Daneesha Khan wrote in the Daily Star: “As a Bangladeshi we all have our share of superstitions. It doesn't matter if you consider yourself to be a logical human being; superstitions are such an integral part of our daily life that we find ourselves unconsciously giving everyone two helpings of rice to make sure no one falls in the lake. [Source: Daneesha Khan, Daily Star, January 13, 2015]

“Each superstition has a separate origin and dates back to hundreds of years. Some actually hold a semblance of truth to them, while the rest are just the remnants of old wives' tales. In the 21st century however, it might seem out of place with everything else that is going on. But everyone holds onto at least one superstition close to their heart. Maybe you are superstitious or maybe it's the guilt of bringing shame to your entire family for not following their traditions. For me, it's the latter. Every time I walk over someone I can hear my grandmother shouting at me for stunting their growth. It doesn't matter if they're past puberty. This stuff has no time for logic.

“Some of the most popular superstitions that we've all heard at least once include one shalikh brings bad luck and overturned shoes bring bad luck. Some are so ingrained into us that it's a part of our everyday habits. We usually spend more time knocking on wood to congratulate anyone than actually congratulating them. There are several superstitions surrounding black cats, doing anything an odd number of times and various activities in maghrib time. At one point in our past people used to kill black cats to bring good luck. It's almost as if they didn't know killing innocent beings are a one way ticket to hell and not heaven.

“However, like everything else, a healthy dose of superstitions can even be good for the soul. With the cricket world cup coming up maybe it's time you dry cleaned your favourite jersey. So when Bangladesh is up there holding the cup you can brag to your friends about how you singlehandedly won it for us. It helps bring us some peace of mind. It can even give you a small surge of confidence for the upcoming job interview or watching our bowling. Sometimes things don't have to be scientifically sound for one to follow it. As long as you don't inflict your superstitions on everyone else, you're doing just fine.

Superstitions in Bangladesh

According to Hello World magazine: The newly born child should be shifted from one house to another house by its maternal uncle. Rather it might cause any danger. If its maternal uncle does this then here would be no problem.
You should spend the first day of New Year very well. Otherwise your all days of whole years would be bad. Here it indicates that wearing good cloths, eating good food something like that. [Source:Hello World magazine]

If your pet cat keep cleaning its legs or body by its tongue that means guests would come to your home. If the people see that sign they think guests would come to their house.
If your feel uneasy in your right hand, it indicates that you would get money.
If you overtake any weird shadow on lunch time that means you might be possessed by ghost or might be harmed by them.
If you bath after eating it is the sigh of something bad. They think it’s not good for health also.
If something fall from your hand that means you are in danger zone. Probably any danger might come to you.
If you choke in the time of eating, somebody is criticizing or telling something bad about you.

You should avoid from black animal at night, rather you could be possessed by ghost or harmed by them.
If you give money to someone at night, it might cause you stigmata or bring you bad luck.
If someone is discussing about you and you reached there on that time that means you would live a long life.
If any crow or unknown birds shouts near your home frequently that means you have some bad luck or news waiting for you.
If your dog shouts unusually based on your house that means you might have some bad news or something negative.

If you see your face with broken pieces of looking glass it would bring bad luck for you.
If you see a bad and dangerous dream that means you might fall in difficulty.
If your right eye blinks then you would hear good news and if your left eye blinks you might hear bad news.
If you go ahead from your partners in the way then you have might be eaten by tiger and if you stay behind you might be awarded by money.
If your cloth need to be repair it should not be done while you wearing it.
If any fruit from your tree has been stolen. Then you might not get any more satisfied fruit from that tree.
You should not play bamboo at night; angel might come to you and possessed you.

Popular Superstitions at Their Meanings

Salma Mohammad Ali wrote in the The Daily Star: “Along with the affinity for rice and fish, if there's one thing that identifies one as a Bangladeshi it's probably the belief in numerous superstitions. Every time you refuse to walk over someone lest you end up stunting their growth, you're either doing it because your grandmother is watching, ready with her cane, or you really believe in this stuff or just out of habit. Whatever your stance on the matter you are probably familiar with the following sayings: [Source: Salma Mohammad Ali, The Daily Star, January 28, 2016]

1) “Nothing round before exams because you'll get a zero — Biggest exam of your life and want to start the day with your favourite dim bhaji and porota? Well too bad 'cause eggs are evil. In fact any circular or close-to-spherical food will very likely get you a golla in your test. Also be sure to avoid the sight of eggs because that's evil too. Exam season may just be the best time to go vegan. 2) One morsel of food from a person is bad luck, two or more is good — What's even better, I'm sure, are obesity and heart disease.

