Pohela Boishakh

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Pohela Boishakh (পহেলা বৈশাখ)
Mangal Shobhajatra in Dhaka.jpg
Pohela Baishakh celebration in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Official namePohela Boishakh / পহেলা বৈশাখ[1]
Observed byBengali
TypeSocial, cultural and national festival
CelebrationsMangal Shobhajatra (processions), Boishakhi Mela (fair), gift-giving, visiting relatives and friends, songs, dance
Date14 April (nationally and usually)
15 April
Related toSouth and Southeast Asian solar New Year

Template:Culture of Bengal

Pohela Boishakh (Bengali: পহেলা বৈশাখ) is the first day of the Bengali calendar which is also the official calendar of Bangladesh. This festival is celebrated on 14 April in Bangladesh and 15 April in the Indian[2] states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam (Barak Valley) by Bengalis regardless of religious faith.[3][4][5][6]

Celebration of Pohela Boishakh traces its roots back to Mughal rule in this region and also the proclamation of tax collection reforms of Akbar.[7]

The festival is celebrated with processions, fairs and family time. The traditional greeting for Bengalis in the new year is শুভ নববর্ষ "Shubho Noboborsho" which is literally "Happy New Year". The festive Mangal Shobhajatra is organized in Bangladesh. In 2016, the UNESCO declared this festivity organized by the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka as a cultural heritage of humanity.[8]

History and origin[edit]


In Bengali, the word Pohela (Bengali: পহেলা) means 'first' and Boishakh (Bengali: বৈশাখ) is the first month of the Bengali calendar (Bengali: পহেলা বৈশাখ Pohela Boishakh).[9] Bengali New Year is referred to in Bengali as Nobo Borsho (Bengali: নববর্ষ), where 'Nobo' means new and 'Borsho' means year.[10] [11]

Mughal Emperor Akbar began the celebration of Bengali New Year and officialized the Bengali calendar to ease the tax collection process.

Traditional roots[edit]

Mughal origin theory[edit]

Some say that during Mughal rule, land taxes were collected from Bengali people according to the Islamic Hijri calendar. This calendar was a lunar calendar, and its new year did not coincide with the solar agricultural cycles. According to some sources, the festival was a tradition introduced in Bengal during the rule of Mughal Emperor Akbar to time the tax year to the harvest, and the Bangla year was therewith called Bangabda. Akbar asked the royal astronomer Fathullah Shirazi to create a new calendar by combining the lunar Islamic calendar and solar Hindu calendar already in use, and this was known as Fasholi shan (harvest calendar). According to some historians, this started the Bengali calendar. According to Shamsuzzaman Khan, it could be Nawab Murshid Quli Khan, a Mughal governor, who first used the tradition of Punyaho as "a day for ceremonial land tax collection", and used Akbar's fiscal policy to start the Bangla calendar.[7][12]

According to Shamsuzzaman Khan,[13] and Nitish Sengupta, the origin of the Bengali calendar is unclear.[14] According to Shamsuzzaman, it is called Bangla shon or shaal, which are Arabic (سن) and Persian (سال) words respectively, suggests that it was introduced by a Muslim king or sultan."[13] In contrast, according to Sengupta, its traditional name is Bangabda.[14][15] It is also unclear, whether it was adopted by Alauddin Husain Shah or Akbar. The tradition to use the Bengali calendar may have been started by Husain Shah before Akbar.[14] Regardless of who adopted the Bengali calendar and the new year, states Sengupta, it helped collect land taxes after the spring harvest based on traditional Bengali calendar, because the Islamic Hijri calendar created administrative difficulties in setting the collection date.[14]

Vikramaditya origin theory[edit]

Some historians attribute the Bengali calendar to the 7th-century Indian king Shashanka.[13][14] The term Bangabda (Bangla year) is found too in two Shiva temples many centuries older than Akbar era, suggesting that Bengali calendar existed before Akbar's time.[14] Various dynasties whose territories extended into Bengal, prior to the 13th-century, used the Vikrami calendar. Buddhist texts and inscriptions created in the Pala Empire era mention "Vikrama" and the months such as Ashvin, a system found in Sanskrit texts elsewhere in ancient and medieval Indian subcontinent.[10][16][17][18][19]

In rural Bengali communities of India, the Bengali calendar is credited to "Bikromaditto", like many other parts of India and Nepal. However, unlike these regions where it starts in 57 BCE, the Bengali calendar starts from 593 CE suggesting that the starting reference year was adjusted at some point.[20][21][22]

Contemporary usage[edit]

In Bangladesh however, the old Bengali calendar was modified in 1966 by a committee headed by Muhammad Shahidullah, making the first five months 31 days long, rest 30 days each, with the month of Falgun adjusted to 31 days in every leap year.[23] This was officially adopted by Bangladesh in 1987. Since then, the national calendar starts with and the new year festival always falls on 14 April in Bangladesh.[23] In 2018-19, the calendar was amended again, with Falgun now lasting 29 days in regular years and to 30 days in leap ones, in an effort to more align with Western use of the Gregorian calendar. However, the date of the celebration, 14 April, was retained.

