Handicrafts & Decorative arts

Bangladesh of Historical Sculptures Geographically Sculptures Handicrafts Decorative arts

Sculptures in Bangladesh have a very long history. The pre-Islamic history of the sculpture mainly deals with Hindu and Buddhist sculptures. These sculptures show a great sense of skill and aesthetics. The history of terracotta, bronze and stone statues begins as early as the 2nd century BC. It was in this period that sculptures became more elegant, refined, well-shaped and worldly. These were high reliefs smooth in finishing and quite developed in terms of craftsmanship. For more details about pre-Islamic sculptures in Bangladesh please click here.http://www.banglapedia.org/HT/T_0126.HTM

Between 1300 and 1500 Muslim architectural style and craftsmanship had begun to merge with the local Hindu know-hows. Islamic calligraphy and geometric designs synthesized  with elements of Hindu culture intertwined flowers, creepers and leaves, and thus a unique tradition of architectural ornamentation developed. Examples of this tradition can be seen in Zafar Khan Ghazi’s Mosque.

Abdur Razzaque ‘Jagroto Chowrongi’
Photo Source: bangladeshjustawesome.blogspot.com

In the recent years, post-independence brought with it a renewed interest in sculptures. Work of Abdur Razzaque ‘Jagroto Chowrongi’ is considered one of the best sculptures in Bangladesh, considering both form and theme, by art critics. Located in Jaidebpur, and constructed in 1973, it is the first post-Liberation War sculpture in Bangladesh. It depicts a freedom fighter with a grenade in his right and a rifle in his left hand. The sculpture is an 18 feet high concrete piece on a 24 feet pedestal.



Handicrafts and cottage industries play a vital role in sustaining the culture heritage of Bangladesh. The prominent handicraft in the early and Middle Ages were textiles, metal works, jewelry, wood works, cane and bamboo works, and clay and pottery. Later, jute and leather became the major raw materials for handicraft. The most predominant features of Bangladesh handicraft are the extensive use of individual skill and the interesting design motifs.

Nakshi Kantha (embroidered quilt), a very popular form of handicraft, is said to be indigenous to Bangladesh. The rural women of the country put together pieces of old cloth with crafty stitches to prepare these quilts to be used in the winter. Although kanthas (quilts) are utilitarian objects, the vivid patterns, borders and motifs often turn them in to attractive works of art. In recent years the interest in ethnic arts and craft has encouraged a kantha revival in the country. Many people now use these quilts for decorative purposes only.

Several, Bangladeshi organizations like Aarong and Probortona export handicraft from Bangladesh to all over the world. These organizations have played an important role in preserving the handicraft of Bangladesh and increasing their popularity at home and abroad.

Handicraft Products

Bangladesh has developed some special areas like Dhamral for brass ware items, Comilla for khadi, Sonaraon for traditional handicrafts, Rajshahi for silk items, Narayaganj and Mirpur in Dhaka for Zamadani Sari, Barisal for Shital Pati, which are famous for local arts and crafts. The Government has taken some institutional measures for developing and marketing different sorts of visual arts and crafts.

Among the many handicrafts products of Bangladesh the worth-mentioning are: pottery , wood work, cotton, silk, gold, silver, jute, reed, brass ware, traditional dolls, pink pearls and copper ware trays, well decorative bamboo made items, vases etc, and hand made with fine engravings and filigree work. Product made from the hides and skins of animals and reptiles, intricate wood, Jamdani and silk fabrics are also bought in a large number.

A common and often successful approach for presentation and sale arts and crafts is development of integrated craft canters or “village


Traditional Musician of Bangladesh
Folk music
Bangladesh has a very rich musical tradition. It has always played an important role in the lives of the people. In ancient times, song was usually linked to prayer and this can still be seen today in the singing of folksong that often praises gods and their creation. Over time, with new influences, musical styles evolved. Musical development was boosted by the steady flow of royal and aristocratic patronize.

Bangladesh music can be categorized into a number of genres. The main genres include: classical music, rabindra sangeet, nazrul geet, folk songs, adhunik gaan and modern music with western influences. Each of these categories is very broad and can incorporate of number of different styles and musical movements.

The most distinguishable characteristic of classical music is that it is based on rang modes. Rabindra sangeet is more often characterized by the words used; the lyrical poetry of the songs can be prayer songs, love songs, seasonal songs or even patriotic songs. All Rabindra sangeet has a philosophical often woven into masterful poetry.

