For the past decade, hilsa, the national fish of Bangladesh, has become an integral part of Pohela Boishakh celebrations. People from the urban regions, in particular, are accustomed to consuming a dish of panta-Ilish, a combination of leftover rice soaked in water with hilsa that is either fried, steamed or served in curry form. Interestingly, experts have stated that this practice cannot be traced back to our history or our Bangladeshi tradition, with no signs of this practice occurring for a thousand years.
Furthermore, the practice of eating hilsa on the first day of Boishakh is one of recent origin, a habit that can lead to the extinction of the species.
Showtime spoke to a few leading stars who’ve taken a stance to eliminate hilsa from their Boishakh diet, to set an example for others to do the same.
First and foremost, as a socially concerned citizen, one should refrain from any practice which is bad for our society. There is no such obligation that I have to eat hilsa on this day.
I support those who’ve taken a strong stance against eating Hilsa during Pohela Boishakh. Catching Hilsa around this time of the year would bring long term loss to our country.
Although I adore hilsa eggs, I won’t have any hilsa dish during Boishakh.
Firstly, as a dish itself, the combination of panta and Hilsa is ludicrous. People who hail from the rural areas of the country know that Panta bhaat is actually eaten with green chillies and onions – the two spices used to add flavour to the dish. I think it was the idea of profit mongers to link hilsa to the celebration. There is no relation between consuming Hilsa with the Bengali New Year celebration.
In villages you will see there is no hilsa fish. What’s even more alarming is that we are not only consuming the fish but also the eggs. If people can avoid consuming Jatka or mother hilsa along with hilsa eggs this time around, hilsa fish may be saved from extinction.
We can only consider this a successful one if we actually manage to save hundreds of thousands of fishes during the occasion.
Tariq Anam Khan
Although we did celebrate the occasion for years, I don’t think there was such an obligatory custom to eat panta-ilish on this day.
I don’t believe that we will lose touch with our Bengali traditions if we abstain from eating Hilsa during our Pohela Boishakh celebrations. I’m no expert on the matter, but if this is the breeding time for the fish, we should abstain from consuming it during this time period.
We should be more concerned about the survival of this breed of fish. If we can preserve jatka or mother hilsa then definitely we will be able to harvest more.