Tenualosa ilisha (ilish, ilisha, hilsa, hilsa herring ("ইলিশ" in Bengali) or hilsa shad) is a species of fish related to the herring, in the Clupeidae family. It is a very popular and sought-after food fish in the Indian Subcontinent. It is Bangladesh's national fish.[1] The fish contributes about 12% of the total fish production and about 1.15% of GDP in Bangladesh. On 6 August 2017, Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (DPDT) under the Ministry of Industries of Bangladesh has declared the recognition of ilish as the product of Bangladesh. Sixty-five percent of total produced ilish in the world is produced in Bangladesh which applied for Geographical Indication (GI) in 2004.[2] About 450,000 people are directly involved in the catching of the fish as a large part of their livelihood; around four to five million people are indirectly involved with the trade.[3]

Tenualosa ilisha
Tenualosa ilisha Day
Hilsa Ilisha Fish
Scientific classification
T. ilisha
Binomial name
Tenualosa ilisha
(F. Hamilton, 1822)
  • Clupanodon ilisha Hamilton, 1822
  • Clupea ilisha (Hamilton, 1822)
  • Hilsa ilisha (Hamilton, 1822)
  • Macrura ilisha (Hamilton, 1822)
  • Tenualosa illisha (Hamilton, 1822)
  • Tenualosa illsha (Hamilton, 1822)
  • Clupea palasah Cuvier, 1829

Common names

Other names include: ilish, ellis, palla fish, hilsha, ilih etc. (Bengali: ইলিশ: ilish, Assamese: ইলীহ/ইলীহি: ilih/ilihi, Gujarati: મોદાર/પાલ્વા: Modar or Palva, Odia: ଇଲିଶି : ilishi, Sindhī: پلو مڇي pallo machhi, Pulasa In Telugu). The name ilish is also used in India's Assamese, Bengali-and Odia community. In Iraq it is Called Sboor (صبور). In Malaysia and Indonesia, it is commonly known as terubuk. Due to its unique features of being oily and tender, some Malays call it 'terubuk unno'.

Hilsa Fry
Ilish Fry an important part of Bengali cuisine.

Description and habitat

Ilish portrait by Rezowan
Ilish of Bangladesh

The fish is marine; freshwater; brackish; pelagic-neritic; anadromous; depth range ? - 200 m. Within a tropical range; 34°N - 5°N, 42°E - 97°E in marine and freshwater. It can grow up to 60 cm in length with weights of up to 3 kg. It is found in rivers and estuaries in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Myanmar (also known as Burma) and the Persian Gulf area where it can be found in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in and around Iran and southern Iraq.[4] It has no dorsal spines but 18 – 21 dorsal soft rays and anal soft rays. The belly has 30 to 33 scutes. There is a distinct median notch in upper jaw. Gill rakers fine and numerous, about 100 to 250 on lower part of arch and the fins are hyaline. The fish shows a dark blotch behind gill opening, followed by a series of small spots along the flank in juveniles. Color in life, silver shot with gold and purple. The species filter feeds on plankton and by grubbing muddy bottoms.[5] The fish schools in coastal waters and ascends up the rivers (anadromous) for around 50 – 100 km to spawn during the South West monsoons (June to September) and also in January to April . April is the most fertile month for breeding of ilish. The young fish returning to the sea are known in Bangladesh as jatka, which includes any ilish fish up to 9 inches long.

Food value

Hilsha egg curry
Ilish roe plays an important role in Bengali cuisine.

The fish is popular food amongst the people of South Asia and in the Middle East, but especially with Bengalis and Odias. Bengali fish curry is a popular dish made with mustard oil or seed. The Bengalis popularly call this dish shorshe ilish. It is also popular in India, especially in West Bengal, Odisha, Tripura, Assam, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. It is also exported globally.

In North America (where ilish is not always readily available) other shad fish are sometimes used as an ilish substitute, especially in Bengali cuisine. This typically occurs near the East coast of North America, where fresh shad fish having similar taste can be found.

