Manzoor has authored a great post on Basant. We are cross posting it here – given that many Lahore Nama visitors are talking of Basant and expressing their great enthusiasm for the festival. Raza Rumi (ed)
Basant is a centuries old cultural tradition of Punjab. Over the years, it gained an element of controversy as the fundamentalism wiped the norms of tolerance and co-existence in our society. Disregard of law and for the lives of fellow citizens turned it into a bloody sport.
Recently I came across a book “URS AUR MELAY” by Aman Ullah Khan Arman, published by Kitab Manzil Lahore in 1959. I am reproducing the chapter on Basant (p.276-277) here: “Basant (a Sanskrit word for spring) is a seasonal festival of Indo-Pak sub-continent and it has no religious bearings. Basant is the herald of the spring and celebrated in winter (Magh) on the fourth or fifth day of lunar month. This is the reason why it is called Basant Panchami. Basant season starts on this day, therefore, Basant is regarded the herald of spring, wheat grows, and mustard blossoms in this season. (Old Aryan tradition divides a year into six seasons each having two months. Mustard blossom that is yellow in color is considered the color of spring and accordingly yellow outfits were worn).
According to poet Kalidasa, rivulets and streams suddenly started flowing, mango bear flowers, honeybees hum and love god enamors the hearts in Basant…
In pre-partition India Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all celebrated Basant. Basant festivals held in all major cities of Punjab. Yellow clothes were worn; men wore yellow turbans and women yellow dupattas and saris. It was common to sway swings among Hindu, Muslim and Sikh women together and Basant’s traditional songs were sung that reflected the liveliness and romance of life in Punjab. Kite flying was common but on a small scale with decency.
After partition where many other evils take roots, some festivals too lost their original colors. After departure of non-muslims Basant was reduced to kite flying and other traditions were also forgotten. Now a day neither yellow clothes nor swings came in sight or any civil activity. Here and there, crowds of kite flyers show their ill manners. Children, grownups and old alike fly kites on rooftops from dawn to dusk. Kite battles and brawls are common scenes…
KITE FLYING EPIDEMIC:
Most of the kite flyers are less educated or illiterate laborers. Some educated also do the same and the kite flying epidemic is spreading among the school children”.
This is a narration of Basant celebration nearly 50 years ago but much has changed. Sadly, the festival has lost its true colors and instead became a game of death.
Celebrate Basant- but don’t snatch away lives.