Cultural heritage site

Protection of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Bangladesh

The country Bangladesh being situated between south and south-east Asia inherits a rich cultural heritage of its colorful history of more than two millennia. The deep-rooted socio-cultural heritage of Bangladesh reflects a distinct mode of living and a rich aesthetic past. Culture in Bangladesh, like elsewhere, is a combination of our traditional values and practices interwoven with external influences, which have molded the culture of our country. Bangladesh’s culture has it’s own intense personality and a unique character formed by its nature, history, tradition habits customs and long arduous struggles for national identity and survival. Our culture includes music, dance, art & crafts, drama, photography, film, jewelry, pottery, wood works, cane works, metal works, stitch works, monuments of architecture, manuscripts, iconography and so on.

National policy for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Bangladesh:

The government of Bangladesh has taken adequate legal measures to protect and conserve our tangible and intangible cultural heritage as well as to foster and improves the national language, literature so that all sections of our people get the opportunity to contribute to the enrichment of national culture.

The Constitution of Bangladesh provides that, “The State shall adopt measures to conserve the cultural traditions and heritage of the people, and so to foster and improve the national language, literature and the arts that all sections of the opportunity to contribute towards and to participate in the enrichment of the national culture.”

In this regard, Bangladesh has adopted the following policies in accordance with the constitution of the country:
[i] To identify, protect, preserve and present the cultural traditions and heritage of the people.
[ii] To adopt measures for the safeguard against the disfigurement, damage or removal of monuments, objects or places of special artistic and historic importance or interest.

The Artistes of different art media has been contributing their praise worthy role in fostering, developing attaining growth and preserving national culture of Bangladesh. This contribution is not confined to inside country also exposed to countries abroad, while performing in their respective art field. In doing so, they are very serious and sincere and are launching utmost endeavour in different dimensions with a view to building up country’s image across the border.

Traditional Folk Culture of Bangladesh: The cultural folk tradition has mainly the following from:
A. Loko shongskar, lokachar & loko bisshash.
B. Folk literature, (Probad, probochon, riddles, etc)
C. Loko Nritto, lokgiti.
D. Loko Natto
E. Loko Baddo-jontros

With these folk cultures, not only we can have our cultures & tradition, religious activities but also it focus on our national sensibilities.
First of all, in the folk songs how much love people in swampland got for the loved person creates a song called “Vatialy”. The areas for this song are Mymensing, Hobygonj, Sunamgonj. On the other side, the dry and high areas like Rangpur, dinajpur got “Vaoaia” songs. This type of songs got moishal, rakhal, gariyal, mahut etc. We also have Jari, Sari and Baul songs which got wakefulness of all the religions. Apart from those we also got, Dhamail, Murshdi, Vashan, Bhajan, Kushan, Manik pirer songs etc.

Secondly, Folk theatre are basically created and acted based on the storied of folk life, like-

1. With the Aryan gods and their Avatars written in the Ramayan and Mahabharat. Like, Ramayan, Shri Krishna’s act of praising, Padabali act of praising.
2. The gods described in mangal poems, mansamangal with their stories.
3. Stories of muslim saints, with them we got Manik pirer gaan, Mather pirer gaan, Jari gaan, Kobi gaan etc.
4. Songs of love, separation and non-religious type like, Kichha gaan, Pala gaan, Gitika etc.
5. Some social act and laughter production like, Gomvira, Alkap, Shongjatra etc.

We also got some more cultures centering round the religion like, chaitra sonkranti, boishakhi utsab, nobanno, Muharram, punnosthan, rother mela, ras utsab, karam etc.

In our country we also got some aborigines, who got some cultures of their own.

Educational Activities For the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Bangladesh:

The national policy of Bangladesh on education has already evolved a systematic methodology for linking of education and culture. One of the principle aims of education is to create a Cultural awareness. The basic emphasis has been on the development of the child’s personality and on the building up of a pervasive consciousness of Bangladesh’s cultural heritage through curriculum changes, utilization of local material and community interaction. We have also set up institutions such as the Fine Arts Institutes, Acrobatic Training Institute that have been providing training in the field of culture. Our education policy envisages development of new institutions for documenting and promoting of folklore and art. These institutions would take care of preservation and documentation of diversity of art forms, particularly in the rural and tribal art and culture.

