‘Pohela Falgun,' which is the first day of the Bengali month Falgun, heralds the much-awaited Spring or 'Boshonto' characterised by the new blooms and the melodies of home-bound birds, returning to a warmer climate. 'Boshonto' provides a respite from the colourless monotony of winter and from the harsher, longer days of heat and humidity that await us. This year, the season will be doubly significant as Bangladeshis are striving to return to normalcy after months of disruptive nationwide blockades and political violence.
Pohela Falgun marks the beginning of a string of festive occasions that are typical of this season. Coinciding with 13 February of the Gregorian calendar, Pohela Falgun pre-empts Valentine's Day, the Western festival of love which is mildly popular in Bangladesh, and sets the mood for 'Pohela Baishakh' (Bangla New Year), 'Ekushey Boi Mela,' and 'Falguni Purnima,' which is a Buddhist religious festival commemorating Gautam Buddha's post-enlightenment reunion with his family.
Diti Roy, a student of North South University, says, “Pohela Falgun is the beginning of a new season. To me, it is when colours blend and the essence of love and happiness is recreated.” Pohela Falgun is a popular celebration in Nepal and India too.
Fresh flowers are iconic symbols of Pohela Falgun. A woman's appearance is incomplete without floral ornaments or flowers adorning the hair. The ideal 'Boshonto' look is one that accentuates the eyes with kohl and the lips with a blazing shade of red or fuchsia.
The idea is to keep the look simple and fresh, matching the nature of the season. People are finally seen discarding woolly clothing and sporting the representative colours of yellow, orange, and red.
Since Pohela Falgun holds a significant place in Bengali culture, Bangladeshis take this opportunity to identify themselves with anything traditional. Men and women dress in traditional clothing and local materials.
Jamdani and taant are particularly popular amongst women during 'Pohela Falgun.' Children and adults alike enjoy adorning floral motifs and Bangla letters hand-painted intricately on their cheeks and hands.
Dhaka University, being the national centre of higher education, has played a pivotal role in the political and social affairs of Bangladesh. It is for this reason that the university remains the hub of all cultural activities associated with Pohela Falgun.
'Bakultola' of the Institute of Fine Arts (commonly known as 'Charukola') of Dhaka University is the primary spot where all the festivities begin.
Activities of Pohela Falgun include folk music, dance of indigenous people, poem recitation, drama, and local band concerts. One activity that captures the spirit of Pohela Falgun is the loud procession, enhanced by the appropriate fanfare, brought out, usually in several phases in the morning, from various points in the country.
Pohela Falgun serves as a reminder of the eternal truth that everything in this universe runs according to a predestined course of life which cannot be overtaken. When the time arrives, nothing can alter that course. Through the various seasons, nature demonstrates patience and demands that we do the same.
Pohela Falgun in particular signifies that recovery follows sickness; happiness follows grief; and security follows trepidation.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Wardrobe and Jewellery: Chondon
Make up: Farzana Shakil