The country is celebrating Pahela Baishakh, the first day of Bengali New Year 1425, today, Saturday, upholding the rich cultural values and rituals of the Bangalis to find out their root and march forward to build a prosperous Bangladesh. Tens of thousands of people are expected to join the ‘Nabo Barsho’ festivities across the country. Pahela Baishakh is one of the most colourful festivals through which the Bangalis bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new year. On this occasion, people from all walks of life wear traditional Bengali dresses. Young women wear white sarees with red borders and adorn themselves with bangles, flowers, and tips, while men wear white pyjamas and panjabi or kurta. At an inter-ministerial meeting held recently, cultural affairs minister Asaduzzaman Noor said, Pahela Baishakh is an integral part of Bangali culture. The Bangalis are celebrating the Pahela Baishakh as a universal and non-communal festival for a long period of time, he added. He said the government will expand the traditional Mangal Shobhajatra, a procession brought on the first day of Bengali New Year, to town and village levels to make the tradition more ceremonious and gorgeous. We are very proud as ‘Mongol Shovajatra’ got UNESCO recognition as world heritage, the minister added. The government has drawn up an elaborate programme. The traditional Mongol Shovajatra will be brought out at divisional, district and upazila levels to reach the traditional programme to the grassroots as it earned the international recognition. Business communities, especially in the rural areas, are ready to open their traditional ‘Halkhata’, new account books, while sweets will be distributed among customers to mark the day. President Abdul Hamid and prime minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages greeting the countrymen on the occasion of Pahela Baishakh. In separate messages on the eve of Pahela Baishakh-1425, they wished peace, happiness and prosperity of the people and the country in the New Year. The president, in his message, said Bangla Nababarsha is a universal and non-communal cultural festival of the Bengali nation for a long. In her message, prime minister Sheikh Hasina said the nation starts the first day of Bengali New Year with the hope of progress of life forgetting all shortcomings and sorrows. She wished that the Bengali New Year 1425 would bring happiness, peace and progress for the country. The day is a public holiday. Different national dailies will publish colourful supplements while Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betar will air special programmes highlighting the significance of Pahela Baishakh. Bangladesh Shilpokala Academy has taken a three-day programme to welcome the New Year. Different government and non-government organisations, socio-cultural platforms including Bangla Academy, Bangladesh Folk Arts and Craft Foundation, Dhaka University, Jatiya Press Club and Dhaka Reporters Unity have chalked out various programmes to observe the Pahela Baishakh. The programmes of the day will begin in the city with the musical soiree of Chhayanat, a leading cultural organisation of the country at Ramna Batamul at dawn. Bangladesh Television, Bangladesh Betar and private television channels will live broadcast the programme. Rabindranath Tagore’s famous drama ‘Chitrangada’ was staged at the Shilpakala Academy on Friday and it will be staged today, Saturday, on the occasion of the observance of the Bangla Nabobarsho. On the occasion of Pahela Baishakh, Bangladesh Udichi Shilpigoshthi has taken various programmes including music, dance and drama. Swapnadal, a theatre group, has taken a two-day programme to welcome the Bangla New Year. The programmes include rally, discussion, dance and music. As part of the two-day programme, artistes, leaders and members of the Swapnadal will attend the Mongol Shovajatra, the traditional procession which will be brought out by teachers and students of Faculty of Fine Arts of Dhaka university. The city people will start the day with the traditional breakfast of ‘panta bhat’ (soaked rice), green chilly, onion and fried fish at Ramna Park, Suhrawardy Uddyan, Dhaka University Campus, Rabindra Sarobor at Dhanmondi and other amusement places. Important buildings and establishments as well as city streets and islands will be illuminated with colourful lights and graffiti have been painted in the walls signifying the arts, culture and heritage of the country. A 10-day Baishakhi Mela is set to begin at Bangla Academy on Saturday on the occasion of Pahela Baishakh. As part of the programmes to celebrate Pahela Baishakh, National Museum organised a cultural function on Bangali culture at the Poet Sufiya Kamal auditorium. Singer Shama Rahman performed at the function.