Let’s ring in a wonderful year together this season

In Bengal, there’s one thing that holds sway as the absolute, incontestable, universal truth. And that is…

“Baro mashe tero parbon.”

To translate, “thirteen festivals in twelve months.” This city thrives on this proverbial saying, repeating it like a holy mantra every time a festival is in the offing.

It’s no wonder it’s famously touted as the City of Joy. It’s constantly in a state of jubilation. Celebrating something or the other. Even if the festival in question belongs to another community. As long as there’s love, laughter and merrymaking involved, count Bengalis in.

But this time, we’re not here to talk about just another festival. We’re here to dive headfirst into an occasion that marks a new beginning for all and sundry; that’s based on the egalitarian spirit of marching towards the new with gusto and might we add, a little bit of aplomb.

We’re talking about Poila Baisakh or Bengali New Year.

 

Source: The Telegraph India

Poila Baisakh: A tradition as old as time

Grandeur and pomp might be an integral part of this spring-summer festival but they’re not the only elements that define it.

Now over a 1400-year-old tradition (currently the year 1428 is on, which will flip over to 1429 once the 15th of April hits), Bengali New Year is a cultural celebration – one for the masses where everyone gets together on a large scale to enjoy the day as they like, with celebrations beginning the day before. Call it the Bengali New Year’s Eve, if you will.

Preparations for the oncoming festival start almost a month in advance. Houses are re-painted and renovated. New furniture and upholstery in a myriad of colours is added to the décor and shopping is in full spree.

In fact, in Bengal, most shops, malls and stores offer heavy discounts as part of their ‘Chaitra’ sale to help shoppers get themselves and their homes New Year-ready.

The eve of the new year brings with it several fairs or melas as they are locally known in numerous pockets of North Kolkata. Rural artisans from villages all around pay the city a visit, setting up ‘haats’ and bazaars of their handmade goods, which shoppers throng in hoards to get their fill from.

Food and joyrides lace the day, setting up a mood of excitement and fervour, which carries on well into the fun and festivities of the next day when families get together.

 

Prabhat Pheri and Paturi: When customs and feasts unite

As the early rays of the sun hit the windowpane, lighting the day of Poila Baisakh, Bengalis begin the festivities for the day, preparing for the morning custom – the Prabhat Pheri.

A traditional procession marked by Bengali women dressed in their quintessential garad saree and men in the emblematic dhoti and kurta, Prabhat Pheri encompasses ushering in the New Year with a warm exchange of Shubho Noboborsho wishes and gifts, with the elderly showering the young ones with their blessings.

The day then progresses into merry-making and revelry with an elaborate spread of a wide array of traditional dishes – ranging from the unmissable mishit doi to the scrumptious begun bhaja and the lip-smacking paturi, chingri malai curry and more. It’s a hearty affair through and through.

 

At the heart of it: It’s all about family

Amidst the festivities, feast and fervour, Bengali New Year is about one thing and one thing alone – family.

Barring the autumnal revelry of Durga Puja, Bengali New Year is the time when probashi kids (non-resident Bengalis) come home to reunite with their families and make new memories together. Celebrating to the fullest this chance they get at a fresh start, a new beginning.

Communities come together, offering sweets and warm hugs as they wish each other the happiest of New Years. Often cultural programs are organized in complexes, giving people another reason to deepen their bonds and celebrate the spirit of perfect harmony and unity, which at the end of the day, is the hallmark of Poila Baisakh.

 

Start afresh in North Kolkata this Bengali New Year with us

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