This article is about the capital of Bangladesh. For other uses, see Dhaka (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Dakar.
Capital Megacity
Greater Dhaka Area

1. National Parliament 2. Motijheel commercial area 3. Rose Garden 4. Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque 5. Ramna 6. Supreme Court of Bangladesh 7. RAJUK Bhaban 8. Rickshaw traffic at rush hour 9. Steamers and ferries on the Dhaka Riverfront
Nickname(s): Rickshaw Capital of the World
Venice of the East
City of Mosques

Dhaka in Bangladesh

Location of Dhaka in Asia

Coordinates: 23°42′N 90°22′E / 23.700°N 90.367°E / 23.700; 90.367Coordinates: 23°42′N 90°22′E / 23.700°N 90.367°E / 23.700; 90.367
Country  Bangladesh
Division Dhaka Division
District Dhaka District
Establishment 1608 CE
Granted city status 1947
  Type City District
  Body DNCC & DSCC
  DNCC Mayor Annisul Huq
  DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon
  Police commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia
Area (2011)[1]
  Capital Megacity 302.92 km2 (116.96 sq mi)
  Land 279.43 km2 (107.89 sq mi)
Elevation[2] 4 m (13.12 ft)
Population (2011)[3]
  Capital Megacity Increase6,970,105
  Density 23,010/km2 (59,595/sq mi)
  Metro[1] 8,906,000
  Literacy rate[1] 74.6%
Demonym(s) Dhakaiya;
Time zone BST (UTC+6)
Postal code 1000, 1100, 12xx
National calling code +880
Calling code 02 [For Dhaka city only]
GDP nominal (2014) Increase$37 billion[4]
ISO 3166-2 BD-13
Website Dhaka North City Corporation
Dhaka South City Corporation

Dhaka (Bengali: ঢাকা, pronounced: [ɖʱaka]; English /dɑːkɑː/ DAH-kah, /dɑːkə/ DAH-kuh, or /dækə/ DACK-uh) is the capital and largest city of Bangladesh. It is one of the world's most populated cities, with a population of 17 million people in the Greater Dhaka Area.[3][5] Located in an eponymous district and division, it lies along the east bank of the Buriganga River in the heart of the Bengal delta. The city is a microcosm of the entire country, with diverse religious and ethnic communities. Its name was romanised as Dacca until the current spelling was adopted in 1983.[6] It is the largest city in the Bengal region. It is also a major city of South Asia and among the OIC states.

The old city of Dhaka was the Mughal capital of Bengal.[7] The city's name was Jahangir Nagar (City of Jahangir) in the 17th century. It was a cosmopolitan commercial centre and the hub of the worldwide muslin and silk trade. The city hosted two important caravansaries of the subcontinent: the Bara Katra and Choto Katra, located on the riverfront of the Buriganga. The Mughals decorated the city with well-laid out gardens, tombs, mosques, palaces and forts. Dhaka became known as the City of Mosques in Bengal.[7] It was also described as the Venice of the East.[8] The old city was home to various Eurasian merchant groups. At the height of its medieval glory, Dhaka was regarded as one of the wealthiest and most prosperous cities in the world.[9] It was central to the economy of Mughal Bengal, which generated 50% of Mughal GDP.[9]

Modern Dhaka developed from the late 19th century under the British Raj. Between 1905 and 1912, it was the capital of British Eastern Bengal and Assam. In 1947, after the Partition of British India, it became the administrative capital of the eastern wing of Pakistan. It was declared as the legislative capital of Pakistan in 1962. In 1971, it became the capital of an independent Bangladesh. Architect Louis Kahn's acclaimed modernist National Capital Complex, based on the geography and heritage of Bengal, was inaugurated in Dhaka in 1982 as one of the largest legislative complexes in the world. The city has endured periods of martial law, war and natural calamities. It continues to confront challenges faced by growing metropolises in developing countries, including poverty, pollution and congestion.

