the state religion, is the faith of 88 percent of
the population, almost all of whom adhere to the
Sunni branch. Hindus make up most of the remainder,
and the country has small communities of Buddhists,
Christians, and animists.
Bangladesh is one of the largest Muslim countries
in the world. Most Bangladeshi Muslims are Sunnis,
but there is a small Shia community. Among religious
festivals of Muslims Eidul Fitr, Eidul Azha, Eiday
Miladunnabi, Muharram etc. are prominent . The contention
that Bengali Muslims are all descended from lower-caste
Hindus who were converted to Islam is incorrect;
a substantial proportion are descendants of the
Muslims who reached the subcontinent from elsewhere.
Hinduism is professed by about 12 percent of the
population. Durga Puja, Saraswati Puja, Kali Puja
etc. are Hindu festivals. Hindus in Bangladesh are
almost evenly distributed in all regions, with concentrations
in Khulna, Jessore, Dinajpur, Faridpur, and Barisal.
Biharis, who are not ethnic Bangalees, are Urdu-speaking
Muslim refugees from Bihar and other parts of northern
India. They numbered about 1 million in 1971 but
now had decreased to around 600,000. They once dominated
the upper levels of the society. They sided with
Pakistan during the 1971 war. Hundreds of thousands
of Biharis were repatriated to Pakistan after the
Tribal race constitutes less than 1 percent of the
total population. They live in the Chittagong Hills
and in the regions of Mymensingh, Sylhet, and Rajshahi.
The majority of the tribal population live in rural
areas. They differ in their social organization,
marriage customs, birth and death rites, food, and
other social customs from the people of the rest
of the country. They speak Tibeto-Burman languages.
In the mid-1980s, the percentage distribution of
tribal population by religion was Hindu 24, Buddhist
44, Christian 13, and others 19.
Major tribes are the Chakmas, Maghs (or Marmas),
Tipras, Murangs, Kukis and Santals. The tribes tend
to intermingle and could be distinguished from one
another more by differences in their dialect, dress,
and customs than by tribal cohesion. Only the Chakmas
and Marmas display formal tribal organization. They
are of mixed origin but reflect more Bengali influence
than any other tribe. Unlike the other tribes, the
Chakmas and Marmas generally live in the highland
valleys. Most Chakmas are Buddhists, but some practice
Hinduism or Animism.
The Santals live in the northwestern part of Bangladesh.
They obey a set of religious beliefs closely similar
to Hinduism. The Khasais live in Sylhet in the Khasia
Hills near the border with Assam, and the Garo and
Hajang in the northeastern part of the country.