A tradition that is being observed for more than two decades now, the Mongol Shobhajatra has become an intrinsic part of the Bangali cultural heritage on Pohela Boishakh.
For the past 27 years, the colourful processions adorned with floats, banners and posters not only represented the welcoming of the Bangla New Year on the first day of the Bangla month Boishakh, but also cultural revolutions and movements against oppression.
Brought out first in 1989, the procession of Bangla year 1396 was styled as Anondo Shobhajatra. The colourful procession was started by a few first year students of Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Arts with the help of their teachers to promote and celebrate folk art and culture. It was a breath of fresh air during the military dictatorship of HM Ershad.
The Mongol Shobhajatra of this year, Bangla year 1424, is also special as the traditional procession received international recognition from Unesco.
On November 30 last year, the Inter-governmental Committee on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage of Unesco stated that the Mongol Shobhajatra “symbolises the pride of the people of Bangladesh in their living heritage as well as their strength and courage to fight sinister forces, and their vindication of truth and justice.”
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The Fine Arts Faculty of Dhaka University will bring out the celebratory procession for Pohela Boishakh today in the morning which will have a float of a demon, among other colourful ones, portraying a militant and representing their stance against militancy.
Moreover, a Mongol Shobhajatra procession will also be held in Kolkata for the very first time on Saturday, April 15.
Aminul Hasan Litu, secretary member of Mongol Shobhajatra and Folk Culture Research and Expansion Centre, was one of the first year students of DU Fine Arts Faculty who worked for the very first procession in 1989.
While talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Litu said: “At the time, we were frustrated over the political situation in the country and we thought of bringing out a positive demonstration to celebrate our cultural heritage.
“We worked at a corner of our Fine Arts premises but had to face a lot of criticism regarding our work. We were mocked and our work was compared to trash.
“But when we brought out the procession on April 14, 1989, everything changed.
“A few faculty members helped us and we were appreciated by the DU vice-chancellor who later asked our dean why he was not invited to the procession.
“After that, we continued our protest against the military dictatorship and when it ended, we [the students involved with the first procession] decided to go to our home towns and also other districts for the next Pohela Boishakh and bring out the procession through out the country.”