Dhaka is home to thousands of Bangladeshi businesses and the offices of many international corporations. The Dhaka Stock Exchange is one of the largest in South Asia in terms of trading volume and market capitalization.[10] The city is home to a number of regional and international development organizations, including the permanent secretariat of BIMSTEC. It hosts several major arts festivals, including the annual Ekushey Book Fair, the Dhaka Literature Festival and the biannual Dhaka Art Summit. The city has the largest number of cycle rickshaws and is known as the Rickshaw Capital of the World. Dhaka's highly popular cuisine features distinctive biryanis, kebabs and bakarkhanis as a legacy of its rule by the Mughals and the Nawabs of Dhaka.[11]


The origins of the name for Dhaka are uncertain. Once dhak tree was very common in the area and the name may have originated from it. Alternatively, this name may refer to the hidden goddess Dhakeshwari, whose shrine is located in the south-western part of the city.[12] Another popular theory states that Dhaka refers to a membranophone instrument, dhak which was played by order of Subahdar Islam Khan I during the inaugurating of the Bengal capital in 1610.[13] Some references also say that it was derived from a Prakrit dialect called Dhaka Bhasa; or Dhakka, used in the Rajtarangini for a watch-station; or it is the same as Davaka, mentioned in the Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudragupta as an eastern frontier kingdom.[14]


Ruins of Lalbagh Fort
A Bengali woman wearing muslin in Dhaka in 1789

The history of urban settlement in the area of modern-day Dhaka dates to the 1st century.[12] The region was part of the ancient district of Bikrampur, which was ruled by the Hindu Sena dynasty.[15] Under Islamic rule, it became part of the historic district of Sonargaon, the regional administrative hub of the Delhi and the Bengal Sultanates.[16] The Grand Trunk Road passed through the region, connecting it with North India, Central Asia and the southeastern port city of Chittagong.

The Mughal Empire conquered the region during the late 16th-century. Under Mughal rule, the Old City of Dhaka grew on the banks of the Buriganga River. Dhaka was proclaimed the capital of Mughal Bengal in 1608. Islam Khan Chishti was the first administrator of the city.[17] Khan christened it as "Jahangir Nagar" (City of Jahangir) in honour of the Emperor Jahangir. The name was dropped soon after the emperor's death. The main expansion of the city took place under Mughal governor Shaista Khan. The city then measured 19 by 13 kilometres (11.8 by 8.1 mi), with a population of nearly one million.[18] Dhaka was one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the Indian subcontinent.[19] It grew into a regional economic centre during the 17th and 18th centuries, serving as a hub for Eurasian traders, including Bengalis, Marwaris, Gujaratis, Armenians, Arabs, Persians, Greeks, Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Englishmen and the Portuguese.[16][20][21] The city was a centre of the worldwide muslin industry, with 80,000 skilled weavers.[9] Mughal Bengal generated 50% of the Mughal Empire's GDP, which at the time constituted 25% of world GDP. Dhaka was the commercial capital of the empire.[9] The city had well-laid out gardens, monuments, mosques, temples, bazaars, churches and caravansaries. The Bara Katra was the largest caravansary. The riverbanks were dotted with numerous stately mansions. Eurasian traders built neighbourhoods in Farashganj (French Bazaar), Armanitola (Armenian Quarter) and Portogola (Portuguese Quarter). With the defeat of the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Buxar in 1764, British East India company gained the right to collect taxes from the Mughal province of Benga-Bihar. The city formally passed to the control of the British East India Company in 1793 and Dhaka got plugged into the imperial mercantile networks of the British Empire.[22] With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, Dhaka became a leading centre of the jute trade, as Bengal accounted for the largest share of the world's jute production.[23]

Dhaka, or Dacca, under British rule in 1861

Dhaka suffered stagnation and decline during the early 19th-century. Its muslin industry was destroyed by high colonial taxation, restriction of trade and forced imports of British manufactured textiles. The city's weavers starved to death during Bengal famines.[9] The rise of the colonial capital Calcutta caused a sharp decline in the city's population. Dhaka became heavily impoverished. In 1824, an Anglican bishop described Dhaka as a city of magnificent ruins.[24] During the mutiny of 1857, the city witnessed revolts by the Bengal Army.[25] The British Raj was established following the mutiny. It bestowed privileges on the Dhaka Nawab Family, which dominated the city's political and social elite. The Dhaka Cantonment was established as a base for the British Indian Army. The British developed the modern city around Ramna, Shahbag Garden and Bahadur Shah Park. A modern civic water system was introduced in 1874.[26] The electricity supply began in 1901.[27]

Ahsan Manzil was once the palace of the Dhaka Nawab Family; it is now a national museum

