The Boishakhi Mela (Bengali: বৈশাখী মেলা Boishakhi Mêla) is celebrated in London, England, and in New York City, United States, Tokyo Japan as well. In London, it takes place across the area of Banglatown in the borough ofTower Hamlets in east London through Brick Lane to Weavers Fields and Allen Gardens in Bethnal Green. The event is a celebration of the Bengali New Year, with musical and cultural events held. It is the largest open-airAsian festival in Europe and the largest Bengali festival outside of Bangladesh. After the Notting Hill Carnival, it is the second-largest street festival in the UK attracting over 80,000 visitors from around the UK. Although the Bengali new year falls on 14/15 April (1st Boishakh in the Bengali calendar), the festival is held in the second weekend of May on a Sunday to avoid the period of higher risk of rain during the month of April. Having started in 1997, the 10th anniversary of the mela was celebrated in 2007.
The Boishakhi Mela was launched in Brick Lane and celebrations of the Bengali New Year have been celebrated by the Bangladeshi community in England since 1997. The original event based in Bangladesh and West Bengal is called the Pohela Boishakh. The festival was created for the purpose of the Bangladeshi diaspora living in the UK. It was organized by the local people, and is now managed by the Boishakhi Mela Trust Ltd, a non-profit organization.
The Boishakhi Mela is a unique festival, which has been created by a generation of Bangladeshi people who want to celebrate the Bangla New Year. It inspires the British Bangladeshi community to be more creative during the arrival of the event, through the production and the presentation skills of excellent and innovative ideas through participation in the Boishakhi Mela, including the stage planning, music and dancing. Other than creating the event for the purposes of celebrations for the community, it also aims to gain recognition of the Bengali people in the London, by providing different cultures to some British people, and by encouraging them to participate in the event as well as recognising the Bangladeshi presence in London. Also providing the people the skills and opportunities for the young aspirations as well as professional artists to perform their music or dances.
Previously Bangla TV was the main broadcaster of the Boishakhi Mela event, however since 2005, Channel S has acquired the rights to broadcast the event due to its commitment to the community (the slogan is working for the community), achieving popular support from the main sponsors within the community.
The event starts first during the morning from 12am at Allen Gardens, through Brick Lane and ends in Weavers Fields. This is known as the Grand Parade, where there are women and children dressed in colourful Bengali traditional clothes and masks. There will also be musicians or drummers, including dancers and also the leaders from the community. During the 2008 Mela, a great emperor was leading the parade symbolising the traditional landlord of the Indian subcontinent, along with a tiger, an elephant on wheels, rickshaws, and many others. Brick Lane, which is home to many Bangladeshi-owned Indian restaurants, serves curry along the streets for the visitors, with traditional Bengali cuisine meals, and cooked by prominent chefs from Bangladesh.
After the parade, it will finally progress into the Music Programme, where there will be famous music artists from Bangladesh and the UK, dancers and actors performing on stages. The four stages will host Bengali music, theatre including Sylhetidrama, and there will also be dance displays throughout the day. The music performed features a wide range of Bengali music, these include traditional Bengali or folk songs, as well as modern, contemporary music, and rap music in Bangla or Sylheti.
2009: Tower Hamlets council
Since 2009, the management and planning of the mela was undertaken by the Tower Hamlets Council for the long-term, who called the event “a Boishakhi Mela in Banglatown Brick Lane”. It was held on 10 May 2009, attracting up to 95,000 people which is a record high of the event. There were more than 250 school children, dancers, musicians and community groups which participated in the event alongside a mechanical Bengali tiger and the Bangla Queen, which is a four-metre tall peacock structure. The mela also included with nearly 200 stalls serving Bengali spices, food and drinks. It featured many popular artists from Bangladesh and the UK, such as Momtaz, Kajol Dewan and Nukul Kumar. Popular among the younger generation was Mumzy, who is a leading British Bengali MC and DJ in the East End of London. Other guest singers included Lucy Rahman, Kala Miah and others. The stages were hosted by Adil Ray, Shawkat Hashmi, Kan-D-Man and many more. The main sponsors of the event were BBC Asian Network and Channel S.
|Official name||পহেলা বৈশাখ|
|Observed by||Bengali people|
|Celebrations||Haal Khatha, Boishakhi Mela|
|Observances||India and Bangladesh (14 April)|
Pohela/Poila Boishakh (Bengali: পয়লা বৈশাখ, or Bengali New Year Bengali: বাংলা নববর্ষ, Bangla Nôbobôrsho) is the first day of the Bengali calendar, celebrated on 14 April or 15 April in Bangladesh and in the Indian states of West Bengal and Tripura by the Bengali people and also by minor Bengali communities in other Indian states, including Assam, Jharkhand and Orrisa. It coincides with the New Year’s days of numerous Southern Asian calendars like Tamil new year Puthandu. The traditional greeting for Bengali New Year is শুভ নববর্ষ “Shubhô Nôbobôrsho” which is literally “Happy New Year”.
