In colour, in festivity
The nation celebrated a colourful Pahela Baishakh on Thursday, despite security concerns and a ban on outdoor programmes in the capital in the evening following last year's sexual assault on women on the Dhaka University campus.
Braving scorching heat and attired in traditional dresses, tens of thousands of people from all strata of society poured into the streets and thronged different popular and historic spots in the capital and elsewhere to welcome the Bangla New Year, 1423.
Colourful rallies, musical programmes, fairs and cake festivals added colour to the biggest carnival of the Bangalees.
Women in white sarees and men in panjabees gathered at Baishakhi Melas (fairs) that showcase various handicrafts and relics.
Like every year, the biggest venue for the celebration was set at Ramna Batamul, where programmes started with a Chhayanaut performance of Rabindranath Tagore's song "Esho hey Baishakh…" after sunrise.
Chhayanaut, a cultural organisation, has been organising the event for over the last three decades. It made a huge stage for the trademark programme that was enjoyed by thousands as the artistes sang songs and recited poems.
Security measures were tightened in and around the Ramna Park and the DU campus.
Another main attraction of the celebration was the decorated procession Mangal Shobhajatra, organised by the Faculty of Fine Arts of DU, brought out from the faculty premises around 9:00 in the morning.
The procession featuring giant replicas of bird, tortoise, rabbit, tiger, owl, elephant and huge colourful masks symbolises triumph of good over evil.
Thousands of people joined the event dancing along the beats of traditional musical instruments.
Jagannath University also brought out a Mangal Shobhajatra procession which encircled the university's Shahid Minar premises, Raysaheb Bazar, Tati Bazar intersection and Bangshal area of old Dhaka.
The Pahela Baishakh celebration was eventful on the DU campus, despite various security restrictions imposed on it. The entire area became festive with colourful masks and the sound of traditional musical instruments like Dhol, Dugdugi, and whistles.
A grand concert participated by Nagar Baul James, Mila, Shironamhin and other bands was held at the Mal Chattar in the afternoon.
All the dormitories of the university served special food to the students. Many organisations, including Blood Donors' Organisation Badhan and Dhaka University Journalists Association, organised special programmes on the campus where free Panta Ilish (hilsa with rice soaked in water) was served.
The crowd on the campus, however, was thinner than that of the previous years as many city dwellers got a three-day holiday and went to their village homes to celebrate the Bangla New Year.
Ayesha Akhter, who went to the DU campus with her family, said, "We enjoyed a lot this year as there was no vuvuzela and felt safer due to the presence of the members of security forces.”
This year, the government banned wearing masks and using vuvuzela, which creates a high-pitched unpleasant sound, during Pahela Baishakh celebrations on security grounds.
Restrictions were also imposed on carrying matches, lighters and handbags over similar reasons. The government also asked all to complete all the programmes on the day by 5:00pm.
The steps were taken after a group of rowdy men sexually assaulted women on the DU campus on Pahela Baishakh last year.