Muhammad Abdul Mazid
Eid ul-Fitr, is a Muslim festival that follows the Islamic calendar and marks the end of Ramadan -- the Islamic holy month of fasting. The first day of Eid ul-Fitr falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal. Shawwal, the tenth month of the Islamic calendar, is a month of celebration and festival for Muslims in southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The social meaning of Eid is joyful festival, while its etymological meaning denotes returning time and again -- returning to normal life-style after fasting for one month. Like all other social festivals, Eid returns every year. Eid ul-Fitr is also connoted as a festival of distributing fitra, a form of charity from rich to poor, helping them to celebrate Eid. Eid ul-Fitr goes by various names around the world, including: Idul Fitri, Hari Lebaran (Indonesia); Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Lebaran, Aidilfitri (Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei); Wakas ng Ramadan, Hari Raya Puasa (Philippines); Nonbu Perunaal (Tamil) Riyoyo, Riyayan, Rozar Eid Bengali, Ngaidul Fitri (Javanese); Boboran Siyam (Sundanese); Uroë Raya Puasa (Acehnese); Rojar Eid (Bangladesh); Ramazan Bayrami, Seker Bayrami, Küçük Bayram (Turkish); Orozo Mayram (Kyrgyz); Rozi Heyt (Uyghur); Eid Nimaz (Sindhi); Korite (Senegal); Id (Uganda); Sallah (Hausa); Kochnay hi supAkhtar (Pashto); Eid-e Sa'eed-e Fitr (The Mirthful Festival of Fitr, Persian); Choti Eid (Urdu); Meethi Eid (Urdu); Cheriya Perunnal (Malayalam); Ramazanski bajram (Bosnian); Bajram (Albanian); Cejna Remezanê (Kurdish); Ramazanski bajram (Croatian);Ciid Yare (Somali); Id al-Fater (Ethiopia).
The night before Eid is called Chaand Raat, which means, "Night of the Moon." Muslims will often visit bazaars and shopping malls with their families for Eid shopping. Women, especially younger girls, will often apply the traditional Mehndi, or henna, on their hands and feet and wear colourful bangles. The traditional Eid greeting is Eid Mubarak, and it is frequently followed by a formal embrace. Gifts are frequently given -- new clothes are part of the tradition -- and it is also common for children to be given small sums of money (Eidi) by their elders. It is common for children to offer 'salam' to parents and adult relatives. After the Eid prayers, it is common for some families to visit graveyards and pray for the salvation of departed family members. It is also common to visit neighbours, family members, specially senior relatives called 'Murubbis' and to get together to share sweets, snacks and special meals including some special dishes that are prepared specifically on Eid.
People put on new clothes, children are given gifts and money, and everyone visits relatives and friends. It is the time when everyone asks pardon for all the wrongs of the past year. The Islamic calendar follows a lunar Hijri, and not the Gregorian, fiscal calendar. The Hijri year is approximately 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year. The Eid ul-Fitr-effect exists around the festivity, having an impact on socio-economic arena. Markets for clothes, footwear, cosmetics, jewelry and electronic gadgets witness bumper sales hovering hundreds of billion taka ahead of Eid. Commercial banks witness a heavy rush for money transaction as a large number of clients withdrew from and deposit cash in the banks only few days ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. The commercial banks, which face liquidity shortage, borrow from the call money market to tackle the rush. Banks and non-bank financial institutions made a record of transaction on the call money market alone on August 05, 2012 by borrowing collectively Tk 82.18 billion (8,218 crore) from the market on the day. The Bangladesh Bank has had to pump a record amount of money into the banking system as clients flooded almost all the branches of banks across the country before the start of Eid vacation. On a single day the banks wanted to borrow Tk 142.58 billion (14,258 crore) through special Repo but the central bank gave them Tk 98.78 billion (9,878 crore) and provided Tk 66.4437 billion (6,644.37 crore) as liquidity support.
