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Heritage and History of Poila Boishakh

Heritage and History of Poila Boishakh

Poila/Pohela Boishakh  is the first day of the Bengali calendar which is also the official calendar of Bangladesh. This festival is celebrated on 14 April in Bangladesh and 14/15 April in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Jharkhand and Assam (Barak Valley) by Bengalis regardless of religious faith.


Processions, fairs, and family time are all part of the festivities. “Shubho Noboborsho,” which literally means “Happy New Year,” is the customary Bengali greeting for the New Year. In Bangladesh, the Mangal Shobhajatra festival is held. This festival, produced by the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka, was designated as a cultural treasure of mankind by UNESCO in 2016.


History and origin :

Nomenclature –

In Bengali, the word Poila or Pahela means ‘first’ and Boishakh is the first month of the Bengali calendar (Pahela Boishakh). Bengali New Year is referred to in Bengali as Nobo Borsho ,where ‘Nobo’ means new and ‘Borsho’ means year.


Traditional roots :

Mughal references –

Land taxes were collected from Bengali people according to the Islamic Hijri calendar during the Mughal era. This was a lunar calendar with a new year that did not correspond to the solar agricultural cycles. According to some reports, the event began in Bengal during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar as a way to align the tax year with the harvest, and the Bangla year was dubbed Bangabda as a result. Fasholi shan was the result of Akbar’s request to the royal astronomer Fathullah Shirazi to design a new calendar by merging the lunar Islamic calendar and the solar Hindu calendar already in use (harvest calendar). This, according to some historians, was the beginning of the Bengali calendar.


According to Shamsuzzaman Khan, it could be Nawab Murshid Quli Khan, a Mughal governor, who first used the tradition of Punyaho as “a day for ceremonial land tax collection”, and used Akbar’s fiscal policy to start the Bangla calendar.

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Vikramaditya references –

According to some historians, the Bengali calendar was created by king Shashanka in the 7th century. The phrase Bangabda (Bangla year) is also found in two Shiva temples that are hundreds of years older than Akbar’s reign, implying that a Bengali calendar existed before Akbar’s reign. The Vikrami calendar was used by various kings whose territory reached into Bengal before to the 13th century. “Vikrama” and the months such as Ashvin are mentioned in Buddhist scriptures and inscriptions from the Pala Empire era, a system seen in Sanskrit manuscripts throughout the ancient and mediaeval Indian subcontinent.

The Bengali calendar is credited to “Bikromaditto” in rural Bengali communities in India, as it is in many other parts of India and Nepal. In contrast to these regions, where the calendar begins in 57 BCE, the Bengali calendar begins in 593 CE, implying that the starting reference year was changed at some point.


Contemporary Bengali calendar –

However, in 1966, a commission led by Muhammad Shahidullah amended the traditional Bengali calendar, making the first five months 31 days long and the rest 30 days apiece, with the month of Falgun adjusted to 31 days in every leap year. Bangladesh formally accepted this in 1987. Since then, the national calendar has begun on 14 April, and the new year event has always occurred on that date. In 2018-19, the calendar was revised again, with Falgun now lasting 29 days in regular years and 30 days in leap years, in order to better match with the Gregorian calendar used in Western countries. The 14th of April, however, was kept as the date of the celebration.


Holiday customs:

House cleaning and shopping –

Visiting family and friends during Pahela Baishakh people visit their families and friends and spend time together. Pahela Baishakh is also known for uniting friends and family.


Haal Khata –

According to best astrologer in Kolkata, Haal Khata is a holiday observed on the occasion of Pohela Baishakh to close the previous year’s ledger and begin a new one. Bengali merchants, shopkeepers, and traders are aware of it.


Red-White attire –

On this occasion, males are seen wearing red or white Panjabi with traditional designs on them, imprinted or embroidered. Women and young ladies wear red and white saree with blouses and put on flower crowns on their heads. Girls also dress in salwar kameez. They are seen wearing traditional ornaments and accessories along with their dress.


Baishakhi meal –

Bengalis typically consume Panta Bhat, also known as poitabhat, a rice-based dish made by soaking leftover rice in water overnight. It’s often served alongside Hilsha Fish and other curries.

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Locality :

Bangladesh –

Bangladesh observes the Bengali New Year as a national holiday. It is observed by both the Muslim majority and the Hindu minority, regardless of religion. The celebration, according to Willem van Schendel and Henk Schulte Nordholt, became a popular way for Bangladeshis to demonstrate cultural pride and heritage as they fought Pakistani domination in the 1950s and 1960s.


Singing, processions, and fairs are all part of the festivities. Businesses often begin this day by opening a new ledger and emptying out the old, which typically entails inviting loyal customers and providing them with sweetmeats. Haal Khata is the name of the celebration. Traditional tunes to ring in the new year are performed by singers. Classical Jatra plays are popular.


Dhaka –

The festivities begin early in the morning in Dhaka with Chhayanaut performing Rabindranath Tagore’s song “Esho he Boishakh” under a banyan tree in Ramna (the Ramna Batamul). The Mangal Shobhajatra, a traditional colourful parade organised by students of the University of Dhaka’s Faculty of Fine Arts, is an important feature of the festivities (Charukala).


According to the history, the rudimentary step of Mangal Shobhjatra was started in Jessore by Charupith, a community organization, in 1985.


In Chittagong  –

According to famous astrologer in Kolkata, Pohela Boishakh celebrations in Chittagong are based on Dhaka’s customs. The Mangal Shobhajatra procession is held throughout the city by students from Chittagong University’s fine arts institute, and is followed by a day of cultural festivities.


West Bengal –

The traditional New Year festival in the state is Pohela Boishakh, with the New Year being referred to as the Noboborsho. The event takes place on 14 or 15 April, depending on whether West Bengal uses its traditional Bengali calendar, which adjusts for the solar cycle differently than Bangladesh’s, which has the festival on 14 April.


Celebration in other countries –

Along with other groups, the Bangladesh Heritage and Ethnic Society of Alberta in Canada celebrate its Heritage Festival (Bengali New Year) in a spectacular manner. Bengalis in Calgary celebrate the day with traditional Bengali food, clothing, and culture. A Pohela Boishakh event is also held in the Sydney Olympic Park by the Bangabandhu Council of Australia.

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