Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poila Baishakh

Shubho Nababarsho!

Welcome to the New Bengali Year. Baishakh is the first month of Bengali calendar. According to the Bengali calendar, the year starts from 'Baisakhi' that is the 13th or the 14th of April of the Gregorian calendar. From the time when English calendar was an unknown entity, Bengali calendars reigned supreme. English calendar started getting precedence over Bengali Calendars due to the influence of the British Empire on India. A plethora of socio-economic factors gave rise to the importance of English calendars. However, of late, Bengali calendar has somewhat regained it's lost glory.

Earlier, there were two methods of calculation - the 'Sauramana' system based on the solar year and the 'Chandramana' system based on the lunar year. Around 1181 BC, the two were merged. Although based on this system, all of India would have one New Year Day, in actual practice, different days are followed in different states based on past practice that is several decades old. The Bengali Calendar is based on ancient sub-continental calendars which was codified and standardized by the Mughal Emperor Akbar about 6 centuries ago. The start date of the Begali calendar was made to coincide with the start date of the Islamic calendar. The calendar is a solar one which is composed of six seasons that revolve around the region's agricultural cycle. In India, although the Gregorian calendar is used for official purposes, Hindus have a New Year of their own, based on the 'Samvatsar' system.

For the past few years, the month of 'Baishakh' is getting it's due importance. Baishakh is one of most auspicious month for the Bengalis. Bengali businessmen - small and big - take up the occasion to open their new shops, outlets as well as accounts. It ushers the beginning of agricultural production of Bengal. The rural folks still follow the Bengali calendar. Most of the events in the villages take place according to the Bengali calendar.
From time immemorial, the month of Baishakh has acquired a pride of place. It is considered the most auspicious month for marriage, the most auspicious month for undertaking any business venture and it is also the month when all agricultural production process begins. Bengali's think that any child born in this month would acquire all the qualities of being a prodigy. No wonder, the great Rabindranath Tagore, was born in this month. Rabindranath was born on the 25th of Baishakh.

If one have ever walked on the streets of Kolkata sometime in the beginning of April, one will be surprised with all the crowd, and perhaps curiously ask to oneself as to why all this shopping. Well this is the end of the month Chaitra and you can't stop people to get themselves prepared for their cherished Poila Baishak or 'Naba Barsho'. Yes the Bengalis celebrate this day as their New Year.

The first day of Baishakh remains a holiday in Bengal. The day is called 'Poila Baisakh'. The day starts with 'Surya Pranam'. Generally new clothes are purchased and worn by the family members. With powdered rice, housewives make beautiful designs called Alpana on the floor of their houses. People wear new dresses and go about socialising. The day is considered to be auspicious. Mostly elderly people visit the Ma Kali's temple with their offerings and prayers for the well being of society. Many cultural events are organized, sweets are distributed and greetings exchanged. The day is celebrated with much pomp and funfair. The Bengali New Year begins at dawn, and the day is marked with singing, processions, and fairs. On the day of Poila Baishakh, cultural programmes are organised throughout Bengal to welcome the new year. People pray for the well-being and prosperity. In the morning, processions called 'Probhat Pheri' (early morning processions) is taken out in various parts of Kolkata. Young ladies clad in white saris with red borders and young men clad in dhuti and punjabi perform on the road, welcoming the arrival of the new year. Through its traditional festive spree, offering to Lord Ganesha, 'Hal Khata' (new ledger), new clothes and of course Rabindrasangeet, West Bengal greets Poila Baishakh on a note of optimism and wishful thoughts. The day marks the end of Chaitra and welcomes Nor'wester, the first spate of rainfall in an otherwise long hot and humid summer.

The last month of the preceding year i.e. Chaitra, becomes a month of frenetic activity for all garment traders. All over Bengal, Chaitra Sale is organised with great fanfare and garments are sold with heavy discounts. In Kolkata, if one visits the Hatibagan area during the month of Chaitra, the person would get an idea about the magnitude and importance of Chaitra Sale. In fact, the arrival of Chaitra Sale announces the arrival of Baishakh. It also signals the end of the year. Kolkata during this time reels under a different type of invasion. The crowds throng the various marketing hubs to avail of the discount that is offered on garments and other consumer products before the Bengali New Year. This phenomenon is known all over Bengal as the Chaitra Sale. Men, women and children of all ages are seen to visit markets in different corners of the city, to buy a summer collection and new clothes for Poila Baishakh. Vibrant souls and colourful clothes fills the pavements where every trader, big and small, settles down with their largesse. People from all trades of life visits shops which are giving discount ranging from 10% to 50%. And Kolkata is once again painted with festive hues.

Traditionally, businesses start this day with a new ledger, clearing out the old. Hindus generally associate their New Year with Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth. Therefore Lakshmi puja is also common. Fairs and festivals are held all over the country, where singers sing traditional songs welcoming the new year. Food vendors sell traditional foods and artisans sell traditional handicrafts.

The day of Poila Baishakh also sees hectic activities in the film studio areas of Tollygunge. Most of the producers prefer to perform the 'mahurat' on that day. Producers pray for better business prospects. It is a common belief that if one can release a film on the day of Poila Baishakh, it shall do good business. In India, the day of new release in friday, and not every year the day of Poila Baishakh coincides with a friday. On the day of Poila Baishakh, the studio area of Tollygunge becomes a very colourful place, with actors, actresses and other technicians doing their rounds resplendent in their best attires.

If the rest of Bengal celebrates Poila Baishakh, can the Maidan be left far behind? All the football teams, including the giants, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, start their practice for the season by performing the 'Bhoomi Puja' on that day. Players of the respective teams gather in the respective grounds and start their practice by kicking the balls. It is a gala affair on that day, with famous players of yesteryears paying a visit to the grounds on that day.
The old year, for better or worse, is gone for good. The new year has begun with fresh promise. Here's our chance to start again, to do it right this time, to have another shot at success… at glory… at accomplishing what we resolve to. The day of Poila Baishakh bears immense significance in the life of Bengalis. It is not the first day of another year, it is the first day of hope, of reckoning, and of surprises. Let us all hope that the new year brings us joy, well-being and prosperity.

Subho Naba Barsho again ... (Happy New Year!)

Source: Forwarded Email.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wish you a happy new year!

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