In Bengali, Poila (Bengali: পয়লা) stands for ‘first’ and Boishakh (Bengali: বৈশাখ) is the first month of the Bengali calendar. Bengali New Year was referred to in Bengali as “New Year” (Bengali: নববর্ষ Noboborsho) or “First of Boishakh” (Bengali: পহেলা বৈশাখ Pôhela Boishakh).
History and calendar
|This section does not cite any sources. (April 2015)|
The Bengali calendar is tied to the Indian solar calendar, based on the Surya Siddhanta. As with many other variants of the Indian solar calendar, the Bengali calendar commences in mid-April of the Gregorian year. The first day of the Bengali year therefore coincides with the mid-April new year in Mithila, Assam, Burma, Cambodia, Kerala, Manipur, Nepal, Odisha, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Thailand.
The development of the Bengali calendar is often attributed to king of Gour or Gauda, Shashanka as the starting date falls squarely within his reign. King Shoshangko of Gour is credited with starting the Bengali era.
Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, introduced a revised Bengali calendar to make tax collection easier in Bengal. The Mughals collected tax according to the Islamic calendar and Akbar ordered an improvement of the calendar systems, because the lunar Islamic calendar did not agree with the harvests and the farmers faced severe difficulties in paying taxes out of season. Some sources credit the idea to the finance minister of Akbar, Todar Mal. The distinctive characteristic of this revised Bengali year was that, rather than being a solar or lunar calendar, it was based on a union of the solar and lunar year. This was essentially a great promotion, as the solar and lunar years were formulated in very diverse systems. Primarily this calendar was named as “Fasli San” and then “Bônggabdô”. The Bengali Year was launched on 10/11 March 1584, but was dated from 5 November 1556 or 963 Hijri. This was the day that Akbar defeated Himu in the clash of Panipat 2 to ascend the throne.
Ershad did change the 1st day of Bengali Calendar from April 15 to April 14. But all Bengali Hindus follow the traditional date of 15 April as Poila Boishakh. The length of a year is counted as 365 days, as in the Gregorian calendar. However, the actual time taken by the earth in its revolution around the sun is 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 47 seconds. To make up this discrepancy, the Gregorian calendar adds an extra day, to make a leap year, to the month of February every fourth year (except in years divisible by 100 but not by 400). To counter this discrepancy, and to make the Bengali calendar more precise, the following recommendations of the Bangla Academy are followed:
- The first five months of the year from Bôishakh to Bhadrô will consist of 31 days each.
- The remaining seven months of the year from Ashwin to Chôitrô will consist of 30 days each.
- In every leap year of the Gregorian calendar, an additional day will be added in the month of Falgun (which is 14 days after 29 February).
The first day of the New Year of the Indian solar calendar and all derived calendars including Bengali calendar is the first day of the new year, and historically the day has been seen across the subcontinent as the day for a new opening and celebrated accordingly. In Bengal landlords used to allocate sweets among their tenants, and business people commenced a “Halkhata” (new financial records book) and locked their old ones. Vendors used to provoke their consumers to allocate sweets and renew their business relationship with them. There were fairs and festivities all over.
The Bengali New Year begins at dawn, and the day is marked with singing, processions, and fairs. Traditionally, businesses start this day with a new ledger, clearing out the old.
People of Bangladesh enjoy a national holiday on Poila Boishakh. All over the country people can enjoy fairs and festivals. Singers perform traditional songs welcoming the new year. People enjoy classical jatra plays.
Like other festivals of the region, the day is marked by visiting relatives, friends and neighbors. People prepare special dishes for their guests.
The festivities from the deep heartland of Bengal have now evolved to become vast events in the cities, especially the capital Dhaka.
In Dhaka and other large cities, the festivals begin with people gathering under a big tree. People also find any bank of a lake or river to witness the sunrise. Artists present songs to welcome the new year, particularly with Rabindranath Tagore’s well-known song “Esho, he Boishakh”.
People from all spheres of life wear classic Bengali dress. Women wear saris with their hair bedecked in flowers. Likewise, men prefer to wear panjabis. A huge part of the festivities in the capital is a vivid procession organized by the students and teachers of Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka.