The goal of linking culture and education has been not only to provide extra information but also to inculcate innate human values, refine sensibilities for individual growth, promote social harmony and overall responsible action. There have also been a lot of efforts in encouraging wide participation of non-government organizations and institutions in educating people in both urban and rural areas of the country.

In Bangladesh, the study of national history, culture, and folklores is included in the school/college syllabus. Besides, the Fine Arts Institutes, and Music colleges, the departments of history, literature, music & drama, and linguistic departments in the universities are engaged in educating student in preserving and protecting cultural properties of the country.

Role of Governmental Organizations:
The ministry of Cultural Affairs of the government of Bangladesh has formulated a national cultural policy pregnant with quite a good number of measures in order to protect cultural properties of country’s culture. There are cultural academies and institutions under the ministry of cultural affairs, which are individually responsible to educate students in their respective field of culture and to protect the cultural heritages. Some of the major academies and institutions are;-

1) Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, 2) Bangla Academy, 3) National Museum, 3) Directorate of Public Library, 4) Department of Archaeology, 5) National Archives & Libraries, 6) National Book Centre, 6) Nazrul Institute, 7) Folk Arts and Crafts Foundation, 8) Copyright Office, 9) Cox’s Bazar Cultural Centre 10) Ethnic Minority Cultural Institutes, Rangamati, 11) Ethnic Minority Cultural Institutes, Bandarban, 12) Ethnic Minority CulturalAcademy, Birisiri 13) Rajshahi Divisional Ethnic Minority’s Cultural Academy, Rajshahi 14) Monipuri Lalitokala Academy, moulovibazar 15) Ethnic Minority Cultural Institutes, Khagrachari, and 16) Bangladesh Culture and Heritage Foundation (BCHF) have been making untiring efforts for the safeguarding and promoting of cultural activities across the country to keep pace with the ongoing cultural developments of the world. The activities of the major organizations have been summarized below.

Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy: In the capacity of the national academy of fine and performing arts, Bangladesh Shilpakala academy bears the vital responsibility for the safeguarding, preservation and promotion of cultural heritage in the country. The duties and responsibilities of the academy are promotion of the arts and national culture and creation of necessary facilities for their development keeping consistency with the hopes and aspiration of the nation. Also organizing workshops, seminars, discussion meetings, short-term specialized trainings, providing scholarships, financial grants for talented artists and many other activities for the promotion of art and culture, organizing competitions in the various fine and performing arts and awarding prizes to the wining artists, encouraging the arts through film shows, either by importing educational films or by locally commissioning such films on the various branches of the arts.

Of the cultural activities the Biennale Asian Art Exhibition stands out one of the most prestigious. The Shilpakala Academy itself has carried out numbers of activities promoting Fine Arts and Music. It has carried out Mobile Art Exhibitions in 47 districts out of 64 and has awarded ten renowned musicians for their outstanding contribution to music. As a part of promoting our Folk Art, especially traditional art, many Musical and Dance programmes were held. A video of Zari Gaan (Traditional Folk Songs) has been sent to the UNESCO Head Quarter for the exposure of our cultural heritage throughout the world. The Academy took special efforts to constructing our National Art Gallery and National Theatre. It has also taken measures to train young persons on performing Art, Theatre, Fine Arts, Dance and Music.

Bangla Academy: Bangla Academy stands as the National Conscience and acts as the principal forum of cultivation of Bangla literature. It is also the leading publishing house of research works in the country. 140 titles have been published during the last three years. The Academy has also celebrated the Golden Jubilee in 2002 of the Martyrs Day on the 21st February and the International Mother Language Day. It has also paid homage to two of the greatest social reformers and writers of the country by establishing “Begum Rokeya” and “Mir Mosarraf Hossain” Memorial Centres.

Nazrul Institute: The Nazrul Institute is entrusted with upholding the memory and image of our National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and conducting research on his life, literature and music. Likewise the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the organizations under it also celebrated the birth anniversary of the Noble Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore with great honor and enthusiasm

Bangladesh Folk Arts and Crafts Foundation, Sonargaon: A mini-Bangladesh Project giving the tourists proper impression about the geographical and environmental traditions of Bangladesh has been undertaken by the Sonargaon Folk Arts and Crafts Foundation. The Foundation also holds its month long fair of folk arts and crafts every year as its regular activities.
National Archives & Libraries: The Directorate of Archives and Libraries have done the most creditable job by collecting vast amount of historically important documents, manuscripts and rare books lying scattered in government and semi-government organizations throughout the country. It has also undertaken the latest technological help in permanent preservation of the most rare historical documents through computerization. Besides it has opened a new corner for the children in its library.

