Today marks the onset of another Bengali New Year. The day is known as Baishakhi, the first day of the lunar calendar month Baisakh. According to the lunar calendar, followed on all festive occasions in this part of the world, yesterday saw the culmination of vernal season. The occasion is celebrated with much delight not only in Bengal, but across many regions of India. In other parts of the world too, like in Thailand where Songkran is being celebrated at the moment, this period does not go unnoticed. The word Songkran was derived from Sanskrit word Sankranti meaning culmination or transformation of one season to another.
Nabo anadey jago aji, nabo rabi kiraney,
Shubra sundar, preeti ujjal, nirmal jibaney …
Wake up to a new joy, the exuberance of early morning sunshine,
To be touched by the beauty, splendour and tenderness of life … (roughly translated)
In earlier time, this period used to bring additional joy because it coincided with the harvest season. It used to bring friends and families together. Young members of the family paid respect to the older members. Pujas (worshipping) were performed to show gratitude for the time elapsed and prayers offered for everyone’s well-being. Nowadays, the program has undergone changes and is only a curtailed version of what it used to be. Gifts, mainly dresses and jewelleries, are exchanged. People throng restaurants for the taste of good food and drinks. They no longer have the ‘time’ or intention of cooking a fine meal consisting of traditional dishes at home. I intend to be an exception here and so does my brother. So, we are off to prepare a sumptuous dinner for our family members and a few other close friends. Here is the menu – pulao (a delectable rice dish), prawn malai curry (prawn cooked in mustard paste, poppy seed paste and cream, i.e. malai), pigeon pea curry and tomato chutney. You are cordially invited to join in.