One of the things that make Bengalis famous all over the world is their joyfulness and friendliness. They are always searching for ways to find joy in every little thing; they always want to celebrate every little occasion. Only in Bengal will you see people worshipping Rabindranath Tagore as a God on his birth and death anniversary.
There’s a proverb in Bengali that goes, “Baro Mase Tero Parbon” (Twelve months, thirteen festivals), meaning that Bengalis have festivals going on for the whole year. They love festivals so much that they find ways to enjoy even the festivals all over India as well as the world. One such festival that Bengalis celebrate with so much joy every year is Noboborsho.
Noboborsho or Pohela Baishakh is the day when Bengalis welcome the new year according to the lunisolar calendar—usually celebrated on 14th or 15th April every year. In the Bengali language, Pohela means first, and Baisakh is the first month of the Bengali calendar, right after Poush. Noboborsho is not just a festival for Bengalis; the celebration is equally huge in Tripura, Jharkhand, Odisha, and Assam.
Traditions of Subho Noboborsho
Bengal decks up on this day with beautiful alpona designs and festive lights. Bengalis dress themselves up in new garments and greet each other by saying “Subho Noboborsho,” which means Happy New Year in Bengali. The traditional Bengali look of this day for women is a red-bordered white saree, and for men, it’s a red or white kurta with traditional designs and motifs. They begin the day with ‘Prabhat Pheri,’ a procession that takes place at dawn where they come together to dance and sing along to Rabindra Sangeet to warmly welcome the new year.
Even though the tradition of this day is to eat Panta Bhat (leftover soaked rice) with Hilsha preparations, various other delicious Bengali dishes like Daab Chingri, Basanti Polao, Lucchi, Aloo Posto, and more are prepared too. Bengalis also distribute sweets like Jalebi, Soan Papdi, Roshogolla, etc., among their family and friends as they greet them saying “Subho Noboborsho.”
There’s also a ritual called ‘Haal Khata,’ which is observed by shopkeepers and businessmen as businesses usually start on this day with a new ledger. On this day, businessmen invite their loyal customers to offer them sweet delicacies and Bengali calendars. In the evening, fairs are held in various localities, where people go to celebrate with their friends and family. They also visit their relative’s houses for a lovely time together.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some changes in traditions in the last two years. Bengalis still found ways to celebrate Subho Noboborsho 2021 amongst such dreadful situations. Even though most of them missed out on visiting fairs, they found joy in spending quality time with family and good food.
History of Subho Noboborsho
This auspicious festival has a very interesting history. Even though Bengal’s practice of dividing a year into 12 months was very old, Mughal Emperor Akbar, during his time, made a few changes by combining the Arabic calendar with the Bengali calendar from March 1584, which is commonly known as Fasholi Shan. This was done because the Arabic lunar calendar did not coincide with agricultural cycles, making it impossible for farmers to pay taxes. According to various historians, this festival was introduced for the purpose of land tax collection after the spring harvest.
FAQs About Subho Noboborsho
- What is Subho Noboborsho?
‘Noboborsho’ means New Year in Bengali. It is celebrated on the first day of the Bengali month Baisakh to welcome the new Bengali year.
- Who started the Bengali year?
According to various Historians, the Mughal Emperor Akbar started the Bengali year.
- How do people celebrate Subho Noboborsho?
People celebrate Noboborsho by dressing up in new clothes and greeting their family and friends with sweets, saying ‘Subho Noboborsho.’ Most of them begin their day by joining ‘Prabhat Pheri,’ which is a procession where they sing and dance to welcome the new year.