- Culture & Society
Basant Panchami - How Hindus celebrate the beginning of spring
04 Feb 2022
Basant Panchami is a Hindu festival celebrating the beginning of spring. It is celebrated throughout India, but has greater significance in the north of the country. Basant or Vasant means spring and Panchami marks the fifth day of the Hindu month of Magha.
The festival is also known as Vasant Panchami or Saraswati Pooja, as Saraswati is the focus of worship on this day. The goddess Saraswati embodies life force as well as wisdom and enlightenment. With the beginning of spring, the fertility of the goddess is celebrated. The festival is also dedicated to the creation and creativity of music, arts and literature. Saraswati is thus not only worshipped at home, but also in educational institutions such as schools, libraries, music schools and other places where learning and artistic creation are of great importance.
On this festival, young children often write their first letters or are encouraged to speak their first words. The day is so auspicious that weddings or other festivals can be celebrated without worry and without consulting astrologers.
Do you want to know more about Indian festivals? Check out our article about Diwali, one of the most important hindu festivals!
Before the festival, Saraswati figures made of clay are sold in every size, which are then placed in shrines at home, on the street or in schools. However, there does not necessarily have to be a figure of Saraswati on the altar. Sometimes inkpots, quills or the veena (Saraswati's stringed instrument) are placed there as substitutes. A prayer ceremony (a pooja) is held in front of the altar and often students, teachers but also musicians and artists lay their tools, books or brushes at Saraswati's feet to receive a special blessing. The pooja is usually accompanied by a cultural programme with music, dances or lectures.
Would you like to learn more about Goddess Saraswati? Then listen to Steffi's podcast in which she talks about the goddess of wisdom and the arts (in German)!
The colour yellow is particularly important for Basant Panchami. It is considered to be the colour of new beginnings and gives energy like the rising sun and fire. The bright yellow flowers of the mustard fields appropriately symbolise the beginning of spring. Yellow is also found in clothing - in women’s yellow sarees or men’s yellow shirts. To celebrate the day, yellow desserts are prepared and distributed to visitors. Of course yellow is a must in the decorations as well, and yellow flower garlands adorn temples, houses and streets.
Depending on the region, there are different customs and traditions for Basant Panchami. In West Bengal, the festival is called Saraswati Pooja, because the goddess plays a particularly important role here. Above all, students should ask for the blessing of the goddess on this day. Some write blessings or Om in their notebooks and books with "white ink", i.e. milk.
In Gujarat, as on Makar Sankranti, kites are flown and the celebrations are dedicated to Kamdev, the god of love, and his wife Rati.
In Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati are worshipped.
In Assam, the birth of Saraswati is celebrated on this day. For this, people get up very early in the morning and clean the whole house and surroundings and prepare a lavish shrine for Saraswati. For the pooja, they then wear new and clean clothes and ask for a special blessing from the goddess.
This year, Basant Panchami will be held on 5 February. In 2023 the festival will be held on 25 January and in 2024 on 14 February!
Have you ever experienced a Basant Panchami celebration in India? Tell us about it in the comments or write to [email protected].
Written by: Tanja Holbe
Cover photo credit: Tanja Holbe
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