Launch Event of "The Great Padma" — A Book from ORO Editions and Bengal Institute

Sat 4 Feb - Sat 4 Feb' 23

"The Great Padma" book is edited by Kazi Khaleed Ashraf, with a preface by Amitav Ghosh, and was officially launched on 4th February, 2023.

“The Great Padma: The Epic River that made the Bengal Delta” is the first comprehensive book on the river that flows as the existential, economic and cultural spine of Bangladesh. As the first publication in English on the Padma, the book contains essays by writers from various disciplines around the world, and many photographers and researchers. The book was officially launched on 4th February, 2023 at Aloki Convention Centre in Dhaka, with Prof. Rehman Sobhan as the Chief Guest and Mr. Salman F Rahman as the Special Guest.

Published by the Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements and ORO Editions (San Francisco), the book is edited by Professor Kazi Khaleed Ashraf, with a preface by the renowned writer Amitav Ghosh. The book will be available both in Bangladesh and world-wide. The publication is supported by IFIC Bank.

The launch evening commenced with a musical performance by Tania Mannan, who performed songs written by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore when he resided in Shilaidaha, and a video representing the content of the book. Following that, the welcome note was delivered by the editor of the book, Professor Kazi Khaleed Ashraf. He spoke about the reasons for pursuing research about a river, while being an architect. He shared the experience of editing this book and remarked that this was a monumental publication that covered the geography, history, culture, literature, and the life and settlements of people along the Padma. “The Great Padma” contains a remarkable and diverse collection of essays, thoughts, observations, analysis, and visual depictions in the form of photographs and maps. 

Salman F Rahman, adviser to the honourable Prime Minister and member of Parliament from Dohar-Nawabganj shared his memories with the river Padma and how it influenced his life as someone who grew up next to the Padma. He also shared the tempestuous aspects of the Padma, how it erodes thousands of areas each year and affects people’s lives as the pattern of erosion changes quite often. He concluded with his recent experience of travelling over the Padma bridge, which has drastically reduced the time it took to cross the river.

Abul Khair, Chair of Bengal Institute and Bengal Foundation, thanked all the contributors of the book. He also shared that he was very fascinated when he heard about the topic of the book. As someone deeply passionate about the arts and cultural aspects of the Bengal region, and the rivers and landscapes of the country, Abul Khair’s interest in the Padma stemmed from his desire to rethink the planning principles of Bangladesh. Thus, when the proposal for the book was made, he was immediately on board to support the initiative.

Shah A Sarwar, MD and CEO of IFIC Bank shared that when approached for sponsoring the publication of the book, the board was very impressed to hear about the initiative as Padma plays a vital role in the country. Mr. Sarwar also remarked that since geography directs the path of a person’s life, the Padma is undoubtedly the primary regulator of the majority of Bengalis. He believes that Rabindranath Tagore would have not reached his potential had he not visited the banks and the waterways of the Padma, since his writing style flourished evidently only after he arrived in this part of Bengal.

Eminent economist Prof. Rehman Sobhan praised the book as a work of art, saying that even without the text, the book can be a deeply impactful and informative contribution to our understanding of the Padma. He mentioned that a lot of infrastructural development has been made around the Padma bridge, and the roads leading to it, which has led to economic progress of the country. However, rampant development can significantly hamper the agricultural prospects of the surrounding region. These concerns should be taken into account so that the beautiful descriptions of the Padma river mentioned in The Great Padma does not become history. As a riverine country, Bangladesh’s strength lies in its hydrological aspects, and we must acknowledge its importance and significance, since it is tied to the history, culture and economy of the country.  

“The Great Padma” is now available for spot purchase Ekushey Boi Mela and Bengal Boi, and it can be ordered online on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other international book outlets.

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The event was covered by many of the news outlets in Dhaka. Here is a report covered by Ekattor TV.