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Bangalee's Pahela Boishakh

The culture has a long history and tradition

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14th-Apr-2019       
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Mir Mahmudul Haque Chowdhury :
Pahela Boishakh is the first day of Bangla Calendar year. It becomes a part and parcel of the Bangalee culture. It is celebrated on 14th April all over the world among Bangalees. They observe the day with great festivities and spirit. It is the occasion to welcome the New Year with new hope of peace, prosperity and goodwill. The celebration of Bengali New Year is also known as "Nabo Barsho", "Poila Boishakh" and "Pohela Boishakh".
The origin of Pohela Boishakh goes back to the Mughal reign of Emperor Akbar. At that time all agricultural taxes were collected according to the Hijri Calendar, which differed and contradictory with the harvest cycle of the farmers. Thus, farmers struggled to pay taxes out of season. In order to justify tax collection, Emperor Akbar in 1556 ordered a reform to the Georgeon Calendar. The instruction was given to Fatehullah Shiraji, a renowned scholar and astronomer in that time.
Shirazi formulated the new Bangalee calendar on the basis of the Hijri lunar and Hindu solar calendar. The New Year of newly formulated calendar became known as "Bangla Year", identically known as "Bongabdo". It was customary to clear up all dues, taxes, and loan payments on the last day of the Bangla Year (last day of Chaitro). On the Pohela Boishakh, the landlords used to distribute sweets among their tenants, businessmen and shopkeepers. Since then people started celebrating the beginning of a new year with happiness and joy.
One of the most interesting traditions of Pohela Boishakh in Bangladesh is ''Halkhata''. The literal meaning of Halkhata is opening a new notebook. On this day, the businessmen all around the country end their fiscal account books and start a new one. Customers come to the stores on this day and clear all their due payments. The businessmen greet them with sweets and snacks. The businessmen also clear out their due payments, get over with all the calculations and start with a new accounts book and hope for a better year.
Fairs are arranged in many parts of the country named as ''Boishakhi Mela''. Various agricultural products, traditional handicrafts, toys, cosmetics as well as various kinds of foods and sweets are sold at these fairs. The fair also provided with singers, dancers, jatrapala, jarigan, sarigan and traditional plays and songs. Horse races, bull races, bull fights, cockfights, flying pigeons, boat racing are most component of the fair. The ferries wheel is the major attraction of such a fair. In rural area the fair is held generally in the open place or on the bank of the river.
The most colourful celebration of Bangla New Year begins in our country at Ramna Batomul at dawn with an elaborated program undertaken by Chhayanaut, a leading cultural troupe of our country. Chhayanaut organizes the program firstly in 1965 when Pakistani government banned the poem of Nobel winning poet Rabindranath Tagore in Bangladesh. In that year, Chhayanaut organizes the program at Ramna  Batomul to protest the Pakistani governments decision with the song of Rabindranath Tagore 'esho hey boishakh esho esho….'. This tradition is still going on.
The Fine Arts students of Dhaka University usually bring out a rally named "Mongal Shobhajatra" in the morning every year since 1989. The UNESCO has recognized the festival as 'Bangalee Festival'. The Mongal Shobhajatra symbolizes the pride the people of Bangladesh have in their folk heritage, as well as their strength and courage to fight against sinister forces, and their vindication of truth and justice. It also represents solidarity and a shared value for democracy uniting people irrespective of caste, creed, religion, gender or age. Traditionally, people start celebrating Pohela Boishakh having breakfast with fermented rice, different type vegetables and fried fish. Then they dress up and visit their friends and family.  Different rallies are brought up holding various festoons and creations that signify the Bangalee culture
Apart from Bangladesh, Pahela Boishakh is also celebrated by the Bangalee community living abroad like UK, USA, UAE, Australia etc. Its celebration also marks a day of cultural unity without distinction between class and religious affiliations. The religious festivals are observed only for that religion but this is a common festival for all.
On this day, a few disintegrating incidents of assaulting on women have been occurring in the different parts of the country in the past few years. Now, the Administration is enforcing some restrictions to observe the day with a festivity mode. We should follow the instructions of the administration at the time of enjoying the festival and guide our family members to observe the day gently and modestly so that no unwanted occurrence is committed.
Pahela Boishakh is a national holiday. In this colorful day, we connect us with our roots, our culture and our tradition. The festive celebration teaches us to end a year and begin a new one in a style that is our own identity. Let us observe a colourful and festive Pahela Boishakh. Shuvo Naboborsho 1426….

(Mir Mahmudul Haque Chowdhury, Banker and Researcher; e-mail: leon_83ais@yahoo.com)

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