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Vasanta (Sanskrit: वसन्तः, Hindi: बसंत, Punjabi: ਬਸਨ) is one of the six ritus (seasons) corresponding to spring[1].

It is also short for Vasanta Panchami (Sanskrit: वसन्त पञ्चमी), an Indian festival in It is celebrated every year on the fifth day (Panchami) of the Hindu month Magh (January-February), the first day of spring.

In Hinduism, Vasanta Panchami a festival Some of the Indian festivals have a seasonal and cultural significance, in addition to a religious significance (which can vary depend on the specific tradition), and are thus often celebrated by non-Hindus also in some form. These include Holi and Diwali in addition to Basant. Amir Khusro (1253-1325 CE) has composed songs using the word Basant (festival), and Nizamuddin Auliya used to join him in celebrating Basants of Sufis.[2].

Contents

Origin of Vasanta

In sanskrit Vasanta means spring and Panchami is the fifth day of the fortnight of waxing moon (Shukla Paksha) in the Hindu month of Magh, January-February of English calendar.

In the Vedas the day of Vasanta Panchami is dedicated to Goddess Sarasvati. It is not a national holiday in India but the schools are closed and the students participate in decoration and arrangement of the worship place. A few weeks before the celebration, schools become active in organizing various annual competitions of music, debate, sports and other activities. Prizes are distributed on the day of Vasanta Panchami. Many schools organize cultural activities in the evening of the Saraswati Puja day when parents and other community members attend the functions to encourage the children.Sarasvati is the goddess of learning. Sarasvati bestows the greatest wealth to humanity, the wealth of knowledge.

In the Vedas the prayer for Sarasvati depicts her as a white lady in white dress bedecked with white flowers and white pearls, sitting on a white lotus, which is blooming in a wide stretch of water. She holds Veena, a string-instrument, like Sitar, for playing music. The prayer finally concludes, "Oh Mother Sarasvati remove the darkness (ignorance) of my mind and bless me with the eternal knowledge." The Vedas describe Sarasvati as a water deity, goddess of a river of the same name. According to popular belief Sarasvati, originating from the Himalayas, flowed southeast, ultimately meeting the Ganges at Prayag, near the confluence of Yamuna. Hence the place is called Triveni. In due time this course of water petered away.

The mythological history of Sarasvati associates her with the holy rituals performed on the banks of the river Sarasvati. She is worshipped as a goddess of speech, attributed to the formation of Vach (words), invention of Sanskrit language and composition of hymns. [3]

Vasanta and Sufi Culture

Sufis are credited for bringing the festival into the Muslim pantheon in the Indian subcontinent. By the Mughal period, Basant was a popular festival at the major Sufi shrines. We have, for example, mentions of Nizam Auliya ki Basant, Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki ki Basant, Khusrau ki Basant; festivals arranged around the shrines of these various sufi saints. Khusrau, the famous sufi-poet of the thirteenth century, even composed verses on Basant:

Aaj basant manaalay, suhaagan, Aaj basant manaalay
Anjan manjan kar piya mori, lambay neher lagaalay
Tu kya sovay neend ki maasi,
So jaagay teray bhaag, suhaagun, Aaj basant manaalay.
Oonchi naar kay oonchay chitvan,
Ayso diyo hai banaaye
Shah Amir tuhay dekhan ko, nainon say naina milaaye,
Suhaagun, aaj basant manaalay.

Translation:

Celebrate basant today, O bride, Celebrate basant today
Apply kajal to your eyes, and decorate your long hair
Oh why are you the servant of sleep?
Even your fate is wide awake, Celebrate basant today
O high lady with high looks,
That is how you were made
When the king looks at you, your eyes meet his eyes,
O Bride, Celebrate basant today

Another historic account is given in the book "Punjab Under the Later Mughals." According to this book, when Zakariya Khan (1707-1759) was the governor of Punjab, a Hindu of Sialkot, by the name of Haqeeqat Rai Bakhmal Puri spoke words of disrespect for the Prophet Muhammad and his daughter Fatima due to teasing by Muslim boys. He was arrested and sent to Lahore to await trial. The court, gave him capital punishment. The Hindu population was stirred to request Zakariya Khan to lift the death sentence given to Haqeeqat Rai but he did not accede to their request. Eventually the death penalty was carried out and the entire Hindu population went into mourning.

