Festivals are common to all societies and cultures. With the change of social and economic structures, the nature of festivals also undergoes change. But some festivals are so deeply rooted in the social organism that they continue to entertain people from generation to generation. Some of the festivals bear the mark of the community and their nationality; some have the stamp of religion; and again some bear the impression of politics. The main foundations of religious festivals are rituals and collective activities. Many of the rituals are related to agriculture and determined by lunar months. The ancient rituals were magical processes to tame the supernatural power; this characteristic has been retained in some cultures. Some spontaneous agro-based ancient festivals lost their spontaneity with the passage of time and became more formal.
Although most of the festivals are related to religions, these did not evolve on account of religion only - they originated spontaneously in society. Later on, they assumed more formal characters. As for example, singing and music was a part of the Eid festival among the Muslims of Bengal in the past, which was an expression of spontaneity. But now it is not there. Now-a-days, these are more formal than before, but new social dimensions have been added to them. They have become occasions for mutual exchange of pleasantries among friends and relatives, event of economic boom, cultural pursuits and even political manoeuvrings. Thus the religious practices and patterns of life of Bangladeshi Muslims and those of the Middle East and Indonesia are not the same.
Eidul-Fitr is a Muslim festival that follows the Islamic calendar and marks the end of Ramadan - the Islamic holy month of fasting. The day of Eid-ul-Fitr falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar. It is an occasion for celebrations by Muslims. The social meaning of Eid is joyful festival, while its etymological meaning denotes returning time and again, returning to normal lifestyle after fasting for one month. Like all other social festivals, Eid returns every year. Eidul-Fitr is also connoted as a festival for distributing fitra, a form of charity from rich to poor, helping them to celebrate Eid. Eid-ul-Fitr goes by various names around the world, including: IdulFitri, Hari Lebaran (Indonesia); Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Lebaran, Aidil-fitri (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei); Wakas ng Ramadan, Hari Raya Puasa (Philippines); Nonbu Perunaal (Tamil) Riyoyo, Riyayan, Rozar Eid (Bengali), Ngaidul Fitri (Javanese); Boboran Siyam (Sudanese); Uroë Raya Puasa (Acehnese); Rojar Eid (Bangladesh); Ramazan Bayram?, ?eker Bayram?, Küçük Bayram (Turkish); Orozo Mayram (Kyrgyz); Rozi Heyt (Uyghur); Eid Nimaz (Sindhi); Korite (Senegal); Id (Uganda); Sallah (Hausa); Kochnay hi sup Akhtar (Pashto); Eid-e Sa'eed-e Fitr (The Mirthful Festival of Fitr, Persian); Choti Eid (Urdu); Meethi Eid (Urdu); Cheriya Perunnal (Malayalam); Ramazanskibajram (Bosnian); Bajram (Albanian); Cejna Remezanê (Kurdish); Ramazanskibajram (Croatian);Ciid Yare (Somali); Id al-Fater (Ethiopia).
In Bangladesh, Eid is observed colourfully in a befitting manner and with great zeal and zest. With changes in social and economic structures, the nature of the festival has also changed. The Eid festival is so deeply rooted in the social organism that it continues to entertain people from generation to generation. It bears the marks of the community and the nation, has the stamp of religion, and also bears the impression of politics.
The night before Eid is called Chand Rat, which means, "Night of the Moon." Muslims often visit bazaars and shopping malls with their families for Eid shopping. Women, especially younger girls, often apply the traditional Mehendi, or henna on their hands and feet and wear colourful bangles. The traditional Eid greeting is 'Eid Mubarak', and it is frequently followed by a formal embrace. Gifts are frequently given - new clothes are part of the tradition - and it is also common for children to be given small sums of money (Eidi) by their elders. It is common for children to offer Salam to parents and adult relatives. After the Eid prayers, many families visit graveyards and pray for the salvation of deceased family members. It is also common to visit neighbours, relatives, senior relatives ('Murubbis') and to get together for sharing sweets, snacks and special meals, including some special dishes that are prepared specifically on the occasion of Eid.
It is also a time when everyone seeks pardon for all the wrongs of the past year. The Islamic calendar follows a lunar Hijri, and not the Gregorian calendar. The Hijri year is approximately 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year. The Eidul-Fitr also exerts an impact on the socio economic arena. Clothes, footwear, cosmetics, jewellery and electronic gadgets witness bumper sales ahead of Eid. Commercial banks witness a heavy rush for money transaction as a huge number of clients withdraw from and deposit cash in the banks ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. The commercial banks, which face liquidity shortage, borrow from the call money market to tackle the rush. Banks make record transactions in the call money market by borrowing collectively billions of taka. Bangladesh Bank has to pump in record amount of money into the banking system, as clients throng almost all the branches of banks across the country. As a majority of Muslims spend substantial amounts of cash for the festival, stock market show new zeal, remittances pour into Bangladesh economy, a boom is observed in the transportation sector as large numbers of people travel; and the event promotes creative endeavour in the print and electronic media.
The joy and pomp with which Eid was celebrated in this land during the Mughal period was mainly confined to the highly placed and rich Muslims. The general body of people remained aloof from it. However, the ruins of Shahi Eidgahs in different parts of Bangladesh bear testimony to the fact that the Mughals accorded due importance to Eid.
By the end of the nineteenth century, a new ingredient, viz. folk-fair was added as an accompanying source of pleasure during Eid. This trend still continues and now at least twelve fairs are held on the occasion of Eid in different regions of Bangladesh. Eid was not celebrated with the same importance during colonial days. The reason was the absence of government patronage, poverty of the people and their ignorance about religion. An account of the Eid celebration by the Bengal Muslims during the past one hundred years reveals that one of the main features of the Eid festival has been the arrangement of special food and drink. In the mofussil and rural areas, the food would include korma, polao, and various types of home-made pitha, semai (vermicelli) and sweets. In the Eid menu, homemade sweets get prominence.
One of the main features of the nineteenth century Eid in Dhaka was the Eid Procession. Probably the Naib-Nazims of Dhaka introduced this procession after taking cue from the famous Janmashtami procession of Dhaka. After being stopped for some time, such processions have again been started a few years ago.
In many cases, local or urban culture also exerted an impact on this festival. During the 1930s and 1940s, Khatak dance was performed in Ramna, Armanitola and other grounds of Dhaka on the Eid day. Besides, boat race, kite flying, horse race etc. were held. At the start of the 20th century, when the political movement for a separate Muslim identity began, Eid festival assumed new importance.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Mazid is former Secretary to the government and former Chairman of NBR;
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