Eid-ul Fitr and Eid-ul Azha are the two major religious festivals observed by the Muslims of Bangladesh as elsewhere in the world. The meaning of the Arabic word 'Eid' is 'festival' or 'joy'. On the other hand, the meaning of 'Fitr' is 'breaking fast' or 'returning to normalcy'. Eid-ul-Fitr coincides with the first day of the tenth month of the Islamic or Hijri calendar called 'Shawwal', after resorting to fasting, abstinence and restraint by the Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan. The followers of Islam try to suppress their bad instincts like anger, sexual urge and sensual pleasures throughout this month. Therefore, the word 'Fitr' is also used to denote 'victory' over evil impulses.
The observance of Eid festivals commenced in the 7th century AD after the migration of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SM) to Medina from Mecca. These two Eids replaced the twin festivals of 'Nawroz' and 'Mihirjan' observed by the adherents of Zoroastrianism in Medina. The Arabs then started to observe the Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha, being inspired by the peaceful ideals of Islam. Eid-ul-Fitr became a popular festival of amity and harmony that shunned class differences and vulgarism in society. Subsequently, Eid became one of the earliest Islamic festivals observed by the people of Indian subcontinent, including the inhabitants of Bangladesh region, since the medieval era.
Eid-ul-Fitr is an occasion when the people tend to revisit their roots both physically and spiritually. They go back to their ancestral homes in villages and towns, show respect to the elders and deceased relatives, shower blessings on the younger generation and undertake charities for the poor in the form of Zakats and Fitras. It is a festival when people inter-mingle with each other at houses and homes, parks and prayer-grounds, roads and fair compounds, embrace and interact with each other in mirthful empathy. Men and women, boys and girls exchange greetings and good wishes in both the virtual and real world, consume traditional food items including sweets, wear new dresses, and enjoy the merriments offered all around. The spirit of equality, harmony, peace and fraternity preached by Islam finds expression through numerous means.
Folk-fair was added as a source of commerce and entertainment to the Eid festival, particularly in rural Bangladesh, towards the end of 19th century. These are still in vogue in different spots and places of Bangladesh. In recent years, the most pronounced impact of the Eid festival appears to be visible in the country's business sector. Although no official survey has been carried out yet on the Eid economy of Bangladesh, the World Bank estimated its size to be around US$ 12 billion during the year 2014. If the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of the past four years is taken into account, the amount is likely to have reached about US$ 15.5 billion or Taka 1,250 billion this year. The sectors involved in this expanding Eid economy are varied and diverse, ranging from garments and textiles to leather and electronic goods, jewelleries and food items, transportation and communication, tourism and excursions, sports and entertainment, the print and the electronic media.
Insiders claim that at least half of the capital's 200 thousand shop-owners and over two million across the country eagerly wait for the Eid festival and take special preparations for the retail and wholesale trading that peaks during Ramadan. The retail and wholesale trade account for around 15 per cent of the country's GDP. Consequently, the largest share of the Eid economy emanates from this sector. But unfortunately no survey has been conducted till now on the festival economy of Bangladesh. As Bangladesh economy has grown quite big and attracts global attention because of its size, there is urgent need for checking and analysing the relevant statistics. But unfortunately, even the formal sectors like retail and wholesale trade suffer from data deficits in this country, let alone the huge informal economy spread throughout the land. This is in sharp contrast to the developed world, where there is constant monitoring and feeding of figures for the relevant stakeholders, which provide them with the windows of opportunities to optimise their business.
The owners of physical and virtual shopping outlets usually take extra preparations prior to the Eid shopping season. They collect commodities at least two months in advance, decorate their outlets and often appoint additional salesmen. According to experts, Eid shopping is done by the consumers by targeting certain products that are used or consumed throughout the year. Besides, the tendency to give gifts has also grown in recent years. All these provide fresh impetus to the generation of commodities, employment and earnings, thereby propelling the rejuvenation of economy and the regeneration of society.
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