Pahela Baishakh in its glory

The celebration of Pahela Baishakh has long been a target for extremists. At the same time both urban and rural people love to observe this day with traditional festivity.  Samia Sultana Lira writes about this friction prevailing in our society.


Hearing the word “Pahela Baishakh” the first thing coming to my mind is that- 10years old me wearing a red dress wondering in a fair, while my one hand is holding my father’s hand and another hand is holding a cotton candy stick (hawaai mithai).

If someday you get around and see everyone in a festive mood, dressing colorfully, especially red-white sharee is enjoying sweetmeat, native cake, you’ll know for sure the day is – Pahela Baishakh. And surely you won’t miss hearing rendition of song written by Rabindranath Tagore ” Eso he boishakh…”

Well, the day was not always like this as we see it today. If you dig deeper, you’ll find that, the day is related to our existantial history.

Anciently, Hijri calendar was followed to collect tax from farmers by landlords. Unfortunately, that calendar didn’t match with our harvesting time. The farmers faced difficulty to pay for taxes! So, in 963 Hijri, Mughal Emperor Akbar called the scientist and astronomist Fathullah Shirazi to make a new calendar combining with lunar Islamic calendar and Indian solar calendar. The result was today’s “Bangla calendar”, No doubt, Akbar shows that, we can create our own way rather than following else other, if those are impeding for us.

And the 1st day of this our own calendar is what today we call Pahela Baishakh, the first day of first month of a year – the beginning of a year.

Historically speaking, this day was for celebration. Everyone was to finish submitting all the taxes before this day and so this day a new notebook was opened – the “Halkhata”. And in the occasion of opening halkhata, foods like sweetmeats were served.


Now question is- why do we have to celebrate this day even today? Now tax system is totally different and we barely depend on nature for cultivation because of modernization of cultivation, then why does “Kalboishakhi storm” matter to us? Or you may say, if I’m so desperate to make a new starting by celebrating a new year, why don’t I pick up Roman new year, which is followed mostly in the world?

To answer the question, we’ll again have to look back a little. In 1965, the 14th April, Bangladesh Student Union and Chayanot 1st celebrated Pahela Baishakh broadly as a protest against continual humiliation of then Pakistani rulers. It was not only homage to our native culture but also to uphold our root to oppressive rulers. History says, in 1986 an “Ananda Shovajatra” was held out as a part of celebrating Bangla new year, organized mainly by Charukola Institute, University of Dhaka, the procession the first time was based on three themes – evil, courage and peace. It depicts reigning of peace by integrity and bravery of us against injustice. Now Shovajatra themes on topics like pride of people for their folk heritage irrespective of religion, creed, cast, gender or age. So, point is that we may not have landlords now, but we have forces against our culture and you only defend against cultural aggression by love for your own culture.

Here, one thing might be clarified that, cultural integrity is apart from cultural aggression, which is a very natural phenomenon. Building up of any culture depends on environment, natural effectors and every culture is always being intrigued by other ones by migration, travelling, interactions, trade and many other factors.

I have not a bit bitter feeling for English New Year but I also have responsibility and love for my own new year.

Though historically the starting of Bangla new year starts at dawn, in Bangla 1402 Bangla Academi set it at 12:00am to keep resemblance with international rules. UNESCO listed our “Mongol Shovajatra” as an intangible cultural heritage of us.

This day is not only celebrated In Bangladesh, rather in some provinces of India. I don’t think any district in Bangladesh miss to celebrate the day. Boishakhi fair comes with handicrafts, puppet show, nagardola, and events like -boat racing and so on.

Strikingly, our aboriginal people have some special ways of celebration like ‘water festival’. People throw water at each other and even a Marma youngman can offer his love to his aspired girl by throwing water to her. Their celebration called ‘Boishabi’ involves worship to their supreme spirit with flowers, special food – mixed vegetable, other traditional foods and sports like ‘Bouchi’.


If you go to Sonargaon, you’ll find two special features – “Boumela” and “Ghoramela”. In boumela young girls and women offers worship to god to fulfill their wishes. Ghoramela has a myth though. It is said that saint named Jamini entertained every person with sweetm riding a horse at this day. In remembrance of him there is a monument and a fair which is held every year keeping an earthen horse in pedestal of the monument.

I think everyone of us have heard at least once in life about “Ramna Botomul ” bomb explosion. 10 people were killed – 9 were spot dead. But did you hear anytime that someone is sentenced for this brutality? No, ’cause there hasn’t been. In 2015, some girls got abused sexually at daylight among hundreds of people. When you ask about justice, you find that the authority has taken the whole thing as a mere joke. These are not unplanned discreet events. Some spirits were always against our selfness and they are still in. They are trying to make believe our young generation that you’re licensed to abuse a female whenever you wish, no matter what she’s wearing – hijab or sharee, no matter where they are -street or home, and no difference how old she is. And somehow they’re successful. I think all we can be conscious for establishment of a sound culture at family, school, university and everywhere – as I said earlier, a culture can only be defended by establishing another culture.

I ain’t a 10years kid anymore. I know there’s a generation who’re now insisting with their father to take them Baishakhi fair. I don’t want them hear ‘no’ from father or bear a horrible memory of bomb explosion in front of their eyes. Let our kids have a life knowing Pahela Baishakh is not harmful or horrifying, rather a pride for us. I want to see smile in my friend’s face who wants to go out to celebrate Pahela Baishakh, rather than seeing a crying face. Don’t you remember one of the themes of Shovajatra was – ‘Courage’?


                       -Samia Sultana Lira is a student of University of Dhaka


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