14-4-2014 (I posted this blog 2 years back but would like to re-blog it again on the Bengali New Year. Yesterday my brother called from Dhaka and he was talking about the enthusiasm with which people were preparing for Noboborsho, about the mad rush at the shopping centres and the resultant traffic jams which have become a pain in the neck for all the Dhaka city’s residents!!)
An old (and close) friend Nusrat Awan, from my Dhaka college days messaged me early in the morning wishing me A Happy Bengali New Year… or Shubho Naubo Borsho! Her message opened the gates to a flood of memories and I found myself taken back way back into the past, to the days I studied in Viqarun Nissa Noon School back in the 1960s!
V.N. Noon School was considered one of the most prestigious schools in Dhaka in those days, and our teachers took great pains to inculcate religious, moral and cultural values in the students. Our principal, Mrs. Kamal or Lulu Apa, as she was called lovingly, was a woman of strong principles and she was the driving force behind the school management, as she and the teachers reached out to the students to extract the best possible from them.
I am sorry but I seem to have deviated a bit from my topic today, but when it comes to the memories of my school, I can never find words enough to describe with what dedication and care the great institution polished me as a student and a person. I take this opportunity today to thanks with the depths of my heart all my teachers for all the lessons they had grilled me with and my peers for the wonderful time we had together!
The first of Boishak was celebrated with a befitting manner in our school. A proper function was held in our huge assembly hall and the students eagerly lined up to the gates and systematically took up their positions in the hall. Smartly clicking her pencil heels, Lulu Apa appeared on the stage which was colorfully decorated with the beautiful orange Flame of the Forest flowers. she delivered the opening speech in which she described the historical and cultural importance of the day. We were entertained to a cultural show beginning with Rabindranath Tagore’s famous song, Esho, he Boishakh, Esho Esho (Come, O Boishakh, Come, Come), and the students who had a talent for the stage, eagerly participated in the event!
Nusrat’s message brought back sweet memories of those carefree days. Memories of the sky dark with clouds and the rain which usually came on the first of the Bengali Year, of the trees heavily ladden with the orange flowers of Krishna Choora (rightly called the Flame of the Forest as the trees seemed to be on fire!) The green city of Dhaka with its endles ponds and the old trees forming canopies on the roads. Sadly, over the years Dhaka has changed into a concrete jungle and you have to venture out of the city if you want to enjoy the greenery which symbolizes Bangla Desh.
Life has moved miles ahead as so much water has passed under the bridge! I have long since moved away from Dhaka, my birth city and have been living in Karachi for more than four decades. Though I visit Dhaka often, but hardly have time for cultural events, as I am tied up and busy with my family members still residing there.
Today, on an impulse, I decided to find out more about the history of this day and how the first of Boishak is celebrated in Bangladesh in present times. I would like to share with my readers the Info I got from the internet.
The first Of Boishak, the first day of the Bengali calendar, is celebrated in both Bnagladesh and West Bengal and in Bengali communities in Assam,Tripura and Orissa (and all over India where Bengalis reside). In Bangladesh, and some Bengali majority areas in India, it is a public holiday, celebrated around 14 April according to the official amended calendar designed by the Bangla Academy.
Basically the Bengali calendar is derived from the Hindu solar calendar. During the Mughal reign, the agricultural taxes were collected according to the Islamic lunar calendar, which during some years did not co incide with the harvesting months. As a result, farmers were hard-pressed to pay taxes out of season. In order to streamline tax collection, the Mughal Emperor Akbar ordered a reform of the calendar. Accordingly, Fatehullah Shirazi, a renowned scholar and astronomer, formulated the Bengali year on the basis of the Hijri lunar and Hindu solar calendars. The new Fasli San (agricultural year) was introduced on 10/11 March 1584, but was dated from Akbar’s ascension to the throne in 1556. The new year subsequently became known as Bônggabdo or Bengali year.
Celebrations of Pohela Boishakh started from Akbar’s reign. It was customary to clear up all dues on the last day of the year . On the next day, or the first day of the new year, the landlords would entertain their tenants with sweets. On this occasion there used to be fairs and other festivities. In due course, the occasion became part of domestic and social life, and turned into a day of merriment. The main event of the day was to open a Halkhata or new book of accounts.
The day continued to be celebrated in East Pakistan as a symbol of Bengali culture. After the creation of Bangladesh, it became a national festival.
New Year’s festivities are closely linked with rural life in Bengal. The markets are brimming with people who are out shopping for the festive occasion many days in advance. Usually on Pohela Boishakh, the home is thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned; people bathe early in the morning and dress in fine clothes. They spend much of the day visiting relatives, friends and neighbours. Special foods are prepared to entertain guests. This is one rural festival that has become enormously big in the cities, especially in Dhaka.
Boishakhi fairs are arranged in many parts of the country. Various agricultural products, traditional handicrafts, toys, cosmetics, as well as various kinds of food and sweets are sold at these fairs.
The most colourful New Year’s Day festival takes place in Dhaka. Large numbers of people gather early in the morning under the banyan tree at Ramna Park where Chhayanat artists open the day with Rabindranath Tagore’s famous song, (the song which I remember from my school days) Esho, he Boishakh, Esho Esho (Come, O Boishakh, Come, Come). A similar ceremony welcoming the new year is also held at the Institute of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Students and teachers of the institute take out a colourful procession and parade round the campus. Social and cultural organisations celebrate the day with cultural programmes. Newspapers bring out special supplements. There are also special programmes on radio and television.
According to a Bengali friend from Dhaka who messaged Nusrat, today the entire nation is in a festive mood and it is one of the most colorful event of the year!
This blog is dedicated to my nephews and nieces out there in Dhaka specially, Zain Elahi, Zoya Elahi, Saif Elahi, Obaid Elahi, Abeer Ayesha and my dear freinds Nasim Firdaus and Shahin. Happy NOBOBORSHO again!!! And Thanks Nusrat for the reminder!