Nazrul geeti is more easily classified because all music works in this genre incorporate the works of Kazi Nazrul Islam, one of the country’s national poets and a major revolutionist. The style tends to use revolutionary thoughts as well as spiritual and philosophical themes. To listen to a Nazrul geeti please click here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9kCd5vdB3c

Bangladesh has a rich tradition of folk songs, with lyrics rooted in the vibrant tradition of spirituality, mysticism and devotion. Most prevalent of folk songs and music traditions include Bhatiali, Buaul, Marfati, Murshidi and Bhawaiya. Lyricists like Lalon Shah, Hason Raja, Kangal Harinath, Romesh Shill, Addas Uddin have enriched the tradition of folk song of Bangladesh.

Adhunik gaan meaning Contemporary song is the generic name given to all modern music (music that incorporates Western styles). The style started to emerge just before the revolution for independence and is stylistically simple so that anyone- including the uneducated – can appreciate its worth. While these songs are still called ‘Adhunik gaan’ which means ‘modern songs’ many of them are now quite old. Despite the emergence of newer styles of music, Adhunik gaan is still one of the most popular music styles amongst middle- class Bangladesh families today.

The classical music, both vocal and instrumental is rooted in the remote part of the sub- continent. Ustad Aladdin Khan and Ustad Ayet Ali Khan are two names in classical instrumental music that are internationally known.

Since the late 80s pop and rock has the country‘s youth shaking its legs and it is still being enjoyed today. Some mainstream rock has made its way to radio stations and CD shops in Bangladesh while a large underground rock movement also exists.

Musical Instruments
Several musical instruments, some of them of indigenous origin, are used in Bangladesh. The more popular musical instruments used are bamboo flute (bashi), drums (dhole), a sing stringed instruments named ektara, a four stringed instrument called dotara, a pair of metal bawl used for rhythm effect called mondira. Currently, several musical instrument of western origin like guitar, drum, and saxophone are also used, sometimes alongside the traditional instruments.


Tradition art of Bangladesh Flok art of Bangladesh
There is a rich tradition of modern painting which was pioneered by Zainul Abedin, Kamrul Hassan, Anwarul Haque, Shafiuddin Ahmed and S.M. Sultan. Zainul Abedin earned international fame for his sketches on famine of 1943 in Bangladesh. Other famous artists of Bangladesh are Abdur Razzak, Qayyum Chowdhury, Murtaza Baseer, Aminul Islam, Chakraborty, Kazi Adbul Baset, Syed Jahangir, and Mohammad Kibria.

One of the greatest artists of Bangladesh was Zainul Abedin, who was best known for his paintings on Bengal Famine of the 1940s. See picture below

Photo Source: Art of Bengal
URL Link: http://www.artofbengal.com/Bangladesh.htm

Artists Jogen Choudhuri took inspiration from Alpana drawings practiced widely in Bangladesh villages. Many other present day artists like Ganesh Paine and Prokash Karmakar had roots in Bangladesh.

There are also a number of Art Galleries in Dhaka, for a complete list please click here: http://www.dhakasnob.com/art_galleries_dhaka.htm

Alpana drawings: Is folk arts that showcases the artistic sensibility of people. The word alpana might have originated from the Sanskrit alimpana, which means ‘to plaster’, or ‘to coat with’.

On 21 February the shaheed minar in Dhaka and roads leading to it are decorated with alpana paintings. They have, in fact, become an inseparable element in the observance of ekushey february in Bangladesh. While the tradition and art has a Hindu history in modern Bangladesh alpana has attained a purely
secular character. Alpana is created to drive away the influence of omen and welcome peace, wealth, health and everlasting happiness.
Photo Source: www.banglapedia.org


Drama remains popular in Bangladesh, including performances of play by local playwrights, as well as adaptation from writers of Western origin. Popular theater groups include: Dhaka Theatre, Nagarik Nattya Sampraday and Theatre. For more information on the theater groups in Bangladesh please click here. http://www.banglapedia.org/HT/T_0146.HTM

Bailey Road in the capital widely known as Natakpara has been centre of our theatre practices as well as theatre performers. The Guide House and Mahila Samiti Auditorium are situated here.
Dakha is the centre of much theatre groups in Bangladesh. Drama and other art form were also introduced in the recent decades in the university system. Department of Drama and Dramatics was established in the University of Jahangirnagar. In 1989, Theatre and Music Department was introduced in the University of Dhaka. Then, Chittagong University launched studies on Theatre under the Department of Fine Arts.

In 1976, Natyachakra, theatre group, established a school called Shikshangan and in 1990, Theatre Natyadal –another theatre group established a school called Theatre School.