3) “Left palm itching? You'll lose money. Right palm itching? You’re gonna be rich — Apply both itching powder and anti-itch cream accordingly and generously. Don't mix up the hands; you could just end up a beggar. 4) “Satan spits on uncovered food — If your cat doesn't get to it first, that is; either way this one really makes sense, keep food covered for hygienic purposes

5) “The first prospective customer of the day shouldn't be turned away without a sale, or the rest of it will be unprofitable — I speak from personal experience, never wander into a store early in the morning and walk out empty handed, the crushed looks the shopkeepers will give you are heart-breaking indeed. On the other hand they'll be willing to sell you something, anything, so this always gives you an upper hand in the bargaining. You're welcome.

6) Don't clip your nails at night, it's bad for your studies — So the reason my report cards lack A’s is because I love a relaxing manicure before going to bed? 7) Pregnant women need to avoid twin bananas to not give birth to conjoined twins — Research shows that the scientific correlation between the two is akin to the relation between the age of your neighbour's dog and your IQ. 8) Don't step or sit on pillows — Superstition has it that you or the owner of the pillow will get neck pains or you'll get, I don't know how to write this in a printable form, zits on your behind. With that I conclude this list, because guests should be arriving at my house soon; I happened to drop a plate just now.

Belief in Jinns (Spirits) in Bangladesh

Many Bangladeshis believe in spirits known as jinns. In an article on Bangladeshi village life, Kamran Nahar wrote: “People were intimidated and quivered with the imaginable presence of jins and evil spirits. Everyone claimed that he had seen someone in the shape of shadow or anything else. They thought every shadow as spiritual beings. They also believed that a spiritual being could incarnate not only any human body, but also any other inferior animal like black cat, dog, crow, owl and so on. [Source: “Bangladesh Culture: A Study of the South Para of Village ‘Silimpur’” by Kamrun Nahar, September 2, 2006]

There is a banyan tree of about 200 years old in the middle of some cultivable land in the south-west corner of Talukdar para and. This tree has less leaves and branches on the top, because of which it is called ‘nera bot gas’ (shaved banyan tree), and the area it occupies is called as ‘nera bot tola’. There are many superstitious beliefs connecting this tree because of its unique shape. All have a firm belief about the living of some old jins on the top, who should not be disturbed and if disturbed, it will be harmful for anyone. So, none cut the tree or never imagine of doing it. Some claim that they have seen fire to be kindled on the top and very soon vanished, which are the evidences of their presence.

“According to Islam, Jin, made of fire, is another kind of creature. Like human beings, some of them are good and try to help people to come out from troubles. Some are bad ones, who always take chance to knock down people in the pits of dangers. Inhabitants of the south para believe that jin inhabits on the top of tamarind, joist, boroi, banyan trees etc. If someone goes under these trees at noon, dusk, and the midnight, he will be attacked by that invisible creature, which man has less power to cope with. Especially if a female then goes there with unkempt hair, or if the end of her slovenly worn Sari swings or welters in the ground carelessly, and if a male either urinates or leaves stool at the log of those trees, jin living there will be disturbed. Then he will attack the man or woman by entering his/her body like a ray. Actually, jin incarnates that person’s body and the person losing sense is directed wholly by that spiritual body. In the beginning of the attack, he/she will fall in an incurable disease or behaves like a lunatic. As much as time goes on, he/she will be nearer to death. No specialist doctor can postpone his inevitable death. In the past, people in their every disease tried to run to pir, fakir and mawlana. Now though they are somewhat conscious about going to doctors, they still try to hang with pir, fakir and mawlana and are still very sure about the inhabitation of jins on trees.

Village Taboos, Superstitions and Beliefs About Dreams in Bangladesh

In an effort to bring rain to parched area of northern Bangladesh, villagers wed a pair frogs in a ceremony that featured a girl dressed as a bride walking through the streets of her village with caged, decorated frogs on her head while villagers throw water on the frogs. The ceremony apparently has been successful in the past.