The Bengali calendar in India remains tied to the Hindu calendar system and is used to set the various Bengali Hindu festivals. For Bengalis of West Bengal and other Indian states, the festival falls either on 14 or 15 April every year. The current Bengali calendar in use in the Indian states is based on the Sanskrit text Surya Siddhanta. It retains the historic Sanskrit names of the months, with the first month as Baishakh.[23]

Holiday customs[edit]

House cleaning and shopping[edit]

Visiting family and friends[edit]

During Pohela Boishakh, people visit their families and friends and spend time together. Pohela Boishakh is also known for uniting friends and family.

New year salutation[edit]

The new year salutation at Ramna Park

The celebration of Bengali new year Pahela Baishakh begins at dawn arranges by the cultural organisation Chhayanaut welcoming the year at Ramna Batamul under the banyan tree in the Ramna Park.[24]

Haal Khata[edit]

Haal Khata is a festival celebrated on the occasion of Pohela Boishakh in order to complete all the account reckonings of the last year and open a new ledger. It is observed by the Bengali businessmen, shopkeepers and traders. It signifies that every year starts with a new beginning.

Red-White Attire[edit]

On this occasion, males are seen wearing red or white Panjabi with traditional designs on them, imprinted or embroidered. Women and young ladies wear red and white saree with blouses and put on flower crowns on their heads. Girls also dress in salwar kameez. They are seen wearing traditional ornaments and accessories along with their dresses.

Baishakhi meal[edit]

Usually, Bengalis eat Panta Bhat or poitabhat, which is a rice-based dish prepared by soaking rice, generally leftovers, in water overnight. It is popularly eaten with Hilsa Fish and other curries.[25]

Mangal shobhajatra[edit]

Baishakhi Rural Fair[edit]

It is a fair held by the locals of that area where many different things ranging from books to special dishes are sold. Traditionally, the fair was held under huge Banyan trees and traders from far across the areas would gather with their goods and toys in the fair. Some rides such as Nagordola (wooden Ferris wheel), are set for kids. Different types of traditional foods are sold out in the stalls such as Jilipi, Sandesh, Soan papdi, Batasha (a candy made of sugar or jaggery),[26][circular reference] Khoi (popped rice), Kadma (a candy made of sugar), and so forth. 'Bioscope', a form of the old movie projector, was also a part of the attraction for the youngsters back in days.[27]



Mangal Shobhajatra at Pohela Boishakh in Bangladesh. UNESCO recognises Mangal Shobhajatra as cultural heritage.[28]

The Bengali New Year is observed as a public holiday in Bangladesh. It is celebrated across religious boundaries by its Muslim majority and Hindu minority.[29] According to Willem van Schendel and Henk Schulte Nordholt, the festival became a popular means of expressing cultural pride and heritage among the Bangladeshi as they resisted Pakistani rule in the 1950s and 1960s.[30]

The day is marked with singing, processions, and fairs. Traditionally, businesses start this day with a new ledger, clearing out the old which often involves inviting loyal customers and offering sweetmeats to them. This festival is called Haal Khata. Singers perform traditional songs welcoming the new year. People enjoy classical Jatra plays. People wear festive dress with women desking their hair with flowers. White-red color combinations are particularly popular.[31]

Bangladeshis prepare and enjoy a variety of traditional festive foods on Pohela Boishakh. These include panta bhat (watered rice), ilish bhaji (fried hilsa fish) and many special bhartas (pastes).[32][31]

In Dhaka[edit]

Students of Charukala (Fine Arts) Institute, Dhaka University preparing masks for Pohela Boishakh
Colorful celebration of Pohela Boishakh in Dhaka

The celebrations start in Dhaka at dawn with a rendition of Rabindranath Tagore's song "Esho he Boishakh" by Chhayanaut under the banyan tree at Ramna (the Ramna Batamul). An integral part of the festivities is the Mangal Shobhajatra, a traditional colourful procession organised by the students of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka (Charukala). According to the history, the rudimentary step of Mangal Shobhjatra was started in Jessore by Charupith, a community organization, in 1985. Later in 1989 the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka arranged this Mangal Shobhajatra with different motifs and themes. Now, the Mangal Shobhajatra is celebrated by different organization in all over the country.[33]

