Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Bangladesh opportunity

THIS week, I am visiting Bangladesh as part of my first international trip in 2016. Why did I choose Bangladesh? Bangladesh's growing economy and rising consumer demand make it a place where US businesses want to compete. US companies are especially interested in helping Bangladesh meet its ambitious infrastructure investment goals with sustainable “Made-in-the-USA” quality goods and services.
We are especially proud of the aircraft, machinery, satellites, and power equipment that US companies produce, which are the safest, cleanest, and most durable in the world. During my time in Bangladesh, I am meeting with economic, government, and business leaders to assure them that the Export-Import Bank of the United States is here to assist American firms in competing for Bangladeshi business.
For example, in 2011 and 2013, the Exim Bank of the US financed more than $500 million to allow Biman Bangladesh Airlines to acquire four Boeing 777-300ER long-range passenger aircraft. Bangladesh's economic expansion means greater demand for long-range flights that are safe, cheap, and fuel-efficient. Biman's new Boeing jets will help meet that demand.
But that is just the view from 10,000 metres. On the ground, these new aircraft also mean more jobs for Bangladeshis. This purchase is part of a long-term partnership between Exim Bank and Biman as they work to modernise and expand their fleet. Over time, this process has and will continue to require more pilots, flight attendants, and maintenance workers to keep more planes flying and the Bangladeshi economy literally “soaring” globally.
Since President Barack Obama took office, Exim Bank has supported more than $650 million in US exports to Bangladesh—more than under any previous administration. And I see more opportunity for investment in the future. Here lies the Bangladesh opportunity: with a growing middle class, we know that Bangladeshis want to buy American-made planes, cars and power plants—and that US businesses want to deliver them.
The Bangladeshi government has announced serious renewable energy plans, focusing their efforts on solar and wind energy technologies. As Bangladesh looks to invest in major renewable energy projects, we at Exim Bank will be there to make US companies competitive in bidding on these projects. It is our job to reduce the risks of entering foreign markets so US businesses can partner with Bangladeshi customers to unleash big opportunities.
We know the competition is tough. I am confident that competitive financing can be a catalyst for getting Bangladesh the high-quality American goods and services that can propel the country's economy forward. We want the US businesses to be competitive in this promising market.
I am proud that Exim can continue providing US businesses with the backing they need to compete effectively for the great opportunities Bangladesh has to offer. I look forward to building on relationships, old and new, with my colleagues and friends in Bangladesh and across South Asia so that together we can shape a bright future for the middle class and deliver on our shared responsibility to the next generation.

courtesy : The Daily Star

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bangladesh Surfer Girl Nasima Akter

Surfing in Bangladesh only started about ten years ago. There is no history for going into the water for enjoyment even though Bangladesh is nearly 50% water by area. Water has always been about fishing or threatening monsoons & shifting ocean levels. It is only in the last couple of years there has been more news about surfing and promoting of the luxury and excitement 'beach life' has to offer.

Nasima surfing the waves in style

So many girls and women are completely unfamiliar of the concept of their own aspirations. A teenage girl learning how to surf doesn’t turn heads around most coastal towns in first world countries, but in Bangladesh (a Muslim country that borders India), 18-year-old local surfer Nasima Akter is the subject of stares and neighborhood gossip. An 18-year-old from Bangladesh has become an unlikely poster girl for female surfers after being forced out of her family home at the age of nine and finding a talent for the sport.

Nasima Akter is inspiring young girls in the fishing town of Cox’s Bazar to go against the conservative Muslim social stigma against swimming in public. She drew the attention and respect of girls  that might have been afraid of what the community would say. She gave them the courage to go out there and do something that they loved, and that empowers them. It is hard to imagine growing up without the freedom to surf in beautiful places or dream what we want to be when we grow up.

Heather Kessinger, a Californian film maker, decided to bring her story to the big screen. A new documentary, The Most Fearless, will debut at film festival. Since that first trip to Bangladesh, the San Francisco-based filmmaker and the cinematographer, Jordan Dozzi have spent months filming with the community in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The working title of Nasima’s story is called The Most Fearless. The film documents her efforts to respect local customs on modesty, wearing a traditional shalwar kameez: baggy trousers and a thigh-length shirt that balloons in the waves. Akter dominates the competition boards of Bangladesh with confidence, consistently beating her male rivals.

