As the dawn breaks, all the city roads lead to Ramna and Dhaka University’s faculty of fine arts area, people in thousands gathering to celebrate the Bengali New Year Pahela Baishakh.
Women and girls wearing colourful saris and men in punjabis throng the DU area while the parade, Mangal Shobhajatra, carries along to the Rupashi Bangla intersection from fine arts institution.
Alongside the large number of youths, there are many of the older generation too in DU’s faculty of fine arts, Ramna Park and Suhrawardy Udyan area. Children were waiting in long queues to enjoy the traditional rides.
Lakshan Babu who works of a private company and is in his 50s, was taking a break with his five-year-old son near Batmul of Ramna. He recounted the celebrations of Baishakh from the past.
“I have been joining the Baishakh celebrations in Ramna batmul since the early 90s. The celebration has evolved so much since then. Though the participation has increased, the inherent spirit has decreased,” he said.
According to him, the cultural engagement was much more in the past.
“Different musical organisations used to sing Baishakhi songs in every nook and corner of the Ramna Park and Suhrawardy Udyan. A lot of individual folk singers were also seen here and there.”
Abdur Rahim, 65, a retired banker came to Dhaka University campus from Narayanganj with his grandson.
“Though I still enjoy Baishakhi celebrations but I miss the way it used to be celebrated decades ago,” he said adding, “It was not a single day celebration back then; we used to celebrate it for more than week. As my father was a trader, haalkhata (closing the annual accounts ledge) celebrations were very significant. And how can you forget the taste of those sweets prepared at the Baishakhi fair in the market?”
A number of foreigners were also seen enjoying the celebrations.
Randy Mikko, founder of Mikko Foundation, was taking photographs of the jubilant people.
“I am amazed to see such a huge gathering. Mangal Shobhajatra is an unique celebration,” he said.
Another group of young students from there Netherlands were also enjoying the celebration and taking selfies with the local people. They say they were excited about Mangal Shobhajatra as they know the parade has UNESCO recognition.
UNESCO recognised Mangal Shobhajatra as intangible cultural heritage in 2016.