Music and dance fill the air as processions with traditional props make their way through streets and parks
Bangladeshis join the Mangal Shobhajatra procession on the occasion of Pohela Baishakh or the first day of the Bangla calendar in capital Dhaka on April 14. (Photo: Piyas Biswas)
Bangladeshis of all hues took to the streets enthusiastically to celebrate the Bengali New Year after being confined indoors for the event in the previous two years by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pohela Baishakh or the first day of the Bangla calendar is the biggest secular festival in the South Asian country. Men, women and children dressed in traditional finery came out to welcome the New Year as soon as the sun rose on April 14.
Men in traditional red and white Panjabi pyjamas and women in white saris with red borders braved the summer heat and threats from Islamists to join the public celebrations, which included music concerts, street plays, processions, fairs, puppet shows and cock fights.
A grand cultural show was held at Ramna, the large recreational park in capital Dhaka. Ramna's trademark event under a large Banyan tree is traditionally organized by Chhayanaut, a cultural organization devoted to the preservation and promotion of Bangla culture.
Manoshi Sen, 38, a Hindu and member of Chhayanaut, said: “The last two years seem like lost. But today I feel satisfied. As soon as the sun rose in Ramna, I felt a different kind of peace inside my soul.”
Mangal Shobhajatra, a street procession on the theme Nimral or Pure, started in the morning from the Institute of Fine Arts at Dhaka University. Students and others joined with larger-than-life, colorful figurines of birds, animals and dolls, singing and dancing to the beat of the music.
“Holy Thursday and Poheala Baishakh fell on the same day this year, hence we could not actively participate in the celebrations. But we prayed for the nation"
“I take part in the procession every year. We offer prayers for the welfare of the nation,” said Alomgir Hossain, 23, a student at Dhaka University.
Bangladesh’s Christian community too joined the celebrations with Catholic priests greeting and praying for the well-being of the nation and its people.
In Barisal Diocese, prayers were offered for the nation by Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario during the Chrism Mass, said Holy Cross Father Anol Terence D’Costa, communication coordinator of the diocese.
“Holy Thursday and Poheala Baishakh fell on the same day this year, hence we could not actively participate in the celebrations. But we prayed for the nation,” the priest told UCA News.
The government imposed several restrictions on the celebrations for security reasons, unlike previously when people would be out on the streets past midnight. This year's festival missed popular and traditional food platters like panta (leftover rice soaked in water) and ilish (hilsha fish) as food stalls were not allowed during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Islamists are opposed to the traditional celebrations, in which people carry figurines and masks, play music and dance, because they are considered un-Islamic.
Bangla New Year celebrations trace their roots to the rural culture and traditions of Bengali-speaking people in ancient Bengal, now divided between Bangladesh and West Bengal state of India. The festival is considered a cornerstone for the language, culture and nationalism of Bengali people in Bangladesh, India and diaspora communities.
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