Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the most celebrated Muslim religious festivals after a month of fasting during Ramadan, is being celebrated in a muted fashion this year under the pall of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The month of Ramadan is one of atonement and prayers for the faithful and they end the month long abstaining on the morning of the Eid day with Eid jamaats held in large congregations.
However, Eid prayers in jamaat will not be held at Eidgahs or in open spaces this year as the Islamic Foundation of Bangladesh has suggested. It has also suggested maintaining social distancing inside the mosques and not to engage in the traditional form of greeting by embracing each other after prayers.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has shared her greetings with her countrymen, and people around the world, amid a different kind of Eid celebration this year – recalling the recent cyclone Amphan that battered the country's coastal districts and the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
Mentioning that the ban on mass gatherings includes Eid congregations, the premier said this celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr will not be like that of previous years. She made the remarks while delivering a speech to the nation from her official residence, Ganabhaban, in the capital, on Sunday evening, on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.
The prime minister urged the countrymen to celebrate the Eid staying at home with family members and help the needy neighbours.
She expressed her gratitude toward frontline workers – including healthcare professionals, law enforcement agencies and journalists – for performing their duties during the holidays to contain the deadly virus.
The pandemic has severely hurt economic activities before the Eid as well, a time when businesses conduct around 80% or more of their annual transactions.
Fashion houses, readymade clothes shops, shoe shops, boutique houses, beauty parlours, and even kitchen markets hardly saw any businesses in preparation of the Eid celebration.
The Business Standard talked to people of different classes, and professionals, to ask about their plans to celebrate Eid this year.
Every year, ahead of Eid, government employees usually return to their families in their villages, full of joy – with Eid bonuses and at least a week's leave from their workplaces.
However, this year, the government has instructed them to stay at their stations because of the pandemic. Almost 13 lakh government employees will have to celebrate this Eid at their posting stations.
MD Shafiqur Rahman, administrative officer of the senior recruitment branch of the Ministry of Public Administration told The Business Standard, "I celebrate Eid every year with relatives at my home village Sandwip. I was unable to go there this year as the government ordered us to stay at our workstations because of the novel coronavirus outbreak."
Most private sector employees are also staying put in the capital this year as the public transport is not permitted to run on a regular schedule yet. Many did not receive their Eid bonuses this year, a financial boost to their regular salaries that help them in their Eid celebrations. Many did not even get their salaries for the month of April.
Ehsanul Haque, employee of a multinational organisation said, "I am not going home this year to my parents. I cannot celebrate Eid this year as usual as I do every year."
"I will celebrate this year at my home only with my wife and children.
However People who could manage their own transportation were allowed to leave Dhaka after an initial embargo by police on leaving the capital or entering it, causing much confusion.
On the other end of the spectrum, garment workers and low-income people started to return to their homes using their own resources and ingenuity. They were seen taking motor rickshaws, motorcycles, or any other means to go to their destinations. Some walked, and some even hid themselves in cargo trucks to evade the police before the embargo was lifted.
Toufiqul Islam, chairman of Saidpur union parishad of Shibganj upazila of Bogura told The Business Standard, "Eid prayers will be held as per the government's instructions, in closed places. No jamaat will held at Eidgahs or in open spaces."
"No one may organise a party to celebrate on the occasion of Eid," he added.
Veteran actor Dr Inamul Haque told The Business Standard, "We are going through an unusual situation. People of the whole world are affected because of the novel coronavirus. Everybody has been keeping themselves inside their homes to keep their families well."
Zunaid Ahmed Palak, State Minister for Information and Communication Technology said, "Members of the national parliament (MP) and ministers usually stay at their own respective areas during Eid time. They try to celebrate Eid with people."
"However, this year, all but a very few MP's and ministers are staying in their respective areas. Others are staying in the capital," he added.
Palak said, "I will try to maintain social distancing rules and perform Eid prayers. If possible, I will exchange greetings with people virtually."
Shamsuzzaman Khan, former director general of Bangla Academy told The Business Standard, "Eid salami [money] is one of the main attractions of Eid in Bangladesh. Usually, elders of a family give this salami to the younger ones."
"Due to the ongoing situation, even the salami cannot be given this year," he said.
Rokibul Islam, student of English Department of Jagannath University, could not return to his home village in Rangpur this year even after getting a long vacation because of the pandemic.
He said, "Everyone is tired of being inside their home for two months. Now people have to celebrate Eid the same way, inside their homes. This year's Eid celebration will be completely pale."
"I am preparing my meals everyday. I have to do it even on Eid day," he said.
The low income people are worried about providing food for their family members.
Asgar Ali, a Bhangari shopkeeper said, "I used to earn at least Tk500 per day before. But, I have not been able to do business for two months now. I had saved some money – that too is gone."
"There is no food in our house. Do you understand how our Eid day will pass?" said Asgar Ali.
Televisions broadcast new stories and dramas every Eid day.
There are currently 45 Television channels in Bangladesh. Among these 45 channels, 30 are in full broadcast now. Eight among these 30 are news channels and the remaining 22 are entertainment channels.
Television channels usually plan and broadcast special programmes for seven consecutive days during the Eid. Reality shows, music and dance programmes plus a variety of programmes are broadcast at this time. However, this Eid will have no such programming.
Inamul Haque said, "Viewers of different classes enjoy various kinds of programmes every Eid. However, because there will not be such programmes, the festive day will not be celebrated like before."