Naba Barsha or Poila Baisakh: Bengali New Year 2008

The Hindu New Year in West Bengal and Bangladesh is celebrated in the month of Vaishakh or Baisakh (April – May). It is mostly referred as Naba Barsa in Bengal and Pohela or Poila Baisakh in Bangladesh and is the first day in the Bengali Calendar. In 2008, the date of Bengali New Year is April 14.

Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Lord Ganesh are worshipped on the New Year day. Traders perform the halkhata ceremony that marks the advent of the Bengali New Year. All shops are decorated with flowers and one will notice stringed fresh lemons and chillies hanging in front of shops. This is used to ward off the evil eye.

Shopkeepers, businessmen and traders close the old accounts and open a new one. People visit their favorite shop during the day to wish them luck for the year ahead. Traders welcome customers on this day with sweets.

In Bengali houses, Naba Barsa is noted for the special elaborate alpanas (rangolis or kolams). A kalash is placed in the center of the alpana design and it symbolizes prosperity. Houses are elaborately decorated with flowers as there is no shortage of flowers during this season. Another important event is the Prabhat Pheries or early morning processions.

Women make it a point to buy a new sari or saree for Poila Baisakh, especially a white sari with red border. Traders popularly call the sale of new clothes during Naba Barsha as ‘Chaitra Sales.’

No Hindu festival is complete without the mouthwatering cuisines. And Bengalis prepare both Vegetarian and non-Vegetarian dishes for Poila Baisakh.