The rest of the world may have their blast of New Year in January 1st. But for us, the advent of Bengali New Year (Pahela Baishakh; April 14 of each year) is the most cheerful, colorful and amazing public holiday that is immensely observed throughout the country. From urban concrete jungle to blissful natural rural landscape, the unbound color of life will definitely mesmerize you. It is presumed that the tradition of Pahela Baishakh started about 600 years back. One of the chief customaries of Pahela Baishakh is clearing up all the dues of present year on the last day of Chaitra (the twelfth month of the Bengali calendar). On the first day of Bengali new year, the landlords or the shop owners offer sweets to their tenants and customers.
In Dhaka, under the Banyan Tree at Ramna park, the biggest and most colorful celebration of Pahela Baishakh takes place. The programme initiates with Tagore’s famous song titled “Eso he Baishakh eso eso” (Come O Baishakh, come come) performed by the artists of Chhayanat. The students and teachers of Institute of Fine Arts bring out a colorful procession and parade around their campus with sculptures that resemble our age old culture. With wearing traditional attires, hundreds of Bangladeshi people join both events. Every media channel — based Bangladesh — broadcast a live coverage on both of this programme. The newspapers also publishes special news and supplements following this event.
Baishakhi mela (in Bengali mela means fair) is the most amazing part of Pahela Baishakh. Life happens there. And music and color brings life to the Baishakhi fair. Many kind of traditional handicrafts, toys, hand-made cakes, special kinds of food stuff, sweets, potteries, bangles, pitchers and cane products are the main exhibits at these fairs. Although the fairs are held all over our country, but the fair at Dhaka University and Ramna is the most famous. The fairs also provide entertainment, with singers and dancers staging Jatra, Pala gan, Kavigan, Jarigan, Gambhira Gan, Gazir Gan and Alkap Gan. Artistes present folk songs as well as Baul, Marfati, Murshidi and Bhatiali songs.
Dubla Rash Mela
Dubla Rash Mela is the biggest fair in not only Bagerhat, but also the entire Bangladesh. This has become a grand occasion for many foreign tourists visiting the Sundarbans and people come from India as well. At the centre of the festival are twenty thousand temporary fishermen who are engaged in catching and drying fish on Dubla and nearby islands. In the Bangla month of Agrahayan every year, the fair continues for 5-7 days during full moon time.
Dubla Island is situated on the Bay of Bengal as a part of the Sunderbans forest. Initiated by Hari Bhajan, a disciple of Thakur hari Chand, this fair was first organized in 1923 during the Rash Purnima. To continue his legacy and keep his memory alive, the devotees — especially the fisherman of the Sunderbans — organize this five-day fair. Around 40-50 thousand people join the celebrations every year. Traditional handicrafts, precious wooden items, foods etc are put on sale.
Celebrated especially in Old Dhaka, Shakrain Festival (also known as Kite Festival) is observed at the end of the Bengali month Poush or January 14 or 15. This is day is also known as Poush Shangkranti. The major attraction of this festival is that people of all ages gather around their rooftop with their kites in the afternoon. They fly their kites high and sometimes this festival often brings the epic and exciting kite fighting. Each participant attempts to snag each other’s kite. At the night, people crack their fireworks in a way to light up the sky of old Dhaka. This gets even more exciting with the flame-eaters skills of fire show.
Lalon Shah is one of most acclaimed and prominent philosopher from Bangladesh. His distinctive tradition of philosophy is still being carried out through thousands of songs and composition which he wrote during his lifetime. His vision on human life is the fundamental base of Baul culture and tradition which is now currently appreciated and studied by major researchers all over the world.
Every year on the first week of April, a fair is organized following Lalon Shah’s birth anniversary by the devotees. The fair is held at the akhra (the place where Lalon lived) situated in Kushtia. The entire place goes through colorful decoration on this occasion. Thousands devotees from both abroad and Bangladesh gather in the Akhra to celebrate this day. With ektara and other musical instrument, the singers of Lalon Academy perform Lalon’s song all through the night during this fair. With the hymn of thousands unique composition, the devotees from all around the world remember the veracity of his philosophical thoughts.
Fair of Ashwin Sankranti
Dated back to 200 years, Ashwin Sankranti is held in Khulshi village of Durgapur upazila for the first three days of Bengali month of Aswin. People from the surrounding areas gather around this fair to celebrate the life and cheerfulness. The chief attraction of this fair is circus show. Jilapi (sweet made of flour and sugar juice), traditional handicrafts, household items, puffed rice, jewelry, pottery etc are major attractions and exhibits of this fair.
