It is said in a popular proverb in our country that Bengali people have thirteen festivals in twelve months (‘Baro Mashe Tero Parbon’). It apparently indicates that around the year an abundance of festivity takes place in our country. Indeed, what the proverb says is not any different from what is in practice here.
Bengali people not only celebrate their religious and cultural festivals but also the arrivals of some special seasons of the year with great enthusiasm and happiness. ‘Nobanno Utshob’, a festival of harvesting new crops, is one such joyful event in the life of Bengali people, especially in the life of the farmers who work hard to grow crops and wait for their harvest time with a great hope in their hearts. For centuries, the celebration of this festival of bringing new crops home has been an inseparable part of the tradition and culture of eternal Bangla.
In the ancient times, agricultural calendar had two crop seasons: ‘Aush’ and ‘Aman’. Among these two, ‘Aman’ is the harvest for which the farmers would wait the whole year as the production of rice becomes huge during this time. The ‘Aman’ crop ripens in Kartik (mid October). The Bengali month Agrahayon arrives signaling a change in the air and with eye-catching sights of golden coloured paddy fields. The farmers realize that Hemanta (late autumn) has arrived.
Perhaps, seeing such a sight of Aman paddy, poet Rabindranath sang: “I gv, ANÖv‡b †Zvi fiv †¶‡Z/Avwg Kx †`‡LwQ gayi nvwm|”
It is mentionable that until Emperor Akbar made Baishakh the first month of Bangla calendar year, Pahela Agrahayan or Nobanno had been the beginning of Bengali new year. A farmer's fate would be determined in the month of Kartik because a good harvest in this month meant that the family of a farmer was safe for one more year. And as soon as the Aman crop would be ready for harvest in Kartik, with pleasant weather and surplus food grains, rural Bengal used to be very happy. This occasion has closely been associated with the life of rural farmers and they named the festival 'Nobanno' as ‘Nobo' means ‘new' while ‘Onno' means ‘food'. In the past, farmers celebrated this festival in different ways. The families of the farmers would celebrate the occasion by preparing different kinds of food items, eating those tasty foods made from new crops and offering them to their neighbors as well. They also used to invite their relatives and married daughters living in their husband’s houses. Moreover the villagers would arrange fairs which are called ‘Nobanno Mela’. These days of Agrahayon (late autumn) were perhaps the happiest days in the life of the farmers. However, with the passage of time, the festival has now lost its appeal to some extent, although this tradition is still alive in some rural areas of the country.
Well, in the recent years, Nobanno Utshob has been celebrated in the urban areas as well in a grand manner. Every year, people in Dhaka celebrate Nobanno Utshob at Rabindra Sharabar, Bakultala (located at Fine Arts Faculty of Dhaka University) and some other places to retain this important part of our culture and tradition. Traditionally, many cultural programmes and competitions are arranged to observe the festival. Besides, some indigenous agricultural instrument that were once used in cultivating land and husking paddy by our farmers, and paddy of different varieties (directly brought from the farmers' house) are exhibited in the exhibition ground. Such celebration is a good sign as it indicates that people still cherish some kind of interest in our age-old traditions.
However, there was a time when the farmers of our country had to bear with many sufferings like extortion by the land lords, famine and so on. Unfortunately, they are not free from their sufferings yet. The farmers of our country often have to live in the fear of not getting even the production cost by selling their paddy or rice. They constantly harvest a good amount of paddy but are often bound to sell their produce at a price much lower than the production cost. Hence, when ‘Nobanno Utshob’ comes, we should not only celebrate the festival, but we should also be respectful towards our poor farmers as our farmers have always played a major role in the development of our country. And government should look into their problems and provide necessary support. Only then, ‘Nobanno Utshob’ would be a truly meaningful and joyous festival.