By the early-20th century, Dhaka projected itself as the standard bearer of Muslim minorities in British India; as opposed to the heavily Hindu-dominated city of Calcutta.[23] During the abortive Partition of Bengal in 1905, Dhaka became the short lived capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam. In 1906, the All India Muslim League was formed at the Ahsan Manzil, during a conference on liberal education hosted by Nawab Sir Khawja Salimullah. Bengal was reunited in 1911. The University of Dacca was established in 1921. It gained prestige as the Oxford of the East in its early years. DEVCO, a subsidiary of the Occtavian Steel Company, began widescale power distribution in 1930.[27] With the Partition of British India in 1947, Dhaka became the capital of East Pakistan. The city's population increased dramatically because of Muslim migration from across Bengal and other parts of the subcontinent, putting heavy strains on infrastructure.[28]

The Awami League was formed at the Rose Garden Palace in 1949 as the Bengali alternative to the domination of the Muslim League in Pakistan.[29] Growing political, cultural and economic rifts emerged between the two wings of the country. The Bengali Language Movement reached its peak in 1952.[30] Dhaka remained a centre of revolutionary and political activity, as student activism and demands for autonomy increased. The Six point movement in 1966 was widely supported by the city's residents. The city had an influential press, with prominent newspapers like the Ittefaq and the Weekly Holiday. During the political and constitutional crisis in 1971, the military junta led by Yahya Khan refused to transfer power to the newly elected National Assembly, causing mass riots, civil disobedience and a movement for self-determination. On 7 March 1971, Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman addressed a massive public gathering at the Ramna Race Course Maidan in Dhaka, in which he declared the beginning of the independence struggle.[31][32] Subsequently, East Pakistan came under a non-co-operation movement against the Pakistani state. On Pakistan's Republic Day (23 March 1971), Bangladeshi flags were hoisted throughout Dhaka in a show of resistance.[33]

On 25 March 1971, the Pakistan Army launched military operations under Operation Searchlight against the population of East Pakistan.[34] Dhaka bore the brunt of the army's atrocities, witnessing a genocide and a campaign of widescale repression, with the arrest, torture and murder of the city's civilians, students, intelligentsia, political activists and religious minorities. The army faced mutinies from the East Pakistan Rifles and the Bengali police.[35] Large parts of the city were burnt and destroyed, including Hindu neighborhoods.[34] Much of the city's population was either displaced or forced to flee to the countryside.[36] In the ensuing Bangladesh Liberation War, the Mukti Bahini launched regular guerrilla attacks and ambush operations against Pakistani forces. Dhaka was struck with numerous air raids by the Indian Air Force in December.[37] It was liberated by Bangladesh-India Allied Forces on 16 December 1971 with the surrender of Pakistan.[38]

The post-independence period witnessed rapid growth as Dhaka attracted migrant workers from across rural Bangladesh. In August 1975, Sheikh Mujib was assassinated in a military coup. There were further coups in November 1975 and March 1985. In the 1980s, Bangladesh pioneered the formation of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and hosted its first summit in Dhaka.[39] A mass uprising in 1990 led to the restoration of parliamentary democracy. In the 1990s and 2000s, Dhaka experienced improved economic growth and the emergence of affluent business districts and satellite towns.[40]


View of Dhaka from the International Space Station

Dhaka is located in central Bangladesh at 23°42′N 90°22′E / 23.700°N 90.367°E / 23.700; 90.367, 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 300 square kilometres (120 sq mi).[41] It consists of 49 thanasLalbagh, Wari, Chowkbazar, Armanitola, Kotwali, Hazaribagh, Sutrapur, Bangsal, Ramna, Shahbag, Gendaria, Motijheel, Mohakhali, Malibagh, Kawran bazar, Paltan, Kalabagan, Dhanmondi, Mohammadpur, Lalmatia, Rajarbagh, Tejgaon, Nakhalpara, Panthapath, Jatrabari, Kadamtali, New Market, Azampur, Khilkhet, Rampura, Hatirpool, Gulshan, Mirpur, Pallabi, Shah Ali, Turaag, Sabujbagh, Baridhara, Dhaka Cantonment, Demra, Shyampur, Badda, Kafrul, Kamrangir char, Khilgaon, Uttara, Uttarkhan, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dakkshinkhan etc.[42] In total the city has 130 wards and 725 mohallas. Dhaka District has an area of 1,463.60 square kilometres (565 sq mi) with a population of 18,305,671 in 2012; 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.[43]


