April 16, 2005


The Bangla new year celebrations in Dhaka went extremely well this time. The news papers report of a record turnout. I could feel this as I had to wade through the crowd in Shahbag. I really missed not being in the Ramna Batmul concert in the early hours. After the 2001 bombing incident, my wife is a bit apprehensive about going in person, when there is live feed available in TV. So I stayed at home mainly except attending two get-togethers with lavish deshi delicacies (lunch & dinner) arranged by two of my fraternities. Sorry Mac, couldn't manage time to attend your GIG. Once you were in the streets, you could see the festive mood everywhere. Most women were in Saris based in white with multicolor motives and men were in traditional Panjabis/Fatuas. There were many programs going on across the Dhaka city and in other parts of Bangladesh. You can read about them here, here and here. More than 7,000 members of armed police, elite force RAB and other agencies with dog squads were deployed to maintain law and order at different festival venues in the city.

It proves one thing is that if the government is keen to protect the law-and-order situation, it can. After the banning of two Islami militant organizations, there were no bombing incidents. So people have really turned out in large numbers.

I have heard that in a Juma' sermon yesterday, one cleric was complaining that Bengali Muslims turn out in numbers for the Pahela Baishakh celebrations but not for Islamic day events. He claimed that they should do vice-versa. And to some clerics Pahela Baishakh celebrations are not Islamic as in some of the rallies people carry masks of different creatures. Did this occur in their minds that people merely make the processions colorfull with these masks as they are symbols of nature; people do not worship them. These celebrations, Baishakhi fairs are a part of the age old traditions which are followed by Bengalis of all religion. So it would be wrong to try to interpret these mass turnouts in narrow religious views. Why should people restrict culture into religios activities only?

Karl Kraus said:

When a culture feels that its end has come, it sends for a priest.

According to Albert Camus:

Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle.

The sea of people, who turned out for the New Year celebrations carries on the legacy of Bangladesh and its culture fearing no intimidation.


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