Festivity in Bangladesh-Part Nine

Festival of Buddhists

Buddha Purnima:

The main festival of the Buddhists is Buddha Purnima or Baishakhi Purnima. It is celebrated on the day of the full moon in Bengali month Baishakh (April-May). It is believed by the Buddhists that three important events occurred in the life of Buddha on this day; his birth, his gaining enlightenment, and his death. On this day Buddhists arrange collective prayers and other religious ceremonies, recite stories of The Buddha and his disciples, organize socials and cultural events. The day is observed as a public holiday. Fairs are also held on the day at different villages in Bangladesh.

Prabarana Purnima:

Probarana Purnima is another Buddhist festival, also known as Ashshini Purnima. Prabarana means both adopting wholly and forbidding. Prabarana is observed on the day of the full moon in the month of Ashshin (September-October). At the end of Prabarana, every Buddhist monasteries celebrates the festival of Kathin Chibar DanKathin Chibar Dan means difficult (Kathin) cloth (Chibar: used by monks) donation (Dan). On this day, it usually takes 24 hours to prepare Kathin Chibar from thread processed by spinning jum cotton  It is the biggest religious festival of the Buddhist people. The festival  is celebrated with great enthusiasm and religious fervour. Millions of Buddhist devotees from the  hill districts and other parts of the country gather during the occasion at  Bana Bihar, an internationaly famous  buddhists temple in Bangladesh in Rangamati Hill District  . Moreover, Ministers, MPs and high officials also attend the festival. To enjoy the festival  many people  along with the Buddhists  crowd at Bana Bihar . Devotees bring various gifts  on this occasion and robes are given to the monks .  Buddhists believe that on Probarana Purnima  day Lord Buddha went to the abode of the gods, and, after blessing his mother, returned to earth.

Buddhists send fanus (hot air ballon) in the sky on the day of Prabarana Purnima

The most attractive event on Probarana Purnima is making spacial hot-air balloons called ‘Fanush’  and send them in the sky as a symbol of lighting up the sky.


Festivity in Bangladesh-Part Eight

Children performing folk dance during pre-Christmas program held on Dec 19, 2008, at Bottomely School’s ground in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Festival of Christians:

Christmas Day ( Bara Din):

Apart from the Hindus, Christians also observe the religious festivals of their own. Islam is the state religion in Bangladesh, but the country’s constitution and secular laws guarantee religious freedom for the nearly 350,000 Christians in this nation of 140 million. The main festival of Christians is Christmas Day or birthday of Jesus Christ (PBUH), is celebrated on 25th December. In Bangladesh Christmas is referred as Bara Din (Big Day).

Local lay, religious and clergies gathered at pre-Christmas programme held on Dec 19, 2008, at Bottomely School’s ground in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Local lay, religious and clergies gathered at pre-Christmas programme held on Dec 19, 2008, at Bottomely School’s ground in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The main characteristics of this day are special prayer in churches, arrangements of feasts, sharing gifts among families and friends. Like all other countries Bangladeshi Christians also decorate trees, branches and lights up their houses. Some churches host religious gatherings while other churches invite the community to join them in decorating Christmas tree and singing carols. Some churches also organize feasts after the services.

The Christian village men cut down scores of banana trees and replant them in pairs along the paths to churches and outside their homes, for Christmas in Bangladesh.  They bend over the huge leaves to make an arch, and then make small holes in the bamboo poles, fill them with oil and tie them across the arches.  When the oil is lit the way to church is bright.

The festival is celebrated throughout the country with due religious enthusiasm, love, joy and sharing in tune with the celebrations all across the world.

