Festivals and Traditions
Bangladeshi daily life is replete with traditions and festivals that reflect the unique culture and tradition of Bangladeshis. Some of the tradition and customs are as ancient as prehistoric days, while others are relatively recent. The indigenous customs and festivals that has been preserved and nurtured through the ages are principally center around agricultural practices. These include nabonno (the festival of the new harvest) and pawhela boishAkh (the Bengali new Year). Religion has also played a distinct role in shaping the mores and traditions of Bangladeshi life.
Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country, and Islam’s adherents in Bangladesh celebrate the joyous festival of the two Eids, Eid-ul-Fitr, and Eid-ul-Azha, the month of Ramadan, Shab-e-Qadr, Shab-e-Barat etc. Hindus in Bangladesh celebrate Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Janmastami. The Buddhists celebrate Buddho Purnima and the Christians Christmas. These are just a few of the religious festivals and feasts that Bangladeshis celebrate in their day to day life.
National occasions also mark Bangladeshi life, and these include Independence Day, Victory Day, and the historic Language Martyr’s Day.
Social customs like birth, naming ceremony, marriage, and death too have a distinct Bangladeshi flavor with each ethnic and religious group having their own unique way to mark these traditions.
Martyrs day. This February 21st day commemorates the lives sacrificed to make Bengali one of the national languages when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan. The West Pakistani regime tried to force Urdu as the national language, a fact that was strongly contested by Bengalis. On that fateful day a procession by Bengalis was shot at by police resulting in the death of 4 martyrs. The nascent Bengali nationalism ultimately gave birth to the free nation of Bangladesh.
Following a proposal made by Bangladesh, UNESCO created February 21st as the International Mother Language Day in 1999.
March 26 Celebration of Independence Day
March 26. The day Independence of Bangladesh was formally declared on the eve of a 9 month long war of Independence with Pakistan that led to the emergence of Bangladesh as a sovereign nation. After many years of exploitation, both politically and economically, the Bengali national sentiments led to the massive victory of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League in the Pakistan National Elections of 1970. The ruling oligarchs in the then West Pakistan balked at having to give up the reigns of power to East Pakistanis. They stalled the installation of the newly elected parliament, and on the dark night of March 25, 1971 embarked on a genocidal reign of terror aimed at extinguishing all signs of Bengali nationalism. In the face of this, the inevitable declaration of independence was proclaimed, and the fight was on for the people of Bangladesh to achieve independence, at a terrible price of 3 million people killed by the marauding armies of Pakistan.
Bijoy Dibosh. December 16. On this day, after the nine month long independence war with Pakistan, the occupying armed forces of Pakistan formally surrendered to the allied forces of Bangladesh and India.
Bengali New Year (Bengali: নববর্ষ Nôbobôrsho) or Poyela Boishakh (পহেলা বৈশাখ Pôhela Boishakh) is the first day of the Bengali calendar. Many of the traditional festivities in Bangladesh revolve around the Bengali Year, the most important of them being the Bengali New Year celebrations.
The Bengali Calendar is based on ancient sub-continental calendars which was codified and standardized by the Mughal Emperor Akbar about 6 centuries ago. The start date of the Begali calendar was made to coincide with the start date of the Islamic calendar (i.e. the date of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Hejira). The calendar is a solar one which is composed of six seasons that revolve around the region’s agricultural cycle.
Another traditional day (though not a national holiday) isPawhela Falgoon, the first day of spring, which is observed across the country through traditional festivities and colourful programmes. Spring fairs, cultural programmes and exchanges of greetings and gifts among friends and beloved ones mark the day. People from all walks of life tthrong the venues of different programmes wearing colorful dresses including traditional ‘spring sarees’ and ‘Panjabi’. Other programmes of the day include exchange of flowers, gifts and ‘Rakhi-Bandhan’, and poetry recitations.
Religious Holidays and Festivals
Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country with about 85% of its people professing Islam as their faith. The Muslims of Bangladesh celebrate their Islamic holidays with much enthusiasm. Some of the important days are:
Eid-ul-Fitr: This marks the celebration at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Bangladeshis mark this day by first taking part in a morning prayer with other Muslims.
Eid-ul-Azha: Festival of sacrifice. The day marks the supreme devotion of Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) by his willingness to sacrifice his son. Those who can afford to sacrifice cattle in the name of God, and the meat is then shared with friends, family, and the poor. This is also the culmination of the Hajj or holy pilgrimage. Other significant days include Shab-e-Barat, Jamaat-ul-Wida, Shab-e-Qudr, and Muharram (Ashura).
Janmastami: Celebration of the birth of Rama.
Durgapuja (Dashomi) : The 10 day festival associated with vanquishing demons, in particular Rama’s victory over Ravana in the Ramayana, and Durga’s victory over the buffalo-headed Mahishasura. People wash their vehicles clean on this day and decorate it with flowers and leaves of mango tree. Sweets are made. The young people distribute leaves of a particular tree which are of symbolic gold. One can watch the Ram Lila which is a dramatic performance of the life of Rama.
Buddho Purnima: Buddhists commemorate the birth and enlightenment of Buddha. This occurs on the first full-moon of the Bengali month of Baishakh.
Christmas: Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.