Photo courtesy: The web

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Folk Myth of Bangladesh

Folk Literature is created by preliterate communities and passed down orally from one generation to another generation. Although composed by individuals, folk literature, by the nature of its composition and preservation, becomes a collective product and assumes the traditions, emotions, thoughts and values of the community. Because folk literature is oral, it tends to rely on patterns of language and style. Nevertheless, it is replete with artistic beauty, wit and joy.

Geetika Poster
 From the 3rd century onwards, the Mouryas, the Guptas, the Palas, the Senas and the Muslims came one after another to rule the Bengal. As a result, they grafted their ways of life and cultural traits on the indigenous population. Subsequently, Portuguese, French and English ships anchored in the harbors of Bengal. They left not only their merchandise but also their customs. Each race left its own mark and it was not only physical but also cultural, which collectively formed the basis of the culture.
Because folk literature is oral, it tends to depend on some patterns of language and style. Bengali Folk Literature includes different types of poetry, drama, folktales, ballads and proverbs. The folklore of Bangladesh is heavily influenced by different races which were present years ago, Covering all branches of formalised folklore, such as tales, songs, ballads, proverbs, riddles, charms, superstitions, myths, etc. And each folk myth of Folk tales represents the different stories of that time.

There is 21 Geetika which is based on different folk myths of our country. Geetika a form of oral narrative poetry, which is like a western ballad, tells a single event or a dramatic story, through dialogue. However, Geetika tends to be longer than western ballads, Typed characters tend to predominate in Geetika where characters are generally not named, but referred to as prince, princess, fairy princess, demon, sorceress, merchant, gardener, ascetic, pir and fakir etc. They are all inhabitants of some kingdom on earth, but without any geographical specificity.

There are two types of Geetika: First one is Porbabanga-gatika, which is mainly from Mymensingh and include ‘Mahuya,’ ‘Malyuya,’ ‘Chandravat’, ‘Dewana Madina’, ‘Kanka O Lila’, ‘Kamala’, ‘Dewan Bvhavna’ etc. Second type of Geetika is Nath Geetika, which focuses on stories of the conversion of Prince Gopt Chandra and on the miracles of the Nath guru (Goraksavijay, Minchetan). Geetikas date back to the medieval period and is based on the norms, customs, conflicts, crises and religious and caste discriminations of feudal society. Apart from Nath Geetika, they are secular poems, inspired by human life on earth and not by thoughts of the after life.

Mymensingh Geetika:
Mymensingh Geetika by Dinesh Chandra Sen
Mymensingh Geetika is a collection of folk ballads from the region of Mymensingh and around of Bangladesh. Chandra Kumar Dey and Dinesh Chandra Sen were the collectors and editors of these folk ballads. The collection was published from Calcutta University, along with another similar publication named Purbabanga-Geetika.


Mohua Sundori
Mohua is one of the famous ballads written by Dwija Kanai in seventeen century. The hero and heroine of this ballad are Mahua and Nader Chand. This is an eternal love story. Mahua, a Brahmin girl, is the main character of the story. The story starts with 6 month old Mahua getting stolen by Humra Bede (Leader of a gypsy group), who brought her up in the gypsy community. Mahua’s stunning beauty was the main reason for him to steal her. Their only job was to show performances. One day they reached Nader Chand’s village where the destiny made him meet Mahua and fall in love at first sight. As soon as Humra came to know about their love affair he left that place immediately with Mahua. She tried to flee away from him to go back to Nader Chand. But the destiny took her to death slowly. On the way she was ill- treated by a merchant and a saint who would convince her that they could help her to get to her lover. She fought with every situation and got to her lover. But at the end they got trapped by Humra and the story ends with Mahua’s tragic death. She had to kill herself to save her chastity and above all her love. In this story the country-poet has beautifully depicted a strong woman who represents Bangladeshi women’s beauty (both inner and outer), strength and love.


Chandrabati’s tragic life touched many Bengali’s heart. She was the first Bengali women poet of sixteenth century in a Hindu Brahman family. Chandrabati was very beautiful and fell in love with another Brahman boy Joaychandra. Soon they got married but their marital life didn’t last long as Joychandra left her for another women. Chandrabati was broken hearted and decided to choose a celibate life. Her father told her to engage herself in praying and made a temple next to his own temple for her. Chandrabati engaged herself in reciting and writing odes and in praying. By this time Joychandra realized his mistakes and wanted to win Chandrabatis heart again. When Joychandra came to chandrabati she was praying in her temple. Joychandra begged her to come back to him. As she was in deep prayer she didn’t open the door. Joaychandra wrote a love letter on the wall of the temple with red malati flowers (One kind of flower seen in Bangladesh) and committed suicide drowning on the river next to the temple. When Chandrabati finished her prayer and opened the door it was too late. Chandrabati couldn’t bear the separation of beloved ones. So, she also killed herself. Chandrabatis love and longing inspires Bengali women in their values of life.