Festivity in Bangladesh- Part Seven

Hindu Festivals


Two Hindu Kids dressed up as Lord Krishna and Radha

Janmastami is an old festival in Bangladesh. Janmstami or the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna is celebrated in this region with great devotion and festivity. Colorful processions, gatherings, Geeta Jaggyam (special prayers), Kirtan (devotional songs) and Puja (worship) at Hindu temples are the main features of Janmastami. Most attractive aspect of Janmastami procession is the tradition of dressing up as Krishna, Radha and other characters from the life of Krishna in Bangladesh. Devotees gather at the temple from morning to offer their prayers to Lord Krishna.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna, the embodiment of God, descended to this world with a promise to establish love, truth and justice. It is said that Shrikrishna (Lord Krishna) was born on the eighth lunar day of the dark fortnight in the Bengali month of Bhadra (August-September). So this day is a very sacred day to the Hindus. In almost all the regions of the subcontinent, this day is observed in some way or the other as a religious festival. It is a public holiday in Bangladesh.

Festivity in Bangladesh-Part Six

Hindu Festivals:

Saraswati Puja:

Saraswati puja, Jagannath Hall, Dhaka University

On the fifth lunar day of the bright night in the Bengali month of Magh (January-February), Saraswati Puja is held. Saraswati is the Goddess of learning. According to Hindu mythology Saraswati is the wife of Brahma, the creator. She is represented as fair and wearing a white sari and a garland of white beads. The whiteness symbolizes the purity of Saraswati. Saraswati is mounted on a swan carrying a kacchapi vina on her hand. As she is the Goddess of learning specially Hindu students worship her. During the Puja, Hindu students place their textbooks and pens on her alter with the sacred books. The Hindu devotees believe that an ignorant person can acquire knowledge through the blessing of Saraswati.  All the academic institutions remain closed on that occasion. Tough Saraswati Puja is observed in the academic institutions; some Hindu families arrange worship at their home. The series of pujas that starts with Durga comes to an end with Saraswati Puja.

Festivity in Bangladesh-Part Five

Hindu Festivals:

Kali Puja:

Kali, Source: Banglapedia: The National encyclopedia of Bangladesh

Hindus perform Kali Puja on the new moon day usually in the month of Kartik (October-November). According to Hindu myth Kali is the first of ten female energies of Shiva (the third God of the Hindu triad). Kali is also known as dark, four armed and wearing a string of human heads with blood dripping from them. Hindu mythology describes her as three eyed, with one eye in the center of her forehead. She stands on the chest of Shiva is circled by his worshipers.

Kali Puja is held when asking for a special boon. In rural areas of Bangladesh people arrange Kali Puja jointly during an epidemic. He-goats, sheep, or buffaloes are sacrificed on that occasion. There are a number of kali temples in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh.

Festivity in Bangladesh- Part Four

Hindu Festivals:

Laksmi Puja:

Laksmi Puja is held on the full moon following Durga Puja. It is a religious festival of Hindus celebrating Laksmi, the Goddess of prosperity and good fortune. It is believed that on that

Devi Laksmi; Source: Banglapedia: The national Encyclopedia Of Bangladesh

night The Goddess Laksmi visits houses to distribute blessings, rewarding those who keep awake whole night worshiping her.

Alpana design; Source: Banglapedia:The national Encyclopedia of Bangladesh

People decorate the floors and courtyards of their houses with Alpanas or floral designs with rice paste on the occasion of Lakshi Puja. They also decorate  the path from the door of the houses to the alter of the goddess and the cowshed. The path is often marked with tiny footprints, made by dipping rounded fists in rice paste and stamping the ground with them which symbolizes Laksmi’s path. Distribution of foods, playing game , eating coconut and sweet balls made of fried or flattened rice, and drinking coconut water are the features of laksmi Puja.

“Some people also perform a special Puja for Laksmi every Thursday. In some areas, Laksmi Puja is held at dusk on the day of the new moon in Kartik (October-  Novemebr). Goddess Laksmi may be worshipped in the form of a statue or as a painted image on a pitcher or pot.”

If you visit the Hindu houses in village area you will find a seat for Laksmi in their home as Laksmi is widely worshiped in Bangladesh and also in West Bengal.

