Bangladesh and Around the World
Every year people of Bangladesh and Bengali speaking people living in different parts of the world including in our neighboring country India celebrate the ‘Nobobarsho’ or the New Year with great enthusiasm and fun fare. This New Year ushers in the ‘Bangla Shan (BS)’ 1426. As part of the natural cycle, the year 1425 BS has eclipsed from our lives. We are entering into a new one. The New Year is welcomed with high hopes that it will bring prosperity and happiness in our lives and the failings of the last year will also be buried and forgotten. The Bengali New Year has always been an auspicious and festive event in the lives of the Bengali speaking people living around the world particularly people of Bangladesh. For many centuries, people from all walk of lives irrespective of religion, cast, creed and ethnicity has been celebrating the advent of the New Year with festivities, hopes and aspirations. According to sources, the tradition of celebrating PahelaBaishakh dates back to centuries. The great Mughal emperor Akbar ‘the great’ introduced the Bangla year in 1584 which was originally called Crop Year or ‘FosholiShon’. In later years, it became popular as Bangla ‘Shon’ or year. In recent years, the Nobobarsha is celebrated with great enthusiasm and wide participation in every nooks and corners of the world where Bengali speaking people are living. In Bangladesh, sustained economic growth and development for the last decades has further reinforced the phenomenon of celebration. The consumer spending during this festive occasion has also increased to a great extent because of increased purchasing power. Here it needs to be mentioned that about 10 million Bangladesh citizens are now living in different countries of the world. Along with them, a sizeable number of Bengali speaking people of Indian origin are also living in abroad. The Bengali New Year is common to them and celebrated by all. The Nobobarsha celebration has now become a universal phenomenon. The social and cultural organizations and institutions have played important roles in popularizing the festival and spread the festivities across the globe. The electronic media played a significant role in making it a global event for the Bengali speaking people wherever that may live.
In Bangladesh, the ‘PahelaBaishak’, the first day of the year starts early in the morning with traditional musical program at the RamnaBatamul organized by the cultural organization ‘Chayanaut’. Songs composed especially by great poets and lyricists of Begali language Rabindranath Tagore, KaziNazrul Islam, Dwijendralal Roy, RajanikantaSen and Atul Prasad Sen are rendered. People of all ages attend the program to welcome the New Year. The Chhayanaut and its program are inseparable parts of the Noboborsho celebration. The Chhayanaut has long tradition of organizing the program. It was first started in (1967) 1374 of the Bangla New Year. The tradition has remained uninterrupted except in 1971 when the liberation war was fought. In addition to this traditional program, a procession called ‘MangalShovajatra’ is also brought out by the Institute of Fine Arts or Charukola Institute of the University of Dhaka. According to some records, the “MangalShobhajatra,” was first brought out in 1989. Every year, the procession or the Shovajatra has a theme that speaks about hopes and aspiration for the incoming New Year. The procession includes massive replicas of elephants, tigers, birds and masks of birds, owls and crocodiles etc. In 2016, the UNESCO has recognized it as part of world heritage and included it its ‘Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’. However, different cultural activities are organized throughout the day across the country. In recent years, these are organized even in remote villages. In the cities, every locality organize its own cultural program participated by artists and cultural activists. Opening of ‘Hal Khata’ or new account by businessmen and traders is an important part of the Nobobarsha festivities. The traditional Baishakhi fairs are organized in different parts of Bangladesh. In these fairs, traditional items mostly handicrafts and potteries are exhibited and sold. People in large number especially children along with their parents visit these fairs. People from the Chittagong Hill districts also celebrate PahelaBaishakh with various programs of their own. Boishukh by the Tripura, Sangrain by the Marma and Biju by the Chakma are three such programs that mark the day. In recent years, the three communities are celebrating this day together, which is called “Boishabi.” One of the main aspects of Boishabi is a water festival by the Marmas. In other countries, cultural programs of songs and dance are also inseparable parts of the celebration. People also take special traditional foods on PahelaBaishak. Over the years, Bengali New Year has emerged as the greatest festive event in the lives of the Bengali speaking people. It has transcended the national boundary and has become a global event. Noboborsho is celebrated with in a big way in London, New York, Toronto and Sydney, to name only a few, and many other cities around the world. It has been reported that where Bengali speaking people have large concentrations the festivities are more and elaborate with larger participation of the expatriates. The scale of celebration and fun fare is becoming bigger and bigger with the passage of time. The New Year celebration provides opportunity to them to celebrate the festival in their own indigenous way. On that particular day they feel at home in foreign land with large number of their own people celebrating a common festival together. Moreover, as the event is not associated with any religion it has become an inclusive, secular and participatory festival. It is a celebration owned by all irrespective of religion, caste, creed and ethnicity. Noboborsho has also become a part of our cultural identity. The other important feature of this festival is that it talks about optimism by leaving behind all misgivings and garbage of the past. New Year celebrations also bring new promises, expectations, hopes and aspirations. With celebrations, we also take vows and make promises for the coming year. These vows and promises are generally taken at the individual, state and global levels. In recent time, a number of disasters both at home and abroad have shaken the confidence of the common men and women. As a result, the issue of safety and security of the people have become a national as well as global concern. In this regard, a vow ought to be made to make lives and livelihood safe and secured. In the area of politics, more space and right to function more freely of the political parties should be respected. In this case, the culture of tolerance, mutual respect and harmony should be promoted. In the economic front, growth and development must be ensured with appropriate policies and actions. Here it may be mentioned that in the recent years the gap between the rich and poor is widening in Bangladesh as well as in the world. As such, a promise could be made to address the issue of equity and distributive justice. Maintaining communal and ethnic harmony is important for peace and development. At the same time, on the New Year day, we need to take a collective vow to safeguard the human rights of all irrespective of religion, caste, creed, ethnicity and political affiliation. Here it needs to be remembered that the celebration of the New Year is of course a very joyous event but at the same time we also need to take vows and make promises to make Bangladesh as well as the world happy and prosperous for us as well as for the future generations to come.
(The different sources of information are acknowledged with gratitude).
The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka and Member, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh.