The initiation and evolution of a kilometre-scale, sand braid-bar was monitored during a 28-month survey period from 1993 to 1996 in one of the world’s largest braided rivers, the Jamuna River, Bangladesh. Repeated bathymetric surveys through two monsoon flood seasons, combined with bar-top surveys during exposure of the bar at low flow, provide the most detailed chronology of braid-bar growth yet compiled for a large sand-bed river. During rising and peak flow of the 1994 monsoon flood, a 1·5-km-long, 0·5-km-wide, 12-m-high, symmetrical mid-channel bar was deposited in the centre of a major channel downstream of a zone of flow convergence and significant bank erosion. Initial deposition and growth of the bar core were probably caused by amalgamation of dunes that are present in the Jamuna channels at all flow stages. Bar-top aggradation continued through downstream migration of an ‘accretionary dune front’, a 3-m-high, angle-of-repose slipface that was composed of amalgamated, 0·5- to 1-m-high dunes. At waning and low flow, the mid-channel bar widened by up to 1 km through the lateral accretion of dunes onto the margins of the initial bar core. A low-velocity zone in the sheltered wake region of the bar-tail led to the accumulation of substantial volumes of silts and clays. During the rising and peak flows of the next monsoon flood, the mid-channel bar extended its bar-tail by up to 1·5 km, as one of the anabranches became dominant, and flow was deflected across the bar-tail. Accretion at the bar-tail generated a lobate, transverse bar-front with a 10-m-high, angle-of-repose avalanche face. Emergence of several smaller bars along this depositional front produced an overall reach morphology that more closely resembled an alternate bar rather than several mid-channel bars. The conversion of a mid-channel bar to an alternate bar is contrary to many previous descriptions of the braiding process.