Bangladesh

 

History


Bangladesh came to today’s shape through a history of diverse political evolution. Its legacy has been influenced by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and mainly by Muslims. For over 2,500 years the Ganges Delta, which is now Bangladesh, was centre of one of the world’s great trade routes. The Southwest Silk Road.

In the‘peace of trade’, Buddhism was founded and flourished, and its teachings spread along the trade routes.Here, the fusion of paganism, shamanism, animism, Buddhism and Hinduism laid the foundation for the Mahayana School of Buddhism, with its Vajrayana, Yogic and Tantric practices. Hinduism came along and ruled up until the 13th Century. Islam first arrived in Bengal during the 12th Century when Sufi missionaries arrived. All of this was a prelude to the relentless tide of Islam, where the emperor from Turkistan captured Bengal and established Islam as the main religion.

The wealth of the Silk Road created great ancient trading centres like Wari Bateshwar, Egarasindhur, Vikrampur and Sonargaon, but also drew invaders from Afghanistan, Persia, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey and even Abyssinia, then European nations, Portugal, France, Britain, Holland, Denmark.

In the 15th Century, it was the British East India Company who laid the foundations of two hundred years of extraordinary creation of wealth, that built over 100 palaces in Bangladesh, and countless Stately Homes in Britain. Later the Britons officially replaced the East India Company and took control of Bengal in 1757 and ruled incessantly until World War II where the European colonialism had run its course and independence was attained in 1947; where India and Pakistan were formed.



Present Day


Over 700 rivers and waterways in this, the world's greatest river delta; seem to justify the description given to Bangladesh. The world's greatest water garden.


Festivals/Events


January – March

Shakrain

Shakrain is one of the most old, famous and annual festivals celebrated in Dhaka, Bangladesh at the end of the Bengali month Poush (Jan 14th or 15th). This day is known as Poush Sangkranti; it is a symbol of unity and friendship and celebrated mostly around the southern part of Dhaka city.
As part of the celebration, lots of colourful and designable kites are flown high from the rooftops around the area in the afternoon. It often takes the form of kite fighting, in which participants try to snag each others kites or cut other kites down. When night falls, fireworks lit up the sky of Old Dhaka and crackers. Flame-eaters also gather up on the roofs to entertain everyone with their skills of manipulating fire.


International Trade Fair
The biggest fair in Bangladesh is jointly organised by Export Promotion Bureau and the Ministry of Commerce, Government of Bangladesh during January 01-31 anually. It is held at Sher-E-Bangla Nagar in Dhaka west side, of Bangabandhu International Conference Centre. This event enables local businesses to showcase quality exportable goods of Bangladesh to the visitors from home and abroad. The local producers in the remote areas of rural Bangladesh who does not have financial strength to participate in International trade fair has the opportunity to display their products to the buyer from abroad at this fair. Similarly foreign participants also gets the opportunity to display their products to the local market and identify business contacts with prospects of entering into subsequent negotiations.

Jatiya Pitha Utsab – National Cake Festival

Pitha Utsab (cake festival) is an age-old festival during the winter season. This type of festival is frequently seen in the rural areas. People can enjoy delicious array of pithas at the Jatiyo Pitha Utsab in the premises of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy located in Segunbagicha. Apart from the grandeur and colour of the pithas, the visitors will be entertained with traditional songs sung by singers from across the country. The combination of traditional songs and pithas at the venue enhance a vibrant ambiance of festivity.
Bishwa Ijtema

Bishwa Ijtema is one of the biggest congregational gatherings and has become an international event, held at Tongi by the river Turag. It is typically held every year in February but the dates change, which is a 3 days long event. It is estimated that the number of attendees in 2007 was over 3 million; it holds great significance as it focuses solely on prayer and meditation and is not open to political beliefs and discussions. The opportunity to study the Qur’an and listen to various sermons is open to all. It is a perfect medium of religious education, spiritual adulation, blessing and exaltation. Some incredible photography opportunities for picture lovers to witness one of the biggest congregation, including trains that are completely covered with Muslim pilgrims coming to join the event.
Saraswati Puja

Saraswati puja is one of the religious festivals in the Hindu community, celebrated throughout the country with traditional gaiety, religious ferver and spiritual pursuit of knowledge. She is the goddess of knowledge, art, music and culture. She represents power, creativity and inspiration and presents herself as fair, wearing a white sari and a garland of white beads. The white symbolizes the purity of Saraswati. On this auspicious day thousands of people attend Anjali in the morning and attend Mandaps with their loved ones where children place their textbooks and pens on her alter with the sacred books. The Hindu devotees believe an ignorant person can acquire knowledge through the blessing of Saraswati. All the academic institutions remain close on this day. Hindu children are also imparted their first lessons in reading and writing. Youths come together to join the celebrations and worship the Goddess in different art and music institution and school. The temples are a cornucopia of colours and decoration buzzing with festive and energy.