As a tribute to the memory of this child, a prosperous Hindu, Kalu Ram initiated the Basant 'mela' in (Marrhi) Kot Khwaja Saeed (Khoje Shahi) in Lahore. (This place is now known as Baway di marrhi.) It is the last stop on the route of Wagon no. 60 from Bhati Gate. Dr. B.S. Nijjar states on Page no. 279 of his book that the Basant 'mela' is celebrated in memory of Hakeekat Rai. [4]

Vasanta in Pakistan

In the pre-partitioned Western Punjab, especially Lahore--locals celebrated the Basant festival by flying kites. Muslims of Punjab celebrated the Basant although it was considered as a local (non Islamic folk) festival. It was mainly Muslims that participated in kite flying as an event. At the time of partition in 1947, population of Lahore city was mostly Muslims (60%) and Hindus/sikhs (40%). By the end of September 1947, almost all the Hindus had left West Punjab/Lahore for India. Today people in Lahore take pride in Basant and fly kites from their rooftops with the same enthusiasm.

Being the historic capital of Punjab Basant is celebrated with as much vigour and enthusiasm as the ancient city of Lahore. Although traditionally it was a festival confined to the old-walled city it has spread all through out the city. Other cities in which Basant is mainly celebrated are Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Jhelum, Sialkot and Rawalpindi/Islamabad.

Vasanta is celebrated with great joy in Lahore:

"There was a lot of rush at kite shops, especially in old Lahore as children and middle-aged men gathered to purchase their favourite coloured kites and string. Rehan, an intermediate student said ...the festival was part of the city’s culture, adding that a number of special dishes were also prepared for the occasion. He said this year, however, people would only be flying kites. Arsalan, a resident of the Walled City, said Basant was the event of colours and lights, adding that a number of people in his area had installed lights at their residences. He said “the dance of kites in lights” would be visible to everyone who would look up at the sky"[5].

It was for many years officially backed by the government and sponsored by multinational corporations. Although Basant "travels" throughout Pakistani Punjab it is Lahore which made it popular not only in Pakistan but all over the world as the largest kite festival. Unfortunately there are accidents and even deaths during the festival each year because of the public's ignorance towards the use of banned strings and also gunfire.

2005 kite ban in Pakistan

In Pakistan, Basant has been seen by some of the hardline Muslim parties like Jamaat-e-Islami as a custom of the Hindus. They have sought to justify the ban on Basant[6]. Others see Basat simply as a spring festival, and point out that even Allama Iqbal used to fly kites and enjoy the festival[7], and the ban an expression of intolerance.

In 2005, an advocate MD Tahir of Lahore High Court, Pakistan, contended that Basant was purely an event of Hindu community who observed it as part of their religious rituals. He said that forefathers of Pakistani Muslims had never taken part in Basant celebrations, though they also deemed it a part of their culture. The petitioner said that Pakistan was a poor country and Basant festivities could not please them by any means. He argued that frequent power breakdowns because of kite-flying were depriving people of electricity supply for hours and they were also exposed to life threats by kite-string on roads. Aerial firing and use of firecrackers was another factor of disturbance for patients, students and the elderly people, he said. He also counted the death toll taking place every year on Basant day as a ground to seek a complete ban on kite-flying and Basant festivities in the country. The petitioner said that the government was spending millions of rupees to entertain foreign guests on Basant, rather than spending it to improve literacy rate, inadequate medical facilities and the provision of basic amenities to common people. As a result, in 2005, kite flying has been banned in Pakistan. Violent protests have occurred outside the Pakistani Supreme Court house, and further protests are planned. Despite the ban on kite flying one can see hundreds of kites every afternoon and evening on Lahore's sky and the number of kites is even higher on Sundays and public holidays. Kite flyers compete to cut each others kites loose. In the past strings were coated with a slurry of fine glass shards which allowed one flyer to cut another's kite lose. In small villages the custom of 'kite running' allows poorer children to chase down and claim the free flying kites. Today wire coated with glass has become very popular with such strands of wire killing more than nine people this last year (2009) in Lahore alone.

