Boat Race is called nouka baich in Bangladesh.
This race demonstrates the boatmen's technique and prowess in giving their
boats the maximum speed. In national boat race the boats have to cover
a distance of 650 meter. Each boat can be manned by 7, 25, 50 or 100 persons.
race in the Buriganga
Rivers form an integral part of Bangladesh's history,
tradition, literature, culture and sports. Boat race consequently, is
an important element of folk culture. Rivercrafts help create ports and
markets requiring the services of expert carpenters, who are often found
to compete in skills in making boats. Different districts have different
types of boat. In dhaka,
kosha type of boats are mostly used for racing. These boats
are narrow in shape and can be as long as 150 to 200 feet. Their front
and back are straight.
These boats are made of timber of local shal, shil,
karai and chambul trees. In Dhaka, faridpur,
districts narrow and long boats are used in racing. Their lengths can
be 150 to 200 feet but the backs are about 5 feet above the water and
their fronts almost touch the water. Their front and back have many decorative
works. These are also made of timber of shal, garjan,
shil karai and chambul. In comilla,
sarengi boats are used for racing. These are about 150
to 200 feet in length and 5 to 6 feet in breadth. Their front and the
back are flat like the beak of a duck and remain 2 to 3 feet above the
water. In chittagong,
and lower noakhali
areas sampan boats are used for racing. These are made like ships.
In Dhaka and Faridpur goyna boats are used for racing. These are
100 to 125 feet in length and have a breadth of 8 to 9 feet in the middle.
Their front remains 3 feet above the water and the back remains 4 to 5
feet above the water.
During Muslim rule, nawabs and other rulers used to organise boat race, and according to some sources, they used their naval fleet for this purpose. In the coastal belt of East Bengal it was necessary to maintain naval forces to protect the kingdom or occupy other kingdoms. The bara-bhuiyans
of Bengal fought against the Mughal on the basis of their naval strength. A Naval force was also used to suppress Magh and Harmad pirates. Their fleet used to have sleek boats known as 'chhip'. The boat-based naval fleets of those days are no longer there but thanks to boat racing, the excitement of their speed is enjoyed even now by the common people of Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh boat races are usually held during the Bengali months of Bhadra and Ashwin. While racing, the boatmen sing in chorus to seeking God's blessings. The boats are named attractively, proclaiming their speed or design, for example, the Jharer Pakhi (bird of the storm), Pankhiraj (the king of birds), Saimun, Tufan Mail, Mayur Pankhi, Agradoot, Dipraj and Sonar Tari (golden boat).
Before boarding their boats, boatmen purify themselves and wear uniform vests and tie up scarves of the same colour around their head. Those who row standing take their position at the back. The leader stays in the middle. The drummers and the singers provide beat and tempo to the boatmen.
To encourage boat racing and improve its organisation,
the Bangladesh Rowing Federation was formed in 1974. It helped establish
a link between traditional boat racing and modern rowing. The federation
is a member of several international rowing federations. To encourage
this sport, every year a colourful national boat race is organised. In
1990, an international boat race was also organised.
[S M Mahfuzur Rahman]