Bengali New Year?

It’s that time of the year again, according to the Bengali Calendar when we cannot wait to spread love among our loved ones by sharing tokens of love and wishing for the best. Even though we do not need just one festival for celebration but the festivities, for us, start with ‘Nobo-borsho’. When translated, ‘Nobo’ refers to New, and ‘Borsho’ suggests Year. Hence, it is also famously known as ‘Poila Boisakh’, as ‘Poila means First of the month of Baisakh, marking the very first day of that year. It usually is observed either on the 14th or 15th of April, if we go by the English Calendar. The Bengali community awaits and welcomes the New Year with their friends and family by exchanging gifts, preparing special dishes, and indulging in their culture by merrymaking.

Poila Boisakh or Nobo Borsho is auspiciously greeted by people of the Bengali community across the globe as it is deeply rooted in their culture and history and can even be traced back to the time of Mughal rule in India. During the Mughal era, the Bengali Calendar gathered prominence to record the harvest season, unlike the Hijri Calendar, which essentially marked the phases of the moon. Therefore, when the process of tax collection could not be synchronized with the Hijri Calendar, the Bengali Calendar brought more transparency by coordinating the system with the Harvest system. This simplified the plight of the agrarian community in Bengal and emerged as a special day to celebrate the successful harvest.

Since earlier times, Poila Boisakh celebrations reveal fairs and traditional festivities been arranged where authentic Bengali delicacies are cooked and for the business community, customers are endeared and treated with sweets. On this day, vibrant processions are also organized where an exchange of knowledge and culture transpire to future generations, keeping the heritage alive and secure. Bengalis have a sweet way of greeting one another on this day by saying ‘Shubho Nobo-borsho’, which translates to Happy New Year and indulging themselves in cultural gatherings by performing Rabindrasangeet, Najrulgeeti and Folk songs and dances. The festival is incomplete without the quintessential Bengali delicacies which include Shukto, Cholar Daal, Radhaballavi, Fish preparations, Mutton Curry, Roshogolla and several other dishes, which are either cooked at home or are eaten at restaurants too. Many Bengalis welcome the New Year by visiting temples and offering prayers by dressing up in their traditional attires- Sarees for women and Kurta-Pajamas for men. Interestingly, just before the arrival of Boisakh, most shop owners run the ‘Choitro Sale’, which is also known as the year-end sale, as garments and other items are made available at discounted prices.

Do you know, Poila Boisakh is also celebrated among other Indian agrarian communities celebrating the harvest season? Intriguingly, for Sikhs it is known as Vaisakhi, for the people in Tamil Nadu and Kerala it is called Vishu, for Assamese its Bohag Bihu, and MahaVishuva Sankranti for Odissi people.

To welcome this time of good fortune let’s celebrate together.

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