Banglapedia was not designed as a general encyclopedia but as a specialized encyclopedia on Bangladesh-related topics. For the encyclopedia's purposes, Bangladesh is defined as the territory comprising ancient Eastern India, Suba Bangla, Shahi Bangalah, Mughal Suba Bangla, Bengal Presidency, Bengal Province, East Bengal, East Pakistan, and the independent Bangladesh, in historical succession.
The encyclopedia's chief editor is Sirajul Islam. Over 1200 writers and specialists in Bangladesh and abroad helped create the entries. Banglapedia has over 5,700 entries in six editorial categories, each of which is overseen by an expert editor, as well as over 2,000 single and four-colour illustrations and 2,100 cross-references.
The project was funded by the Bangladeshi government, private sector organizations, academic institutes and the UNESCO. Though its original budget was 800,000 taka, the Asiatic Society eventually spent 80 million taka on the project. Despite controversies over entries on the Bangladesh Liberation War and indigenous people, both the Bengali and English versions became popular upon publication.
When the project began, the Society had only eight hundred thousand taka in its coffers for the project. Banglapedia raised further contributions from universities, banks, multinational companies, international organisations and even private individuals. A pool of agencies, including UNESCO, the University Grants Commission, universities, financial institutions and NGOs initially financed the project, which was completed at a cost of taka 80 million. Education Ministry funded about 74% of the cost, while 26% of the fund came mostly from universities and banks. Before direct sales started in 3 January 2003, 4,000 copies of the English version and all but 250 copies of the Bengali version were sold in advance out of the initial print of 5,000 copies for each versions. For an additional run of 10,000 prints people waited in queues outside the Asiatic Society office on the day of the release, and sales continued until 9:30 in the evening. A total of 4,500 sets of the Bangla version and 2,500 of the English version were sold on the day of release.
It was followed by Maharaja Kalikirshna Dev Bahadur's (1808-1974) Sankshipta Sadvidyabali (1833), a concise encyclopedia. Then came Raja Radhakanta Deb's Sabdakalpadrum (1822-1858), a Sanskrit encyclopedic dictionary in eight parts. Next was Rajkrishna Ray (1849-1894) and Saratchandra Dev's (1858-unknown) joint work Bharatkosh, the first Bengali encyclopedia laid-out in alphabetical order (1880-1892) published in three volumes. Reverend Krishna Mohan Banerjee's (1813-1885) adaptation of Encyclopædia Britannica, Vidyakalpadruma or Encyclopædia Bengalensis (1846-51), and the 22-volume Bangla Visvakosh (1886-1911), edited by Nagendranath Basu (1866-1938) with contributions from many major personalities of contemporary Bengal, were published next.
After the independence of Pakistan and the partition of Bengal in 1947, there have been more attempts to compile and publish an encyclopedia. The first was a project to produce a Bengali adaptation of Columbia Viking Desk Encyclopedia by Franklin Book Programs Inc., undertaken in 1959 and aborted ten years later. The unfinished papers were compiled into four unequal volumes as Bangla Visvacos (1972) with Khan Bahadur Abdul Hakim as the chief editor. After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, three specialized encyclopedias were published - the multi-volume Islami Bishwakosh (Encyclopedia of Islam, 1986) by Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, 5-volume Shishu-Biswakosh (Encyclopedia for Children, 1995) by Bangladesh Shishu Academy, and 4-volume Vijnan Biswakosh (Encyclopedia of Science, 1998) by Bangla Academy.
|Vidyakalpadruma: an encyclopaedic work in 13 parts by Reverend Krishna Mohan Banerjee, based on various English and Sanskrit anthologies and other source books. As it was written in Bangla and English, it was named Encyclopedia Bengaliansis. Articles on history, geography, mathematics and ethics related to Asia, Europe and America are included. The first volume of the Vidyakalpadruma (1845) was Roman Rajyer Purabritta (History of the Roman Empire). The third volume was Purabritta O Itihas Sar (Historical Antiquities), and it contained tales of ancient Egyptian heroes. The fourth volume (1846) was a history of Rome and the sixth volume (1847) a history of Egypt. The eighth volume, Bhugol Brittanta (Geographical Narratives), contained the geography of Asia and Europe. Krishna Mohan hoped to write the history of India, but was unable to do so.|
|Sample text (excerpt) from Banglapedia:|
Banglapedia was not designed as a general encyclopedia. Its purpose is to provide a standard desk reference for Bangladeshis, as well as for people interested in Bangladesh, Bangla-speaking people, and related political, cultural and geographical contexts.
