Another year has passed by. Another year is here to unfold the greatest joys of life. Today is Poila Boishakh – first day of a brand-new Bengali year. And I am here to celebrate this day with Devyani Kapoor (www.breviloquent.in).
I am a Bengali born and partly raised in Kolkata. She is a Punjabi by birth, but a true-blue Bengali at heart. I don’t recall how we met, but I remember the feeling of instant connection with her. We are two fearless women living in the state capital with a little bit of Kolkata nurtured in our hearts.
This post is not just a celebratory collaboration, but a beginning of a journey together towards unveiling the unexplored chapters of Bengali tradition. Something old-world, something vintage-y; something rustic and something warm. Our love for Kolkata and Bengal is timeless.
April 15 marks the dawning of the new year as per the Bengali calendar. But why April 15? Let’s tell you a little story then…
To understand the meaning of Poila Boishakh, you need to know, Boishakh is the first month of the Bengali calendar. Also, ‘poila’ means first. Put the two words together, and it literally means the first day of Boishakh. Thus, marking the start of a new year. As per the Bengali calendar, we are taking baby steps into the year 1424 today.
Now, according to the Gregorian calendar, Poila Boishakh falls either on April 14 or April 15, every year. You must be thinking, where does the Bengali calendar come from? Well, history says, King Shoshangko of Gour (or Gauda) had developed the first Bengali calendar in 593-594 AD. Later, during the Mughal era, Emperor Akbar reviewed and altered the calendar to make tax collection easier.
However, the Islamic lunar calendar of the Mughals did not accord well with the agricultural cycle that the farmers followed. This bothered the farmers as the tax-paying term did not overlap with the time of harvest (when it was easier for them to pay).
To ease this torment, Akbar decided to improve the prevailing calendar. Legends claim, his royal astronomer formulated the new calendar. This new calendar was a blend of the Hijri and solar calendars that maintained the timeline of the lunar year and also abide by the harvesting season that Indian farmers observed. Consequently, the Bengali calendar is a cross between the solar and the lunar year.
Now, moving over to the rejoicing of Poila Boishakh, let’s tell you how we celebrate this day. Back in the day, Poila Boishakh always witnessed businessmen opening new ‘halkhatas’ (ledgers), and bolting the old ones away. Surprisingly, that tradition is still alive. Apart from this, the regular household customs begin early in the morning. Women deck up in traditional Bengali saris. They draw ‘alpona’ (rangoli made of rice paste), clean the house, worship Goddess Lakshmi. It is mandatory to wear new clothes on this day. As far as the food goes, pithe and pulli dominate the kitchen.
As we conclude this post, we hope this year brings in an abundance of love, laughter and good health to one and all. Shubho Noboborsho everyone.
Partner in crime: Devyani Kapoor (www.breviloquent.in)
Photographs by: Ananya Rijhwani
Location courtesy: Home Sweet Home
Jewelry courtesy: Karigari Jewellery
Outfit courtesy: Dhakai Jamdani from Mom’s Closet