Bengalis are a cheerful community with their never ending festivities and festive spirit! Poila Boisakh announces the commencement of Bengali Naboborsho or Bengali New Year which is solemnized and hugely celebrated by the Bengali community all across the country and as well as abroad. Poila Boisakh translates into the first day of the Bengali New Year which begins with Boisakh the first month of the Bengali Calendar and the event falls on April 14th or 15th which is preceded by Chaitra Sankranti; the last month of the Bengali calendar.
The celebrations begins at least a month before the inception of the Bengali Naboborsho with the famous Chaitra sale organized by the trading community and shopkeepers in Bengal attracting scores of enthusiastic shoppers who flock to these stores and roadside stalls to avail huge discounts on all items.
History of Poila Baisakh
The Bengali calendar closely resembles the Indian solar calendar renowned as Surya Siddhanta and the Bengali New Year kicks off from mid April according to the Gregorian year. The origin of Bengali calendar is closely traced back to the erstwhile King of Gour, Sashanka who might have invented this system. Mughal Emperor Akbar aided by his finance minister Todar Mal is also said to be a major contributor in introducing a revised calendar in order to facilitate tax collection in Bengal province where harvesting season did not comply with the Islamic lunar calendar and thus the new Bengali calendar was known as Bonggabdo which was improvised with subsequent changes in the administrative system and respective dynasties.
The Bengali New Year coincides with New Year celebrations in Assam, Mithila, Manipur, Burma, Cambodia, Odisha, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Tamil Nadu. According to the Bengali Calendar it is the 15th Century and the Bengali New Year will usher in 1422 Bonggabdo (1422nd year according to Bengali calendar).
Poila Baisakh Celebrations
On the auspicious day, Bengalis perform Puja at their homes, some take a holy dip in the Ganges, decorate their homes with mango leaves and banana leaves, establish a holy pot filled with holy water from the Ganges while covering it with a green coconut and draw a swastika with vermillion on it.
Bengali women and men adorn themselves in fresh apparel; i.e. women wear white sarees with red border or its colorful varieties, their head covered in flowers while men wear traditional Dhoti and Panjabi. Bengalis visit their extended families and relatives’ homes bearing sweets or sandesh from renowned sweetmeat/mithai shops and feed each other rosogollas
after touching the elders’ feet eeking their blessings, exchanging pleasantries and greetings.
They also visit temples to seek blessing from the almighty and later visit jewellery shops and stores which sent out invitations to their customers who oblige by visiting their stores and it is considered auspicious to buy items from these stores.
Shopkeepers, traders, businessmen perform Ganesh and Laksmi Puja in their stores and warehouses which are freshly painted. Priests mark the inception of the new Haalkhata
; a red ledger or account book which replaces the old one on this auspicious day. People also rush to book stores to buy a copy of the new almanac or panjika
which contains auspicious dates and notifications including propitious time for ceremonies like marriage, rice ceremonies, festivals etc.
Cultural programmes are organized in different places and institutions, people participate in cultural events, organize processions and Probhat Pheris (morning processions) singing songs like Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Esho he Boisakh’ and organize dance performance, dramas and skits to usher in the New Year with fanfare.
Later in the day Bengalis serve and treat their relatives to a yummy platter of rice, dal, potato fry, vegetable curry, fish curry, chutney and sandesh. Bengali New Year is a public holiday in Bengal along with Bangladesh where it is celebrated with fervor s a day of festivity across the country by Bengali community. It is a celebration which transgress religion, caste and discrimination bringing communities together on this special day.