Poila Baisakh - Bengali New Year
The Bengali New Year traces its roots back to the Mughal era. The Mughals found it difficult to collect taxes because of the difference in the lunar Hijri calendar and the crop harvests followed the solar cycle. To remedy this, Emperor Akbar asked that the Hindu calendar and the Muslim lunar calendar be combined to formulate a harvest calendar or fosholi shon. This harvest calendar started around 14-15 April and turned into the Bengali calendar. The Bengali year is known as Bangabad. This 15th of April will mark the beginning of the 1428th year of the Bengali calendar. It is believed that Murshid Quli Khan, the ruler of Murshidabad, the Mughal Capital of Bengal first started this festival.
The New year is celebrated with a puja and offering of sweets. A Prabhat feri which is an early morning procession around the neighbourhood includes singing songs like "esho hey Baisakh esho esho" written by Rabindranath Tagore. The song literally means come Baisakh come, ushering in the new year. This is followed by a feasting during the day and cultural programmes in the evening. Poila Baisakh is that time of the year when Bengali businessmen and shopkeepers open their ledger for the New Year with a red traditional notebook called 'halkhata’. Bengalis buy gold to usher in Lakshmi. Shopping is not restricted to gold but also extends to any kind of shopping specially saris and groceries.