Nath Geetika:

Nath Geetika
Nath Geetika is another kind of oral poem of Bangladesh which focus on prince Gopi Chandra and Nath Guru. These poems are divided into two groups. One group focuses on the miracle of Nath Guru where as others on religious conversion of Prince Gopi Chandra (Manik Chandra Rajar Gan, Govinda Chandrer Git, Maynamatir Gan, Gopi Chandrer Sannyas, Gopi Chander Panchali etc.

The Folk Literature refers not to written, but to oral traditions. It may be in prose or verse, often mythological or historical, it can be narrative epic, occupational verse, ritual verse, praise poems to rulers and other prominent people. Whatever it may contain, it highlights the exemplary wisdom of illiterate people.

Photo Courtesy: Web

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Women In Liberation

A woman’s war is distinct. She not only has to be a fighter, but also is expected to maintain and eventually return to her traditional role as a mother, wife, and anchor of the family at the end of the conflict. Bangladeshi women played key roles during and after the 1971 war, serving as combatants, informants, nurses, weapons smugglers, and more.
A Poster during The Liberation War of 1971
War heroes include those women who have supported the valiant freedom fighters with food, shelter, funds; who have nursed the wounded and hide weapons risking their own lives. They also include those who have willingly given their sons to war, who have lost their loved ones and even worse been subjected to sexual abuse and still survived to tell their stories.Bengali women had contributed so much to the war. They devoted themselves to taking care of the refugees in the camps and even took up arms to fight as part of the Mukti Bahini. They collected and distributed clothes and other necessary items for the children in the refugee camps. They took part in activities of the Mujibnagar government-in-exile who had their headquarter in Kolkata.

Women underwent training on guerrilla warfare and first aid - in 
The Women Freedom Fighter of '71

some instances there were more than 200 women in the training camp. Most of them had lost their family members and were resolute to take revenge. The food they used to get at the training camp was paltry but that didn't bother the camp inmates.
One such woman was Taramon Bibi. She joined the Sector 11 (Mymensingh-Tangail) camp commanded by Major Abu Taher initially as a cook and a cleaner. But noticing her resilience, bravery and strength, Taramon's godfather Muhib Habildar motivated her to become a freedom fighter. He taught her how to use arms like rifles and stein gun. Some women even tied grenades to their bodies and threw themselves on the road in order to kill as many of the enemies as possible.

Many women assisted at the 480-bed hospital in Agartala, Tripura (east of Bangladesh), known as the 'Bangladesh Hospital'. Here they treated injured freedom fighters and cared for their well-being. This group of young women put their heart and soul into their job as medical attendants and consoled themselves in the knowledge that helping out at the hospital was almost as good as fighting in the war. This group were led by Dr. Sitara Begum, the only other woman to be awarded the 'Bir Protik' along with Taramon Bibi. She was a lieutenant at the start of the war, but promoted to Captain by Colonel Osmani.

One Of Freedom Fighter in 1971
Similar to Bir Protik Taramon Bibi and Dr. Captain Sitara Begum many countless women carried out heroic deed during the war but they've gone unnoticed. It is an unfortunate characteristic of human beings, in general, around the world to neglect the veterans of war - both men and women. Their bravery and sacrifice for the greater good of humanity provides inspiration, but their are abandoned after the war and left to look after themselves.

    On 4th April 1970 poet and social reformer Begum Sufia Kamal founded the Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) Mahila Parishad (Women's Council of Bangladesh), a women's human right organization. During the Shadinota Juddho they published an emotionally powerful book "To the Conscience of People" (1971) from within the blockaded Dhaka city. It contained photographs and vivid description that showed how Bengali women were tortured by the officers and soldiers of the West Pakistan army and by their collaborators

Another powerful book that was written during 1971 was "Ekatturer Dinguli" (The days of '71) by Jahanara Imam. It is a diary of her personal account of the Bangladesh Liberation War tragedy in which she lost her eldest son Shafi Imam Rumi, aged 19, and her husband, who died three days before Victory Day of 16 December 1971.
The vast majority of the coverage of women’s role in the 1971 war has centered on women as victims. However, even under such harrowing atmosphere and personal grievances, women fought in the war in so many different ways. They were active and willing participant in the fight for Bangladesh's independence

Photo Courtesy: Website

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Traces of Isa Khan, the Man of Steel, in Kishoreganj

Written by: Wasim Subhan Choudhury

Isa Khan was one of the rare rulers who stood tall during Mughal rules. He used his political negotiation skills and war tactics to refuse Mughal emperors take control of Bengal. In the course, he defeated two Mughal generals.
This man of steel constructed an outpost in Karimganj Upazila in Kishoreganj. The place is popularly known as Jangalbari. It is a formation consisting of several structures inside. Dewan Amin Dau Khan, fourteenth in the line of Isa Khan descendants, lives here at the moment.

