There are certain features of Pohela Boishakh that we are all aware of. The cultural songs, the plays, the paintings and the festive atmosphere on that day are things that one just can’t overlook. However, what the Bengali new year also does is set a landmark for businessmen to finish their accounts and start fresh. This process is known as Halkatha, quite an interesting tradition.
The literal meaning of Halkhata is opening a new notebook. On this day, the businessmen all around the country end their fiscal account books and start a new one. Customers come to the store on this day and clear all their due payments. The businessmen greet them with sweets and snacks. The businessmen also clear out their due payments, get over with all the calculations and start with a new accounts book and hope for a better year.
In fact, Choitro, the last month of the previous year, is the month of hectic activities and frantic purchases. Garment traders organise a Choitro sale and sell the garments with heavy discounts, in order to start fresh the following year.
In India the day is considered auspicious and new businesses and new ventures are started. The Mahurat is performed, marking the beginning of new ventures. Pohela Boishakh is the beginning of all business activities in Bengal. The Bengali Hindu traders purchase new accounting book. The accounting in the halkhata begins only after offering puja. Mantras are chanted and Hindu “swastika” are drawn on the accounting book by the priests. Long queues of devotees are seen in front of the Kalighat temple from late night. Devotees offer puja to receive the blessings of the almighty.
It’s quite amazing to see both sides of Bengal maintaining similar traditions, characterised in their own religious ways, one of the few things that state that culture will always remain in the souls.