Bangladesh, a land of festivals, is brimming with colorful and vibrant occasions. These occasions are an integral part of the culture. Each one of the festivals is an event of togetherness. They are also an escapade from the toiling nature of the average Bengali life. Puran Dhaka has been at the center of all these festive customs. It has been witnessing and exercising various festivals since the dawn of this civilization by the Buriganga River. Being a major economic hub in the region of the capital Dhaka has dynamically espoused all types of festive spirits from the numerous cultures and dynasties that have prevailed in this region, each diametrically different but uniquely scintillating in its own right. One such festival is the Shakrain, celebrated in the falling winter season, to mark the end of the Bengali month of Poush, which is also sometimes referred to as Poush Sankranti.
Revisiting the root of Shakrain
Traditionally celebrated on the final day of the ninth Bengali month Poush or January 14/15, the festival symbolizes the unity and plight of the people, triumphing over the harsh winter. The first observations of this vibrant day can be dated back to the Mughal period. The main attractions of the festivals are, but not limited to, Kite Flying, Pitha Puli Utshob and lighting up the night sky with fireworks.
Rituals of the festival
On the eve of the festival, a father-in-law would give his in-laws kites, reels, yarn, and pitha as gifts. Each household would eagerly design their own kites. The kites blend a flavor of their household and individual spirit of the festival. Manja, Kanni, Ghuddi are some pervasive terms used in Old Town that are local words for different parts of the kite flying games. In the morning, each household, along with guests, go to the rooftop and begin the kite flying game. The goal of the game is to snag your neighbors’ kites. As the evening approaches, the same rooftops become a playground for fire eaters and fireworks, lighting up the dark sky with colorful and grizzling light shows and flame bending.
Music and dance are integral parts of any local festival of the nation. Traditionally, Jari, Shari, and Bhatiali music were played with native instruments and people joined in numbers to swirl to the rhythm of the music. Apart from the iconic Pitha Puli, the houses are enamored with aromatic offerings of different local old town delicacies representative of the Mughal influence on the origin of the festival.
Diversifying the Sakrain with Inclusivity
With changing times, people from all over Dhaka, and the outskirts of the city, celebrate the festival. They celebrate in union with the “Dhakaiya” people (The residents of old Dhaka). The huge gathering of diverse people in the old town seen today is a testament to the growing popularity of the festival. In the fest, local homes play hosts to outsiders during the celebration. To accommodate this growing trend and the additional influence of technology, some age-old rituals are forgotten and some are replaced with contemporary attractions.
Initially, in the 80s-90s, the environment was set up with the liberating local music, traditional folk songs, etc. Presently the musical set up consists of the booming sound of DJ sound systems and upbeat techno/disco music. Also, “Rong Khela” and food choices have also gone through some changes due to the staggering majority of the youth in the festival. Lastly, nothing is more indicative of the changing ways than the broadcasting trend growing in people through social media; blogging, and vlogging. Enjoy the festival with your loved ones in simplicity and inculcating the essence in solitude.
Shakrain is a festival that provides you with the clarity of mind and soul. The entire festivity gives you a reprieve from the unyielding cycle of a metropolitan lifestyle. Have you ever experienced Shakrain? Or do you want to visit it? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.