By Ms. Nobonita Hoque
Though Bangladesh and the Republic of Korea (south), two Asian nations, are miles apart, they have lots of commonalities, such as the fact that both are festive in nature. Throughout the year Korea celebrates a number of festivals, so does Bangladesh. There is a proverb in Bengali—"baro mashe tero parbon” meaning thirteen festivals in twelve months. However, the number of festivals in Bangladesh is more than that the proverb suggests. They bind the Bengalis together.
Festivals in Bangladesh can be categorized into two—religious and secular, but the common features are the people from all walks of life who celebrate them irrespective of their class and creed.
The celebration of Bengali Nobo (New) Borsho (year), is the biggest festival in Bangladesh which is secular in nature, falling on 14th April every year. It is an occasion to rejoice the very soul of Bengali culture, music, poetry and dance. Wearing colorful saree (worn by women) and panjabi (worn by men) on this day people visits their families, friends, relatives, and neighbors. Traditional foods like panta ilish (water- soaked rice and hilsha), vorta (mashed items) are prepared for this occasion. Mongol Shovajatra (procession for well-being), an intangible UNESCO Heritage, is an integral part of the Bengali new year celebration.
Pohela Falgun or Basanta Uthsab is the first day of spring celebrated across the country through traditional festivities and colorful programmes. Women wear sarees especially with saffron color on this day.
Nabanna Utshab was the festival to cheer the harvest by the farmers in Autumn. It is now celebrated by the people from all walks of life with traditional folk dance, music, and traditional delicacies.
Eid-ul-Fitr (celebration of ending one month of fasting) and Eid-ul-Adha (sacrifice of the animal in the name of Allah, the creator) are the two main festivals of the Muslims. People exchange gifts with the family members and relatives, help the poor with cash/kind with the portion of their income and prepare special dishes to mark the occasion. Usually, people reunite with their families and celebrate three-day public holidays in their ancestral homes.
Buddha Purnima (Birthday of Buddha) is the biggest festival of half million Buddhists when fairs are held in and around the temples. People pray, attend congressions, listen to the life and teaching of Lord Buddha, light candles and recite the three jewels and 5 precepts.
Durga Puja is the biggest religious festival of the Hindu community symbolizing the victory of good over evil. On this five-day event, people reunite with families and celebrate it with traditional culture and cuisine. It is a public holiday in Bangladesh.
Christmas, Janmashtami (birthday of Lord Krishna, a Hindu festival), Muharram (a Muslim festival), kite-flying festival, Lalon Mela (a famous folk song festival) etc. are widely celebrated in Bangladesh.
The active participation of people in these festivals is the manifestation of religious harmony and peaceful co-existence which has been the cornerstone of the Bengali society for centuries.
Editor’s note: The writer, Ms. Nobonita Hoque, is a Bangladesh masters student studying in Korea.