A vast majority (98 percent) of the people
of Bangladesh are Bengalis and they speak the Bengali
language. Minorities include Biharis numbering 250,000 and other tribes
numbering about a million, with the Chakma being most numerous in number.
About 83 percent of Bangladeshis are profess Islam as their religion.
The next major religion is Hinduism (16 precent). Other major religions
include Buddhism and Christianity.
A member of the Indo-European family of
languages, Bangla (sometimes called Bengali) is the official
language of Bangladesh. Bangladeshis closely identify themselves with
their national language. Bangla has a rich cultural heritage in literature,
music, and poetry, and at least two Bengali poets are well known in the
West: Rabindranath Tagore, a Hindu and a Nobel laureate; and Kazi Nazrul
Islam, a Muslim known as the "voice of Bengali nationalism and independence."
Bangla has been enriched by several regional dialects. The dialects of
Sylhet, Chittagong, and Noakhali have been strongly marked by Arab-Persian
influences. English, whose cultural influence seemed to have crested by
the late 1980s, remained nonetheless an important language in Bangladesh.
Biharis, a group that included Urdu-speaking non-Bengali Muslim refugees
from Bihar and other parts of northern India, numbered about 1 million
in 1971 but had decreased to around 600,000 by the late 1980s. They once
dominated the upper levels of Bengali society. Many also held jobs on
the railroads and in heavy industry. As such they stood to lose from Bangladesh
independence and sided with Pakistan during the 1971 war. Hundreds of
thousands of Biharis were repatriated to Pakistan after the war.
Bangladesh's tribal population consists of about 1 million people,
just under 1 percent of the total population. They live primarily in the
Chittagong Hills and in the regions of Mymensingh, Sylhet, and Rajshahi.
The majority of the tribal population (778,425) live in rural settings,
where many practice shifting cultivation. Most tribal people are of SinoTibetan
descent and has distinctive Mongoloid features. They differ in their social
organization, marriage customs, birth and death rites, food, and other
social customs from the people of the rest of the country. They speak
Tibeto-Burman languages. In the mid-1980s, the percentage distribution
of tribal population by religion was Hindu 24, Buddhist 44, Christian
13, and others 19.
The four largest tribes are the Chakmas, Marmas (or Maghs), Tipperas
(or Tipras), and Mros (or Moorangs). The tribes tend to intermingle and
could be distinguished from one another more by differences in their dialect,
dress, and customs than by tribal cohesion. Only the Chakmas and Marmas
display formal tribal organization, although all groups containe distinct
clans. By far the largest tribe, the Chakmas are of mixed origin but reflect
more Bengali influence than any other tribe. Unlike the other tribes,
the Chakmas and Marmas generally live in the highland valleys. Most Chakmas
are Buddhists, but some practiced Hinduism or animism.
- Growth of population through the census
- Thumbnail Statistics
- All the numbers.