[8]

The Basant ban was lifted by the supreme court of Pakistan for 15 days in March but was again enforced late night on 10 March by the chief minister of Punjab, Pervaiz Elahi. On January 4, 2006, the provincial government of Punjab lifted the ban for 24 hours so that kite flying can be enjoyed on the holiday. [9]

Basant festival was once more allowed to be celebrated on the 14th and 15th of March, 2009 by the government, while the Lahore High Court hoped the government would not lift the ban.[10] Days later one motorbike rider died after his throat was slit by a piece of kite wire hanging from a pole on the roadway.

See also

References

  1. ^ URS AUR MELAY” by Aman Ullah Khan Arman, published by Kitab Manzil Lahore, 1959
  2. ^ Ethnomusicology and Modern Music History By Stephen Blum, Daniel M. Neuman, Published by University of Illinois Press, 1993
  3. ^ Hindu Festivals
  4. ^ Nijjar, B.S. (Dr.), "Punjab Under the Later Mughals.", Patyala
  5. ^ Youth excited http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\03\15\story_15-3-2009_pg13_3
  6. ^ Pakistan province kite-flying ban http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4792776.stm
  7. ^ Culture versus Religion —Khaled Ahmed Urdu Press Review http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_1-4-2005_pg3_5
  8. ^ Daily Times, Friday, January 28, 2005
  9. ^ Daily Dawn
  10. ^ The News, Friday, March 13th, 2009

External links

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Basant(Hindi: बसंत, Punjabi: ਬਸਨ) is one of the six ritus (seasons) corresponding to spring[1].

It is also short for Basant Panchami (Sanskrit: वसंत पंचमी), an Indian festival in It is celebrated every year on the fifth day (Panchami) of the Hindu month Magh (January-February), the first day of spring.

In Hinduism, Basant Panchami a festival in honor of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art., it is celebrated by people of all religious backgrounds; specially in the Northern India and province of Punjab in Pakistan.

Some of the Indian festivals have a seasonal and cultural significance, in addition to a religious significance (which can vary depend on the specific tradition), and are thus often celebrated by non-Hindus also in some form. These include Holi and Diwali in addition to Basant. Amir Khusro (1253-1325 CE) has composed songs about Basant, and Nizamuddin Auliya used to join him in celebrating Basant[2].

Contents

Origin of Basant

In sanskrit Vasant (Basant) means spring and Panchami is the fifth day of the fortnight of waxing moon (Shukla Paksha) in the Hindu month of Magh, January-February of English calendar.

In the Vedas the day of Basant Panchami is dedicated to Goddess Sarasvati. It is not a national holiday in India but the schools are closed and the students participate in decoration and arrangement of the worship place. A few weeks before the celebration, schools become active in organizing various annual competitions of music, debate, sports and other activities. Prizes are distributed on the day of Basant Panchami. Many schools organize cultural activities in the evening of the Saraswati Puja day when parents and other community members attend the functions to encourage the children.Sarasvati is the goddess of learning. Sarasvati bestows the greatest wealth to humanity, the wealth of knowledge.

