The first day of Bangla calendar Pahela Baishakh is being celebrated today across the country amid fanfare, festivity and gaiety across the country under tight security cover.
True to their centuries’ old tradition, people from all walks of life started gathering at different popular and historic spots at dawn in the capital and elsewhere to hail the New Year 1421 with new hopes and aspirations for a better, peaceful year.
The same jubilation mood is also there in West Bengal and other Bangla-speaking parts of India as they also celebrate the Pahela Baishakh, but they do it a day later. They will celebrate the Bangla New Year on Tuesday.
Mughal Emperor Akbar introduced the Bangla calendar in the 1556 of the Gregorian calendar in a bid to streamline the timing of land tax collection in the then ‘Subah Bangla’ region, the much of which falls under Bangladesh.
The day is a public holiday.
On the occasion, President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia issued separate messages conveying their New Year’s greetings to the people of the country and all Bengali-speaking people across the globe.
In his message, the President said the appeal of the Pahela Baishakh in the life of Bangalees is unique and universal.
“The Bangla New Year bring the messages of unalloyed pleasure and strengthen our unity in all aspects of our national life by forgetting all the past conflicts and ignominies,” Hamid added.
In her message, the Prime Minister expressed the hope that the Bangla New Year festival will help unite the nation. “It’ll give us strength to create a resistance against communalism, religious dogmatism and anti-state evil force.”
Hasina also hoped that New Year 1421 will bring happiness, prosperity and unending pleasure for all by removing the sordid past and disgrace.
Khaleda Zia, in her message, said Pahela Baishakh reminds the nation about its glorious tradition. “The nation’s self identity shines on the day.”
She hoped that the Bangla New Year festival would bring happiness, peace and unalloyed pleasure for all.
Traders and shopkeepers across the country will open ‘Halkhata’ (new book of accounts) and entertain customers and visitors with sweets on the first day of the New Year as part of the tradition and culture.
On every return of Pahela Baishak, the first day of Bangla year also the country’s biggest cultural festival, people of all walks of life, especially the youths, come out on the roads at daybreak wearing traditional dresses to celebrate the day.
Thousands of people are thronging traditional venues at different parts of the capital, including RamnaPark, Suhrawardy Udyan, Central Shaheed Minar, DhakaUniversity , Shahbagh, and DhanmondiLake areas, to welcome the New Year amid pageantry.
The most colorful celebration of the Bangla New Year began at the Ramna Batamul at dawn with an elaborate programme undertaken by Chhayanaut, a leading cultural troupe.
Artistes from Chhayanaut welcomed the day with Tagore’s famous song ‘Esho hey Baishakh, esho, esho (come O Baishakh, come)’ under the banyan tree at the RamnaPark.
Students of the Institute of Fine Arts of Dhaka University, wearing colorful masks, will take out a ‘mangal shobhajatra (procession of good wishes)’ in the morning as part of the carnival.
Men, wearing panjabi-pyjama, women, attired in sari with red borders, and children in colorful dresses all will throng traditional Baishakhi Mela (fair) and other cultural functions in the city and elsewhere in the country.
People will partake of ‘Panta Bhat (watery rice)’ with fried hilsa, lentils, green chili and onions at home, restaurants and fairs following the rich tradition of Bangla culture.
Though the observance of Pahela Baishakh has become popular in cities, but New Year festivities are deeply linked with the rural Bangladesh.
People in villages will bathe early in the morning and, clad in fine clothes, go to visit relatives, friends and neighbours. They will also visit different Baishakhi fairs arranged in many parts of the country.
State-owned Bangladesh Television (BTV) and Bangladesh Betar and the private TV channels will air special programmes on the day.
Different socio-cultural organisations have chalked out elaborate programmes to celebrate the day. BanglaAcademy, ShilpakalaAcademy and Nazrul Institute will organise separate cultural programmes to welcome the New Year.
The Baishakh Udjapan Jatiya Parishad will bring out a procession from the Central Shaheed Minar.
Extensive security measures have been taken in the city and elsewhere across the country for smooth celebration of the day.
State Minister for Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan on Sunday ruled out the possibility of any militant attack at Ramna Batamul in the capital during the celebration of Pahela Baishakh.
“There’s no chance of any militant attack. All kinds of measures have been taken to ensure that the 2001 attack at Ramna Batamul is not repeated,” he told reporters after inspecting the security measures at the Ramna Batamul.
Ten people were killed and many others injured in a powerful bomb blast during the Pahela Baishakh celebration at the Ramna Batamul on April 14, 2001.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police and Rapid Action Battalion have arranged separate control rooms at the RamnaPark.
Besides, Rab’s helicopter will also remain standby for emergency rescue operation.
Rab will set up 32 check-posts and four rooftop observation posts at Ramna Batamul to ensure foolproof security.
Rab sources said around 8,000 members of the elite force will be deployed across the country to ensure peaceful celebration of Pahela Baishakh.
Besides, divers from Bangladesh Navy will remain standby near the lake at the RamnaPark in case any one falls into the water.
Hawkers or makeshift food shops will not be allowed at the RamnaPark during the celebration, said police sources.
Meanwhile, Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) said on Sunday it has taken tight security measures in the port city to ensure peaceful celebration of Pahela Baishakh.