TO read more about theatre in Bangladesh please click here. http://theatrebd.blogspot.com/

To read about The Bangladesh Group Theatre Foundation click here. http://theatrebd.blogspot.com/

Jatra, that is, folk drama, is also a part of culture of Bangladesh. In Jatras, legendary plays of heroism, mythological stories, folktales of love and tragedy, and similar countless themes are enacted in open air theatre, and continue to be a popular form of entertainment, in spite of modern influences.

Puppets shows are also very popular. People watch Drama on the numerous television channels in Bangla or listen to radio programmes that have drama shows.


Music and dance style of Bangladesh may be divided into three categories, namely, and classical, folk and the modern. The classical styles has been influenced by other prevalent classical forms of music and dances of the Indian subcontinent, and accordingly show some influences dances forms like Bharata Nattyam and Kuchipudi. The folk and tribal music and dance forms of Bangladesh are of indigenous origin and rooted to the soil of Bangladesh. Several dancing styles in vogue in the north- eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, like Manipuri and Santal dances, are also practiced in Bangladesh has developed its own distinct dancing styles.

To watch a video of folk dance from Bangladesh please click here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCkVPHvE2RA


The Bangladeshi film industry also known as Dhallywood, a portmanteau of the words Dhaka and Hollywood, is based in Dhaka, since 1956.

It was on the 24th of April 1898 that Dhaka saw its first bioscope at The Crown Theatre located at Patuatuli near Sadarghat. By 1947, there were over 80 cinema halls in Bangladesh. Yet, it was only in 1953-54 that The East Bengal Provincial Govenment of newly created state of Pakistan took initiative to start a film division. But by the time the film division was set up feature films like the The Last Kiss (1931), Salaam (1954) and Mukh-O-Mukhus (The Face and the Mask, 1956) were produced and screened to highly receptive audiences.

In 1950’s the movie industry in East Pakistan has laid the foundation for more creative work that was to follow. In the 1960’s the style, presentation, subject, and business of the movie industry entered an era of professionalism. The movies were made in the Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, and mostly used folk tales as story inspiration. Movies like Kakhono Aseni (Never Came), Kancher Deyal (The Glass wall), Talash (in search), Roopban, Kagozer Nouka (The Paper Boat), Bhaiya (Brother) dominated the screens. By the end of the decade over 30 feature films were being produced per year by the industry. It was also in the 60’s that the movie industry found recognition in the international movie circuits: Subbash Dutta’s Shootrang (Hence) was acknowledged at the Asian Film Festival of Frankfurt in 1964, while his Abhirbav got a special award from the Queen of Cambodia.

1970’s brought with it great changes. The liberation of Bangladesh, and the liberation war provided a new zeal to the movie industry. In 1970 Zahir Raihan’s Jiban Theke Neya (From the glimpse of life) was the first cinema to tackle a political subject along with love romance and family drama.

Fantasy ruled the screens in the 1980’s. It was also during this decade that short film’s started to appear. Agami (Future) based on Bangladesh liberation war made by Murshedul Islam was adjudged the best movie at the Indian International Film Festival. New Delhi.

For a more detailed history of films in Bangladesh please click here.


Hayat, A. (n.d.). A Brief History of Bangladesh Cinema. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from web.archeive.org: http://web.archive.org/web/20041208095040/http://www.bangladesh.net/cinema/page10.htm


The history of Bangladesh’s literature extends back many centuries, with the oldest sample of Bengali literature dating back a thousand years. A notable difference is seen in the works of per- and post- independent Bangladesh. Literature form Bangladesh is produced in many form, and in several languages. For more information on the Literature of Bangladesh please click here: http://www.virtualbangladesh.com/bd_literature.html

It was during medieval times that Bangladesh literature reached new heights as Muslim rulers became patrons of this art form. Well-Known Bangladesh poets of the era are Alaol, Chandi Das and Daulat Kazi. Toward the end of the 19th century Bengali literature entered modern ear, introducing literary geniuses such as Rahindranath Tagor, Kazi Ahdul Wadud, Kazi Nazrul lslam, Kankim Chandra Chattopadhyai and Mir Mosharraf Hossain.

For more information about Rabindranath Tagore please click here: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1913/tagore-bio.html

To read poems by Kazi Nazrul Islam please click here: http://www.poemhunter.com/kazi-nazrul-islam/

Kazi Nazrul Islam
Photo Source:en.wikipedia.org

Rabindranath Tagore’s literary career encompassed more than 60 years of his life. During this he time he produced an abundance of exquisite works including poems, songs, plays, volumes of short stories. He also produced prose covering topics such as politics, society, literature and religion. Over and above this he engaged in many other activities such as painting, lecture tours through Europe, Asia and America, translating in to English, into educational reforms, religion and politics .Tagore is certainly a legend amongst the people of Bangladesh and throughout the world.

