baishakh: ‘Pahela Baishakh’ is Bangladesh’s biggest cultural festival, a celebration of Bengali identity | India News

NEW DELHI: On May 8, the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi is holding delayed Bengali New Year celebrations, which coincide with the birth anniversaries of two famous Bengali poets – Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam – in the same month. Colorful celebrations with food, music and other cultural activities had to wait for the month of Ramzan to end.
All three occasions are celebrated throughout the Bangla month of Baishakh (between April 14 and May 14) on both sides of the border – in West Bengal and Bangladesh – with equal fervor. But in Dhaka and in urban and rural Bangladesh, “Naba Barsho” or the first day of the Bengali calendar, is one of the biggest festivals celebrated with enthusiasm, except for the Independence Day of Nations, celebrated 50 years ago, March 26. to commemorate Pakistan’s declaration of independence in 1971 and February 21, commemorated as National Language or Mother Tongue Day.
Morning celebrations in Dhaka begin in the historic Ramna Park. People from all over the city and beyond dress in white and red and gather at sunrise under the historic old banyana (Batamul) at Ramna Park where Chhayanaut performers usher in the first day of the year with a Tagore song to welcome the new year, Esho hey Baishakh… From the Institute of Fine Arts of the University of Dhaka, students and teachers organize a colorful procession and parade around the campus and then in the main streets of Dhaka. Observed as a national holiday in Bangladesh like a holiday in the state of West Bengal, Pahela Baishakh is the biggest cultural festival for Bengali speaking people on both sides of the political border be it Hindus, Muslims, Christians or other religious groups.
Politically, since the current regime of Sheikh Hasina was installed in Dhaka, the government has further encouraged Naba Barsho celebrations as they cross religious lines in Muslim-dominated Bangladesh. For a nation born out of its struggle to defend its people’s Bengali identity when it seceded from Pakistan in 1971, the festival celebrates that identity.
The Bangla calendar is relatively new. History has it that under the Mughals, land taxes were levied according to the Arabic or Hijri calendar. However, since the Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar, the agricultural year does not coincide with that of the fiscal year. As a result, farmers felt uncomfortable paying off-season taxes. In order to streamline the land tax system, Mughal Emperor Akbar ordered a calendar reform. As a result, the Bangla Calendar was devised. The new Fasli San (harvest year) was introduced on March 10/11, 1584, but was dated to Akbar’s accession to the throne in 1556. The new year later became known as the Bangabda or Bangla year . The new account book or “Hal khata” is launched on this calendar day for all those who deal with account books, traders, traders, etc. This tradition is still observed in West Bengal, as the beginning of the financial year.

Darcy J. Skinner