This article is about the city. For the upozila or district or the administrative division, see Sylhet Sadar Upazila or Sylhet District or Sylhet Division
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Location of Sylhet in Bangladesh
Location of Sylhet in Bangladesh
Country Bangladesh
Administrative District Sylhet District
 - Mayor Bador Uddin Ahmed Kamran
Area [1]
 - City 57.64 km  (0 sq mi)
 - Urban 31.14 km (0 sq mi)
 - Metro 26.50 km (0 sq mi)
Population (2007)[2][3]
 - City 369,425
 - Density 5488/km (0/sq mi)
 - Urban 53,114
 - Urban Density 951/km (0/sq mi)
 - Metro 339,368
 - Metro Density 11936/km (0/sq mi)
Time zone BST (UTC+6)

Sylhet (previously Shilhat and Jalalabad; Sylheti: Bengali: সিলেট, Sileţ) is a major city in north-eastern Bangladesh. It is the capital of Sylhet Division (সিলেট বিভাগ Sileţ Bibhag) and Sylhet District (সিলেট জেলা Sileţ Jela). Located on the northern bank of the Surma River and surrounded by the Jaintia, Khasi and Tripura hills, Sylhet is nestled among picturesque tea plantations and lush green tropical forests.


Historians believe that Sylhet or, as it was known in ancient times, Shilhat, the capital city of the Kingdom of Gaur ("enriched marketplace"), was an expanded commercial center from the ancient period, which explains its original namesake. During this time, Sylhet was probably inhabited by Indo-Aryan Brahmins, though ethnically the population would also have traces of Munda, Assamese, and Dravidian ancestry. It has also been suggested that Ancient Kingdom of Harikela was situated in modern Sylhet.

In the ancient and early medieval period, Sylhet was ruled primarily by local chieftains as viceroy of the kings of Pragjyatispur. There is evidence to suggest that the Maharaja Sri Chandra, of northern Bengal, conquered Bengal in the 10th century, although this is a much disputed topic amongst Bangladeshi historians and archaeologists. This was a period of relative prosperity and there is little evidence to suggest this was marred by wars or feuds. Sylhet was certainly known by the rest of India, and is even referred to in the ancient Hindu sacred Tantric text, the Shakti Sangama Tantra, as 'Silhatta'. The last chieftain to reign Sylhet was Govinda of Gaur,also known as Gaur Govinda.

The 14th century marked the beginning of Islamic influence in Sylhet. In the early 14th Century, a messianic Muslim saint by the name of Shah Jalal arrived in Sylhet in 1303 from Sonargaon with the instructions of aiding Sikhander Khan Gazi in defeating Raja Govinda of Gaur . Sikhander Khan Gazi was the dircect nephew of sultan Firoz Shah of delhi. Under the spiritual leadership of Shah Jalal and his 360 companions the local pagans were routed and they began to spread Islam. He died in Sylhet about the year 1350; His tomb is located inside the parameter of the mosque complex known as Dargah-e-Shah Jalal. Even till today shah jalal remains revered and visitors arrive from all over Bangladesh and beyond to pay homage.

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Dargah-e-Shah Jalal (Tomb)

Saints such as Shah Jalal, Shah Farhan, locally known as Shah Paran, Shah Kamal and Syed Nasiruddin Sipahsalar were responsible for the conversion of most of the populace from native religion to Islam. Shortly thereafter, Sylhet became a centre of Islam in Bengal. During this era of Muslim rule, Sylhet was often referred to as Jalalabad in official documents and historical accounts.

In the late 18th century, the British East India Company became interested in Sylhet and saw it as an area of strategic importance in the war against Burma. Sylhet gradually was absorbed into British control and administration and was governed as a part of Bengal. After the British administrative reorganization of India, Sylhet was eventually incorporated into Assam. It remained a part of Assam for the rest of the era of British rule. In 1947, following a referendum, almost all of erstwhile Sylhet became a part of East Pakistan, barring the Karimganj subdivision which was incorporated into the new Indian state] of Assam.[4] In 1971, Sylhet became part of the newly formed independent country of Bangladesh.

