Saturday, April 21, 2018 | ePaper

For a happy New Year

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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque :
We the linguistic community known as Bangalees celebrate Bengali new  year every year.  April 14 has been earmarked for celebration with much fanfare.  This day we enjoy holiday with festive mood.  West Bengal, Tripura and some parts of Assam observe the day on 14 or 15 April.  Noboborsho is one of the most joyous festivals celebrated all over  Bangladesh, and West Bengal , In Bangladesh that emerged out of Liberation War in 1971 the spirit of liberation or 'muktijuddher chetona' is anchored in Pahela Baishakh. It is "the symbol of our secular cultural identity. The Baishakh celebration  tends to be so colourful and joyous that words cannot do it justice. The first day of the Bengali year is indeed a special occasion in the life of each and every Bangladeshi."
Early in the morning of Noboborsho, people  participate in the procession known as Mongol Shobhajatra, which truly describes the secular Bangladeshi culture. Before the sun rises over the horizon, women dress up in traditional, colourful saris, and decorate their hair beautifully with fresh flowers. They participate in the rallies to welcome the first day of the year. In 2017 the people celebrated the day with unparalleled enthusiasm in feasting and participating in cultural activities. The entire city prepared to greet visitors from different countries as well. The Dhaka University area becomes the centre of all celebration.
Pahela Baishakh is our Bangali heritage irrespective of religious faith. Time table for celebration yearwise is given below:
 Dates of Bengali New Year
Year    Weekday    Date
2019    Sunday    April 14th
2018    Saturday    April 14th
2017    Friday    April 14th
2016    Thursday    April 14th
2015    Tuesday    April 14th
The festival date is fixed  considering  'the lunisolar Bengali calender as the first day of its first month  The same day is observed elsewhere as the traditional solar new year and a harvest festival by Hindus and Sikhs , and is known by other names such as 'Baishakhi'. In tribal  cultural settings  the hill people would like to  call 'Baishabi.' The festival is celebrated with processions, fairs and family time. On the occasion we greet each other calling'  noboborsher suvechchha'.
 The origin of the festival is reflected in Wikipedia in the following way:
During the Mughal rule, land taxes were collected from Bengali people according to the Islamic Hijri calendar. This calendar was a lunar calendar, and its new year did not coincide with the solar agricultural cycles. According to some sources, the festival was a tradition introduced in Bengal during the rule of Mughal Emperor Akbar to time the tax year to the harvest, and the Bangla year was therewith called Bangabda. Akbar asked the royal astronomer Fathullah Shirazi to create a new calendar by combining the lunar Islamic calendar and solar Hindu calendar already in use, and this was known as Fosholi shon (harvest calendar). According to some historians, this started 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.
According to Shamsuzzaman Khan, and Nitish Sengupta, the origin of the Bengali calendar is unclear. According to Shamsuzzaman, "it is called Bangla san or saal, which are Arabic and Parsee words respectively, suggests that it was introduced by a Muslim king or sultan. In contrast, according to Sengupta, its traditional name is Bangabda. Some historians attribute the Bengali calendar to the 7th century king Shashanka. The term Bangabda (Bangla year) is found too in two Shiva temples many centuries older than Akbar era, suggesting that Bengali calendar existed before Akbar's time.  It is also unclear, whether it was adopted by Hussain Shah or Akbar. The tradition to use the Bengali calendar may have been started by Hussain Shah before Akbar. Regardless of who adopted the Bengali calendar and the new year, states Sengupta, it helped collect land taxes after the spring harvest based on traditional Bengali calendar, because the Islamic Hijri calendar created administrative difficulties in setting the collection date.
According to some historians, the Bengali festival of Pahela Baishakh is related to the traditional Hindu Vaishakhi is an ancient harvest festival of India, particularly the Punjab region Vaisakhi, also spelled Baisakhi, is observed by both Hindus and Sikhs.
The new year festival in eastern and northern states of India is linked to Hindu Vikrami calendar. This calendar is named after king Vikramaditya and starts in 57 BCE. In rural Bengali communities of India, the Bengali calendar is credited to 'Bikromaditto', like many other parts of India and Nepal. However, unlike these regions where it starts in 57 BCE, the Bengali calendar starts from 593 CE suggesting that the starting reference year was adjusted at some point.