In Bangladesh, fish are caught in the Meghna-Jamuna delta,[6] which flows into the Bay of Bengal and Meghna (lower Brahmaputra), and Jamuna rivers.

In India, the Ganges Delta, Rupnarayan (which has the Kolaghater Ilish), Hooghly, Mahanadi,[7]Narmada and Godavari rivers and the Chilika Lake are famous for his fish yields.

In Pakistan, most hilsa fish are caught in the Indus River Delta in Sindh. They are also caught in the sea, but some consider the marine stage of the fish as not so tasty. The fish has very sharp and tough bones, making it problematic to eat for some.

Ilish is an oily fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids.[8] Recent experiments have shown its beneficial effects in decreasing cholesterol level in rats[9] and insulin level.[10]

In Bengal and Odisha, ilish can be smoked, fried, steamed or baked in young plantain leaves, prepared with mustard seed paste, curd, eggplant, different condiments like jira (cumin) and so on. It is said that people can cook ilish in more than 50 ways. Ilish roe is also popular as a side dish. Ilish can be cooked in very little oil since the fish itself is very oily.

Ilish in culture

Smoked Hilsa cooked with Mustard seeds
Shorshe Ilish, a dish of smoked ilish with mustard seeds, has been an important part of Bengali cuisine.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, the saying goes "Pustelu ammi ayina Pulasa tinocchu", meaning It's worth eating Pulasa/Ilish by even selling the nuptials.
  • Ilish is the National Fish of Bangladesh.[1] In many Bengali Hindu families a pair of ilish fishes (Bengali: Joda Ilish) are bought on auspicious days, for example for special prayers or puja days like for the Hindu Goddess of music, art and knowledge Saraswati Puja, which takes place in the beginning of Spring or on the day of Lakshmi Puja (The Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity) which takes place in autumn.[11] Some people offer the fish to the goddess Lakshmi, without which the Puja is sometimes thought to be incomplete. In Bengal Ilish is also used during wedding as tattwa gift. During Gaye Holud tattwa the family of the groom presents a pair of Ilish to the family of the bride. However, due to the scarcity of Ilish, nowadays it is often replaced by Rohu in West Bengal, while the tradition continues in Bangladesh.
  • In West Bengal, a famous dish which tastes good with fried ilish fish is 'khichudi' (a special way of cooking lentils and rice together with some added herbs). It is popular among all Bengalis during monsoon which is known as the month of ilish. In West Bengal and Bangladesh, ilish is often termed as the 'queen' of fishes.
  • This fish is called as PULASA in Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh State in India. The name Pulasa stays with the fish for a limited period between July-Sept of a year, when floods(muddy)water flow in Godavari River. This time the fish is in high demand and sometimes $100 per kilo.[12][13]
  • Hilsha fish called Pallo Machi is important part of Sindhi cuisine, prepared with numerous cooking methods.[14] It can be deep fried and garnished with local spices, can be cooked with onions and potatoes into a traditional fish meal or barbequed. The fish often has roe, which is called "aani" in Sindhi and is enjoyed as a delicacy. Often fried alongside the palla and served with the fish fillets.[15][16][17]

