Celebrating the biggest Bengali secular festival
The nation celebrated ‘Pahela Baishakh’, the first day of the Bangla year 1419, last Saturday amidst vibrant pageantry, leaving behind the gloom of the past and pledging to uphold the nation’s opulent cultural heritage.
Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, in traditional clothes, poured into the streets, parks and open spaces across the capital and elsewhere in the country from early morning to welcome the Bangla New Year.
The tradition of celebrating the Bangla New Year — in relation to closing of the annual tax collection — started during the rule of Mughal Emperor Akbar (1556-1605AD). Traders and shopkeepers open ‘haal khata’ (new account books) on this day and offer sweets to clients.
In the course of time, it evolved into a day of celebration and an integral part of the Bengali culture, now considered the biggest secular festival as people irrespective of religion and class celebrate the day.
Chhayanaut, one of the leading cultural organisations of the country, has been holding their ‘barsho boron’ (New Year celebration) since 1967. On April 14, 2012, the New Year celebration at Ramna Botomul began with a choral rendition of Raga Bhairo, a morning raga, by the artistes of the Department of Classical Music, Chhayanaut. Chhayanaut gurus — Asit Dey, Anup Barua and Dr. Rezwan Ali — led the bandish, “Guru Nath Shravan Ki”. The melody of the raga stirred the senses as the sun slowly emerged and gleamed behind soft white clouds.
Teachers, alumni and students of Chhayanaut presented solos, duets and group renditions and recitations at the event. Aside from renditions of morning raga-based songs of ‘Pancho-kobi’ (Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, DL Roy, Atul Prasad and Rajanikant), the artistes also rendered several folk numbers on the occasion.
Accomplished vocalist Priyanka Gope captivated the audience with her solo performance of the song “Ami Notuner Abhilashi”. The song seemingly inculcated a bright beginning on the first day of Bangla year. Noted folk singer Chandana Majumdar made the audience sway with her sonorous rendition of a Lalon number “Jekhaney Shai’r Baramkhana”. Solo performances by renowned singers — Mita Haque, Laisa Ahmed Lisa and
Chhayanaut Secretary General Khairul Anam Shakil — were moving too.
In her speech, President of Chhayanaut, Dr. Sanjida Khatun said, “We cannot forgive certain crimes. Those who demean humanity in the name of religion have to be punished. Dehumanising others is one of the most heinous crimes. We must be honest and more responsible to environment, society and state. We must become broad-minded for the betterment of the state.”
Later, Dr. Sanjida Khatun recited a verse, “Ami je dekhechhi gopon hingsha…”, from Tagore. The event wrapped up with the rendition of national anthem.
BTV, BTV World and Bangladesh Betar aired Chhayanaut’s celebration live.
A festive spirit took over the capital and other parts of the country. Women in white saris with red borders and men in panjabi — decorated with Baishakhi motifs — ushered in the New Year.
Many had panta bhaat with fried hilsa, daal, green chilli and onion at home, restaurants and fairs. Youngsters had their cheeks painted with folk-themed emblems that added further colours to the celebration.
They thronged the main venue in Ramna. The festivities stretched over to Suhrawardy Udyan, Dhaka University, Dhanmondi Lake areas and Sher-E- Banglanagar bringing the city traffic system to a standstill. Many foreigners clad in traditional Bengali clothes were also seen in and around the venues of celebration.
The crowd turned into a human sea in the afternoon when the temperature came down slightly.
Another major attraction was the decorated procession called ‘Mongol Shobhajatra’, brought out by the students and teachers of Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University. The theme for this year’s ‘Mongol Shobhajatra’ was our achievement, aspiration and failure. Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique with DU proctor, treasurer, teachers and cultural personalities led the procession.
The ‘Shobhajatra’, featuring a giant replica of a sampan (40 feet long) with several oarsmen in it, symbolised the recent victory in maritime boundary demarcation. In a bid to wipe out the war criminals forever from Bangladesh, two giant replicas representing razakars (war criminals) were included in the procession. Replicas of an elephant, two horses also signified the emboldened spirit of the nation. Thousands of people joined the procession, dancing along to the beats of dhol and other musical instruments.
There were scores of cultural shows arranged by different organisations, keeping the university area alive with heavy rush of people. It was a day of pure, unadulterated fun and merriment.
-With The Daily Star input