Basant Panchami, a Hindu spring festival, is celebrated to welcome the season of spring. The festival is celebrated in various ways depending on the region.
On this day people revere goddess Saraswati the Hindu deity of knowledge, learning, arts and music. She is celebrated with visits to her temples, by playing music, as well as the day when parents sit down with their children, initiate them into writing letters of alphabet or study together. Bengalis choose this auspicious day to introduce their toddlers to reading and writing on this day.
Others mark it as the festival of god Kama the Hindu deity of love. So it’s a kind of Hindu form of Valentine’s Day. On this day lovers express their love to each other. People also celebrate it by remembering the loved one particularly one’s spouse or special friend. Punjabi farmers wear yellow clothes and eat yellow rice to emulate the yellow mustard (sarson) flower fields, or play by flying kites. Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire, encouraged the celebration of Basant Panchami as a social event in the Gurdwaras. He held an annual Basant fair and sponsored kite flying as a regular feature of the fairs. Ranjit Singh and his queen Moran would dress in yellow and fly kites on Basant Panchami.
Ranjit Singh would also hold a darbar or court in Lahore on Basant Pachami which lasted ten days when soldiers would dress in yellow and show their military prowess.
Kites have also played a significant role in the freedom struggle as they were used by the common people as a symbol of their unity against the oppressive Simon Commission, in 1928. The Indian skyline was filled with an army of paper birds, with the slogan ‘Go Back’ plastered over their bodies. Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that these kites are used, till date, to signify the freedom and Independence we have rightfully earned from our oppressors.
They also represent Life and the choices we make in it.
In Rajasthan, it is customary for people to wear jasmine garlands. In Maharashtra also newly married couples wear yellow and visit temple and offer prayers on the first Basant Panchami after the wedding.
Basant Panchami has a specific meaning: Vasant means “spring” and Panchami means “the fifth day.” Basant Panchami falls on the fifth day of spring. This year the festival would be celebrated on 22nd January, 2018.