Eastward the Brahmaputra River, there is a village in Kishoreganj called Egarosindur. This Egarosindur lost all its glory days and currently remains as a ‘regular’ village. But during its time, it was the hub of all trade and commerce, which extended to being a key river port for Muslims those traded products with Paris and Rome in the 8th century. Some of the many tribes living there were called Choch and Hajong. A king named Azhaba brought the village under his rule after beating King Botong in the 10th century, but that did not last long as Bebuid Raza soon defeated Azhaba and became the dominant ruler. Bebuid Raza built infrastructures such as temples and large canals in Egarosindur. After Isa Khan’s (1529 –  1599) declaration of the city as a sovereign state, Egarosindur further bloomed in trade and commerce.  Isa Khan constructed a fort here. The famous duel between Isa Khan and Man Singh, the fearless general of Akbar, was held in a place named Tanga beside Egarosindur Fort. Man Singh was astonished when Isa Khan refused to take Man Singh’s life and offered him his own sword when the general’s sword was broken in the duel. Before confronting Man Singh, Isa Khan defeated another Mughal general Shahbaz Khan. Isa Khan was more tactful that time. That’s because, Shahbaz Khan in September 1584 crossed Ganges near Khizirpur and attacked Sonargaon, Katrabo and Egarasindhur. Being off guard, Isa Khan deluded negotiation of surrender to Shahbaz Khan to buy time. After a month or so, Isa Khan, with help of Masum Khan Kabuli, launched counterattack with musket and gunpowder artilleries. Shahbaz Khan and his troops were waiting for Isa Khan to surrender. The sudden attack destroyed their moral and soon they were defeated. 

Isa Khan died of natural cause in September 1599. Bangladesh Navy named one of its vessel and a base in honor of this man of steel. 

Kishoreganj is located in the central part of the country. The district is well connected with rest of the country in river ways and road ways. It is known for its traditional rituals including Kurikhai Mela and other shrine-oriented festivals.

Kishoreganj has many ancient structures. Among others Sadi Mosque and Shah Mahmud Mosjid are surely two pearls of Kishoreganj.

Sadi Mosque
The son of Shaikh Shir, Sadi, built a single-domed mosque in 1652. This mosque is known as Sadi Mosque. Emperor Shahjahan was on the Delhi throne at that time when it was built. The mosque was built as a square with each side measuring 25ft feet and terracotta decorating both inside and outside.
The design of the mosque makes it stand out from any other mosques in the region. Built on a raised piece of land, the mosque’s north and south sides have single arches centred in the middle and three on the eastern side. Although each side of the mosque is 25 ft, the central archway has a more rectangular frame, along with angled rectangle on the archways. In accordance with the eastern doorways, the Qibla wall is punctuated with three semi-octagonal mihrabs.  

It is located at Egarosindur village in Pakundia upazila of Kishoreganj.

Shah Mahmud Mosque
Shah Mahmud Mosque was named after Sheikh Shah Mahmud. This is square-shaped, measuring to only 5.79m per side, standing tall and proud over an elevated piece of land. The entrance through the eastern side of the mosque is through a Do-Chala roof house. The mosque is supported at the four corners by octagonal-shaped columns with each walls having two small columns. The eastern wall is decorated with terracotta.

The square shape of the mosque and the four walls are highlighted with the usage of octagonal towers which are tall and were initially tipped with kalasa finials. The western wall contains three mihrabs, with two of them shaped as rectangular and the middle one as semi-octagonal. The decorations go beyond the low parapets and extend to the frontons. The parapets and cornices follow Mughal fashion and are therefore on the side rather than standing straight.

Both these mosques should be in the ‘must visit’ list during a tour to Kishoreganj. Kishoreganj however has few other attractions which include Jangalbari, Egarosindur, Pagla Mosque, Poet Chandraboty Shibmondir and Jinda Bibir Mazar.

