‘Shubo Noboborsho!’- Happy New Year from West Bengal!
About a fortnight ago, one of my superiors, Alister Monte, requested us Milaap Fellows to send him pictures of the Hindu New Year festivities occurring in the rural districts on March 31st. Its name varies from region to region, being known as ‘Ugadi’ on the Deccan Plateau, ‘Gudi Padwa’ in Maharashtra, ‘Thapna’ in Rajasthan, ‘Sajibu Nongma Panba’ in Manipur and ‘Cheti Chand’ among the Hindu Sindhi people dispersed throughout India (whose home state, Sindh, was allocated to Pakistan during the 1947 partition of India). On that day, hundreds of millions of Hindus and many of their non-Hindu friends throughout South and West India, were celebrating with the Hindu New Year, in their homes, on the streets and at melas (festivals) where they colourfully entertained themselves with vibrant music, dancing and theatrical street plays while feasting on copious amount of delicious dishes that are usually reserved for this wondrous occasion.While most of India was partying the Hindu New Year Away, all was still quiet in West Bengal. This is because Hindu Bengalis traditionally mark their New Year two weeks later on April 15th, when it is known as ‘Pohela Boishakh’ or ‘Noboborsho’. I humorously informed Alister that Hindu Bengali’s prefer postponing their New Year to mid April and that I will send him pictures once the celebrations occurred. He replied saying that he looks forward to my pictures.I was fortunate enough to carry out my task when I visited a mela set up in the farm fields right next to my guesthouse in Ullon village for night festivities of Nonoborsho. In an otherwise very tranquil rural area, where a pin drop of silence is the norm, I was amazed to see a throbbing atmosphere, where people were eating and partying the night away. The mela consisted of dozens of drink and beverage stands, along with a couple of stands of toys.This was the fair where hundreds of villages had come from neighbouring villages to congregate to celebrate their New Year. I mingled with the locals by eating, chatting and dancing with them. It was certainly another wonderful opportunity for me to experience the Hindu Bengali culture. My Milaap Fellowship experienced has once again been enriched.Of course, I took a few photos of the gala, not just for Alister’s viewing pleasure, but for yours as well. Without further ado, here are a few photographs of my local Naboborsho mela in Ullon village. I wish you all a “Shubo Noboborsho!”[caption id="attachment_2698" align="aligncenter" width="1953"] The Naboborsho mela may seem like a dimly-lit affair in the distance but it still brightly lightens up the atmosphere of rural fields that are otherwise in complete darkness at night. [/caption][caption id="attachment_2699" align="aligncenter" width="1953"] The mela's ambiance was definitely lively. It was teeming with locals eager to partake in the attractions of the festivities, including food and toy stalls, theatrical plays and most importantly, like-minded people wanting to share the joy and happiness associated with Naboborsho. [/caption][caption id="attachment_2703" align="aligncenter" width="1953"] The mela was encircled by dozens of food stands which were offering some delicious delicacies including (but not exclusively) samosas, chaat and the renowned Bengali sweet, rasgulla. Yum! [/caption][caption id="attachment_2705" align="aligncenter" width="1953"] Another stand that was appealing to mela visitors, including myself was the food stand offering the only 'foreign' food widely available in rural West Bengal- heavily Indianised Chinese veg chow mein noodles. Egg rolls were an additional treat offered by the same stand. Although the noodle dish was not 'authentically Chinese', it was delicious, nevertheless. [/caption][caption id="attachment_2707" align="aligncenter" width="1953"] Aside from food stalls, a more 'cosmetic' side of rural West Bengal was being offered by this gentleman, who was painting a mehndi (henna) tatoo on this young lady. [/caption][caption id="attachment_2709" align="aligncenter" width="1953"] Children cannot be forgotten at the mela. Children's toys were very popular on that night. I witnessed 'swarms' of young village children accompanied by their parents. The latter bought their eager young ones their Bengali New Year gifts. [/caption][caption id="attachment_2711" align="aligncenter" width="1953"] Wherever I went, there were visitors who insisted on me taking photographs of them. Here are some of them. [/caption][caption id="attachment_2713" align="aligncenter" width="1953"] The organisers of this Mela would make an announcement on whoever made a generous donation for the nightly proceedings. Do not worry, I made a donation. After all, the organisers deserved it; they did a great job. [/caption][caption id="attachment_2715" align="aligncenter" width="1953"] What a great way to end the night- local ice cream for dessert! [/caption]