Basant Panchami & Spring Again

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‘Basant Panchami’ is a very popular festival in India celebrating the approaching of the coming spring. Also known as Shree Panchami, Basant or Vasant means Spring and this special event falls on the fifth day of the Indian month of Magh of the spring season. Of particular significance is the worship of Goddess Saraswati – the deity of learning, music and wisdom.  As one of the powerful triumvirate Goddesses along with Durga and Laxmi, children are especially encouraged to pay obeisance to Saraswati – Goddess of Learning on this day.

Many schools, colleges and institutions of learning therefore celebrate Vasant Panchami with great fervor. Besides being the harbinger of clement times ahead the festival is enjoyed by people across the land in their own diverse ways. Apart from being celebrated in India it is also enthusiastically fêted in neighboring countries including Pakistan, Nepal as also in Indonesia and Malaysia! The festival is celebrated in various ways depending on the region.

The reverence offered to goddess Saraswati has folks visiting temples or performing sacred rituals in their shrines at home. Many enjoy the tradition of playing traditional music too. An essential ritual awaited for this occasion is when parents invite a sage or pundit to initiate their little ones into learning to write letters of the alphabet. It is commonly known as ‘Patti Pooja’ that is observed on this day.

The young ones mark out the day as a celebration to Lord Kama – the deity of love. It is said to be the equivalent of Valentine’s Day that has eager ones offering their spouses or special loved ones with offerings of flowers of the season. Market places are flooded with traditional bouquets of marigold flowers and mango leaves festooned in small clay pots. Also people largely wear yellow clothes on this day turning the outdoors a riot of yellow colors. In rural areas the mustard fields naturally turn the ambience in hues of ochre and yellow.

Often, food too takes on yellow and saffron colors. Women prepare traditional yellow curries, yellow vegetables and in particular sweet yellow rice to emulate the predominantly yellow mustard flowers growing abundantly everywhere on all sides around them. Children also like to fly kites and are keen to buy yellow kites. In all senses it’s a day that celebrates the color yellow. It is the day that marks the turn in season and generally the harsh winters in northern parts of the country give way to softer weather whereas in central and western parts it is spring already.

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HERD Foundation Celebrates Kite Flying Festivities For Makar Sankranti

January 14 is celebrated as Makar Sankranti Festival each year all over India. It is said to be one of the most ancient of Hindu festivals. Devoted to the Sun God the day heralds the change of seasons and welcomes the soon-to-come spring time. The festival is associated with communities cutting across the country who all follow diverse traditions with great enthusiasm. The one tradition in common above all, all over, is that of flying kites!!

HERD Foundation HR unit had the staff celebrating the kite flying festivities with great fanfare. Members were invited to go up on the office terrace to enjoy flying of colourful kites.  Soon everyone was busy drawing strings on the paper kites and attempting to get them up in the air to adorn the sky. Colourful kites were to waft amid music and cheers from the staff members.

Wondering why the tradition of flying kites is associated with Sankranti, soon many thoughts began floating around. Some had been taught traditionally that since winters brought in the cold along with illness, the sun offered relief. While it is common to lounge in the warmth of the winter sun to be rid of the chill and disease causing germs, kite flying added a new dimension to enjoying the sun. In fact the act of flying kites is said to be a more proactive way of enjoying the sun.

A yet more symbolic reason on offer is that flying kites up in the high skies is to reach up to the heavens on Makar Sankranti day to offer obeisance and thankfulness to the gods. It is also seen to be a signal to help awaken the Gods who as per mythology go to sleep for six months. Makar Sankranti is the day they wake up and the blue skies are dotted with colourful kites to welcome them.

Taking these reasons with a pinch of salt, the fact remains that all across the country kites fly high on this day. Regarded as the first big festival of the calendar year, (the Hindu New Year is in March on Gudi Padwa day), young and old people participate with great fervor for this annual ritual. Preparations for the celebrations begin days in advance to stock up kites, strings and all other needed paraphernalia.

Makar Sankranti festival is celebrated with great joy by rich and poor alike. The festival marks the onset of spring and thereafter summer after the cold winter which makes it’s a harbinger of good times ahead. The festival in particular gets everyone out in the sun offering health benefits and enjoying special treats prepares especially for the day. The sun offers medicinal support, exposing people with good doses of Vitamin D.

HERD Foundation staff enjoyed the day amid gaiety, laughter and music in the sun, enjoying fun, special fare and togetherness in a spirit of bonhomie offered by the Human Resources unit. Special thanks are due to Nisha Mishra, HR Manager and Latika Vadher, HR Executive for contributing to the success of the event.