(Photos from member of Save the Heritages of Bangladesh)

Wasim is a free lance management consultant who is also a histroy enthusiast. He is an avid blogger and loves to travel around in Bangladesh visiting of the beaten path sites which are usually unknown to people. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bichanakandi With Panthumai Waterfall

The two attractions, Bichanakandi and Panthumai Waterfall, is situated in Gowainghat Upazilla of Sylhet District near Bangladesh- India border. All the highlands and the mountain ranges belong to India and all the flat lands belong to Bangladesh. This means almost all of the waterfalls are situated in India. However you can still get to see and enjoy the streams coming down from the Indian Waterfalls. By renting a boat from Kamalganj ghat anyone can visit these two beautiful locations. The best part of the journey is the peaceful boat ride and the raw natural scenic beauty of this region


Cruising in Bichanakandi 
Bichanakandi, located in the Goainghat Upazilla of Sylhet, is just near the Indian border. It is known to be even more breathtaking than Jaflong. Bichanakandi is a stone quarry that has been used for quite some years now. However, recently it has become a blossoming tourist attraction for all types of travellers. The stream coming from a waterfall located in India comes down rushing through the mountains as it kisses the Goain river gently, this narrow stretch is adorned with stones of different sizes and shapes. This gorgeous meeting point has become known as “Bichanakandi”.                                                             

If you are up to exploring more untouched scenic beauty, there is a town nearby called Goainghat which holds a must visit destination named Haadar Paar. Reflected in the lap of nature in the mountain sky shake, transparent cool water flows down the hills into the river stream of Haadar Paar. It is an almost hypnotizing scene to watch the water flowing ever so gracefully between the stones of the river. 

Panthumai Waterfall:

Panthumai Waterfall
Panthumai Waterfall is located between the Bangladesh-Indian border. A large portion of the Waterfall belongs to India whilst it is only the lake that belongs to Bangladesh. The village Pang Thu Mai is the bordering village. Anyone who has visited will agree, the atmosphere of this place is electric. Thick green jungle of Meghalaya hills surrounds you as you hear the soothing sound of the Waterfall flowing into the river. For one who is seeking solitude, this is the best place to be.

Thick green vegetation surrounding the Waterfall
The entrance to Panthumai, is lined with trees on both sides, setting the stage for the serene beauty to come. Dotting the road are individual homes; many have plots in front with a dense growth of trees. Vines of paan (betel leaf) climb along the trunks of these trees. Rice and vegetables are grown on the farmland further inland and along the edge of the river.

The amalgam of all these attractions make it indeed a unique destination that is suitable for all types of tourists.

Photo Courtesy: Saidur Rahman, The web

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Highest Hill Of The Country

Saka Haphong
There are many hills in our country, which are situated in the southern part (Chittagong Hill Track) of Bangladesh. Amongst these hills,  is Saka Hafong. It is one of the best trekking spots for adventurers. Though it is not officially the highest peak, topological maps and a GPS (Global Positioning System) based survey suggests it could be possibly, the highest peak of Bangladesh.The peak reaches to a height over 3000 feet (900 meters).

Saka Hafong:

Trail to Saka Haphong
The peak is situated in the district of Bandarban. Saka Hafong is also known as Mowdok Taung and Tlang Moy (Taung and Tlang: both of these words means Peak, in Tribal language.

It is situated at the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar. “Saka Hafong” means “the peak of the East” in Tripura tribal language. This name was first published by Nature Adventure Club Bangladesh in 2007. Recently two trekking clubs counted the height of "Saka Haphong" as 3,488 and 3,461 feet respectively.

Village near the Mountain 

Any of these two figures make it the highest mountain in Bangladesh exceeding the height of Keokaradong, which is 3,172 feet high. This peak is also known as Mowdok Taung (as per USGS Topo and Russian Topo map), Saka Haphong (by local Tripura tribes).

'Mowdok Taung' still presumably remains as the official and the most authentic name for this peak. Since 2007 till now route to Saka Haphong is the most desired trekking route for adventure lovers in Bangladesh. Trekking to Saka Haphong not only offers you an amazing view, you get to experience the local life in Bangladesh as you trek your way through Thanchi Bazaar in Bandarban all the way to the peak of Saka Haphong. The locals are known to be very accommodating and they welcome trekkers to stay at their homes for a minimum fee, usually Tk50-100 per night.

