Chittagong Division. the second most developed division
of the four in the country, shares its northern border with Assam - the
tea-growing area - and, to the east, with Burma. It has the distinction
of being Bangladesh's only hilly region with hills ranging from about
800 feet (242 meters) in the north to about 200 feet (60 meters) in the
southern ranges. The narrow coastal strip is crowded in by hills to the
east, which is the only region where the land is not fragmented by river
In the northeastern district of Comilla, there
are archaeological sites second only in importance to those at Mahasthan.
If you are driving to Chittagong and Cox's Bazaar, the Mainamati sites are about 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Dhaka. Although there is
an extensive range of over 50 very important Buddhist sites uncovered
along the north-south Lalmai-Mainamati range of hills,
many of them are located in a military zone. making access to them almost
impossible. The Mainamati Archaeological Museum and some
of the accessible sites are about six miles ( 10 km) west of Comilla town.
Mainamati echoes the memory of the celebrated King Govinda Chandra's
mother who was so popular in local legends and folk ballads, whilst lanai or 'red hill' refers to the red color of the soil. Most of the
sites contain various types of Buddhist structures dating from between
the eighth and 12th centuries, consisting of monasteries, temples and
stupas, which have produced a rich collection of archaeological remains.
Close to the site museum is Salban Vihara, a Buddhist
monastery which had 115 cells built around a spacious courtyard with a
cruciform temple in the middle. Deep excavations have revealed as many
as six rebuilding phases, four of which have intelligible plan forms.
In the early periods it was very similar to Paharpur,
being built of brick and with scores of terra-cotta plaques adorning the
circumambulatories. The monastery was probably constructed at the beginning
of the eighth century by Bhava Deva, the fourth ruler
of the Deva Dynasty.
About three miles (five km) north
of Salban Vihara, is a unique group of Buddhist brick
monuments known as the Kutila Mura. They consist of three
stupas, possibly representing the Buddhist trinity or three jewels Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The Charpatra Mura is about two miles to the northwest, and several of its important finds
can be seen in the museum. The largest of the ridge sites, the Ananda
Vihara, another Buddhist monastery, is only about a half-mile
away. It probably derives its name from Anandadeva, the
third and greatest ruler of the early Deva Dynasty. All these sites are
out of bounds unless prior permission is received from the army.
Fortunately, the museum is well stocked with the various finds made at
these sites. There is a large collection of bronze images/scenes of the Buddha, Bodhisattva and Tara.
There is also an interesting solid cast bronze stupa measuring 10 inches
high, giving an interesting insight into the original shapes of the ruined
Sadly, no terra-cotta plaques are to be found in situ on the
Salban Vihara. However, several were collected during the excavations
and are on display. They are fine examples of an animated rural art form
with a host of different subjects ranging from birds and animals to humans
and semidivine beings depicting the local folklore and mythology. This
ensemble of Buddhist sites refelects an unmistakably high standard al
material civilization achieved by the people of southeast Bengal between
the seventh and 12th centuries.
Sylhet is in the northern part of Chittagong
Division, located in a gentle sloping upland valley between the Khasia, Jaintia and Tripura hills, bordering
on Assam. Gentle slopes, rich light soil, a congenial climate and abundant
rainfall have made Sylhet one of the largest tea-producing areas in the
world. These conditions have also provided rich tropical forests where
big game - tiger, panther and wild boar - abound. Tribal life is strong
and folk dancing, like the famous Manipuri dance, is
still performed by the local tribes.
Sylhet town has a strong British influence which is reflected in its
colonial-style architecture. The tea gardens are clusterced around Srimangal to the south and at the Bangladesh Tea Research Institute you can follow all the stages of tea cultivation and processing.
Of interest to archaeologists are the megalithic monuments of
Jaintiapur, the former residence of the Khasi kings.
These are located about 26 miles (42 km) east al the town on the Tamabil
road. The megaliths or menhirs, standing eight feet in height,
are all that remain of the Jainti kingdom. The crude
megaliths, now blackened with age, bear important historical and social
significance but their real purpose has yet to be ascertained, although
some locals believe them to be death memorials.