Given that the majority of Muslim businesses spend a substantial amount of cash for the festival, stock market show up with new zeal, remittances pour in Bangladesh economy, a special business spree starts for transportation sector as a large number of people travel and the event create creativities in print and electronic media. These media reports confirm the magnitude of financial transaction marking the celebration of Eid in an economy of one hundred fifty five million population with US $ 750 per capita GDP
Festivals are common to all societies and cultures. With the change of social and economic structures, the nature of festivals also changes. But some festivals are so deeply rooted in the social organism that they continue to entertain from generation to generation. Some of the festivals bear the mark of the community and nationality, some have the stamp of religion, and again some bear the impression of politics. The main foundations of religious festivals are the ritual and have been of collective activities. Many of the rituals were related to agriculture and were determined by lunar months. The ancient rituals were magical processes to tame supernatural power; in the subsequent cultures, this characteristic feature was retained. Some spontaneous agro-based ancient festivals lost their spontaneity with the passing of time and became more formal.
Although most of the festivals were related to religions, these did not evolve on account of religions -- they originated spontaneously in the society. Later on, they assumed more formal character. As for example, not very long ago, singing and music was a part of the Eid festival of the Muslims of Bengal, which was an expression of spontaneity. But now it is not there. Now a day these are more formal than before, but new social dimensions have been added to them; they have become occasions of exchanges of pleasantries among friends and relatives, becoming an event of economic boom, cultural activities and even political maneuverings. Thus the religious practices and pattern of life of the Muslims of Bangladesh and those of the Middle East and Indonesia are not the same.
The joy and pomp with which Eid was celebrated in this land during the Mughal period was confined to the immigrant, highly placed and rich Muslims. The general body of people remained aloof from it. However, the ruins of Shahi Eidgahs in different parts of Bangladesh bear testimony to fact that the Mughals accorded importance to Eid. By the end of the nineteenth century, a new ingredient, viz., folk-fair, was added as an accompanying source of pleasure during Eid. This trend still continues and now at least twelve fairs are held on the occasion of Eid in different regions of Bangladesh.
Eid was not celebrated with the same importance in the colonial days as it is being done now. The reason was the absence of government patronage, poverty of the people and their ignorance about religion. An account of the Eid celebration by the Bengal Muslims during the last hundred years reveals that one of the main features of the Eid festival was the arrangement of special food and drink. In the mofussil and rural areas, the food would include 'korma,' 'polao,' and various types of home-made 'pitha', 'semai', and 'jarda'. Unmarried girls would draw butterflies, which has long been recognised by the Bengalis as a symbol of marriage, on the 'pitha.' But in the urban areas, this type of indigenous practice was absent.
In the Eid menu, home-made sweet items would get prominence. One of the main characteristic features of the nineteenth century Eid in Dhaka was the Eid procession. Probably, the Naib-Nazims of Dhaka introduced this practice of procession after taking the cue from the famous Janmastami procession of Dhaka. After being stopped for some time in between, such processions have again been started a few years ago. In the subsequent period, various folk-usage, such as salutation after sighting the new moon heralding Eid, touching the feet of the elderly people as a mark of respect, holding of fair and other related customs came to be in vogue in the Muslim society.
In many cases, local or urban socio-culture has also made an impact on this festival. During the 1930s and 1940s, on the Eid day in Dhaka , Khatak dance was performed in Ramna, Armanitola and other grounds. Besides, boat race, kite flying, horse race, etc., were held. At the start of the last century, when the political movement for a separate Muslim identity began, Eid festival assumed new importance. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, both the Eids became the national religious festivals in the state of which present-day Bangladesh was a part, and enjoyed patronization from the government.
Now in Bangladesh Eid is observed colorfully in a befitting manner and with great zeal and zest. With changes in social and economic structures, the nature of festivals also changes. The Eid festival is so deeply rooted in the social organism that they continue to entertain people from generation to generation. It also bears the mark of the community and nation, has the stamp of religion, and again bears a political impression. This festival that evolved in the primitive society out of the prayer for food, has now become varied and vibrant.
(Dr Muhammad Abdul Mazid is a former Secretary to the Government and a former Chairman, NBR.)