The story of how Bengalis owe Pohela Boishakh to Mughal emperor Akbar

It’s that time of the year again. Pohela Boishakh is tomorrow. As usual the country will welcome the Bengali new year 1426 with music, parades and day-long celebrations.

Even though every year we engage in the celebration of a day that is unique to our own heritage, we seem to have forgotten where it all started. In fact, we owe our very own holiday to the Mughal emperor Akbar.

Here’s how emperor Akbar invented the modern Bengali calendar.

A new religion?

Source: Creative Commons

During his tenure, Mughal emperor Akbar had set up one of the most powerful empires in the world. The seed of aspiration that emperor Babur had sowed when he first came to Hindustan had bloomed into a strong rooted tree by Akbar’s time.

With his empire and his hold over Hindustan secure, Akbar shifted his priorities to a more intellectual side of things.

His interest in religions and theology eventually prompted him to come up with his own new religion. It had elements of both Islam and Hinduism. Amartya Sen believes that a new lunisolar calendar was a part of his plan to float this new religion.

Taxation: The higher motive

But a different group of historians, perhaps more authentic accounts, suggest that Akbar had a higher motive than religion; taxes. Since the mughal empire followed the Islamic lunar calendar, it often posed a conflict with the common subjects as the lunar calendar was not in sync with the on and off seasons for cultivation in India. For the ease of his taxmen, Akbar ordered his astrologists to take the Islamic lunar calendar and prevalent solar calendar in India, combine them, and come up with a new lunisolar calendar.

Tarikh-e-Ilahi

This new calendar, known as Tarikh-e-Ilahi, was introduced all over India. But just like Akbar’s newly introduced religion, Din-e-Ilahi, this too didn’t last after his reign. Except for Bengal. In Bengal, this new calendar became an integral and useful part of daily Agriculture and the local Hindu religion.

The calendar that was invented by Akbar and introduced all over India has now become the sole identity of the Bengali nation and culture. This Pohela Boishakh, let’s take some time to remember the emperor who gifted us an integral part of our national identity. Literally. Shubho Noboborsho.

The curious case of BRAC University and its Pohela Boishakh

If you don’t stay under a rock, you should have come across all the memes making fun of BRAC University for celebrating Pahela Boishakh a week earlier. There were loads of trolls and some were actually funny. Most were also kind of hackneyed.

But why though?

First of all, we were told that it was not anything enforced. The students actually played a significant role in the decision as well. Mid-April is the time BRAC University holds its semester final exams. The exam season means no class, and thus the university remains closed.

“Well, we kind of wanted it to celebrate early. We always have our exams in Mid April, and thus it becomes difficult for everyone to attend. Moreover, as the university remains closed, things don’t become much festive.”

Sartaj Islam Shovon, a student of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, commented

“This was not much of a problem. The heat and everything were there. The program was good. The main thing is, we liked it. We mostly couldn’t enjoy in previous years due to exam pressure. This also becomes somewhat of a refreshment before the exams.”


Said Sabreen Alim, an energetic junior doing her BBA

Well, okay. If you put it like that..

All work and no play

Some students are a bit disappointed at the authority for always holding their exams at that time. But most students agree that their university has a specific academic calendar, and rigorous following of that prevents them from all kinds of session jams.

This very “legitimate” reason that was there for the early celebration of Pahela Baishakh is quite unknown to many. Hence, the flood of memes in our newsfeeds has tickled us to laugh, and also causing embarrassment to the people of BRACU at the same time.

Hey! look on the bright side

But, the people of BRAC University should not be disheartened in any way. They have a lot of positives to take from this.

1. Uninterrupted GoT binge

The most anticipated Episode of Game of Thrones will be released on 14th April. They can watch it staying at home, as they are already done with celebrating. BRACU people! Grab your popcorns, stay at your home, and watch your most awaited episode.

2. For the sake of memes!

This had provided some quality memes in our newsfeeds. Think of all the people you made laugh, BRACU people! In these tough times, having a good laugh is rare.

3. Cheap Hilsha! Yes!

Hilsha fish is quite costly in the Pahela Baishakh week. You have saved quite a significant chunk of money for yourselves eating Hilsha a week early. Think of all the productive things you can do with the saved money!

4. Festival hopping

Finally, this gives a chance to the BRACU students to explore the Pahela Baishakh program of other Universities! A golden opportunity to explore and getting out of your shell!