Bengali New year

Hi everyone

For a number of times, I have written about new year here in India. It is actually quite interesting, or maybe I should say funny, to live in a country where you have some many new years, or maybe I should say “new years”. First we had the Parsi New Year. We have had the Gudi Pawda, which I think is mostly a Maharastrian new year. We have had Eid, which I think is some kind of a new year for the Muslims. And I’m sure there are a few more new years that I have in some way or the other missed.

But well, today is Poyela Boishakh, which is the first day of the Bengali calendar, and then hence the new year according to that 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. The first day of the Bengali year therefore coincides with the mid-April new year in Mithila,Assam, Burma, Cambodia, Kerala, Manipur, Nepal, Orissa, Punjab, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Thailand.

Celebrations of Pohela Boishakh started from Akbar’s reign. It was customary to clear up all dues on the last day of . On the next day, or the first day of the new year, landlords would entertain their tenants with sweets. On this occasion there used to be fairs and other festivities. In due course the occasion became part of domestic and social life, and turned into a day of merriment. The main event of the day was to open a halkhata or new book of accounts.

In Kolkata, Pohela Boishakh (and indeed the entire month of Boishakh) is considered to be an auspicious time for marriages. These days people wear new clothes and go about socialising. Choitro, the last month of the previous year, is the month of hectic activities and frantic purchases. Garment traders organise a Choitro sale and sell the garments with heavy discounts.

Pohela Boishakh is the day for cultural programmes. Prayers are offered for the well-being and prosperity of the family. Young ladies clad in white saris with red borders and men clad in dhuti and kurta take part in the Probhat Pheri processions early in the morning to welcome the first day of the year.

This day being auspicious, new businesses and new ventures are started. The Mahurat is performed, marking the beginning of new ventures.

Pohela Boishakh is the beginning of all business activities in Bengal. The Bengali Hindu traders purchase new accounting book. The accounting in the halkhata begins only after offering puja. Mantras are chanted and স্বস্তিক shostik (“Hindu swastika”) are drawn on the accounting book by the priests. Long queues of devotees are seen in front of the Kalighat temple from late night. Devotees offer puja to receive the blessings of the almighty.

On Pohela Boishakh various fairs are held in West Bengal. The most famous of these is Bangla Sangit Mela, held at Nandan- Rabindra Sadan ground. This fair is conducted by the Government of West Bengal.

Pohela Boishakh coincides with the New Years in many other Southern Asian calendars, including:

  • Assame New Year, or Rongali Bihu (in Assam)
  • Malayali New Year, or Vishu (in Kerala)
  • Oriya New Year, or Maha Vishuva Sankranti (in Orissa)
  • Tamil New Year, or Puthandu (in Tamil Nadu)
  • Tuluva New Year, or Bisu (in Karnataka)

So let’s see if there can be some more celebrations soon…

Talk to you soon

Karsten

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