Nation celebrates Pahela Baishakh

Singers from Chhayanaut during a group performance at Ramna Batamul, Dhaka, on 14 April 2023
Tanvir Ahmed

The country is celebrating Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bengali New Year-1430, on Friday upholding the rich cultural values and rituals of the Bangalees.

Chhayanaut began ‘The Bangla Nabobarsho festival’ welcoming the New Year at its traditional venue Ramna Batamul in the capital playing raag Ahir Bhairav on Sarangi as soon as the sun rose. After playing the raag for eight-minute, the programme of different songs started here.

This year the songs were chosen based on the themes of nature bathed in the morning’s first light, love for humanity, patriotism, self-realisation and awakening. Artistes performed solo music and recited poems in between group performances.

Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar telecast the programme live. The programme was also shown live on the YouTube channel of Chhayanaut.

Chhayanaut, an institution devoted to Bengali culture, founded in Bangladesh in 1961, organised the first ever programme welcoming the Bengali New Year in the capital in 1967. Since then Chhayanaut’s programme has become a part and parcel of Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bengali New Year.

The programme could not be organised in 1971 due to the Liberation War. The continuity of the programme was not stopped even after the militants carried out a bomb attack at the programme in 2001. The programme, however, could not be organised in 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic.

News agency BSS adds: This year, the first day of the Bangla calendar, is being celebrated following its all rituals at the venue along with bringing out the traditional ‘Mangal Shobhajatra’ (procession) organised by the Fine Arts Faculty of Dhaka University.

Singers from Chhayanaut during a group performance at Ramna Batamul, Dhaka, on 14 April 2023
Tanvir Ahmed

But, due to the ongoing holy month of Ramadan, it will be celebrated on a limited scale.

People are expected to join the “Nabo Barsho” festivities across the country, particularly in the capital city.

Pahela Baishakh is one of the most colourful festivals through which the Bangalees bid farewell to the old year and welcome the New Year.

On this occasion, people from all walks of life wear traditional Bengali dresses.

Women wear white sarees with red borders and adorn themselves with bangles, flowers, and tips, while men wear white pyjamas and panjabi or kurta.

The government has drawn up an elaborate programme. The Mongol Shobhajatra will be brought out at divisional, district and upazila levels to reach the traditional programme to the grassroots as it has earned the international recognition.

However, business communities, especially in the rural areas, are ready to open their traditional ‘Halkhata’, new account books. On the day traders also offer sweets to customers.

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have issued separate messages greeting the countrymen on the eve of the Pahela Baishakh.

All secondary schools and colleges of the country are asked to celebrate Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bangla calendar.

“The educational institutions across the country must organise student rallies in the morning as part of celebration of Pahela Baishakh,” said the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) on Wednesday.

DSHE director professor Shahedul Kabir said that DSHE sent an order to all schools and colleges on Tuesday regarding Pahela Baishakh celebration following a directive of the Ministry of Education.

DSHE directed that the students must sing the national anthem, as well as “Esho He Baishakh,” a popular song by Rabindranath Tagore, to welcome the Bangla New Year on that day as part of the celebrations.

About ‘Mangal Shobhajatra’ the DSHE also asked the authorities concerned to “publicise” the’ Mangal Shobhajatra,’ which was declared an “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO in 2016.

Ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL), one of the country’s oldest political parties, has drawn up programmes to celebrate the Pahela Baishakh.

To observe the day, Dhaka south city unit of AL brought out a colourful procession in the city on Friday. The procession started from Bahadur Shah Park in the capital on Friday at 7:00 am where AL central leaders participated.

The procession paraded different areas of the city and end at AL’s central office on Bangabandhu Avenue.

Singers from Chhayanaut during a group performance at Ramna Batamul, Dhaka, on 14 April 2023
Tanvir Ahmed

Besides, a discussion was also held in front of Bahadur Shah Park in Old Dhaka.

Dhaka south city AL acting president Nurul Amin Ruhul, MP, would preside over the discussion while Dhaka south city unit of AL general secretary Humayun Kabir would conduct it.

Different government and non-government organisations, socio-cultural platforms, including Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Bangladesh Shishu Academy, Bangla Academy, Department of Public Libraries, the National Museum, Kabi Nazrul Institute, Copyright Office, National Book Centre, Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), the Department of Archives and Library and Dhaka University will hold various programmes along with seminars, exhibitions and quiz, essay and art compositions to observe the day.

As part of the Bengali New Year celebrations, Baishakhi rallies will be organised in all districts, upazilas and unions of the country.

Besides, local administration will organise quiz competitions, cultural programmes and folk fairs.

The city people usually start the day with the traditional breakfast of ‘panta bhat’ (soaked rice), green chili, onion and fried fish at Ramna Park, Suhrawardy Udyan, Dhaka University Campus, Rabindra Sarobor at Dhanmondi and other amusement places. But, on the month of Ramadan, this traditional way of celebrating Pahela Baishakh might not widely be followed.

Graffiti are expected to be painted in the walls signifying the arts, culture and heritage of the country.

On the occasion, all museum and archaeological sites will remain open for all while children, students, people with disabilities and autism will be allowed to visit the museum free of cost.

Improved traditional food will be distributed to jail inmates, patients in hospitals and orphanages on the occasion.

Bangladesh missions abroad will also organise different programmes to welcome the New Year.

The law enforcement agencies have taken extensive security measures across the country so that people could celebrate the day, said police.

The day is a public holiday.

Different national dailies have published colourful supplements while Bangladesh Television, Bangladesh Betar and other private TV and radio channels airing special programmes highlighting the significance of Pahela Baishakh.

Some historians attribute the Bengali calendar to the 7th century king Shashanka, which was later modified by Mughal emperor Akbar for the purpose of tax collection.

During the Mughal rule, land taxes were collected from Bengali people according to the Islamic Hijri calendar. This calendar was a lunar calendar, and its new year did not coincide with the solar agricultural cycles.

Akbar asked the royal astronomer Fathullah Shirazi to create a new calendar by combining the lunar Islamic calendar and solar Hindu calendar already in use, and this was known as Fasholi shan (harvest calendar).