2It traces its roots to ancient Hindu rites. The debate is on about Basant - even after the change in name. People assert that Basant is an old festival in the sub continent.They are very right!It traces its roots to ancient Hindu rites.
3One of them is ‘Vasant Panchami’ or ‘Basant’ as is popularly known. Hindu life is full of celebrations of all kinds. There are holidays and other religious festivals and birthday anniversaries of gods and mythological heroes, which, as a rule, are observed every year .One of them is ‘Vasant Panchami’ or ‘Basant’ as is popularly known.
4Vasant Panchami heralds the spring season Vasant Panchami heralds the spring season. It is one of the first festivals of the year and is celebrated all over India. Celebrated with gaiety and festivity, it marks the end of the winter. In a wider sense it marks the departure of winter, symbolic of the end of darkness and ignorance and the beginning of spring, symbolic of knowledge.Vasant : SpringPanchami : 5 (Fifth day of Magh)
5Goddess Saraswati The Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom Because Basant is linked with knowledge, on Vasant Panchami, people worship Saraswati.In fact, in Bengal the day is more popularly known as Saraswati Puja.No authentic explanation exists as to why this day has been chosen for Saraswati. Some believed it to be the birthday of Saraswati. Others believe that on this day the goddess came down to earth, along with Durga to drive away the ignorance that Mahishasura was nurturing within him.
6COMMON BELIEFS AND PRACTICES ON THIS DAY Saraswasti is worshipped as a goddess of speech, attributed to the formation of Vach (words), invention of Sanskrit language and composition of hymns. So Basant is celebrated with much enthusiasm in educational and cultural institutions and homes. Students place their books before the image of the goddess.The family priest puts chalk in the hand of the youngest child and after being blessed from the goddess, guides his hand in writing the alphabet symbolizing an initiation into the realm of knowledge.Some parents wait for this auspicious day for their child to begin his education.As per custom, inkpots and pens are worshipped and not used to write and students abstain from studying.The evening witnesses the staging of dramas and programs of dance and music. Musicians specially in south India place their instruments before the goddess's shrine and worship them by offering fruit, coconut, cloth, incense and oil lamps.
7The Ancient Vasantotsava Basant Panchami is reminiscent of the festival of Vasantotsava of the ancient times, which was one of the most important celebrations as it marked the beginning of the agricultural season.The Vasantotsava festivities lasted for three days and were set in two separate locations: one played in the city streets with free and sometimes wild behavior of the common people; and the other, in the gardens where the attention is centered on the private worship of the deity Kamadeva, the Hindu god of desire and love.
8BASANT CELEBRATIONS IN HINDUS The festive colour yellow, symbolic of spring, plays an important part this day. The yellow of mustard flowers and the Amaltas trees is the first colour to be sighted after the severe winters of the north.Yellow is the color of renunciation and regarded in many ways as the most holy color of all.People wear yellow clothes, offer yellow flowers in worship and put a yellow, turmeric tilak on their forehead.They visit temples and offer prayers to various gods.Even the food is coloured yellow by using saffron.People get together and sing songs connected with spring.
9Vasant Panchami, the onset of spring. Kite flyingin the Punjab isassociated withVasant Panchami, the onset of spring.Colourful kites in the sky are flown to mark this occasion. In Punjab, kite flying is a rooftop sport. The rooftops of inner cities turn into virtual arenas of kite flying competitions on Basant.In Rajasthan and Gujarat kite flying gathers a frenzied momentum on January 13, also celebrated as Makar Sankrant – the day the sun changes direction and starts to move towards the Northern Hemisphere
10HINDU SCHOOLS CELEBRATING BASANT Panchkula, February 6: Students and staff of Blue Bird High School celebrated Basant Panchami with gaiety and fervour. The staff members and students, dressed in yellow, lent an air of joy and rejuvenation. The students celebrated the festival with “Saraswati puja”. The highlight of the day was kite flying by parents of the students.The Gurukul: The celebrations continued for two days as the school celebrated Basant Panchami. The tiny tots came in their party wear and keeping with the true spirit of the festival, yellow colour dominated the campus. The teachers narrated the folklore related with the festival and sang folk songs. Later, the children flew kites.Bhavan Vidyalaya: Children and staff, dressed in yellow, welcomed the spring season by invoking the blessings of Goddess Saraswati. Amidst the chanting of “shlokas”, the Principal garlanded the statue of Goddess Saraswati. This was followed by the rendition of Basant song in Raag Kajl and dances by the students. The entire school had been decked up with yellow buntings and flags.
11What would Muslim students celebrating basant be doing at this time? Celebrating Basant at theThe University of MinnesotaThe Hindu Student Society was formed last fall to preserve and promote Hindu Dharma and its culture.What would Muslim students celebrating basant be doing at this time?Thirty students and community members celebrated the event and prayed barefoot for knowledge and wisdom. Participants brought offerings of coconuts, bananas, traditional Indian food, books and yellow flower petals to Saraswati’s altar.
