Bangladesh is a beautiful country. The day that this country really shows its best is on Pohela Boishakh — New Years Day. Alot of countries in South Asia celebrate New Years on this particular day, which comes from the Hindu vedic solar calendar.
Young girls get all dressed up in white and red. People eat hilsa fish and panta bhat (which is rice that has been soaked overnight in water). Here in Rajshahi, people go to the river or the university, take part in parades and music concerts. We went to the university and saw a parade starting up.
Little kids got all dressed up too! There were many concerts starting up. We were disappointed at the sound mixing — the drums were so loud that your chest thumped inside.
Wikipedia says — “Today, Pohela Boishakh celebrations also mark a day of cultural unity without distinction between class or religious affiliations. Of the major holidays celebrated in Bangladesh, only Pohela Boishakh comes without any preexisting expectations (specific religious identity, culture of gift-giving, etc.). Unlike holidays like Eid -ul Fitr, where dressing up in lavish clothes has become a norm, or Christmas where exchanging gifts has become an integral part of the holiday, Pohela Boishakh is really about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal. As a result, more people can participate in the festivities together without the burden of having to reveal one’s class, religion, or financial capacity.”
It is a wonderful thing when people can put their religion aside! There are very few in this town who are first and foremost Muslims. They do not celebrate this holiday. When we were trying to understand this cultural divide, one of our more Bengali friends said that those people (who do not celebrate this holiday) should be shot. Strong words!! Wikipedia explains more: “The historical importance of Pohela Boishakh in the Bangladeshi context may be dated from the observance of the day by Chhayanat in 1965. In an attempt to suppress Bengali culture, the Pakistani Government had banned poems written by Rabindranath Tagore, the most famous poet and writer in Bengali literature. Protesting this move, Chhayanat opened their Pohela Boishakh celebrations at Ramna Park with Tagore’s song welcoming the month. The day continued to be celebrated in East Pakistan as a symbol of Bengali culture. After 1972 it became a national festival, a symbol of the Bangladesh nationalist movement and an integral part of the people’s cultural heritage.” After the civil war in which Bangladesh won it’s independence from Pakistan, those locals who had been pro-Pakistan were never brought to justice for their war crimes. Some of them even became involved in politics. You can read more in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_war_crimes#1971:_Bangladesh_War