Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time to cast my net a little wider. This time Bangladesh and a look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names.
Dhaka is the capital and largest city, the origins of which are uncertain but not lacking in suggestions. Most often this is said to come from the dhak tree, also called the flame of the forest, which may once have been common in the area. However we also find this explained as from the goddess Dhakeshwari, her shrine being found in the city. A third story refers to a musical instrument, the dhak being played by Subahdar Islam Khan I when the city was founded in 1610. Fourth is Dhaka Bhasa, a Prakrit dialect reference to ‘a watch tower’. Perhaps we shall never know.
Chittagong is a westernised version of the Bengali name of Chattagram, Chattagaon, Chattala, Chativavo, Chaityabhumi, and Chatgaon. Although the Arabs had long known the port as Shetgang, from Shatt or ‘delta’ and Ganga meaning ‘Ganges’, a Chinese traveller recorded the name as Cheh-ti-gan and this is said to have produced the modern form.
Rajshahi is generally accepted as coming from the Hindi Raj and Persian-influenced Shahi which both refer to either the ‘royal’ or the ‘kingdom’ depending upon context.
Narayanganj got its name from the religious leader Bicon Lal Pandey, a Hindu also known as Benur Thakur or Lakshi Narayan Thakur.
Note the spellings of the places are in English as the piece is in English.