Ekushee (21 February), also called Shaheed Dibash, is the National Day of Martyrs commemorating those who died defending the Bangla language in 1952. On this day in 1952 the youths, especially the students, rose in protest against the imposition of Urdu as the only state language of Pakistan. This was taken as a conspiracy against the Bengali culture and as the students brought out a procession in violation of official prohibitory order, the police fired on the demonstrators killing a number of students and members of the public. The consequent mass upsurge was so tumultuous that the Pakistan government had to yield and recognize Bangla as one of the state languages of the country. Since then the occasion has inspired the Bengalis in their struggle for autonomy and, later, independence.
Also called Omar Ekushey (the Immortal 21st), the day is observed with great solemnity, beginning from the midnight. Political speeches are held, and a memorial service takes place at the Shaheed Minar (Martyr's Monument) in Dhaka. Poets are seen reciting their poems sitting on the road islands on this occasion. And there is a book fair at the premises of the Bangla Academy.
Shadheenata Dibash, or Independence Day (26 March), marks the day when Bangladesh declared itself separate from Pakistan. Following the Pakistani army crackdown on 25 March 1971, the independence of Bangladesh was declared on March 26. Since then the day is observed as the Independence and National Day. As the Bangladeshis had to wade through the blood of an estimated 3 million people who lost their lives to gain independence, the day is of great significance and inspiration for the whole nation. National flag is hoisted atop all buildings and the streets and houses are draped in banners and festoons. The event is marked with military parades and political speeches.
Bijoy Dibosh, or Victory Day (16 December), commemorates the day in 1971 when Pakistani forces surrendered to a joint Bangladeshi–Indian force. The valiant freedom fighters entered the city of Dhaka with arms in their hands. As they marched along the streets, the entire people welcomed them with rejoicings. The jubilant crowd stood by as the Pakistani army marched in silence with their head drooping low.
The day is observed with due solemnity - the first rays of the morning sun being heralded with 31 gunshots. In the capital there is usually a ceremonial military parade in which all the uniformed services are represented. Hundreds of thousands of people gather to watch this parade. Wreaths are laid at the Jatiya Smriti Shoudha (National Martyrs' Monument) at Savar, near Dhaka city, in memory of those who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of the country.
Nabanna, the festival of the new harvest, is as old as the land itself. It takes place in the Bangla month Agrahayan (Nov-Dec), proverbially known as the season of plenty. People in the rural areas celebrate harvesting of the corn as farmers come back home with loads of golden paddy on their head ringing like new bells. One can hardly miss the season as he approaches a village sniffing the smell of the new crop or hearing the drip-drap of the grinder busy making “cheera” (beaten rice). The Nabanna brings a ripple of joy to the otherwise calm homesteads sleeping in the morning fog of approaching winter.
Pohela Boishakh is the first day of the Bangla Calendar. It is usually celebrated on the 14th of April. It depicts purity and togetherness, thus, on this occasion we visit relatives, friends, and neighbours and going to the fair. In the urban areas, Pahela Baishakh has been increasingly becoming popular with the rise of national consciousness. In the cities there are cutural functions in the morning. A ceremony welcoming the New Year is also held at the Institute of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Students and teachers of the institute take out a colourful procession and parade round the campus. On this colorful day, men and women as well as children are dressed in colorful clothes. Most women are dressed in white saris with red print/embroidery alongwith jasmine flowers adorning their hair.
Eid-ul-Fitr comes at the end of a month-long fasting during Ramadan and on sighting of the new moon of Shawal, the tenth month of the Arabic calendar. The next day, that is on the first of Shawal, male members go to Eidgahs or the local mosques to offer their prayers and the housewives prepare various traditional cuisines for guests that are expected to arrive after the prayers. This is also the day of “providing to the needy”, thus, the poor are given fitra, a certain amount of money per head per family so that they too can celebrate Eid. Everyone is presented with new clothes and the children enjoy the occasion most as they visit their friends in small groups, each visit giving them a taste of new dishes.
BANGLADESH FESTIVALS AND HOLIDAYS
Bangladeshi daily life is full of traditions and festivals that reflect the unique culture and tradition of Bangladeshis. The native customs and festivals that has been preserved and nurtured through the ages are principally centered on agricultural practices. These include nabonno (the festival of the new harvest) and pohela boishakh (the Bengali New Year). Religion has also played a distinct role in shaping the customs and traditions of Bangladeshi life. Thus, to keep the tradition alive, Bangladesh celebrates religious festivals and feasts in their day to day life. Bangladesh celebrates the joyous festival of the two Eids, Eid-ul-Fitr, and Eid-ul-Azha, the month of Ramadan, Shab-e-Qadr, and Shab-e-Barat etc. Hindus in Bangladesh celebrate Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Janmastami. The Buddhists celebrate Buddho Purnima and the Christians Christmas.
National occasions also mark Bangladeshi life, and these include Independence Day, Victory Day, and the historic Language Martyr's Day.
Social customs like birth, naming ceremony, marriage, and death too have a distinctive Bangladeshi flavor with each ethnic and religious group having their own unique way to mark these traditions.