Nouka Baich(Boat Race) is a traditional sports event in Bangladesh. This event preserves a great history compared to all other boat races in the world. What makes this unique is the individual who lifts the team by singing traditional and enthusiastic songs. Apart from the limitation of no engine boat, there are no strict rules for this event. The distance for the National Nouka Baich competition is 650 meters. Usually, each boat is crewed by 25 to 100 persons.
History of Nouka Baich
Bangladesh is a riverine country, and it’s literature, culture, tradition, and sports are linked heavily with rivers. Nouka Baich, however, is an integral part of folk culture. Rivercrafts help to create ports and markets that require skilled carpenters who are often able to build boats. Different regions of Bangladesh are often seen to have different sorts of boats, such as Koshar, Goyna, Sarangi, Shampan, etc. Generally, teams use Kosha(flat bottom) boats for Nouka Baich. They are narrow-shaped and can be up to 200 feet. Nouka Baich is an ancient convention of folk culture practiced for centuries. Its popularity in metropolitan areas amplified in the 18th century. The various Nawabs of the Mughal regime was known for organizing Nouka Baich. It is one of the most significant and traditional ways of entertainment in some of the rural areas. Still, urban people bring this delightful rural practice into the urban locale and try their best to protect this tradition.
About the Rituals
Boat races in Bangladesh are usually organized in Bhadra and Ashwin(Mid August to mid-October). Before the event starts, boatmen clean themselves and wear vests and tie up headscarves of the same color. Boatmen who have to row standing take their position at the back of the boat. The forerunner usually stays in the center. As soon as the race starts, the boatmen begin to sing in chorus and seek God’s blessings while the drummers and the singers provide beat and rhythm to cheer the boatmen. The boatmen continue to sing and row their boats till the ending point of the race. Any boat that reaches the finishing line first is considered the winner.
Famous people had their say.
Some famous personalities of Bangladesh and beyond shared their views about Nouka Baich. On her Golden Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II issued a statement on this event and expressed her desire to know more about the Bangladeshi traditions. The present state minister of the Ministry of ICT, Zunaid Ahmed Palak said, “Such competitions can keep the young generation away from drugs through healthy entertainment.” Member of Parliament RAM Obaidul Kader Chowdhury said, “Nouka Baich is integrally connected with the culture and literature of Bangladesh, and we all should work together to save this traditional event. Famous singer Mamtaz also shared her opinion regarding Nouka Baich. She said, “ Nouka Baich is one of the most conventional sports events in Bangladesh. We are trying hard and soul to save our traditions and represent them in front of the world.”
Nouka Baich- Bangladesh and Beyond
Foreigners often seem interested in Bangladeshi culture. If anyone from foreign wants to enjoy this traditional event, they may contact the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh for information regarding Nouka Baich and other traditional events. They don’t always need to visit Bangladesh to enjoy this event. The Bengali community of England annually arranges a Nouka Baich event in England. So, anyone from England and European countries can visit Birmingham to be a part of this traditional event. In 2007, the British-Bangladeshi municipality of Oxford introduced the ‘Nouka Baich’ event in the UK. It is now one of England’s annual cultural events, attracting thousands of people from England and the British-Bang Bangladeshi locals.
How to join Nouka Baich Event as a Spectator or Participant
As a spectator
Well. There are multiple locations where Nouka Baich takes place. Manikganj, Bogura, Dhaka are some of them. As a local, you can travel to any place in the country without hesitation. But as a tourist or foreigner, you might get into trouble when searching for proper information. So, I’m sharing the whereabouts of Dhaka’s Nouka Baich.
Dhaka’s Nouka Baich usually takes place in Bosila, Mohammadpur. After leaving the airport, you’ve to cross the road using foot over bridge. You’ll see some bus named ‘Projapoti’. They will directly take you to Bosila. But as a tourist, you may not understand the local language. It’s better to call an Uber which will directly take you to the event spot.
As a participant
As far as I am concerned, you cannot join the event as a participant if you’re a foreigner or tourist unless special requests have been made. But, if you’re local and know how to row and have a team of at least 7 people then you can join the event as a participant. You need to contact the organizers prior to the event in order to register your team. If they think you’re eligible then you have to register and be present with your team and boat before the event starts.
Although the people living on the rivers’ banks face many troubles throughout the year because of rivers, they are still trying to save this traditional event. But, they can’t take this enormous responsibility alone. The Government of Bangladesh and its people should come forward together to protect our folk cultures and traditions because they give us a new height on the world stage. They are keeping our history, our culture alive. Yes, we need to be advanced, but that is after ‘protecting traditions.’