World Heritage Sites in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a land of mystery and intrigue. From natural wonders to sites of historical and cultural interest, Bangladesh’s attractions draw vast numbers of tourists annually.

Bangladesh’s tourist attractions include, historical and monuments, resorts, beaches, picnic spots, forests and tribal people, wildlife of various species. Bangladesh offers ample opportunities to tourists for angling, water skiing, river cruising, hiking, rowing, yachting, sea bathing as well as bringing one in close touch with pristine nature. The country was listed by Lonely Planet in 2011 as the “best value destination”

Bangladesh boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of these is The Mosque City of Bagerhat. Situated in the southwest region of Bangladesh, it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983. Paharpar is another World Heritage Site. Designated such in 1985, this is an ancient city inhabited by Mahayana Buddhists. Distinctive Buddhist architecture is seen in the buildings. The third World Heritage site is the Sundarbans. This is the world’s biggest mangrove forest extending through Bangladesh and India.

Mosque City of Bagerhat 

Shat Gambuj Mashjid
Shat Gambuj Mashjid

The Mosque City of Bagerhat (Originally known as Khalifatabad) is a formerly lost city, located in the suburbs of Bagerhat city in Bagerhat District, in the Khulna Division of southwest of Bangladesh.

The city was founded in the 15th century by the warrior saint Turkish general Ulugh Khan Jahan. The city’s infrastructure reveals considerable technical skill and an exceptional number of mosques and early Islamic monuments, many built of brick, can be seen there.

The magnificent city, which extended for 50 km2, contains some of the most significant buildings of the initial period of the development of Muslim architecture of Bengal. They include 360 mosques, public buildings, mausoleums, bridges, roads, water tanks and other public buildings constructed from baked brick.site_0321_0005-260-260-20140623145757

The original picturesque location and the natural setting of these densely located religious and secular monuments along with the medieval form and design are intact. The property of the Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat contains and preserves all the necessary elements which include not only mosques but also residences, roads, ancient ponds, tombs, chillakhana (ancient graveyard). Therefore, the attributes of the city are still preserved.

Mosques, tombs or mausoleums, and other monuments which have been restored from among the large number of ruins in the city are:

  1. Shat Gombuj Masjid
  2. Nine dome mosque
  3. Singara mosque
  4. Ronvijoypur Mosque
  5. The Chuna Khola Mosque

A small museum has been established by the Directorate of Archaeology of Bangladesh, in collaboration with UNESCO, in front of the Shait Gumbaz Mosque, where antiquaries collected from the area of the historical site are displayed providing knowledge on the history of Bagerhat. It has three exhibit galleries of antiquaries related to the “Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat”, which include inscriptions, potteries, terracotta plaques and ornamental bricks. Pictures of important historic buildings of Bangladesh are also part of the exhibits here.

Paharpur Bihar

Paharpur
Paharpur                        

Evidence of the rise of Mahayana Buddhism in Bengal from the 7th century onwards, Somapura Mahavira, or the Great Monastery, was a renowned intellectual centre until the 12th century. Its layout perfectly adapted to its religious function, this monastery-city represents a unique artistic achievement. With its simple, harmonious lines and its profusion of carved decoration, it influenced Buddhist architecture as far away as Cambodia.

Paharpur is a small village 5 km west of Jamalganj in the Greater Rajshahi District where the remains of the most important and largest known monastery south of the Himalayas have been excavated.

The Paharpur Vihara, known as Somapura Mahavira, was built by the Pala Emperor Dharmapala (AD 770-810). The monastery is quadrangular in form, with a colossal temple of a cross-shaped floor plan in the centre of the courtyard and with an elaborate gateway complex on the north. There are 45 cells on the north and 44 in each of the other three sides, making a total number of 177 monastic cells along the enclosure walls on the four sides. This layout, and the decoration of carved stones and terracotta plaques, reflect the building’s religious function, which is greatly influenced by Buddhist architecture from Cambodia and Java (Indonesia).

 Nameable statues found

258px-First_level_plinth_at_Somapura_MahaviharaThe statues are reserved in the adjacent museum for display. Some nameable statues are:

  • ‘Chamunda’ Statue of Clay Stone.
  • Standing ‘Seetala’ Statue of Red Stone.
  • Broken Parts of ‘Visnu’ Statue of Krishna Stone.
  • ‘Keerti’ Statue of Clay Stone.
  • Damaged ‘Haargouri’ Statue.
  • Broken Statue of Laxmi Narayan of Krishna Stone.
  • ‘Uma’ Statue of krishna Stone.
  • ‘Gouri’ Statue of Clay Stone.
  • ‘Visnu’ Statue of Clay Stone.
  • Nandi Statue.
  • ‘Visnu’ Statue of Krishna Stone.
  • Sun Statue.
  • ‘Mansha’ Statue of Clay Stone.

The Sundarbans

Map of Sundarbans
                 Map of Sundarbans

The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world (140,000 ha), lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal. It is adjacent to the border of India’s Sundarbans World Heritage site inscribed in 1987. The site is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests, and presents an excellent example of ongoing ecological processes. The area is known for its wide range of fauna, including 270 bird species, the Bengal tiger and other threatened species such as the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python.

 Fauna

Royal bengal tiger
                       Royal bengal tiger

The Sundarbans provides a unique ecosystem and a rich wildlife habitat. According to the 2011 tiger census, the Sundarbans have about 270 Royal Bengal Tigers. Tiger attacks are frequent in the Sundarbans. Between 0 and 50 people are killed each year.

 Plentiful species of small fish, sawfish, butter Fish, electric ray, common carp, silver carp, barb, river eels, starfish, king crab, fiddler crab, hermit crab, prawn, shrimps, skipping frogs, common toads and tree Frogs and Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus), Water monitor lizards (Varanus salvator), Sharks, Gangetic dolphins (Platanista gangetica) etc. are available in water of Sundarbans.

A 1991 study has revealed that the Bangladeshi part of the Sundarbans supports diverse biological resources including at least 150 species of commercially important fish, 270 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, 35 reptiles and 8 amphibian species. The Sundarbans is an important wintering area for migrant water birds and is an area suitable for watching and studying avifauna.

 Flora

file (2)A total 245 genera and 334 plant species were recorded by David Prain in 1903. The Sundarbans flora is characterised by the abundance of sundari (Heritiera fomes), gewa (Excoecaria agallocha), goran (Ceriops decandra) and keora (Sonneratia apetala) all of which occur prominently throughout the area. The characteristic tree of the forest is the sundari (Heritiera littoralis), from which the name of the forest had probably been derived. It yields a hard wood, used for building houses and making boats, furniture and other things. There is abundance of dhundul or passur (Xylocarpus granatum) and kankra (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza) though distribution is discontinuous. Among palms, Poresia coaractataMyriostachya wightiana and golpata (Nypa fruticans), and among grasses spear grass (Imperata cylindrica) and khagra (Phragmites karka) are well distributed.

The Sundarbans plays an important role in the economy of the southwestern region of Bangladesh as well as in the national economy. It is the single largest source of forest produce in the country. The forest provides raw materials for wood based industries. In addition to traditional forest produce like timber, fuelwood, pulpwood etc., large scale harvest of non-wood forest products such as thatching materials, honey, bees-wax, fish, and crustacean and mollusc resources of the forest takes place regularly.

The forest also has immense protective and productive functions. Constituting 51% of the total reserved forest estate of Bangladesh, it contributes about 41% of total forest revenue and accounts for about 45% of all timber and fuel wood output of the country.

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