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Bengali New Year (Bengali: পহেলা বৈশাখ, Poila Boishakh; Bengali: নববর্ষ, Nôbobôrsho), occurring on 14 April or 15 April, is the first day of the Bengali calendar, celebrated in the Bangladesh and in the Indian state of West Bengal, by the Bengali people and also by minor Bengali communities in other Indian states, including Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand and Orrisa. It coincides with the New Year's days of numerous Southern Asian calendars. The traditional greeting for Bengali New Year is শুভ নববর্ষ "Shubhô Nôbobôrsho".
In Bengali, Poila stands for ‘first’ and Boishakh is first month of the Bengali calendar. Bengali New Year is referred to in Bengali as "New Year" (Bengali: নববর্ষ Noboborsho) or "First of Boishakh" (Bengali: পহেলা বৈশাখ Pôhela Boishakh). Nobo means new and Borsho means year.
The Bengali calendar is loosely 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, Odisha, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Thailand.
Origin of Bongabdo or Bangla Year is debated with primarily two hypothesis but historicity of none could be proved till date.
Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, the renowned grandson of Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the 3rd Mughal Emperor, introduced the Bengali Calendar. For relatively easier tax collection, Akbar changed the practice of agricultural tax collection according to the Hijri calendar. He ordered an improvement because the Hijri calendar, being lunar, did not agree with the harvest sessions and eventually the farmers faced severe difficulties in paying taxes out of season.
The regal astrologer of Emperor Akbar's reign, Aamir Fatehullah Siraji, developed this calendar, after researching the lunar Hijri and solar calendars. The distinctive characteristic of the Bengali year was that, rather than being a lunar calendar, it was based on a union of the solar and lunar year. This was essentially a great promotion, as the solar and lunar years were formulated in very diverse systems.
Primarily this calendar was named as “Fasli San” and then Bongabdo or Bangla Year was launched on 10/11 March 1584, but was dated from 5 November 1556 or 963 Hijri. This was the day that Akbar defeated Himu in the clash of Panipat 2 to ascend the throne.
Akbar-e-Azam’s ordered to resolve all dues on the last day of Choitro. The next day was the first day of the New Year (Bengali New Year), the day for a new opening; landlords used to allocate sweets among their tenants, and businessmen would commence a “Halkhata” (new financial records book) and lock their old ones. Vendors used to provoke their consumers to allocate sweets and renew their business relationship with them. There were fairs and festivities allover and gradually Poila Boishakh became a day of celebration.
The Bengali New Year begins at dawn, and the day is marked with singing, processions, and fairs. Traditionally, businesses start this day with a new ledger, clearing out the old.
People of Bangladesh enjoy a national holiday on Poila Boishakh. All over the country people can enjoy fairs and festivals. Singers perform traditional songs welcoming the new year. Vendors sell conventional foods and artisans sell traditional handicrafts. People enjoy traditional jatra plays.
Village dwellers of Bangladesh traditionally clean their house and people usually dress up in new clothes. Like other festivals of the region, the day is marked by visiting relatives, friends and neighbors. People prepare special dishes for their guests.
The rural festivities have now evolved to become vast events in the cities, especially the capital Dhaka.
In Dhaka and other large cities, the festivals begin with people gathering under a big tree. People also find any bank of a lake or river to witness the sunrise. Artists present songs to welcome the new year, particularly with Rabindranath Tagore's well-known song "Esho, he Boishakh".
People from all spheres of life wear traditional Bengali dresses. Women wear traditional saris with their hair bedecked in flowers. Likewise, men prefer to wear traditional panjabis. A huge part of the festivities in the capital is a vivid procession organized by the students and teachers of Institute of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka.
Nowadays, Poila Boishakh celebrations also observe a day of cultural unity without distinction between class, race and religious affiliations. Of the major holidays celebrated in Bangladesh and West Bengal, only Pôila Boishakh comes without any preexisting expectations. Unlike Eid ul-Fitr and Durga Pujo, where dressing up in lavish clothes has become a norm, or Christmas where exchanging gifts has become an essential part of the holiday, Pôila Boishakh is about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal. Eventually, more people can take part in the festivities without the load of having to reveal one's class, religion, or finances.
with a rendition of Rabindranath Tagore’s song “Esho he Baishakh” by Chhayanat under the banyan tree at Ramna (the Ramna Batamul). An integral part of the festivities is the Mongol Shobhajatra, a traditional colourful procession organised by the students of the Faculty of Fine Arts (Charukala) of Dhaka University. The procession has a different theme relevant to the country’s culture and politics every year. Different cultural organizations and bands also perform on this occasion and fairs celebrating Bangla culture are organized throughout the country. Other traditional events held to celebrate Poila Boishakh include bull racing in Munshiganj, wrestling in Chittagong, boat racing, cockfights, pigeon racing.
In Chittagong Hill Tracts
In the Chittagong Hill Tracts three ethnic minority groups come together to merge their observance with Poila Baishakh. Boisuk of Tripuri people, Sangrai of Marma people and Biju of Chakma people have come together as Boi-Sa-Bi, a day of a wide variety of festivities that is observed on the last day of Chaitra, i.e., 13 April. The day is a public holiday in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. This day is celebrated with functions at the University of Chittagong.
In Kolkata, Poila Boishakh (and 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.
Poila Boishakh is the day for cultural programmes. Prayers are offered for the well-being and prosperity of the family. Young women 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.
Poila 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.
Celebration in other countries
In Australia, the Bangla new year is celebrated in cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra through Boishakhi Melas (fairs) where people gather to celebrate the culture Bengalis through dances, fashion shows, stalls of art, music, clothing, food, etc.
The largest celebration for the Bangla new year in Australia is the Sydney Boishakhi Mela which was traditionally held at the Burwood Girls High School; from 2006 it has been held at the Sydney Olympic Park. It attracts large crowds and is a very anticipated event on the Australian Bengali community calendar.
The festival is celebrated in Sweden with great enthusiasm.
The Bengali community in the United Kingdom celebrate the Bengali new year with a street festival in London. It is the largest Asian festival in Europe and the largest Bengali festival outside of Bangladesh and Indian state of West Bengal.
Related holidays in other cultures
Poila Boishakh coincides with the New Years in many other Southern Asian calendars, including:
- Assamese New Year, or Rongali Bihu (India's Assam state)
- Burmese New Year, or Thingyan (Burma)
- Khmer New Year, or Chol Chnam Thmey (Cambodia)
- Lao New Year, or Songkan / Pi Mai Lao (Laos)
- Malayali New Year, or Vishu (India's Kerala state)
- Oriya New Year, or Maha Vishuva Sankranti (India's Odisha state)
- Nepali New Year, or Bikram Samwat / Vaishak Ek (Nepal)
- Sinhalese New Year, or Aluth Avurudda (Sri Lanka)
- Vishu (India's Kerala state)
- Tamil New Year, or Puthandu (India's Tamil Nadu state and Sri Lanka)
- Thai New Year, or Songkran (Thailand)
- Tuluva New Year, or Bisu (India's Karnataka state)
- Maithili New Year, or Jude Shital (Mithila)
- [nabo-bahttp://dhruvplanet.com/4852/bengali-new-year-rsho-2012-pohela-boishakh-1419-sms-text-messages-wishes-greetings-and-orkut-scraps/ Pohela Boishakh - Nabo Barsho - Bengali New Year Wishes]
- "Nobo Borsho and Pahela Baishakh: The Past and the Present". The Daily Star. April 14, 2013.
- Pohela Boishakh | Get Details Information About Bangla New Year Special Festival Of Bangladesh
- Banglapedia Entry on Pohela Boishakh