About 85% of Bangladeshis are Muslim and almost all belong to the Sunni branch of the faith. Hindus make up the rest except for small communities of Buddhists, Christians and people practising traditional religions. The nation's constitution guarantees full religious freedom which is important to many Bangladeshis.

A lunar calendar dictates the timing of Muslim holidays, called Eids, and each year they fall 11 days earlier than the previous year.

Observing Ramadan is very important to Muslims. For a period of one month Muslims must neither eat nor drink from dawn to dusk. A meal called Sehri is taken just before dawn. Festive homemade dishes are enjoyed at the post-sundown repast called Iftar.

The joyous holiday at the end of Ramadan is Eid-al-Fitr. Many Bangladeshis travel to their home villages to feast, pray, give presents to each other and donate to the poor.

About nine weeks later comes the Eid-al-Adha, which commemorates the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Worshippers gather in a large public place to pray together in the morning. Later, families gather for the ritual slaughter of a cow, goat or lamb.

The most important holiday for Bangladesh's Hindus is Durga Puja. Hindus make statues of the goddess Durga from bamboo and clay and place them in every temple. Durga, goddess of energy, is seated on a lion and holds a different weapon in each of her ten hands. After ten days of celebration and religious services the statues are carried into a river or pond while people dance to the beat of drums. The statues slowly disintegrate in the water, which is considered sacred.

Did you know?

In Bangladesh a festival is called a mela. People from all traditions including Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian join the celebrations. Parades and trinket vendors create a joyous carnival mood. Melas happen at harvest times, fairs and weddings.