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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 3 | Issue 06 | February 13, 2011 |


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Spring in all its Bliss

Rakibul Hasan

photo : golam mahbub

Once again the merry month of Falgun has come to our lives to wave away the desolation of winter. For many, Falgun is the harbinger of spring, which brings in the fragrance of flowers, gentle breezes and chirping of birds from the veil of new leaves. However, living in the concrete jungle of Dhaka, one may easily ask, is there really anything like the charms of spring as sung by our poets and authors? In this congested city, there is very little chance to find out the spring as described in the verses of legendary Sanskrit padabalis (lyrics). We do not have enough greenery around us to feel the change in nature; the chirping of birds have long been replaced by honking of cars plying every other street. But as celebrated poet Subhash Mukhopadhyay once said, “Phul phutuk aar nai phutuk aaj bashanta (Whether the flowers bloom or not, it is spring)”, the urbanites of Dhaka do greet Bashanta (spring) with much aplomb and celebration. The air has already changed into a new direction. The frosty grip of winter has been weakening lately as the cosy warmth of spring sets in slowly. It is time to abandon the warm clothes and bring out bright coloured outfits that spring calls for, while the outpouring of text messages at our cell phones, full of poetic verses about the grandeur of Bashanta, from near and dear ones remind us that the king of all seasons is back.

photo : anisur rahman

The Bengalis welcome Bashanta or spring on Pahela Falgun, the first day of the season. The festival through which people welcome the advent of spring is popularly known as Bashanta Utshab or Bashanta Baran Utshab. According to Mr. Abul Quasem Fazlul Huq, Professor of Department of Bengali, University of Dhaka, the custom of celebrating Pahela Falgun with flamboyance is not that evident in our folk culture. However the literalists never back down to write about the outstanding beauty of Bengal during springtime. One can find the admiration of Bashanta even in the literary works of Sanskrit authors. Later on Rabindranath Tagore glorified spring with his numerous songs and poems. He was also the pioneer to introduce the colourful events of spring celebration in the lives of modern day educated Bengalis. The great poet used to celebrate Bashanta Utshab at Shantiniketan as he believed that such congregations would bring people together and stimulate the fraternity between nature and human beings. Eminent writer Pramatha Chowdhury once wrote a famous article named 'Falgun', where he passionately tells the story of his revelation about the exotic transition of Nature - from cold and lifeless winter to the exuberance of spring. On a different note, the eminent educationist thinks that the urban trend of welcoming spring with much ostentation has very little to do with the revival of Bengali culture as our cultural practice has come into stagnancies because of artificiality in our daily lives.

In cities there may be a lack of colours in nature during springtime but the bareness gets substituted with the riot of colours in the attires of the chic city-dwellers. Girls adorn themselves with Bashanti (yellow) coloured sarees and floral ornaments while boys play with colours too. Fashion houses around the city are celebrating the arrival of spring with their exclusive set of designer clothes in exciting colours. Shamsur Rahman Bahar, the pioneer of trendy t-shirts in Bangladeshi fashion and the proprietor of famous fashion outlets, Nittyaupahar and Shankhabar, opines that bright and bold colours like yellow, orange and green are the most popular during this time of the year. “T-shirts, punjabis and even sarees with distinctive features of Bengali culture are always very popular among the teens,” says Bahar.

photo : anisur rahman

While the history of welcoming spring may have its roots in age old traditions, the current trend of celebrating spring with cultural performance on the first day of Falgun has begun more recently. In Dhaka, Jatiya Bashanta Utshab Udjapan Parisad (Bashanta Utshab Festival Celebration Committee) has been arranging cultural programmes in the Churakala Bakultala of Dhaka University to celebrate the beginning of Bashanta since the Bengali year, Fourteen hundred and one. The goal of arranging the Bashanta Utshab was to sensitise the young folks of Bangladesh about Bengali culture.

