From New World Encyclopedia
Skyline of Dhaka City
Skyline of Dhaka City
Nickname: City of Mosques and Shrines
Location of Dhaka in Bangladesh
Location of Dhaka in Bangladesh
Coordinates: 23°42′N 90°22′E
Country Bangladesh
Administrative District Dhaka District
 - Mayor of Dhaka North Atiqul Islam
 - Mayor of Dhaka South Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh
 - City 815.85 km² (315 sq mi)
Population (2022)
 - Density 34,000/km² (88,059.6/sq mi)
 - Metro 22,478,116
Time zone BST (UTC+6)

Dhaka (previously Dacca; Ḍhākā; IPA: [ɖʱaka]) is the capital of Bangladesh and the principal city of Dhaka District. Located on the banks of the Buriganga River, Dhaka, along with its metropolitan area, is the largest city in Bangladesh and one of the most populous in the world.

Under Mughal rule in the seventeenth century, the city was also known as Jahangir Nagar, and was both a provincial capital and a center of the world-wide muslin trade. The modern city, however, was developed chiefly under British rule in the nineteenth century, and soon became the second-largest city in Bengal after Calcutta. With the partition of India in 1947, Dhaka became the administrative capital of East Pakistan, and later, in 1972, the capital of an independent Bangladesh. During the intervening period, the city witnessed widespread turmoil; this included many impositions of martial law, the declaration of Bangladesh's independence, military suppression, devastation during war, and natural calamities.

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Modern Dhaka is the center of political, cultural and economic life in Bangladesh. It has both the highest literacy rate and the most diverse economy amongst Bangladeshi cities. Although its urban infrastructure is the most developed in the country, it nonetheless faces challenges such as pollution, congestion, supply shortages, poverty and crime. In recent decades, Dhaka has seen modernization of transport, communications and public works. The city is attracting considerable foreign investment and greater volumes of commerce and trade. It is also experiencing an increasing influx of people from across the nation.


The existence of urbanized settlements in the area that is now Dhaka dates from the seventh century. The area was ruled by the Buddhist kingdom of Kamarupa and the Pala Empire before passing to the control of the Hindu Sena dynasty in the ninth century. Many believe that the name of the city was derived after the establishment of the Goddess Dhakeshwari's temple by Ballal Sena in the twelfth century. Dhaka and its surrounding area was identified as Bengalla around that period. The town itself consisted of a few market centers like Lakshmi Bazar, Shankhari Bazar, Tanti Bazar, Patuatuli, Kumartuli, Bania Nagar, and Goal Nagar. After the Sena dynasty, Dhaka was successively ruled by Turkish and Afghan governors descending from the Delhi Sultanate until the arrival of the Mughals in 1608.

After the city was proclaimed the capital of Bengal under Mughal rule in 1608, townships developed and there was a significant growth in population. Mughal subahdar Islam Khan was the first administrator of the city. Khan named the town "Jahangir Nagar" (City of Jahangir) in honor of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, although this name was dropped soon after Jahangir's death. The main expansion of the city took place under Mughal general Shaista Khan. The city then measured 19 by 13 kilometers (12 by 8 mi), with a population of nearly a million people. The historical Chawk Mosque, located in the bazaar area of the old town of Dhaka, south of the current city centre, was originally built during the rule of the Mughals in the seventeenth century and may be the earliest dated mosque built on a high vaulted foundation in Bengal.[1]

British Rule

Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban houses the national parliament.

The city passed to the control of the British East India Company in 1765 after the Battle of Plassey. The city's population shrank dramatically during this period as the prominence of Kolkata rose, but substantive development and modernization eventually followed. Under British rule, many modern educational institutions, public works and townships were developed. A modern civic water supply system was introduced in 1874 and electricity supply launched in 1878. The Dhaka Cantonment was established near the city, serving as a base for British and Indian soldiers.

During the abortive Partition of Bengal in 1905, Dhaka was declared to be the capital of the newly established state of Eastern Bengal and Assam, but Bengal was reunited in 1911.

Capital of Bangladesh

Following the partition of India in 1947, Dhaka became the capital of East Bengal as a part of the new Muslim state of Pakistan. The city witnessed communal violence that left thousands of people dead. A large proportion of the city's Hindu population departed for India, while the city received hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants. The city's population rose dramatically in a very short period of time, creating severe shortages and infrastructural problems.