Important historical places include the Stone Monument of Jaintapur, Mound of Gharduara, Gaiyabi Mosque, tombs of Shah Jalal and Shah Farhan, Abu Torab Mosque, Nawabi Masque, Shahi Eidgah, Mughal Mosque at Akhalia, temple of Sri Chaitannya Dev in Dhaka Dakshin, the Thin Mandir (trio temple) and the ancient Pargana of Kanihati.

Sylhet and Sylhetis all over the world have been contributing to society in their countries and causes far and wide. Sylhetis everywhere have formed Sylheti associations in different parts of the world. In India major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore have formed Sreehatta Sammelans, thereby bringing their own people closer and maintaining cultural links and integrity.

There is a friendship link with the Sylhet region of Bangladesh rather than full town twinning. A friendship link is less formal and is community led. The link was established in 1988 when the District Council supported a housing project in Sylhet as part of the International Year of Shelter for the Homeless. Sylhet was chosen because it is the area of origin for the largest ethnic minority group in St Albans.[5]

Geography and Climate

Sylhet is located in north-eastern Bangladesh at 24°32′0″N, 91°52′0″E, on the northern bank of the Surma River.

The physiography of Sylhet comprises mainly of hill soils,[6] encompassing a few large depressions known locally as "beels" which can be mainly classified as oxbow lakes, caused by tectonic subsidence primarily during the earthquake of 1762.[6]

Sylhet experiences a hot, wet and humid tropical climate. The city is within the monsoon climate zone, with annual average highest temperatures of 23°c (Aug-Oct) and average lowest temperature of 7°c (Jan).[7] Nearly 80% of the annual average rainfall of 3,334 mm occurs between May and September.

Civic administration

Sylhet (City) consists of 27 wards and 210 mahallas. The area of the town is 57.64 km²[8]. It has a population of 369425; male 54.68%, female 45.32%; density of population is 11,936 per sq km. Literacy rate among the town people is 66.9%. The rapid growth and expansion of Sylhet occurred during the colonial period. Sylhet Municipality was established in 1878. A devastated earthquake demolished almost the entire town on 12 June 1897. On the wreckage a modern and European model new town was built later on. Many new roads were constructed in late 1890s. Sylhet became really connected to the other parts of the country with the establishment of an extension line of Assam-Bengal Railway in 1912-15. From the very beginning of the 20th century, importance of Sylhet city increased with the establishment of tea industry. In 1950s and 1960s, rapid urbanisation took place in the town by the expatriate Syletis and still the process is going on. At present, Sylhet is the district-headquarter as well as the divisional headquarter.[9]

Land and Economy

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Typical tea garden in Sylhet.
The city is noted for its picturesque rolling hills, such as the Jaintia and Khasia hills. Sylhet is also famed for its tea gardens, pineapple gardens and orange gardens most notably those in the Maulvi Bazaar area.

The construction industry in Sylhet is currently booming with many shopping centres and apartments being built to luxurious standards, funded by foreign investment from Sylhetis living abroad. As a result property prices are rising. Many new hotels and restaurants, often themed on those found in London, e.g. London Mansion, Millennium Shopping City, Blue Water, London Fried Chicken (LFC), have also been established to cater to the visiting Sylheti expatriate population and the growing Sylheti middle classes. Sylheti aristocracy seemed to have sufferred a set back and gradually disappearing. Heavy industries are found only in Chhatak and Fenchuganj. More than eight out of 10 Indian restaurants in the UK are owned by Bangladeshis, the vast majority of whom - 95% - come from Sylhet. In 1946, there were 20 restaurants or small cafes owned by Sylheti Bangladeshis; in 1960 there were 300; and by 1980, more than 3,000. Now, according to the Curry Club of Great Britain, there are 8,500 Indian restaurants, of which roughly 7,200 are Sylheti. Bangladeshis constitute the 7th largest foreign group in the UK and the 3rd largest in London. An awful lot of chicken tikka masala, apparently now Britain's national dish, has its origins with chefs from this region. [1]

