Bangla New Year or Pohela Boishakh connects all Ethnic Bengalis irrespective of religious and regional differences. Ethnic Bengalis across the world and from all walks of life unite to celebrate thePublic or Universal Festival of Bengalis i.e. Pohela Boishakh; it’s the occasion to welcome the New-Year with a new hope of peace, prosperity and goodwill. Poyela Boishakh generally falls on 14thor 15th of April of the Georgian calendar. In Bangladesh, it is a national holiday celebrated around14th April according to the official amended calendar designed by the Bangla Academy. In India, in Indian/West Bengal &Assam it is a public (state) holiday and is publicly celebrated on 15th of April
Celebration of Pohela Boishakh | পহেলা বৈশাখ উজ্জাপন
Pohela Boishakh is a Public festival [সার্বজনীন উৎসব] of the Bengalis; it is celebrated among all Bengalis- irrespective of religious and regional differences. As discussed earlier; the celebrations started from Akbar’s reign. But the Public celebration of Poyela Boishakh and the large-scale organizations of cultural events have started more recently.
Rabindranath Tagore had said, ‘প্রতিদিন মানুষ ক্ষুদ্র, দীন, একাকী কিন্তু উৎসবের দিনে মানুষ বৃহৎ, সে সমস্ত মানুষের সঙ্গে একত্র হইয়া বৃহৎ, সেদিন সমস্ত মনুষ্যত্বের শক্তি অনুভব করিয়া মহৎ।’ [“Prōtidin mānush khudrō, deen, ekāki. Kintu Utsōber dine mānush brihōt, se sōmōstō mānusher sōnge āekōtrō hōiyā brihōt, sedin sōmōstō mōnushōtver shōkti ōnubhōv kōriyā mōhōt”]. The summary of the statement is that, a person feels stronger, complete & united when he’s among other fellow mates on the occasion of a festival as compared to daily life. Truly, socializing brings a lot of change in the personality of a person; it actually changes his outlook towards the world and makes him broad minded, well-mannered and a better person indeed. Nowadays it’s seen that, due to our busy schedule and hectic life we tend to forget the purpose of the festivals after they are over; people come together during festivals, forget their differences but as soon as the festival is over the differences are highlighted once again!
The Poyela Boishakh celebrations and festivities reflect the life in rural Bengal. Usually on this day everything is washed and cleaned; people bathe early in the morning and dress in fine clothes and then go to visit relatives and friends. Special food items are prepared for the guests. Starting as a rural festival, Poyela Boishakh has now become an integral part of Bengali culture.
People from all walks of life dress-up in traditional Bengali attire: Men wear dhuti / payejama / lungi and kurta /Panjabi. Young women wear white saris with red borders, and adorn themselves with tip (bindis), churi (bangles) and fūl (flowers). Its like a custom to start the day with the traditional breakfast of Pantā-Bhāt (leftover rice soaked in water), onion, Shōbuj Lōnkā (green chillies), Āchār (pickles), dāl (lentils) & Bhāja Elish Māch (fried Hilsa fish).
Boishakhi Fairs are organized in many parts of Bengal. The lifestyle of rural Bengal is showcased in almost all these fairs. Various traditional handicrafts, toys, cosmetics, agricultural products, as well as various kinds of food and sweets are sold at these fairs. The fairs also provide entertainment, with singers and dancers staging jatra (traditional plays), pala gan, kobigan, jarigan, gambhira gan, gazir gan and alkap gan. They present folk songs as well as baul, marfati, murshidi and bhatiali songs. Narrative plays like Laila-Majnu, Yusuf-Zulekha and Radha-Krishna are staged. Among other attractions of these fairs are puppet shows, merry-go-round and Giant wheels are also installed and are enjoyed by the children.
Historical Importance of Poyela Boishakh in Bangladesh | বাংলাদেশে পহেলা বৈশাখের ঐতিহাসিক গুরুত্ব
In an attempt to suppress Bengali culture, the Pakistani Government had banned poems written by Rabindranath Tagore, the most famous poet and writer in Bengali literature. Protesting this move, Chhayanat opened their Poyela Boishakh celebrations at Ramna Park with Tagore’s song welcoming the month in 1965. The day continued to be celebrated in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) as a symbol of Bengali culture. After 1972 it became a national festival, a symbol of the Bangladesh nationalist movement and an integral part of the people’s cultural heritage. Later, in the mid- 1980s the Institute of Fine Arts added color to the day by initiating the Boishakhi parade, which is much like a carnival parade. In the big metropolitans like Dhaka and Chittagong this day is marked by mass crowd flocking to hundreds of open air concerts and cultural programs, mask rallies etc.
Today, Pohela Boishakh celebrations also mark a day of cultural unity without distinction between class and religious affiliations. Of the major holidays celebrated in Bangladesh and West Bengal, only Pôhela Boishakh comes without any preexisting expectations (specific religious identity, culture of gift-giving, etc). Unlike holidays like Eid ul-Fitr & Durga Pujo, where dressing up in lavish clothes has become a norm, or Christmas where exchanging gifts has become an integral part of the holiday, Pôhela Boishakh is really about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal. As a result, more people can participate in the festivities together without the burden of having to reveal one’s class, religion, or financial capacity.