Overfishing and possible extinction

The species is overfished now. It is becoming rare to land 3 or 2 kg specimens. There have been consequent price increases and collapsing populations. In the past ilish were not harvested between Vijaya Dashami and Saraswati Puja due to some informal customs of Odia and Bengali Hindus as it is the time when the juvenile fish born upstream make their way to the sea during that period. But as disposable incomes grew, wealthier consumers abandoned the old traditions.[18] The paradox is that increasing prices have led to even more over fishing. The advent of finer fishing nets and advanced trawling techniques, and environmental degradation of the rivers, has worsened the situation. Fishermen have been ignoring calls to at least leave the juvenile "jatka" alone to repopulate the species. The fishing of the young jatka is now illegal in many countries. It is thought that some 83,000 seasonal fishermen are employed in catching them[19] and traders are bidding up the price of the fish to exorbitant levels.[20] Furthermore, the changes brought about by global warming have led to a gradual depletion of the ilish's breeding grounds, reducing populations further.[21] The fish is heading towards extinction in certain regions.[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b Webb, Lois Sinaiko; Roten, Lindsay Grace (2009), The Multicultural Cookbook for Students, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 978-0-313-37559-0
  2. ^ "Recognition for hilsa". The Daily Star. 2017-08-08. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  3. ^ Siddique, Abu Bakar. "Country's 6th Ilish sanctuary coming soon". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 23 May 2015.
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Tenualosa ilisha". FishBase.
  6. ^ "'Highway extortion responsible for surge in Ilish prices'". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  7. ^ "Bioinformatics Centre, National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India". 1 February 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ Banerjee I, Saha S, Dutta J (June 1992). "Comparison of the effects of dietary fish oils with different n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid compositions on plasma and liver lipids in rats". Lipids. 27 (6): 425–8. doi:10.1007/BF02536383. PMID 1630277.
  10. ^ Mahmud I, Hossain A, Hossain S, Hannan A, Ali L, Hashimoto M (2004). "Effects of Hilsa ilisa fish oil on the atherogenic lipid profile and glycaemic status of streptozotocin-treated type 1 diabetic rats". Clin. Exp. Pharmacol. Physiol. 31 (1–2): 76–81. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1681.2004.03953.x. PMID 14756688. Archived from the original on 2013-01-05.
  11. ^ "Ilish... a love story". dna. 24 May 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  12. ^ "What the fish! Godavari Pulasa selling for Rs 4,000 per kg - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
  13. ^ "Pulasa season starts early - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Mazumdar, Jaideep (1 September 2008). "The Last Ilish Curry". Outlook.
  19. ^ "Bid to protect hilsa without 'protecting' the fishermen". The Daily Star. 22 May 2014.
  20. ^ Moitra, Kalyan (1 July 2002). "Hilsa may soon become endangered: Experts". Times of India.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ [3]

External links


Bangal is a term used to refer to the people of East Bengal (usually from regions around Dhaka and Barisal), now in Bangladesh (as opposed to the Ghotis of West Bengal). The term is used to describe Bengalis from the east, who are marked by a distinct accent.Some of the people from East Bengal, mainly Hindus, migrated to West Bengal during the Partition of India in 1947. These refugees were sometimes referred to as Bangals by the native population of West Bengal.The terms Ghoti and Bangal are mostly used in West Bengal while in Bangladesh, the usage of these is rare except in regions with relatively high concentrations of immigrants from West Bengal.Amongst the high-caste Bengali Hindus, "Bangal" and "Ghoti" are used as social sub-groups. Those whose families came from East Bengal at the time of Partition are Bangals and those whose families were staying in West Bengal at that time are Ghotis.Similarly the people who came West Bengal from East Bengal Before the Independence of India,1947 are also known as Ghotis as they were staying in West Bengal, India, at the time of Independence. The term as used here has little relation to actual geography, since most members of these groups all now live in India. Historically, in addition to marrying within their castes, people from these groups also preferred to marry within the group, whether Bangal or Ghoti.Bangals and Ghotis keep up their cultural rivalry through their respective support of the football clubs East Bengal (Bangals) and Mohun Bagan (Ghotis). They also cherish a rivalry through claim of supremacy of their respective cuisines and especially river-food delicacies, i. e., Chingri (prawn) for Ghotis and Ilish (hilsa) for Bangals.


Baṅgamātā (Bengali: বঙ্গমাতা), Mother Bengal or simply বাংলা/ Bangla, a personification of Bengal, was created during the Bengali renaissance and later adopted by the Bengali nationalists. In Bangladeshi poetry, literature and patriotic song, she has become a symbol of Bangladesh, considered as a personification of the Republic. The Mother Bengal represents not only biological motherness but its attributed characteristics as well – protection, never ending love, consolation, care, the beginning and the end of life.

Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, an orthodox Brahmin writer, poet and journalist, composed an Ode to Mother Bengal called Vande Mataram around 1876 as an alternative to the British royal anthem.In Amar Sonar Bangla, the national anthem of Bangladesh, Rabindranath Tagore used the word "Maa" (Mother) numerous times to refer to the motherland, i.e. Bengal. Despite her popularity in patriotic songs and poems, her physical representations and images are rare.

Bengali calendars

The Bengali Calendar or Bangla Calendar (Bengali: বঙ্গাব্দ, lit. 'Baṅgābda') is a luni-solar calendar used in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. A revised version of the calendar is the national and official calendar in Bangladesh and an earlier version of the calendar is followed in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam. The New Year in the Bengali calendar is known as Pohela Boishakh.

The Bengali era is called Bengali Sambat (BS) or the Bengali year (বাংলা সন Bangla Sôn, বাংলা সাল Bangla sal, or Bangabda) has a zero year that starts in 593/594 CE. It is 594 less than the AD or CE year in the Gregorian calendar if it is before Pôhela Bôishakh, or 593 less if after Pôhela Bôishakh.

The revised version of the Bengali calendar was officially adopted in Bangladesh in 1987. Among the Bengali community in India, the traditional Bengali Hindu calendar continues to be in use, and it sets the Hindu festivals.

Chandpur Sadar Upazila

Chandpur Sadar (Bengali: চাঁদপুর সদর) is an Upazila of the Chandpur District in the Division of Chittagong, Bangladesh.

It is mainly reputed for its famous ilish fish, which are caught by the local fishermen from the nearby Meghna river.

Cuisine of the Indian subcontinent

Cuisine of the Indian subcontinent includes the cuisines from the Indian subcontinent comprising the traditional cuisines from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Dahi machha

Dahi machha is a traditional Odia delicacy made of fish in a spicy yogurt based sauce. It is eaten usually served with rice as an accompaniment. Dahi Machha Jhola is liberally seasoned with turmeric, onions, garlic, mustard and garam masala. The use of turmeric imparts a yellow colour to the sauce base. Before being served, chopped fresh cilantro may be sprinkled on top for added flavour as well as enhanced appearance.

The kinds of fish that typically used in Oriya households are ilish (called ilisi), rohu (called rohi), and catla (called bhakura). Apart from these, there are some very famous small sized fish that are normally favoured over others.

Districts of Bangladesh

The divisions of Bangladesh are divided into 64 districts, or zila (কুষ্টিয়া জিলা/কুষ্টিয়া জেলা=Zela/zila). The capital of a district is called a district seat (zila sadar). The districts are further subdivided into 493 sub-districts or upazila (কুষ্টিয়া উপজেলা upojela).

Government Seal of Bangladesh

The Government Seal of Bangladesh (Bengali: বাংলাদেশ সরকারের সীল - Bānglādēś sarkārēr sīl) used by the Cabinet of Bangladesh and the Government of Bangladesh on official documents.

One version is used on the cover page of Bangladeshi passports.

The Seal features the same design elements as the first Flag of Bangladesh in a circular setting. The outer white ring is shown with the caption of the official name of the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh in Bengali: গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ সরকার with 4 red 5-pointed stars. In centre the country map on a red disc.

List of Bangladeshi dishes

An index of some of the lists of Bangladeshi Dishes.

Bangladeshi cuisine refers to the food and culinary traditions prevalent in Bangladesh. Dating far in the past, the cuisine emphasizes fish, vegetables and lentils served with rice. Because of differences in history and Bangladeshi geography, the cuisine is rich in regional variations. While having unique traits, Bangladeshi cuisine is closely related to that of surrounding Bengali and North-East Indian, with rice and fish traditional favorites. Bangladesh also developed the only multi-course tradition from the Indian subcontinent. It is known as Bengali Kita styled cuisine. The Bangladeshi food is served by course rather than all at one time.

