Bengalis across the globe are gearing up to welcome their new year on April 15. The Pohela Boishakh, also known as Pahela Baishakh or Bangla Noboborsho marks the first day of the first month (Baishakh) of the lunisolar Bengali calendar. The occasion also coincides with the other regional festivals like Vishu (Kerala), Puthandu (Tamil Nadu), Baisakhi (Punjab), and Bihu (Assam), when people celebrate the new year with their own local traditions and customs. In Bangladesh, the 1425th Bengali New Year is being celebrated today and it is also one of the biggest events and the only secular festival in the country.
Pohela Baishakh 2018: History and Significance
The history of the celebration of Pohela Boishakh has a Mughal connection. People who celebrate the festival might be unaware of the fact that the Bengali calendar is one of its kind as it was introduced by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 15th Century. In the Mughal era, agricultural taxes were collected according to the Islamic Hijri calendar. However, as the Hijri calendar is a purely lunar calendar, it does not coincide with the harvest and created administrative difficulties in setting the collection date. As a result, farmers were compelled to pay taxes out of season. In order to ease the tax collection, the Mughal Emperor Akbar ordered a reform of the calendar.
Akbar asked the royal astronomer Fathullah Shirazi to merge the two calendars- lunar Islamic calendar and solar Hindu calendar and make a harvest calendar, which is sometimes referred to as ‘Fasholi shan’. This reform facilitated tax collection after the spring harvest based on the traditional Bengali calendar, the first day. Although, some historians also believe this calendar is linked to Hindu Vikrami calendar or the solar calendar as it coincides with the first month of Baishak.
Pohela Boishakh 2018: Celebrations and Feasting
Any festival in Bengali culture comes with a lot of zeal. And, as Pohela Baishakh is one of the biggest and most significant Bengali festivals, it is celebrated with much fervour and enthusiasm by Bengalis all over the nation. Women and men wear traditional attires and start this day by often going to the temple in the morning, seeking blessings from God for a good year ahead. Bengalis clean their houses and paint artful alpona (Bengali rangoli) in their gardens.
Pohela Boishakh also works as a perfect time for family reunion. So, on this day people visit each other’s houses and greet each other by saying “Shubho Naboborsho’’. As Bengali celebration is never complete without good food, a variety of veg and non-veg delicacies are prepared, along with a good round of desserts.