The first day of the Bengali calendar year is celebrated as the New Year in Bangladesh and it’s called Pohela Boishakh. Primarily celebrated in Bangladesh and in the Indian state of West Bengal, it falls on the 14th of April. The main event of the day is to open a Hal-Khata or new book of accounts, however, Pohela Boishakh attracts people from all ages and walks of life unlike other festivals in our country. One can see children, teenagers and adults all taking part in the festivities. Similarly, people from all professions and backgrounds come together as one.
They observe the day in a festive mood and following cultural traditions. The women wear a white sari with a striking red border, tips on the forehead, and colorful bangles while the men wear white traditional Panjabi.
All gather at Ramna Batomul early in the morning where the first of the Bangla year is welcomed by the singers of ‘Chayanot’. They sing a rendition of Rabindranath Tagore’s song “Esho he Baisakh” by Chhayanat under the Banyan Tree at Ramna. Thousands of people take part in the colorful procession, called Mongol Shobhajatra, which comes out from the Faculty of Fine Arts (Charukala) of Dhaka University.
Many other Baishakhi events are arranged in different parts of the country. Different cultural organizations and bands perform on this occasion and fairs are organized. These fairs provide entertainment and staging and Jatra, Palar Gan, Kabi Gan, Jari Gan. Baul and Bhatiali songs are also presented. The old tradition of wresting (Boli Khela), boat racing on Pohela Baishakh can hardly be seen now. Other popular activities included bull racing in some parts of the country, cockfights, and pigeon racing.
People living in Dhaka usually gather in TSC. The biggest crowd is observed there. Cultural functions, concerts, etc. are arranged all over the country.
However, for people, Pohela Baishakh is not a TSC centered festival anymore. Organizers arrange Baishakhi fair in every area across Dhaka nowadays. Among these, options such as Dhanmondi Rabindra Shorobor, Gulshan Park, Dhanmondi Field, Niketon Park have already become quite popular. People gather early to watch the sunrise on the day and also sing to welcome the New Year.
We Bengalis have a tradition of having ‘Panta-Ilish’ as breakfast on this day. Pohela Baishakh has become an occasion for many of us to meet old friends. Many Organizations arrange a reunion program on this day. Young people take this as an opportunity to meet the person they admire and express their love.
In the villages, they welcome the occasion by cleaning their houses and dressing up in new clothes. Similar to other festive occasions, everyone pays a visit to family, friends and neighbors. There are a lot of delicious items prepared for the guests. With time the rural celebrations have culminated into big events in big cities such as Dhaka.
This festival has a great significance in the lives of Bangladeshi people – with every New Year comes renewed hope and excitement. It inspires us to move forward and let go of the past.