The country is going to celebrate the Eid-ul-Azha in coming days. Muslims around the world including Bangladesh celebrate two Eids – Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha. However, Bangladesh is a land of festivals. Many of these festivals are linked to religions, seasons and specials occasions. In recent times, international festivals have also been added to the list. However, festivals can be grouped broadly into religious and non- religious. In recent years, different international day observances like the ‘Valentine Day’ have also turned into some kind of a festival in the country as well.
Besides, days of national importance have also gained the status and fervour of important festivals observed by people of all walks of life. The ‘Shahid Dibosh’ on 21 February is not a festival, rather a remembrance day observed throughout the country with due importance and mass participation. Every religion has its own festivals. Hindus of Bangladesh celebrate Durga Puja in a big way though they have other religious festivals that are also observed. The Buddhists’ major religious festivals include Buddha Purnima, Madhu Purnima, Kathin Chibardan etc. The Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter Sunday with due religious fervour. The Eid ul-Fitr celebrations begin upon the sighting of the new moon which marks the end of the month of fasting. Eid-ul-Azha is the festival of sacrifice. All over the world, Muslims sacrifice animals to Allah. Here it needs to be mentioned that the religious festivals are observed overwhelmingly by the people believing and practising particular religions. The religious festivals are absolutely religion based and particularly observed by the believers of those religions.As mentioned earlier, days of national importance are also observed as festivals by all irrespective of religion. These include the ‘Shahid Dibosh’ (Martyr’s day) of 21st February, Independence and National Day on 26th March and Victory Day on 16th December. Every year, the first day of spring is celebrated as Pohela Falgun. It is mainly celebrated for welcoming the spring season. Pohela Falgun symbolises the festive season of vibrant colours and refreshing flowers. ‘Pohela Boishakh’ is the first day of the first month of Bengali New Year. On this day, New Year is welcomed with festivities. The English New Year is also observed with associated festivities.
In fact, Bangladesh has a long tradition of observing English New Year. I recent years, it is being observed with more vigour and enthusiasm especially in urban areas of the country. In recent time, in line with global tradition, the ‘Valentine Day’, the day of love, is also observed in Bangladesh. The day signifies a time when people show feelings of love, affection and friendship. It falls on February 14 each year and with the passing of every year, it is becoming increasing popular especially among the younger generations.
In the recent years, Eid celebration has added new fervour and dimensions in terms of mass celebration in the form of shopping, merrymaking and travelling. But now the country is reeling under the devastating effects of the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus. Before the pandemic, every year, consumer spending during festivals particularly during Eids was on the rise in Bangladesh. The World Bank estimated its size for Eid-ul-Fitr celebration and was around US$ 12 billion during the year 2014. The amount may have reached to more than US$ 15-16 billion in 2018. The size of the Eid-ul-Azha economy is also believed to be large enough of which a sizeable amount comes from cattle sales.
Around the globe, the pandemic is still continuing. It is estimated that in Bangladesh, about 40-50 million people have lost their livelihoods and income due to the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the virus among the people. As such, this Eid-ul-Fitr will not have the same fervour and festivities like the earlier years. The Covid-19 virus has already claimed lives of tens of thousands of people around the world. It is so contagious and deadly that nobody is safe from it. The citizens have been asked to celebrate the Eid by abiding all instructions and health rules and protocols that have been prescribed by the World health Organization (WHO) and also endorsed by the Directorate General of Health Services and the Ministry of Health. For facilitating cattle markets to operate and Eid shopping the government has allowed markets and shopping malls to open while maintaining health guidelines and measures. These relaxations are made to help people to celebrate the occasion by maintaining social distancing measures. Here it should be mentioned that people from all works life pursuing different vocations has been hard hit by the pandemic. But whatever measures are taken under the pandemic situation Eid celebration will not be the same. There are restrictions in offering Eid prayers, exchanging usual greetings and pleasantries and visiting near and dear ones.
The above scenario suggests that the Eid-ul-Azha will not be celebrated in the same manner like the earlier days. Due to the pandemic, many have lost their loved ones, lost their livelihoods and income. Moreover, the threat of the virus infection will deter all in socialising activities that are associated with Eid celebration. It will also not be the same for the cattle growers as the market for everything will be dull for the reasons stated above. But still then, the Eid-ul-Azha will be observed in the country as it will also provide some kind of relief to the people during these dark and uncertain days.
(The different sources of information are acknowledged with gratitude)
The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka.