Vasant Panchami

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Vasant Panchami
Mustard Fields.jpg
Vasant Panchami welcomes spring, people dress in yellow to mark flowering mustard fields
Official nameVasant Panchami
Also calledBasant Panchami, Saraswati Puja
Observed byPanjabis[1], Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs[2] in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia(Bali).
SignificanceSpring, harvest, goddess Saraswati[1]
CelebrationsKite flying[1][2]
2017 dateWednesday, 1 February[3]
2018 dateMonday, 22 January
2019 dateSunday, 10 February

Vasant Panchami, also spelled Basant Panchami, is a festival that marks the arrival of spring, celebrated by people in various ways depending on the region. The people of the Punjab wear yellow clothes and eat yellow rice to emulate the yellow mustard (sarson) flower fields, or play by flying kites.[2][4][5]

The Vasant Panchami also marks the start of preparation for Holika and Holi, which occurs forty days later.[6]

Nomenclature and date[edit]

Vasant Panchami has a specific meaning: Vasant means "spring" and Panchami means "the fifth day." Vasant Panchami falls on the fifth day of spring.

Vasant Panchami is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the bright half of the Hindu luni-solar calendar month of Magha, which typically falls in late January or February. It is treated as the start of spring, though it is generally winter-like in northern India, and more spring-like in central and western parts of India.[5]

The festival is particularly observed in the north, central and western parts of India and Nepal. It has been a historical tradition of Sikhs as well.[7][6]

On the island of Bali and the Hindus of Indonesia, it is known as "Hari Raya Saraswati" (great day of Saraswati). It also marks the beginning of the 210-day long Balinese Pawukon calendar.[8]


Goddess Saraswati dressed in yellow sari on Vasant Panchami, Kolkata. She sits in a swing, holding a veena, with books in one corner.

Goddess Saraswati[edit]

For many Hindus, Vasant Panchami is the festival dedicated to goddess Saraswati who is their ancient goddess of knowledge, language, music and all arts.[7] She is the energy of Brahma, and she symbolizes creative energy and power in all its form, including longing and love (kama). The season and festival also reflects the agricultural fields which are ripening with yellow flowers of mustard crop, which Hindus associate with Saraswati's favorite color. People dress in yellow saris or shirts or accessories, share yellow colored snacks and sweets. Some add saffron to their rice then eat yellow cooked rice as a part of an elaborate feast.[7]

Many families mark this day by sitting with babies and young children, encouraging their children to write their first words with their fingers, some just study or create music together.[7][5][9] The day before Vasant Panchami, Saraswati's temples are filled with food so that she can join the celebrants in the traditional feasting the following morning.[9] In temples and educational institutions, statues of Saraswati are dressed in yellow and worshiped.[9] Many educational institutions arrange special prayers or pujas in the morning to seek blessing of the goddess. Poetic and musical gatherings are held in some communities in reverence for Saraswati.[10]

In Nepal, Bihar and eastern states of India such as West Bengal, Odisha and Assam, people visit her temples and worship her (Saraswati Puja). Most of the schools arrange special Saraswati puja for their students in their premises. In Bangladesh, all major educational institutes and universities observe it with holiday and a special puja.

In southern states such as Andhra Pradesh, the same day is called Sri Panchami where "Sri" refers to her as another aspect of the one goddess Devi.[10][11][5].

Kamadeva and Rati[edit]

Vasant Panchami, in some parts, celebrates the Hindu god of love Kama (left) with Rati, shown above at the Khajuraho temple.

Another legend behind Vasant Panchami is based on the Hindu god of love called Kama. It is remembered as the day when Parvati approached Kama to wake up Shiva in Yogic meditation since the Maha Shivaratri. The other gods support Parvati, and seek Kama's help to bring Shiva back from his meditation to do his duties in the world. 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. This initiative is celebrated by Hindus as Vasant Panchami.[7]

Vasant Panchami is associated with the emotions of love and emotional anticipation in Kutch (Gujarat), and celebrated by preparing bouquet and garlands of flowers set with mango leaves, as a gift. People dress in saffron, pink or yellow and visit each other. Songs about Krishna pranks with Radha, considered to mirror Kama-Rati, are sung.[12] This is symbolized with the Hindu deity Kamadeva with his wife Rati.[10][9]

Traditionally, in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, after bathing in the morning, people worship Shiva and Parvati. Offerings of mango flowers and the ears of wheat are traditionally made.[13]

Deo temple: Sun God[edit]

