Bangali New Year Pohela or Poila Boishakh Sanskrit:पोइल बिसक| Hindi:पोइला बोइशाख | Bangla:পহেলা বৈশাখ) is the first day of Bengali New Year and it is the most popular Bengali festival. It is also a most popular cultural festival in Bangladesh and connects all Ethnic Bengalis irrespective of religious and regional differences. Bengali New Year is also known as “Nobo Borsho”. The Bengali term ‘Pohela’ means 1st Day and‘Boishakh’ means 1st month of Bengali year.
Shubho Naba Barsho
Naba Barsha or Pohela Boishakh (Bengali New Year)
15th April, 2014 (The first day of the Bangla Calendar)
The Bengali calendar is closely tied with the Hindu Vedic solar calendar, based on the Surya Siddhanta. As with many other variants of the Hindu solar calendar, the Bengali calendar commences in mid-April of the Gregorian year.
Pohela Boishakh celebration dates back to Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar’s reign. Akbar the Great, the renowned grandson of Zahiruddin Muhammad Babar was the 3rd Mughal Emperor. In order to ease tax collection, Akbar-e-Azamchanged the tradition of agricultural tax collection according to Hijri calendar and ordered a reform of the calendar because the Hijri calendar, being a lunar calendar- did not coincide with the harvest sessions and thus the farmers faced severe difficulties in paying taxes out of season.
The Royal Astrologer of Emperor Akbar’s court, Aamir Fatehullah Siraji was the one who actually devised this calendar, after performing a research on the lunar Hijri and Solar calendar. The unique characteristic of the Bengali year was that, rather than being a lunar calendar, it was based on an amalgamation of the solar and lunar year. This was indeed a great development, as the solar and lunar years were formulated in very different methods.
The Pohela Boishakh celebrations and festivities reflect the life in rural Bengal. Starting as a rural festival, Poyela Boishakh has now become an integral part of Bengali culture.
- People from all walks of life dress-up in traditional Bengali attire: Men wear dhuti / payejama / lungi and kurta /Panjabi.
- Young women wear white saris with red borders, and adorn themselves with tip (bindis), churi (bangles) and fūl (flowers). It’s like a custom to start the day with the traditional breakfast of Pantā-Bhāt (leftover rice soaked in water), onion, Shōbuj Lōnkā (green chillies), Āchār (pickles), dāl (lentils) & Bhāja Elish Māch (fried Hilsa fish).
- The lifestyle of rural Bengal is showcased in almost all these fairs. Various traditional handicrafts, toys, cosmetics, agricultural products, as well as various kinds of food and sweets are sold at these fairs.
- The fairs also provide entertainment, with singers and dancers staging jatra (traditional plays), pala gan, kobigan, jarigan, gambhira gan, gazir gan and alkap gan.
- They present folk songs as well as baul, marfati, murshidi and bhatiali songs. Narrative plays like Laila-Majnu, Yusuf-Zulekha and Radha-Krishna are staged. Among other attractions of these fairs are puppet shows, merry-go-round and Giant wheels are also installed and are enjoyed by the children.
Cultures , Rituals and Festive:
All Bengalis eagerly wait for this festival as during this time they decorate their houses with fresh flowers and draw rangolis at the main entrance. Rangolis are otherwise known as ‘Alpana’ and is made out of colored rice. An earthen pot bearing the symbol of Swastika is kept in the middle of rangoli. It is believed to bring in wealth and symbolizes a prosperous New Year.
There are early morning processions which are known as Prabhat Pheries, where they go to a nearby river to take a holy dip. The concept behind this tradition is that they wash away all the sins.
After this process being followed, the idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Laxmi are worshipped with the aim to pray for the well-being and longevity of all the family members. There is another tradition of the New Year whereby all the loans and old dues should be settled off with the third parties. Also on this auspicious day, there is a norm among Bengali businessmen to purchase new accounts books and they take all the new initiative to prepare new accounts known as Haalkhata. At some of the places, people arrange for dance and singing shows. Kids also recite Bengali poems but among all that preparation, eating traditional Bengali food is the prime focus.
Kolkata’s film town Tollygunge celebrates the New Year with the auspicious mahurat functions of Bengali movies, a traditional part of Poila Baisakh at Tollywood, Bengal’s center of filmmaking. The city witnesses several special programs on the occasion, and the places that attract most people are Nandan, the Calcutta Town Hall, New Market and the Maidan.
Bengali New Year Cuisine
The Bengali penchant for gormandizing good food comes through best on Poila Baisakh. Household kitchens exude the aroma of freshly prepared Bengali delicacies, especially sweet dishes, because it’s thought to be a good omen to start the year with mishtanna or traditional sweets such as Rosogollas, Payesh, Sandesh, Kalakand and Ras Malai. The New Year cuisine for lunch, of course, contains various preparations of fish and rice. Those who prefer to go out to eateries get to have some pure pleasantries for the palate, and other mouth-watering culinary dalliances.
‘Pahela Baisakh Celebrations in Bangladesh
There is a subtle difference between the way Bangladesh and West Bengal ring in the New Year. Although Poila Baisakh is very much a part of the Hindu calendar, ‘Naba Barsho’ is a national festival for the Islamic State of Bangladesh and a distinctly greater exuberance marks the festivities in this part of Bengal. While it’s Poila Boishakh in West Bengal, it’s ‘Pahela Baisakh’ in Bangladesh. It’s a public holiday in Kolkata, but in Dhaka, even newspaper offices remain closed for the Bengali New Year.
One thing that’s common to both sides of the border is ushering in the New Year with Rabindra Sangeet or Tagore’s musical invocation Esho Hey Baisakh Esho Esho (Come Baisakh, Come O Come!), or the relatively obscure composition Aaj Ranashaje Bajiye Bishan Esheche Esheche Baisakh.
Dhaka denizens start early at daybreak with public celebrations of Poila Baisakh at the Ramna Maidan. Most Kolkatans prefer to celebrate it under the cultural masquerade of music and dance.