Fair of Ghoshbila
The fair of Ghoshbila, also known as Baruni fair, is organized in the village Ghoshbila under Alamdanga upazila of Chuadanga district to commemorate the day of goddess Ganga’s arrival in a ghat. The legend says that the goddess Ganga appeared on that ghat which is considered as a holy place by the Hindus.
The major attraction of this fair is the holy bath. People from neighboring countries and all over Bangladesh come to the ghat and take this holy bath in the Kumar river to purify themselves with considering this bath as holy as Ganga bath.
Kothin Chibor Dan Utsab
‘Kothin Chibor Dan’ is the greatest religious festival of the Buddhist community where ‘viksus’ are given ‘chibor’ or cloth to wear which the Buddhists believe as the best of all gifts. Chibor, the cloth that viksus wear, may be of any six colors: those of a tree’s roots, trunk, bark, dry leaves, fruit or flower.
This utsab or festival is celebrated with religious fervor at Rangamati Rajban Bihara in the Rangamati hill district. Buddhist community from all three hill districts as well many visitors and tourists from home and abroad gather at Rangamati Rajban Bihara area to participate in the festival. The elaborated schedule of this programme includes Buddha puja, Ful puja, Sibli puja, feeding the monks, astaporiskardan, taking Panchshil and Astashil and praying for world peace.
Every year on the 8th day of the Iunar month falls in the Bengali month of Chaitra, thousands of Hindu devotees from home and abroad assemble on the banks of the old Brahmaputra river for Astami snan, a ritual bath in the river. On the occasion, a three-day fair is held in this place, starting before the day of Ashtami snan (Bath) and ending a day after the bathing ceremony.
The main attractions of the fair are exhibits, like pottery and products made of bamboo – cane and thread (like hand fans). These exhibits are very popular among the devotees visiting the place. Sweetmeat stalls do brisk business during the fair.
Shib Chaturdashi Fair
Shib Chaturdashi Fair continues for three consecutive days following the religious rituals where thousands of devotees gather in a Shiva temple at night on 14th Falgun. The Shiva has a history dated back to thousand years. The temple stands at the top of Chandranath hill located at Sitakunda in Chittagong. This fair is one of the oldest fairs in the entire subcontinent.
Every year the last day of the Bengali month of Bhadra is the occasion for worshipping the snake goddess (Monsha Puja), and a fair is held on the occasion at Shatkhira in a place named Gurpukur. Legend has it that during the 11th century A.D. towards the end of the Bengali month of Bhadra a person while walking became tired and fell asleep under a banyan tree at Palash Paul. When he woke up, he found a deadly cobra shading him from sunlight. From that legend the worshipping of the snake goddess began at that place and the Gurpukur fair also started side by side. The fair continues for one month.
The main exhibits at the fair are furniture made of Sundarbans wood and fruit plants. Moreover, entertainments like puppet shows, magic shows and Jatra (folk theatre) are also arranged. Since 1992, the idea borrowed from Gurpukur Mela was nationally replicated in all district and upazila townships in the form of Brikkha Mela (tree fairs). This was done to strengthen tree planting movement in the country.
From the 1st day of the Bengali month of Magh – 7, a fair is held in Golakandail village of Rupganj upazila under Narayanganj district for seven days under a big banyan tree. Nobody knows the origin of the fair but it has continued for ages and is full of fun and festivity.
The main items sold at the fair are wooden furniture, cane products, pottery, plastic toys. During the fair, there are arrangements for the entertainment of local people, such as Jatra (folk theatre), puppet show, film show, etc.
Fair of Adinath
Moheshkhali is an island under Cox’s Bazar district not very far from the mainland. There, the Adinath temple at the top of Mainak hillock is a place of worship for Hindu devotees. A landlord named Nur Mohammad Shikdar donated 200 acres of land to reconstruct the age-old Adinath Temple. The fair associated with the temple started from that time.
Every year in the Bengali month of Falgun, especially during Krishnapakkha, the thirteen days fair is held at the foot of the hillock on land facing the vast sea. The sweet water of green coconuts especially grown in this place is a most attractive and popular drink. Devotees and visitors to the fair drink it before worshipping the goddess of Adinath.