Main article: Climate of Dhaka

Dhaka experiences a hot, wet, and humid tropical climate. Under the Köppen climate classification, Dhaka has a tropical savanna climate. The city has a distinct monsoonal season, with an annual average temperature of 26 °C (79 °F) and monthly means varying between 19 °C (66 °F) in January and 29 °C (84 °F) in May.[44] Approximately 87% of the annual average rainfall of 2,123 millimetres (83.6 inches) occurs between May and October.[44] Increasing air and water pollution emanating from traffic congestion and industrial waste are serious problems affecting public health and the quality of life in the city.[45] Water bodies and wetlands around Dhaka are facing destruction as these are being filled up 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.[45]

Parks and recreation

There are many parks within Dhaka city, including Ramna Park, Suhrawardy Udyan, Shishu Park, National Botanical Garden, Baldha Garden, Chandrima Uddan, Gulshan Park and Dhaka Zoo. There are lakes within city, such as Crescent lake, Dhanmondi lake, Baridhara-Gulshan lake, Banani lake, Uttara lake and Hatirjheel-Begunbari lake.

Hatirjheel-Begunbari is a new place of recreation for city dwellers. Hatirjheel covering 320 acres (129 ha) is transformed into a place of festivity at night but with serenity settling down. Consultants from Civil Engineering Department of BUET and engineers of SWO of Bangladesh Army, Roads and Highways Department, Local Government Engineering Department and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha have worked hard to turn this project into reality. However, the parks and the recreation places are often crowded and lacks security and cleanliness aspects, which is yet one of the big issues.


Capital city

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.[49] 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.[49] Bangladesh Armed Forces headquarters are located in Dhaka Cantonment.

Dhaka hosts 48 resident embassies and high commissions and numerous international organisations. Most diplomatic missions are located in North Dhaka. 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 municipality was founded on 1 August 1864, and upgraded to "Corporation" status in 1978. The Dhaka City Corporation is a self-governing corporation which runs the affairs of the city. Recently (i.e. 2011), Dhaka City Corporation has been divided into two administrative parts – these are (1) Dhaka North City Corporation and (2) Dhaka South City Corporation – for ensuring better civic facilities. These two corporations are headed by two administrators. The incorporated area is divided into several wards, which have elected commissioners. The Dhaka Education Board is responsible for administering all public schools and most private schools except for English-medium schools and madrassahs.[50][51] All madrassahs in Bangladesh are governed by a central board while English-medium schools are under separate educational and governance structures.[52]

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) was established in 1976 and had 6,000 personnel in 12 police stations.[42] With the rapid growth of the city, the force has been raised to 26,661 personnel and the establishment of 49 police stations has been completed.[42][53]

To fight rising traffic congestion and population, the national government has recently implemented a policy for rapid urbanization of surrounding areas and beyond by the introduction of a ten-year relief on income tax for new construction of facilities and buildings outside Dhaka.[54]

Administrative agencies

Unlike other megacities around the world, Dhaka serviced by over four dozen government organizations under different ministries. The two corporations, north and south, are headed by two powerless mayors really do not have any control over them. Moreover, a lack of co-ordination among them and centralization of all powers by Government of Bangladesh, keeps the development and maintenance of the city in a chaotic situation.[55]

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.
AgencyServiceParent agency
Dhaka North City Corporation
Dhaka South City Corporation
Public service Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives
 ∟ Local Government Division
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Law enforcement Ministry of Home Affairs
 Bangladesh Police
Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited
Dhaka Power Distribution Company Limited
Power distribution Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources
 ∟ Power Division
Dhaka Water Supply & Sewerage Authority Water supply Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives
 ∟ Local Government Division
Capital Development Authority (RAJUK) Urban planning Ministry of Housing and Public Works
Dhaka Education Board
Intermediate and Secondary Education, Dhaka
School education Ministry of Education
Ministry of Primary and Mass Education
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority Transportation Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges
 ∟Road Transport and Highways Division