The Dhaka University Mangal Shobhajatra tradition started in 1989 when students used the procession to overcome their frustration with the military rule. They organized the festival to create masks and floats with at least three theme, one highlighting evil, another courage, and a third about peace.[8] It also highlighted the pride of Bangladeshi people for their folk heritage irrespective of religion, creed, caste, gender or age.[8]

In recent years, the procession has a different theme relevant to the country's culture and politics every year. Different cultural organizations and bands also perform on this occasion and fairs celebrating Bengali culture are organized throughout the country. Other traditional events held to celebrate Pohela Boishakh include bull racing in Munshiganj, Boli Khela (wrestling) in Chittagong, Nouka Baich (boat racing), cockfights, pigeon racing.[34]

In Chittagong[edit]

Pohela Boishakh celebrations in Chittagong involves similar traditions of that in Dhaka. The students of the fine arts institute of Chittagong University brings the Mangal Shobhajatra procession in the city, followed by daylong cultural activities.[35]

At DC hill & CRB, a range of cultural programmes are held by different socio-cultural and educational organisations of the city. The Shammilito Pohela Boishakh Udjapon Parishad holds a two-day function at the hill premises to observe the festival, starting with Rabindra Sangeet recitations in the morning. In the late afternoon, through evening, Chaitra Sangkranti programme is held to bid farewell to the previous year.[35]

At the Chittagong Shilpakala Academy, different folk cultures, music, dances, puppet shows are displayed.[35]


Poila Baisakh Festive Meal

Bengalis of India have historically celebrated Poyla Boishakh, and it is an official regional holiday in its states of West Bengal and Tripura. The day is also called Nabo Barsho.[36]

West Bengal[edit]

Poila Boisakh has been the traditional New Year festival in the state, with the new year referred to as the Noboborsho.[10] The festival falls on 14 or 15 April, as West Bengal follows its traditional Bengali calendar, which adjusts for solar cycle differently than the one used in Bangladesh where the festival falls on 14 April.[37]

Notable events of West Bengal include the early morning cultural processions called Prabhat Pheri. These processions see dance troupes and children dressed up with floats, displaying their performance arts to songs of Rabindranath Tagore.[38]

Tripura and Northeast India[edit]

Pohela Boishakh is a state holiday in Tripura. People wear new clothes and start the day by praying at the temples for a prosperous year. The day marks the traditional accounting new year for merchants.[39][40] Festive foods such as confectionery and sweets are purchased and distributed as gifts to friends and family members.[40]

The festival is also observed by the Bengali communities in other eastern states such as Assam.[41]

Celebration in other countries[edit]

Bangladesh Heritage and Ethnic Society of Alberta in Canada celebrates its Heritage Festival (Bengali New Year) in a colorful manner along with other organizations. Bengali people in Calgary celebrate the day with traditional food, dress, and with Bengali culture.[42][43] The Bangabandhu Council of Australia also hosts a Pohela Boishakh event at the Sydney Olympic Park.[44]

See also[edit]