Shamsur Rahman is considered by many to be Bangladesh’s greatest poet, having published some 60 collections of poetry. He has been acclaimed for bringing about a new dimension to Bengali poetry. Shamsur is in fact a journalist by profession and has won several awards for his contribution to Bangladesh’s literature, including the Swadhinata Award, the Bangla Academy Award and the Ekushey Padak.

Please click here for the Library of Congress page for Shamsur Rahman.

Kazi Nazrul lslam, also known as Rebel Poet (asbidrohi kobi), emerged in the Bangladesh’s literary scence with his poem entitled “bidrohi


The traditional garment for men is the lungi, a cloth tube skirt which hangs to the ankles; for women, the sari is the norm. The lungi is worn by most men, however, it is considered inappropriate to wear it outside the house. People from a high social and economic standing also wear loose white cotton pajama pants and a long white shirt. White dress men symbolize an occupation that does not require physical labor. A man with high standing will not be seen physically carrying anything; that task is left to an assistant or laborer.

Saris also serve as class markers, with elaborate and finely worked cloth symbolizing high status. Poverty is marked by the cheap, rough green or indigo cotton saris of poor women. Gold jewelry indicates a high social standing among women.

Jamdani is a hand loom woven fabric made of cotton. The word Jamdani is derived from Persian, ‘Jam’ means flower and ‘Dani’ means a vase or a container. The base fabric for the fabric is unbleached cotton yarn, the design for which is woven using bleached cotton yarns so that a light-and-dark effect is created. Small shuttles of coloured gold or silver threads are passed through the weft. The jamdani dexterously combines intricate surface designs with delicate floral sprays. The Jamdani weaving tradition is of Bengali origin. For more information on Jamdani please read this insightful blog. http://mirrorofbd2012.blogspot.com/2012/05/dying-bangladeshi-pride-jamdani-saree.html#.Uc0i2flgc_8

Photo Source: http://mirrorofbd2012.blogspot.com/2012/05/dying-bangladeshi-pride-jamdani-saree.html#.Uc0i2flgc_8.

Besides the Bangla mainstream, the plethora of tribal communities in Bangladesh also has their own traditional costumes and dressing sensibilities. Among the Chakmas women traditionally wear Phinon, an ankle length cloth wrapped around the waist, and Khadi/Hadi is a colorful breast-band, wrapped above the waist. The dress is completed by wearing a variety of necklaces, bracelets, anklets, rings, and other ornaments. The Chakma men traditionally wear the Gamchha, and the Dhuti.

Photo Source: http://www.tripura.org.in/photos/general/chakmacoupl.jpg

The Manipuri’s have their own unique style of traditional dresses. The women of the community have traditionally worn Innaphi, a shawl like cloth for the upper body, and Sarong. The men usually wear Jacket, Pagri, and Dhuti.

The Tripuri women wear Rignai, which cover the lower half of the body accompanied by Risa, and Rituku for the upper half of their body. While the men wear ‘rituku’ for the loin and ‘kamchwlwi borok’ for the upper part of the body. Some also wear the Kubai, Pagri, and the Gamchha.

Photo Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Traditional_dress_of_Tripura.jpg

The various other indigenous groups in Bangladesh, like the Santals, Khasis, Murongs, Garos have their own traditional dress. For more information on the tribal dresses of Bangladesh please click here. http://www.everyculture.com/wc/Afghanistan-to-Bosnia-Herzegovina/Chakmas.html#ixzz2XIRmissN


Bangladesh is still primarily a rural culture, and the gram or village is an important spatial and cultural concept even for residents of the major cities. Most people identify with a natal ancestral village in the countryside.

Houses in villages are commonly rectangular, and are dried mud, bamboo, or red brick structures with thatch roofs. Many are built on put of earthen or wooden platforms to keep them above the flood line. Houses have little interior decoration, and wall space is reserved for storage. Furniture is minimal, often consisting only low stools. People sleep on thin bamboo mats. Houses have verandas in the front, and much of daily life takes place under their eaves rather than indoor. A separate smaller mud or bamboo structure serves as a kitchen (rana ghor), but during the dry season many women construct hearths cook in the household courtyard. Rural houses are small and functional, but are not generally considered aesthetic showcases.

The village household is a patrilineal extended compound linked to a pond used for daily household needs, a nearby river that provides fish, trees that provide fruit (mango and jackfruit especially), and rice fields. The village and the household not only embody important natural motifs but serve as the locus of ancestral family identity. Urban dweller try to make at least one trip per year to “their village