Pahela Baishakh (1stBaishakh) is a red letter day in the national cultural history of Bangladesh. The day that opens our Bangla calendar as the New Year Day, is a sensational day for all Bangalees all over the world. For, the day is celebrated by the Bangla-speaking community in many countries like India (especially West Bengal), the U.S.A. and Canada.
We see that the significance of the Pahela Baishakh is now global. It is not at all surprising that the spirit of the day has not decayed or diminished by any degree. It is rather on a stronger stand encompassing greater parts of the world. It exists as the essential nucleus of our consciousness of cultural self around which our cultural identity provides our national motivation.
We know that Pahela Baishakh was introduced as the Bangla New Year's Day on Bangla year calendar by the third Mughal emperor Akbar that marked his regime that he did for the convenience of Tax-collection office. But it has now been a century old culture, with all Bangla-speaking people all over the world. Even the enormous force of globalization could not diminish Pahela Baishakh's spirit in our society which testifies the fact that we the Bangalees are very strong in our fundamental national consciousness.
We are unshakable invincible in matters of our essential culture. It is needless to say that it is the spirit of our cultural commitment that we passed a long way in our national political life with the reward of our victory in the Language Movement in 1952, which again provided our victory in the national liberation in 1971. Because the essence of Pahela Baishakh lies in the nucleus of cultural consciousness that will remain perennial as long as one Banglaee will remain in the world.
The prestige of Pohela Baishakh is so great that great Bangalee poet Rabindranath Tagore sang out: "Esho he Baishakh esho esho . . ." No wonder that the immortal lyric has now become a sort of gospel verse for every Bangalee house-hold on the fresh morning of each Pahela Baishakh. It is a wide day for a wide celebration upholding the glory and dignity of our age-old tradition of culture that is so dear to us. Our culture is our identity, our essential existence in the human society. This is what becomes obvious on Pahela Baishakh.
In Dhaka and in all the major and minor towns in Bangladesh, including every cook and corner of the country we notice a fresh awakening of life on the Pahela Baishakh. We celebrate the day as a national occasion in a grand fashion; the day is a public holiday. We take meticulous preparation for good foods and drinks, colorful attires and garments in addition to decorating our homes: a sense of freshness pervades our soul as though we all get into a day of holiness. We heartily welcome the morning which certainly illuminates the day with profuse sunshine: Pahela Baishakh is hardly seen with a gloomy sky.
In Ramna Park and the entire locality around Shahbagh and Ramna, crowds of people parade out peaceful processions with the song: "Esho he Baishakh esho esho . . ." on their lips. The spirit and the appeal of the day is mysteriously so holy that we forget our differences and unite with one another and get together with our single national identity. People hold Baishakhi Mela (Baishakhi Fair) where hundred varieties of funny toys and things are displayed. People invariably wear colorful caps on head and buy flutes and pipes and play on them to entertain themselves.
It is seen that in the Fair and the street processions people carry traditional things like miniature of dolls and puppets, a wooden plough or a fisherman's tools or the domestic tools used by millions of Bangalees that have not yet abolished despite tremendous development in modern science and technology in the world. We crave to protect and preserve them so that science and technology may not delete them from our life. The Charukala Institute of Dhaka University makes a great contribution in celebrating Pahela Baishakh.
The students and the teachers of the Institution display glamorous show by their wonderful and innovative gestures that add a great dimension to the day. The day, it is seen, has a wonderful magnetism that it brings all people out of their homes and Ramna area turns to be a sacred concurrence of gathering.
It makes people forget all ill things and a fresh wind of friendly feelings blows through our soul. Children perhaps cannot measure their boundary of joy as they move across the Fair places and buy all fancy items. People here in Bangladesh have established it a golden tradition that Pahela Baishakh must have "Pantha Hilsha" (soaked rice with Hilsha fish).
We cannot simply avoid the item whatever be the price (it costs unimaginably high). But we do not care the price as we care the occasion more. It opens an opportunity for some people to make a bumper business for the single day, to a great delight to them.
As a matter of fact the whole occasion of Pahela Baishakh offers a day of freedom of enjoyment but all innocent and harmless enjoyment, with the spirit of devotion to our national culture and heritage: never a wanton celebration. We find Pahela Baishakh as a grand day of freshness, color, music, poetry and sweetness that engross all of us. We all feel on this day that we all belong to one common root on which our entity of nationhood stands.
At Ramna Botomool (at the foot of a Bunyan Tree in Ramna Park) a number of cultural organizations offer cultural show and musical performances for the open air public. The "Surerdhara" by Rezwana Choudhury Banya, an eminent Tagore-singer, for example,presents a spectacular musical show almost every year.The purpose is to entertain and invite them to the spirit of Baishakhi culture.
We maintain a high degree of decency that we pay value to although there were tragic incidents some years back. The invisible gift of the celebration is that it freshens our soul and regenerates us with a fresh vigor that boosts up our life and spirit for a fresh opening for the New Year. It is a noble and ennobling occasion that we have been celebrating propagating the spirit into the generations now and the ones to follow.
The writer is a Professor of English,
Daffodil International University (DIU)
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