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Chittagong

Chittagong (chĭtˈəgŏng) [key], city (1991 pop. 2,348,428), capital of Chittagong division, SE Bangladesh, on the Karnafuli River near the Bay of Bengal. An important rail terminus and administrative center, it is the chief port of Bangladesh with modern facilities. Jute, tea, and skins and hides are the major exports; imports include cotton and other piece goods, machinery, and construction materials. Offshore oil-receiving installations were set up during the 1960s. Besides an oil refinery and oil-blending plants, the city has large cotton- and jute-processing mills, tea and match factories, chemical and engineering works, an iron and steel mill, and fruit-canning, leather-processing, and shipbuilding industries. Power for Chittagong's industry is supplied by the Karnaphuli hydroelectric project of the inland Hill Tracts District. The city is subject to cyclones (hurricanes); the Nov., 1970, storm was especially deadly and destructive.

The port was known to the civilized world by the early centuries A.D. and was used by Arakanese, Arab, Persian, Portuguese (who called it Pôrto Grande), and Mughal sailors. Originally part of an ancient Hindu kingdom, Chittagong was conquered (9th cent.) by a Buddhist king of Arakan. It passed (13th cent.) to the Mughal empire, was retaken (16th cent.) by the Arakanese, and again became part of the Mughal empire in the 17th cent. British control began in 1760. The city has notable Hindu temples, Buddhist ruins, several fine examples of Mughal art, a university (founded 1966), and many colleges.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts District, c.5,500 sq mi (14,200 sq km), occupies a narrow inland strip of parallel ranges along the Indian and Myanmarese frontiers. The indigenous inhabitants are members of non-Muslim tribes who are not assimilated with the dominant Bengalis of the lowlands. Valuable timber, bamboo, and cane forests, which cover the upper reaches of the hills, support a paper industry. Cotton, rice, tea, and oilseeds are raised in the valleys between the hills, and hydroelectric stations provide power. The cottage industries of the hill people produce woven cotton goods and bamboo nets and baskets. Since 1973 tribal guerrillas have sought autonomy for the district, as well as the expulsion of of hundreds of thousands of Bangla-speaking settlers.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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