The amount of idle money lying with the commercial banks in Sylhet as deposits is about 4,000 crore taka, which is not common in the rest of Bangladesh. [2]

During the fiscal year of 2005-06 the flow of foreign Remittances rose by 25 percent to $4.8 billion which have been sent mostly by expatriates of Sylheti origin in the UK. That amount is expect to increase to $5.5 billion in 2007 with the government's attention toward supervising and monitoring banks.[10]

The Bangladesh government has taken steps to set up a special Export Processing Zone(EPZ) in Sylhet in order to attract foreign investors, notably non-resident Bangladeshis living abroad. Such include people from Sylheti origin that reside in the UK. The plan comes as an initiative toward stimulating the ongoing investment that has already taken place in Sylhet as well as providing a basis towards long-term investment to turn Sylhet into a major economic hub.[11]

Investments by British-Bangladeshis led the way for two additional privately owned airlines, Royal Bengal Airlines and United Airways (Bangladesh), to launch services in 2007. The investment is regarded to serve the Sylheti population living in the UK.[12] Air Sylhet is another British-Bangladeshi owned UK airline that hopes to launch services in 2007.

The Sylhet area contains several important natural gas fieldes, which make an important contribution to the energy balance of Bangladesh.

Demographics & Culture

The Sylheti language (Silôţi or Sileţi) is spoken throughout Sylhet Division, with some minor dialectal variations. Sylheti is an Eastern Indic language closely related to Bengali (Bangla) and Hindustani (Hindi) languages, Chittagonian, and Assamese (Ôxômiya). Most Sylhetis are at least bilingual to some degree, as they are taught Bengali at all levels of education in Bangladesh. Sylheti is also the dominant dialect of Bengali among the inhabitants of the Barak Valley in India, centered around Cachar district in Assam. The largest Sylheti-dominated city in India is Silchar, with significant Sylheti-speaking populations in Agartala, Delhi, Guwahati, Mumbai, Shillong and Kolkata.

Sylhet is the home of most Bangladeshi migrants to the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. Certain parts of the United Kingdom are heavily populated with people from Sylhet, most notably the East End of London, especially the boroughs of Newham Camden Redbridge and Tower Hamlets, which includes Brick Lane, a famous street dubbed "Banglatown" for its large Bangladeshi, almost entirely Sylheti, population. The town of Sylhet is twinned with St Albans, United Kingdom.

Another area where Sylhetis have remained as a large group abroad is New York City in the United States. Although there are many of them living in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Sylhetis are mostly found in the borough of Queens. Most of them live in areas like Astoria, Long Island City, and Jackson Heights. Hillside Ave. in Jamaica, Queens has seen a tremendous amount of newly opened Bangladeshi restaurants mainly by Sylhetis and a great influx of such residents attracted by the real estate boom there.

As so many Sylhetis are resident abroad, Sylhet has a major flow of foreign currency from non-resident Bangladeshis; many Sylheti families' sole source of income comes from relatives abroad.

Given its unique cultural and economic development, and linguistic differences (Greater Sylhot region was a part of Assam for much of the British Raj in comparison to the rest of Bangladesh), and given that Sylhet has, for most of its recent history, been a region of a larger entity (ie, Assam, Bengal, Bangladesh), Sylheti's have a strong attachment to their regional identity. [3] [4]

Many Sylhetis regard themselves as fiercely proud of their own language, family-orientated community culture and conservative practice of Islam, but it must be remembered that not all Sylhetis are Muslim. Indian Sylhetis are either Hindu or Christian. Hason Raja , a Sylheti cultural icon, was depicted in a film as a lecherous fellow who forsakes his family and uses obscene language.Enraged Sylhetis took the makers of the film to court. Adding insult to injury, the film was also shot in Bengali rather than Hason Raja's native Sylheti language. [5].Although Hason Raja was a practicing Muslim, he is revered even by Hindu and Christian Sylhetis.

