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 Carnival of millions rings in New Year................

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PostSubject: Carnival of millions rings in New Year................   Tue Apr 14, 2009 12:42 pm




Millions were ringing in Pahela Baishakh, the Bengali New Year 1416, on Tuesday in the capital Dhaka and across the country with colour and verve.

Men in traditional punjabi and pyjama, women in white and red sari and children dressed in all hues were thronging Ramna Batamul and the traditional Baishakhi Mela from dawn in celebration of the biggest Bengali carnival.

Crowds streamed through the city streets making for the leafy shade of Ramna Batamul.

The traditional New Year platter of panta ilish , fried hilsa fish, lightly fermented rice, lentil and smoked chilli was all the rage.

Colour and culture

Cultural organisation Chhayanaut, which has been organising the day's centerpiece event since 1965, ushered in the first day of the Bangla year with songs and other performances in the cool early hours of the morning.

Marchers in masks and traditional dress, mostly students of the Institute of Fine Arts, led Mongol Shobhajatra, a colourful parade seeking well-being of all, through Dhaka University campus at 8am.

Several thousand people participated in the parade, ushering in good spirits for the New Year and vowing to defeat all ill-will.

At the forefront of the parade were processionists carrying figures of the owl, tortoise, tiger and elephant as well as lakkhir sara (vessels of good fortune).

The procession marched through Dhaka University campus and Ramna, with thousands of men, women and children of all ages and professions wearing colourful masks and playing flutes and other instruments.

Participants wore painted masks or carried symbolic figures to protest fundamentalism, communalism and corruption.

Passengers on vehicles ranging from motorbikes to buses found themselves stuck in tailbacks to allow the passage of pedestrians along the crowded streets.

The Baishakhi celebration spread from Bangla Motor to the Institute of Fine Arts via Shahbagh, Dhaka University's TSC to Kakrail and Topkhana Road.

Traditional baul or folk songs and other music floated through the air at the Rabindra Sarobar amphitheatre by Dhanmondi lake, organised by Sammilito Sangskritik Jote in Dhanmondi.

Those who did not feel up to fighting through the crowds enjoyed the scenes of festivity from the roofs of their houses— from Mirpur, Basabo and Old Dhaka to Uttara, Gulshan and Jatrabari.

The day is a public holiday, with thousands of social, political and cultural organisations holding celebrations.

President Zillur Rahman, prime minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader Khaleda Zia greeted the nation on New Year.

Foolproof security

The government has scaled up security in capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country to prevent any disturbance of the New Year festivities. More than 8,000 RAB and police personnel have been posted in Dhaka City alone in addition to the usual strength.

Ramna, Dhanmondi, Rabindra Sarobar and other venues in the capital have 17 check-posts and sufficient number of security archways installed on top of 37 police pickets deployed.

Eight mobile police patrols were engaged to ensure security of the Mongol Shobhajatra.

As many as 5,256 police men and 3,000 RAB personnel have been deployed to oversee the security of the capital. A further 3,000 RAB personnel are be posted in the districts on the day.

Ramna grounds entrance and exits have 32 CCTV cameras installed and RAB bomb squad, dog squad and reserved forces are patrolling the surroundings.

Bomb-disposal experts and dog squads are patrolling the main festival premises and adjoining areas, with back-up forces on hand to face any situation round the clock.

Roots back to Mughal era

The start of Bangla year with Baishakh has its roots in the days of great Mughal emperor Akbar during 1556-1609. According to one opinion, this was the time when peasants used to pay their taxes to the emperor.

When Bengal came under Mughal rule in 1576, Akbar decided to adopt the Hijri year and termed this season "Fasali" (crop). Thus, Pahela Baishakh marked the start of the crop season.

The present form of the Pahela Baishakh celebrations has some political significance and was introduced in 1965 when Chhayanaut organised its celebration programmes in protest against the suppression of Bengalee culture by then the Pakistan government.

After independence in 1971, the festival became a symbol of the country's nationalist movement as well as an integral part of the people's cultural heritage.

As the tradition goes, people are supposed to pay off all loans and old dues are to be settled. On the day, businessmen purchase new accounts books and prepare new accounts called Haalkhata.
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