Pohela Falgun

It is the first day of spring of Bengali month Falgun, of the Bengali calendar. After the dryness of winter new leaves start to come out again adorning the branches with colourful flowers such as Shimul, Polash and Marigold. Celebrated in Bangladesh, West Bengal and other Indian states, the 1st of Falgun usually falls on 13th February of the Gregorian Calender. This day is marked with colourful celebration and traditionally, women wear yellow saris with flower ornaments and men wear colourful panjabis to celebrate this day. Celebrations are held in various areas where there is folk music and dance, poems and drama with of course mouthwatering food being served all around you.


Ekushey February - International Mother’s Language Day

The people in Bangladesh commemorate this day in respect of the language martyrs — the students who died during a protest at the University of Dhaka on February 21, 1952 —by laying down flowers to the Martyr's Monument also known as Shaheed Minar. UNESCO adopted a resolution on 17th November 1999 declaring 21st February as the World Mother Language Day to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism, it was formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, establishing 2008 as the International Year of Languages. Communities organize social gatherings, where they honour their language and culture, and hold literary competitions, draw Alpana on the roads, eat festive meals and listen to event themed songs.

Ekushey Book Fair

It is the national book fair of Bangladesh, arranged every year by Bangla Academy and takes place for whole month of February in Dhaka. This event is dedicated to the martyrs who died on 21st February 1952, in a demonstration calling for the establishment of Bengali as one of the state languages of former United Pakistan. Boi Mela started merely as a book fair, it has evolved into a national cultural festival. Bangla Academy organizes literary and cultural events every day. Thousands of people gather to purchase books and to spend time in the company of books and their authors with a patriotic zeal. There is no entry fee. Usually, the fair continues from 1 February to the 28th; it is limited only in Bangla Academy's boundary.

Independence Day

Bengali Independence Day is celebrated on 26th March and is a national holiday. It commemorates the country's declaration of independence from Pakistan, in the late hours of 25th March, 1971, by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The day is commonly associated with parades, political speeches, fairs, concerts, and ceremonies, and various other public and private events celebrating the history, and traditions of Bangladesh in a befitting manner, including the paying of respect at Jatiyo Sriti Soudho. Generally, a thirty-one gun salute is conducted in the morning. The main streets are decorated with national flags, it is a special day for Bangladesh. The Independence Award is also bestowed to Bangladeshi citizens on this auspicious day.

April – June

Noboborsho (Bengali New Year)

It is the first day of the Bengali calendar, celebrated on 14th April in Bangladesh, West Bengal state of India and by minor Bengali communities. The traditional greeting for Bengali New Year is ‘শুভ নববর্ষ’; "Shubhô Nôbobôrsho" which is, "Happy New Year". Bangladesh is a nation of culture and festive where people wait restlessly to celebrate the day with their loved ones with a fresh and festive mood and the welcoming song called ‘Esho he Boishakh’. The celebrations start at the break of dawn. For breakfast people love eating ‘Panta Bhaat’ with green chilli, onion and a very special ‘Elish Bhaja’ (Fried Hilsha). People wear traditional clothes such as ‘Pyjama-Panjabi’ and special red and white combination ‘Sharee’. An integral part of the festivities in Dhaka is the Mongol Shobhajatra, a traditional colourful procession organised by the students of the Faculty of Fine Arts (Charukala) of Dhaka University. Other traditional events held to celebrate Poila Boishakh include bull racing in Munshiganj, wrestling in Chittagong, boat racing, cockfights, pigeon racing. Traditional fairs ‘Boishakhi Mela’ are held in differents parts of the cities where handicrafts and traditional food are sold, with arrangements of songs, dance programs, traditional plays like jatra, jarigan, sarigan and puppet shows for children.

Buddha Purnima

Buddha Purnima or Boishakhi Purnima is the biggest religious festival in the Buddhist community; celebrated following the Buddhist calendar and falls on the day of full moon in Bengali month Baishakh (April-May) which is on the 5th or 6th lunar month. It marks three important events in the life of Gautam Buddha – his birth on the full moon day in 563 BC, achievement of enlightment (nirvana) and death (parinirvana) on the same day. The day is observed as a public holiday. Buddhist Bihars (monasteries) organizes day long cultural events and fairs, which includes hoising of the national and religious flags atop all monasteries at dawn, chanting of sacred verses from the Tripitaka, prayer meets, sermons on the life of Gautam Buddha, recitation form Buddhist scriptures, religious discourse, group meditation, processions and worship of the statue Buddha. Fairs are also held in different villages in Bangladesh. Buddhists celebrate the day with family and friends exchanging greetings and solidarity; the disciples bring offerings of candles, flowers and incents to the statue of lord Buddha throughout the day. The Buddhist Purnima is celebrated in an elaborate manner in Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong Hill Tracts, since many among the indigenous tribe follow Buddhism; the largest one called ‘Bodhidroom Mela’ which takes place in ‘Boiddopara’ village in Chittagong. Visiting the monasteries, experiencing the rituals and discovering symbols can be a great way to celebrate Buddha Purnima in Bangladesh.

