Bangladesh celebrated Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bengali New Year.
For two years in a row, the Pahela Baishakh celebration remained muted across the country due to coronavirus lockdowns.
This year, as the number of cases decline, the country launched full-scale celebrations to ring in the Bangla New Year 1429.
Considered the most important event in the country’s cultural calendar, this Bengali New Year was welcomed with immense gusto and pomp, even though the transition from spring to summer in this part of the world is not very pleasant because of the scorching heat.
The day started with Chhayanaut’e flagship curtain-raising event at Ramna Batamul in Dhaka at dawn.
“COVID-19 didn’t allow us to celebrate Pahela Baishakh for the past two years. The celebrations are incomplete if we don’t perform to music at Ramna Batamul, a stage that resonates with non-communal sentiments,” Laisa Ahmed Lisa, General Secretary of Chhayanaut, a premier cultural organisation, told Al Jazeera.
“I am relieved that we have been able to come back and perform here this year.”
Mongol Shobhajatra, a thematic, colourful parade which has been declared a cultural heritage by UNESCO, also made a full-fledged return after a two-year lull.
Trina Banik, a doctor who came to take part, said she was glad to be back.
“Mongol Shobhajatra is not just a mere rally to me, this colourful procession is the perfect way to start a new year amidst festivities,” she told Al Jazeera.
However, as Pahela Baishakh was being celebrated during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the festivities had been scaled down to some extent.
As per the directives issued by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), all Pahela Baishakh celebrations in the capital ended by 2pm. DMP also had taken additional security measures for the event due to “tips on militant activity from foreign allies”.
Saleem Samad, a veteran journalist, said he witnessed only 10 percent of the crowd that is usually present during regular times.
“This might be because of Ramadan. Excessive summer heat also plays its part. But I believe the strict police guideline discourages a lot of people to come here in numbers,” he told Al Jazeera.