As the center of regional politics, Dhaka saw an increasing number of political strikes and incidents of violence. The adoption of Urdu as the sole official language of Pakistan led to protest marches involving large crowds. Known as the Bengali Language Movement, the protests resulted in police firing on and killing students who were demonstrating peacefully.[2] Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Dhaka remained a hotbed of political activity, and the demands for autonomy for the Bengali population gradually gained momentum.

In 1970, the Bhola cyclone devastated much of the region, killing an estimated 500,000 people. More than half the city of Dhaka was flooded and millions of people were marooned.[3] With public anger growing against ethnic discrimination, and frustration with the inadequate cyclone relief efforts of the central government, Bengali politician Sheikh Mujibur Rahman held a nationalist gathering on March 7, 1971, at the Race Course Ground. An estimated one million people attended the gathering, which lead to the March 26 declaration of Bangladesh's independence. In response, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight, which led to the arrests, torture and killing of hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Hindus and Bengali intellectuals. The fall of the city to the Indian Army on December 16 marked the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh. The post-independence period has seen a rapid and massive growth of the city population, attracting migrant workers from rural areas across Bangladesh. A real estate boom has followed the expansion of city limits and the development of new settlements such as Gulshan, Banani and Motijheel.

Geography and Climate

Dhaka is located in central Bangladesh, on the eastern banks of the Buriganga River. The city lies on the lower reaches of the Ganges Delta and covers a total area of 815.85 square kilometers (315 sq mi). It consists of seven principal thanas — Dhanmondi, Kotwali, Motijheel, Paltan, Ramna, Mohammadpur, Sutrapur, Tejgaon — and 14 auxiliary thanas — Gulshan, Lalbagh, Mirpur, Pallabi, Sabujbagh, Dhaka Cantonment, Demra, Hazaribagh, Shyampur, Badda, Kafrul, Kamrangir char, Khilgaon and Uttara. In total the city has 130 wards and 725 mohallas. Dhaka district has an area of 1463.60 square kilometres (565 sq mi); and is bounded by the districts of Gazipur, Tangail, Munshiganj, Rajbari, Narayanganj, Manikganj. Tropical vegetation and moist soils characterize the land, which is flat and close to sea level. This leaves Dhaka susceptible to flooding during the monsoon seasons owing to heavy rainfall and cyclones.

Dhaka experiences a hot, wet and humid tropical climate. The city is within the monsoon climate zone, with an annual average temperature of 25 °C (77 °F) and monthly means varying between 18 °C (64 °F) in January and 29 °C (84 °F) in August. Nearly 80 percent of the annual average rainfall of 1,854 millimetres (73 in) occurs between May and September. Dhaka is facing serious environmental threats from pollution caused by the city's rapid expansion, congestion and industrial activities. Increasing air and water pollution emanating from traffic congestion and industrial waste is affecting public health and the quality of life in the city. Water bodies and wetlands around Dhaka are facing extinction as they are filled in to construct multi-storied buildings and other real estate developments. Coupled with pollution, such erosion of natural habitats threatens to destroy much of the regional biodiversity.

Climate in Dhaka
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg high temperature (°F) 76° 80° 87° 89° 89° 88° 87° 88° 87° 87° 83° 77°
Avg low temperature (°F) 58° 63° 72° 77° 79° 81° 81° 81° 80° 77° 69° 61°
Average Precipitation (inches) 0.3" 0.8" 2.3" 4.6" 10.5" 14.1" 15.7" 12.5" 10.1" 6.4" 1.2" 0.2"
Source: WeatherBase.Com


As the capital of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka is the home to numerous state and diplomatic institutions. The Bangabhaban is the official residence and workplace of the President of Bangladesh, who is the ceremonial head of state under the constitution. The National Parliament House is located in the modernist capital complex designed by Louis Kahn in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. The Gonobhaban, the official residence of the Prime Minister, is situated on the north side of Parliament. The Prime Minister's Office is located in Tejgaon. Most ministries of the Government of Bangladesh are housed in the Bangladesh Secretariat. The Supreme Court, the Dhaka High Court and the Foreign Ministry are located in the Ramna area. The Defence Ministry and the Ministry of Planning are located in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. The Armed Forces Division of the government of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Armed Forces headquarters are located in Dhaka Cantonment. Several important installations of the Bangladesh Army are also situated in Dhaka and Mirpur Cantonments. The Bangladesh Navy's principal administrative and logistics base, BNS Haji Mohshin, is located in Dhaka. The Bangladesh Air Force maintains the BAF Bangabandhu Air Base and BAF Khademul Bashar Air Base in Dhaka.