Festivity in Bangladesh-Part Three

Hindu Festivals:

I mentioned in my previous post that Bangladesh practices religious harmony where Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Buddhists live together with common nationality. So, other religious festivals are also observed here with enthusiasm and festivity. After Muslims, Hindus are the second biggest religious community in Bangladesh. Here are some Hindu festivals you can see as a series of posts:

Durga Puja:

The biggest and oldest Hindu festival in Bangladesh is Durga Puja, the return of Goddess in her natal home. It is an important religious festival for Hindus. Hindus participate in this festival with great enthusiasm and devotion in a series of events. These events of the festival are described in Banglapedia: The National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh as following:

On the occasion of Durga Puja

Devi Durga

, the goddess is invoked on the sasthi, (sixth day, of Aswin or Kartik). Puja is offered on the shaptami, astami, navami or mahanavami, the seventh, eighth and ninth days. The image of the goddess is immersed in water on the dashami, tenth day. Preparation for the immersion of the Durga images start on the morning of dashami, but the immersions actually take place in the evening. Long processions of devotees carry the images of the goddess from various puja pandals to nearby ponds, canals, rivers etc, where they are immersed. The dashohara mela is held on this day. Wearing new dresses, members of the Hindu community congregate at the fair. Everyone exchanges greetings, and the young visit their elders to seek their blessings. Boat races are a special attraction of the fair.

There are three kinds of Durga Puja: a) Sattvik (esoteric), which includes meditation, yanja (elaborate rites during which mantras are chanted) and offerings of vegetarian dishes; b) Tamasik (unenlightened), which is meant for people of lower castes, during which there is no meditation, but which includes the recital of mantras and during which wine and meat are served; c) Rajasik (imperial), during which an animal is sacrificed and offerings made of non-vegetarian dishes. The recommended sacrificial animals are goat, lamb, buffalo, deer, pig, rhinoceros, tiger, iguana, tortoise, and fowl. Some scriptures even recommend human sacrifice.

The goddess Durga is usually depicted with ten hands, though she may also be represented with four, eight, sixteen, eighteen or twenty hands. On the occasion of Durga Puja, images of the goddess are made of straw and clay. The images are then painted, either light golden, bright gold or red. In the past a few families, including the Tagore family of Jorasanko, used to attire the icon in costly saris and adorn it with gold ornaments before immersing it with all its finery. Puja is at times performed without an image of the goddess but with a darpan (a shiny, reflective metal piece, usually of brass) or with a book, a picture, a trishul (trident), arrow, kharga (falchion).” Though this is a Hindu festival people from all communities attend these festivals in Bangladesh.

Festivity in Bangladesh- Part Two

Muharram and Ashura:

Muharram is the first month of Islamic Calendar. It is one of the sacred months of the year in which fighting is prohibited. The word ‘Muharram’ is derived from ‘harm’ meaning forbidden. So it is called Muharram because fighting during this month was unlawful or forbidden. The tenth day of Muharram is called Yaumul-I Ashura, meaning ‘the tenth day’, and it is the day of voluntary fasting. Both shia and Sunni Muslim group fast during Muharram and on either ninth or eleventh day. Although the majority Muslims in Bangladesh are Sunni, there is a small number of Muslims belongs to Shia too. The date is very important for all Muslims because Hussein Bin Ali, the 3rd Imam Shiism, was killed on that day.

The Duration of Muharram festival is more or less ten days and the main festival takes place on the tenth day which is called Ashura. On that day a big fair takes place at Azimpur in Dhaka. A big procession from different Imambaras gathers at Husnabad of Azimpur. Then the processions are covered with black cloths and silently taken to the Hosaini Dalan, which is the main centre of the observance of Muharram in Dhaka.

The main attraction of Muharram is its procession with a horse named ‘Duldul’ (The name of the horse on which Imam Hussein actually rode during the Karbala war), and thousands of flags in different colors. The procession chants persistently ‘Hai Hasan Hai Hussein’. Thousands of pigeons fly above the procession. At the front of the procession mourners revolve stick and show entertaining tricks with sword and at the rear people carry burning bricks.

