National Days

National Days The Shaheed Dibash (Martyrs' Day), the Independence Day, Pahela Baishakh or Bangla Navabarsa (New Year's Day) and the Bijoy Dibash (Victory Day) are the national days commonly observed in Bangladesh.

Shaheed Dibash The 21st day of February (ekushey february) is being officially observed as the Shaheed Dibash (Martyrs' Day) since the emergence of Bangladesh. On this day in 1952, students and youths, rose in protest against the imposition of Urdu by the then government as the lone state language of Pakistan. This was viewed by the Bangali people as a conspiracy against their culture. When the students brought out a procession on the day in violation of official prohibitory order, the police fired on the demonstrators killing a number of students and members of the public. abul barkat, abdus salam, abdul jabbar, rafiq uddin ahmed and a number of unknown others lost their lives. The subsequent mass upsurge was so tumultuous that the Pakistan government had to yield to it and recognise Bangla as one of the state languages of Pakistan. This event was the first significant victory of the Bangalis against attempts of cultural subversion by the Pakistani ruling clique. Since then, the occasion has inspired the Bangalis in their struggle for autonomy, and later for independence. The day has also been accorded recognition by the UNESCO as the international mother language day in 1999, and the day is being observed accordingly throughout the world since 2000 AD.

The Shaheed Day is observed with great solemnity, starting from midnight when streams of people arrive and climb the steps of the Central shaheed minar (it has replicas all over the country) to lay floral wreaths. The people either walk along in silence or chant the song of immortal Ekushey 'Amar bhaiyer raktey rangano Ekushey February, Ami ki bhulitey pari' (How can I forget the 21st February which is daubed with my brothers' blood). People also go barefoot to the graveyard where the martyrs lie in eternal sleep. By early morning, the entire Shaheed Minar turns into a veritable sea of flowers. The walls on the Dhaka University campus in front of the Shaheed Minar are decorated with quotations from Bangla literature befitting the occasion, and poets are seen reciting poems sitting on the road islands. A month-long book fair is also held on the occasion at the premises of bangla academy.

Independence Day The independence of Bangladesh was declared on 26 March 1971 following the crackdown by the Pakistani army on the night of 25 March 1971. Since then, the day has been observed as the Independence Day. On 3 October 1980, the government headed by President Ziaur Rahman decided to observe it as the National Day as well.

On the occasion the National Flag is hoisted atop all public buildings, and the streets and houses are draped in banners and festoons. In the morning, the school children take part in parade, games and sports, and in the evening, cultural and film shows are presented and the streets are illuminated. Special diet is served in hospitals, orphanages and prisons.

Pahela Baishakh The Bangla Navabarsa or Pahela Baishakh has been part of the country's folk tradition since time immemorial. Baishakhi Mela or festival is the oldest and biggest secular event of the year and very much a part and parcel of indigenous Bangali culture. Bangla calendar is intimately linked with the economy and productivity of the country and forms the basis of Bangali nationalism. The calendar is rooted in agricultural cycle, and this association is evident from the fact that the Bangla year was also known as 'fasli year' or crop year. It has no religious bias, and draws freely on both Sanskrit and Perso-Arabic tradition.

Bijoy Dibash commemorates the day in 1971 (16 December) when ninety thousand troops of the Pakistan occupation army surrendered to the allied forces of Bangladesh and India at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka. The day is observed with due solemnity and nationalistic fevour. The first ray of the morning is heralded with a 31 gun-salute. In capital Dhaka, there is usually a ceremonial military parade in which all uniformed services are represented. Hundreds of thousands of people gather at the National Parade Square to watch this parade. Floral wreaths are laid at the Jatiya Smriti Saudha (National Memorial Monument) at Savar near Dhaka in memory of those who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of the country. [Helal Uddin Ahmed]