Of the major holidays celebrated in Bangladesh and West Bengal, only Pôila Boishakh comes without any preexisting expectations. Unlike Eid ul-Fitr and Durga Pujo, where dressing up in lavish clothes has become a norm, or Christmas where exchanging gifts has become an essential part, Pôila Boishakh is about celebrating the simpler, rural heartland roots of the Bengal.
Poila Boishakh is celebrated with grandeur and colours in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh. The celebrations are started at the break of dawn with a rendition of Rabindranath Tagore‘s song “Esho he Baishakh” byChhayanat under the banyan tree at Ramna (the Ramna Batamul). An integral part of the festivities is the Mongol Shobhajatra, a traditional colourful procession organised by the students of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka (Charukala). The procession has a different theme relevant to the country’s culture and politics every year. Different cultural organizations and bands also perform on this occasion and fairs celebrating Bengali culture are organized throughout the country. Other traditional events held to celebrate Poila Boishakh include bull racing in Munshiganj, wrestling in Chittagong, boat racing, cockfights, pigeon racing.
In Chittagong Hill Tracts
In the Chittagong Hill Tracts alongside Pahela Baishakh, Boisuk of Tripuri people, Sangrai of Marma people and Biju of Chakma people have come together as Boi-Sa-Bi, a day of a wide variety of festivities that is observed on the last day of Chaitra, i.e., 13 April. The day is a public holiday in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
In Kolkata, Poila Boishakh (and the entire month of Boishakh) is considered to be an auspicious time for marriages. These days people wear new clothes and go about socialising. Choitro, the last month of the previous year, is the month of hectic activities and frantic purchases. Garment traders organise a Choitro sale and sell the garments with heavy discounts.
Poila Boishakh is the day for cultural programmes. Prayers are offered for the well-being and prosperity of the family. Young women clad in white saris with red borders and men clad in dhuti and kurta take part in the Probhat Pheri processions early in the morning to welcome the first day of the year. This day being auspicious, new businesses and new ventures are started. The Mahurat is performed, marking the beginning of new ventures.
Poila Boishakh is the beginning of all business activities in Bengal. The Bengali Hindu traders purchase new accounting book. The accounting in the halkhata begins only after offering puja. Mantras are chanted and স্বস্তিকshostik (“Hindu swastika”) are drawn on the accounting book by the priests. Most of the shops, business centres and market-places are decorated with flowers, garlands and auspicious ‘aam’ leaves.
Celebration in other countries
In the United States, Bengali New Year is celebrated by Bengali heritage people and businesses by cultural programs, food festivals, street fairs/patha mela, arts, music, food, clothes, etc. Pohela Boishak observance occurs in USA mostly during the spring recess when most of the schools and colleges have days off.
In Australia, the Bengali new year is celebrated in cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra through Boishakhi Melas (fairs) where people gather to celebrate the culture Bengalis through dances, fashion shows, stalls of art, music, clothing, food, etc.
The largest celebration for the Bengali new year in Australia is the Sydney Boishakhi Mela which was traditionally held at the Burwood Girls High School; from 2006 it has been held at the Sydney Olympic Park. It attracts large crowds and is a very anticipated event on the Australian Bengali community calendar.
Bangladesh Heritage and Ethnic Society of Alberta in Canada celebrates its Heritage Festival (Bengali New Year) in a colorful manner along with other organizations. Bengali people in Calgary celebrate the day with traditional food, dress, and with Bengali culture.
The festival is celebrated in Sweden with great enthusiasm.
The Bengali community in the United Kingdom celebrate the Bengali new year with madar — a street festival in London. It is the largest Asian festival in Europe and the largest Bengali festival outside of Bangladesh and Indian state of West Bengal.
The Bengali community in UAE celebrate the Bengali new year in Abudhabi and Dubai every year.
In Abudhabi a food festival is arranged by the Bangladesh Embassy where Bangladeshi foods are presented in a festive manner. A cultural program is arranged by the Women Association, Abudhabi which is held in Bangladesh School, Abudhabi. Singing boishaki songs, traditional dancing and a fashion show representing Bangladeshi rural people’s lives are presented.
In Dubai similar programs are arranged by consulate general of Bangladesh. Traditional Panta bhat and illish (Hilsha) are served along with traditional pitha. Children comes with festoon, mask, placard and national flag and enjoy many games. Women wear traditional colorful sharees and sometimes make alpona. The program gives a vibe to Bangladeshi culture and people enjoy it.
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For a limited only, Boishakhi Restaurant is giving FREE ONION BHAJI with PAPODOS worth for £5 off, only when you spend £30 or more for your online orders.
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After some discussions in the committee and with other community groups they decided to organise Boishakhi Mela (Bengali New Year celebration). Boishakh is …