Sylheti attachment to their regional identity also continues in the efforts of many Sylhetis to keep marital relationships within the same regional cultural background.[6]


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Main terminal building of Osmani International.
Cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, busses, mini-buses and cars are the main mode of transport for the inhabitants of the city, with close to 80,000 rickshaws running each day.Sylhet is well connected by highways and railway links to Chittagong, Dhaka as well as other parts of Sylhet. Highway links to the India have been established though Asian highway.The Sylhet Railway Station is the main railway station providing trains on national routes operated by the state-run Bangladesh Railway.The city of Sylhet is served by Osmani International Airport. It is Bangladesh's third busiest airport and has flight services to Abu Dhabi, Dhaka, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, and London. Work started in 2006 to upgrade the airport to international standards including a new terminal building, a jetway, a taxiway, and a new expansion project of the runway to allow for landing of wide-bodied aircraft.


See also: Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education,Sylhet

Sylhet city is served by Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education,Sylhet & famous educational institutes like Shahjalal University of Science and Technology,Osmani Medical College,M C College etc.Other notable educational institutions are Jalalabad Cantonment public School & College,Sylhet Cadet College, Sylhet Law College, Sylhet Polytechnic, Sylhet Aaliyah Madrasa, Sylhet Government College, Sylhet Government Women College, Blue Bird High School, Sylhet Government Pilot High School, Agragami Government Girls High School and a dozen of private English schools.

Notable personalities

Places of interest

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Madhabkunda waterfall
Sylhet has a number of interesting places to attract tourists. Sylhet is a major destination for tourists. Some important places are listed here.


  1. The Shrine of Hazrat Shah Jalal (R)
  2. The Shrine of Hajrat Shah Paran (R)
  3. Shahi Eidgah
  4. Gour Gobinda Fort


  1. Osmani Museum
  2. Museum of Raja's


  1. Tilagorh Eco Park (Alutol)
  2. Lakkatura,Malnichara & Tarapur Tea Estates.
  3. Parjatan Corporation,Sylhet.(Resort)


  1. Shahjalal University of Science and Technology
  2. M C College.
  3. Dream Land (Theme Park)
  4. Adventure World (Amusement Park)
  5. ZAK Estate (Park and Resort)
  6. Osmani Shishu Udyan (Park)
  7. Kean Bridge & Watch Of Ali Amjad.


Lovely Tower

Blue Water Shopping City

Paragon Tower

Garden Tower

Sylhet Street Scene

Al Hamra Shopping City

Sylhet Millenium Mall
Hotel Supreme

Tower Garden


1. ^ Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (PDF). Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
2. ^ Population Of Sylhet 2007 (html). World Gazetteer.
3. ^ Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (PDF). Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
4. ^ [7]
5. ^ Town Twinning-Sylhet (html).
6. ^ [8]
7. ^ Sylhet weather forecasts (html).
8. ^ Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (PDF).
9. ^ About Sylhet. Retrieved on 2007-05-19.
10. ^ Flow of remittances, RMG earnings to hit $26 b. Retrieved on 2007-05-19.
11. ^ Govt plans to set up special EPZ in Sylhet. Retrieved on 2007-05-19.
12. ^ First Bangladeshi-owned airline to fly from London. Retrieved on 2007-05-19.
13. ^ Behind the Scene. Star Insight. 26 May 2007.

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Sylhet (Srihatta) division is the Northeastern division (bibhag) of Bangladesh, named after its main city, Sylhet. It is bounded by Meghalaya State of India on the north, Tripura State on the south, Assam State of India on the east and Dhaka and Chittagong
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Sylheti (native name সিলটী Silôţi; Bengali name সিলেটী Sileţi) is the language of Sylhet, the north-eastern region of Bangladesh, and also spoken in parts of the North-East Indian
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Sylhet (Srihatta) division is the Northeastern division (bibhag) of Bangladesh, named after its main city, Sylhet. It is bounded by Meghalaya State of India on the north, Tripura State on the south, Assam State of India on the east and Dhaka and Chittagong
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