Vasant Panchami, also spelled Basant Panchami, is a Hindu spring festival. It is observed on the fifth day of the Indian traditional calendar month of Magha, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of January or February.
The festival is celebrated in various ways depending on the region. Many revere goddess Saraswati, the Hindu deity of learning, arts and music. She is celebrated with visits to her temples, by playing music, as well as the day when parents sit down with their children, initiate them into writing letters of alphabet or study together.
Others mark it as the festival of god Kama, the Hindu deity of love, by remembering the loved one particularly one’s spouse or special friend, celebrating it with spring flowers. Its link with the god of love and its traditions have led some scholars to call it “a Hindu form of Valentine’s Day”. Others wear yellow clothes and eat yellow rice to emulate the yellow mustard (sarson) flower fields, or play by flying kites.
The Vasant Panchami also marks the start of preparation for Holika bonfire and Holi, which occurs forty days later.
According to a popular belief, goddess Saraswati – the deity of knowledge, music, arts, science and technology – was born on this day and people worship her to achieve wisdom. According to the Hindu Mythology, Lord Brahma created the universe on this day. This festival is celebrated in north India with full glee and delight.
As per another Basant Panchami story, God Rama ate half tasted grapes of Mata Shabari on Basant Panchami. To commemorate the beliefs, the festival of Basant Panchami is celebrated. The day of Basant Panchami is considered as the beginning of life. This day is the day of arrival of happiness. The season of spring is the season of rebirth and renewal. In this season, fields of yellow mustard charm everyone’s heart. Therefore, it is also considered auspicious by many to wear yellow on Basant Panchami.
The color yellow is the predominant color associated with the festival, the origins of which are supposed to be the fields of mustard, which can be seen in Punjab and Haryana during this period. Kite flying is also commonly associated with this festival. Children as well as adults fly kites on this day to celebrate freedom and enjoyment. ‘Yellow’ is the dominant color of this festival as it signifies the ripening of fruits and crops. The mustard fields in North India blooms during this season giving a yellow coat to nature. People wear yellow clothes, offer yellow flowers to Goddess and put a yellow, turmeric tilak on their forehead. They visit temples and offer prayers to various gods. New clothes are purchased for this festival and many delicious dishes prepared for this particular occasion.
Another tradition associated with this day is that of initiating studies in the young. Young children often begin learning on this day, which is believed to be the reason why the school sessions start in the month of March. Sweets with a yellow hue are also distributed on this day and people can also be seen donating books and other literary material to the poor.