So the largest Bengali festival, Pohela Boishakh, is just around the corner! April had an amazing string of events this year and celebrating Pohela Boishakh makes it even better. Every year, enthusiastic Bengalis and an array of events welcome Pohela Boishakh in a striking manner. Through this event, the Bengalis bid their goodbyes to the existing year and greet the new one. The government organizes various events to mark the day. In 2016, UNESCO included Mongol Shobhajatra in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Read below to learn more about celebrating Pohela Boishakh and its significance.
How it started
There are many theories behind the start of Pohela Boishakh. Some people believe that the Mughal Emperor Akbar started it; others believe that the occasion has some correlation to Vaisakhi that many Hindus and Sikh celebrate. However, a majority believes in the Mughal theory.
During the Mughal rule, people heavily relied on agricultural products as a means of earning income. Under his reign, Emperor Akbar collected taxes for agricultural production during the time period of 1556 to 1609. Tax collection took place following the Islamic calendar. However, the calendar did not match with the solar agricultural cycles. Since this was a problem, Emperor Akbar then asked his royal astronomer to come up with a calendar that will include both the Islamic calendar and the solar Hindu calendar which was then named as Fasholi Shan (harvest calendar). Since then, tax collection became easier. Now in the present day, we call it the Bangla calendar and Pohela Boishakh is the first day of the Bangla New Year.
Celebrating Pohela Boishakh
Pohela Boishakh is celebrated by Bengalis worldwide in a grand manner. Dressing up in Red and White is one of the things you can do in Pohela Boishakh. The staple wardrobe of shaada shari, laal paar can be seen on many women while men dress up in panjabis. Children can be seen wearing Alpona tattoos in red paint on their hands and faces. As a tradition, people choose to have all kinds of Bangla khabaar, including paanta bhaat ar Ilish (water rice with fried Hilsha). Pohela Boishakh is a public holiday so friends and family go out in groups during the day despite the scorching heat and humidity of the season (and sometimes in the occasional rain!) and visit various events.
Pohela Boishakh popularised over time because of how people used this occasion to express their cultural pride and heritage; mainly the folk culture. There are many places you can visit and engage in festivals and activities in Pohela Boishakh. The morning starts with Mongol Shobhajatra – an event that the students and faculties from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka organize every year. The initiation of the ritual took place because of the students of FFA way back in 1989. Since then, they have been carrying on this tradition religiously every year. They usually have a theme around it, too.
Many institutions organize cultural events and throughout the day, people can visit various places where processions, fairs, plays, and live music is readily available. Socio-cultural and educational institutes like Chhayanaut and Sangeet celebrate Pohela Boishakh every year in a striking manner. The local fairs include many clay-made showpieces and artworks that can be wonderful for home decorative purposes. Moreover, upon visiting these fairs, you can see large, colorful animal and bird masks. Children rush to the Hawai Mitha (cotton candy) and Fuchka stalls where they dive into the delicacies.
How do you plan on celebrating Pohela Boishakh? Let us know in the comment section below!