Bengali New Year Payala Baisakh or Pahela Baisakh (1st day of Baisakh, the first month of the Bengali calendar) is the first day of the Bengali New Year. The day is celebrated with special festivals such as New Year in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India. Bengalis living in Tripura also participate in this festival; as such, it is a universal festival of Bengalis.
Bengalis from all over the world celebrate the start of the new year on this day. They strive to forget the bad things that happened in the past year and wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year. Business people at all levels see it as a chance to start something new. According to the Gregorian calendar, Pahela Baisakh is on April 14 or 15. This is true for any calendar, old or new. Bangladesh has this festival every year on April 14. Bangla Academy has set this day according to the current calendar. On this day, both government and commercial businesses in Bangladesh and West Bengal are closed.
The basic difference between Hijri and Christian calendars and Bengali calendars is that the Hijri calendar is lunar, and the Christian calendar is clock based. This is why new dates in the Hijri year begin in the evening with the new moon’s arrival. On the other hand, English day starts at midnight. Therefore, many people are in a dilemma about whether Pahela Baisakh starts at noon or sunrise. Traditionally, Bengali days are counted from sunrise, but from 1st Baisakh in 1402, Bengali Academy cancelled this rule and started counting days at midnight to align with international norms.
According to the Hindu solar calendar, the twelve months of Bengal were celebrated long ago. This solar calendar starts in mid-April in the Gregorian calendar. The first day of the Hindu solar year has long been celebrated as an integral part of the culture of Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Manipur, Nepal, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Tripura. As New Year’s has become a universal festival celebrated to mark the beginning of a new year, it was once not the case. At that time, Bengali New Year or Pahela Baisakh, was celebrated as a seasonal festival. Its main significance then was agriculture. As the era of technological application did not begin, farmers had to depend on the seasons.
After the Mughal Empire was set up in India, the rulers utilised the Hijri calendar to decide when to tax agricultural products. But the Hijri year was based on the moon, so it didn’t match the crop yield. On the other hand, it made sure the farmers paid their taxes on time. The Mughal Emperor Akbar made the Bangla Sun to ensure taxes were collected fairly. He made changes to the old calendar. Based on the solar calendar and the Arabic Hijri calendar, Fatehullah Siraji, a great Bengali astronomer and thinker, established a new system at the emperor’s request. The Bengali year it started on March 10 or March 11 of the year 1584 AD. But this way of figuring things out was implemented when Akbar became king. (November 5, 1556). At first, this year was called Fosli year. Later, it became known as Bangabd or Bengali year.
Pahela Baisakh celebrations started at the time of Akbar. Then everyone had to pay all taxes, fees and duties by the last day of Chaitra month. On the next day, i.e. Pahela Baisakh, the landowners entertained the residents of their respective areas with sweets. Various festivals were organised on this occasion. The festival evolved into a social event that has become what it is today. At that time, this day’s main event was preparing a Halkhata. Halkhata means a new account book. Actually, Halkhata is officially updating shop accounts on the first day of Bengali Sun. Village, town or commercial area, all the books of the old year are closed, and the books of the new book are opened. Shopkeepers entertain their customers with sweets on Halkhata day. This practice is still largely practised, especially in gold shops.
The modern New Year celebration was first reported in 1917. Homam kirtan and puja were organised on the first day of Baisakh that year to wish the British victory in the First World War. Then in 1938 also, mention of similar activities can be found. Later, before 1967, the practice of observing Pahela Baisakh was not very popular.
Pahela Boishakh celebration in Bangladesh
The culture and art of the rural people are closely connected with the New Year festival. In villages, people wake up early in the morning, wear new clothes and visit the homes of relatives and friends. The house is cleaned and decorated very nicely. Special meals are also available. A Boishakhi fair is organised in an open field in the confluence of several villages. Marketing of various Kuthi handicrafts and various Pitha Puli arrangements are held at the fair. In many places, panta rice is served with hilsa fish. An old tradition of this day is the organisation of rural sports competitions. These include boating, stick games or wrestling. Bangladesh’s biggest wrestling event is on 12 Baishakh at Laldighi Maidan in Chittagong. This is known as Jabbar’s Sacrifice Game.