“Vasant Panchami” or “Basant Panchami” is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly in central and northern parts of India. It marks the onset of spring season and is celebrated in the Hindu calendar month of “Magha”, usually falling in January end or early February as per the Gregorian calendar.
“Vasant Panchami” is a very auspicious festival for Hindus, invoking the sense of religiousness and also gratitude towards revered Gods/Goddess and nature for providing sustenance, livelihood, wisdom, love etc. Like many other Hindu festivals, “Basant Panchami” is also celebrated vibrantly by all the Hindu communities.
The festival of “Basant Panchami” has an ancient history with many legends attached to it. In a way it is also associated to the harvest and therefore it also holds much significance among Indian farming community.
It is a festival equally revered and celebrated by students, normal households, businesses and farmers. The celebrations of “Basant Panchami” are as colorful as its glorious and legendary past. We will go through all the aspects of “Basant Panchami” in this article.
Vasant Panchami Festival 2019
The festival of “Vasant Panchami” in 2019 will be celebrated on 10th February, Sunday. The puja timing for “Basant Panchami 2019” will begin at 07:06 A.M. lasting till 12:41 P.M.; duration of 5 Hours and 34 Minutes.
What does “Vasant/Basant Panchami” Mean?
In Hindi the season of spring is referred to as Vasant or Basant. Vasant Panchami is celebrated on the fifth day of “Basant” ritu; hence it is called “Basant Panchami”.
“Vasant/Basant Panchami” – One Festival Different Names
The festival of Vasant Panchami is also popularly known as “Saraswati Panchami”, “Shri Panchami”, “Sufi Basant”in Sufi shrines; “Hari Raya Saraswati” in Indonesia; however the essence of festival remains the same everywhere.
When and Why is “Vasant Panchami” Celebrated?
“Vasant Panchami” is celebrated on the fifth day of Hindu calendar month of “Magha”, usually falling in late January or early February. It marks the arrival of spring after a long and cold winter and thus has both cultural and spiritual significance.
The season of “Vasant” is the most pleasing among all the six seasons of Hindu calendar – Vasant Ritu: Spring, Grishma Ritu: Summer, Varsha Ritu: Monsoon, Sharad Ritu: Autumn, Hemant Ritu: Prewinter, Shishir Ritu: winter.
“Vasant Ritu” is also known as the king of seasons, given to its mild and pleasing climate; neither too cold, nor too hot. Thus the festival of “Vasant Panchami” in a way also celebrates the arrival of beautiful climate of “Vasant Ritu”.
Apart from the climate there are also certain legendary customs and beliefs in Hindu mythology which are deeply rooted in the celebrations. Hindus in one parts of India celebrate “Vasant Panchami” as a token of their respect and gratitude to Goddess Saraswati, while in other parts they celebrate it as a harvest festival.
The custom and culture to celebrate “Vasant Panchami” might change but the essence of the festival remains same – to show respect and gratitude towards the natural elements and resources for providing food, sustenance and wisdom.
Historical Legends of “Vasant Panchami”
There are few historical legends associated with the festival of “Vasant Panchami”, suggesting that the festival was celebrated thousands of years ago in the Indian Subcontinent.
The oldest legend associated to “Vasant Panchami” is related to the Hindu god of love – Kamadeva. According to the belief, Lord Shiva was in a state of meditation since Mahashivratri. This worried his wife “Parvati” and she approached Kamadeva and requested him to instill the feelings of love in Shiva.
Conceding to the demands of Parvati, Kamadeva agreed to wake up Shiva from his state of meditation to look into earthly affairs and his own obligations; by shooting arrows made of flowers at Lord Shiva. Thus this day of Shiva waking up to resolve earthly vows, is celebrated as “Vasant Panchami”.
Another legend which suggests that the custom of worshipping Goddess Saraswati in Vasant Panchami dates back to nearly 4th Century BCE is associated with Indian classical scholar – Kalidasa. Kalidasa was a Classical Sanskrit writer and a great poet who lived during the 4th Century BCE to 5th Century BCE.
The legend has it that Kalidasa was a foolish man who somehow got married to a beautiful princess. The princess on knowing that kalidasa is a fool, who lacks wisdom and knowledge; kicked him out and refused to stay with him. Rejected in love and heartbroken, Kalidasa went to commit self immolation by jumping into river Saraswati. But before he could do that, Goddess Saraswati took pity on him and blessed him by asking him to take a dip into water.
After doing as the Goddess has told him, Kalidasa witnessed instant changes and became knowledgeable and virtuous. He started writing poetry and his wisdom spread to other parts of India. Thus, on “Vasant Panchami” Goddess Saraswati is revered and worshiped as the Goddess of knowledge and wisdom.
Another Indian legend associates the celebration of “Vasant Panchami” with the arrival of Aryans in India around 1500 BCE. Aryans are believed to have arrived in India through Khyber pass, by passing through many rivers including Saraswati. Naturally they settled on the banks of Saraswati and started worshipping her for fertility and sustenance, which took the shape of “Vasant Panchami” festival.
“Vasant Panchami” – A Harvest Festival
The festival of “Vasant Panchami” is celebrated as a harvest festival in the western state of Punjab and eastern Bihar. On the arrival of Vasant mustard plants could be seen blooming with yellow flowers throughout Punjab and other states. Along with mustard, Vasant Panchami also marks the harvest season of wheat crop usually in the eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and central India.
Therefore, apart from being a festival to worship Goddess Saraswati, “Vasant Panchami” is also a festival which celebrates new harvest and is important for farmers also.
