This Pahela Baishakh, the first day of the Bengali New Year of 1426 BS, is coming against the backdrop of some good news about the economy of the country. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has taken the top spot in Asia in terms of rate of growth, the country is now the 41st in the world list in size of its economy. When people feel they are better off economically, at such moments as the New Year's Day, they seize upon their tradition and festivals earnestly and contribute to or take part in activities, which ultimately add to the economy.
It was, in fact, the Mughal emperor, Akbar the Great, who had introduced what is now known as the Bengali Year, as `Fasli Son', Persian words for crop year to facilitate revenue collection from a predominantly agricultural economy. So it had been related to the economy from the very beginning; and now although the slant of the economy has changed, this Bengali calendar has become the national calendar of independent Bangladesh with the Pahela Baishakh turning to be the greatest secular festivity of the land. In all other Bengali-speaking areas in South Asia, it is an important day; and across other linguistic groups like the Assamese, Nepalese, and the Oriyas, on the first day of the month of Baishakh, there are different forms of celebration. The people of the hills around these areas have also their own distinct items on three days covering the last day of Chaitra, the ultimate month of the calendar, and the first and the second of Baishakh. The existence of the Sangkrant in South East Asian countries point to long standing cultural ties between the subcontinent's eastern part and South-East Asia, a fact that is a reminder that at least the names of the months, were pre-Akbar. However, Akbar's tying the year to the Islamic Hijri at the start gave the Bengali year a novelty that it still holds.
Every thing that man does in a society somehow translates into an economic sum. Whereas in the urban areas, a burgeoning middle class finds in Pahela Baishakh an opportunity to express its new tastes in food, clothing, fashion, crafts and other manifestations of culture, the rural people still carry the original and core concept of `Halkhata', the new accounts book of business in markets. As the society grinds towards more urbanisation, some of the Bengali society's unique practices tend to be relegated to a secondary place. This has to be stemmed. While cultural importance of the occasion cannot be overlooked, bringing the society together through it, for both the poor and the rich, Pahela Baishakh is a unique opportunity that must be harnessed. The practice of feeding the poor on the occasion is a welcome dimension to Pahela Baishakh celebration.
The GDP gets a boost during Pahela Baishakh. Temporary employment is created in their hundreds and thousands. Marketing gets a spree. Children, the young, the middle-aged and the elderly, men and women all forget their other problems for a while and indulge in accepting the first day of the year with an open heart. As the nation takes on a celebratory mood, one can only wish `Shuvo nababarsha' (Happy New year) to all.
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