Water management

Aside from Chittagong, Dhaka has a water-borne sewage system, but this serves only 22% of the population while another 30% are served with septic tanks.[56] Only two-thirds of households in Dhaka are served by the city water supply system. More than 9.7 million tons of solid wastes are produced in Dhaka city each year. While private and government efforts have succeeded in collecting refuse citywide and using it as manure, most solid wastes are often dumped untreated in nearby low-lying areas and water bodies.[57] The utility in charge of water and sanitation in Dhaka, Dhaka Water Supply & Sewerage Authority (DWASA), addresses these challenges with a number of measures. It says that in 2011 it achieved a continuous water supply 24 hours per day 7 days a week, an increase in revenues so that operating costs are more than covered, and a reduction of water losses from 53% in 2003 to 29% in 2010.[58] For these achievements DWASA, got a "Performer of the Year Award" at the Global Water Summit 2011 in Berlin.[59] In the future DWASA plans massive investment to replace dwindling groundwater resources with treated surface water from less polluted rivers located up to 160 km from the city.[58] In 2011 Bangladesh's capital development authority, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK), made rainwater harvesting for new houses mandatory in an effort to address water scarcity and reduce flooding.

82% of the city's water supply is abstracted from groundwater through 577 deep tube wells, while four relatively small surface water treatment plants provide the remaining 18%.[60] Groundwater levels are dropping at two to three metres every year. The city's water table has sunk by 50 metres in the past four decades and the closest underground water is now over 60 metres below ground level.[61][62] The Asian Development Bank estimated in 2007 that by 2015 a severe supply shortage would occur if the utility did not reduce groundwater abstraction.[63] Nevertheless, DWASA announced in 2012 that it will develop a new wellfield with 46 wells providing 150,000 m3 (5,297,200 cu ft) of water per day at a cost of 63 million USD, of which 45 million USD will be financed by the government of South Korea.[64]

The utility plans to substitute surface water for groundwater through the construction of four large water treatment plants until 2020 at a cost of 1.8 billion USD (Saidabad Phase II and III, Padma/Pagla and Khilkhet). The treatment plants will draw water from more distant and less polluted rivers up to 160 km from the city. The four plants are expected to have a combined capacity of 1.63 million cubic metres per year, compared to a 2010 supply of 2.11 million cubic metre per year that is mainly from groundwater. As of 2011, funding had been secured for the first plant which is under construction thanks to a 250 million USD contribution from Danish development assistance.[58] In 2012 the government signed a contract with a Chinese company to build a water treatment plant at Munshiganj on the Padma River. The project costs 407 million USD, of which 290.8 million USD is financed by a soft loan from the Chinese government, the remainder coming from the Bangladeshi government.[65]


Citigroup centre in Dhaka
Jamuna Future Park is the third largest shopping mall in Asia

Dhaka is one of the twin hubs of the Bangladesh financial industry. The city is the seat of the country's central bank Bangladesh Bank and the Dhaka Stock Exchange. The city's diverse economy registered a gross municipal GDP of US$85 billion (PPP) in 2008. Dhaka is one of the fastest growing startup hubs in the world.[66] It has one of the largest concentrations of multinational companies in South Asia. The main commercial areas of the city are Motijheel, Dilkusha, Kawran Bazar, Gulshan, Mohakhali and Banani. The city has a growing middle class, driving the market for modern consumer and luxury goods.[14][67] Restaurants, shopping malls and luxury hotels continue to serve as vital elements in the city's economy.

Major Bangladeshi companies headquartered in the Dhaka include Beximco, Rahimafrooz, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Petrobangla, Akij Group, Bashundhara Group, Jamuna Group, Transcom Group, Aarong, PRAN-RFL Group and Square Pharmaceuticals among others. Dhaka is the centre of the Bangladesh textile industry. The technologically advanced Bangladeshi pharmaceutical industry is also concentrated in Dhaka. Private education, healthcare, architecture, engineering and consultancy services are major sectors of the urban economy. Administrative and security services are also concentrated in the city, due to numerous institutions of the Government of Bangladesh. The Greater Dhaka industrial area is a major manufacturing hub, bounded by the Buriganga, Meghna, Dhaleshwari and Turag Rivers. It includes Narayanganj city, the Dhaka Export Processing Zone, Tongi, Savar, Keraniganj and Gazipur city. Exports from the garments sector in Dhaka amounted to over 19 billion US dollars in 2013.[68] The city has historically attracted numerous migrant workers.[69] Hawkers, peddlers, small shops, rickshaw transport, roadside vendors and stalls employ a large segment of the population[69][70] – rickshaw-drivers alone number as many as 400,000.[71] Half the workforce is employed in household and unorganized labour, while about 800,000 work in the textile industry. The unemployment rate in Dhaka was 23% in 2013.[72] The city has a per-capita income of US$3,100 (the lowest among the world's megacities);[73] and an estimated 34% of households live below the poverty line. Dhaka faces tremendous challenges of congestion and inadequate infrastructure.


