A Bengali New Year Feast – Panta, Ilish
Published : 13 Apr 2017, 16:13
Boishakh is the first month of the Bengali calendar. Pohela Boishakh, the first day of the Bengali New Year, is a joyous occasion celebrated with new hopes, vivacity, and well-being in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, and in Bengali communities in the other Indian states, including Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand, Odisha and all Bengalis worldwide.
Nobo Borsho, the Bengali New Year, is one of the joyful occasions for all the Bangladeshis regardless of religion, status, location that brings the entire country together in celebrations and festivities. Colorful parades, traditional and classical music and dance performances are a big part of the celebrations. Pohela Boishakh celebrations also mark the beginning of business activities or the start of the fiscal year for businesses. The Bengali calendar was revised to account for leap year in 1966 and in the Gregorian calendar; it is celebrated on April 14th each year in Bangladesh. India still follows the old calendar and the celebrations take place either on the 14th or 15th of April.
Traditionally, panta – Ilish bhaaja with different kinds of bhorta has been the food of choice to mark the festivities in Bangladesh. Panta is leftover rice soaked in water and is very popular in the rural areas. Due to the fact that rural Bangladeshis do not own refrigerators, water is poured on left over rice to keep the rice cool and prevent spoiling during the hot summer months. It is often the most common breakfast for rural people served with salt, onion and chili to fill themselves up for the entire workday. In current days, it has become a trend to eat panta by the urban people to celebrate Nobo Borsho.
Hilsa, or Ilish as it is known amongst Bengali, is an immensely popular fish in Bangladesh. Flavorful, crispy, delicious Ilish bhaaja or fried Hilsa is another item of choice to celebrate Pohela Boishakh. I wrote about Ilish on my Shorshe Salmon post earlier. We have few big Bangladeshi and Indian stores in the area who carry the Padma Ilish which is the tastiest of all Ilish. Though it is frozen, I find it better than no Ilish at all. Recently, I found out there is a fish called American Shad, which tastes similar to Ilish and available in North America. I have yet to try. If Hilsa is not available in your area, you may try Shad.
The day is really about celebrating the simpler, rural roots of the Bengal. Salt, lemon, roasted red chili or green chili and different kinds of bhorta accompany the Nobo Borsho feast. If you are a Bengali, I hope you will take some time or just few minutes to celebrate the day with or without panta. If you are non-Bengali, I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Bengali New year and I haven’t bored you too much.
Last but not least, wishing all my Bengali and non-Bengali friends Shuvo Nobo Borsho (Happy Bengali New Year).
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