Ethnic Minority’s Cultural Institutions:The Ministry of Cultural Affairs has given a special care and attention to the cultural promotion of the periphery areas and ethnic minorities. The Cultural Centre at Cox’s Bazar and the Ethnic Minority Cultural Institute at Bandarban, Rangamati, Khagrachari, Rajshahi, Monipuri and Birisiri have been completed fulfilling the demand of the local people for a long time.

Bangladesh Culture and Heritage Foundation (BCHF):

1. The Foundation is an association, not for profit within the meaning of Section 28 of the Companies Act, 1994 organized and established for promotion of cultural heritage & social development activities in Bangladesh. The aims and objectives for which the Foundation will be established are any or all of the following:
2. To preserve cultural heritage which are gradually disappearing.

3. To encourage people of various communities in projects designed for preservation of cultural heritage.

4. To undertake projects for preservation of cultural heritage and to ensure sustainability and economic viability of such projects.

5. To build appreciation and awareness among the people about their own cultural heritage and motivation to preserve them.

6. To sponsor, promote and provide in various forms and manners, assistance including financial, institutional, advisory and training, to Government, Semi-Government and Non-Government Organizations, Voluntary Agencies and Societies, Local government bodies, institutions and groups of individuals undertaking activities with a vies to culture & heritage development generating income or employment opportunities and alleviating poverty through our cultural activities in conformity with the objects of, and in a manner approved by Foundation.

Since 1987 Govt. of Bangladesh have been implementing the development project for
safeguarding, preservation and presentation of the ICH. I would like to mention about
some recent ongoing projects on safeguarding of ICH of Bangladesh. Such as-

1) Project name: “Action plan for the Safeguarding of Baul Song Bangladesh),
2) UNESCO masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity project”
Major Objectives of the project –
(i) – To ensure that new generation of Bauls are properly trained in accurate performance or transmission of Baul songs
– To identify the Baul communities of Bangladesh;
– To raise awareness among the population of Bangladesh about the Baul songs;
(ii) Specific : Restore & promote the ‘Baul song’

In order to ‘safeguard’ and promote the Baul Song, as well as to create awareness mass people has been involve to restore Baul songs. Arrangement seminar symposium and Baul evening at deferent levels will be done like upzilla, District Division and National levels As a result, the best baul songs and the best baul Performance would be identify and those would be recorded in the CD/ DVD for archives.
Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs will take active measures to institutionalize the project objectives under Bangladesh National Commission for UNESCO for the safeguarding and promotion of Baul Songs.
2) Project name: “Construcion of Hasson Raja Academy”;

Major Objectives of the project –
a) To give repleteness to the existing Hasson Raja Academy established by the local elities on 1975 to memories the mystic poet Hasson Raja and to collect his literary works of musical notation for permanent preservation and research.

b) Construction of structures and installation of equipments for auditorium, seminar hall library, museum, classroom, office building, open air stage and rest house.

c) To facilitate researches, devotee and the general mass go through the life, literary works, musical notation, melody and other works of the great saint and mystic poet Hasson Raja.

Role of Non-Governmental Organizations:

Many non governmental organizations are working for this purpose, such as- Grameen bank, Brac, proshika manobik unnoyan kendra, Bengal foundation, Bulbul academy of fine arts, Chayanat, Nazrul academy, Rupantor, Losabau, Educational puppet development centre, Bangladesh institute of theatre arts, Polli baul shomaz unnoyon shongstha, Nrittayanchol, Bangladesh baul shomoti, Udichi, Bangladesh group theatre federation, Ulipur lok songit songothon, Vaoaia academy, Shejuti Parishad, Comilla tati shomaz, Shonglap-Comilla, Mansamangal theatre, Torun opera, Vashan jatra dol, Shrimira shomproday, Bangladesh shangskritik academy etc. The organizations are told working in 64 districts to for saving our abolishing cultures.

