KOLKATA: Bengalis across West Bengal - as also in other parts of the country and abroad - exchanged sweets and pleasantries, prayed and rejoiced on Sunday to usher in Bengali New Year "Poila Baisakh" with fervour.
The devout visited the famous temples of Goddess Kali at Kalighat and Dakshineshwar and offered flowers and traditional sweets (`sandesh`), while shopkeepers and businessmen began a new financial year by observing the `haal khata` ceremony - closing their old account books and opening new ones.
Attired in freshly-bought clothes, a tradition in this part of the country, revellers celebrated the day with family and friends. People greeted each other with "Shubho naba barsho (happy new year)".
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wished people on the occasion as she visited the Kalighat temple and distributed sweets.
Colourful processions accompanied by a variety of tableaux were brought out throughout the state, with children, youth, older men and women singing Bengali songs and spreading the message of "unity in diversity" and communal amity.
The Bangabda or the Bengali calendar was promulgated in 1584 A.D. by Mughal Emperor Akbar. Initially known as the `Tarikh-e-Elahi`, the purpose of the calendar was to glorify Akbar`s ascent to the throne along with facilitating revenue collection.
Cashing in on the fervour, eateries across the city and the state laid out lavish spreads of authentic Bengali cuisine.
In the sports arena, enthusiasm brimmed over, as arch-rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan held their Bar Puja at their respective club tents.