Assam, Bengal, Kerala revel on New Year’s Day

April 14th, 2008 - 7:12 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) Rosebuds were distributed at Kolkata police stations, people danced to drumbeats in Assam, while Malayalis woke up blindfolded so that they could open their eyes to the deity - many parts of India celebrated New Year’s Day by their regional calendars Monday. It was a special day for South Asian bonding too - the Indo-Bangladesh Moitree (friendship) Express started its maiden run to Dhaka from Kolkata’s Chitpur Station after a 43-year hiatus.

People across Kerala thronged temples to celebrate Vishu. Praying on this day is believed to bring good fortune in the coming year.

There were large crowds at the famous temples in Sabarimala and Guruvayoor and the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in state capital Thiruvananthapuram.

Special arrangements were made for devotees to queue up and have ‘Vishukani darshan’ (glimpse of a deity and ritual offerings).

On Vishu, it is believed that people should see Vishukani - an offering - in the morning as a good omen for the entire year.

In Hindu homes in Kerala, preparations for Vishukani start the night before with an ‘urali’ (a special vessel) cleaned and fresh farm produces collected.

Popular items that are placed in the vessel include rice, grains, cucumber, pumpkin, coconut, plantains, mangoes and areca nut.

They are then arranged in worship rooms decorated with konna flowers (cassia fistula), which blossom in the month of April across the state.

On the morning of New Year’s Day, young and old come blindfolded in front of the Vishukani placed in front of the deity so that they see this before they see anything else.

“This time the spiralling price-rise appears to have affected many who have been complaining. But being an auspicious day for all, everyone despite the complaints has purchased all the items,” said Sajitha Kumari, a homemaker.

For the younger ones this is the day they all wait for to get ‘vishukaineetam’ (gifts) from their elders for a prosperous year.

“Last year, I got Rs.1,350 and this time so far the collection has been excellent and I am waiting for a few more relatives to turn up,” said E. Suraj, a Class XII student. “I want to buy a new mobile from what I get.”

The surprise package of the day came from Kolkata Police. As soon as any civilian stepped into any police station of this metropolis Monday, (s)he was welcomed with roses and soft drinks.

Kolkata Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakravarty told IANS: “This is just an effort from our side to show that we are friends and well-wishers of the public. The cost of the flowers and the beverages will be borne from our personal funds.”

The Bengali calendar turned 1415 Monday…and Bengal celebrated its New Year’s Day combining tradition with novelty.

There were the usual five-km queue of about 20,000 people outside the temples at Kalighat and Dakshineswar - with devotees praying for prosperity throughout the year.

Most traders in Bengal take this first day of the year as the beginning of their trade year as well. On this day they worship their new sales register (known as “hal khata”).

Filmmaker Aparna Sen said: “In spite of cross-culture and globalisation, Bengali New Year will always have its distinguished flavour. Even when I am abroad and it’s Poila Boishakh I can literally smell the sweets.”

With all of Kolkata in holiday mood, multiplexes and amusement parks did roaring business. Shopping, eating out or attending parties emceed by DJs - the city had never been so busy on a working Monday.

Sounds of drumbeats and cymbals were echoing in the hills and dales of Assam as the state heralded the Assamese New Year or Rongali Bihu, with hundreds thronging marquees across the state.

Dancers in their traditional fineries performed Bihu dances to the accompaniment of dhols or traditional drums and flutes made of buffalo horns.

“The mood is festive and we hope Rongali Bihu ushers in a new dawn of hope and peace,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS while trying his hand at playing a drum slung across his neck at a Bihu celebration in Guwahati.

Many foreign tourists enjoyed the festivities. “The dancers are simply mind-boggling and the music is too sensuous…the experience is just unbelievable,” said Mark Cook, an Australian tourist.

Singers and musicians were working extra hard trying to keep their dates in community cultural shows organised across Assam.

“It is a great fun performing live before thousands of people…I have composed some new numbers for the people of Assam on the occasion of Bihu,” said Zubeen Garg, wellknown singer of “Ya Ali” fame.

The celebrations were equally colourful in Tripura, where more than half the population is Bengali. People wore traditional clothes and there was much visiting among friends and relatives, with food a part of the visit every time.

“For the past 11 years we have been celebrating Bengali New Year’s Day and artistes from Bangladesh and West Bengal took part in the functions,” said Joy Narayan Bhattacharjee, secretary of Kabyalok, a renowned cultural organisation of Tripura.

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