Celebrating Pahela Boishakh has been an integral part of our culture since it was first initiated by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Though it was claimed by some historians that Shashanka, the first king of Bengal, attributed the Bengali calendar in the 7th century and later it was Emperor Akbar who modified the calendar and introduced Bengali New Year for the purpose of tax collection.
Among all the festivals, Pahela Boishakh is the biggest non-communal and universal festival in Bangladesh.
Traditionally, it bears a great significance to remind us vividly about our culture, heritage, livelihoods and above all our identity. It also reminds us our glories and achievements made by our ancestors in this subcontinent. Every month of the Bengali calendar is directly associated with some agricultural significance of the life of the Bangalees and Pahela Boishakh is the first day of the month of Boishakh which appears before the Bangalees with new hope and life.
Every year this day begins with the cultural show at Ramna Botomul held by Chhayanat. Many start their day with eating ‘panta’ rice, different types of ‘vorta’, ‘dal’ and hilsa fish. On the day of Pahela Boishakh the whole country wears a festive look. From the very morning on this day, people crowd at the Ramna Botomul to enjoy cultural programmes. Girls and women wear white shari with red border along with wearing ‘churi’ and many other traditional ornaments. Also, they adorn themselves with flowers and men wear traditional Panjabi with Paayjama, Lungi or Dhuti.
Attending Mongol Shovajatra has been one of the major attractions of the Bangla New Year celebration, which begins in the morning from the Dhaka University campus and paraded through different areas of the capital city. People from all walks welcome the Boishakh with a cheerful heart in a hope to see peace and prosperity amid the country.
People irrespective of their creed and caste wish one another on this day saying “Shuvo Noboborsho”. It offers a new inspiration along with a brave nationalism in every Bangalee’s life to combat any challenges for the wellbeing of the country. Through celebrating Pahela Boishakh we see a great scope to uphold our culture and traditions to the new generation that obviously helps to protect our cultural decay.
This day is a government holiday, so people have scopes to visit their near and dear ones to increase brotherhood and mutual relation amid all. Though we see that celebration of Pahela Boishakh sees difference between cities and rural areas. In the cities people are seen visiting parks, restaurants and many other amusement centers while the rural people visit the Boishakhi fairs but these days Boishakhi fairs are also held in city areas.
It is obvious that with the passage of time the way of celebrating Pahela Boishakh has seen many changes but one thing is very apparent that is the emotion and feelings of the people in celebrating Pahela Boishakh remain unchanged. Every year with the onset of first day of Boishakh we revitalize ourselves with the spirit that works round the year.
However, last year in the wake of Covid-19, for the first time we celebrated the Pahela Boishakh of the year 1427 virtually. There was no alternative to depending on virtual media and digital devices in the festivities, as the majority of the population was forced to stay home to contain the spread of Covid-19. In welcoming the first day of Boishakh all the usual programmes were cancelled. Television channels broadcast the recorded content from Chhayanaut. Along with this, previously recorded traditional songs and dance performances of leading artistes were played.
Amid the health emergency and uncertainty of the pandemic the celebration of the last Pahela Boishakh was unprecedented as it did not generate happy feelings in the mass people as they were struggling for life and livelihoods. But it is obvious that people hoped to see a usual Pahela Bioshakh to observe the year to come. They also wished one another to save themselves from the heavy grip of Covid-19.
However, when the life and livelihoods almost undergo normalcy with a few cases of infection, a fresh surge of Covid-19 appears before us as a new blow and compared with the devastation of the first wave, it is more threatening upon the humanity.
Amid the highest number of infection and death everyday another unprecedented Pahela Boishakh in the year of 1428 has appeared before us. The government has urged everyone to celebrate the Bangla New Year virtually by avoiding public gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Not only that, the whole country enters the strict lockdown for a week beginning from 14 April, the first day of Boishakh, where nobody is allowed to come out of home without reasonable necessities. All the programmes to celebrate Pahela Boishakh have been cancelled. But like the last year, we have scopes to wish one another virtually so that we can see a new morning very soon with hopes and aspirations.
This year, let us become resolute to combat challenges and establish a humane Bangladesh where every individual will be for one another. There will be no chaos and confusion and all will participate in building the country. On this Pahela Boishakh with the genuine Bengali soul, let us make an oath that we will not be infected or not make others infected disregarding the mandatorily safety measures for all.
The writer teaches at Prime University & research scholar at the IBS. Email: [email protected]