NASA animation showing the urban growth of Dhaka from 1972 to 2001.

The city, in combination with localities forming the wider metropolitan area, is home to over 15 million as of 2013.[74] The population is growing by an estimated 4.2% per year, one of the highest rates amongst the Asian cities.[69] The continuing growth reflects ongoing migration from rural areas to the Dhaka urban region, which accounted for 60% of the city's growth in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently, the city's population has also grown with the expansion of city boundaries, a process that added more than a million people to the city in the 1980s.[69] According to the Far Eastern Economic Review, Dhaka will be home to 25 million people by the end of 2025.[75]

The literacy rate in Dhaka is also increasing quickly. It was estimated at 69.2% in 2001. The literacy rate had gone up to 74.6% by 2011[1] which is significantly higher than the national average of 51.77%.[76]

The city population is composed of people 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. Between 15,000 and 20,000 of the Rohingya, Santal, Khasi, Garo, Chakma and Mandi tribal peoples reside in the city.[77] Dhaka also has a large population of European, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, Nepali, Burmese and Sri Lankan expatriates working in executive jobs in different industries.

Bengali, the national language, is spoken by the predominant majority population of Dhaka. English is the principal second language and is used for law, commerce and education. There is a minority Urdu-speaking population from India and Pakistan. Dhaka is also home to over 300,000 Bihari refugees, who are descendants of displaced Muslims from eastern India during 1947 and sought refuge in East Pakistan. The correct population is ambiguous; although official figures estimate at least 40,000 residents,[78] it is estimated that there are at least 300,000 Urdu-speakers in all of Bangladesh, mostly residing in refugee camps in Dhaka.[79][80]

Islam is the dominant religion of the city, with 90% of the population being Muslim, and a majority belonging to the Sunni sect. There is also a small Shia sect, and an Ahmadiya community. Hinduism is the second-largest religion and comprises 7% of the population. Smaller segments practice Christianity and Buddhism.[81] The city also has Ismaili, Sikh, Harijan, Hrishi & Bahá'í Faith communities.


Main article: Culture of Dhaka

As the most populous city of Bangladesh, Dhaka has a vibrant cultural life. Annual celebrations for Independence Day (26 March), Language Martyrs' Day (21 February) and Victory Day (16 December) are prominently celebrated across the city. Dhaka's people congregate at the Shaheed Minar and the Jatiyo Smriti Soudho to remember the national heroes of the liberation war. These occasions are observed with public ceremonies and rallies in public grounds. Many schools and colleges organize fairs, festivals and concerts in which citizens from all levels of society participate.[82] Pohela Baishakh, the Bengali New Year, falls annually on 14 April and is popularly celebrated across the city.[82] 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 dressing style for women are sarees or salwar kameez, while men usually prefer western clothing to the traditional lungi. Birthdays of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam are observed respectively as Rabindra Jayanti and Nazrul Jayanti.

The Muslim festivals of Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, and Muharram; the Hindu festivals of Durga Puja, Rathyatra and Krishna Janmashtami; the Buddhist festival of Buddha Purnima; and the Christian festival of Christmas witness widespread celebrations across the city.

For much of recent history, Dhaka was characterized by roadside markets and small shops that sold a wide variety of goods.[83] Recent years have seen the widespread construction of shopping malls, multiplexes, hotels and restaurants attracting Dhaka's growing middle class and wealthy residents.[84] Two of the largest shopping malls in Dhaka and perhaps in the Indian subcontinent are Jamuna Future Park and Bashundhara City shopping mall. Along with Bangladeshi cuisine and South Asian variants, a large variety of Western and Chinese cuisine is served at numerous restaurants and eateries.[67] Though restaurants offering multinational cuisine and fast-food chains like A&W, Burger King, KFC, Nando's, Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn and Sbarro have opened up their outlets in major areas of the city, Dhaka's delicacies such as Biriani from Haji's , Nanna's and Fakhruddin, Dhaka Cheese, Star Kabab, Burhani, Lassi and Phuchka are highly popular among locals and tourists. The city has numerous venerable Bengali confectionery chains, including Banoful, Alauddin, Bikrampur Mishti Bhandar and Rashmela. Dhakai Bakarkhani is the traditional food or snack of the people of old Dhaka. It is famous for its quality and taste and it was highly praised by the royal court of the Mughal Empire in Delhi.[85]

