Bengali New Year celebrated at the Times Square in New York City

Bengali new year being celebrated at Times Square April 14, 2023. Photo: video grab from WhatsApp videoclip circulating on social media

“This community is made of those who believe in the power of faith,” said NYC Mayor Eric Adams throwing open the Bengali New Year celebrations in Jackson Heights on Saturday, April 15, 2023. He said his administration and the government were continuously looking at ways to assure that businesses are supported, that the city is safe, and that an environment is created to raise healthy children and families. “And we must do that together. We cannot do that if we are divided. And your faith says that we are supposed to have that on the forefront,” said Adams.

“Let us make sure that we are not only devoted worshippers but we are practitioners,” Adams said. “It means that we must be there for our seniors and older adults during their time of need,” he said. Adams encouraged people to go out and meet people in the streets after worshipping. That would bring an understanding of people’s problems and needs and bring ideas of how to help people with mental and physical health issues, he said.

“That means we must leave our houses of worship and practice that which we have been taught. As your mayor I am convinced to do that,” Adams said. He said that he engages in distributing food every Wednesday night on 34th street between 7th and 8th avenues. “If you take one hour out of a week and do as your faith says ‘to help people who are in need’, we would turn this city around. This is a community of faith. This is a community of giving back,” he said.

The Mayor’s suggestions were welcomed with applause on the second day of the ‘Pohela Baisakh’, the two-event on April 14th and 15th, Bengali New Year celebrations in New York City.

On April 14th, the first event was celebrated for the first time at the Times Square. The April 15th event was celebrated at the Diversity Square in Jackson Heights. Earlier on April 9, 2023, the organizers of the event, NRB Worldwide, along with other community organizations who joined in, had held a special Bengali New Year celebration at the Nepali Banchaghar restaurant in Jackson Heights where they announced the details of the two-day celebrations.

More than 150 artists performed the traditional ‘shatkantha’ at Times Square early in the morning for the ‘Mangal Shobhajatra’, with their voices in perfect harmony as a chorus, with Mahitosh Talukder Tapas conducting the entire group. Just as perfect was the harmony of the white sarees with red borders that the women wore, while men were in the traditional long ‘kurta’ and pants. The participants who were specially flown in to perform included dancer Laila Hasan and Rabindra Sangeet singer Rezwana Chowdhury Bonya from Bangladesh, and singer Rathindranath Roy. Much in the street play style performances, the group gathered in a circle, singing and keeping time with clapping of their hands, while the special artists performed in the middle of the group. Some NYC spectators who were not used to the street performance style, were confused as well as amused, they said. The Mars procession, with performers holding the traditional face masks, took place within the circle made by the performers, in the accompaniment of the beating of the drums.

Also at the Times Square event, the new Bengali year 1430 was welcomed by the invited guests and the organizers, chief among whom were Laila Hasan, Mahitosh Tapas, and Biswajit Saha. Hasan, who is also the convener of 1430 Bangla Varshavaran in New York, said Pohela Boishakh was the biggest festival in the lives of Bengalis regardless of their religion and caste. Inaugurating the colorful Mars procession, Chowdhury Banya said the Bengali immigrants had created history by participating in the event in spite of their busy and tough lives. Chowdhury Banya said he wished to see such celebrations in other countries in the world. Congratulating the performers and the audience, NRB President Saha spoke of the Bengali spirit and culture. He also spoke of attempts to restrict this spirit by some groups whose petition to put a stay on the event was dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Deputy Commissioner Dilip Chauhan, from the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, with the performers at the Bengali New Year 2023, ‘Pohela Baisakh’ celebrations at the Diversity Square in Jackson Heights on Saturday, April 15, 2023. Photo: Mayor’s Office

The celebrations continued on Saturday, April 15, 2023, at the Diversity Square in Jackson Heights, with NYC Mayor Eric Adams inaugurating the March procession. Adams was accompanied by Deputy Commissioner Dilip Chauhan from his Office of International Affairs.  Speaking on the occasion, Chauhan said that Adams had always held the Bangladeshi community in high regard, and that he had delivered the promises he had made to bring more notice to the community, of celebrating the Bangladesh Heritage Month at his residence, of hoisting the Bangladesh flag, and of holding the new year celebrations.

The program in Jackson Heights also included Sotokonthe Borsho Boron (welcoming of Bengali New Year with chorus song in 100-voice), Mangal Shobhajatra, a puppet show, bioscope, theatre skits, folk songs and more. A traditional fair was also held.



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