Modern Traditions of Vasant Panchami Festival
The modern traditions of “Vasant Panchami” are contrasted with the ancient customs in a number of ways. During the ancient days the festival of Vasant Panchami was mainly observed by unmarried young girls. The girls used to dress up in bright yellow attire and indulge in dancing, singing and feasting. In later stages, with the arrival of Aryans in India, the celebrations became vibrant and started reflecting people’s faith in Goddess Saraswati. During later stages more modern traditions became part of the festival, like – kite flying and wearing of yellow clothes even by men folk.
How is Vasant Panchami Festival Celebrated/Traditions and Customs
Vasant Panchami is celebrated across many cultures and every culture has its own custom to celebrate it. It is usually not a compulsory holiday, though some private firms may allow their employees to take optional holiday.
Many Hindu communities celebrate “Vasant Panchami” by worshipping Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge, wisdom, art and music and is revered by Hindus as the accumulations of all the forms of energy.
“Vasant Panchami” in schools and colleges is celebrated with a morning prayer of Goddess Saraswati, known as “Saraswati Vandana”. Statues and portraits of Goddess Saraswati are decorated with flowers, garlands and are placed at a higher level from ground. Students and teachers sit below on ground and recite “Saraswati Vandana” with folded hands. After the prayer students thank their teachers for bestowing them with knowledge and wisdom. People start visiting Saraswati temples from morning and offer food and other articles to the goddess.
Many babies in Hindu families are taught to read and write for the first time on “Vasant Panchami” as it is believed to make them intelligent and sharp. The day is also considered auspicious to learn any new skill, art or music. Various gatherings and competitions are organized in different communities as a token of respect to Goddess Saraswati.
“Yellow” also plays a significant role in “Vasant Panchami” celebrations – Goddess Saraswati is dressed up in yellow clothes; yellow flowers are offered and yellow rice is prepared as a special dish. The extensive use of yellow color in “Vasant Panchami” celebrations is probably inspired from agriculture fields, ripening with yellow colored mustard flower during the festival.
Girls are dressed in bright yellow clothes and indulge dancing, singing and worshipping. Some communities also follow the custom to feed young girls under the age of 10 years. Most of the dishes served are usually colored yellow or saffron.
Processions of Goddess Saraswati are taken out in West Bengal with full fanfare, and the idols are immersed in the holy waters of Ganga.
The Sikh community celebrates “Vasant Panchami” as a harvest festival and people wear yellow turbans and fly kites. In Punjab, the festival is also known as the festival of kites.
Vasant Panchami – As a Festival of Love
According to a Hindu mythological belief “Vasant Panchami” is celebrated as the day when Lord Shiva came back from a state of meditation, to his wife Parvati and also to take cognizance of earthly matters after being struck by arrow of Kamadeva – the God of love. Therefore, some Indian states celebrate “Vasant Panchami” as the festival of love and affection.
Like in Kutch (Gujarat) where people prepare bouquet of flowers, decorated with mango leaves and present them to their loved ones. They wear yellow or saffron clothes and visit relatives and friends and sing songs of Krishna and Radha. In some parts of Uttar Pradesh, and central India, people also worship Shiva and Parvati and hope to bring same love in their own lives.
Newly married couples in the central state of Maharashtra visit temples and offer prayers on their first Vasant Panchami, asking for a fulfilling relationship.
“Vasant Panchami” – Across the Border
The festival of “Vasant Panchami” is also celebrated in Nepal, Bangladesh, Indonesia and in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
In Nepal “Vasant Panchami” is celebrated by worshipping goddess Saraswati and people visit temples dressed in traditional attire. Prayers are organized in schools and colleges, where children pray for their wisdom and knowledge, by seeking the blessings of Goddess Saraswati.
The situation is different in Bangladesh where “Vasant Panchami” is observed as a holiday in many schools and colleges and Goddess Saraswati is worshipped.
The Indonesian Hindu community also celebrates the day by worshipping Saraswati and the festival is locally called “Hari Raya Saraswati”.
Hindus, who are residing in Pakistan, celebrate “Basant Panchami” mostly as a reserve event while Punjabi Muslims in Pakistan fly kites during Basant season.
How to Celebrate “Vasant Panchami”?
“Vasant Panchami” is an ancient Hindu festival the origins of which could be traced back to thousands of years back and is a reflection of Hindu customs and beliefs. It is a vibrantly celebrated by the young girls and boys, men, women and elders of the society. The festival of “Vasant Panchami” provides loads of opportunities for you to get involved in to the celebrations. For your convenience some activities which could be taken up on Basant Panchami are provided below-
1) Teach the Children
Teach your children about the festival of “Vasant Panchami”. Tell them why is it celebrated and its significance for both students and farming community. Also tell them the history of festival and various legends associated with it. Let them admire their rich religious and cultural heritage.
“Vasant Panchami” is a day to thank our natural resources and revered Gods and Goddesses who provide them. So, take out some time to worship “Sun” for providing food; Shiva for taking care of the world and of course Saraswati for providing knowledge. Accompany your family to some temple and also teach your children the religious ethics they should follow.
3) Wear Yellow
Yellow hold much significance during the month of “Vasant” and in a way represents prosperity, knowledge and virtue. So wear yellow to thank goddess Saraswati as well as to reflect the lush ripe fields of mustard.
4) Distribute Stationeries
“Vasant Panchami” is a festival to worship Saraswati and therefore distributing stationery items like – pen, pencils and books to poor children is a best way to show your gratitude to Saraswati. This way you will not only bring smile to the deprived children but also please goddess Saraswati.
5) Fly Kites
Kites are traditionally an integral part of Vasant Panchami celebrations. They are a way to celebrate the arrival of beautiful “Vasant” climate and bask in the heat of the Sun. Also don’t forget to engage your children in kite flying and let them also admire the century’s old religious customs and traditions.