Every year, Bangalis across the world welcome the largest secular festival - Pohela Boishakh- with renewed hopes in their hearts.
Mangal Shobhajatra is an integral part of every Bangali's life and marks the beginning of Pohela Boishakh celebrations. This mass procession from the Faculty of Fine Arts (FFA), Dhaka University, has been taking place on the first day of Baishakh all over the country every year since 1989.
Due to Mangal Shobhajatra's nature of cultural inclusivity and popularising Bangali heritage, the mass procession was inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.
This year, however, the recent turn of events due to the strict lockdown - effective from Pohela Boishakh - ensuing from the Covid-19 pandemic has compelled the Dhaka University authorities to curtail the mass procession.
The authorities of the FFA will bring out the procession on a smaller-scale, maintaining physical distance and hygiene rules.
"At best 20 artists will participate in the procession," said Professor Nisar Hossain, the Dean of FFA, Dhaka University.
He added, "No one, including media personalities, will be allowed in the procession this year. We'll provide journalists with necessary video footage for telecast."
No fairs, cultural programmes, and public gatherings will be held in the campus this year either.
Albeit, current and former students of the FFA had been working for almost a month to make the Mangal Shobhajatra a success. Teachers, students and alumni of the faculty were busy adding final touches to the sculptures and masks on Tuesday.
The theme for this year's Mangal Shobhajatra has been set as "Kaal Bhoyongkor-er Beshe Ebar Oi Ashey Sundor" - an excerpt from "Proloy Ullash", a Kazi Nazrul Islam poem.
"This year we have sculpted face shield-turned-masks, mongolbormo (a wellbeing shield) tepa putul, the sun, king and queen, bird and other folk motifs for Mangal Shobhajatra," said artist Sheikh Shahabuddin.
This year, the artists have emphasised on three things -- the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh, the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 100 years of Dhaka University. To signify the three important events, the FFA authorities have made three chorka (spinning instruments) which will be on display at the Mangal Shobhajatra.
As Boishakh arrived, the outer wall of Charukola wore a new look with numerous folk designs. Artists have extensively worked to enliven the walls with images of tigers, birds, deers, dolls, lions, jackals, peacocks, snakes, fish, cows, card vendors, boats, trees, floral motifs, owls and many other designs.
A number of flamboyant masks will be on display at the colourful procession. Large masks made of paper, papier-mâché and fiber will augment the Mangal Shobhajatra.
Mangal Shobhajatra symbolises the pride of the people of Bangladesh in their living heritage as well as their strength and courage to fight sinister forces, and their vindication of truth and justice.
In the 1980s, when several incidents, including devastating floods and imposition of military rule, put the people of the country in great distress, the students back then decided to fight creatively against the undemocratic rule and bring to the common people the hope for a better future.
In 1989, students organised Mangal Shobhajatra - literally meaning wellbeing procession - for the first time on Pahela Baishakh. Since then, students and teachers of the faculty have remained in the forefront of organising the colourful mass procession every year.