Photo courtesy: Dr. Muntasir Moin

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rash Mela In Bangladesh

People are praying during the Festival
Bangladesh is a joyful land which celebrates many colourful festivals due to the mixture of different cultures and ethnicity. It is the land of a diversified population which has the freedom to carry out their individual cultural identities. One of these identities is the Hindu community, and each year they celebrate one of their significant festivals, which is known as the Rash Mela. This festival is of utmost importance as this is a religious festival and a lot of people from all over the country gather during this holy celebration.

Rash Mela is the principal festival and fair of the Manipuris; it is also observed by Hindu communities in different regions. It is held on the night of the full moon (mid October to mid November) in Kartik-Agrahayan at Kamalganj in Maulvi Bazar or at Dublar Char in the Sundarbans and on the Kuakata beach in Patuakhali. The festival is named Rash Mela because it has evolved from the spiritual rasalila (love-play) of Radha and Krishna at Vrindavan.

The Raja of Manipur, Maharaj Jaysingh (reigned 1764-1799)was the one who introduced Rash Mela to Manipuri society. Ever since the mid-nineteenth century when the Manipuris settled in Bangladesh, this fair has been observed at Madhabpur in Kamalganj Upazila of Maulvi Bazar district. These days the fair is also observed at Tetaigaon in Adampur and Jayashree in habiganj. Rash mela is mostly celebrated by the Bishnupriya group of Manipuri Hindu community of Bangladesh. Rash Purnima is held on the day of the full moon in the Bangla month of Kartik (late autumn or mid October to mid november).

The prime attractions of the festival are herdsmen's dance by boys in Manipuri dress and the rasa dance by young girls. The love trysts of Krishna and Radha are enacted through Manipuri music and dance drama. Multitude of viewers, including foreigners, throng the place to see the fair. 
Three-day fairs are held on the occasion at Kuakata and Dublar Char.In the afternoon the festival begins with a dance depicting Lord Krishna's notorious young life. Children dress up as Krishna and perform in front of hundreds of devotees. In the evening begins Rash Nritya, a Manipuri style dance performed by young girls wearing traditional Manipuri Garo.

Taking the Holy Bath at Kuakata Beach

Nowadays the festival has taken the form of communal celebrations while in older days it was only limited to royal families .There are three days long Rash Mela held every year at  Kalapara and Dublar Char.  
Hindu people gathered during the Festival

As a tourist spot in Kalapara, this festival is co-organized by local administration. This year it will held from 25th November. It is a main seasonal attraction of Kuakata. Visitors come here from all over the country. Local administration povides proper security for the visitors to enjoy the festival fully.

Photo Courtesy: Website

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Weavers of Bangladesh: (Part-03)

In this segment of Weavers of Bangladesh, we explored into the history and method of how Benarasi and Katan fabric is made.


Red Benarasi Sari

Benarasi Sari has an ancient history beginning from the Mughal empire in the 16th century. It is known that it originated from Benaras, a northern city of India. Benarasi Sari found its way to Bangladesh, when the Muslims migrated from Benaras into Bangladesh. It was these migrants that started the practice of making Benarasi Sari at Mohammadpur and Mirpur in Dhaka. 
Texture of Benarasi Sari

The texture of a Benarasi fabric can be either light or heavy. The silk is first put into rollers that twist a single silk thread with another to thicken its texture. This is then heated and put into a Tana where it is made into a bundle. The threads are then dyed elsewhere. The threads are stretched out in a single room made of rusted tin and worn out bamboo with barely any ventilation or lighting. In another similar room, a weaver weaves the designs on a sari. A single Benarasi Sari that is 21 feet in length and 3.5 feet in breadth can take a week or longer to be completed.

Varities of Benarasi Saris
There are four main varieties of Banarasi Saree, which includes pure silk (Katan), Organza (Kora) with zari and silk; Georgette, and Shattir. They are divided into categories such as Jangla, Tanchoi, Vaskat, Cutwork, Tissue and Butidar.

Fulkoali Katan, Dulhan Katan, Mirpuri Reshmi Katan, Mellenium Katan, Benarasi Cosmos, Orgamndi, Katan, Brakett Katan and Chunri Katan are some of the different types of sarees that are woven in Mirpur Banarasi Palli. The Palli is located in 2, 3 and 5 wards of 10, 11, 12 and 13 sections of Mirpur, where more than 300 outlets display the elegant saris. Recently, craftsmen of Banarasi village have started marketing 50 items of silk saris. Three-piece and two-piece with various designs made from by jute net and jute silk.
The most popular Banarasi Saris are jute net, jute silk, jute katan, muslin, tissue sari, cosmos silk, katan, georgette saris, banarasi, boti katan, lehenga, and wedding sarees. Prices for most of the sarees are between Tk 3,000 - 15,000.
Benarasi Sari is a fabric made out of silk and zari which is worn by women in the subcontinent especially women of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Benarasi sarees are used mainly by affluent society during special occasions, especially on weddings.