In the article on village life, Kamran Nahar wrote: “ Villagers believe that the dreams dreamt at the end of night will come true in future. There are some dreams, which have special and similar meanings to all. Some examples are here : 1) If one dreams that one of his teeth has fallen, it indicates the coming death of either father or mother. 2) If someone sees that his dead parents have come to take him with them to there divine habitation, it will be a sign of his/her coming death in the near future. 3) If a pregnant woman dreams of the full moon, it will mean that she is going to have a son with bright color and a beautiful appearance.

“People of this area were and are very prejudiced. Some of their old ideas have now changed too. In the fiftieth decade of twentieth century, people split trees with knifes or choppers in the night of the new moon. They believed that by this act, the main branch of trees would be strong and wide. In the night of worship of Hindu Goddess Kali, people in every house beat by a stick on the Kula, a winnowing platter, and said, ‘Hey mosquitoes! Go to the grazing ground of buffaloes.’ They thought that hearing this word, mosquitoes would leave the area forever. They thought, one should go for a journey outside only on Wednesday and all other days of the week were considered as dangerous. There was a verse regarding this matter. Going to the east is prohibited on Monday and Saturday. Tuesday will kill you by throwing to the ground. Stepping your foot on the head of Wednesday You may go whereever you wish. In the night of lunar eclipse, one stalk of the jute-plant was entered into the ground and let stand still. By the side of it, the pregnant woman of the family stood without bending her body at all and keeping her backbone as straight as the stalk, as long as the eclipse passed away. It was undertaken in mind that it would keep the woman and her baby healthy and help safe delivery.

“The above prejudices are not maintained now. But there are some still in vogue, which are as follows: If a crow flies over one’s head by cawing harshly, it is assumed that the death news of any close relative will come soon. If the owl or a dog screeches or howls with melancholy sound, it is presumed that the animal is crying foreseeing the coming death of someone living in that area. [Source: “Bangladesh Culture: A Study of the South Para of Village ‘Silimpur’” by Kamrun Nahar, September 2, 2006]

Holy Men, Bauls and Shaman

Even many Muslim villages have resident holy men or shaman. Many holy men are quacks or worse. One girl old Reuter she visited a Islamic holy man after relatives said that a jinn had put a curse on her. She said the holy man "sexually abused me...then proclaimed that I have been married to him by the jinn. He took to ne to India on promises of a pilgrimage." In eastern India, she was confined and raped and beaten every night.

Bauls are a religious and cultural group most active in West Bengal in India and Bangladesh. They are known as traveling minstrels who perform ecstatic songs and poems and live an unconventional lifestyle. The term “Baul” is understood to mean “madness.”. The Baul often describe themselves as “crazy for God.” Most Bauls are men who sing their songs while playing instruments such as the harmonium, small cymbals, drums or dotara (two-string lute with a long neck) . Usually the play a gopi yantra (or ektara, a one-stringed instrument ,made from a gourd and split bamboo). [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures: South Asia, edited by Paul Hockings, C.K. Hall & Company, 1992]

Bauls fall into three major groups: 1) those with links to Tantric Buddhism and Shaktism (goddess worship), 2) those associated with Bengali Vaishnava (Vishnu worship); and Muslim fakirs. Some Bauls are married and perform daily rites in their homes. Some are ascetics who go through an initiation ritual, and wander the countryside, living in ashrams or monasteries. Bauls often gather in large numbers at festivals known as melas to sing songs and share stories.

Bauls usually dress in orange or saffron, with small bells around the ankles. The often have beards and longhair tied in a topknots. Sometimes they wear rudraksha beads (sacred to the god Shiva). They believe that god dwells within the human body and their songs bring him out. One type of song called sahaja emphasizes spontaneity and attempts to induce a state of ecstacy and creativity.

The Bauls reject caste and Muslim-Hindu religious distinctions and sometimes their way of life embraces Tantric ideas about sexuality. These Bauls believe that god dwells in sexual fluids. There are sexual rituals that unite the male and female essence. Many of their songs contain metaphors for unions of these fluid such a catching fish at high tide and piercing the moon. Baul beliefs are influenced by Tantric Buddhism, Sufism, Kundalini yoga and the Shaktism (the worship of Kali).

Funerals in Bangladesh

Muslims in Bangladesh follow Muslim customs when it comes to funerals and paying respect to the dead. Traditional Pakistani condolence calls involve visiting the home of the deceased and sipping tea, chatting and say the “fatiha”, the Muslim prayer for the dead.

According to “Countries and Their Cultures”: “Muslims believe that after death the soul is judged and moves to heaven or hell. Funerals require that the body be washed, the nostrils and ears be plugged with cotton or cloth, and the body be wrapped in a white shroud. The body is buried or entombed in a brick or concrete structure. In Hinduism, reincarnation is expected and one's actions throughout life determine one's future lives. As the family mourns and close relatives shave their heads, the body is transported to the funeral ghat (bank along a river), where prayers are recited. The body is to be placed on a pyre and cremated, and the ashes are thrown into the river. [Source: “Countries and Their Cultures”, The Gale Group Inc., 2001]

According to “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices,”“Sunni Muslims observe Islamic burial rites under the supervision of a mullah. Relatives of the same sex wash the body and place a shroud over it. The mullah recites funeral, or jinazah, prayers. The body is then taken to the burial grounds and placed in a grave facing Mecca. Only Muslims may engage in the burial rites of Muslims, and only men attend funerals, regardless of whether the deceased is male or female. [Source:“Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices,” Thomson Gale, 2006]

According to Countries and Their Cultures: “ Shab-I-Barat is also celebrated as a remembrance day of deceased family and friends. Special illumination of the mosques takes place and food is distributed among the poor. It is also a time when children participate in fireworks. After distribution of the food the Qur'an is read and prayers are said; then most Muslims visit cemeteries and put flowers and lights on the graves of deceased family and friends. [Source: Countries and Their Cultures, Gale Group Inc., 2001]

In April 2020, tens of thousands of Bangladeshis defied a nationwide coronavirus lockdown to attend the funeral of a top Islamic imam. AFP reported: “Police had agreed with the family of Jubayer Ahmad Ansari, that only 50 people would attend the funeral in the eastern town of Sarail because of the risk of spreading the disease. But local police chief Shahadat Hossain said officers were helpless to stop the crowds who came to honour the 55-year-old popular preacher and seminary head, who recently died. “People came in waves," he told AFP. Organisers said some 100,000 attended the funeral. Aide to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Shah Ali Farhad, also said more than 100,000 were present. [Source: AFP, April 18, 2020]

Bangladesh ‘Dead Man’ Returns Home after 23 Years

In 2012, Dawn reported: A Bangladeshi man who went missing 23 years ago has returned to his ancestral village and shocked his family who had long given him up for dead. Moslemuddin Sarkar, 52, who had been missing since 1989, returned home on Tuesday with help from the International Committee of the Red Cross after spending 15 years in Pakistani jails. [Source:, agencies, August 2, 2012]

Hundreds of well-wishers turned out in Bishnurampur village in northern Mymensingh district to catch a glimpse of him and congratulate the tearful and jubilant family. Mr Sarkar said he had entered India without valid documents in 1989 without informing his family. He was then caught as he tried to cross into Pakistan in 1997. Even after his return, Mr Sarkar was reluctant to explain what had happened to him and why he ended up in a jail in Pakistan. “I crossed the border to India in 1989 and went to Delhi after staying a few months in the Indian states of Assam and Meghalaya. Later, I got married in Delhi,” he said. “But I got caught along the India-Pakistan border when I tried to enter Pakistan in 1997,” he said. “I had no travel documents.” “I went to Pakistan believing that I would get a better job there. But they caught me at the border. I served 15 years in jail,” he explained in a mixture of Urdu and Bengali. “I wrote dozens of letters to my village address, but did not have any clue that they were never posted. At one stage I lost all hope of returning home,” he said.

“The Red Cross became involved and facilitated Mr Sarkar’s return after his family received a tip-off that he was locked up in Pakistan and turned to the organisation for help, according to spokesperson Onchita Shadman, who described him as “frail and overwhelmed”. Julhas Uddin, Mr Sarkar’s younger brother, said most of the family had feared the worst. “We searched for him for years and finally gave up hope believing he might have drowned in the sea. But our mother always believed that her son would return home one day,” he said. “My mother passed out as he hugged her after returning. It was a heartbreaking scene. He could not control his tears for hours,” he said.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Bangladesh Tourism Board, Bangladesh National Portal (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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