Fairs and festivals are the basic components of culture of a nation. Fairs and Festivals are most often termed as the jewels of culture of a country. Fairs and Festivals mean cultural demonstration, exhibition, instruction, conservation, identity formation, an enjoyment. Krishenblatt–Gimblett (1990:146) and Williams (199:161) point out to the importance of festivals in turning a cultural history into a national identity. Fairs and festivals were special events that broke up the cycle of Renaissance year. Regarding fairs and festivals, Encyclopedia stated an importance issue. It says: "Fairs and festivals were special events that broke up the cycle of the Renaissance year. A fair was essentially an economic event—a large multi-day market. A festival, by contrast, celebrated a holiday or other special occasion. Fairs and festivals not only spiced up Renaissance life, but also gave people of different regions and social classes a chance to interact. Fairs became a significant form of economic activity between 1000s and 1200s." Banglapedia explains that festivals are common in all societies and cultures. With the change of social and economic structures, the nature of festivals also changes. But, some festivals are so deeply rooted in the social organism that they continue to entertain from generation to generation. Some of the festivals bear the mark of the community and nationality, while some bear the stamp of religion and others bear the impression of politics.
Fairs and festivals are an integral part of our culture and heritage. These are important segments of cultural tourism in Bangladesh. Fairs and festivals, both religious and social, always play a significant role in the life of the people of Bangladesh. The proverb ‘Baro Mashe Tero Parbon’ meaning thirteen festivals in twelve months testifies that Bangladesh is a land of fairs and festivals. Fair and festivals are organised throughout the country round the year. Bangla New Year Day, Independence Day, Ekushey February– the International Mother Language Day, Ekushey Boi Mela (book fair), Sonargaon Folklore Fair, Lalon Meal in Kushtia, Paddy Harvesting Festival, Spring Festival, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul- Azha, Durga Puja, Buddha Purnima, Christmas Day, Jabbarer Boly Khela (wrestling), Sangrai (Biju) Festivals in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Kantajeu Temple Fair in Dinajpur, Rash Mela at Dublar Char of the Sundarbans, Poet Modhu Mela at Sagardari, Poet Jashim Uddin Mela in Faridpur, Water Festival of Rakhaine, International Trade Fair, Asian Tourism Fair, Bangladesh International Tourism Fair et cetera are just a few of thousands of fairs and festivals in Bangladesh. The fair and festivals of our country are traditional, cultural, religious and political.The 'Tourism Development Policy 2010' and 'Cultural Policy' of Bangladesh has emphasised on promoting cultural tourism, among which fairs and festivals are the salient activities. The Cultural Policy of Bangladesh describes the well documentation, presentation and preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritages of the country. Fairs and festivals bear the intangible values of our culture and heritage. At the initiative of Bangladesh government, Mongol Shova Jatra of Bangla New Year has been declared as world intangible heritage.
The SDG no 8.9 and 12.b have clearly stated for preservation and conservation of local culture and traditions. Fairs and festivals are the most important elements of the culture and tradition of a country. A fair was essentially an economic event – a large multi-day market, while a festival is celebrated on a public holiday or other special occasions. Fairs and festivals not only invigorate a nation for unity but also offer opportunities for its people of different religions and social classes a chance to interact.
Many countries in the world such as our neighbouring countries like India, Nepal and Bhutan promote fairs and festivals as an important element of cultural tourism. Tourists want to see the authentic culture and heritage of a country that can be demonstrated to the tourists by organising fairs and festivals. Like all other countries, Bangladesh has unique cultural traits that can be developed as tourism products for tourists of foreign countries. Being a land of ‘Baro Mashe Tero Parbon,’ fairs and festivals are regularly organised in Bangladesh every month. The events keep an impact on local economic growth and cultural continuity. Fairs and festivals, if developed as tourism attractions, more tourists will visit Bangladesh that will definitely help generate employment and flourish local economy. As local people are its direct beneficiaries, overall socio-economic condition of the country will also improve to a great extent. Moreover, the country's image will be brightened.
Though Bangladesh is a land of Baro Mashe Tero Parvon, the country is yet to cash in properly by promoting the unique features of fairs and festivals as tourism products. This is due to lack of proper inventory and documentation in the form of photography, videography, forming cultural troupes et cetera. Fairs and festivals are of great value and they are treasures of the country. Due to absence of proper initiatives, the treasures of Bangladesh are on the verge of extinct and some have already went into extinct. There are other problems too. Fairs and festivals can be turned into good tourism products, but it was never conceived earlier. As such, no study was carried out previously. Moreover, many cultural troupes/ family members of cultural groups, fair and festival organisers also switched to other professions for their livelihood due to financial crises. Moreover, the sky-culture kept a negative impact on the culture and heritage of Bangladesh. Following advancement of science and technology, fairs and festivals, also our cultural heritage, are gradually being lost into oblivion. A comprehensive initiative is required to safeguard our culture and heritage. Initiatives should be taken for holding fairs and festivals regularly to combat the sky-culture and the adverse impact of globalisation.It is alarming to note that the young generation of Bangladesh is getting inclined to alien culture due to our failure to attract them towards the rich culture of rural Bangladesh. We must portray our rich culture before them by regularly holding fairs and festivals. The government should also come forward to help organize the rural fairs and festivals regularly. Their organisers as well as cultural troupes and family members of rural cultural groups should be patronised by giving financial help to them. Taking advantage of the situation, unscrupulous people are holding filthy dance in name of fair. The government should take stringent measure against the people who work against our rich and healthy culture.
Bangladesh government can also publish a calendar of fairs and festivals so that both the foreign and domestic tourists can book their packages accordingly. On the other hand, domestic tour operators are not much aware about the existing fairs and festivals in details. Therefore, it is necessary that a proper inventory and survey as well as documentation and publications are done in this regard. On the other hand, its publicity in social media is most essential for promoting the fairs and festivals of Bangladesh as tourism products.
The author is Manager, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation.