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Arts & Culture

       Art, Culture, Music, Dance, Theatre, Jatra & Drama of Bangladesh



More than 95 percent of the people of Bangladesh speak Bengali which is one of the earliest modem languages of the subcontinent. It originates from the eastern Prakrit group of the Indo- Aryan family of languages.

Early Bengali, in its lyrical form, originated in the 7th century. Its mediaeval period underlined a steady upsurge of poesy having strong devotional and romantic overtones.

Since the early decades of this century, modem Bengali literature swept into the mainstream of world culture through the works of such geniuses as Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore and the rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam while poet Jasimuddin's austere lyrical anecdotes depicting rural life with its joys and sorrows, romance and patrol kept alive the link with the toiling masses. With this heritage to draw inspiration from, contemporary Bengali literature of Bangladesh has been throbbing with the creative impulses of a new generation of poets, novelists, playwrights and essayists. Many of their works have earned fame beyond the frontiers of the country.


Theatre in Bangladesh has a tradition that is more than a century old. In the early days, open-air theatrical performances known as jatra (rural operetta) used to be held on festive occasions. Popular lovelores, historical or legendary acts of valour by heroes against invading forces and mythological anecdotes alongside the legends of Arabian or Persian Nights provided the basic themes of popular jatra plays. Despite attacks by the cinema and the television on its traditional territory, jatra has successfully held its own and is still the most popular form of mass entertainment in the country.

Alongside jatra modern theatre form has been thriving in urban Bangladesh. If not so much in form, in thematic content at least, Bangladesh playwrights succeeded in establishing a distinct character for local plays.

But truly hectic activity on the stage commenced after the War of Independence of 1971. Youthful adherents of the medium worked tirelessly to modernize form and content of Bangladesh's theatrical expression. Adaptations from the western play along with newly written original plays won for the Dacca stage a new urban audience, enabling producers to graduate from amateur repertory to semi -professional productions.


The rich tradition of music of Bangladesh can be divided into three distinct categories -classical, folk and modern.

The tradition of classical music, whether vocal or instrumental, is rooted in the ancient history of this subcontinent. It has been cultivated with great patience and passion by devoted musicians over the centUries. Internationally known sarod players Ustad Alauddiri Khan and Ustad Ayet All Khan hail from the soil of this country.

Folk music, nurtured through the ages by village bards. is the most popular and timeless form of music in Bangladesh. Rich in devotional mysticism and lovelores, folk music exudes authentic flavour and charm of the soil. The most well- known forms are bhatia1i, baul, marfati, murshidi, bhaoaiya and gombhira. Some of the greatest exponents of our mystic and devotional songs were Lalan Fakir, Hasan Raja and Abbasuddin Ahmed.

Modern Bengali music originated from two distinct schools. The first is essentially a blend of East and West initiated by Rabindranath Tagore.  The second, experimented with the synthesis of classical, folk and Middle Eastern musical strains, was spearheaded by the rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. The contemporary adherents of both the schools have been widening their depth and vista with new experiments.


Dancing in Bangladesh draws freely from the sub continental classical forms as well as the folk, tribal, ballet and Middle Eastern strains. Of the tribal dances, particularly popular are Manipuri and Santhal. The Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts (BAFA), set up in Dacca in the early fifties, played a pioneering role in the promotion of dances in the country.

 A number of other cultural organizations have helped in popularizing the art. No cultura1 evening in this country is complete without a dance number. The cinema has also popularized dancing. With the recent creation of the Academy of Performing Arts in Dacca dancing in Bangladesh is expected to gain further impetus.


Jatra (Folk Drama) is another vital chapter of Bangalee culture. It depicts mythological episodes of love and tragedy. Legendary plays of heroism are also popular, particularly in the rural areas. In near past jatra was the biggest entertainment means for the rural Bangalees and in that sense for 80% of the population since the same percentage of the population lived in rural Bangladesh. Now-a-days jatra has been placed in the back seat in the entertainment era. Gradually western culture is occupying the place of traditional culture like jatra. 


Drama in Bangladesh has an old tradition and is very popular. In Dhaka more than a dozen theater groups have been regularly staging locally written plays as well as those adopted from famous writers, mainly of European origin. Popular theatre groups are Dhaka Theatre, Nagarik Nattya Sampraday and Theatre.  In Dhaka, Baily Road area is known as 'Natak Para' where drama shows are regularly held. Public Library Auditorium and Museum Auditorium are famous for holding cultural shows. Dhaka University area is a pivotal part of cultural activities.


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