From a Bangla Shuvo Noboborsho to a Sinhala Shuba Navavarsha


There are no auspicious tmes in Dhaka. Here life does not revolve around the good and bad times as predicted by the horoscope men as ours do in Sri Lanka. Their New  Year  logically begins at first  light  when tens of thousands gather before dawn to greet the New Year with songs and parades. The song is Rabindranath Tagore’s famous song, Esho, he Boishakh, Esho Esho (Come, O Boishakh, Come, Come). Poila Boishak (also spelt as Pahela Baishakh in some newspapers), I am told is the first day of the first month of the year. I had heard of the huge crowds at Ramna Park and chickened out.  If you wondered how huge is huge take a look at these photos by my friend Mahbub Alam Khan.

People from all walks of life celebrate as the first rays of the sun heralds the Bangla New Year 1418. The "Mongol shobhajatra" the traditional colourful procession commenced from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University April 14, 2011 (DrikNEWS). Photograph copyright Mahbub Alam Khan

“The world has kissed my soul with its pain, asking for its return in songs” –Rabindranath Tagore.

   Photograph copyright Mahbub Alam Khan

From the Wikipedia I learn that:

Celebrations of Pohela Boishakh started from Akbar’s reign. It was customary to clear up all dues on the last day of Choitro. On the next day, or the first day of the new year, landlords would entertain their tenants with sweets. On this occasion there used to be fairs and other festivities. In due course the occasion became part of domestic and social life, and turned into a day of merriment. The main event of the day was to open a halkhata or new book of accounts.

 The historical importance of Pohela Boishakh in the Bangladeshi context may be dated from the observance of the day by Chhayanat in 1965. In an attempt to suppress Bengali culture, the Pakistani Government had banned poems written by Rabindranath Tagore, the most famous poet and writer in Bengali literature. Protesting this move, Chhayanat opened their Pohela Boishakh celebrations at Ramna Park with Tagore’s song welcoming the month. The day continued to be celebrated in East Pakistan as a symbol of Bengali culture. After 1972 it became a national festival, a symbol of the Bangladesh nationalist movement and an integral part of the people’s cultural heritage. Later, in the mid- 1980s the Institute of Fine Arts added colour to the day by initiating the Boishakhi parade, which is much like a carnival parade.
 Photograph copyright Mahubub Alam Khan”]

Both Bengali New Year Nôbobôrsho, and Sinhala new year “Suba Navavarsha”  comes from Sanskrit Nava(new)varṣa(year

So take the Bengali Shuvo Noboborsho  Replace  Bangla  v = b  for Sinhala

 Bangla b = v for Sinhala

Bangla O= a  for Sinhala

 And you have Shuba Navavarsha

and this is the New Year table of goodies when some Sri Lankans in Dhaka were treated by a very competent lady  and her husband (they prefers to stay anonymous) but it was certainly a very good auspicious start to the year.

The cake is a new western influenced addition no doubt but below it clockwise is the traditional milk rice and bananas,  followed by traditional sweets made from rice flour —  aluwa, kavum, halape and kaludodol (flour and treacle gooey sweet that needs labouring for hours over a hot stove) ; thalaguli (made with sesame seeds and juggery) and milk toffee (fudge with cashew nuts) ; Athiraha ( a sweet made with mung flour and treacle) and kokis (not where’s the kiss but lightly batter  fried crunchy cookies) and vadai.  Photograph copyright Chulie de Silva.

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4 thoughts on “From a Bangla Shuvo Noboborsho to a Sinhala Shuba Navavarsha

  1. Two questions, Chulie:
    1. Given that Shuvo Nobobosho = Shuba Navavasarak, using the same argument, would Boishaki = Vaisakh ?
    2. In Sri Lanka and other Asian countries of more or less the same latitude, there is an astrological significance to April 14th. In western terms, that is the day when the Sun enters Aries. This is the only Solar festival celebrated by the Sinhalese – it is not a Buddhist-Hindu festival but a Sinhala-Tamil one. As far as I know, it is not celebrated on that day in northern India. My question is: is there is similar astrological significance for this day in Bangali Desa (as it is called in our “Olinda Keliya” which is played only during the Aluth Avurudda)?

    Looks like the 2 questions just became 3!

  2. I just found this in my unread emails. So love learning the cultural of Bangalesh. Your picture of the food has me salivating. Thank you for educating us.

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