Fresh, gentle breeze replaces the haunting cold and there’s a touch of rejuvenation in the air. Maidens and ladies perfectly complement the blossoming landscapes in their 50 shades of yellow dresses. From the freely flowing bright yellow fields to the humble pottery and plants, everything seems to be bidding goodbye to the winter blues and welcoming the bountiful spring.
Here’s a list of 10 things you didn’t know about this beautiful spring festival:
1) “When winter comes, can spring be far behind?” asked Shakespeare. Basant Panchami marks the beginning of spring and falls on the fifth day of Maagh each year. The word ‘Basant’ means spring and ‘Panchmi’ denotes the fifth day on which the festival falls.
2) Spring means pleasant weather, free from the scorching heat, the cold bites or dodgy rains. It is therefore crowned as the king of all seasons.
3) Basant Panchami observes the birth of Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge, education, art, culture and music.
4) According to custom, temples dedicated to Goddess Saraswati are filled with sacred offerings a day before Basant Panchami, with the belief that the Goddess would join in the celebrations by attending the traditional feast the following morning.
5) This festival is also considered very auspicious as its meant to usher new beginnings in the life of a child. Traditionally children were taught to write their first word on this day. It is considered a blessed beginning of learning with the Goddess of Knowledge worshiped as the presiding deity on this day.
6) The scintillating yellow colour holds great importance on this day. The color of Basant (Spring) is yellow, also known as the ‘Basanti’ colour. It symbolizes prosperity, light, energy and optimism. This is the reason why people wear yellow clothes and make traditional delicacies in yellow hues.
7) According to folklore, snakes are fed with milk on Basant Panchami to bring wealth and prosperity in the coming days.
8) Indian festivals are incomplete without traditional sweets. Some popular sweets which are relished during Basant Panchami are:
From Bengal, the land of Mishti: Here Goddess Saraswati is offered boondi ke ladoo and sweet rice.
From Bihar, the land of festivals: Here Goddess Saraswati is offered with different varieties of sweets like Kheer, Malpua and Boondi.
From Uttar Pradesh, the land of exotic food: On the day of Basant Panchami in Uttar Pradesh, devotees offer prayers to Lord Krishna. The revered sweet which is offered to Lord Krishna here is kesari bhaat.
From Punjab, the land of five rivers: Like other states Basant Panchami is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Punjab. Traditionally, Meethe Chawal, Maake ki Roti and Sarso Ka Saag are eaten.
9) On the day of Basant Panchami a log with a figure of Holika is placed in a public place. During the next 40 days, devotees add twigs and other flammable material to form a pyre which is lit on Holi.
10) Kite flying, the popular sport of India, is associated with the festival of Basant Panchami. Especially in Punjab, the kite flying tradition has been given great importance.
A feast is offered to the deity consisting of yellow-colored delicacies like kesar halwa, besan laddoo and meethe chawal.As part of the rituals, a yellow tilak (mark on the forehead) is done on the devotees along with the traditional red one. In some educational and training institutions, a morning prayer is held with the singing of hymns dedicated to the goddess; her statue is garlanded and worshipped. In many households and institutions, tools, implements and equipment—pens, notebooks, paintbrushes, palettes or musical instruments—are placed at the feet of the goddess to enthuse the scholars and artists through spiritual energy and divine blessings.Swan, the vehicle of the goddess, is also worshipped and fed on this day. In many places, an idol of the goddess is brought and decorated on the eve of the festival. After the rituals and festivities on the main day, the idol is carried in a procession with great fanfare through the main streets and immersed in a large water body.
Saffron Sweet Rice
2 cups Basmati rice (or long-grain rice) , 4 cups water , 1 cup orange juice , 1 cup sugar , 4 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) , 5 green cardamoms (coarsely powdered) , 5 black peppercorns , 5 whole cloves , 3 cm-long stick of cinnamon , 20 almonds (blanched, peeled and slivered) , 10 pistachios (blanched, peeled and slivered) , A pinch of salt , A pinch of saffron.
Put the rice, water, salt and cinnamon stick in a rice cooker over medium heat. Reduce the heat when the rice comes to a boil. Add orange juice and saffron; cover and leave on the flame. Meanwhile heat ghee in a pan. Add the cardamom, peppercorns and cloves and sauté for one minute. Add sugar and the sautéed spices along with the ghee to the rice and mix well. Cover and cook till fully done. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.Garnish with almonds and pistachios and serve.