Festivity returns to Bangladesh’s New Year celebrations after 2 years
Dhaka, April 14 (EFE).- People in Bangladesh welcomed Bengali New Year 1429 on Thursday with festivity and colorful events after two years of muted celebrations due to restrictions over the Covid-19 pandemic.
Outdoor celebrations on Pahela Baishakh or the first day of Bengali New Year were called off in 2020 and 2021 due to a worsening Covid situation in the country.
Ritu Odhikari, a homemaker from the northeastern Kishoreganj town, was over the moon at being able to join in the celebration this year at the Dhaka University campus – one of the main celebration points – which was abuzz with activity since morning.
“I am really happy to come here. I moved to Dhaka this year and did not really want to miss it. Thankfully, the Covid situation is okay now and I could join the celebrations,” Ritu, who was accompanied by four family members, told EFE near the Teacher-Student Centre on the campus.
People of all ages, religions and ethnicities usually join in the celebrations that include colorful processions, songs and fairs as well as many cultural programs that begin at dawn and run till late into the night.
The celebrations traditionally start early in the morning with songs and poetry recitations by Chhayanaut – a leading cultural organization in the country – under a banyan tree in Ramna Park in the heart of the capital, Dhaka.
The cultural organization has held the program every year since Bangladesh’s independence apart from 2020 and 2021 when no mass gathering was allowed as part of measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The festival ground was abuzz once again since dawn as the performers of Chhayanaut welcomed the first day of the month of Baisakh with a rendition of a popular song by Bengali Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore “Esho hey Baisakh esho esho” (Come o Baisakh Come).
“I came here with my family early in the morning at 6:30 and attended the Chhayanaut program. I really enjoyed it. The gathering was less compared to the past, maybe due to security concerns and Ramadan. It made things better for me personally,” Ekush Tapadar, a private employee, said.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police had ordered all outdoor celebrations to be concluded by 2 pm and participants not to wear celebration masks to avert security threats and keep the sanctity of Ramadan.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan backed the law enforcement’s decision, saying that celebrations had to be scaled down as Covid-19 cases had not yet come down to zero.
Bangladesh reported just two coronavirus deaths in the first 13 days of April and daily cases have not exceeded 100 during the month.
The government lifted all Covid restrictions on Feb. 22 although health experts warned against dropping guard.
“We must keep encouraging people to wash hands regularly and wear masks because they have other health benefits. Covid situation might have eased but we should not forget it is not gone completely,” Nazrul Islam, a virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said.
Even the police restrictions and health concerns did not stop people from taking part in the celebrations.
“This is the only secular festival in Bangladesh where Muslims, and Hindus can all join together. No other festival is as important as this in our national life,” said Arun Bal, accompanied by his four-year-old daughter Anusri, at Shahbagh intersection, which was closed to vehicles due to the celebrations. EFE