12celebrations marking the climax of spring HOLI HARVESTcelebrations marking the climax of springFestival for the worship of Karma - the god of pleasure and destinyIt is considered the last living Bacchanalian (drunken revelry) spring festival in the world.The Holi Puja is accompanied by bonfires, symbolic of the destruction of evil, amid joyous shouts and offerings to the fire of grains, coconuts, etc, from the seasonal harvestNext day follows a period of license and enjoyment in which people throw mud and coloured water at one another, gamble and indulge in obscene songsSongs sung in Holi have long been notorious, for being wild, loaded with indecent implications, double meaning and obsessed with sex.In Pakistan?
13KITES OF BLASPHEMY?The Sikh historian, Dr B J Nijjar writes in his book, ‘Punjab under the Later Mughals’ that when Zakariya Khan ( ) was the Governor of Punjab, a Hindu of Sialkot by the name of Haqeeqat Rai spoke words of disrespect for the Prophet (saw) and his daughter, Sayedina Fatima. He was arrested and sent to Lahore to await trial and according to the law, the court awarded him capital punishment. The non-Muslim population requested Zakariya Khan to lift the death sentence but he did not accede to their demands. Eventually the death penalty was carried out and the entire non-Muslim population went into mourning. For the Hindus, Haqeeqat Rai became a martyr, who had sacrificed his life for the Hindu faith and in the memory of this sacrifice, the men wore yellow turbans while the women wore yellow saris. Yellow colour was splattered on Haqeeqat Rai’s marrhi and a temple was raised on it. The day the sentence was implemented was named Basant in relation to the yellow colour. In the adjacent ground kites were flown and slogans were raised in the blasphemer’s honour. A wealthy Hindu, Kalu Raam initiated the Basant mela in Kot Khwaja Saeed in Lahore. Before partition, Basant was primarily celebrated in Lahore as a Hindu festival. Yellow was the dress code for all and kite-flying was carried out everywhere. Sadly Muslims would also participate but refrain from wearing yellow. They would also hold a mela at a mazar.
14THE ORIGINS OF BASANT DO GO WAY BACK. THE QUESTION IS:THE ORIGINS OF BASANT DO GO WAY BACK.BUT ISN’T IT CLEAR THAT THEY HAVE ROOTS IN THE HINDU RELIGION, AS OPPOSED TO CURRENT POPULAR VIEW?
15Muslim Adaptation of the Festival 12 th CenturyThe Khaneqah of Nizamuddin Aulia (Chistia Order)The legend connects Amiir Khusrau, his close friend anddisciple, for initiating this custom. Basant celebration hasbecome an annual affair at the Khaneqah and other centersof the Chistia Order all over the country.
16Traditional Basant procession This procession takes place in the dargah a day before the Basant Panchami. Qawwals and Sufis bring mustard flowers from the fields and, walking in a colourful procession, offer them on many tombs, singing songs of Basant and Qawwali.
17They offer flowers and fateha (prayers) on every grave They offer flowers and fateha (prayers) on every grave. The Hindi and Persian qawwalis sung here - mostly ascribed to Amir Khusrau himself - praise the coming of spring and the disciple's longing to meet his guru or pir.
18Patronage under the Mughals In the Mughal era this tradition evolved into a major public festival.A Historian Maheshwar Dayal in his book “Alam Mein Intekhab: Dilli (1987)” gives a graphic account of Basant celebrations describing the dying of clothes, curtains and candles in yellow, all-night dancing and flying of giant mustard balloons with candles lit inside.
20Basant - the primary cultural event No time limit , an entire season of kite flying and merry making, roof top dinners, music, dances and fun.Pakistani’s are the pioneers in night kite flying.Promoted by government under the name of Jashan-e- Baharan.Sponsored by multi nationals and big business, it has become a corporate eventSpecial Basant packages offered by hotel industryBasant lines and collections offered by boutiques
21BASANT TODAY Singing and dancing in the streets Yellow clothes, accessories, dupattas (also for men) and yellow flowersWild behaviour on streetsNight long musical programs, dance parties, fashion shows and drinkingAerial firingand fireworksSome years ago, very few women could be seen flying kites on basant. It was mostly those residing in red light areas or from the film industry. Now a lot of young girls can be seen holding their own in this man’s world. (comment of a man selling kites). (Dawn Dec )
22COST OF BASANT LOSS OF VALUABLE RESOURCES CAN WE AFFORD THIS? Basant cost the Lahore Electricity Supply Corporation Rs 800,000 with 72 major power breakdowns on one day (Dawn 15 Feb 2003)A few years ago 3 grid stations caught fire due to short circuit caused by the metallic wire used for flying kites.
