Different religions are: Muslim 81.16%, Hindu 17.80%, Christian 0.06%, Buddhist 0.02% and others 0.96%.

Sources


Census figures for 1991, 2001 and 2011 are from Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Population Census Wing. The 2011 Census figures are based on preliminary results.

External links