Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Festivals of the Hindus

The biggest religious festival of the Hindu community in Bangladesh is the festival of Durga Puja. Hindus participate in this festival with great devotion. Durga Puja is an old festival but it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty exactly how old it is. The oldest manifestation of goddess Durga, who slew the Mahisasura, belonged to the fifteenth century AD. A series of festivals, centering on Durga Puja, is held in Bangladesh. 

Usually, on the sixth lunar day of the bright fortnight in the Bengali month of Ashwin, the ceremonial awakening of the goddess Durga takes place. Thereafter, Puja is performed for three days on the seventh, eighth and ninth and the immersion of the image of the goddess Durga (with her companions) takes place on the tenth day. People exchange greetings during a period of fifteen days after the immersion of the image of the deity.
On the following full-moon day, Laksmi Puja takes place. Before that, on the new moon day usually in the month of Kartik, Kali Puja is performed. Then, on the last day of the Bengali month of Kartik, Kartik Puja (worship of god Kartik who is the commander-in-chief of heavenly forces) is performed. On the fifth lunar day of the bright fortnight in the Bengali month of Magh, Saraswati Puja (the Hindu goddess of learning and music) is held. It is particularly popular among the students. The series of Pujas, which starts in Ashwin with Durga, comes to an end with Saraswati.
The celebration of Janmastami (lord Krishna's birthday) is an old festival of this region, particularly of Dhaka City. In almost all the regions of the subcontinent, this day is observed in some manner as a religious festival. Janmastami is celebrated in Dhaka with special pomp and grandeur.
Festivals of other Communities
Apart from the Hindus, there are also two other religions communities in Bangladesh, viz., the Christians and the Buddhists, who observe religious festivals of their own. The main festival of the Buddhists is Buddha Purnima or Baisakhi Purnima. The birth of Buddha, his adoption of asceticism, attainment of supreme enlightenment, nirvana - all these occurred on the full-moon lunar day in the month of Baisakh and as a result this is the most important and solemn festival of the Buddhists. Baisakhi Purnima is celebrated in Bangladesh with great splendour.
Christians observe their main religious festival, Christmas Day, on 25 December on the occasion of Jesus's (PBUA) Birthday. The main compo­nents of this festival are special prayers offered in churches, arrange­ment of feasts and offering of gifts among friends and relatives.
In today's Bangladesh, another festival is gaining prominence, which is not related to religion - it is Bangla new Year's day or Pahela Baisakh. It is observed with great enthusiasm on the first day of Baisakh. Its main characteristic is that it is a social festival and its appeal is universal.
The Halkhata function, observed mainly by the merchant community, is still in vogue on the occasion of Pahela Baisakh. The merchants complete their accounts of the pre­vious year on the eve or New Year's Day. For this, many of them use a special kind or ledger having the cover made up of red cloth, which is known as khero khata. On this day, the customers pay some advance and the merchants treat them with sweetmeats. There are some who prepare better quality food, including sweetmeats, on the occasion of the New Year's Day Of the regional functions arranged on this occasion, mention may be made of the Bali Khela or wrestling held in Chiltagong in the name of a certain anti-British nationalist called Jabbar.
However, the biggest function on the first day of Baisakh is the holding of fairs. In some places, such a fair continues for a week or even a fortnight. These fairs are the altered forms of the ancient seasonal, agricultural and other festivals of the country. Baisakhi fair has no religious fervour. On the first day as well as first week of Baisakh, about 200 fairs are held throughout Bangladesh. In the fairs arranged in Dhaka and also in other towns and urban areas, along with the earthen and handicraft items, book fairs are also held. Many publishing houses present books to the clients as tokens of New Year’s good wishes.
Besides the religious festivals, Independence Day (21 March), Martyrs’ day (21 Feb) and Victory day (16 Dec) are also observed throughout the country with great fervour. Different programmes are organized on these occasions at State as well as social and various organizational levels.


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