Poila Boisakh marks the beginning of Bengali New Year or the first day of the Bengali New Year celebrated with a lot of fanfare all over the state of West Bengal and in Bangladesh as well, along with the Bengali community residing in other parts of India, namely Assam and Tripura in the East and Orissa down south. Poila Boisakh is celebrated by members of Bengali community all over the world as well.
Bengali New Year or Poila Boisakh mostly falls in the month of April, i.e. 14th or 15th April and Bengalis greet each other on this day with the phrase Subho Naboborsho roughly translated as New Year. Subho means good or auspicious and Nabo stands for New and Borsho means Year in Bengali. Since the Bengali calendar concurs with the Hindu Vedic Solar calendar and hence the date of the Bengali New Year falls in Mid April and therefore Poila Boisakh coincides with New Year celebrations in Punjab, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Orissa and several other states in India. Festivals or New Years like Baisakhi in Punjab, Bihu in Assam.
It is surmised that when Emperor Akbar ruled India, his subjects or people under his reign used to observe the Hijri or Islamic calendar which was established according to the lunar system. However Emperor Akbar faced a crisis of collecting taxes or revenue from his subjects as the calendar coincided with the harvesting season and as it struck him during the end of spring and inception of summer, farmers are over with the harvesting work. Hence he decided to summon Hindu scholars and ordered them to devise a Hindu calendar based on solar system and will begin therefore from the 1st day of summer. As a result of this Bangabdo or the Bengali New Year started operating since then. The day also became auspicious as previous dues and collections were absolved and the old financial account books were replaced with new financial account books to make a fresh start. This custom is known as Haalkhata which is followed till date by businessmen and traders who on the first day of Bengali New Year or Poila Boisakh visit temples to seek the blessings of the deity or almighty and also offer prayers along with priests performing pujo and solemnize their books of accounts with a swastika or an auspicious symbol.
Poila Boisakh marks the beginning of a fresh year and hence traders, businessmen perform puja or worship Laksmi and Ganesha idols and inviting customers to their shops or stores and offices and greet them with sweets and other delicacies. However it also means that clearing of past dues and taxes which are pending. On this day children and younger generations touch the elders’ feet and seek blessings as well as visit their relatives with sweets and other gifts. They wear new clothes which are brought from Choitra sale which commences in the month of Choitra, i.e. the last month of the Bengali calendar where heavy discounts are offered by shopkeepers and traders drawing huge crowds to their stores and shops.
Bengalis also rush to bookstores to buy the latest version of Bengali Panjika or Almanac which contains all the recent updates and auspicious dates and occasions of the Bengali customs, rituals and festivals including dates, time and practices to be adhered to. On this occasion, when relatives visit, they are treated to delicacies like Bengali sweet or sweetmeats like Rosogollas, Payesh, and Sandesh either prepared at their homes or bought from sweet shops. Since it’s the beginning of the Bengali New Year or 1st day, it is a state holiday in West Bengal and people consider it synonymous and begin the day singing Rabindra Sangeet singing Esho He Baisakh to mark the day, with women wearing white saris with red borders and men dressed in traditional Punjabi-Kurta and Dhoti. Since Bangladesh comprises of majority Bengali population and sharing the same ethnicity, Poila Boisakh is celebrated there as well, in a similar fashion like West Bengal. This day is marked in Bengal with several cultural programmes and Probhat Pheris, i.e. Processions organized by the state government of West Bengal.