The busy port of Chittagong has long associations with seafaring traders and is strongly linked with
the colorful spice trade between Europe and the East. Today, it is a large
and thriving city set amid beautiful natural surroundings, studded with
greenclad knolls, coconut palms, mosques and minarets against a background
of the Bay of Bengal. The city is located on the Karnaphuli
River. As a seaport it has always been a great center for trade,
especially after the Portuguese overran the city in the 16th century.
There is also a strong British influence in some of the colonial administrative
buildings. The Circuit House is one of the most attractive
buildings left by the British and has been the scene of a number of historic
and bloody events, the last being the assassination of President Ziaur Rahman on May
The most notable of the numerous mosques around Chittagong are the Jami
Mosque, built by Shaista Khan's son to commemorate
the reconquest of Chittagong in 1666, and the Qadam Mubarak Mosque in the Rahmatganj area of Chittagong, built In 1719 by Muhammad Yasin and one of the few mosques of the area
that retains its original features.
The lush tropical vegetation and unique concentration of tribal
cultures has made the Chittagong Hill Tracts a potentially
fascinating tourist destination in Bangladesh. Ironically, it is the most
troubled region in the country and has therefore been made a restricted
area, permitting tourists to visit only Rangamati and Kaptai.
Rangamati, the headquarters of the Chittagong Hill Tracts,
is a favorite holiday resort because of its location on an isthmus projecting
into Kaptai Lake. You can enjoy swimming, boating, sunbathing
and exploring the small islands off the peninsulas. Each year in mid-April
there is a colorful Buddhist water festival. For those
interested in some ethnic shopping, the tribal woven fabrics are of excellent
quality with simple but bright and beautiful patterns.
There are innumerable boat trips that you can make on the 170-square-mile
(426 square-km) lake, the most feasible being to Kaptai,
where the site for a hydroelectric project is located.
About three miles (five km) beyond Kaptai is Chitmorong,
a Buddhist village where one of the many Buddhist monasteries exhibits
a strong Burrmese influence.
Perhaps the best-known tourist destination in Bangladesh
is Cox's Bazaar and the beaches around it. Inani
Beach, south of Cox's, can claim to be the longest in the world.
The town derives its name from Captain Hiram Cox, who
in 1798 was commissioned to settle the region with Arkanese immigrants
fleeing from Burma. Cox's Bazaar developed with the influence of the new
refugee Magh settlers who erected a series of picturesque
white plastered pagodas or stupas on the low hilltops above the town.
In true Burmese fashion, they also built the 19th century khyangs or monasteries, which can be seen at Ramu and in Cox's
The Bara Khyang of Lama Bazaar, near
Ramu, consists of three separate buildings, one of which houses interesting
reliquaries and Burmese handicratts as well as the largest bronze statue
of the Buddha in Bangladesh, cast at the end of the last century. These
buildings characterize an imported style typical of the buildings along
the Burmese border - timber framed with multi-tiered pitched roofs and
extremely decorative fretted carvings. The interiors are generally simple
spaces with a forest of columns supporting the complicated roofs above.
is a similar compound in Cox's Bazaar known as the Aggameda Khyang,
which nestles at the foot of a hill. The main prayer hall is raised off
the ground on a series of round columns. Unlike at Lama Bazaar. there
is an active Buddhist community of monks performing their daily worship.
Scattered around the compound are a fine collection of Buddhist images/scenes,
mostly of Burmese origin.
Later, the region was the favorite haunt of Mogh
pirates and brigands who, with the Portuguese, used to ravage
the Bay of Bengal in the 17th century. The Moghs have remained, maintaining
their tribal ways through their handicrafts, their hand-made cheroots
and their decorative shell work. In Cox's Bazaar it is still possible
to see the shy and unassuming Mogh craftsmen at work.
To get away from it all there are the beaches, usually fairly well-populated
with local tourists for the first few hundred yards. But beyond this are
more than 70 miles (112 km) of silver-gold sand and surf enough to satisfy even the most incurable beach bum.