The world has been in uncharted waters for much of 2020 already, trying to cope with a pandemic that has spread to every inhabited corner of the planet at an unprecedented speed. There are a number of things we have witnessed by now, or will witness in the days ahead, that will have been without precedent, certainly in our lifetimes.
The sight of the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, with not a single adherent of the Faith circling the perimeter or prostate before it, is not one many could even have conceived in their lifetime, yet we have seen it courtesy of the virus. Similarly, the Pope’s Easter address, delivered to not a soul in St Mark’s Square, will surely live on in people’s memories.
Bangladeshis are now passing such a defining moment. Many years down the lane, it is a fair bet that for a large part of the population, the pandemic will be remembered for having forced Pahela Baishakh, the Bangla New Year celebrations, online.
Since time immemorial, it has been a day full of colour and festivities, always with an emphasis on the Bangalee nation’s ties to the natural environment they occupy.
Daylong programmes commencing under the scorching heat of the summer sun have provided the eternal motif for the celebrations, for which all Bangalees wait all year-long in anticipation.
That certainly impacted in these hardest times, as the ongoing pandemic caused by COVID-19 brought changes into festivities around the whole world in order to avoid mass gatherings - as that spreads the risks of mass-contamination of the coronavirus. To cope with the situation, Bangladesh is welcoming the brand new Bangla year of 1427 through celebrations via social networking sites and digital platforms.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged everyone to stay at home and celebrate Pahela Baishakh in digital ways. Earlier, the Cabinet Division instructed authorities concerned to postpone all programmes of Pahela Baishakh to avoid mass gatherings.
Through the electronic media, including television channels and radio stations, along with social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube - the nation is welcoming and celebrating this year’s ‘Digital Pahela Baishakh’ for the very first time ever.
Country’s leading cultural institution Chhayanaut, known for greeting the Bangla New Year through its traditional programme in every year under the banyan tree at the Ramna Park welcomed the year 1427 through a special collaborative programme with Bangladesh Television (BTV).
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has instructed for cancellation of all festivities of the traditional Pahela Baishakh celebrations in order to avoid mass gatherings during this crucial period of COVID-19 and suggested digital celebrations. Thus Chhayanaut, along with its broadcasting partner BTV, is welcoming 1427 through an hour-long special programme,” Chhayanaut President Sanjida Khatun said.
BTV, the regular broadcasting partner of Chhayanaut’s yearly New Year Celebration programme, aired the special programme in the morning.
Other television channels also aired the programme.
The programme did not feature any live performances in order to avoid the health risks of performers. It was the compilation of some of the best performances of Chhayanaut’s last three year’s traditional celebration programmes arranged at Ramna, along with a special video message of the institution’s President.
Apart from BTV, Chhayanaut also broadcast the programme at their YouTube channel ‘Chhayanaut Digital - Platform’.
Country’s renowned cultural body, Bangladesh Udichi Shilpigosthi, has always been actively arranging cultural programmes at Pahela Baishakh. This year, it is telecasting a special New Year celebration programme from 10am at its official Facebook page. Anyone from any part of the world can witness the performances live on Facebook.
As many charitable organisations are now helping their heart out to support the helpless people affected by the pandemic, some of them are arranging fundraising programmes online to collect the donations. Connect Bangla and Harvard Bangladesh Students Group is jointly arranging such an event titled ‘World's 1st Online Pahela Baishakh - Fundraiser for COVID-19’.
“‘World's 1st Online Pahela Baishakh' - the first-ever live stream event is bringing Bangalee people all over the world together to celebrate the Bangla New Year. Not only we’ll be celebrating Pahela Baishakh, but also be using this as an initiative to help families affected by COVID-19 in Bangladesh. By donating through our online fundraiser at http://tiny.cc/DonateBaishakh, anyone can help such families to receive food and other basic requirements. All our proceeds will be going to Bidyanondo Foundation (aka Ek Takay Ahar) and Food Package for Day Labour,” Tasriqul Islam Nibir from Harvard Bangladesh Students Group told UNB.
The event is taking place actively from 6am today to 1am Wednesday. Throughout the day, the organisers are set to showcase performances and arts submitted by registered artistes at the Facebook event page, and a live event will be hosted at night featuring artists and their live performances.
Prominent artistes, including Bappa Mazumdar, Fahmida Nabi, Dinat Jahan Munni, dancer Ridy Sheikh, Buet’s cultural organisation ‘Murchhona’, will perform at the Livestream while renowned recitation artists Shimul Mustafa, Sharmin Lucky, Farzana Karim and more will recite poems.
Aarong, the leading Bangladeshi brand, is hosting an event at its Facebook page. Azra Mahmood is hosting it live from 11am to 1pm with actors Rafiath Mithila, Afsana Mimi, singer Adity Mohsin and Sahana Bajpaie and again from 7pm to 9pm with social influencer Sakib Rashid, actor Iresh Zaker, Miss World Bangladesh Jannatul Oishee and singer Partha Barua. Fans can ask them questions through live chat at Aarong’s Facebook page where they can ask how the artistes are spending their time at home with their families, listen to favourite songs and can find out how fans can give back to those in need.
Event Management company Blues Communication is hosting a special broadcasting titled ‘Abar Hobe’ featuring pre-recorded performances of country’s renowned musical artistes at its Facebook page.
“As we’re unable to celebrate this year’s Pahela Baishakh through concerts, we’re airing this special programme at our Facebook page where fans can watch and enjoy previous performances of some of the most iconic artistes and bands of the country that has never been aired before on Facebook,” Rezwan Rahman, executive director of Blues Communication, told UNB.
From 12pm on today till 12am on April 15, the event is set to air previous performances of artistes, including Laisa Ahmed Lisa, Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, Adity Mohsin, Rob Fakir and Shofi Mondol and Arko Mukherjee, and bands, including Artcell, Warfaze, Arbovirus, AvoidRafa, Nemesis, Nagar Baul James and AB Blues.
Through all these and other digital celebrations, this year’s Pahela Baishakh is welcoming the New Year with good tidings. It is different and historic for sure, but this is the most suitable way to stay safe and flatten the curve of the pandemic, in order to welcome and celebrate the future New Year celebrations in sound health.
Good or bad, it’s all very different for sure.