Bengali New Year is celebrated with much splendor among the Bengali communities spread all over the world. The day is observed on the first day of the Bengali calendar, which usually falls either on the 14th or 15th of April. Fairs, cultural events, and food festivals form an integral part of Bengali New Year celebration.
Understand the significance of Bengali New Year
With the Mughal Emperor, Akbar’s initiative the Bengali calendar came in into prominence in the 15th century. The purpose was to make the process of tax collection more transparent and easier than how it was before. During the Mughal era, taxes were collected based on the Islamic Hijri calendar.
However, Hijri was a lunar calendar and its new year did not match with the harvest season. To make the tax collection process simpler, the solar Hindu calendar was introduced, marking the beginning of the Bengali calendar.
Poila Baishakh is also celebrated as Vaishakh among the Sikh and other Hindu communities. It’s also celebrated as Vishu in Kerala and Puthandu in Tamil Nadu.
How the celebrations take place?
On the eve of the Bengali New Year, Bengalis visit the Kalighat temple to offer prayers. Holy places like Dakshineswar and Belur also witness a surge in the number of devotees. Families clean and decorate their houses to prepare for the occasion.
For many, the day begins by taking a holy dip early in the morning, preferably just before dawn, in the Ganges or any other equivalent river that’s considered holy. People dress up in traditional attire— kurtas and pajamas for men and sarees for men. Most apparel shops roll out “Chaitra Sale” or the end-of-year sale a month before Poila Baishakh.
On this day, Bengalis greet each other by saying “Shubho Naboborsho”, which translates to “Happy New Year”. Visiting relatives’ house or having a family reunion or get-together is common. Indulging in quintessential Bengali food like radhaballavi, chholar dal, shukto, fish and mutton curry, among others is a must. Sweets, including rasgulla, kaju barfi, and roshomalai are served in households. Almost all restaurants prepare special Bengali dishes and are usually jam-packed on this day.
Cultural events are organized across Bengal and other states. Rabindrasangeet, Najrulgeeti, and folk songs and dance form an integral part of these events. Streets and parks are decorated with colored lights and megaphones playing Bengali songs are set up in localities.
Bengali New Year is celebrated among the entire Bengali community irrespective of caste and religion. So, if you happen to be in eastern part of India in April next year, don’t forget to witness one of the biggest festivals of West Bengal—Poila Baishakh.