Baniachang an unusually large village settlement in habiganj district about 60 km south-west of sylhet proper. The local people take pride in styling the village as the largest rural settlement in Asia, some believe, in the world. However, both spatially and demographically, the village is so large that it is divided, for local government, into four union parishads. The village is Muslim predominantly and its population is about one hundred thousand. Historically, Baniachang was owned by Abed Reza, a Muslim zamindar in the seventeenth century. He ruled the village during the late nawabi period. It may be pointed out that unlike other districts of Bengal where the zamindars and talukdars mainly controlled land, land tenure in Sylhet was characterised by the predominance of tiny landholders called chowdhuries. During the permanent settlement, Sylhet had only one landholder with the title of zamindar and it was the zamindar of Baniachang pargana.
The territorial vastness of Baniachang village may be attributed to local topography and land tenure. Baniachang pargana has many big haors, like Sona, Jaldoba, Makalkandi, Macha, Habibpur, Baram and Bengak. All these haors were cultivated only in the winter season. Greatest of the fisheries were also in these haors. Winter was the time to catch or net fish. In the past when water management was in its state of nature, these haors were practically uninhabitable during the rainy season. Under the circumstances, cultivating and fishing people made their permanent settlement on the neighbouring raised land of Baniachang. They used to move to their respective spots of cultivation and fishing during dry season and established satellite villages there. They were known as jirati or seasonal raiyats. Historically, these jirati raiyats made the village so large.
At present, Baniachang is one of the most developed villages of Bangladesh. The village has bank branches and government offices. It has 18 primary schools, four high schools (two government and two private), six madrasahs, two colleges, two satellite schools, one community school and one BRAC school. There is a government hospital and a BRAC hospital. Four market places developed in the village. The village has 26 rice mills. Pucca and semi-pucca roads connect various parts of the village.
Baniachang is the place of birth of many eminent personalities famed nationally and internationally. Some of them are: (Major General) M Abdur Rab Bir-Uttam, a hero of the war of liberation, the celebrated BRAC chairman Fazle Hasan Abed, and former minister Sirajul Hossain Khan. Celebrities like Ramnath Biswas who traveled the whole globe with a bicycle in 1936-37, blind lyric poet Faizul Kabir, and swadeshi movement activists Hem Sen and Sushil Sen came from this village. [Sirajul Islam]