Rabindra & Nazrul Jayanti

During the month of May, two significant literary masterminds from Bangladesh are honored in a ceremonial festival. The births and deaths of these two remarkable men are remembered, as their impact on Bangladesh and the legacy they left behind still play a vital role in the culture and history of the country. Rabindra and Nazrul Jayanti, are two days of remembrance and celebration across Bangladesh, and a unique cultural experience for visitors. Tourists who are able to attend the festivities are recommended to join in this personal and heartfelt tribute to legendary literary visionaries.
Both Rabindra and Nazrul became legends through their writings and the Rabindra and Nazrul Jayanti is held each year to commemorate their contributions to the Bengali Culture. Large crowds gather together to listen to readings of their works and performances of their music as well as to watch dances and short plays based on the works created by both.

July – September

Nouka Baich

It is a traditional age-old rowing sport of Bangladesh. The sport uses traditional Bangladeshi boats known as Nouka. Each team in a Nouka Baich competition consists of 25 to 100 members. Boats with motor engines are not allowed. In every boat there is a leader who does not row, rather acts as an energiszer for the whole team by singing songs and rhymes. People gather and cheer the competitors on this day. It is held in big river channels and neighboring villages participate for the pride of their villages.

Eid-al-Fitr

Eid-al-Fitr (Breaking of the Fast) is the largest religious festival of Muslims and marks the end of Ramadan, which is a month of fasting and prayer; it is the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal. Many Muslims attend communal prayers seeking divine blessings, listen to a khutba (sermon) and give zakat al-fitr (charity in the form of food) during Eid al-Fitr. Zakat al-fitr is a form of charity consisting of a quantity of food, such as barley, dates, raisins or wheat flour, or its monetary equivalent given to the poor.
After 30 days of fasting, Muslims celebrate this auspicious occasion with a lot of joy and happiness. Bangladeshi people start preparation early during Ramadan by shopping for their family, friends and the poor. Shopping malls are decorated and lit up with lights for Eid. On the night before Eid (Chand raat meaning moon sight night), women of all ages like to decorate their hands with henna. Salutation after sighting of the moon and holding fare are a tradition in the Muslim community. Exchanging of greeting cards is also part of Eid; children make special hand-made greeting cards for their friends and family. Everyone wears new dresses on this special day; kids collect ‘salami’ (cash gift) from the elderly; people visit their relatives where they enjoy the elaborate preparation of festive food (shemai, jarda, korma, polao) and drinks.

Eid-al-Adha

Eid-al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) is the second of two religious holidays celebrated on the 10th Dhul hijja of the lunar Islamic calendar, by Muslims worldwide each year. In the morning on the Eid day, after congregation prayers people thank God for the animal and the sacrifice takes place (usually cows, goats, camels). The meat from the sacrificed animal is preferred to be divided into three parts. The family retains one third of the share; another third is given to relatives, friends and neighbours; and the remaining third is given to the poor and needy. It is a public holiday which spans over 3 or 4 days, where many people from the big cities go to their ancestral houses and villages to celebrate and share the joy of the festival with their family and friends.

October – December

Day of Ashura

The Day of Ashura is on the 10th day of the Islamic month of Muharram commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who was killed in the 7th Century battle of Kerbala. A minority of Shias marks the day with a self-flagellation ritual called ‘tatbeer’, cutting their heads with swords and spheres in mourning for the imam. It is not a public holiday but a major Islamic cultural event, which marks the start of the New Year. The minority Shi’ite Muslim community celebrates the holiday at the Old Dhaka’s Hussaini Dalan.

Durga Puja

Durga Puja, the grandest festival of the Bengalis, which commemorates the victory of Goddess Durga over a demon Mahisasur. It marks as the universal resurgence of the power of creation over destruction. Durga is the Goddess of divine power against all evils. For months local artisans makes the idols with great enthusiasm and devotion, for the countdown of the biggest religious festival in the Hindu community. Not only the Hindu community but the whole nation waits to celebrate the puja also known as Sharbojanin Durgotsha, meaning universal Dururga festival. The ritual entails 10 days of fast, feast and worship but the last 5 days Shashthi, Shaptami, Ashtami, Navami, Bijoya Dashami – are celebrated with much gaiety. The image of the goddess is immersed in water on the Dashami, tenth day. Preparation of the immersion of Durga starts in the morning but the actual immersion takes place in the evening; long procession of devotees carry the images of the goddess from various puja pandals to nearby ponds, canals and rivers where they are immersed. The dashohara mela is held on this day where everyone wears new dresses and congregates at the fair. People from all walks of life are seen crowding the temples and Puja mandaps to see the preparation.

