Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Families in Bangladesh

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Families in Bangladesh

Article excerpt

Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign independent nation in 1971. It lies on the northeastern part of the South Asian subcontinent roughly between 20deg30 and 26deg45 north latitudes and 88deg00 and 92deg56 east longitudes and is bounded by India on the west and north and India and Myanmar on the east and the Bay of Bengal on the south. It comprises an area of 143,998 sq.k.m. Except the hilly region in the northeast and southeast, high lands in the north and northwestern parts, the country consists of low, flat and alluvial soil enriched by heavy silts from a number of rivers and streams that cover the whole country flowing down to the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon climate with six seasons of which winter, summer, and monsoon are prominent. During the monsoon season, the average rainfall accounts for 80 per cent of the total rainfall of the year which is approximately between 100" and 130". The rainfall makes the entire riverine network the most important means of communications.

The vast majority of Bengalis, Hindu and Muslim alike, are classic peasant wet rice cultivators of the Bengal Delta. Theirs is an economy adapted to both the blessings and vicissitudes of monsoon agriculture, grounded on an endlessly fertile terrain, but forever buffeted by a fickle climate, bearing storms one year, drought the next. The region has traditionally had three rice crop seasons, one of them, the monsoonless winter, relatively unproductive until the recent advent of mechanized irrigation. Rice, in myriad varieties, is the staple food, served at every meal, supplemented by vegetables, spices, and fish when available. Muslims also eat fowl, goat meat (mutton), and beef when they can afford it. Bengali cultivators also grow jute throughout much of the region, in addition to other cash crops, such as sugar-cane, betel nut, and betel leaf. The peasant economy is also served by a variety of artisan craftsmen, most of whom, even in Muslim-majority areas, are members of the relevant Hindu caste groups (Bertocci, 1978: 90).

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries of the world. An area of only 55,000 sq. miles housing more than 115 million would indeed exhaust the possible living space. In 1961 the density of population of this region was 922 per sq. mile whereas in 1974 it has increased to 1,291 per sq. mile and today the density of population is more than, 1,500 persons per square mile.

The local community is organized as settled village in the rural areas. Each village consists of two or more wards (paras) or hamlets. From Moghul times onward, the countryside has been divided for revenue, and since British days for Census purposes into officially designated village units (mauja). But the groupings which peasants themselves socially recognize as village (gram) may or may not reflect these administrative boundaries and are the product of the proximity of peasant homesteads. Such closeness facilitates intimate social relations among the locally resident kin groups. Bangladesh is linguistically and culturally homogenous.

Social Organization

The smallest unit of social organization in Bangladesh is Khanua household). It is the primary unit of production and consumption. It is also the basic unit of kinship group in rural Bangladesh. The members of a household are usually accommodated in a ghar (residential house). A wealthy household or a family may have two/three ghars particularly in Noakhali region. Their paker ghar (kitchen) is separated from their main house in which they rest and sleep. But for a poor household the kitchen is the part of their only ghar. Sometimes, poor households use open space as kitchen in their uthans (courtyards), specially in winter.

A paribar or a family may consist of one or more households in Bangladesh. There are different types of families in Bangladesh. Different scholars categorized family in different ways. On the basis of the information supplied by them we may classify the families in Bangladesh as nuclear, joint, and extended. …

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