The country will be forced to abandon its traditional Bengali New Year celebration on April 14 for a second consecutive year, as the local outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic witnesses a resurgence, forcing the festive occasion of Pahela Baishakh to be welcomed and celebrated once again through online platforms and symbolic programmes like the last year.
Although millions are bound to be disappointed by the turn of events, most of them would not be surprised that it came to such a pass, where the year 1428 in the Bengali calendar will be ushered in by most people indoors, same as 1427 was a year ago.
With its celebration of the changing of the seasons, rooted in nature through its relation with the spring harvest, and rife with symbolism drawn from the region's flora and fauna, Pahela Baishakh is an essentially outdoor event. No one can look forward to recreating any of its traditional magic in an indoor setting. Besides, Covid restrictions mean very few can even gather under the same roof to be with their near and dear ones at least.
Renowned cultural organizations and institutions including Chhayanaut, the Faculty of Fine Arts (FFA) of Dhaka University, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA), Liberation War Museum Bangladesh (LWM) and more will observe the day with online-based festivities and programmes, to welcome the new calendar year 1428.
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The marquee events of the dawn are the traditional Borsho-Boron programme by Chhayanaut at Ramna Batamul in the capital and the Mangal Shobhajatra parade of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FFA), Dhaka University, which will not be arranged live this year.
However, both Chhayanaut and FFA have informed UNB that they are going to showcase pre-recorded programmes on national televisions in the morning.
First observed in 1989 by FFA as a colourful procession celebrating the Bengali New Year with the participation of people from all walks of life, the annual Mangal Shobhajatra has received the recognition of UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage on November 30, 2016.
With the theme "Kal Bhoyankorer Beshe, Abar Oi Ashe Sundor", FFA was forwarding to celebrate this year's procession and started preparation for making props on April 6, as it could not organize the parade last year due to the lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions.
Unfortunately, plans for organizing the large procession this year had to be cut down, and instead of cancelling the event, FFA has pre-recorded a symbolic programme at the premises of the Faculty of Fine Arts.
"Initially, the Dhaka University authorities decided to arrange a symbolic event on FFA premises on the day of Pahela Baishakh, as it has always been culturally very significant and this year marks the Golden Jubilee of our Independence. As per the government's directive regarding the lockdown restrictions to curve the ongoing pandemic, we decided and pre-recorded a symbolic Mangal Shobhajatra for 1428 on a very limited scale at the premises of FFA with the participation of our State Minister for Cultural Affairs and fewer than 20 people, showcasing our banner and 100 prop items made by our students and teachers including face shields and masks," Nisar Hossain, Dean of the FFA, told UNB on Tuesday.
The press and electronic media were not allowed to broadcast the recording, however, The DU authority will provide a video and press elements of the programme to the press and electronic media tomorrow, he informed.
On Monday, Chhayanaut general secretary Laisa Ahmed Lisa stated, “As we could not celebrate Pahela Baishakh 1427 through arranging our traditional cultural festivity under the banyan tree at Ramna Park, we had been preparing and rehearsing to organize the festivity this year without the crowd at the venue and also we had plans to pre-record the programme if the situation restricts us to arrange on that day. Sadly, as we have been observing the recent surge of the pandemic and also as some of our artists are being infected with COVID-19 - we have decided to broadcast this year’s festivity through a special collaborative programme with Bangladesh Television (BTV) as last year."
“The programme will broadcast from 7 am to 8 am, and it will be showcasing a compilation of some of the new and previous performances of Chhayanaut artists, and this year we are featuring performances focusing on the Golden Jubilee of our glorious Independence. Aside from BTV, Chhayanaut will also broadcast the programme on its YouTube Channel Chhayanaut Digital - Platform," she added.
Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) will broadcast a live webinar and cultural programme on its official Facebook page and YouTube channel from 11 pm onwards, which is scheduled to be joined by former Cultural Affairs Minister and eminent thespian Asaduzzaman Noor as its chief guest.
BSA Director General Liaquat Ali Lucky will preside over the virtual event, which will also be joined by prominent eductator and writer prof Syed Manzoorul Islam as the speaker and renowned cultural personalities including Nazrul Sangeet maestro Khairul Anam Shakil, folk singer Akramul Islam, Rabindra Sangeet singer Lily Islam, performing students from the Govt Music College and more.
Liberation War Museum (LWM) will also broadcast a virtual programme on its official Facebook page at 11 am.
Wrishiz Shilpi Goshthi will arrange an online programme on Facebook as well. It will be broadcast at 9 am on Pahela Baishakh, according to legendary folk icon Fakir Alamgir, President of the cultural group.
Earlier, the government restricted all sorts of outdoor celebrations of Pahela Baishakh and asked to organize virtual events for online celebrations. Therefore, all the major outdoor celebrations of Pahela Baishakh are called off for the second consecutive year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
This year, April 14 also marks the first day of Ramadan in Bangladesh and some other Muslim countries in the world.