The shrine of the Sun-God in Aurangabad district, Bihar known as the Deo-Sun Shrine, was established on Basant Panchami. The day is celebrated to commemorate the founding of the shrine by King Aila of Allahabad and the birthday of the Sun-Deo God. The statues are washed and old red clothes on them are replaced with new ones on Basant Panchami. Devotees sing, dance and play musical instruments.[14]


A kite flying at Basant Panchami event. At least since the 19th century, kite lying on various festivals has been a popular event in north, west and south India, as well as in region around Lahore, Pakistan.[15]

People celebrate the day by wearing yellow, eating sweet dishes and display yellow flowers in homes. In Rajasthan, it is customary for people to wear jasmine garlands.[16] In Maharashtra, newly married couples visit a temple and offer prayers on the first Basant Panchami after the wedding. wearing yellow dresses. In the Punjab region, Sikhs and Hindus wear yellow turban or head dress. In Uttarakhand, in addition to Saraswati Puja, people worship Shiva, Parvati as the mother earth and the crops or agriculture. People eat yellow rice and wear yellow. It is also a significant school supplies shopping and related gift giving season.[5]

In the Punjab region, Basant is celebrated as a seasonal festival by all faiths and is known as the Basant Festival of Kites. Children buy Dor (Thread) and Guddi or "Patang" (Kites) for the sport. This tradition of flying kites on various festivals is also found in western and northern Indian states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh. It is also found in part of Madhya Pradesh and some southern states.[15]

On Bali and among Indonesian Hindus, Hari Raya Saraswati (the festival's local name) is celebrated with prayers in family compounds, educational institutions, and public venues from morning to noon. Teachers and students wear brightly coloured clothes instead of their usual uniforms, and children bring traditional cakes and fruit to school for offerings in a temple.[17]


Namdhari Sikhs have historically celebrated Basant Panchami to mark the beginning of spring.[18] Other Sikhs treat it as a spring festival, and joyfully celebrate it by wearing yellow colored clothes, emulating the bright yellow mustard flowers in the fields.[2]

Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire, encouraged the celebration of Basant Panchami as a social event in the Gurdwaras. In 1825 CE he gave 2,000 rupees to the Harmandir Sahib Gurdwara in Amritsar to distribute food.[19] He held an annual Basant fair and sponsored kite flying as a regular feature of the fairs.[20] Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his queen Moran would dress in yellow and fly kites on Basant Panchami.[21] Maharaja Ranjit Singh would also hold a darbar or court in Lahore on Basant Pachami which lasted ten days when soldiers would dress in yellow and show their military prowess.[22]

In the Malwa region, the festival of Basant Panchami is celebrated with wearing of yellow dress and kite flying.[23] In Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur, a Basant Panchami fair is held. People attend the fair awearing yellow clothes, turbans or accessories.[24] Sikhs also remember the martyrdom of the child Haqiqat Rai on Basant Panchmi, who was arrested by the Muslim ruler Khan 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.[25][26][27]


Given the shared history and culture in the Indian subcontinent, the Punjabi Muslims in and around Lahore also celebrate kite flying as a sport in Pakistan from home rooftops during the Basant season.[15]

Sufi Muslim Basant[edit]

According to Lochan Singh Buxi, Basant Panchmi is a Hindu festival adopted by some Indian Muslim Sufis in the 12th century to mark the grave of the Muslim Sufi saint dargah of Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi and ever since, has been observed by the Chishti order.[28] According to local Sufi traditions, the poet Amir Khusrau saw Hindu women carry yellow flowers to a temple on Basant and they were dressed in yellow, and he adopted this practice, one the Chishti order of Sufi Indian Muslims continue to practice.[29]

Controversy: Inter-religious disputes[edit]

The Gujarat government has encouraged the observance of Saraswati Puja in schools on Vasant Panchami, a proposal that has been opposed by Indian Muslims because it is a religious festival of Hinduism.[30]

