Sunday, April 21, 2024

Amar Ekushey Boi Mela

The love of Bengali Literature

Picture yourself standing under the open sky, waiting eagerly in line to read books by your favorite authors at a lively festival. Surrounded by fellow book lovers. You’ll have the chance to meet these writers in person and share in the joy of Bengali literature.

It’s a celebration of unity and love for the language, where people come together to celebrate the power of storytelling and the bond it creates among communities

Boi Mela directly translates to book fair. Amar Ekushe Boi Mela is one of the true-standing traditions of the Bengali community that celebrates language and literature. Bengalis take pride in their language and language movement, and this book fair is a true testament to that pride. 

Origins and foundation

Beginning in 1972 at Bangla Academy,  this event came from the spirit of protest against the atrocities of the liberation war. Amidst the turmoil, numerous writers, poets, and artists sought refuge in Kolkata, where they resolved to document the war’s brutality through their writings and publications, informing people and preserving the truth. 

In February 1972, Chittaranjan Shaha, a Bengali pioneer in publishing, laid a display of 33 such books as a homage to the Language Movement martyrs of 1952. Thus began the tradition of this book fair. Shaha’s pivotal role in advancing the printing and publishing industry of independent Bangladesh continues to be celebrated to this day, a testament to his enduring legacy.

Evolution and institutionalization

The roots of the Amar Ekushe Boi Mela trace back to Chittaranjan Shah’s pioneering efforts, which spurred other publishers to join in on the endeavor, culminating in its merger with the Bangla Academy in 1978 and solidifying its status as an annual event. 

In 1984, it was formally established as a tribute to the language martyrs, aligning with the spirit of  Feb. 21, celebrated globally as International Mother Language Day

Lasting throughout February, the fair serves as a platform to showcase the works of numerous Bengali writers, inviting the general public to immerse themselves in the rich literary landscape.

Notable works and literary highlights

The book fair kicks off with grandeur as the prime minister officiates the opening ceremony, joined by esteemed figures from the literary world who grace the event with their presence throughout the month. Readers and enthusiasts alike seize the chance to engage directly with writers, delving into deep discussions on diverse themes and gaining fresh perspectives on literature. Among the notable works showcased in the 2023 book fair is ‘Unfinished Memoirs’ by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman offering readers a profound glimpse into the life of the Father of the Nation. Penned during his imprisonment from 1976 to 1969, the memoir brims with powerful emotions of patriotism and unwavering strength. Alongside a plethora of newly published books, the event also features a vast array of renowned classics, showcasing the rich tapestry of mainstream Dhaka literature.

Atmosphere and experience at the fair

Set on an expansive open field at Bangla Academy, the book fair beckons readers and book enthusiasts from all corners of the capital of Bangladesh, drawing them with the promise of discovering the newest literary treasures. 

Thousands flock to the fairgrounds, eagerly queuing up in front of stalls brimming with books. Some lose themselves in the pages right then and there, soaking up the stories they’ve just acquired. It’s a vibrant festival that transcends generations, offering a slice of heritage and history to all who attend. In 2023, the book fair attracted over 6 million visitors from across the country. 

Economic impact

The bustling crowd, the snaking lines at book stalls, authors engaging with readers, and endless rows of books create the irresistible allure of this event. Boi Mela-goers eagerly anticipate the festive atmosphere, where they can immerse themselves in the latest literary offerings. 

For writers, it’s a chance to showcase their works to a wide audience and boost sales, while readers relish the opportunity to explore a diverse range of books fresh off the presses. Over the years, the book fair has become a significant revenue source for writers, with sales steadily increasing.

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