Bandarban is a district in South-Eastern Bangladesh, and a part of the Chittagong Division and Chittagong Hill Tracts. Bandarban (meaning the dam of monkeys) is also known as Arvumi or the Bohmong Circle (of the rest of the three hill districts Rangamati is the Chakma Circle and Khagrachari is the Mong Circle). Bandarban town is the home town of the Bohmong Chief (currently King, or Raja, Aung Shue Prue Chowdhury) who is the head of the Marma tribe people. It also is the administrative headquarter of Bandarban district, which has turned into one of the most exotic tourist attractions in Bangladesh since the insurgency in Chittagong Hill Tracts has ceased more than a decade back.
A kingdom of the Mru since early fourteenth century, Bandarban came under Marma rule after the Mughal invasion of Chittagong under Emperor Aurangzeb in mid seventeenth century, though the Mughal could never defeat the Mru. During the raids of the Portuguese Armada and the heyday of Arakanese kingdom Marmas and Rakhains had moved into the area in large numbers. In mid eighteenth century Mir Qasim the nawab of Bengal invaded the area, as it went almost independent with decline of the Mughals.
A nearly 52 kmē hill-town housing about 32,000 people, of which the majority are Bengali or Marma. There is a Tribal Cultural Institute here, which features a library and a museum. The town also features Bandarban Town Hospital (offering the best medical service in the district), the District Public Library, Bandarban Government College, the District Stadium, banashri, the solitary movie theater, the royal cemetery, and, of course, the Royal Palace (two of them since the 11th and 13th royal lines both claim the throne). Apart from the numerous kyangs and mosques, there is a temple dedicated to Kali, the most revered goddess of Hindus is Bangladesh, as well as a center maintained by ISKON.
During the British Raj, it was declared as the Bohmong circle with limited autonomy. During World War II the area saw the presence of a formidable British military presence that came to stand against a Japanese invasion. The tribes of these hills held the reputation of unyielding rebellion throughout history. When India, Pakistan and Mynamar went independent from the Raj, the tribes of Bandarban flew the Mynamar, then known as Burma, flag for a few days. During the Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) to gain independence from Pakistan, leaders of the tribal people sought allegiance with Pakistan government.
In the late 1970s, a policy of forced settling of Bengalis into hills was pursued, which later gave rise to much violence against the hill people and the insurgency led by Shanti Bahini. There have been an attempt to create divide among tribal cultural lines between the Chakmas, who led Shantibanhini, and the Mrus, by creating an anti-Shantibanhini militia out of them. Now, after the peace treaty, Bandarban stands as a locally governed ethnic region together with the two other hill districts. Representation of numerous tribes of the district in the Hill Council now stands as a thorn of dispute here.
Contemporary history of Bandarban has not been a happy one, despite much development initiatives taken by church organizations and UN agencies like UNICEF, UNDP and UNFPA as well as Bangladesh Army present in large numbers here. The district is not allowed a cell-phone network and is still under a quasi-military rule. Insurgents from across the border as well as drugs and arms smugglers play a large role in the jungles here. Newspaper reports of discovering poppy fields or arms caches are not rare for Bandarban. There also is much tension between Bengali settlers and ethnic minorities, as well as between early Hindu settlers and recent Muslim settlers and between dominant tribes and lesser tribes.
Map of Bandarban
One of the three hill districts of Bangladesh and a part of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bandarban (4,479 kmē) is not only the remotest district of the country, but also is the least populated (population 292,900). The three highest peak of Bangladesh - Tahjindong (1280 meters, also known as bijoy), Mowdok Mual (1052 meters), and Keokradong (883 metres) - are located in Bandarban district, as well as Raikhiang Lake, the highest lake in Bangladesh. Chimbuk peak and Boga Lake are two more highly noted features of the district.
Bandarban Sadar, Thanchi, Lama, Naikhongchhari, Ali kadam, Rowangchhari, and Ruma are the administrative sub-districts of Bandarban. Major road routes are:
* Chimbuk-Tangkabati-Baro Aoulia
* Aziznagar-Gojalia-Lama and
Inside Bangladesh, Bandarban is bordered by Cox's Bazaar, Chittagong, Rangamati and Khagrachari. On the other side of the national border lies Myanmar provinces of Chin and Arakan. The district also features river Sangu, also known as Sangpo or Shankha, the only river born inside Bangladesh territory. The other rivers in the district are Matamuhuri and Bakkhali. Meranja, Wailatong, Tambang and Politai are the four hill ranges here. Parts of the biggest lake in Bangladesh - Kaptai Lake - fall under the area of Bandarban.
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