New Year marks the beginning of yet another time span, of a new calendar year. Similarly, the Bengali New Year marks the beginning of Baisakh that is the beginning of new Bengali calendar. It is celebrated in West Bengal and in parts of Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, it is celebrated as a national holiday while, in Bengal it is a public holiday
It is celebrated on the 14th of April as per the Gregorian calendar. King Shoshangko of ancient Bengal is credited with starting the Bengali era. Joyful and culturally rich people of West Bengal celebrate Naba Barsha by dutifully performing set customs and traditions. The festival starts with the ritual of cleaning and decorating houses. Mouth-watering dishes are prepared and people put on their best new clothes. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy.
The powdered wheat is used to make beautiful designs of alpanas or rangolis. The children get gifts of all sorts on this day. The day brings new hope and dreams along with it. Several cultural activities are performed and the people enjoy the day with playing various games. They visit each other’s houses and seek blessings. On Naba Barsha, people of Bengal propitiate Goddess Laksmhi- the Hindu mythological Goddess of Wealth to pray for prosperity and well being. Many devotees also take a dip in a nearby river to mark the occasion. It is also regarded as a new financial years by Bengalis. It is known as Haalkhata. There is also an age-old tradition of starting the day by having a breakfast consisting of panta bhat (soaked rice) along with onion, green chilies, and fried Hilsa fish.
The people also sing the famous Tagore song ‘Esho he Boishak esho esho’. Horse races, bull races, bull fights, cockfights, flying pigeons, boat racing were once popular. Poila boishak connects all ethnic Bengalis irrespective of their religious and regional differences.