Vasant Panchami has been a historic occasion of dispute at the archaeological site of Bhojshala (Dhar, Madhya Pradesh) with evidence of an early Saraswati temple (locally called Waghdevi). On the site of Bhojshala is a later era Kamal-Maula mosque, which Muslims use for Friday prayers. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has provided annual guidelines, when the Vasant Panchami festival falls on a Friday, announcing hours when Hindus can worship at Bhojshala on Vasant Panchami, and when Muslims can. However, in past years, the community scheduled earlier has refused to vacate the premises, leading to riots and disorder such as in 1980s and 1990s.[31][32][33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z. The Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 741–742. ISBN 978-0-8239-3180-4.
  2. ^ a b c d Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (2011). Sikhism: An Introduction. I.B.Tauris. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-85773-549-2.
  3. ^ "2017 Official Central Government Holiday Calendar" (PDF). Government of India. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  4. ^ Basant Panchami 2017: All You Need To Know Of The Spring Festival And Saraswati Puja, NDTV (February 1 2017)
  5. ^ a b c d e R. Manohar Lall (1933). Among the Hindus: A Study of Hindu Festivals. Asian Educational Services. pp. 27–33. ISBN 978-81-206-1822-0.
  6. ^ a b Christian Roy (2005). Traditional Festivals: A Multicultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 192–193. ISBN 978-1-57607-089-5.
  7. ^ a b c d e J. Gordon Melton (2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. pp. 902–903. ISBN 978-1-59884-206-7.
  8. ^ "Bali Cultural Ceremony and Ritual". Retrieved 2017-10-08.
  9. ^ a b c d Roy, Christian. Traditional Festivals: A Multicultural Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. Vol.2. pp. 192-195. 2005. ISBN 9781576070895
  10. ^ a b c Vema, Manish. Fast and Festivals of India. Diamond Pocket Books. p.72. 2000. ISBN 9788171820764
  11. ^ Festivals of India, Swami Mukundananda (2015)
  12. ^ Dilipsinh, K. S. (2004) "Ch.8 - The Festival of Spring" from Kutch: In Festival And Custom. Har-Anand Publications. p. 98. ISBN 9788124109984
  13. ^ R. Manohar Lall (1933). Among the Hindus: A Study of Hindu Festivals. Asian Educational Services. pp. 27–29. ISBN 978-81-206-1822-0.
  14. ^ Anirudha Behari Saran; Gaya Pandey (1992). Sun Worship in India: A Study of Deo Sun-Shrine. Northern Book Centre. p. 68. ISBN 978-81-7211-030-7.
  15. ^ a b c Nikita Desai (2010). A Different Freedom: Kite Flying in Western India; Culture and Tradition. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 32–34, 60, 99–100, 151. ISBN 978-1-4438-2310-4.
  16. ^ Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society, Volume 30 (1995)
  17. ^ "Bali Cultural Ceremony and Ritual". Retrieved 2017-10-08.
  18. ^ Satwant Kaur Rait (2005). Sikh Women in England: Their Religious and Cultural Beliefs and Social Practices. Trentham. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-1-85856-353-4.
  19. ^ Hari Ram Gupta (1991). History of the Sikhs: The Sikh lion of Lahore, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, 1799-1839. Munshiram Manoharlal.
  20. ^ Camille Mirepoix (1967). Now Pakistan. Grenich. p. 142.
  21. ^ Hasan, Masudul (1971). Unique Women of the World: Being Unique Stories of the Sidelights of the Lives, Loves, and Mysteries of Famous Women of All Times, All the World Over. Unique Publications. p. 96.
  22. ^ Gulcharan Singh (1993), page 20, The Sikh Courier International, Volumes 33-37
  23. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Bathinda Edition". Retrieved 2014-02-17.
  24. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Jalandhar Edition". Retrieved 2014-02-17.
  25. ^ Maan Singh Nirankari (2008). Sikhism, a Perspective. Unistar Books. p. 154. ISBN 978-81-7142-621-8.
  26. ^ Pande, Alka (1999), Folk Music & Musical Instruments of Punjab: From Mustard Fields to Disco Lights, Volume 1, page 7, ISBN 978-1890206154
  27. ^ Lakshman Singh (Bhagat) (2006). The Sikh Martyrs. Singh Brothers. pp. 118–122. ISBN 978-81-7205-382-6.
  28. ^ Lochan Singh Buxi (1994). Prominent Mystic Poets of Punjab: Representative Sufi Poetry in Punjabi, with English Rendering. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-81-230-0256-9.
  29. ^ Paul E Losensky (2013). In the Bazaar of Love: The Selected Poetry of Amir Khusrau. Penguin Books. p. 27. ISBN 978-81-8475-522-0.
  30. ^ Mukul Kumar Mishra (24.01.2015) Gujarat: Circular to hold 'Saraswati Vandana' stirs controversy; Muslims express displeasure
  31. ^ Rajendra Vora; Anne Feldhaus (2006). Region, Culture, and Politics in India. Manohar. pp. 327–329. ISBN 978-81-7304-664-3.
  32. ^ Indore celebrates Basant Panchmi, The Times of India, February 2 2017
  33. ^ Bhojshala-Kamal Maula mosque row: What is the dispute over the temple-cum-mosque all about?, India Today, Shreya Biswas (February 12, 2016)
  • "Vasant Panchmi", a book by Anurag Basu.
  • "Kite Festival" by Sanjeev Narula.