Remnants of civilization in the greater Bengal region date back four thousand years, when the region was settled by Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, and Austro-Asiatic peoples. The exact origin of the word “Bangla” or “Bengal” is unknown, though it is believed to be derived from Bang (Sanskrit Vanga), the Dravidian-speaking tribe that settled in the area around the year 1000 BC.
The kingdom of Gangaridai was formed from at least the seventh century BC, which later united with Bihar under the Magadha, Nanda, Mauryan and Sunga Empires. Bengal was later part of the Gupta Empire and Harsha Empire from the third to the sixth centuries CE. Following its collapse, a dynamic Bengali named Shashanka founded an impressive yet short-lived kingdom. Shashanka is considered the first independent king in the history of Bangladesh. After a period of anarchy, the Buddhist Pala dynasty ruled the region for four hundred years, followed by a shorter reign of the Hindu Sena dynasty. Islam was introduced to Bengal in the twelfth century by Arab Muslim merchants and Sufi missionaries, and subsequent Muslim conquests helped spread Islam throughout the region. Bakhtiar Khilji, a Turkic general, defeated Lakshaman Sen of the Sena dynasty and conquered large parts of Bengal in the year 1204. The region was ruled by dynasties of Sultans and land lord Bhuiyans for the next few hundred years. By the 16th century, the Mughal Empire controlled Bengal, and Dhaka became an important provincial centre of Mughal administration.
European traders arrived late in the 15th century, and their influence grew until the British East India Company gained control of Bengal following the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The bloody rebellion of 1857, known as the Sepoy Mutinay, resulted in transfer of authority to the Crown, with a British viceroy running the administration.
Between 1905 and 1911, an abortive attempt was made to divide the province of Bengal into two zones, with Dhaka being the capital of the eastern zone. When India was partitioned in 1947, Bengal was partitioned again along religious lines with the western part going to India and the eastern part joining Pakistan as a province called East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan), with its capital in Dhaka. Dissatisfaction with the Centre over economic and cultural issues continued to rise even from the days of partition through the 1950s and 1960s, during which the Awami League emerged as the political voice of the Bengali-speaking population under the leadership of Bangbandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The 6-points programme launched by Bangabandhu in 1966 crystallized the demand for autonomy which led to the electoral victory for the Awami League in the first ever general elections in Pakistan in 1970-1971. In the face of Pakistan authorities putting off the summoning of Parliament and handing of power, Bangabandhu made his historic declaration on 7 March, 1971 that the struggle this time is the struggle for freedom, the struggle for independence. In the early hours past midnight of 25th March 1971, as the Pakistan Army unleash its genocide, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman formally declared the independence of Bangladesh and directed everyone to fight till the elimination of the last soldier of the Pakistan Army. Awami League leaders set up a provisional government, which formally took oath at MujibNagar in Kushtia district inside Bangladesh on 17 April 1971. The War of Liberation that started with the resistance on 26 March lasted for nine months. The Mukti Bahini was made up of Bengali regulars and guerrillas. The war ended in a decisive victory for Bangladesh when the Pakistan Army surrendered to the joint command of Bangladesh-India forces on 16 December 1971.