In the Gregorian calendar, Poila Boishakh falls either on April 14 or April 15 each year. It also frequently coincides with the new years of Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Assam, Kerala, Manipur, etc.
In Bengal, Emperor Akbar begins the Bengali calendar-year on 10 March, 1585, but it became efficacious from 16 March, 1586 the day of his ascension to the dominion. The beginning of the Bengali year is the Hejiri lunar year and the Bengali solar year.
The Bengali year was received even at the grass root level. A feasible cause for this may be that the basis of the Bengali year is agriculture and the starting of the Bengali year is a time of gathering of taxes from the farmers. For example, the farmer does not plough the field, even if it rains in Chaitra the last month of the Bengali year and parallel to mid-march to Mid-April.
The streams are generally ploughed in the month of Baisakh (April-May) and the prayer for the rains is also causes of this. However, the general man still refers to the Bengali calendar of his day to day activities and the city-dwellers to the Julian calendar.
In this context, Shamsuzzaman Khan has correctly remarked that Akbar had once begun the pan-Indian Islamic year as well as the Bengali year. “The initiation, of Bengali year had not only survived, but at one time had also given the special power of nationalistic feelings and pride to the separated and split mainly joint Bengali society.”
TRADITIONAL ‘NABA BARSHO’ CELEBRATIONS
The years called as 2017 and 2018 is the year 1424 of the Bengali calendar, and Bengalis are quickly forgetting the conventional old conventional ways to commemorate the ‘Naba Barsho’ (Bengali naba = new, barsho = year). However, people still wear new clothes, interchange sweets and pleasantries among friends and acquaintances.
Younger people touch the feet of seniors and seek their blessings for the coming year. There’s also a tradition of wearing gem-studded rings to appease the stars and planets! Near and dear ones to send presents and greeting cards to one another. These presents are often handmade and based on local themes, but they may also be costly presents from international brands, like Hallmark or Archies Greetings.
PANJIKA, THE BENGALI ALMANAC!
As the year comes to a close, Bengalis throng to the bookstall to book a copy of Panjika, the Bengali almanac. It’s a rather fat year-long handbook to aid you find fete timings, favorable days, favourable dates for all from weddings to housewarmings, from beginning a journey to launching a business and more.
Panjika publishing is a large business in Kolkata, with Gupta Press, PM Bagchi, Benimadhab Seal and Rajendra Library is vying with every other for their share of the Bangla Almanac pie. The Panjika comes in some sizes–directory, full, half and pocket.
Panjikas have come of age by including modern content, such as phone numbers for hospitals, doctors and police stations, and devout fete timings for people abroad in Bangladesh, the US and the UK all in local time. While the English calendar has gained priority over the Bengali Calendar over the years, almost all events in rural Bengal take place following to the Bengali calendar.
BENGALI YEAR-END FAIRS
Hindus throughout Bengal commemorate the year-end or ‘Chaitra Sankranti’ with some exciting fairs and fete, such as Gajan and Charak. Custom Charak Mela, which includes several extreme spiritual acrobatics, is held in small and large towns in West Bengal, culminating in Latu Babu-Chhatu Babur Bazar in North Kolkata on the last day of the year, and a day after at Konnagar, the place of Bengal’s only ‘Basi Charaker Mela’.
HAAL KHATA FOR TRADERS IN BENGAL
For Bengali agents and shop owners, Poila Baisakh is Haal Khata time an favourable day to ‘open’ the ledger. Ganesh and Lakshmi Puja are solemnized in almost all shops and business centers, and regular clients are formally invited to attend the evening party. For consumers, it may not always be something to look forward to, for Haal Khata also means settling of all outstanding debts of the previous year.
BENGALI NEW YEAR CUISINE
In the Bengali penchant for enjoying good food comes through best on Poila Baisakh. Household kitchens exude the aroma of freshly planned Bengali delicacies, especially sweet dishes, since it’s thought to be a good omen to begin the year with mishtanna, or custom sweets such as Rosogollas, Payesh, Kalakand and Ras Malai. The New Year cuisine for lunch, of course, contains a diverse plan of fish and rice.
POILA BOISHAKH CELEBRATIONS IN INDIA AND BANGLADESH
There is a subtle deviation between the way Bangladesh and West Bengal ring in the New Year. While Poila Baisakh is very much a piece of the Hindu calendar, ‘Naba Barsho’ is a national fete for the Islamic State of Bangladesh, and a distinctly greater exuberance marks the celebrations in this part of Bengal.
Dhaka residents begin prior at daybreak with the public festivity of Poila Baisakh at the Ramna Maidan. Most Kolkatans prefer to commemorate it with music and dance. Kolkata’s film town, Tollygunge, commemorate the New Year with the auspicious mahurat functions of Bengali movies, a custom part of Poila Baisakh at Tollywood, Bengal’s center of filmmaking.
The city hosts some especially programs on the occasion, with notable audiences attracted to Nandan, the Calcutta Town Hall, New Market and the Maidan.
TRADITIONS OF BENGALI NEW YEAR
Bengali New Year was commemorated at the time as many other new years in the areas. It is marked by the sun moving from Pieces to Aries. This is an ancient fete and when it was first noticed, the movement of the sun into Aries would have been closer to the Vernal Equinox marking the coming of spring in the northern hemisphere.
The dates of these events diverge today due to the wobble of the earth on its axis over a 25,000 cycle – called as a procession.
HOW IS BENGALI NEW YEAR CELEBRATED?
As with other new years’ customs in the area, Bengali families clean their house and adorn them with colorful motifs called Alpana. At the center of the Alpana pattern, they place a earthen pot, filled with water, covered with mango leaves and marked with the holy Hindu red and the white swastika symbol.