What is Basant Panchami and why do we celebrate this festival?
Vasant Panchami or Basant Panchami is a very auspicious festival that is celebrated throughout India in various ways depending upon the customs of the region.
According to the Hindu scriptures, Basant Panchami is elaborated by Rishi Panchami. It marks:
- The preparation for the arrival of spring.
- The start of preparation for the festival of Holi, which takes place forty days later.
- Signifies the ripening of fruits and crops.
Why do we wear yellow on Basant Panchami?
During the Vasant Panchami festival, India’s crop fields are filled with the color yellow, as the mustard flowers bloom at this time of the year, giving a yellow coat to nature. The whole place bursts with yellow during the festival.
Yellow holds a special meaning for the celebration of Basant Panchami, as it signifies the brilliance of nature and the vibrancy of life.
- Ladies dress in yellow saris or suits & men wear yellow shirts.
- In Punjab, men wear yellow turbans.
- Offer yellow flowers to others and to the gods and goddesses.
- Yellow, turmeric tilak on their forehead.
- Prepare and feast on a special pastry called kesar halwa or kesar halva, which is made from flour, sugar, nuts, and cardamom powder. This dish also includes saffron strands, which gives it a vibrant yellow color and mild fragrance.
- In temples and educational institutions, statues of Saraswati are dressed in yellow and worshiped.
- Brightly colored kites are seen flying at Basant Panchami events in every town & village.
Which goddess is worshipped on Basant Panchami?
Vasant Panchami is the festival dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, who is the goddess of knowledge, education, language, sciences, arts, crafts, and skills. She is also believed for bringing music to humankind.
She created the Sanskrit language of Hinduism and even taught Lord Ganesh to use a pen and write.
She symbolizes creative energy and power in all its forms, including emotion and love (kama).
Who is Goddess Saraswati?
Saraswati is believed to be Lord Shiva’s sister & the wife of Brahma, the creator. She is the incarnation of knowledge & wisdom. She helped Brahma to finalize his creations & to bring order to the final form.
The sacred River Saraswati is named after her, which not only irrigates the land but represents the flowing of knowledge.
Goddess Saraswati is depicted as a very calm, gentle beautiful girl, seating on a white swan, with a peacock by her side, wearing a white dress., a symbol of purity.
She may even have a crescent on her forehead, a representation of the moon she helped form.
She is typically depicted with four arms, each of which holds or depict an important symbol, associated with intellect & alertness. She usually holds:
- a piece of paper made from a palm leaf, which is representative of her knowledge.
- a lotus flower, a symbol of purity,
- a vina, which is a musical instrument
- Bestows gifts with her fourth hand.
How is Basant celebrated?
- Many families mark this day by sitting with babies and young children, encouraging their children to write their first words with their fingers, in a ceremony called Vidya-Arambha
- Musicians study or create music together.
- Pens, notebooks, and pencils are placed near the goddess Devi’s feet to be blessed before they are used by students.
- Many educational institutions arrange special prayers or pujas in the morning to seek the blessing of the goddess.
- Poetic and musical gatherings are held in some communities in reverence for the goddess.
- Saraswati Puja is done in many schools, as a reverence to knowledge.
- It is considered an auspicious day to buy a new house, business or start a new venture.
Story of Kamadev, Rati and Basant Panchami-
Vasant Panchami, in some parts, celebrates the Hindu God of love Kama with Rati, as shown in the carvings at Khajurao Temple.
It is remembered as the day when Parvati approached the Kama to wake up Shiva from meditation to do his duties in the world.
The Kama agrees and shoots arrows, made of flowers and bees, at Shiva from his heavenly bow of sugarcane in order to arouse him to pay attention to Parvati.
Vasant Panchami is associated with love.
Songs about Krishna’s pranks with Radha, and Kama-Rati, are sung & plays are staged depicting mythological stories.
Why do we celebrate Basant Panchami in Punjabi?
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. His soldiers would dress in yellow and show their military prowess.
Sikhs also remember the martyrdom of the child Haqiqat Rai on Basant Panchmi, who was arrested by the Muslim ruler Zakariya Khan after being falsely accused of insulting Islam. Rai was given the choice of converting to Islam or death and, having refused conversion, was executed on the Basant Panchami of 1741 in Lahore, Pakistan.
There are two major temples in India, which are devoted to Goddess Saraswati.
One is the Sharada Peeth, Andhra Pradesh & the other Gnana Temple, located on the banks of Godavari River at Basar (South India).
Other temples were destroyed by the Mughals, and Mosques erected above the structures.
In southern India, the day is called Sri Panchami.
Is Basant Panchami a Govt holiday?
Although Vasant Panchami is not a public holiday, many Government offices, schools, colleges do not operate fully on the day, as a mark to one of the most remarkable deities in Hinduism.