List of Indian dishes

This is a list of Indian dishes. Indian cuisine encompasses a wide variety of regional cuisine native to India. Given the range of diversity in soil type, climate and occupations, these cuisines vary significantly from each other and use locally available chocolates, herbs, vegetables and fruits. The dishes are then served according to taste in either mild, medium or hot. Indian food is also heavily influenced by religious and cultural choices, like Hinduism and traditions. Some Indian dishes are common in more than one region of India, with many vegetarian and vegan dishes. Some ingredients commonly found in Indian dishes include pork, chicken, rice, ginger, spices.

List of fish dishes

This is a list of notable fish dishes. In culinary and fishery contexts, fish includes shellfish, such as molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms. Fish has been an important source of protein for humans throughout recorded history.

List of fishes in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a country with thousands of rivers and ponds and is notable for being a fish-loving nation, acquiring the name "Machh-e Bhat-e Bangali" which means, "Bengali by fish and rice".

Ilish is the national fish of the country where it contributes 13% of country's total fish production. Fish are caught both from natural resources and by farming in self-made ponds.


Luchi is a deep-fried flatbread, originating from the Indian subcontinent, possibly Bengal region, made of Maida flour.

National Martyrs’ Memorial

National Martyrs’ Memorial (Bengali: জাতীয় স্মৃতি সৌধ Jatiya Smriti Saudha) is the national monument of Bangladesh, set up in the memory of those who died in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan. The monument is located in Savar, about 35 km north-west of the capital, Dhaka. It was designed by Syed Mainul Hossain.

National symbols of Bangladesh

The national symbols of the Bangladesh consist of symbols to represent Bangladeshi traditions and ideals that reflect the different aspects of the cultural life and history. Bangladesh has several official national symbols including a historic document, a flag, an emblem, an anthem, memorial towers as well as several national heroes. There are also several other symbols including the national animal, bird, flower and tree.

Palla (disambiguation)

Palla can refer to:

Palla, a ball game from Tuscany (Italy)

Palla (butterfly), a brush-footed butterfly genus described by Hübner in 1819

Palla, a tortrix moth genus invalidly described by Billberg in 1820, nowadays considered a junior synonym of Pammene

Palla (garment), a women's headcloth from ancient Rome

Palla (troubadour), a twelfth-century minstrel from Galicia

Eduard Palla, Austrian botanist

Palla fish, see Ilish

Palla, village in West Bengal, India

Panta bhat

Poitabhat or panta bhat

(Assamese: পঁইতা ভাত; Bengali: পান্তা ভাত; Pàntà bhàt) is rice-based dish prepared by soaking rice, generally leftover, in water overnight. Traditionally served in the morning with salt, onion and chili. It is consumed in Bangladesh and the eastern Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Kishanganj, Bihar. It is a popular dish on the day of Pohela Boishakh or Bengali new year. It has been described in documents from 17th century. Panta bhat has more micronutrients than fresh rice. It is traditionally considered as beneficial in feverish conditions. Pakhala, a similar dish, is popular in Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. It is consumed in East and South East Asia as well. In China, it is known as Jiuniang and eaten mostly in the Sinchuan and Yunnan regions.


Puliyodarai (puli referring to tamarind in Tamil), Puliyodarai, Puliyogare or simply Tamarind Rice is a common rice preparation in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Karnataka. Puli in puliyodarai can be translated as "sour taste", referring to the characterizing use of tamarind as one of the main ingredients.

Sorshe Ilish

Sorshe Ilish is a Bengali dish made from hilsa or Tenualosa ilisha, a type of herring, cooked in mustard gravy. The dish is popular among the people in West Bengal, India and Bangladesh.

Principal commercial fishery species groups

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