Pahela Baishakh, the Bengali New Year

This article is also available in: Italiano

A festival born to collect taxes and then transformed into the pride of the whole of Bengal. The Pahela Baishakh, the Bengali New Year, could be summarized in this way, a date that over time has acquired more and more mythical contours for this people, the 3rd in the world for number of individuals.

Pahela Baishakh, the feast of the collection (of taxes)

Unlike Diwali, this festival is not so much linked to particular legends or religions, but rather to the Bengal region and its people. This is not causal, as it was the Mughal emperor Akbar who officially and continuously introduced it starting from the 16th century. In fact, since the arrival of Islam in India, Bengal had used the hijiri calendar, that is the Islamic one based on the moon, which, however, gave many problems to the local authorities.

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Mughal emperor Akbar

Due to its shorter duration than solar calendars (10 days shorter), it became very difficult for local authorities to determine the best day to collect taxes and, to overcome the problem, they adopted a solar-based calendar exclusive to this region. It must be said, however, that Bengali calendars already existed many centuries before the arrival of the Mughals, who, however, are credited with being the first to make it definitively law.

The new year of the 3rd ethnic group in the world

By virtue of its specific link with the region and its harvest, in a very short time the Pahela Baishakh became one of the most representative celebrations in the world regarding the Bengali people, also overcoming religious obstacles that still torment the two countries today.

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Bengali couple

The celebration on the border is in fact particularly felt and considered a way to bring all members of this ethnic group closer together, regardless of whether they are Muslims or Hindus. This population, however, is only inferior to Han Chinese and Arabs in terms of numbers, which is further information useful for understanding its possible weight in the future.

Mangal Shobhajatra, the parade of the beginning of the year

As already mentioned, the Pahela Baishakh is not particularly linked to particular myths or events and this greatly reduces the rites and symbolic meanings, visible almost only with Mangal Shobhajatra, a traditional parade that can be observed on April 14, the day of the festival, for the streets of Dhaka.

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The march of the Mangal Shobhajatra in Dhaka

The parade was held for the first time in 1989, against the dictatorship of leader Hussain Muhammad Eshain, who had taken over the country since 1983, causing an endless series of revolts, mostly students. The first procession was animated by the faculty of fine arts of the University of Dhaka, which will continue every year to show itself more and more rich and colorful, so as to exceed its initial purpose. In 1990, in fact, the dictatorship will end, but the march did not stop, so much so that it crossed its borders in 2017 and definitively became the march of the Bengali people.

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