Dhaka hosts 54 resident embassies and high commissions and numerous international organizations. Most diplomatic missions are located in the Gulshan and Baridhara areas of the city. The Agargaon area near Parliament is home to the country offices of the United Nations, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank.

Civic administration

The Dhaka City Corporation building

The Dhaka municipality was founded on August 1, 1864 and upgraded to "corporation" status in 1978.In 1983, the Dhaka City Corporation was created as a self-governing entity to govern Dhaka.

Under a new act in 1993, an election was held in 1994 for the first elected Mayor of Dhaka. The Dhaka City Corporation ran the affairs of the city until November 2011. In 2011, Dhaka City Corporation was split into two separate corporations – Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation for ensuring better civic facilities. These two corporations are headed by two mayors, who are elected by direct vote of the citizen for a 5-year period. The area within city corporations was divided into several wards, each having an elected commissioner. In total, the city has 130 wards and 725 mohallas.

Unlike other megacities worldwide, Dhaka is serviced by over two dozen government organizations under different ministries. Lack of coordination among them and centralization of all powers by the Government of Bangladesh keeps the development and maintenance of the city in a chaotic situation.

Dhaka suffers from a chronically high crime rate and frequent incidences of political and religious violence.[4] An undermanned and ill-equipped police force has caused governments to occasionally deploy the Bangladesh Army and paramilitary forces in major efforts to curb crime.[5][6]

Aside from Chittagong, Dhaka is the only city in the country with a water-borne sewage system, but this serves only 25 percent of the population while another 30 percent are served with septic tanks. Only two-thirds of households in Dhaka are served by the city water supply system. While private and government efforts have succeeded in collecting garbage city-wide and using it as manure, most solid wastes are often dumped untreated in nearby low-lying areas and water bodies.[7] Dhaka has one of the highest rates of death from infectious disease of any city in Asia.[8]


Bashundhara City, South Asia's largest shopping mall.

Dhaka is the commercial heart of Bangladesh. The city has a large middle class population, increasing the market for modern consumer and luxury goods. Many skilled workers are employed in the businesses and industries located in the Dhaka metropolitan area. The city has historically attracted a large number of migrant workers.[8] Hawkers, peddlers, small shops, rickshaws, roadside vendors, and stalls employ a large segment of the population.[9] Half the workforce is employed in household and unorganized labor.

The main business districts of the city include Motijheel, Panthapath, and Gulshan. Bashundhara City is a developed economic area that houses many high-tech industries and corporations and a shopping mall that is one of the largest in Southeast Asia. The Export Processing Zone in Dhaka was set up to encourage the export of garments, textiles and other goods. The EPZ is home to 80 factories, which employ mostly women.[10] The Dhaka Stock Exchange is based in the city, as are most of the large companies and banks of Bangladesh, including the Bangladesh Bank, HSBC, Citibank, and the Grameen Bank. Urban developments have sparked a widespread construction boom, causing new high-rise buildings and skyscrapers to change the city landscape. Growth has been especially strong in the finance, banking, manufacturing, telecommunications, and services sectors, while tourism, hotels, and restaurants continue as important elements of the Dhaka economy.


One of the world's fastest growing cities, Dhaka
Baitul Mukarram (Dhaka), the National Mosque of Bangladesh. The structure resembles the Kaaba in Mecca.

The city population is composed of peoples from virtually every region of Bangladesh. The long-standing inhabitants of the old city are known as Dhakaia and have a distinctive dialect and culture. Members of the Santal, Oraon, Monipuris, Khasi, Rohingya people\Rohingya, Garo, Chakma, and Mandi tribal peoples reside in the city.[11] Dhaka is also home to a large number of Bihari refugees, who are descendants of migrant Muslims from eastern India during 1947 and settled down in East Pakistan.

Most residents of Dhaka speak Bengali, the national language. Many distinctive Bengali dialects and regional languages such as Chittagonian and Sylheti are also spoken by segments of the population. English is also spoken by a large segment of the population, especially for business purposes. Urdu is spoken by members of several non-Bengali communities, including the Biharis.

