Ekushey Book fair: the platform of book loving people

Published : 02 Feb 2017, 16:13

Ekushey Book Fair is the national book fair of Bangladesh which is arranged every year for the whole month of February in Dhaka. This event is to commemorate the historic language movement of 21 February 1952 for the establishment of Bangla as one of the state languages. It is arranged each year by Bangla Academy and takes place for the whole month of February in Dhaka. Every the fair held throughout February at the premises of Bardhaman House and its surrounded area. Since 2014, the fair also has expanded into the Sohrawardi ground. 

Muktodhara publishing house started a little sale in front of Bangla Academy in the 21 February 1972, the Shaheed Day, later International Mother Language Day. Chittaranjan Saha of Muktodhara took the initiative. As far as it is known, Chittaranjan Saha started the Fair on 8th February 1972 by displaying 32 books on a mat at the premises of the Bardhaman House of Dhaka University. These books were published by the Sadhin Bangla Literary Society (now Muktodhara Publication) established by Chittaranjan Saha and written by Bangladeshi refugees. 

These books were the first contribution of independent Bangladeshi publication industry. He ran the book fair alone from 1972 to 1976. Later, other book publishers joined unofficially. Gradually it became official and the most popular book fair of Bangladesh. Bangla Academy took over organization of the fair in 1978. In 1984 it was named Amar Ekushey Book Fair. Notably, in 1990s, another national book fair called Dhaka Boi Mela was initiated. This book fair is organized by government in February every year. The small fair of 32 books now has become the most enriched and traditional book fair of Bengali language.
The Ekushey Book Fair has been getting bigger in terms of the number of participating publishing houses for five years. The participation of publishers in the month-long book fair is increasing. According to Bangla Academy, this year the authorities have allotted 650 stalls to 450 publishing houses and organizations on Bangla Academy and Sohrawardy Uddyan premises. There were 650 stalls of 401 organizations in 2016, 565 stalls of 353 organizations in 2015 and 517 stalls of 299 organizations in 2014 and 460 stalls of 274 organizations. The fair venue has been extended to Sohrawardy Uddyan since 2013 to accommodate more participants as well as to have more breathing space for book lovers. Academy officials and publishers said that book fair was the biggest congregation of publishers, readers, writers, poets and readers. Publishers of creative books prefer to have a stall in the book fair. The major portion of business of creative books selling took place in the book fair. About 70 per cent of sales of creative books take place in the month-long book fair, he said adding that all publishers waited for and made special plans for the book fair. According to estimates of the book fair committees, sale in the book fair was also on the rise in the past four years. The combined sale in the book fair was about Tk 40.50 crore in 2016, Tk 21.95 crore in 2015, Tk 16.50 crore in 2014 and Tk 10.15 crore in 2013.

The publisher’s stools were divided into the Publisher’s area, Publisher-Seller area, Child Corner, Governmental and Non-Governmental Institutions and Little Magazine. Besides the fair is divided in the name of language martyrs Rafiq, Salam, Jabbar, Shafiur, Barkat, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Dr. Muhammad Sahidullah, Abdul Karim and some other literary scholars. Not only the renowned publishers of the country, but also the booksellers of different countries like India, Russia, Japan and some other country’s publishers participates in the fair with their books. Many Governmental Institutions of Government of Bangladesh like Bangladesh Tourism Board, the Bangladesh Archeology Department and some others participate in the fair with stalls. Some Non-Governmental Social Institutions also participate in the fair. Nowadays some digital publications such as CD, VCD takes place in the fair. Besides, many mobile operator companies come into the Fair with the description of their services. Little Magazines took popularity in the fair. There is access to using Internet and Fax in the media center of the fair. Besides, there are Author’s Corner, and information center. Fair premises are smoking and pollution free. There is 20-25% discount on the book of the fair. There is a task force to maintain the educational and safe environment, they investigate and take immediate step if anyone violate the Copyright or Patent law.

The Ekushey Book fair has become one of the major cultural festivals for the Bengalis, a way to celebrate the rich and varied literature that our Bengali language boasts. Every year, the Fair launches a host of books by various authors, both up and coming authors as well the established names. This year, it is reported that about 4,000 new books will be unveiled in the fair, while the number was 3,334 last year. Boi Mela started merely as a book fair; it has evolved into a national cultural festival reflecting the cultural spirit of the modern Bengali nation. In addition to book sales, Bangla Academy organizes literary and cultural events every day. Thousands of people gather to purchase books and to spend time in the company of books and their authors with a patriotic zeal. There is no entry fee. Publishers of Bangladesh take year-long preparation to publish a huge number of books during this month. Profit is not the consideration.

This book fair on the premises of Bangla Academy and its prototypes in other corners of the country symbolize cultural awakening of the entire nation. This has helped develop book reading habit among all sections of the educated, especially among the young children. It is mainly due to this that publication of books in the country has assumed industrial proportion, keeping all the printing houses awfully busy during February and the preceding months. Without this fair, the month-long programme centring 21st February, the International Mother Language Day, will lose much of its charm. Ekushey Boi Mela has become a permanent feature in the national calendar. It is therefore the responsibility of every Bengali to maintain the sanctity of the occasion in remembrance of the supreme sacrifices made by the Bengalis in the month of February to protect our mother tongue. We wish the Book Fair a great start and a fruitful month-long journey.

Writer: Government Official

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