23EXTRAVAGANCE - NOT A SMALL CRIME “Verily the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayatin (devils) and Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord.” (Al-Isra: 27)According to one estimate 1-2 billion rupees was spent on this occasion in Lahore alone. (Dawn Magazine 17 Feb 2002)According to newspapers, during Basant season, all flights to Lahore and all hotels are fully booked. Rooms usually available at Rs 2800 to 3000 a night go for Rs 12,000 to 25,000 + taxes. Even the suites at Rs 42,000 a night are occupied. The latest trend is renting out rooftops for parties. Reportedly the Shahi Qila rooftop went for Rs 600,000 a few years back while a leading hotel charged Rs 400,000 to 500,000How can an indebted, poverty-stricken, earthquake ravaged, illiterate nation like ours afford to spend 1 to 2 billion rupees on kite-flying?
24LIVES LOST - FOR WHAT?Not only does the metal wire wreak havoc on the electricity system but the kite flyer also loses his life when the wire comes in contact with electric cables. Many a youth die everyday in Lahore. Many people are injured on streets from coming in contact with kite strings.10 killed in Lahore Basant festivities (Dawn 16 Feb. 2004)
25Myths and RealityMyth: Basant is a festival enjoyed by rich and poor alikeFact: The poor are tempted to spend beyond their means and are reminded of their deprivation and the stark im-balances in society while the rich enjoy the mega-event and become no less richer. The poor children get hurt by running after runaway kites On an average the expense for a Basant day comes to Rs 25,000-30,000 (Dawn 27 Dec 2003) No ordinary person can afford it.Myth: The festival is a wholesome affair with outdoor fun flying kites.Reality: Kites have become mere accessories at Basant time. Basant is not just about kite-flying anymore, but about the display of wealth, status and moral decadence For real entertainment people look to singers, comedians, dhol wallas, and faal wallahs (Dawn Review March 2002).
26Economic benefits for whom? The city (Lahore) had generated economic activity of about Rs 2 b during last Basant, with a major share going to the hotel industry. The Pearl Continental Hotel was offering a two-night Basant package for about Rs 22,000 for its Old Wing, about Rs 27,000 for New Wing and about Rs 29,000 for the Executive Wing. (Ref: Times of Oman- Internews Jan )The latest trend is renting out rooftops for parties. Reportedly the Shahi Qila rooftop went for Rs 600,000 a few years back while a leading hotel charged Rs 400,000 to 500,000Coca-Cola signed a Rs 4.5 million contract, out of which 3 million were spent on arrangements such as lighting, signboards, etc.Those who say that such events cause money to circulate in more hands are proved wrong as the poverty graph continues to rise.
27199920002003Some people favour the celebration of Basant, others oppose it and still others say let it be celebrated by those who want to. What is your opinion?(Gallup)
28The statistics indicate that a large majority of those who were questioned are against celebrating Basant. Yet we find that it is growing as a “national celebration” instead of diminishing.Why is that?Is it because people are silent in expressing their distaste?Is this because we have a large number of people“unconcerned” with what happens around them?Is it because the frenzy in media has overtaken people?Is it because despite their disapproval for it, people don’t think it is up to them to do something about it?What do you think?
29CULTURAL HARMONY ???This festival has been vigorously promoted both in India and Pakistan as creating harmony and bringing the two people together. Statements such as these are made:“Join us in our reaffirmation of the glorious tradition of unqualified and shared celebration of ‘collective faith’.”THE REALITYThe effect of such celebrations has not even resulted in bridging the gap between the various castes in India. The differences and the resulting miseries are very much in existence.Can it really bring Hindus and Muslims together and make peace? Does the way to achieve peace lie in adopting Hindu religious festivals, culture and values?
30The Prophet (saw) said “Whoever imitates (the practices) of another nation will be considered from amongst them”(Musnad Ahmad)The Prophet (saw) said “He who imitates others (other nations) does not belong to us (our Ummah).” (Tirmidhi)
31Our own faith remains wavering…… A Lady propagating Basant says:“This is our traditional festival. I know I shouldn't say this but Eid is an imported event, taken from Arabs, but we have appropriated it. Just see for yourself how happy everyone is on Basant day. This is the way we were supposed to enjoy” (Dawn 27 Dec 2003)Should enjoyment then be the criteria of right and wrong? What kind of society would that produce?
32Why should we only celebrate spring? What about other seasons? What is a Muslim’s way of showing happiness? CAN IT BE DONE BY INDULGING IN PRACTICES WHICH DISPLEASE ALLAH (SWT)?Can we celebrate a pagan ritual even though we do not believe in its original beliefs? What could be the consequence?How does it affect our enjoyment of our own festivals such as Eid?Can the fun justify the cost (human/material/moral)?While we protest against non-Muslims for their blasphemous portrayal of our Prophet (saw) in a cartoon, will we still celebrate a pagan festival possibly in memory of a blasphemer?Would our Prophet (saw) have been more grieved by a cartoon made by people who don’t know him or believe in him or would he be more dismayed at how Muslims ridicule his teachings everyday?Can such celebrations bring real peace in our country and in the world?What is our responsibility in this regard?THINK ABOUT IT