In the Vedas the prayer for Sarasvati depicts her as a white lady in white dress bedecked with white flowers and white pearls, sitting on a white lotus, which is blooming in a wide stretch of water. She holds Veena, a string-instrument, like Sitar, for playing music. The prayer finally concludes, "Oh Mother Sarasvati remove the darkness (ignorance) of my mind and bless me with the eternal knowledge." The Vedas describe Sarasvati as a water deity, goddess of a river of the same name. According to popular belief Sarasvati, originating from the Himalayas, flowed southeast, ultimately meeting the Ganges at Prayag, near the confluence of Yamuna. Hence the place is called Triveni. In due time this course of water petered away.

The mythological history of Sarasvati associates her with the holy rituals performed on the banks of the river Sarasvati. She is worshipped as a goddess of speech, attributed to the formation of Vach (words), invention of Sanskrit language and composition of hymns. [3]

Basant and Sufi Culture

Sufis are credited for bringing the festival into the Muslim pantheon in the India subcontinent. By the Mughal period, Basant was a popular festival at the major Sufi shrines. We have, for example, mentions of Nizam Auliya ki Basant, Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki ki Basant, Khusrau ki Basant; festivals arranged around the shrines of these various sufi saints. Khusrau, the famous sufi-poet of the thirteenth century, even composed verses on Basant:

Aaj basant manaalay, suhaagan, Aaj basant manaalay
Anjan manjan kar piya mori, lambay neher lagaalay
Tu kya sovay neend ki maasi,
So jaagay teray bhaag, suhaagun, Aaj basant manaalay.
Oonchi naar kay oonchay chitvan,
Ayso diyo hai banaaye
Shah Amir tuhay dekhan ko, nainon say naina milaaye,
Suhaagun, aaj basant manaalay.

Translation:

Celebrate basant today, O bride, Celebrate basant today
Apply kajal to your eyes, and decorate your long hair
Oh why are you the servant of sleep?
Even your fate is wide awake, Celebrate basant today
O high lady with high looks,
That is how you were made
When the king looks at you, your eyes meet his eyes,
O Bride, Celebrate basant today

Another historic account is given in the book "Punjab Under the Later Mughals." According to this book, when Zakariya Khan (1707-1759) was the governor of Punjab, a Hindu of Sialkot, by the name of Hakeekat Rai Bakhmal Puri spoke words of disrespect for the Prophet Muhammad and his daughter Fatima due to teasing by Muslim boys. He was arrested and sent to Lahore to await trial. The court, gave him capital punishment. The Hindu population was stirred to request Zakariya Khan to lift the death sentence given to Hakeekat Rai but he did not accede to their request. Eventually the death penalty was carried out and the entire Hindu population went into mourning.

As a tribute to the memory of this child, a prosperous Hindu, Kalu Ram initiated the Basant 'mela' in (Marrhi) Kot Khwaja Saeed (Khoje Shahi) in Lahore. (This place is now known as Baway di marrhi.) It is the last stop on the route of Wagon no. 60 from Bhati Gate. Dr. B.S. Nijjar states on Page no. 279 of his book that the Basant 'mela' is celebrated in memory of Hakeekat Rai. [4]

Basant in Pakistan

In the pre-partitioned Western Punjab, especially Lahore--locals celebrated the Basant festival by flying kites. Muslims of Punjab celebrated the Basant although it was considered as a local (non Islamic folk) festival. It was mainly Muslims that participated in kite flying as an event. At the time of partition in 1947, population of Lahore city was mostly Muslims (60%) and Hindus/sikhs (40%). By the end of September 1947, almost all the Hindus had left West Punjab/Lahore for India. Today people in Lahore take pride in Basant and fly kites from their rooftops with the same enthusiasm.

Being the historic capital of Punjab there is no other place where Basant is celebrated with as much vigour and enthusiasm as the ancient city of Lahore. Although traditionally it was a festivel confined to the old-walled city it has spread all through out the city.

Basant is celebrated with great joy in Lahore:

"There was a lot of rush at kite shops, especially in old Lahore as children and middle-aged men gathered to purchase their favourite coloured kites and string. Rehan, an intermediate student said ...the festival was part of the city’s culture, adding that a number of special dishes were also prepared for the occasion. He said this year, however, people would only be flying kites. Arsalan, a resident of the Walled City, said Basant was the event of colours and lights, adding that a number of people in his area had installed lights at their residences. He said “the dance of kites in lights” would be visible to everyone who would look up at the sky"[5].

It was for many years officially backed by the government and sponsored by multinational corporations. Although Basant "travels" throughout Pakistani Punjab it is Lahore which made it popular not only in Pakistan but all over the world as the largest kite festival. Unfortunately there are accidents and even deaths during the festival each year because of the public's ignorance towards the use of banned strings and also gunfire.

2005 kite ban in Pakistan

File:Throat
A throat sliced open by sharp twine

In Pakistan, Basant has been seen by some of the hardline Muslim parties like Jamaat-e-Islami as a custom of the Hindus. They have sought to justify the ban on Basant[6]. Others see Basat simply as a spring festival, and point out that even Allama Iqbal used to fly kites and enjoy the festival[7], and the ban an expression of intolerance.

In 2005, an advocate MD Tahir of Lahore High Court, Pakistan, contended that Basant was purely an event of Hindu community who observed it as part of their religious rituals. He said that forefathers of Pakistani Muslims had never taken part in Basant celebrations, though they also deemed it a part of their culture. The petitioner said that Pakistan was a poor country and Basant festivities could not please them by any means. He argued that frequent power breakdowns because of kite-flying were depriving people of electricity supply for hours and they were also exposed to life threats by kite-string on roads. Aerial firing and use of firecrackers was another factor of disturbance for patients, students and the elderly people, he said. He also counted the death toll taking place every year on Basant day as a ground to seek a complete ban on kite-flying and Basant festivities in the country. The petitioner said that the government was spending millions of rupees to entertain foreign guests on Basant, rather than spending it to improve literacy rate, inadequate medical facilities and the provision of basic amenities to common people. As a result, in 2005, kite flying has been banned in Pakistan. Violent protests have occurred outside the Pakistani Supreme Court house, and further protests are planned. Despite the ban on kite flying one can see hundreds of kites every afternoon and evening on Lahore's sky and the number of kites is even higher on Sundays and public holidays. Kite flyers compete to cut each others kites loose. In the past strings were coated with a slurry of fine glass shards which allowed one flyer to cut another's kite lose. In small villages the custom of 'kite running' allows poorer children to chase down and claim the free flying kites. Today wire coated with glass has become very popular with such strands of wire killing more than nine people this last year (2009) in Lahore alone.

[8]

The Basant ban was lifted by the supreme court of Pakistan for 15 days in March but was again enforced late night on 10 March by the chief minister of Punjab, Pervaiz Elahi. On January 4, 2006, the provincial government of Punjab lifted the ban for 24 hours so that kite flying can be enjoyed on the holiday. [9]

Basant festival was once more allowed to be celebrated on the 14th and 15th of March, 2009 by the government, while the Lahore High Court hoped the government would not lift the ban.[10] Days later one motorbike rider died after his throat was slit by a piece of kite wire hanging from a pole on the roadway.

See also

References

  1. URS AUR MELAY” by Aman Ullah Khan Arman, published by Kitab Manzil Lahore, 1959
  2. Ethnomusicology and Modern Music History By Stephen Blum, Daniel M. Neuman, Published by University of Illinois Press, 1993
  3. Hindu Festivals
  4. Nijjar, B.S. (Dr.), "Punjab Under the Later Mughals.", Patyala
  5. Youth excited http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009\03\15\story_15-3-2009_pg13_3
  6. Pakistan province kite-flying ban http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4792776.stm
  7. Culture versus Religion —Khaled Ahmed Urdu Press Review http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_1-4-2005_pg3_5
  8. Daily Times, Friday, January 28, 2005
  9. Daily Dawn
  10. The News, Friday, March 13th, 2009

External links


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