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Dancing to the tune: Of harvest festivals and new year celebrations

Regional new years don't match the pomp of the western New Year but the harvest-related festivals have a history of their own. Let's take a look.

art and culture Updated: Apr 14, 2015 17:13 IST
Hindustan Times
Vaisakhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday greeted people on the occasion of Baisakhi, Bohag Bihu, Poila Boishakh and Maha Vishuba Sankranti.



"Good wishes to my fellow Indians on the various festivals being celebrated across India. May these festivals bring joy in everyone's lives," Modi, who is on a three-nation sojourn, said in a tweet.



These regional celebrations don't match the pomp of the western New Year but the harvest-related festivals have a history of their own. Let's take a look.



*Baisakhi:

Celebrated around the world by the Sikh community, Baisakhi is a harvest festival in Punjab. It was introduced by Guru Amar Das. The festival has a great significance as it was on Baisakhi in 1699 that the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh laid down the foundation of the Panth Khalsa (the embodiment of the Guru).

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2015/4/Hindu-New-Year-Baisakhi1.jpg



*Rongali Bihu: Rongali Bihu, also known as Bohag Bihu, marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year on April 13 every year. The first day of Rongali Bihu is dedicated to the caring of livestock, who are washed with a combination of herbs like maah-halodhi (black gram and turmeric paste), whipped pieces of lau (bottle gourd) and bengena (brinjal). The next day is celebrated as Manuh Bihu where people have a special maah-halodhi bath, light diyas (earthern lamps), put on new clothes and engage in festivities for the next three days. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2015/4/Bihu-combo.jpg





*Maha Vishuva Sankranti: Celebrated by Oriyas, on this particular day, a small pot filled with Bel (Wood Apple) panna or a sweet drink of Mishri (rock sugar) is hung on a Tulsi plant. People usually eat the flour of horse gram chhatua with banana and curd. Special offerings are made to Shalagram, Shivalinga, Hanuman, and other deities. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2015/4/Maha-Vishuva-Sankranti.jpg

*Poila Boishakh: Celebrated in Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand and Orissa, Poila Boishakh also known as the Bengali New Year, begins at dawn. The entire day is marked with singing, fairs and processions.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2015/4/poila-baisakh.jpg

Historians say the Bengali calendar came into being when a Mughal emperor modified the Islamic calendar to ease tax collection in Bengal as the lunar Islamic calendar did not agree with the harvest season and the farmers faced severe difficulties in paying taxes.