Jumma students share their stories of celebrating Biju, Baisu, Sangrai and Chankran with New Age Youth
University of Dhaka
PEOPLE in every country love celebrating significant events; and every country in the world has its own way of celebrating occasions such as the last day of the year or the new year. In Bangladesh, specifically in CHT, such occasions are uniquely celebrated and known by different names. However, these days, it is collectively known as Boishabi.
The name doesn’t have a meaning; rather it is an amalgamation of the names of other festivals, which include — Baisu of Tripura, Sangrai of Marma, Biju of Chakma, Chankran of the Mro and Bishu of Tanchangya. These are celebrated mainly on the last two days of Chaitra and first day of Baishakh.
In Tripura culture, among these three days, the first day of Baisu is called Hari Baisu, the second one is Boisuma and the last day is known as Baisu Katal (New Year). On the day of Hari Baisu people usually go to Matai Pukhiri (Pond of gods) to offer a particular sacrifice to the deity expecting the fulfillment of their prayers. According to Tripura legends, the water of this pond never dries up or becomes dirty.
To perform the ritual, people wish for a prosperous and trouble free year ahead. Since my early childhood, I have been celebrating Baisu with my family members, close friends, relatives, and all of my well wishers together. After all Baisu is a way of spreading brotherhood, faith, love and sense of respect among people. To me, Baisu is another word for happiness.
And on the night before the event, I and all of my friends spend our time eagerly waiting for the first day of Baisu. We pluck flowers; it’s a part of our celebration. During the day, we visit our relatives’ homes wearing new dress Rinai and Risha. Various types of delicious food are cooked and served including Pajon (made from different vegetables).
Goraia, the most fascinating and glamorous dance of Tripura, is performed by 10-100 artistes. Via this dance, they depict our daily life and the method of jhum cultivation. Many exciting and sensational traditional games are played including shukui, gudu and the local youth participate in these games.
But it’s a matter of concern that the way of observing Baisu is changing day by day due to lack of practices and alteration of our own culture. In this year, however, a positive attempt to promote and flourish our rich and exuberant culture, tradition and heritage has been taken by Bangladesh Tripura kallyan Sangsad in Khagrachhari.
Finally, let's sing ‘Faidi faidi o Boboi Bwisu bereni o boboi Bwisu bereni’ (Let's enjoy the Baisu together).
University of Dhaka
TO SOME it is Sangrai, to some it is Biju, to some it is Baisu. As of Tanchangyas, we call it Bishu. But no matter by which name we call it, it is the biggest festival celebrated by the indigenous people in CHT to welcome the Bengali New Year. To us it is not only just a celebration but also a part of our identity and a representation of our diverse cultures.
Basically Bishu is celebrated on April 12, 13 and 14. Except April 14, the Bengali new year, there are no other government announced holidays for our Bishu and which is why for those who are living far from their home whether for job or education are unable to celebrate it with their family.
Due to my parent’s occupation and my education, I had to celebrate most of the Bishus of my childhood in Dhaka. I would wait like crazy for Bishu as my parents would buy me new cloths. The day of Bishu would start with waking up early in the morning and going to nearby Pagoda for new year prayer wearing new clothes.
After returning home from temple I would jump to eat delicious Pajon cooked by my mother. Then with my friends I would pay visit to my neighboring houses. There is a saying that if one doesn’t eat Pajon in at least in seven houses, the Bishu won’t be fulfilled.
I won’t deny that fact that celebrating Bishu with my grandparents and relatives in our ancestral home is nowhere near celebrating it in Dhaka. But this year I am lucky enough to celebrate Bishu in my home with my family and relatives.
University of Chittagong
WITH the passing of another year, the time has come for the largest festivals of the people of CHT — Baisu, Bishu, Sangrai, Biju or whatever you call it. Everyone forgets the passing year and becomes busy with festivity to welcome the new year.
Like everyone else, I am also preparing myself to indulge in festivities. However, this year’s plans are a bit different. As I have examinations, I won’t be able to go home. Therefore, some students of our community decided to celebrate Biju this year at the campus.
