Long Island City plays host to South Asian New Year celebration

By Rich Bockmann

Shuvo Noboborsho!

Revelers dressed in colorful saris and kurtas took to the streets of Long Island City over the weekend to celebrate the Bengali New Year.

Bengalis in South Asia and across the world mark the changing of the calendar, which technically happens April 14, with music, dance and a procession of oversized paper masks.

“These are all the traditional things,” said Shahin Chowdhury, an organizer with the Bangladesh Institute of Performing Arts, which put on its New Year celebration Sunday.

Now in its third year, the parade was part of a daylong festival hosted outside the NTV studio/performing art space, at 37th Avenue and 36th Street, in Long Island City.

For more than 20 years now, BIPA has been a cultural cornerstone of Queens’ Bangladeshi community, which stretches from one end of the borough to the other.

According to the U.S. census’ American Community Survey, 60 percent of the city’s nearly 50,000 Bangladeshis call Queens home and they are bunched in areas such as Jamaica, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.

Since its founding in 1993, BIPA has been focused on preserving Bengali heritage and culture through shows and performing arts events.

“We started out primarily as a school teaching the Bengali language,” said BIPA board member Ahmad.

The sounds of beating drums and chiming zills, tiny cymbals worn on the fingers, preceded marchers as the small parade made its way around the LIC block near the performing art space.

Marchers carried with them large paper masks on poles, such as those depicting the face of a Bengal tiger, the country’s national animal.

As for her favorite part of the New Year celebration, Ahmad said she enjoys the cultural performances best.

“Everybody just loves the dance and performing,” she said. “It’s very visual and engaging. It’s very easy to get into.”

“Shuvo Noboborsho!” she said, Bengali for “Happy New Year!”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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