Bengali New Year or ‘Noboborsho‘ or ‘Poila Boisakh’ (the way we Bongs call it) comes on 15th April for us. It marks the beginning of a new year in the Bengali calendar. There is a saying in Bengali ‘Baro Maashe Tero Parbon’ which if translated literally means Bengalis celebrate thirteen festivals in twelve months.
But what we actually try to say is that there are enough festivals in our kitty to have fun throughout the year. Having said that, this holds true for every Indian. Take example of Bengali New Year itself. The same occasion is celebrated as Vaisakhi in other parts of India.
Needless to say, we gear up with tons of enthusiasm to welcome our new year. Whereas elders are busy in planning the to-dos for that day, kids get excited because of their own reasons.
As a child, I too used to get excited when Bengali New Year came close. And why not? Did elders leave anything behind to make this day less special? Preparations start days back with full force in households which itself is a huge excuse to increase the excitement in kids like us.
15th April is again round the corner. Sadly, I don’t feel that excited anymore as I used to be two decades back. This lack of excitement made me to take a look behind and find out the reasons why it used to be so special in my childhood.
What is a Bengali New Year without a new dress?
Noboborsho meant a brand new dress.This reason was big enough for me to get excited. During the new year, shops give away massive discounts in their products starting from clothes to various household items. Moreover, in my hometown, a particular section in the marketplace, which we lovingly call ‘Reduction Bazaar’ or ‘Reduction Sale’, gets separately engaged in selling these discounted products.
If you ask me today, then I would rather purchase a dress online or even can skip to have one in order to avoid the crowded reduction sale in the scorching April heat. But in those days, accompanying my mother in the bazaar and shopping for a new dress added more fun to my idea of new year celebrations.
Is it Bengali New Year or Diwali ?
More than a week before 15th April arrived, my mother used to get into her cleaning mode. Curtains, sofa covers, table covers, bedspreads, water filter, refrigerator, the spider nets in various corners of the house – wherever her hands could reach found a place in the cleaning check-list. Even the unused utensils in the kitchen were not spared. When so much was happening around the house just to greet a particular day much like Diwali , then how was it possible for me to tone down my excitement level?
On 15th April, the businesses also close the accounts of previous year and start fresh transactions.
‘Subho Noboborsho’ and ‘Rosogolla’ :
The day before the new year is marked as Sankranti. As per the tradition, my mother cooked vegetarian dishes on that day. But 15th April used to arrive with a real feast. Fried rice, daal, beguni (fried brinjal), maacher jhol (fish curry), mochar ghonto (prepared with banana flower, coconut and potato), mangsho (chicken or mutton curry), chutney with dates and palms along with mishti doi (sweet yoghurt) and Rosogolla are some of the delicacies I could find in our kitchen on this day.
But before gorging on these mouth watering dishes, I had to first greet my elders saying Subho Noboborsho (Happy New Year) and touch their feet for blessings which in turn used to fill up my piggy bank.
Nowadays, the meaning of new year has reduced to exchanging Shubho Noboborsho GIFs through WhatsApp.
Charak Mela :
On account of Noboborsho, Charak Puja is organised along with a fair. This Charak Mela was one more attraction for me during new year. Toys, rides, deep fried snacks, cotton candies- everything required to make a place ideal for fun was in that fair. Which kid will be ready to miss such a golden opportunity? Neither did I.
Special programs :
Bengali New Year is incomplete without Rabindra Sangeet (songs written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore). Renowned singers sing songs of Tagore in Bengali TV channels breaking the monotony of mundane froth shown in TV soaps. These programs were a perfect alibi for me to put aside my books on one side and sit in front of TV. After all, there is no Bengali born who can ignore Rabindranath Tagore unless you have board exams next day. Noboborsho specials with good food formed a deadly combination to spend the first day of the year.
Which childhood memory do you cherish the most during any festival?