Bengali New Year or Poyela Boishakh in Hooghly District

Bengali New Year or Poyela Boishakh is the first day of Bengali calendar which is celebrated both in Bangladesh and West Bengal and also in the Bengali communities of Assam and Tripura. It connects all Bengalis irrespective of religious and regional differences. This day is considered as a public holiday both in West Bengal and Assam and it is celebrated in mid-April.


Bengali New Year 1418

Bengali New Year 1418

Celebrations of Poyela Boishakh started from Akbar’s reign. On this occasion, there used to be fairs and other festivities. This occasion became part of everyone’s domestic and social life. The main event of this day is to open Halkhata or book of new accounts.  It was to immortalize a momentous occasion, a crucial juncture of history that the great Mughal introduced this new system of calendar 415 years ago. The calendar when introduced was originally known as Tarikh-e-Elahi which was introduced on the 10th or 11th March in the 29th year of Akbar’s reign.

 

The months of Bengali Era was named as Karwadin, Ardi, ‘Vihisu, Khordad, Teer, Amardad, Shahriar, Aban, Azur, Dai, Baham and Iskander Miz. Later we started naming the months as Baishakh, Jaishtha, etc. It is presumed that these months were based on the names of the stars, and were derived from the Shakabda which was introduced in 78 A.D. to commemorate the reign of the Shaka dynasty in this subcontinent.

The star-based names of the months were derived as follows:

  1. Baishakh from the star known as Bishakha 2. Jiashthya from Jaishtha 3. Ashara from Shar 4. Sraban from Srabani 5. Bhadra from Bhadrapada 6. Ashwin from Aswaini 7. Kartik from Kartika 8. Agrahayon from Agraihon 9. Poush from Poushya 10. Magh from Magha 11. Falgun from Falguni, and 12. Chaitra from Chitra stars.

Some claim that the Bengali calendar was introduced by Shashanka, the king of Bengal to commemorate his conquest of Assam. But it was also said that, it was a celebration of Nawroze which enabled Prince Salim to meet and fall in love with Meherunnisa. It was again in one such Nawroze festival that the Prince Khurram first came across Mumtaz Mahal, whom he immortalised in Taj Mahal. Had there been no Nababarsha or Nawroze festival, there perhaps would be no Nurjahan, and no Taj Mahal.

In West Bengal, Poyela Boishakh is considered to be as auspicious time for marriages. This day people wear new clothes and go out to socialize. In Choitro, garment traders organize a Choitro sale, where they sell those garments with heavy discounts. It is a day for cultural programmes. Prayers are offered for the well-being and prosperity of the family. Young ladies wear white saris with red borders and men wear dhuti and kurta to take part in the Probhat Pheri processions early in the morning to welcome the first day of the year. Some even go to the river Ganga for a holy dip. Praying to the clouds for water is another popular ritual of this day. This day is also auspicious for new businesses and new ventures. On this day, various fairs are held in West Bengal.

Almost all Bengalis decorate their houses with fresh flowers and draw rangolis in front of their entrance door. Rangolis are usually made of colored rice and it is known as “Alpana“. At some places, people also perform dances, sing songs or recite Bengali Nabo Barsho poems. Amidst all feasting, food is the main focus.


Depali Ghosh

Serampore, Hooghly

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