Weaver are making Katan Sari
Katan silk, which originated from Persia, came to India during the rise of the Mughal Empire. Women who belonged to the royal families indulged in silk purchased from China, Persia and even parts of India, such as Benares, in order to weave stylish and elegant garments. As recorded by Inayat Khan in Shah Jahanama, the royal women were known for wearing elaborately designed clothes in fabrics like Katan silk, Satin, Tasser, Ambary and Kimkhab. Furthermore, they were known for wearing at least 2-3 different outfits in a day and clothes, once worn, were handed to the servants for their use. Through this practice, fabrics such as Katan silk were filtered down all the way to the subjects of the empire and were popularized due to their sturdy nature.Women like NurJahan Begum were also known for designing and popularizing new fashions and designs, which made these fabrics all the more desirable amongst the subjects of the empire.

Katan Sari

Katan silk is a type of silk that is created by twisting together filaments to create a sturdier and more durable fabric. Due to the nature of its creation, it also makes an interesting textured background for any work that is to be done on the fabric to make it unique. Katan silk is one of the most easily identified fabrics as it has an extremely unique look that helps it stand out from other forms of silk.

Varieties of Katan Saris
The varieties of Katan silk includes: KatanButidar, Katan Butidar Mina , Katan Butidar Paga, Katan Brocade. There are also pure silk Katan : Fulkoali Katan, Dulhan Katan, Mirpuri Reshmi Katan, Mellenium Katan, Benarasi Cosmos, Orgamndi, Katan, Brakett Katan, Reshmi Katan, Prince Katan, Rimjhim Katan, Tussiue Katan, Mirpuri Gini Gold Katan, Georgette Gini Glod Katan and Chunri Katan are some of the different types of saris that are woven in Mirpur Banarasi Palli.

These days, some of the most widely used forms of katan silk such as KatanJal Set, Katan Buti Zari Resham, Katan Butidar, has now envolved to create Katan Buti Zari Resham, which is the same fabric with a few style innovations to give it a more modern look. These innovations are mostly aesthetic and can vary from garment to garment. Other popular variants used these days are Katan stripes and checks, which have been seen recently on the runway.

Photo Courtesy:Website

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A romantic window into a half-drowned world

By Mike MacEacheran

It was just after sunset when the first hazard came dimly into view. Peering through wire-rim glasses into the inky-black waters of Bangladesh’s Buriganga River, Captain Lufthur Rahman shouted, “Starboard right! Man the boiler room pumps!” Sailing completely blind, without shipping lights and only the sonorous blast from a foghorn to help, he implausibly steered a course to avoid a hugely overloaded oncoming ferry.

Considering the mayhem in the water – a steady flow of torpedo-shaped taxis, multi-storey barges, wide-loaded junks, flimsy rubber craft and shabby freighters travelling between Dhaka and the Bay of Bengal – it could have been a major disaster. Yet this was no fluke. Every night for decades, the PS Ostrich, a historic Bangladeshi paddle-wheel steamer, has managed to sail through the centre of all this chaos, as if caught-up in a real-life game of Battleship.
The paddlewheel steamers may be old, but they are vital
(Credit: Mike MacEacheran)
Such vigilance helps keep the world’s most densely populated country afloat. Bangladesh is drenched with 8,000km of navigable rivers and waterways, creating an aqueous plain to rival any seascape that Turner could have painted. Its deltas are so huge and so unfathomable – the only way to tackle them is by boat.

And it is thanks to the steely discipline of seafarers such as Rahman that the PS Ostrich has never sunk or crashed. It is an amazing feat of nautical engineering – and blind faith – that the steamer completes the epic 20-hour journeys from Dhaka, travelling as far as the city of Morrelganj on the fringes of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest belt of mangrove forest.
Navigating the waterways can be risky
(Credit: Allen Brown/Alamy)
PS Ostrich could be called the country’s ultimate survivor. Steeped in history, it is one of only four paddlewheel steamers left in the country; they’re nicknamed “the Rockets” because they were once the fastest vessels on the water. The others – the PS Mahsud, PS Lepchaand PS Tern – are all still in operation, but it is the Ostrich that first catches the eye from the chaotic wharves of Dhaka’s Sadarghat boat terminal with its steampunk design and dirty-yellow veneer.