Islam is the predominant religion of Dhaka's people, with a majority belonging to the Sunni sect. There are also significant Shia and Ahmadiya communities. Hinduism is the second-largest religion and smaller communities practice Buddhism and Christianity. There have been significant acts of religious violence, especially from radical Islamic groups.[12][13]


Durga Puja at the Dhakeshwari Temple

As the most populous city of the nation, Dhaka has a vibrant cultural life. Annual celebrations for Independence Day (March 26), Language Martyrs' Day (February 21) and Victory Day (December 16) are prominently held across the city. Dhaka's people congregate at the Shaheed Minar and the Jatiyo Smriti Soudho to celebrate the national heroes of the liberation war. These occasions are observed with public ceremonies and rallies in public grounds. Many schools and colleges organize festivals and concerts.

Pohela Baishakh, the Bengali New Year, falls annually on April 14 and is popularly celebrated across the city. Large crowds of people gather on the streets of Shahbag, Ramna Park and the campus of the University of Dhaka for celebrations. The most popular style of dress for women is sarees or salwar kameez, while men usually prefer western clothing to the traditional lungi. The Durga Puja is the most important Hindu festival of the year. Large processions of Hindus perform devotional songs, dances, prayers and ceremonies for Goddess Durga. The Muslim festivals of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha involve widespread celebrations, with large numbers of Muslims attending prayers in mosques across the city; Dhaka being known as the 'City of Mosques'.

Bangla New Year celebration in Ramna park.

For much of recent history, Dhaka was characterized by roadside markets and small shops that sold a wide variety of goods. Recent years have seen the widespread construction of shopping malls, multiplexes, hotels and restaurants attracting Dhaka's growing middle-class and wealthy residents. Along with Bangladeshi cuisine and South Asian variants, a large variety in Western and Chinese cuisine are served at numerous restaurants and eateries. Despite the growing popularity of music groups and rock bands, traditional folk music remains widely popular. The ghazal songs of artists like Runa Laila and the works of the national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and of Rabindranath Tagore also have a widespread following across Dhaka.[14] The Baily Road area is known as Natak Para (Theater Neighborhood) which is the center of Dhaka's thriving theater movement. Indian and Pakistani music and films are popular with large segments of Dhaka's population.

Bangladesh Betar is the state-run primary provider of radio services, and broadcasts a variety of programming in Bangla and English. In recent years many private radio networks have been established in the city. Bangladesh Television is the state-run broadcasting network that provides a wide variety of programs in Bangla and English. Cable and satellite networks such as Channel I, ATN Bangla, RTV, NTV and STAR TV are amongst the most popular channels. The main offices of most publishing houses in Bangladesh are based in Dhaka. The Prothom Alo and The Daily Ittefaq are the most popular amongst the large number of Bangla language dailies, periodicals and other publications in the city. The Daily Star and The Independent are the largest English-language dailies published in the city.


Dhaka is known as the Rickshaw capital of the world

Cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws are the main mode of transport for the inhabitants of the city, with close to 400,000 rickshaws running each day — the largest number for any city in the world.[9] Relatively low-cost and non-polluting, cycle rickshaws nevertheless cause traffic congestion and have been banned from many parts of the city. Public buses are operated by the state-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) and by private companies and operators. Scooters, taxis and privately-owned automobiles are becoming increasingly popular with the city's growing middle-class. The government has overseen the replacement of two-stroke engine taxis with "Green taxis," which run on compressed natural gas.

Dhaka has 1,868 kilometres (1,161 mi) of paved roads. It is connected by highways and railway links to Chittagong, Khulna, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Faridpur, and Sylhet. Highway links to the Indian cities of Kolkata and Agartala have been established by the BRTC which also runs regular bus services to those cities from Dhaka. The Kamalapur Railway Station and the Airport (Biman Bandar) Railway Station are the main railway stations providing trains on suburban and national routes operated by the state-run Bangladesh Railway. The Sadarghat Port on the banks of the Buriganga River serves the transportation of goods and passengers upriver and to other ports in Bangladesh, and South Asia. The Zia International Airport is the largest and busiest in the nation. The state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines is the primary airline corporation based at the airport.


