Bengali new year, commonly known as Naba Barsha or Poila Baisakh is the most auspicious day for the Bengalees. Celebrated on the first day of the month of Boishak, according to the Bengali calendar, this day falls on the 13th or 14th of the month of April of the English calendar. Naba Barsha is observed in a hearty way in West Bengal, Bangladesh,Assam and by all the Bengalis all residing around the world. This festival is celebrated with great deal of enthusiasm and energy not only by the people of Bengal but also by the Tribal people in hilly areas. For them, it is the time to say adieu to the past year and welcome New Year by following religious norms. People greet each other saying 'Subho Nabo Barsho'.
On this day, women wear traditional white saree with red border while men wear dhoti kurta to take part in the early morning processions called 'Prabhat Pheries' singing bengali folk songs,reciting poems composed by eminent bengali poets and also their composed songs. People also organise culture programmes and perform songs,dance and dramas. Some even go to the nearby river for a holy dip. It is said water of the river washes away all the sins.
To welcome the new year people start cleaning their houses 2-3 days before Poila Baisakh. Some give their homes a new coat of paint and bring new furnitures and decorate their houses with designs called Alpona. A earthenware pot decorated with auspicious swastika is placed in the middle of the alpona at the main entrance of the house. This is believed to bring good luck and fortune for the whole of the year to the family and near and dear ones. On Naba Barsha, people of West Bengal propitiate Goddess Lakshmi - the Hindu mythological Goddess of wealth to pray for prosperity and well being. For Bengalis, Naba Barsha is the beginning of all business activities. Businessmen and traders purchase new accounting books and start new account known as 'Haalkhata'. People worship Lord Ganesha by chanting mantras. People of Bengal also celebrate the eve of Naba Varsha as 'Chaitra-Sankranti' and bid farewell to the past year.
The traditional cuisines of this occassion include various spicy and delicious preparations of fishes like 'ilish' i.e Hilsa fish, 'chingri' i.e. prawn of various sizes. They traditionally eat, sitting on the floor with a large banana or plantain leaf serving as the plate or plates made from sal leaves sown together and dried. Though these are the traditional ways but at modern scenario silver plates rather steel plates and bowls are used to serve those delicious meals. The starting course includes korolla or uchhe,forms of bitter gourd, steamed with cubed potatoes. Another bittersweet preparation usually eaten is a thick soupy mixture of vegetables in a ginger-mustard sauce, called shukto. This is followed by shak which are actually leafy vegetables such as spinach, palong chard, methi fenugreek, or amaranth. The shak are steamed or cooked in oil with other vegetables such as begun i.e. eggplant. Steamed shak is sometimes accompanied by a sharp paste of mustard and raw mango pulp called Kasundi. These foods are followed by dal means pulses after which comes the main course of fishe and meat. Lastly comes the chutney course, which is typically tangy and sweet. The chutney is usually made of mangoes, tomatoes, pineapple, tamarind, papaya, or just a combination of fruits and dry fruits. The chutney is also the move towards the sweeter part of the meal and acts also as a palate cleanser. Papor a type of wafer, thin and flaky, is often made of dal or potatoes or shabu (tapioca) and is a usual accompaniment to the chutneys. The last item before the sweets is Doi or yoghurt.It is generally of two varieties, either natural flavour and taste or Mishti Doi - sweet yoghurt, typically sweetened with charred sugar. This brings about a brown colour and a distinct flavour. Like the fish or sweets mishti doi is typically identified with Bengali cuisine.
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