The solar new year is traditionally observed throughout South Asia as the harvest festival Baishaki by Hindus and Sikhs, as Vaisakhi in central and north India, Vishu in Kerala, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Avuruddha and Puttantu in Sri Lanka, and Pohela Boishak in Bengal and Bangladesh. Falling on 13 or 14 April every year, the date is set according to the solar calendar as the first day of its first month, called for example, Boishakh in Bengali. In Bangladesh, it is a public holiday celebrated by both Muslims and Hindus.
SAWC members and well-wishers celebrated this festival together on Sunday. Thank you Debaracha and for sharing how in Bengali culture, traders and businesses start this day and year with a new ledger called Halkhata, clearing out the old. We drew some connections with the last date for filing our tax returns in USA.
Riaz begum shared how it is celebrated in Pakistan as Vaishaki Mela with colorful events and dance. This day is observed as a thanks giving day by farmers who pay their tribute, thanking God for the abundant harvest and also praying for future prosperity. Rama shared that Vikram Samvat is the historical Hindu calendar from the Indian subcontinent and the official calendar of modern Nepal. The traditional New Year of Vikram Samvat is one of the many festivals of Nepal, marked by parties, family gatherings, the exchange of good wishes, and participation in rituals to ensure good fortune in the coming year. Janaki related how Sri Lanka celebrates this public holiday by wearing new clothes in lucky colors (red and yellow for 2019), honoring our elders by betel leaf offerings, many games, and collective drum playing by women.
Vaisakhi was also the day when officials of the British Empire committed the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar by firing on a peaceful gathering protesting the arrest of two national leaders, an event influential to the Indian movement against colonial rule. Thank you Neena Wahi for reciting the beautiful poem by Subadhra Kumari Chauhan and explaining to us the significance!
We also celebrated the birthday of our wonderful team member Riaz Begum (Fondly called Auntyjee). Tasty Baisakhi delicacies were shared by team SAWC and our supporters. Last but not least, Lubna Dhar entertained us with beautiful music.