Muharram procession from Husaini Dalan, Dhaka

To learn more about Muharram Please visit Banglapedia, the national Encyclopedia of Bangladesh website at  http://www.banglapedia.org/httpdocs/HT/M_0355.HTM

Festivity in Bangladesh-Part One

Festivals are the medium of entertainment for a culture and community. They are the medium of social gathering too. They are the expression of joy, happiness, and colorful mind. The impact and root of festivals is so deep on some culture that it transmits the practice from generation to generation.  Though the foundation of festivals is rituals but its magnitude is diverse. According to Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh : “Some of the festivals are deeply rooted in social organism and some bear the mark of community and nationality, some have stamp of religion, and again some bear the impression of politics.”

Festivals are part and parcel of Bangladeshi art and culture. Like all other cultures and societies Bangladesh also has festival traditions. In Bangladesh, we celebrate the most colorful festivals throughout the year with great enthusiasm and in a befitting way. The festivity in Bangladesh also has diverse enormity. Here we can see religious, social, cultural, agricultural, political festivals with great delight and plenty of preparations. These festivals are the medium of social gathering too. Here, I will be explaining these festivals in the context of Bangladeshi cultural tradition.  You will find a series of blog posts on these festivals.

Religious festivals

Bangladesh is a place of religious harmony. Though around 87% of its population is Muslim, all other religious festivals are celebrated here with great honor and passion.  The other religious communities in Bangladesh are Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Tribal community. Many of these religious festivals are of folk origin. So, we notice a great influence of folk culture on these festivals.

Muslim festivals:

The main two Muslim festivals of Bangladesh are EID-UL FITR and EID-UL AZHA.


A girl Wearing Henna

Eid-ul Fitr is a big Muslim festival that is observed after the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Eid means “happiness” or “joy”. Fitr means “to break the fast”. So, Eid-ul Fitr means the breaking of fasting period.After 30 days of fasting Muslim people celebrate Eid-ul-fitr with great joy and happiness. To celebrate this occasion Bangladeshi people prepare for a moth starting from the first day of Ramadan. Shopping for family and for the poor is part of this festival. Shopping malls are decorated on the occasion of Eid. On the night before Eid (In Bengali it is called Chand raat meaning moon sight night), Bangladeshi Muslim girls love to decorate their hands with henna.

Exchange of Eid greeting cards among friends and relatives are also part of Eid in Bangladesh. Children make special handmade greeting cards for their special friends. Hiding the Eid dress from friends and collecting salami (cash gift) from elderly is the fun part of Eid among kids. Some folk customs like touching the feet of elderly people to show respect, salutation after sighting the new moon (as sign of Eid) and holding fare are in vogue in Muslim community.

One of the main features of Eid festival in Bangladesh is preparing food and drinks. Both in urban and rural areas different delicious food items like semai, Jarda, Korma, polua are made. Home visit to relatives and friends are also part of the day. Different types of fairs also are held in different part of Bangladesh on the occasion of Eid. Boat race, kite flying, horse race, dance were held during 1930-1940 during the Eid in Dhaka. Eid procession got an importance in only in the present day.


''People watching a camel that will be sacrificed''

Eid-ul Azha, the second big festival for Muslim is observed by sacrificing animals specially cows, goats and camels. Eid-ul Azha is celebrated on 10th Dhul hijja of the lunar Islamic calendar to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. Before Eid-ul Azha cattle markets are held throughout the country. Those who can afford buy the animal before the Eid day. Like Eid-ul Fitr Eid congregations are held and Muslims offer their Eid prayer. After returning home they sacrifice the animal in the name of Allah. Those who offer sacrifice keep a portion of the meet for themselves and the rest of the meats are distributed among relatives and poor people. Some people slaughter the animals on the following day. Buying cloths, visiting friends, relatives, preparing rich foods are also part of Eid-ul Azha in Bangladesh.

Photo: Muslims are offering Eid prayers at Baitul Mukarram National mosque  in Dhaka, Bangladesh.