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Sylhet Division

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Sylhet Division

Sylhet Division
সিলেট বিভাগ
Greater Sylhet
Tea Gardens of Srimongol
Tea Gardens of Srimongol
Map of Sylhet Division
Map of Sylhet Division
Country  Bangladesh
Capital Sylhet
 • Total 12,298.4 km2 (4,748.4 sq mi)
Population (2011 census)
 • Total 9,910,219
 • Density 810/km2 (2,100/sq mi)
 • Languages Sylheti, Standard Bengali
 • Literacy rate 39.18%[1]
Time zone BST (UTC+6)

Sylhet Division (Bengali: সিলেট বিভাগ, Silet Bibhag), also known as Greater Sylhet or Sylhet region,[2] is the northeastern division of Bangladesh, named after its main city, Sylhet. It is bordered by the Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura states of India to the north, east and south, respectively; and by the Bangladesh divisions of Chittagong to the southwest and Dhaka to the west.

Sylhet is considered one of the most picturesque and archaeologically rich regions in South Asia, and has major Islamic Sufi shrines and Hindu holy sites. Its bourgeoning economy has contributed to the regional attractions of landscapes filled with fragrant orange and pineapple gardens and tea plantations. Many of SylhetI community members are working and residing abroad, particularly in the United Kingdom. They send remittances to fund projects and industries within the Sylhet Division, which have led to the expansion of the export industry and foreign investment sectors.


  • Administrative districts 1
  • History 2
  • Civic administration 3
  • Culture 4
  • Economy 5
  • Religion and faith 6
  • Notable people 7
    • Saints 7.1
    • Arts 7.2
    • Politicians 7.3
  • In popular culture 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Administrative districts

The Division is subdivided into four districts (zilas) and thence into 36 sub-districts (upazilas).

Name Capital Area (km2)[3] !! Population
1991 Census !! Population
2001 Census !! Population
2011 Census
Habiganj District Habiganj 2,536.58 1,526,609 1,757,665 2,089,001
Moulvibazar District Moulvibazar 2,601.84 1,376,566 1,612,374 1,919,062
Sunamganj District Sunamganj 3,669.58 1,708,563 2,013,738 2,467,968
Sylhet District Sylhet 3,490.40 2,153,301 2,555,566 3,434,188
Total Division Sylhet 12,298.4 6,765,039 7,939,343 9,910,219


Historians believe that Sylhet was an expanded commercial centre since the ancient period, which explains its original namesake. During this time, Sylhet was probably inhabited by Indo-Aryan Brahmins, though ethnically the population would also included Mongoloids, Dravidians of Bengal, Arabs, Persians and Turks. It has also been suggested that the Ancient Kingdom of Harikela was situated in modern Sylhet.[4][5]

The 14th century marked the beginning of Islamic influence in Sylhet.[6] During the medieval period, Sylhet was a leading centre of Persian-speaking Muslim missionaries.[7]

A Muslim saint, Hazrat Shaikh al Mushaek Jalal Uddin, popularly known as Shah Jalal, arrived in Sylhet in 1303 CE from Mecca via Delhi, together with 360 companions and army generals such as Sikander Ghazi, Syed Nasiruddin and Khwaja Burhanuddin Qahafan, who defeated Govinda of Gaur.[8] Sikander Ghazi was the nephew of Sultan Feroze Shah of Delhi. Under the spiritual leadership of Hazrat Shah Jalal and his 360 companions, the Muslims converted many local Hindus. He died in Sylhet in or around the year 1350 CE. His shrine is located inside the parameter of the mosque complex known as Dargah-e-Shah Jalal.

Shah Jalal remains revered; visitors arrive from all over Bangladesh and beyond to pay homage.[8] Saint Shah Jalal and his companions are credited with converting most of the populace from their earlier beliefs in Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions to Islam. By the 15th century, Sylhet became a centre of the Assam and Bangla languages. In the official documents and historical papers, Sylhet was often referred to as Jalalabad during the era of the Muslim rule.[9][10]

Hinduism, which is the name given by Europeans to the practices and beliefs of the people of the oldest civilization in the World in the Indus Valley, intricately links Sylhet and the rest of Bangladesh with its rich history. Sylhet is home to two of the fifty-one body parts of Sati, a form of Goddess Durga, that fell on Earth according to accepted legends. Shri Shail in Jainpur village near Gotatikar in south Surma and Jayanti at Kalajore Baurbhag village of Jaintia are where the neck and left palm of Sati fell on this Earth. In addition, the 16th century Krishna Chaitanya's ancestral homes are in Golapganj and Habiganj. Chaitanya was another reincarnation of Krishna to walk on Earth and guide Humanity. Hindus believe He will return during the kalijug or end of time, a belief common with Christianity and Islam who believe Christ and Imam Mehdi, respectively, will come at the end of time.

In the late 18th century, the British rule.

In 1947, following a referendum and the Partition of India, almost all of erstwhile Sylhet became a part of East Pakistan, barring the Karimganj subdivision, which was incorporated into the new Indian state of Assam.[11] The referendum was held on 3 July 1947, there were a total of 546,815 votes cast on 239 polling stations, a majority of 43.8 per cent voted in favour of East Bengal. There were protests regarding bogus votes. The referendum was acknowledged during India's independence celebration on 18 July 1947.[12] In 1971, Sylhet became part of the newly formed independent country of Bangladesh.[9]

The Sylhet region has a "friendship link" with the city of St Albans, in the United Kingdom. The link was established in 1988 when the District council supported a housing project in Sylhet as part of the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. Sylhet was chosen because it is the area of origin for the largest ethnic minority group in St Albans.[13]

According to the St. Albans District Council: the majority of British Bangladeshies are of Sylheti ethnic origin (see British Bangladeshi). It is a testament of Sylhet in its history of trade relations with other parts of the world.