Bengali New Year celebrations

Despite the growing popularity of music groups and rock bands, traditional folk music remains widely popular.[86] The works of the national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and national anthem writer Rabindranath Tagore have a widespread following across Dhaka.[87] The Baily Road area is known as Natak Para (Theatre Neighbourhood) which is the centre of Dhaka's thriving theatre movement.[88] Indian and Western music and films are popular with large segments of Dhaka's population.[89] This area is also credited for the revival of the Jamdani because of the many local saree stores selling and promoting these locally hand-made age old traditional Bengali sarees. Jamdanis are 100% hand weaved and originate from the Mughal era. Jamdanis are produced by a traditional high quality cottage industry, which is slowly dying out because of the slow production process. A single medium range Jamdani saree may take as long as 3 months to complete.[90]

Dhaka is also the press, media and entertainment centre of Bangladesh. Bangladesh Betar is the state-run primary provider of radio services, and broadcasts a variety of programming in Bengali and English. In recent years many private radio networks, especially FM radio services, have been established in the city such as Radio Foorti FM 88.0, Radio Today FM 89.6, Radio Aamar FM 88.4, ABC Radio FM 89.2. Bangladesh Television is the state-run broadcasting network that provides a wide variety of programmes in Bengali and English. Cable and satellite networks such as Ekushey Television, Channel I, ATN Bangla, ATN News, RTV, NTV, Banglavision, Somoy TV and Independent TV are amongst the most popular channels. The main offices of most publishing houses in Bangladesh are based in Dhaka. Dhaka is home to the largest Bangladeshi newspapers, including the leading Bengali dailies Prothom Alo, Ittefaq, Inqilab, Janakantha, Amar Desh and Jugantor. The leading English-language newspapers include The Daily Star, Dhaka Tribune, The Financial Express, The Independent and New Age.[91]


Curzon Hall in the University of Dhaka

Dhaka has the largest number of schools, colleges and universities of any Bangladeshi city. The education system is divided into 5 levels: Primary (from grades 1 to 6), Junior (from grades 6 to 8), Secondary (from grades 9 to 10), Higher Secondary (from grades 11 to 12) and tertiary.[92] The five years of Primary education concludes with a Primary School Completion (PSC) Examination, the three years of Junior education concludes with Junior School Certificate (JSC) Examination, and next two years of 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 Certificate (HSC) Examination.[92] Education is mainly offered in Bengali, but English is also widely taught and used. Many Muslim families send their children to attend part-time courses or even to pursue full-time religious education alongside other subjects, which is imparted in Bengali and Arabic in schools, colleges and madrasas.[92]

Civil Engineering Building of BUET

There are 52 universities in Dhaka. The Dhaka College is the oldest institution of higher education in the city and amongst the earliest established in British India, founded in 1841. Since independence, Dhaka has seen the establishment of numerous public and private colleges and universities that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as a variety of doctoral programmes.[93] The University of Dhaka is one of the largest public university[94] in the nation with more than 30,000 students and 1,800 faculty staff. It was established in 1921 being the first university in the region. The university has 23 research centres and 70 departments, faculties and institutes.[95] Eminent seats of higher education include Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Jagannath University and Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University. Dhaka Medical College and Sir Salimullah Medical College are two famous medical colleges in the nation.[96] There are two other renowned government medical colleges; one is Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and another is Armed Forces Medical College, Dhaka. Protests and strikes, and violence amongst police, students and political groups frequently disrupt public university campuses.[97][98][99]

Alongside public institutes of higher education there are some forty-five private universities in Dhaka. Notable private universities are

North South University, East West University, University of Asia Pacific, American International University – Bangladesh, BRAC University, Primeasia University, United International University and Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (see:List of universities in Bangladesh), most of which are located in Mohakhali, Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Bashundhara, Uttara and Dhanmondi areas of the city.

The British Council plays an important role helping students to achieve GCSE and A Level qualifications from examination boards in the United Kingdom. This is in addition to holding several examinations for professional bodies in the United Kingdom, including the UK medical Royal Colleges and Accountancy.


