Stylish calendars

bangla: Bengali calendars live through the ages, evolve to accommodate 1429 | Kolkata News

KOLKATA: For a Bengali, an ideal Poila Baisakh – or Bengali New Year – means new clothes, a ritual feast complete with a box of sweets and a new calendar in hand.

Bengali calendars have lived through war, famines and riots and have rarely missed a date with nababarsha, the first day of the Bengali calendar. They have been the go-to manual for Bengalis for centuries. Every celebration and mourning in a Bengali household is decided by consulting a Bengali panjika calendar which contains auspicious dates, times and guidance.
After two dark years, calendar manufacturers are doing well. Umrao Chand Jain of Shri Jyoti said the sale has picked up this year. “Most in demand are panjika calendars, which have more detail than regular Bengali calendars. Maksood Alam, a calendar maker, said the cost of paper was a spoilsport.” People who used to ordering a thousand calendar pieces is limited to 250-500 pieces,” he added.
Scholars and historians believe that the Bengali calendar, also known as Bangabda, is also a symbol of national integration. During Mughal rule, land taxes were collected from Bengalis according to the Islamic Hijri calendar. This calendar was a lunar calendar and its new year did not coincide with the solar agricultural cycles.
“The current Bengali calendar owes its origin in Bengal to the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar who adopted it to time the fiscal year at harvest. The Bangla year was thus called Bangabda. Todar Mal, Akbar’s finance minister, proposed a version of the calendar which was a combination of pre-existing Hindu and Islamic calendars. At that time it was already 963 in the Hijri calendar. Hence, the Bengali calendar was officially launched in 963 Bangabda, Academician Nrisingho Prasad Bhaduri has said. On Friday, the Bengalis will host 1429 according to the Bengali calendar.
“The Bengalis accepted Akbar’s calendar into their culture and assimilated the rituals into it. Therefore, as Bengalis, it is a matter of pride that we still remember Naba Barsha as a marker of cultural assimilation and a sign of national integration,” Bhaduri added.
Nilay Kumar Saha, a professor at Mrinalini Datta Mahavidyapith, said that the first printed Bengali almanac came out in 1818. But before that, traditional Bengali almanacs were handwritten on palm leaves. In medieval Bengal, they recited panjis in villages or at the gates of wealthy families in Baisakh, the April-May period. In return, they were offered food, grain and clothing.
“A calendar measures time and this calculation of time is based on a Sanskrit text called Surya Siddhanto. This school of thought is traditional and known as “Adriksiddho”. Contrary to this, there is a scientific school of thought known as ‘Driksidhho’. There is a conflict between these two wings of thinkers and before independence, the British administration would be confused about what to do next. After independence in 1952, the Indian government formed a calendar reform committee, with Meghnad Saha as its head, to prepare almanacs and calendars based on scientific study of stars and planets. Saha gave his recommendations but unfortunately they were not followed,” said Saha.