For Bengalis it is considered the most auspicious to begin new ventures
Indulging in ‘adda’ (leisurely chat), regional music and dance, savouring traditional cuisine and catching up with friends top the list of ‘Pohelo Boishakh’ celebrations for Bengalis.
With the Bengali New Year on Tuesday, the preparations, for some, begin a day ahead where every nook and corner of the house will be kept clean and clutter-free. Decorating the entrance of the house with a bunch of neem leaves and placing them at significant corners of the house seem to hold special relevance. “This tradition is followed to ward off the negative energy and herald a new beginning. Another custom that we follow is preparing a dish by mixing poha (flattened rice), curd and sandesh (Bengali sweet) and have it first thing in the morning,” says Sucharita, homemaker from Kolkata, who is in the city to celebrate the New Year with her family.
The festival menu is mostly dominated by non-vegetarian delicacies with generous serving of desserts and sweets. While some of the Bengali women say that five types of bhaja (fried vegetables) and sukto including eggplant, bitter-gourd, raw papaya and pumpkin form part of the vegetarian dishes, muror dal (moong dal with fish head), kosha mangsho (spicy mutton delicacy) chingri malaikari (prawns cooked in coconut milk based gravy) top the non-vegetarian list. And the feast will never be complete without the traditional sweets like ‘mishti-doi’, ‘payesh’ and ‘rabri’, among others.
For the community, ‘Pohelo Boishakh’ is considered to be the most auspicious day to begin new ventures. Traders get busy investing in ledger books and offering prayers before commencing the ‘hal-khata’, new accounting.
If donning of new clothes and treating themselves to a sumptuous meal excite the younger generation, the older people look forward to ‘adda’. “We take part in procession, puja and prabhat pheri and spend time with our friends and cousins. Since the charm is entirely different in Kolkata, I prefer rejoicing the festival there with my friends singing ‘Esho he Boishakh’, one of the famous renditions of Rabindranath Tagore,” says Chhobi, 65-year old Bengali woman.