Nowadays the exuberance of welcoming spring is not only confined in Dhaka but it has been spread out to cities, towns and villages around the country. Everyone celebrates the most beautiful day of the season in their own way. Apurba, a student of Institute of Fine Arts, DU reminisces about the fond memory of arranging Bashanta Utshab during his first year at the university. “I remember, we would take preparations to welcome Bashanta a few days ahead of Pahela Falgun. We used to make a stage at Bakultala by collecting money from our friends and teachers. At the day of Pahela Falgun we would hold a cultural programme where the students and teachers used to perform spontaneously to welcome Bashanta in their own way” says Apurba.

photo : anisur rahman

photo : anisur rahman

As the Bashanta Utshab Festival Celebration Committee started to arrange Bashanta Utshab at the Charukala Bakultala in a bigger platform, it gradually gained much popularity amongst people. It has become a reunion of people who love Bengali culture and heritage. Today hundreds of artists from renowned cultural organisations across the country perform at the Bashanta Utshab while thousands of audiences irrespective of their cast, creed or culture participate at the festivity. Television channels telecast the Bashanta Baran programme live from the venue through satellite. The day's motion usually starts with the crack of dawn as performers welcome the new day with enchanting tunes of classical instrumental music recitals. Then the artists greet the king of all seasons by singing in chorus. Later on different groups of artists perform dance, songs and also recite poems. Both the teachers and disciples from celebrated art schools like Chayanaut, Surer Dhara, Sur Tirttha, Sangeet Bhaban, Bafa take part in the programme. A 'Pritibandhani Utshab' is also arranged where people tie rakhi (sacred thread) on each other's wrists to promote the feeling of unity and a commitment to all members of society. The event which attracts most is the colourful rally popularly known as 'Bashanta Shobha Jatra', where hundreds of dancers, singers and people from all walks of life participate. Arif Hossain Bonny, the Assistant General Secretary of the Bashanta Utshab Festival Celebration Committee elucidates the objective of arranging Bashantabaran Utshab, “We want to bring the beauty of spring, the king of all seasons into the urban life. By celebrating the first day of Bashanta we are trying to revive the proud legacy of perpetual secular Bengali culture which we seem to forget with the progress of urbanisation.”

Noted TV actress, Sumaiya Shimu is seen all set to celebrate Pahela Falgun this year. “I would never forget to wear yellow at Pahela Falgun. However, I may have to be busy with work on Pahela Falgun. It is always wonderful to get beautiful text messages on welcoming spring from loved ones. I really miss my days at Jahangirnagar Universtiy (JU) where I used to celebrate Pahela Falgun, roaming the entire campus in rickshaw with my friends and attending the daylong events,” says Shimu.

photo : anisur rahman

Popular radio jockey, Sadia from Radio Foorti also has her share of memories about the celebration of Pahela Falgun. Rj Sadia reminisces about the Pahela Falgun of her campus days saying, “From my childhood I would always see my mom wear yellow saree on Pahela Falgun. I am also used to wear yellow religiously at the first day of spring. I can remember that during my first year in university, I along with some of my friends brought a lot of flowers to the campus on the day of Pahela Falgun. We offered the flowers to people almost randomly and most of the people who got them ended up being very good friends with us”.

From time immemorial, the season of spring and human relationships together have found a special niche in traditional Bengali culture. It seems a wonderful coincidence that the festival of Pahela Falgun arrives just one day before the Valentine's Day, the day of celebrating love throughout the world. In fact many would consider Pahela Falgun as the Bengali version of Valentine's Day. While Bashanta Utshab is an integral part of our culture and heritage, Valentine's Day is a product of the west. However both the occasions of Pahela Falgun and Valentine's Day hold the universal value of love in its core. Be it the premises of Bangla academy during Amar Ekushey Boimela or the premises of Charukala Bakultala at Dhaka University, the passionate urbanites get together on the first day of Bashanta with the yearning to share the love and happiness with each other while the playful Pahela Falgun breeze brings in a sense of nostalgia and new beginnings.


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