Biju is the largest festival for Chakma community. This is a three day long celebration. The first day is Phul Biju, the last day of the passing year is Mul Biju on the following day and first day of the year is Gojjepojje.
During my childhood, Biju had a different appeal to us. The festivities usually started several days beforehand. Different traditional sports were arranged. People of every age participated in these sports. On the Phul Biju, we used to go to collect flowers at the wee hours of dawn. After that, we would decorate our homes with those flowers, clean the rooms and made other preparations for the festival. Also, bathing the elders at home is a must on this day.
On the Mul Biju, we used to get up early, take bath and put on new clothes. Then my local friends would hire sound amplifier for music and roam around our vicinity. On this day, a must do was to go to different homes to eat Pajon, different kinds of traditional pithas and a little bit of locally prepared alcohol.
On the last day of the festival or the first day of the year was Gojjapojja. This day was reserved for complete rest and religious activities. On the evening of that day, my mother used to light candles in respect of river goddess, soil god, tree god, home god and goddess Lakshmi. She did that hoping a prosperous and safe year ahead.
However, in recent days, there are changes in celebration of Biju, more specifically, in the areas that are ‘modernised’. In such places, instead of traditional local foods, Bengali delicacies like shemai, biriyani, sweets and fruits are served. Moreover, most of the places, traditional sports for Biju are not arranged anymore. As a result, the next generations are no more getting to know the traditional sports.
I believe that it is the responsibility of the youths to keep the tradition alive and going. Here’s wishing everyone a great Biju.
Swe Cho Wong Marma
Bandarban Government College
IN THE Buddhist Marma society, Sangrai is the largest festival. The main aspects of this festival are waving off the decaying year and welcome the new one. During this festival, we play with waters to clean the physical illness, mental problems and unholy spirit to welcome the new year.
The festival consists of three days. April 13 is Poingchayak Newing. On this day, house premises are cleaned and adorned with flowers. According to Marma belief, Sangrai goddess comes to earth on this day.
April 14 is the first day of Sangrai. On this day, people of all age go to bihar to praise Buddha. On April 15 and 16, different sports and cultural programs are organised in different villages alongside water playing.
Since my childhood, like other Marma boys, Sangrai has been a joyous festival for me. We expected new clothes from our parents. We used to sleep wearing new clothes on the previous night.
Our morning started with religious preaching from bihar. Even before the sun rise, we went roaming the area wearing new clothes. We had discussions and often competitions on who has the best dress.
Young people carried water bottles to drench others. Another fun part was throwing water during chorus. Those were great days.
Bandarban Government College
APRIL 14 is a red letter day for people living in CHT. Sangrai is the most expected celebration of Marma people. It varies from region to region and the celebration goes on for three to seven days.
I’ve made a plan with my friends regarding this festival. On the first day, we’ll go to pagodas and monasteries to observe the Buddhist relief donation to monks and elders and wash the Buddha image. In the evening, we will light candle for us and all other beings to be happy all over the world.
On the second day, we will arrange the traditional water pouring festival to drench our beloved people wishing to wash all stress. We will collect rice from different households so that can make cake at night after returning from temple. In the next morning, we offer it to monastery or pagodas, monks and devotees. Then all the cakes will be distributed to all the families of the community.
My childhood memories are not forgotten. Every Sangrai, I used to play water and make others wet with water gun. We used to eat various dishes in a number of houses in our locality which was a must of the festival.
Chyong Yung Murong
University of Dhaka
FOLLOWING the history and tradition, people of every community want to celebrate the coming of new year in their traditional style. This cultural difference represents our different individual cultural identities.
When it is Pohela Boishakh for Bengali people, it is Biju for the Chakma, Baisu for Tripura and Sangrai for Marma; and we the Mro call it Chankran. There are a lot of stories about this Mro festival.
Pohela Boishak is called Pratla in Mro language. On this Pratla, a wild flower called Changkran blooms in the forest. This flower heralds the arrival of New Year.
Pratla is important to Mro’s who follow Krama religion as it is an important religious festival.
Changkran brings joy to every Mro family. Traditional cakes are made with binni rice. Apart from the food, there are different other cultural programs and traditional sports that are arranged.
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