The encyclopedia's editors intended to cover the rise of the Bengal Delta on the physical plane, and its evolution to date, and the changing features of the formation of the delta's janapada or human settlements on the human plane. The latter includes the rise and fall of kingdoms, invasions from within and beyond and their implications, dynastic rules and administration, as well as other aspects of Bangladesh's past and present. Entries on topics after 1947 are restricted to the geographical region of Bangladesh. However, for biographical entries, the linguistic identity prevails.
The range of topics covered by Banglapedia includes political geography, religion, literature, art and architecture, folk practices and institutions, indigenous and colonial administration, politics, society, economy, ethnicity, and the sciences. All 64 districts of Bangladesh, as well as 451 upazilas, have been described in details ranging from topographical accounts to the number of dairy farms and hatcheries. Over 2,000 single- and four-colour illustrations depict Bangladeshi art and architecture, everyday life, cities and villages and personages. It has about 2,100 cross-references, cartographic information, tables and statistics. It is laid out in alphabetical order and is prefaced by an essay by the Chief Editor. There is a section explaining how to use the Banglapedia, which clarifies issues such as date systems, contributors, cross references, and headings.
From ancient times to 1971, the political geography of the region has changed often, and with that its name has also undergone changes. The cognates of Vanga, Bangalah, Vangla, Bengal, Vangadesh, Vangladesh, etc. have the closest affinity both territorially and linguistically with the term Bangla. With the rise of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation state, the term has no doubt obtained a specific meaning. It may be noted here that the term Bangalah or Bengala, from which Bangla and Bengal originated, was coined and circulated by Muslim rulers whose seats of administration were located mostly within the present territory of Bangladesh.
Sirajul Islam is the chairman of the Board of Editors of Banglapedia, and the editor of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. A professor of history at the University of Dhaka, the oldest and largest university in Bangladesh, Islam gave up his day job five years before the formal date for retirement, to make time for Banglapedia. He also edited the 3 volumes of the History of Bangladesh (political, economic and socio-cultural), published by the Asiatic Society In 1991. He is now working on the Children’s Banglapedia and the Cultural Survey of Bangladesh, and is also in charge of the National Online Biography project of the Society and the Banglapedia Trust.
The encyclopedia was prepared by a board of editors that included Professor Sirajul Islam of the Department of History, Dhaka University, as the Chairman and Chief Editor, Professor Sajahan Miah of the Department of Philosophy, Dhaka University, as the Convenor and Managing Editor, Professor M. Aminul Islam as the Chairman of Project Implementation Committee, the Chairman of Fund Management Committee, and the Chairman of Cartography Committee, Professor Abdul Momin Chowdhury as the Chairman of Publication Committee, Professor S M Mahfuzur Rahman as the Convenor of Purchase and Procurement Committee, Shahida Alam as the Convenor of Public Relations and Communication Committee, and Professor Jamilur Reza Chowdhury as the Chairman of Multimedia Committee.
The management structure includes a total of sixty members, divided into six different sub-committees headed by six subject editors. Each sub-committee covered a particular discipline. There were six consulting editors, four language editors, and three translation editors. Each subject editor received assistance from six assistant and associate editors. Banglapedia's subject editors were: Professor Abdul Momin Chowdhury (History and Heritage), Professor Wakil Ahmed (Arts, Humanities, Religion), Professor Mahfuzur Rahman (Society and Economy), Dr Kamal Siddiqui (State and Governance), and Professor S M H Kabir (Science and Technology).
Banglapedia has several online incarnations. While banglapedia.search.com.bd is cited by some sources as the online version, the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh website refers to banglapedia.org, along with banglapedia.info and banglapedia.net, which also features on Alexa Internet rankings.
|Project name||Editor in Chief||Projected number of volumes||Other notes|
|Cultural Survey of Bangladesh||Professor Sirajul Islam|| ||Originally scheduled to be published in December 2007|
|Encyclopaedia of Flora and Fauna of Bangladesh||Kamal Uddin Siddiqui|| ||Originally scheduled to be published in August 2009|
|Junior Banglapedia||Professor Sirajul Islam|| ||Originally scheduled to be published in February 2008|
|Digitisation of the Cadastral Survey and Settlement Records (1900–1925)||—|| ||Planned|
|Parliamentary History of Bangladesh (1861 to date)||—|| ||Planned|
|Digest of the Surveys of Mineral Resources in Bangladesh||—|| ||Planned|
|Online National Biography Project||—|| ||Official website at BDBiography|
The Ministry of Information of the People's Republic of Bangladesh has published a similar project: Mosaic in Green, a 160-page photographic encyclopedia showcasing the natural history, culture and landscape of Bangladesh.