Civic administration

In 1995, Sylhet was declared the 6th division of the country. Prior to that it was part of the Chittagong Division. The Sylhet Division is subdivided into four districts (zillah): Habiganj, Moulvibazar, Sunamganj and Sylhet. Further, the Sylhet Division contains 35 sub-districts (upazila/thana), 323 union parishad, 10,185 villages and 14 municipalities. Population: approximately 10 million, which is less than 7% of the total population of Bangladesh.


Shaheed Minar replica at Srimongol

Many Sylheti try to marry spouses within the same regional, cultural, social and religious backgrounds.[14] Sylheti people are considered a distinct ethnic group in Bangladesh;[15] They are generally family oriented, follow and support Sylheti community culture, and are more conformist Muslims. These tendencies have led to some rivalry between non-Sylhetis and Sylhetis, due to differences in customs.[16]

Marriages are practiced in a traditional Muslim style, with henna ritual (mehendi), and prayers. Sylheti marriages often include contracts of marriage outlining the rights and obligations of both partners. People in Sylhet often marry partners living in the United Kingdom and the US, of communities originally from the district. Its unique culture and economy, and linguistic differences developed in part because the Greater Sylhet region was a part of Assam and Surma Valley State for about 100 years during the British Raj. There is a considerable flow of foreign currency sent from Sylhetis abroad to family in Bangladesh. .


The area around Sylhet is a traditional tea growing area. The Surma Valley is covered with terraces of tea gardens and tropical forests. Srimangal is known as the tea capital of Bangladesh; for miles around, tea gardens are visible on the hill slopes.

The area has over 150 tea gardens, including three of the largest tea plantations in the world, both in terms of area and production. Nearly 300,000 workers, of which more than 75% are women, are employed on the tea estates. Employers prefer to engage women for plucking tea leaves since they do a better job than, but are paid less than, men. A recent drought has killed nearly a tenth of the tea shrubs.

The plantations, or gardens, were mostly developed during the British Raj. The plantations were started by the British, and the managers still live in the white timber houses built during the Raj. The bungalows stand on huge lawns. The service and the lifestyle of managers are still unchanged.

Numerous projects and businesses in the city and in large towns have been funded by Sylhetis living and working abroad. More than 95 percent of the ethnic British Bangladeshis originated or had ancestors from this Sylhet region.[17] The Bangladesh government has set up a special Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Sylhet, in order to attract foreign investors, mainly from the UK.

Religion and faith

Sylhet is a holy place for both Muslim and Hindus. Historically it is known as the land of 360 awliyas (Muslim saints). Famous religious places include the shrines of Shah Jalal, Shah Farhan (popularly known as Shah Paran), Shah Kamal Quhafa in Shaharpara and Sipahsalar Syed Nasiruddin in Habiganj for Muslims.[18]

Sylhet has the largest concentration of Hindus in Bangladesh and is historically an important centre for believers. It is part of the global Shakti Peethas, holy places of cosmic and enormous power, where Goddess Durga is worshipped. Of the fifty-one body parts of Sati, one form of Durga, that fell on Earth, Her neck fell on the south side of Surma River across the Sylhet town and her left palm fell in Jayanti. In addition, Sri Krishna Chaitnaya Mahaprabhu, the God of all Humanity and who will reappear during the kaliyug or end of time, visited his paternal family home in Thakurbari, Dhakadakshin, Golapganj and his maternal family home in Joypur, Habiganj in Sylhet Division in the 16th century. Hindu temples, such as Shri Chaitanya Dev Mandir in Dhakadakshin, Kali Mandir of Jainpur, Narayan Shiva Mandir of Khasa Pandith Para of BeaniBazar, Sri Mahaprabhu Bigraha Akhra of Jaldhup in Beanibazar, Shakti Piths temple of Kirit Devi Kamala, Bagala Matar Mandir of Habiganj, and Kalibari of Jaintiapur are popular.[19]

Followers of different religions are: Muslim 81.16%, Hindu 17.80%, Christian 0.06%, Buddhist 0.02%, and others 0.96%.

Notable people




In popular culture


  1. ^
  2. ^ Greater Sylhet Region CIMMYT. Retrieved on 26 March 2009.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Dilip K. Chakrabarti, S. Dara Shamsuddin, M. Shamsul Alam (1992). Ancient Bangladesh: A Study of the Archaeological Sources. Oxford University Press. p. 166.
  5. ^ National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research (Pakistan) (1996). Pakistan Journal of History and Culture. National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research. p. 33.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Sylhet, Bangladesh.St.Albans District Council.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Gardner K (1995). "International migration and the rural context in Sylhet", New Community 18: 579–590
  18. ^ Sylhet Itibritta, Syed Mujtaba Ali
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Syed Murtaja Ali, Shreehatte Itibritta
  22. ^ Syed Mujtaba Ali Visva-Bharati
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ The Graveyard of Salman Shah The Daily Star. Date: 31 October 2003
  27. ^
  28. ^

External links

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