Kali Puja

Kali Puja also known as Shyama Puja or Mahanisha Puja, is a festival dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, celebrated on the new moon day of the Hindu month Kartik (October-November). According to the Hindu myth, Kali is the first of 10 female energies of Shiva (the 3rd God of the Hindu triad). The festival was unknown before the 18th Century and gained popularity later in the 19th Century. Kali Puja is held when asking for a special boon. In the rural areas of Bangladesh people arrange Kali Puja jointly during an epidemic. Male goats, sheep or buffaloes are sacrificed on this occasion. There are a number of kali temples in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh.

Nabanna

Nabanna (Festival of New Harvest) is a Bengali harvest celebration, usually celebrated by rural people across the country with food, dance and music in Bangladesh and in the Indian State of West Bengal in the Bengali month of Aghrahayan (Nov-Dec). A big attraction of the festival is food where local prepare a vast array of Bengali cuisine and share it amongst family and friends. One sweet and savoury dish can be found all around, called pitha. The festival is non-communal in nature where farmers celebrate the occasion with smiles and gratification. The celebration begins after harvest, when farmers return home with plenty of golden paddy. Fertility rituals are conducted which make the festival truly a harvest ritual. The festival gets a lot of support from the creative army of Bengali culture. Several poets, musicians, baul and painters flock to such mass gatherings.

Dubla Rash Mela

Dubla Rash Mela is not only a big fair for Bagerhat, it is undoubtedly one of the biggest fairs in the country. At the centre of the festival are twenty thousand temporary fishermen, who are engaged in catching and drying fish on Dubla and nearby islands. Every year in the Bengali month of Agrahayan, the fair continues for 5-7 days during full moon time.
Dubla island stands on the Bay of Bengal and is a part of the Sundarban Forest. The fair on Dubla island started in 1923, by Hari Bhajan, a disciple of Thakur Hari Chand. This has become a grand occasion for many foreign tourists visiting the Sundarbans and people come from India as well. Around 40-50 thousand people join the celebrations every year. Handicrafts and precious wooden items are put on sale.

Victory Day

Victory Day is a national holiday in Bangladesh, celebrated on 16th December to commemorate the victory of the Allied Forces High Command over the Pakistani forces in the Bangladesh Liberation War, in 1971. Military Parade by Bangladesh Armed Forces at the National Parade Ground, ceremonial meetings, speeches, lectures, receptions and fireworks take place on this day. Victory Day in Bangladesh is a joyous celebration where people visit the Jaiya Smriti Soudha and Shaheed Minars to pay homage with flowers and floral wraths. TV and radio stations broadcast special programs and patriotic songs and the main streets are decorated with national flags.

Baul Mela

On the occasion of Lalon Shah's birthday, the folk singers (Bauls) perform Lalon's songs, usually under a banyan tree or on the bank of a river near a village and a group of people organize a fair at the spot. Rural musical instruments, handicrafts, pottery, light snacks and household items are available in the fair which runs for three days or in some places one week or even longer than that.
At present, such fairs are also organized in urban areas and a good number of singers come from different parts of the country. Old and young, men and women, rich and poor participate in the fair with great enthusiasm.

Christmas | Baradin (in Bangla)

Christmas Day celebrated on the 25th of December, is the most festive and joyous occasion celebrated with religious freedom by the Christians in Bangladesh and is also a declared public holiday. The celebration of Christmas features special prayers in churches on Christmas Eve, exchange of gifts and cards to express Christmas greetings, arrangements of feasts to be shared with friends and family. Some churches hosts religious gathering while others invite the community to join them to decorate the Christmas tree and sing carols. People in Bangladesh embellish their houses with local handmade decors, candles and lit up Christmas trees. Bengali Christians greet their loved ones by saying ‘Shubho Boro Din’ and offer traditional sweets and pithas. Five star hotels also arrange special Christmas program where Santa distributes gifts amongst the children. Tribal communities follow their own tradition, which is slightly different from the Bengali tradition. The Christian villagers plant banana trees in pairs to form an archway with the leaves tied together, the bamboo poles are filled with oil and lit up to form an illuminated pathway to the church. Celebration throughout the country is preceded with great enthusiasm sharing in tune with the celebrations all across the world.

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