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Cultures join to welcome New Year

Biggest non-sectarian festival an expression of cultural and harmonious ties and freedom of expresssion

Cultures join to welcome New Year
People participate in New Year celebrations in Dhaka
Christians across Bangladesh were joining Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists today to celebrate the country’s largest cultural and non-sectarian festival -- Bangla New Year. 1418. Catholics in various regions of the country were heralding in 1418 with masses and prayers for peace and prosperity, as well as participating in festivities in traditional costumes and eating traditional dishes. Celebrated on Pohela Boishakh, the first day of the first month Boishakh in the Bengali calendar, the festival is deeply rooted in the rich cultural heritage of ethnic Bengali people. Cultural programs and traditional fairs are common features of the festival, which also marks the start of Halkhata (fresh accounts), the country’s new financial year. In Dhaka, hundreds of Christians were to attend a popular concert to welcome in the New Year by artistes from Chhayanaut, a leading cultural organization. The annual event has been held under a huge banyan tree in Dhaka’s Ramna Park since 1965. It was originally an open protest against cultural suppression by Pakistan, when Bangladesh was still part of that country. In the morning, thousands attended the traditional Mongol Shovajatra (Welfare Procession) with teachers and students of the Fine Art Institute of Dhaka University. Ranjit Sarkar, 26 a Catholic student and theater artist said: "The Pohela Boishakh festival is the country’s principal cultural event. It’s an opportunity for everyone to display unity and harmony with people of all faiths,” said Ranjit Sarkar, 26 a Catholic student and theater actor. “New Year helps us unite irrespective of caste and creed. Our children learn how important it is to learn about our culture and traditions,” said Bimola Gomes, 34, a Catholic housewife from Natore district in Rajshahi diocese. In Khulna in the south of the country, thousands of Catholics and Protestants were celebrating the festival with a common ecumenical fair and cultural program. Catholic parishes were to hold special masses and prayers. “We’ll pray for the welfare and prosperity of our country today,” said Father Dominic Halder, parish priest of Muzguni parish. Tribal Garo Catholics in Mymensingh diocese in the northeast were also to mark the day with prayers and festivities. “We are holding a fair, a wrestling competition and a kite festival,” said B.F. Rongdi, a Garo Catholic leader. BA13965


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