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Festivals - Basant Panchami
 
 

'AYA BASANT PALA URANT' (SPRING) AND winter flies runs a popular saying in North India .This is one of the first festivals of the year. The cold, miserable days usually give way to warmer ones and the fields become very beautiful with the swaying of yellow sarson (mustard). The cold is normally replaced by balmy, soft, lingering breezes and everyone comes out to enjoy and make merry.

 

Basant falls on Panchami of the Sukul Paksh (waxing moon) in the month of Magh sometime at the end of January or the beginning of February. People are still a little cautious about discarding winter clothes and keep light woolen sweaters on- in fact, sometimes, it can be quite cold and one is advised not to be too quick in packing the woolens away. During the morning and evening, one has to very careful and children must be protected against the cold.On Basant Panchami day the puja is devoted to Saraswati, the goddess of learning and wife of Brahma, the creator. She bestows the greatest wealth to humanity, i.e., the wealth of knowledge and she must not be neglected. Another goddess namely Durga Ma, is worshipped very often, but Saraswati is normally worshipped only once a year.

     
 

The puja room, as usual, must be clean and neat and a picture or statue of Saraswati, the main deity of the day, is adorned and decked with yellow flowers. Some people provide garments for the idols and cloth covers for the pictures, leaving the face and finger of the deity uncovered. These dresses are yellow on the festival day and the cover for the table where the deity is seated, along with an idol or picture of Ganesh, is also yellow with gota kinari (fringes) attached all round. Of course, all these decorations are made earlier and must be ready for Basant Panchami. The family should be ready for the ceremonies and everyone should wear yellow if possible. The women should drape themselves in zari saris or in salwar kameez with some zari or gota attached to make the occasion festive and gay.

     
 

The prasad on Basant is very different from any other. On this day ber and sangari form the main prasad.Ber is the fruit of the ber tree which grows in abundance in North India.Sangaris are the beans that bear the seed of the mooli (white radish) and are found in plenty during this time of the year, when the mooli is becoming ripe and throws up its seeds.

 

These two items are placed in a thaali along with some yellow barfi or laddoos made of besan or nukthi, and some paans. A nariyal of course is a must and a few sheafs of sarson. Another thaali with puja items of water, aipun, roli, rice and yellow flowers is made ready and a little coloured powder, usually red, is also kept with these items.The lady of the house dressed in yellow with zari and gota on the dress, looking like Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu (a housewife is always alluded to as Lakshmi and no other goddess) with the chonp, bindi on the forehead and yellow and red bangles on the arms, sets the trend for everyone to become festive.
The puja is begun by the youngest girl present by applying the teeka on everyone's forehead and then, by turns, everyone sprinkling water, aipun and roli by the third finger of the right hand dipped in each liquid, by turn, holding the finger each time by the thumb loosely and then letting it go with a light jerk, so as to sprinkle the attached liquid onto the deity. This is done three times with each liquid. The rice and flowers are picked up by the fingers and thumb and showered on to the gods. Everyone puts a little colour onto the gods. The heralding of summer begins with a bit of colour sprinkled even today (before Holi) on the gods.

     
 

On Basant Panchami children h

 
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