The nation celebrated Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bangla New Year 1428, on Wedensday virtually as the government has enforced a weeklong stricter restriction from April 14 to stem the alarming spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Pahela Baishakh is one of the most colourful and biggest 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 Bangalee dresses. Young 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 city people usually start the day with the traditional breakfast of ‘panta bhat’ (soaked rice), green chilli, onion and fried fish at Ramna Park, Suhrawardy Uddyan, Dhaka University Campus, Rabindra Sarobor at Dhanmondi and other amusement places.
Important buildings and establishments as well as city streets and islands are generally illuminated with colourful lights and graffiti painted on the walls signifying the arts, culture and heritage of the country.
But this year all programmes have been cancelled as the second wave of the global pandemic Covid-19 has exposed the country into a worsening state infecting more people and calming more lives compared to the first wave.
President M Abdul Hamid issued a message on the occasion of the Pahela Baishakh while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed the nation on Wednesday on the occasion.
Though the Dhaka University Fine Arts Faculty has completed all preparations for the main attraction of the Bangla New Year- Mongol Shovajatra like the previous years, but the traditional colorful procession will not be brought out this year.
Only 100 people would join a symbolic Mongol Shovajatra on the faculty premises on Wednesday. Besides, following the government directives, the Pahela Baishakh will be celebrated through virtual media.
The state-run Bangladesh Television (BTV) will broadcast the New Year programme.
The programmes of the day usually begin in the city with the musical soiree of Chhayanat, a leading cultural organisation of the country, at Ramna Batamul at dawn, but this year recorded traditional songs of the organization and its President Sanjida Khatun’s recorded message “Kathan”, and dance performances of leading artistes will also be aired on televisions.
Business communities, especially in the rural areas, generally open their traditional ‘Halkhata’, new account books on that day while traders also offer sweets to customers.
The day is a public holiday. Different national dailies will publish colourful supplements 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).