Proshika Unnoyon Kendra: This organization is working to protect the “Kushan Gaan” of Kurigram in Rangpur and ‘Shong”in Tangail District. “Kushan Gaan” mainly describes the stories of Ramayan and Mahabharat. This song is abolishing for not to have new artists to act this type of songs and ‘Shang’ mainly based on social satire. Proshika searches these artistes and also give training to others, by doing this they have composed the “Kushan Gaan”and “Shong’ popular again.

GRAMEEN BANK: By giving financial help, grameen bank is restoring the abolishing crafts like, handicraft and “tat shilpo”. At present, grameen tat and grameen lokoj ponno are very popular in foreign countries.

BRAC & ARONG: This organization is working for retrieve the clay art, “Tat shipo”, etc. They find these types of people and train them, also they train new people. Then they create new products and export them. For this now Arong is very famous accover the worldwide.

Khulna & Rupantor: Rupantor is totally a non-government and non- profetable organization. It works in Khulna for retrieving the historical “Pot gaan” and makes it famous and also spread it to the new generation. It mainly trains the new generation of the people involved with this culture. It also arranges shows of this art regularly. Pot gaan is generally a religion-based story. Based on social story, many pictures are drawn and they are shown in front of people.
Palli Baul Somaj Unnoyon Shongstha: This organization searches the “Baul”, and is spreading their life-style and art to our country and foreign countries as well.

Bengal Foundation: This non-government organization was established 15 years ago in order to save and preserve cultural traditions.Its main work is to search old & new artists to spread inside Bangladesh and improve their skills. Also fine arts, painting exhibition, audio, publication, documentation, drama development, & giving scholarship for cultural researches are included in its activity.


The organizations at present working for the protection of cultural properties are facing the following problems;-
a) Skilled manpower i.e. lack of adequate trained personnel, researchers, specialists and academicians.
b) Scanty allocation of fund.
c) Lack of scientific preservation facilities and archival systems and also latest technological know-how that is technological facilities.
d) Lack of cultural awareness among the cultural workers in particular in the field of protecting cultural properties and among the people at large in the field overall culture.
e) Lack of planned interactions and contacts among field workers, researchers and actual performers at regional and interregional levels.
f) Lack of uninterrupted follow up of workshops, educational facilities and educational institutes relating to protecting the cultural properties.


In order to protect in a way better cultural properties of Bangladesh the following steps and actions might be taken:-
a) To have skilled manpower in protecting cultural properties need to training of professionals to undertake the task of recording, documenting, archiving and promoting traditional arts, and make available all facilities to the manpower already working in different sectors of cultural institutions.

b) Sufficient allocation of fund should be allocated for cultural activity in the national budget so as to distribute the funds to different cultural arena including cultural properties protection centers.

c) At present the technology being used in cultural sectors on different cultural organizations is quite backdated for which the sectors have been suffering from its own course of proceeding. Therefore latest technical know-how should be made available to all the institutions working to the direction of culture and the protection of cultural properties so as to update the technology to be used for cultural purposes.

d) Mass people are hardly aware of culture of the country more specifically speaking the protection of cultural properties. All out efforts should be launched to educate all concern related to the protection of cultural properties.

e) More and more institutions may be set up for proper educational training, skill and consciousness for the people working in the cultural line all over the country. It is essential to restore the interest of younger people in the preservation of their community’s artistic traditions, and control the negative effects of foreign culture on the preservation and transmission of culture and also need to make the communities concerned take on the task of preserving and protecting their own cultural heritage;
Bangladesh is quite rich in culture though not in material possession; Cultures are mixed with our rural soul. People connected with these arts leave it for their livelihood. With the change of time the living styles in our country is also changing. So some of our cultures are changed and some are abolishing. Also, natural calamities like- flood, famine, cyclone etc are the reasons for the abolishment of our arts. However, if the obstacles mentioned can be overcome Bangladesh would be a glorious example of cultural heritage in the world. Bangladesh has quite a bright future in attaining cultural growth and the protection of cultural heritage as well.


* Assistant Director,
Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy
(National Academy of Fine & Performing Arts)
Segunbagicha, Dhaka-1000. Bangladesh.
Phone: 01711373927, E-mail: