Historically, Bengal’s culture has been shaped by its rivers, and by its prosperity based on agriculture. The region produces many varieties of rice; and together with the fish that are plentiful in its rivers, rice forms the staple food for its people. Fish, lentils and vegetables are prepared in hundreds of different ways: Bengal is famous for its rich and varied cuisine. Sweets made of milk and cottage cheese, sweetened with molasses or date-palm sugar, are also very popular. Each district of the region is known for its own particular varieties of sweets.
St. Martin’s Island (Bengali: সেন্ট মার্টিন্স দ্বীপ) is a small island (area only 8 km2) in the northeastern part of the Bay of Bengal, about 9 km south of the tip of the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf peninsula, and forming the southernmost part of Bangladesh. There is a small adjoining island that is separated at high tide, called Chhera island. It is about 8 kilometres (5 miles) west of the northwest coast of Myanmar, at the mouth of the Naf River. The first settlement started just 250 years ago by some Arabian sailors who named the island ‘Zajira’. During British occupation the island was named St. Martin Island. During the First Anglo-Burmese War between the British and Burmese empires in 1824–1826, rival claims to the island were a major factor. The local names of the island are “Narical Gingira”, also spelled “Narikel Jinjira/Jinjera”, which means ‘Coconut Island’ in Bengali, and “Daruchini Dip”. It is the only coral island in Bangladesh.