The past few months have been particularly tough for Bangladesh as continuous political turmoil and violence left over 120 people dead. The recent killings of two free-thinking blog activists and the emergence of a new militant wing that seeks to murder atheists have worried many.
Whenever the country has found itself in trouble, Bangladeshis have embraced their roots, taking solace in art and culture to unite against any challenges they face.
On Tuesday, April 14, 2015, people did just that in Bangladesh, welcoming the Bengali New Year 1422 with the resolve to continue the fight against communalism and religious fanaticism.
Bengalis, who are overwhelmingly the largest (98%) ethnic group in Bangladesh, customarily celebrate the New Year (Pohela Baishakh) with colourful procession and festivities. This year's festivities had a special theme: “Onek Alo Jaalte Hobe Moner Ondhokare” (Burn many lights in the darkness of hearts). It was chosen to commemorate the recent assassination of blogger and writer Avijit Roy and online activist Oyasiqur Rahman. A 20-foot-tall statue symbolising the rise of communal forces was at the procession, reminding everyone to reject such strife.
Pohela Boishakh is the first day of the Bengali calendar, celebrated on 14 April in Bangladesh and 15 April in the Indian state of West Bengal by Bengalis. Hundreds of fairs and events welcoming the New Year takes place in many parts of Bangladesh and in West Bengal in India. The largest festivities happens in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, where tens of thousands of people wearing multicoloured masks and traditional dress march in the Mangal Shobhajatra procession marking the New Year.
Tanvir Haider Chaudhury wrote on Facebook:
আপনি যেখানে থাকুন, পারলে ঢাকা চলে আসুন। পৃথিবীর সবচেয়ে আনন্দময়, উৎসবমুখর জায়গা এই মুহূর্তে ঢাকা।
Wherever you are, please come to Dhaka if you can. Right now Dhaka is the happiest place on earth full of festivities. Shuvo Noboborsho (Happy new year).
While Twitter user Bappy tweeted a photo:
No race can beat Bengali in celebration & hospitality ! #BengaliNewYear #pohelaboishakh pic.twitter.com/i46i9xGzIi
— Bappy (@im_bappy) April 14, 2015
Anila Haque thanked Google for creating a doodle for the occasion:
শুভ নববর্ষ (Shubho Noboborsho 1422)!!! Thank you Google! :) Bangla New Year 1422 #GoogleDoodle https://t.co/zVFAdHMWEc
— Anila Hoque (@tweet2Ann_E) April 14, 2015
Gargie Ahmad hoped that the New Year would bring an opportunity to start anew:
Happy Bengali new year, শুভ নববর্ষ, welcome 1422! Much to be sad about in world, but hoping fresh year brings fresh starts. #pohelaboishakh
— Gargie Ahmad (@GargieAhmad) April 14, 2015
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted in Bengali:
পয়লা বৈশাখে সব বাঙালী বন্ধুদের আমার শুভেচ্ছা। আগামী বছরটা দুর্দান্ত কাটুক সকলের, শুভ নববর্ষ !
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 14, 2015
My good wishes to all the Bengali friends on Pahela Boishakh. Hope the following year will be great for everyone. Shuvo Noboborsho (Happy New Year).
And other netizens tweeted out images of the holiday:
#pohelaboishakh dinner with traditional hilsa (ilish) fry #noboborsho @urmeechakma pic.twitter.com/5grzb5m1MB
— Raqib Chowdhury (@raqibc) April 14, 2015
Happy Bangla New Year 1422… & Happy Pohela Boishakh to all… Our #BD every year looks beautiful like that one… pic.twitter.com/gAtrBsf4LY
— Its Me ! ❤ (@PathanAnanya) April 14, 2015