Pahela Baishak – A Day of Celebration - Lt Gen Masud Uddin Chowdhury
We celebrate Pahela Baishakh or the Bangla New Year's Day today. Everything under the sun looks gay, cheerful and colourful. One is suddenly struck by the beauty of the grass, the sky, the trees - each and everything around looks pretty and radiates joy and happiness. On this day we also try to search our souls with a view to rediscovering our cultural heritage originating from this deltaic land mingled with the Bengali ethnicity. On this day, most Bengalis, especially those from the middle class, are engrossed in nostalgia, appreciating the glorious past of our nationhood. Indeed, once upon a time we had a colourful cultural spectrum. Agro-based village society of the land had multi-dimensional cultural aspects. Literally we observed, 'Baro mashey tero parbon' (thirteen festivals in twelve months) based on various features of six seasons, religious festivity and other social issues. Once the Bengalis celebrated many festivals like Nabanna, Poush Mela, Chaitra Sankranti, Eid, Muharram, Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Christmas, Buddha Purnima and so on. Among these festivals, many were purely secular (e.g. Nabanna, Poush Mela) and some were religious. Fair, festivities, kite flying, bull race etc used to be part of the celebration of Pahela Baishak beside economic activities like opening of halkhata. However, some of those festivals have been sent to the museum at the point of history. Now of the major celebrations in Bangladesh Pahela Baishak comes without any pre existing specific religious identity (Ekushe being the other one). Pohela Baishak is really about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal.
Pahela Baishakh is indeed a momentous occasion in the life of each and every Bangalee. To every Bangalee, young and old, rich and poor, wise and ignorant, it is a time of gaiety to be celebrated with great merry-making, to be enjoyed in every possible manner, an occasion which enables us to enjoy to the beam.
The economic aspects of Pahela Baishakh also cannot be ignored. It is comforting to know that while the origins of Baishakh rooted in early Mughal times, thousands miles away from Bengal, revolved around a closing of old accounts and an opening of new ones. In today's circumstances it is again economics which underpins the coming of Baishakh. The brisk trading that goes on in the days and weeks preceding Pahela Baishakh is a testimony to the near religious fervour, not unlike that associated with Eid, with which people approached the New Year. On a wider scale, Pahela Baishakh is now a resounding reassertion of the secular ethos of this nation. All Bengalis, including followers of all faiths in the country, make it a point to remind themselves of the cultural stock they spring from.
However, if we really want to portray ourselves as a self esteemed nation, we must uphold the inherent essence of Bengali nationalism -- secularism and the Bengali language. We have a long way to go and must note that if a nation wants to uphold its culture and heritage in the psyche of its people, continuous upholding of the cultural aspects of that nation is a must. So, if we want to instil our cultural heritage and traditions into the mindset of the people, we need to practise our cultural ethos in our everyday life. Our people living in Australia or anywhere outside Bangladesh have a sacred duty to educate next generation on our rich cultural and linguistic heritage with a view to carrying the national flag ever high.
The sun is rising with a new spirit and vigour this morning, rises in its full glory, radiating nothing gloomy, nothing sad, nothing pensive but only hope and happiness for the days to come. Let us embrace this new sun for new brighter days ahead.