The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology department of the University of Dhaka

Dhaka has the largest number of schools, colleges, and universities of any Bangladeshi city. The education system is divided into four levels: Primary (from grades 1 to 5), Secondary (from grades 6 to 10), Higher Secondary (from grades 11 to 12) and tertiary.[15] The five years of lower secondary education concludes with a Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination. Students who pass this examination proceed to two years of Higher Secondary or intermediate training, which culminate in a Higher Secondary School (HSC) examination. Education is mainly offered in Bangla, but English is also commonly taught and used. A large number of Muslim families send their children to attend part-time courses or even to pursue full-time religious education, which is imparted in Bangla and Arabic in madrasahs.[15]

The Dhaka College is the oldest institution of higher education in the city and amongst the earliest established in British India, founded in 1840. Since independence, Dhaka has seen the establishment of a large number of public and private colleges and universities that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as a variety of doctoral programs. The University of Dhaka is the largest public university in the nation with more than 30,000 students. Institutions of higher education include the Jahangirnagar University and the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, which is the premier technical university in the nation. The Dhaka Medical College and the Sir Salimullah Medical College are among the largest and most respected medical schools in the nation. Dhaka's college campuses are often hotbeds of political conflict,[16] and college campuses are frequently disrupted by protests, strikes, and violence initiated by student activists.[17][18]


Cricket and football are the two most popular sports in Dhaka and across the nation. Teams are fielded in intra-city and national competitions by a large number of schools, colleges and private entities. The Mohammedan Sports Club and Abahani are the largest football and cricket teams, maintaining a fierce rivalry. Many Bangladeshi cricketers and football players such as Sheikh Aslam, Athar Ali Khan, Kaiser Hamid, and Mohammad Ashraful hail from Dhaka. The Bangladesh cricket team's victories over Pakistan in 1999, India in 2004, and even the overseas win against Australian cricket team in 2005 were celebrated by thousands of people who congregated on the streets of the city.

Dhaka has the distinction of having hosted the first official test cricket match of the Pakistan cricket team in 1954 against India.[19] The Bangabandhu National Stadium was formerly the main venue for domestic and international cricket matches, but now exclusively hosts football matches. The Fatullah Khan Saheb Osman Ali Stadium hosts most of the domestic and international fixtures of cricket with an audience capacity of 15,000. The Bangladesh Sports Control Board, responsible for promoting sports activities across the nation is based in Dhaka. Dhaka also has stadiums largely used for domestic events such as the Sher-e-Bangla Mirpur Stadium (in Mirpur), the Dhanmondi Cricket Stadium, and the Outer Stadium Ground. The Dhaka University Ground hosts many intercollegiate tournaments.


  1. Chawk Mosque, Dhaka Banglapedia. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  2. John Richards, Calcutta and Dhaka: A tale of two cities Inroads, January 1, 2002. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  3. 1970- The Great Bhola Cyclone Hurricanes: Science and Society. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  4. Four killed in Dhaka riot BBC News, February 13, 2001. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  5. Alistair Lawson, Dhaka police fear crime wave BBC News, May, 9, 2001. Retrieved Janaury 19, 2023.
  6. 'Troop trials' in Dhaka crime fight BBC News, February 20, 2003. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  7. Alistair Lawson, Dhaka 'winning' waste disposal battle BBC News, October 30, 2002. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Terry McGee, Urbanization Takes on New Dimensions in Asia's Population Giants PRB, October 1, 2001. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Frances Harrison, Does Dhaka need rickshaws? BBC News, July 20, 1998. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  10. Dhaka clothes factories to reopen BBC News, June 6, 2006. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  11. Phillip Gain, Adivasi Girls in the Capital City Dhaka 'Adivasi - Tribal India. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  12. Kamal Ahmed, US condemns Bangladesh violence BBC News, June 19, 2001. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  13. Waliur Rahman, Violent Dhaka rally against sect BBC News, December 23, 2005. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  14. Art and Culture Bangla2000. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Education in Bangladesh Bangla2000. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  16. Alistair Lawson, Uneasy calm after Bangladesh riot BBC News, July 24, 2002. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  17. Moazzem Hossain, Protests shut Bangladeshi university BBC News, September 8, 2002. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  18. Moazzem Hossain, Bangladesh students call strike BBC News, September 9, 2002. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  19. Bangabandhu National Stadium ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved January 21, 2023.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Ahmed, Sharif Uddin (ed.). Dhaka: Past, Present and Future. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, 2009. ASIN B0062X4K64
  • Pryer, Jane A. Poverty and Vulnerability in Dhaka Slums: The Urban Livelihood Study. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0754618641
  • Rabbani, Golam. Dhaka, from Mughal outpost to metropolis. University Press,1997. ISBN 9840513745

External links

All links retrieved January 19, 2023.


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