India drapes in yellow to fete Basant Panchami

Different strokes of Spring Festival across India

Culture

February 5, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

India drapes in yellow to fete Basant Panchami

Yellow apparels and yellow flowers are integral part of Vasant Panchami celebrations in Hazrat Nizammudin Dargah (MIG Photos/Aman Kanojiya)

Vasant Panchami, or Basant Panchami, the festival marking the end of the coldest periods of winter and beginning of preparations of Spring in northern and eastern India, is celebrated with distinct flavours in different parts of the country. It is not just different parts of the country that celebrate the festival, but Basant Panchami is one of the rare festivals that is celebrated by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike and all wearing the same shades of yellow, the colour of the mustard flowers that start dominating the fields across vast swathes of Indian plains. Yellow is also the flavour of the various delicacies cooked on the occasion.

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Vasant Panchami falls on the fifth day of the month of Magha month of the Indian calendar, normally falling in late January or early February per the Georgian calendar. It marks the end of the most severe winter that grips the entire northern India and the beginning of thaw leading to the Spring that comes with Holi, barely 40 days after Vasant Panchami.

Though it is the same festival and has more or less same significance for all, Basant Panchami is celebrated in very distinct fashion in different parts of the country. In the eastern and north eastern parts, notably in West Bengal, people, especially students, worship Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and fine arts in temples as well as in schools and colleges. In West Bengal, the festival is also known by the names of Sri Panchami and Sarawati Panchami.

Though the festival is primarily devoted to the Goddess states across India, the festival is celebrated differently in different states of India.

New Delhi and Punjab

In north-western India, notably Punjab and New Delhi, the festival is celebrated with gusto and lot of kite flying competitions are organised. It is also a festival that is one of the best examples of unity in diversity of India as people of all religions – Hindu, Muslim or Sikh – join in and celebrate it with equal enthusiasm and in their own fashion.

New Delhi’s famous Hazrat Nizammudin Dargah or Mausoleum is one of the best examples of display of this unity. The Mausoleum sees thousands of devotees of all religions turn up, dressed in their Sunday bests, preferably in yellow, and carry offerings for the 13th century Sufi Saint who is buried here. All day prayers are held here and later in the afternoon, a large procession is organised to celebrate the occasion. Dozens of eateries lining all along the lanes and by-lanes of the Dargah remain crowded throughout with people satiating their palates with the various delicacies prepared there.

“The festival in the state of Punjab marks the beginning of spring season. There is a tradition of flying kites in the state. Melas (Carnivals) are organised all across the state and people come together and enjoy the ambience. We also prepare something yellow such as Moong dal ka Halwa or sweet rice is cooked and offered to the goddess as prasad,” says, Kusum Sharma, a resident of Jalandhar, Punjab.

West Bengal

Over 2000 km away to the east, in the state of West Bengal, Basant Panchami is the festival of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. On this day, devotees install idols of the goddess and offer their prayers and respect to the goddess by performing puja and incorporating the colour yellow. Homemade prasad is offered to the Goddess Saraswati and mantras are chanted. Some states such as Bihar and West Bengal commence the learning of their children on this day.

The festival is also one of the main festivals for Bengalis. Probashi Bangali or Bengalis who have migrated from their native state, organise pandals and community prayers to seek the blessing of the goddess wherever they may be living, in India or overseas. Khichdi or Basanti Pulao is offered to the goddess as bhog or offering and then later distributed among the devotees. The organisers often collect chanda or donations for organising the festival.

the festival marks the beginning of the spring season. Schools and colleges in the states organise pujas for their students. Apart from schools and colleges, people organise pujas in their neighbourhoods where the idol of Goddess Saraswati is placed and worshipped. With the commencement of the rituals, people gather in the pandals and enjoy the atmosphere it has to offer with mantras being chanted.

“Some people also organise pujas in their homes, while the puja is conducted in communal pandals where people come and give pushpaanjali their family members. We also offer basanti pulao or khichdi as bhog to Maa. Apart, from these things, Vasanth Panchami is our Valentine’s Day. Couples all across the state dress in the colour yellow. The cafes and eateries offering delicacies are jam-packed with them,” says Ayananka Kundu, resident of the North 24 Paragna, Kolkata.

Bihar

Vasant Panchami in Bihar is one of the important festivals for the eastern state that shares its borders with West Bengal. People from all over the state celebrate the festival. The residents of different localities organise pandals and conduct communal pujas for the people to come and enjoy.

“In Bihar each locality, be it a village or a city people can find pandals conducting puja for the goddess. Apart from this people play with abir (a type of colour) when the goddess is taken out of the pandal. The idol is loaded on a truck and a procession is held displaying the goddess to the people so that they have a chance to look at the goddess. Prasad is also distributed among people after the Puja. Children starting their education write their first letters on this auspicious day,” Srawanya Srivastava, a resident of Raxaul in Bihar.

Jammu and Kashmir

The ‘crown jewel of India’ is another state which celebrates the festival with the Hindu residents of the state organising communal pujas in temples for people to attend. People who are devoted to the goddess were the colour yellow and fast to pay their respect to the goddess.

“When we used to live in Kashmir, large pujas were organised in the temples and people made delicacies however they were only vegetarian. People who celebrate the festival now organise a small puja in their homes. Some people fast and were the colour yellow,” says, Sakshi a resident of Kashmir.

Rajasthan

Vasant Panchami is, however, is not one of the main festivals of the state, however, its people celebrate it subtly.

“The festival of Vasant Panchami is not a festival of the state and people are not affected by it, as essentially it has come from the northern states. People who are more in association with the north celebrate the festival here. Students wear only yellow clothes to school and eat yellow food. They eat makke ki roti (bread made out of corn flour), they eat Maggi because it is yellow, they eat corn because it is yellow. They put haldi (turmeric) to make it yellow, following that theme they express their gratitude in the colour by wearing it and eating it only that particular colour,” says Kanika Shokeen, a resident of Jaipur, Rajasthan.

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