Festival of Bangla Noboborsho


Pohela Boishakh, the first day of Bengali calendar, is a public festival of the Bangladeshi people. It is celebrated among all Bangalees irrespective of religious and regional differences. The celebrations commended from Mughal Emperor Akbar’s reign. But the public celebration of pohela boishakh and the large-scale organization of cultural events have started more recently.

Pohela boishakh is indeed a momentous occasion in the life of each and every bangalee. It’s the occasion to welcome the new year with a new hope of peace, prosperity and good will. It is generally celebrated on April 14 each year. In Bangladesh, it is a national holiday. Various cultural programs are organized by social and cultural organizations all across the country. Newspapers and magazines brings out special supplements. Targeting the pohela boishakh event various movies, music albums, books, etc. are realesed ans special programs are also telecast on television and radio.

History of Pohela Boishakh

The Bengali Calendar is closely tied with the Hindu Solar Calendar, based on the Surya Siddhanto. As with many other variants of the Hindu solar Calendar, the Bengali calendar commences in mid-April of the Gregorial Year. Under the Mughals, agricultural taxes were collected according to the Hijri Calendar. However, as the Hijri Calendar is a purely Lunar Calendar, it dose not coinside with the harvest. As a result farmers were hardpressed to pay taxes out os=f season. In order to streamline tax collection the Mughal Emperor Akbar ordered a reform of the calendar.  Accordingly, Fatehullah shirazi, a renowned scholar and astronomer, formulated the Bengali Tear on the basis of Hijri Lunar and Hindu Solar Calendar. The new Fasli San (Agriculture Year) was introduced on 10 March 1585 but was dated from Akbar’s ascension to the throne in 1556. The new year subsequently became known as Bonggavdo or Bangla Year.

Celbrations of Pohela Boishakh commenced from Akbar’s reign. It was customary to clean up all dues on the last day of Chaitra. On the next day or the first day of the New Year, landlords would entertain their tenants with sweets. On this occasion there used to be fairs and other festivities. In due course the occasion, became part of domestic and social life and turned into a day of merriment. The main event of the day was to open a Halkhata or new book of accounts.

How the Bangla Noboborsho is observed

Pohela Boishakh puts vicacious colors on the face of the Bangalees. They observe the day in a festive mood. Though some of the old rituals of pohela boishakh are not in practice now, Bangalees observe the day in their own cultural way. In Dhaka, people gets up early in the morning and gather a Ramna Botomul where gingers of Chayanot welcomes the forst of the Bangla Year by singing the song ‘Esho He Boishakh, Esho Esho’ on stage. People eat panta Bhaat with Hilsa and chilly which is traditional bangalee food. A colorful rally comes out from the Fine Arts Faculty of Dhaka University where thousands of people take part. Musical programs, jatra, etc. are staged at different places of the country.

The women wear white sari with red border, tips on forehead, colorful churis on both hands and the men wear white Panjabi with pajamas usually on this day. The buildings illuminated in the city are put on colorful dresses with fastoons, balloons, etc. Baishakhi fair is organized all over the country. The people ride on Nagordola, enjoy different types of traditional pitha and however around the different places.

Many of the old festivals have disappeared now a days. The cock fight, bull fight etc. can hardly be seen to be observed now. But, pohela Boushakh has become a national festival in the life of the Bangalee where they at least try to practice their traditional rituals in a festive mood which certainly keep our generations linked woth root.

In the Hill Tracts of Chittagong, three different ethnic minority groups have their individual new year celebrations. Boisuk of Tripura people , Sangrai of marma people and Biju of Chakma people. Presently they have come together to celebrate it commonly as Boi-sa-Bi- a day of a wide variety of festivals; specially need to mention the water festival of the Marma people.

Boishakhi Fairs

Boishakhi fairs are organized in many parts of Bangladesh. The lifestyle of rural areas is showcased in almost all these fairs. Various traditional handicrafts, toys, cosmetics, agricultural products, as well as various kinds of food and sweets are sold at these fairs. The fairs also provide entertainment with singers and dancers staging jatra, pala gaan, Kobigan, Jarigan, etc. They present folk songs as well as baul , Marfati, Murshidi and Bhatiali songs. Narrative plays like Laili Majnu, Yusuf-Zulekha and Radha-Krishna are staged. Among other attractions are puppet shows, merry-ogo-round and giant wheels are also installed and are enjoyed by the children.

Pohela Boishakh as a tool of Branding Bangladesh

Bangladesh is very flourishing culture enriched with different customs and rituals. Each religion has different festivals. Muslims celebrate their Eid days.   Hindu celebrates the Puja and other rituals, Christians have their religious festivals like X-Mass day and ther religious and ethnic groups have their own rituals. Besides, many local group celebrate different festivals. Now a days the people of Bangladesh celebrate many international days loke new year, valentine day, etc.

Bur most of the festivals are religious, local or international. Therefore, we have to widely celebrated national events. These are Pohela Boishakh and Pohela Falgun. Pohela Boishakh is celebrated nationally from the ancient times. But Pohela Falgun is celebrated mostly in rural areas and recently in Dhaka city. That’s why we have chosen Pohels Boishakh as a unique and distinctive tool to brand Bangladesh Internationally.

Mangal Shobhajatra

Pohela Boishakh celebration is incomplete without the Mangal Shobhajatra. In Dhaka students and teachers  of the Instutute of the Fine Arts of Dhaka University take out a colorful procession known as Mangal Shobhajatra and parade on different streets and finally return to the Fine arts Institute. This procession mainly consists of Arts and crafts like tigers, owls, dragon, fly, etc. and different types of masks. These colorful pieces display the elements of Bengali culture and resemble lifestyle of rural and modern Bengal. People of all ages and irrespective of class and profession take part in this procession. Since 1989, this procession Mangal Shobhajatra has become an important event and also a major tourist attraction. The traditional procession brings out on pohela Boishakh, the first day of the Bangla New Year has got recognition of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)  as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The recognition was given at the 11th session of the UNESCO’S Inter-Governmental Committee on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2016. The UNESCO noted that the  Mangal Shobhajatra  festival symbolizes the prode of the people of the Bangladesh having in their strength and courage to fight against sinister forces and their vindication of truth and justice. The UN body also said that the New Year’s procession represents solidarity and a shared value for democracy uniting people irrespective of caste, creed, religion, gender or age. Knowledge and skills are transmitted by students and teachers within the community. The tradion of Mangal Shobhajatra began in 1989 when students frustrated with having to live under military rule. Wanted to bring people in the community hoping for a better future.

Historical Importance of Pohela Boishakh

In an attempt to suppress Bengali culture, the Pakistani Government had banded poems written by Rabindranath Tagore, the most famous poet and writer in Bengali literature. Protesting this move, Chayanat opened their pohela boishakh celebrations at ramna park with Tagor’s song welcoming the month in 1967. The day continued to be celebrated in East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) as a symbol of Bengali culture. After 1972 it became a national festival, a symbol of the Bengladesh nationalist movement and an integral part of the people’s cultural heritage. Later in the mid 1980s the institute of Fine arts added color to the day by initiating the Boishakhi parade which is much like a carnival parade. In the big metropolitans like Dhaka and chittaging this day is Marked by mass crowd flocking to hundreds of open air concerts and cultural programs, masks rallies etc.

Pohela Boishakh is indeed a momentous occasion in the life of each and every Bangalee. It is the only secular festival of Bangladesh in every sense of the term.

Considering all these aspects we can refer Bengali New Year (Bangla Noboborsho) as a festival of the world which has rare characteristic.


Tags: Dhaka, Bangladesh

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