By Syed Iftekhar
Writer and Television Journalist, Bangladesh.
Bangladeshis have a secular tradition. The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamed for a secular Bangladesh. Now every Bengali people feel proud of our secular nation. After our Liberation War, Libyan revolutionary, politician, and political theorist Muammar al-Gaddafi said to Sheikh Mujibur to change the country’s name to ‘Islamic Bangladesh’. Sheikh Mujibur replied, ”There are millions of non-Muslims in my country, I’m sorry I can’t do that”.
Bangladesh is a great nation of many cultures. Now our New Year festival is recognized as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’. Mongol Shobhajatra is a cultural heritage and it’s a big achievement for us.
The Faculty of Fine Art (FFA) (popularly known as Charukala) of University of Dhaka (DU), started organizing Mongol Shobhajatra from the Bangla year 1396 (1989 AD). MangalShobhajatra is the biggest traditional celebratory procession to mark Spring in Bengal (PahelaBaishakh). Besides Charukala, Jagannath University teachers and students also bring out another colourfulMangalShobhajatra procession along with the people of old Dhaka. Thousands of people from all walks of life wear colourful dresses and paper-mâché masks to participate in MangalShobhajatra and then celebrate the first day of the Bengali New Year. Eating hilsha fish and Pantabhaat play a crucial role in this cultural tradition as well.
A few years ago the Mongol Shobhajatra had been declared as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Inter-Governmental Committee of ICH, UNESCO. Like the entire country, we are delighted and proud of achieving such an honour.
For the COVID-19 pandemic this year the arrangements are slow. But our consciousness is always awake and Mongol Shobhajatra is our strength to remove all corrosion. Our strength in our unity is what will drive all evils away and make Bangladesh and the world safe again. These arrangements teach people about humanity and teaches children about Bengali heritage. By staying at home this year and remembering the processions of the past, the tradition will live on. Bangladesh is a nation of heroes and none of us will stop.