Cricket and football are the two most popular sports in Dhaka and across the nation.[100] Teams are fielded in intra-city and national competitions by many schools, colleges and private entities. The Mohammedan Sporting Club and Abahani are two of the most famous football and cricket teams, maintaining a fierce rivalry, specially in Bangladesh Football Premier League.[101] Dhaka Metropolis cricket team represents Dhaka city in National Cricket League, a region based domestic first-class cricket competition in Bangladesh. In domestic Twenty20 cricket, Dhaka has a Bangladesh Premier League franchise known as Dhaka Dynamites.

Dhaka has the distinction of having hosted the first official Test cricket match of the Pakistan cricket team in 1954 against India.[102] The Bangabandhu National Stadium was formerly the main venue for domestic and international cricket matches, but now exclusively hosts football matches.[102] It was used during Pakistan colonial era for Test matches when no Bengalis were selected in team and a matting pitch was used. It was the host for the opening ceremony[103] of the 2011 Cricket World Cup while the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, exclusively used for cricket hosted 6 matches of the tournament including two quarter-final matches.[104] Dhaka also hosted South Asian Games for three times in 1985, 1993 and 2010. Dhaka is the first city to hold the games three times. The Bangabandhu National Stadium was the main venue for all three editions.[105] Dhaka also hosted ICC World Twenty20, along with Chittagong and Sylhet, held in 2014.

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 Bangladesh Army Stadium, the Bir Sherestha Shaheed Shipahi Mostafa Kamal Stadium, the Dhanmondi Cricket Stadium and the Outer Stadium Ground.[106] The Dhaka University Ground and The BUET Sports Ground host many intercollegiate tournaments.[107] They are also used as practice ground by different football clubs and visiting foreign national football teams.


Cycle rickshaws are the most popular mode of transport in Dhaka

Dhaka is known as the rickshaw capital of the world.[108][109][110] Approximately 400,000 rickshaws run each day.[111] Cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws are the main mode of transport, with close to 400,000 rickshaws running each day – the largest number for any city in the world.[67][70] However, only about 85,000 rickshaws are licensed by the city government.[69][112] 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 cars are rapidly becoming popular with the city's growing middle class. The government has overseen the replacement of two-stroke engine auto rickshaws with "Green auto-rickshaws" locally called CNG auto-rickshaw or Baby-taxi, which run on compressed natural gas.[113] Taxis plying in the Dhaka roads are Yellow. They have higher standards in terms of comfort but are more expensive. They are required to have air conditioning; the fleet consists mostly of Toyota Allions, Toyota Corollas and Toyota Premios. As of April 2013, some 2,000–2,500 taxis were operating in the capital.[114] The Government decided to import 5,000 new taxis with the engine capacity of 1,500cc. The government also plans to raise the total number of taxis to 18,000 gradually.[114] Uber has started mobile app based taxi service in the city.[115]

A train station in a Dhaka suburb
Note dual gauge tracks.

Dhaka is connected to the other parts of the country through highway and railway links. 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.[116]

Kamalapur railway station, Airport railway station, Banani railway station, Tejgaon railway station, Cantonment railway station and Gendaria railway station are railway stations providing trains on suburban and national routes operated by the state-run Bangladesh Railway.[117] Bangladesh Railway also runs a regular international train service between Dhaka and Kolkata. Bangladesh Railway has been operating commuter rail services in suburban areas as well as to neighbouring Narayanganj and Gazipur cities using DEMU trains.[118]

The Sadarghat River Port on the banks of the Buriganga River serves for the transport of goods and passengers upriver and to other ports in Bangladesh.[119]

The Shahjalal International Airport, located 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) north of Dhaka city centre, is the largest and busiest airport in the nation.[120] Domestic service flies to Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Cox's Bazar, Jessore, Barisal, Saidpur and international services fly to major cities in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Western Europe.[121][122]

An elevated expressway system is under construction.[123] The Dhaka Elevated Expressway would run from Shahjalal International Airport-Kuril-Banani-Mohakhali-Tejgaon-Saatrasta-Moghbazar Rail Crossing-Khilgaon-Kamalapur-Golapbagh to Dhaka-Chittagong Highway at Kutubkhali Point. A longer second elevated expressway from Airport-Ashulia is currently undergoing feasibility study.[124]

The Dhaka Metro feasibility study has been completed. A 21.5 kilometres (13.4 mi), $1.7 Billion Phase 1, metro route is being negotiated by the Government with Japan International Cooperation Agency. The first route will start from Uttara, northern suburb of Dhaka to Sayedabad, southern section of Dhaka.[125]

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