Up close, sitting low, almost to the point of sinking, the ship is anything but a marvel of preservation. This two-tiered, dilapidated structure, battered to within an inch of its life, was built in 1929 in the dockyards of Clydebank, Scotland before being shipped to the Bay of Bengal as a passenger ferry – an improbable colonial relic of the British East India Company’s time in Bengal. Little did those Scottish shipyard workers know, the ship would still be a lifeline in Bangladesh more than 85 years later.
Although its massive paddlewheels began being helped along by a rudimentary diesel engine in 1996 and the roof has been replaced (albeit by rusty tin sheets), the vessel still retains an out-of-time look.
All aboard the Bangladeshi Rockets
(Credit: Marcia Chambers/Alamy)

“It feels like sailing an antique,” said Rahman. “There are newer, faster boats out on the water, but life on them is not the same. This trip is more than just a journey.”

When packed with cargo – everything from three-piece suites and washing machines to sacks of grain and rickety bicycles – the steamer operates like a floating village, full of personal stories, encounters and drama. There is room for 700 passengers, but during Islamic holidays such as Eid, that figure can swell to 3,000.
Views of the river from atop the PS Ostrich (Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

The problem for the Rockets is that Bangladesh is an economy built around the water and it needs faster, sleeker vessels. There is increasing competition with neighbours India and China, who are luring passengers to newer operators with their shiny-white, multi-tiered vessels.

These deep-hulled boats can make the journey from Dhaka to the delta cities of Chittagong, Chandpur, Barisal, Hularhat and Morrelganj in up to half the time of the Rockets, with better schedules and highly competitive fares. With hallmark like these, these boats have become the moving force behind the country’s modernisation. By comparison, the Rockets are outdated and obsolete.

But this very history just might be their saviour. Ancient relics in a modern world, the Rockets are full of memories for Bangladeshis of all ages. The elderly have travelled on them since before World War II, while families continue to embrace the adventure and romance of life on deck. 
"It feels like sailing on the Titanic..

“I used to take the boat with my father, a doctor, to Dhaka when I was young – it’s something I’ll never forget,” said Chandun Sutsil, a journalist for a Dhaka newspaper. “People like me appreciate the history. It feels like sailing on the Titanic.”

Bangladesh is crowded with boats battling
through the waterway (Credit: Tarzan9280/iStock)
Officials also point to the Rockets’ unquestionable safety record. Chandpur, a city next to a three-way confluence of rivers – the Buriganga, Padma and Meghna – is famous for major boat crashes involving barges and ferries, but none that have so far decommissioned the Rockets. That’s something on which the PS Ostrich’s passengers agree. “The Rockets are more reliable – they have never had an accident in all this time,” said Rajib Ahmed Khan, a forestry department employee travelling from Barisal to Hularhat. “It’s built by the British, while the more modern boats have lots of problems. That has to count for something.”
Counter-intuitively, the Rockets’ lifeline may also be its speed, or lack of. The faster ferries only dock at major gateways, and without the Rockets’ exhaustive service, dozens of tiny communities would be cut off. These may be no more than mud hut villages surrounded by fruit trees and water-logged rice paddies, but the dependable PS Ostrich meanders through the backwaters, stopping at the rudimentary tug boat landing pontoons, to ensure that everyone can make their journey.

Passengers can drift past paddy fields in Bangladesh
(Credit: Christine Osborne/Alamy)
Sailing the Rockets brings feelings of nostalgia for many
 (Credit: Amanda Ahn/Alamy)

“It is a very old but vital service,” said Mahmoud Mehedi, a rickshaw driver travelling between villages with his elderly father. “We are only going 2km down the river, but without the Rocket this journey wouldn’t be possible.” And for the foreign traveller, the journey is a romantic window into a half-drowned world – a trip that is hard to find equal elsewhere.

The PS Ostrich trudges through the Buriganga River
 (Credit: Mike MacEacheran)

Borne by the current, it is possible to drift past flooded river lands and under-siege paddy fields, all the way to the great mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, the country’s last bastion of  the Royal Bengal Tiger. If the price of survival in Bangladesh is keeping afloat, then a creaky paddle-wheel steamer like the PS Ostrich may well still find its place. Long may she sail on these waters.

Note: This is a piece that came out on BBC's web page.

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