Bangladesh - Culture
The Bengal region has a multifaceted folk heritage, enriched by its ancient animist, Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim roots. Weaving, pottery and terracotta sculpture are some of the earliest forms of artistic expression. The best known literature of Bangladesh is the work of the great Bengali poets Rabindranath Tagore and Nasrul Islam, though these giants have been overshadowed recently by the furore over the writings of Taslima Nasreen who has received death threats from Muslim fundamentalists for her outspoken critiques of Islam's oppression of women. Folk theatre is common at the village level and usually takes place during harvest time or at melas (village fairs). There are many folk dances, but classical dance is largely borrowed from Indian models and is frowned upon by the more severe religious leaders.
Bangladesh's Muslims and Hindus live in relative harmony. The Muslim majority has religious leaders, pirs, whose status straddles the gap between that of a bishop and that of a sage. Hinduism in Bangladesh lacks the pomp and awe of the Indian version, but consequently Hindu ceremonies are rarely conducted in the depths of temples to which access is restricted. People here are very willing for you to watch and even participate. Buddhists today form only a tiny minority of the population. It's worth noting that the Bangladeshi pride in ancestry is balanced by the Islamic slant of the country's intellectual life which tends to deny the achievements of the preceding Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
A typical Bangladeshi meal consists of beef (or sometimes mutton, chicken, fish or egg) and vegetables cooked in a hot spicy sauce with mustard-oil, yellow watery lentils (dal) and plain rice. Fish is part of the staple diet; however, over-fishing has led to a scarcity of river fish and more sea fish are appearing on menus. Alcoholic drinks are not widely available; head for five-star hotels and ritzier restaurants when you want a tipple.