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Home > Do You Know > FANTASTIC FESTIVALS – Burning Man, USA



Strictly speaking, Burning Man is neither a festival, nor a carnival. It is just an event, a weeklong annual event that takes place in the Black Rock City, a city temporarily created in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, USA. By sheer global popularity, today it has taken the shape of an exceptional hedonistic carnival, where more than fifty thousand indulgent people gather together every year to shed the conventions and inhibitions of human society, and create a huge temporary settlement, dedicated to community, art, self expression and self reliance. The annual gathering kicks off on the last Sunday of August and runs until the first Monday of September, which is known as the US Labour Day. Its name comes from the symbolic ritual of burning of a giant wooden effigy – ‘The Man’ – at the end of the event, after which all the participants leave the place without leaving a single trace. The height of the Burning Man has remained close to 40 feet (12 meters) tall since 1989.

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Initially the Burning Man was held in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Francisco, as a small function, organized by a group of friends under the leadership of Larry Harvey. However, it did have earlier roots. Prior to 1986, Sculptor Mary Grauberger, a friend of Harvey’s girlfriend Janet Lohr, held solstice bonfire gatherings on Baker Beach for several years, and Harvey had the opportunity to attend some them. When Grauberger stopped organizing the event, Harvey took the lead and continued. Along with Jerry James, he built the first wooden effigy on the afternoon of June 21, 1986, cobbled together using scrap wood, to be torched later that evening. They named the event Burning Man, as it started on the summer solstice.

Since then the event is organized by the Burning Man Project, a non-profiting organization. The motto of the event is, there should not be any spectator or visitor – everybody should participate and contribute something to the theme of the particular year. The festival encourages every participant to discover and rely on his/her inner resources, it wishes everyone to learn the value of cooperation and collaboration. Except the official outlets for coffee and ice, selling of anything is prohibited. Friendly bartering of goods between strangers is always encouraged.

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Many items of arts can be seen in the festival, which are gifts from the artists to the community. The art section of the festival includes small to large and very large installations. The weird or the stunningly altered and oddly modified motorized vehicles are another attraction of the Burning Man festival. However, the participants have to submit the design of their ideas in advance to the authority and get their permission to bring their mutant vehicles at the event.

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Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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