Celebrating Spring

Can spring be far behind?

Thus spoke the poet many years ago. The line evokes optimism, a reawake-ning of the spirit from slumber. And people over the ages have celebrated this new birth by celebrating the festival of spring under different names in different countries and cultures.

Basanta Panchami

On this day Nepalis bid audieu to the winter season and welcome the season of colour — spring. This is also the day of the Saraswati puja, when people worship the goddess of knowledge at a shrine at Swoyambhu.

Saraswati puja falls on the fifth day, of Magh Shukla (fortnight of waxing moon) and is celebrated with gaiety, merriment and religious fervour.

Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of wisdom and learning, is worshipped particularly by the student community and persons related to the field of art and literature. She represents Shakti, creativity and inspiration and presents herself when the weather is complacent and nature is in its full grandeu r.

Different names

In India, it is celebrated in different names. Known as Basant Panchmi in Punjab and Haryana, it is celebrated at the end of winter to welcome spring. People welcome this change by wearing yellow clothes and puja at their home.

Known as Saraswati Puja in West Bengal and Sripanchami in Orissa and Bihar, this religious fiesta is marked by various cultural programmes. While the priests do their ritual in the morning, family members put on yellow or white clothes in order to appease the deity and have a fuller life.

The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm in educational and cultural institutions in order to achieve academic excellence in science and literature. Paradoxically no book is touched on this day.

Kites of spring

The Indian state of Rajasthan boasts of its colourful culture, cheerful people and their extraordinary passion for kite flying or Patang bazi, a special cultural sport and pastime of the region. It is celebrated to herald the coming of spring and what better way can there be, to celebrate the season of colour, flowers and gaiety.

Paper and polythene kites painted in different colours and in a variety of shapes and sizes dot the skies, with enthusiasts competing to fly their kites. The cities of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer organise annual kite fests.

The rich tradition of kite flying in the state is also due to the patronage of the erstwhile rulers who found the sport both entertaining and a way of displaying their prowess.

Makar Sankranti is a mid-winter festival and is the only Hindu festival which is based on the Solar calendar rather than on the Lunar calendar. Kites are flown for most part of the day.

The objective of this sport is to cut as many rival kites as possible to attain air superiority.

Santiniketan hues

Santiniketan is a famous university town in West Bengal. It has become a tourist spot because of its association with Rabindranath Tagore.

Tagore had been so inspired by the spirit of Holi that he decided to introduce Vasanta Utsav, the festival of spring, here.

The students of the institution wear yellow on this day and garlands of palaash. The boys and girls then dance to and sing Rabindra sangeet, gather at Amarkunj.

Japan’s spring fest

Spring is the most welcomed time in Japan. Setsubun, spring welcoming celebration held on the last day of the lunar year, in February, signifies both chasing away the winter, together with its cold, gloom, and bad spirits, and opening the gate for a bright and cheerful spring.

The rituals include throwing beans into the air to sweep away bad luck and demons, opening the windows and doors for the spring to come in, and eating the exact number of beans that correspond to your age, which is believed to make you strong and healthy.

Chinese way

Spring festival is usually called Yinlinian. This is the most important festival in China. It origins from Yin dynasty and Shang dynasty.

The warm atmosphere is not only in the houses, but also in the streets. In many places, lion dances and dragon lantern show are performed. In some places, people have kept the customs of Shehuo performance, visiting flower market, going to the temple fair. During this period, the cities are full of lanterns and the streets are crowded with people.

Traditionally, the Chinese celebrate the spring festival in the following ways.

Spring Cleaning: From December 23 in the Chinese calendar, people begin to clean their houses to bid farewell to the old year and usher in a happy and fresh new year.

Spring decorating: People hang flower-decorated red lanterns in front of their houses. Office buildings and stores are also decorated with red lanterns. Red couplets, red posters with black Chinese calligraphy, coloured New Year paintings are posted on the doors of houses. They symbolise happiness, prosperity and good luck in the New Year.

Pakistan’s Jashan-e-Baharan

One the key festivals of Pakistan are called the Jashn-e-Baharan or the spring festival. Jashan-e-Baharan in Pakistan is a pre-Islamic spring festival that marks the onset of spring. The fertile province of Punjab was intimately tied via its agriculture to the different seasons of the year. The arrival of spring was an important event for all farmers and was welcomed with a celebration, hence the origins of ‘Jashan’ or celebration to welcome the arrival of ‘Baharan’ or spring. That is why Jashan-e-Baharan is also known as the ‘Basant’ festival or the spring festival in some parts of Pakistan.

Jashan-e-Baharan is a festival, which usually begins in mid-February and continues till mid-March. Though this festival is celebrated through out Pakistan but the most spectacular celebration of Jashan-e-Baharan is found in Lahore.

Lahore is decked up in appropriate spring attire during this festival. There are a plethora of events which include musical performances, art and flower displays, books and handicrafts

stalls as well as the Canal Mela (festival) during which decorated and illuminated boats and floats are displayed on Lahore Canal.

But the quintessential feature of Jashan-e-Baharan is the kite flying competitions which take place all over the cities rooftops. Kite flying has been prohibited in Pakistan since 2005 after a number of deaths connected to the kite battles, but this is temporarily lifted especially for this festival. The Jashan-e-Baharan transforms Lahore skies with a plethora of colourful kites.

Celebrations of Jashan-e-Baharan in Lahore is so famous that people flock from all over Pakistan as well as the different parts of the globe to take part in this vibrant festival.