  1. Nubras Samayeen; Sharif Imon (2016). Kapila D. Silva and Amita Sinha (ed.). Cultural Landscapes of South Asia: Studies in Heritage Conservation and Management. Taylor & Francis. pp. 159–160. ISBN 978-1-317-36592-1.
  2. Bureau, ABP News (14 April 2022). "Poila Boishakh 1429: Why Bangladesh & West Bengal Celebrate Bengali New Year On Different Days". news.abplive.com. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  3. Kapila D. Silva; Amita Sinha (2016). Cultural Landscapes of South Asia: Studies in Heritage Conservation and Management. Taylor & Francis. pp. 159–162. ISBN 978-1-317-36592-1.
  4. "BBC – Religion: Hinduism – Vaisakhi". BBC. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  5. Crump, William D. (2014), Encyclopedia of New Year's Holidays Worldwide, MacFarland, page 114.
  6. Gordon Melton, J. (13 September 2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations [2 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ISBN 9781598842067.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Chakrabarti, Kunal (2013). Historical dictionary of the Bengalis. Shubhra Chakrabarti. Lanham [Maryland]. ISBN 978-0-8108-8024-5. OCLC 861692768.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Mangal Shobhajatra on Pohela Boishakh. UNESCO.
  9. Kapila D. Silva; Amita Sinha (2016). Cultural Landscapes of South Asia: Studies in Heritage Conservation and Management. Taylor & Francis. pp. 161–168. ISBN 978-1-317-36592-1., Quote: "Poyla Boishakh is celebrated on the first day of Boishakh, the first month of the Bengali calendar. It falls on 14 April in the Gregorian calendar, and it coincides with similar Vedic calendar-based New Year celebrations (...)"
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 William D. Crump (2014). Encyclopedia of New Year's Holidays Worldwide. McFarland. p. 113114. ISBN 978-0-7864-9545-0., Quote: "Naba Barsha ("New Year"). Hindu New Year festival in West Bengal State, observed on the first day of the month of Vaisakha or Baisakh (corresponds to mid-April). New Year's Day is known as Pahela Baisakh (First of Baisakh)."
  11. "Subho Poila Baisakh". Bangla Love Story. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  12. "Pahela Baishakh". Banglapedia. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. 2015.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Guhathakurta, Meghna; Schendel, Willem van (2013). The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press. pp. 17–18. ISBN 9780822353188.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 Nitish K. Sengupta (2011). Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib. Penguin Books India. pp. 96–98. ISBN 978-0-14-341678-4.
  15. Syed Ashraf Ali, Bangabda, National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh
  16. Karen Pechilis; Selva J. Raj (2013). South Asian Religions: Tradition and Today. Routledge. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-0-415-44851-2.
  17. Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. pp. 135–137. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  18. D. C. Sircar (1965). Indian Epigraphy. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 241, 272–273. ISBN 978-81-208-1166-9.
  19. Richard Salomon (1998). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the Other Indo-Aryan Languages. Oxford University Press. pp. 148, 246–247, 346. ISBN 978-0-19-509984-3.
  20. Morton Klass (1978). From Field to Factory: Community Structure and Industrialization in West Bengal. University Press of America. pp. 166–167. ISBN 978-0-7618-0420-8.
  21. Ralph W. Nicholas (2003). Fruits of Worship: Practical Religion in Bengal. Orient Blackswan. pp. 13–23. ISBN 978-81-8028-006-1.
  22. Nesbitt, Eleanor M. (2016). Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-874557-0.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Kunal Chakrabarti; Shubhra Chakrabarti (2013). Historical Dictionary of the Bengalis. Scarecrow. pp. 114–115. ISBN 978-0-8108-8024-5.
  24. Nation celebrates Pahela Baishakh, newagebd.net, 14 April 2019
  25. Staff Correspondent. "Pahela Baishakh down the years". Prothomalo. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  26. "Batasha".
  27. "Boishakhi Mela".
  28. Mongol Shobhojatra on Pohela Boishakh
  29. Kapila D. Silva; Amita Sinha (2016). Cultural Landscapes of South Asia: Studies in Heritage\n" Conservation and Management. Taylor & Francis. pp. 159–168. ISBN 978-1-317-36592-1.
  30. Willem van Schendel; Henk Schulte Nordholt (2001). Time Matters: Global and Local Time in Asian Societies. VU University\n\t" Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-90-5383-745-0.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Meghna Guhathakurta; Willem van Schendel (2013). The Bangladesh Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press. pp. 17–21. ISBN 978-0-8223-9567-6.
  32. Vishweshwaraiah Prakash; Olga Martin-Belloso; Larry Keener; et al., eds. (2016). Regulating Safety of Traditional and Ethnic Foods. Elsevier Science. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-12-800620-7.
  33. মঙ্গল শোভাযাত্রা (Non-English source)
  34. "Nobo Borsho and Pahela Baishakh: The Past and the Present". The Daily Star. 14 April 2013.
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 Chakraborty, Pranabesh. "Chittagong set to welcome Bangla New Year". The Daily Star. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  36. William D. Crump (2014). Encyclopedia of New Year's Holidays Worldwide. McFarland. pp. 114–115. ISBN 978-0-7864-9545-0.
  37. Kunal Chakrabarti; Shubhra Chakrabarti (2013). Historical Dictionary of the Bengalis. Scarecrow. pp. 114–115. ISBN 978-0-8108-8024-5.
  38. 'Poila Baisakh' celebrated in West Bengal, Press Trust of India (15 April 2015)
  39. Pahela Baisakh celebrated in Tripura, Bangladesh News (15 April 2014)
  40. 40.0 40.1 Tripura people observed Pahela Baishakh, Financial Express (14 April 2016)
  41. Celebrating New Year all year long!, The Statesman, 29 December 2016
  42. "Naba Barsha in Bengal". Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  43. "Our Bengali Event Heritage". Bangladesh Heritage and Ethnic Society of Alberta. Archived from the original on 27 July 2015.
  44. "BOISHAKHI MELA". Boishakhi Mela. Retrieved 4 April 2018.

External links[edit]

Template:Bangladesh Holidays Template:New Year by Calendar