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Bengali New Year (Pohela Boishakh)

Bengali New Year, also known as "Pohela Boishakh" is the traditional New Year celebration observed in the Bengal region of South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam.

May 21, 23By Anwar Pervez
Bengali New Year (Pohela Boishakh)

About Bengali New Year

Bengali New Year, also known as "Pohela Boishakh," is the traditional New Year celebration observed in the Bengal region of South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam. It usually falls on April 14th or 15th according to the Gregorian calendar.


The celebration of Bengali New Year has deep cultural and historical significance for the Bengali-speaking population. It marks the beginning of the agricultural season and is a time for new beginnings and festivities. People engage in various cultural activities, including music, dance, and traditional performances.


On this day, people dress in traditional attire, such as the white-red saree for women and kurta-pajama for men, and participate in processions and parades known as "Mongol Shobhajatra." These processions feature colorful masks, floats, and traditional music and dance performances.


A key element of Bengali New Year is the preparation and consumption of special traditional food known as "panta bhat" (fermented rice) and "ilish maach" (hilsa fish). People also visit temples and pray for a prosperous year ahead.


In recent times, the celebration of Bengali New Year has expanded beyond the cultural and regional boundaries, with people from various backgrounds participating in the festivities. It has become a symbol of Bengali identity and a way to promote cultural unity and diversity.


History of Bengali New Year Festival

The history of Bengali New Year, known as "Pohela Boishakh," dates back several centuries. The origins of this festival can be traced to the reign of Emperor Akbar, who introduced the Mughal calendar in 1584 to facilitate tax collection and agricultural planning.


During Akbar's rule, the agricultural community of Bengal used to pay taxes based on the Hindu solar calendar, which often led to confusion and discrepancies. To address this issue, Akbar's finance minister, Todar Mal, introduced a new calendar called "Tarikh-e-Ilahi" or "Divine Calendar" that combined elements of the Islamic lunar calendar and Hindu solar calendar.


The first day of the Tarikh-e-Ilahi calendar, which coincided with the harvest season in Bengal, became the basis for celebrating the Bengali New Year. The festival gained popularity among the local population and gradually became an integral part of Bengali culture.


Over the centuries, Bengali New Year has evolved and incorporated various cultural elements. The festival's significance expanded beyond its agricultural roots to encompass social, artistic, and religious aspects. It became a time for people to come together, celebrate cultural heritage, and welcome the new year with joy and enthusiasm.


During the British colonial era, the Bengali intelligentsia played a significant role in revitalizing and redefining the celebration of Bengali New Year. Prominent figures like Rabindranath Tagore and other cultural luminaries organized cultural programs and initiated the tradition of "Barshobaran" or welcoming the year with cultural events.


Today, Bengali New Year is celebrated with great fervor in Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam. The festival serves as a symbol of Bengali identity, unity, and cultural pride. It is a time for cultural performances, feasting, and exchanging greetings and good wishes among family, friends, and communities.