According to Salil Tripathi, many Hindu traditions and customs continue among Bengali people regardless of their current faith.  Many Muslim Bengali women, states Tripathi, wear saris, bindi (a mark on their forehead, religious to Hindu women), and usher in Poyla Baisakh to celebrate Bengali new year. This is a part of the tolerance and borrowing of mutual cultural traditions amongst Bengali, according to Tripathi.
The current Bengali calendar in use in the Indian states is based on the Sanskrit text Surya Siddhanta. It retains the historic Sanskrit names of the months, with the first month as Baishakh. Their calendar remains tied to the Hindu calendar system and is used to set the various Bengali Hindu festivals. For Bengalis of West Bengal and other Indian states, the festival falls either on 14 or 15 April every year. In Bangladesh, however, the old Bengali calendar was modified in 1966 by a committee headed by Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah, making the first five months 31 days long, rest 30 days each, with the month of Falgun adjusted to 31 days in every leap year. This was officially adopted by Bangladesh in 1987. Since then, the national calendar starts with and the new year festival always falls on 14 April in Bangladesh.
The main event of the day was to open a halkhata or updated book of accounts. This was wholly a financial affair. In villages, towns and cities, traders and businessmen closed their old account books and opened new ones on Pahela Baishakh. They used to invite their customers to share sweets and renew their business deals with them. This tradition is still maintained, especially by jewellers and grocers (Banglapedia).
 Entertaining the known customers with sweet  was rampant in olden days. Now this tradition is withering away. Only in tradional villages festivities with sweets and pitha are duly maintained in connection with agricultural rituals. In both rural and urban areas 'people make elaborate household cleaning and bathing.
People bathe early in the morning and dress in clean and best clothes and visit public places, relatives, friends and neighbours'.Special foods  also marks the occasion..
 A large variety of foods and sweets are sold at  Baishakhi  fairs.  Baishakhi melas become brimful with special items like khoma, gurer sandesh, misri, khelna prepared by sugar, kumura, various china badam item. Also available are toys for the children, and earthen utensils. And things supplied from cottage industries.  
Various agricultural products, traditional handicrafts, toys, cosmetics, and . 'The fairs also provide entertainment, with singers and dancers staging jatra, pala gan, kobigan, jarigan, gombhira gan, gazir gan and alkap gan. They present folk songs as well as baul, marfati, murshidi and bhat Yali songs. Narrative plays like Laily-Majnu, Yusuf-Zulekha and Radha-Krishua are staged. Among other attractions of these fairs are puppet shows and merry-go-rounds'. (Banglapedia).
The description of Sambaru Chandra Mohanta,  Banglapedia is given below:
Many old festivals connected with new year's day are no longer practised. On the other hand, new festivals have been introduced. With the abolition of the zamindari system, festivals connected with the Punya have disappeared. Kite flying in Dhaka and bull racing in Munshiganj used to be very colourful events. Among popular village games and sports include horse races, bullfights, cockfights, flying pigeons, boat racing and so on. Some Baishakhi festivals are quite regional, such as, bali or wrestling in Chittagong and gombhira song in Rajshahi. Though agricultural in origins, the Pahela Baishakh festivities are now more marked in urban societies than in rural societies.' The most colourful new year's day festival now takes place in Dhaka. Large numbers of people gather early in the morning under the Banyan Tree at Ramna Park where Chhayanaut artistes open the day with Tagore's famous song, Eso he Baishakh eso eso (Come O Baishakh, come), welcoming Baishakh. A similar ceremony welcoming the new year is also held at the Institute of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Students and teachers of the Institute take out a colourful procession and parade round the campus. Social and cultural organisations celebrate the day with cultural programmes. Newspapers bring out special supplements. There are also special programmes on Radio and Television.
Mangal Shobhajatra as a mass procession takes place   to mark the occasion like noboborsho. The procession is organized by teachers and students of Universities and Colleges.
Let me wind up by saying that Baishakhi festivals  serve to hold out Bengali mind and psychi (Bangalitto and Bangaliana). We should be deeply concerned about  our identity that is reflected in our rural  peasant life and this should be treated as our great tradition. From time immemorial we have been quixotically attached to this tradition  all  with our customs and values. We should thoroughly research out  all about Baishakhi festival.

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