As the nation gears up to welcome another new year on the Bangla calendar on Saturday, the fine arts students of Dhaka University (DU) will bring out Mongol Shobhajatra, the festive mass procession.
An integral part of the Pohela Boishakh celebrations, this year's theme for Mongol Shobhajatra is a line from Baul legend Fakir Lalon Shah: “Manush Bhojley Sonar Manush Hobi (Devote yourself to mankind to be a man pure of heart).”
Following a tradition of this iconic procession, the students of DU faculty of fine arts have worked non-stop with the help of students from other departments to make motifs of birds and animals, folk characters, masks and many other components that symbolize Bangali culture and history.
This is the second year Mongol Shobhajatra will be brought out to celebrate Pohela Boishakh since the event was inscribed on Unesco's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.
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“Mongol Shobhajatra started as a way to protest the autocratic regime of the 80s,” Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor told the Dhaka Tribune while inspecting the preparations for Mongol Shobhajatra at DU on Thursday.
“It helped democratic thinkers of that time to raise their voice and be heard. An auspicious day will be celebrated as a protest against injustice, immorality, slander, bigotry, and communalism.”
Preparations for this year's Shobhajatra began on March 15, inaugurated by celebrated artist Rafiqun Nabi.
on Saturday, Mongol Shobhajatra will be brought out from the DU faculty of fine arts premises at 8am, and will proceed along all the major thoroughfares of Dhaka before returning to campus.
Thousands of people are expected to join in and walk in Mongol Shobhajatra to welcome the Bangla New Year. Afterwards, visitors can join in the celebrations in the faculty of fine arts area.
Joining in the festivities, the university's department of theatre and performance studies will host a colourful event at its Nat Mandal auditorium to welcome Bangla New Year 1425.
“The program will represent Bangali culture and tradition,” department chairman Ahmedul Kabir said. “We will celebrate the beginning of a discrimination-free new year, especially after a just movement like the quota reform demonstration.”
Also Read - In pictures: Mongol Shobhajatra procession in previous years
How it came to be
Charupat, a Jashore-based cultural organization, first brought out a colourful procession with puppets and masks to celebrate Pohela Boishakh.
Later, in 1989, the fine arts students of Dhaka University began to arrange the procession on a large scale every year on Pohela Boishakh. The procession was officially monikered “Mongol Shobhajatra” in 1996.
The different elements of the procession reflect the contemporary cultural, social and political issues. It symbolizes the first light of the day that eradicates the darkness of the night, giving hope that better times are always on the horizon.
The festival is considered an expression of the secular identity of Bangladeshi people. Over the years, its core theme has evolved into a call for unity and greatness.
As Mongol Shobhajatra is a symbol of non-communalism, the organizers do not take any sponsorship.
“The DU authorities allocate funds every year, and additional funds come from the sales of artworks and sculptures made by the teachers and former and current students of fine arts,” said Abu Sufian, chief of this year's Mongol Shobhajatra organizing committee.