On 27th January, 2012 India celebrates Basant panchami.
In Pakistan, it is celebrated towards the end of February.
Towards the end of January till early March, the golden harvest of wheat stand tall ready to be harvested sometime in early April. And wheat is our staple crop.
At the same time in Januray February the yellow blooms of mustard ( better known as sarson) sway in the fields, as far as eyes can see. And mustard is a cash crop whose seeds are pressed to extract mustard oil.
To celebrate these awesome blooms as a reward for the fields ploughed and the seeds sown in October, the farmers rejoice, sing, dance and make merry.
Some of them wear yellow turbans, and their women folk adorning yellow ‘odhnis’ come out to join in the celebrations. It is not hard to imagine that they must be celebrating the blooms, ever since they learnt to farm these crops dating back to centuries.
This is the basic root and the spirit of the tradition of Basant in parts of Indian subcontinent where these crops are grown.
Are wheat, or mustard crops Hindu, Muslim or Sikh?
Vasant in Sanskrit or Basant in Urdu mean ‘spring’, which heralds the departure of winter and arrival of spring. It symbolizes the time of rejuvenation and arrival of happiness as flowers start to smile through their blossoms.
Yellow, the color of Basant, inspired by mustard blossoms, which matches the shade of sun rays, signifies life and radiance.
Do rays of sun or radiance of happiness differentiate between Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs ?
Kite flying , another component of basant, has it’s own interesting tale to tell.
“Kite flying also reveals how the tradition evolved over centuries and in a Ganga Jamuni way.
Kite flying was introduced to the Indian subcontinent by the Chinese traveller Heun Tsang in the 4th Century. Evolving for centuries, it s modification into its current form and popularisation as a sport was made possible by the Nawabs of Avadh. The kite flying during basant celebrations is believed to have been introduced by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the 18th century.”
Yet another evidence of centuries old and secular celebration of Basant come from poets, Kalidas and Amir Khusro, who have written about the celebrations of Basant in their own unique styles.
Kalidas in a poem Spring writes:
द्रुमाः सपुष्पाः सलिलं सपद्मं
स्त्रियः सकामाः पवनः सुगन्धिः ।
सुखाः प्रदोषा दिवसाश्च रम्याः
सर्वं प्रिये ! चारुतरं वसन्ते
“Oh, dear, in Vasanta, Spring, trees are with flowers and waters are with lotuses, hence the breezes are agreeably fragrant with the fragrance of those flowers, thereby the eventides are comfortable and even the daytimes are pleasant with those fragrant breezes, thereby the women are with concupiscence, thus everything is highly pleasing…
AmirKhusro pens down:
Aaj basant manaalay suhaagun,
Aaj basant manaalay;
Anjan manjan kar piya mori,
Lambay neher lagaaye;
Tu kya sovay neend ki maasi,
So jaagay teray bhaag, suhaagun,
Aaj basant manalay…..;
Rejoice, my love, rejoice,
Its spring here, rejoice.
Bring out your lotions and toiletries,
And decorate your long hair.
Oh, you’re still enjoying your sleep, wake-up.
Even your destiny has woken up,
Its spring here, rejoice.
There is an Indian classical music tune called Raag Basant Bahaar.
Not to forget, basant in the subcontinent is also associated with a special sweet prepared specially for the occaision –the kesar halwa,
It is a suji ( semolina) halwa with a soft aroma and yellow shade from saffron and garnished with cashew nuts.
Neither the dessert, nor the poetry above nor the music below suggest if Basant is Hindu or Muslim or Sikh.
The same spirit is also replicated by this beautiful ghazal by Malika Pukhraj and Tahira Syed
Lo phir basant aayee…
P.S. Special thanks to Sandeep@stwta a twitter pal for the devnagiri text of Kalidas poetry.