Bangalis are widely known as a fun and festival-loving people. They celebrate about a hundred big and small traditional festivals all round the year.
The Bengali New Year celebration, or Pohela Boishakh, which falls on April 14 of the Gregorian calendar, is the largest one for the Bengali nation. Pohela Boishakh is celebrated with great fervour in Bangladesh and West Bengal and among Bengali communities living in the Indian states of Tripura and Assam.
To celebrate the day, millions of people clad in traditional attire, irrespective of religion, age, gender, caste, or profession, throng at Ramna Botomul since very early in the morning.
Noted cultural groups organize events where traditional songs welcoming the new Bengali year are sung.
On the day, Dhaka truly becomes a colourful and festive city.
A sea of enthusiastic people is seen in and around Ramna Park, TSC, and the Fine Arts Institute of Dhaka University. Some foreign tourists as well as expats living in Bangladesh also wear traditional Bengali clothes and celebrate the new year and partake, rather enthusiastically, in the local celebrations.
All the people celebrate the day as Bengalis, not as Muslims, Hindus, Christians, or as part of any other religion.
The whole world sees Bangladesh as a nation of fraternity and social harmony. Different kinds of displays are erected with various captions, signs, and logos of the spirit of Pohela Boishakh in different areas of Dhaka.
Various folk songs are sung, such as Nazrul Geeti and Rabindra Sangeet, and various poetry reading sessions go on all day long.
It is a way to forget our differences and show us, really, what it is that binds us together. It helps us to understand the root of our history and how much we have in common
These songs and poems inspire and invigorate the people who are lucky enough to stand witness. Fairs and festivals are also organized across the country. The whole of Bangladesh comes together and celebrates the day with a unified sentiment of hope, and looks forward to the dawn of a new year.
A Bengal united
In this regard, Pohela Boishakh is one of the most important festivals of the Bengali calendar, since it succeeds in uniting Bengalis, irrespective of religious and regional differences, to such an extent. They do so with a new hope for peace, prosperity, and goodwill.
Though Pohela Boishakh is celebrated for only a couple of days, its fervour remains throughout the whole month. It is traditionally seen as the auspicious month for weddings and new ventures.
The shop-keepers open a new “halkhata” (account book), settling all old accounts. People send different kinds of fruits to newly married couples.
In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, three different ethnic minority groups come together and merge their respective celebrations with Pohela Boishakh. Boisuk of the Tripura people, Sangrai of the Marma people, and the Biju of Chakma people have come together as Boi-Sa-Bi, a day of a wide variety of festivities which are observed on the last day of Chaitra, ie April 13.
The day is a public holiday in the CHT. This day is also observed through various functions at the University of Chittagong every year.
Pohela Boishakh itself is secular in character and speaks to the democratic traditions which complement our history.
It is a way to forget our differences and show us, really, what it is that binds us together. It helps us to understand the root of our history, which spans thousands of years, and how much we have in common.
Pohela Boishakh teaches us, most importantly, to renew our commitment to our motherland. We do hope that this year Pohela Boishakh unites us in our ambitions to build a prosperous Bangladesh.
Md Ziaul Haque Howlader is Manager (PR), BPC.