The Hindu festival of Basant Panchami is celebrated to herald the spring and usually falls in February (sometimes late January). This year, it takes place on January 26. The name holds a big clue about the date of celebrations – ‘Vasant’ translates to ‘spring’ and ‘Panchami’ means ‘five.’ So, this day is held on the fifth day of the Hindu calendar month ‘Magha’, which falls in late January or early February. This festival is also spelled as Vasant Panchami in some parts of India.
History of Basant Panchami
While this event is celebrated by Hindus all over India (and parts of Asia), they celebrate it for different reasons. For some, it is a harvest festival. Others believe it signifies the spring season. And some worship the Indian goddess of knowledge, music, art, speech, wisdom, and learning — Saraswati — on this day.
One particular legend associated with this festival deals with the famous 4th century Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. It is said that in his despair of getting dumped by his wife, he planned to end his life by jumping in a river. The Goddess Saraswati emerged from those waters before he could go through with it and asked him to only bathe in the waters. As Kalidasa took this dip, the water blessed him with wisdom, and he emerged a changed man (and later, a famous poet). Accordingly, people also commemorate Saraswati’s blessing during this festival. Devotees pray to this goddess in the hopes that they, too, can gain wisdom.
This festival is celebrated in various ways, depending on the region and religion. However disparate the customs, one tradition is common — the color yellow. Yellow holds a special meaning for this festival. People wear yellow sarees (an Indian draped garment), eat yellow sweets and food items, and decorate their homes with yellow flowers. Saraswati’s affinity for the color yellow is one reason it features so prominently during these celebrations. Another reason — fields around India become ripe with the yellow flower of the mustard crop. In keeping with the traits of the goddess being worshipped, people celebrate with music, dancing, and a little bit of learning.
Basant Panchami timeline
Legend has it that saint Hazrat Nizamuddin’s disciple adopts Basant Panchami traditions to see his master laugh again after suffering a personal loss; the festival starts being celebrated by this Chishti order — a Muslim Ṣūfī order from India and Pakistan.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh encourages these celebrations as a social event; the king and his queen dress in yellow and fly kites to honor this day.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh holds annual fairs where soldiers dress in yellow and show off their military skills.
Bollywood celebrities join the hordes of famous industrialists, sportspersons, and television stars wishing their followers and celebrating in amazing yellow costumes.
Basant Panchami FAQs
What is Basant Panchami also called?
Basant or Vasant Panchami can be shortened to ‘Basant’ or even called Saraswati Puja.
Where is Basant Panchami celebrated?
Basant Panchami is celebrated by Hindus all around India, Nepal, Pakistan, and even in Bali and Indonesia.
Do you fast on Basant Panchami?
Some people observe a fast for the entire day, and students who celebrate this day observe a fast until the ‘pushpanjali’ period (when offerings are given to the goddess).
Basant Panchami Activities
Do it with food: Eat rice infused with saffron; add a little turmeric to your curry; buy a lemon tart. Do it with clothes: Try out Indian wear in this color, or simply wear any yellow-colored garments. Do it with decor: Set out your sunshine-colored glassware; arrange pots of cheery yellow flowers; tie a yellow bow on your cat.
Honor the goddess
Saraswati embodies knowledge, music, art, speech, wisdom, and learning. Spend the day celebrating these skills and even honing them. Encourage others to hone their skills in this area too.
Plan a new event on this day
New activities undertaken on this day are considered auspicious. So try out something new — a course, a class, or even a big date.
5 Fun Facts About The Basant Panchami Festivals
It leads into another festival
Basant Panchami marks the start of preparation for another major Indian festival — Holika or Holi — which is held forty days later.
Celebrations in Bali
The Hindus of Indonesia and the island of Bali call this day ‘Hari Raya Saraswati (great day of Saraswati)’, and it marks the beginning of the Balinese Pawukon calendar.
The learning potential
Celebrations also include a special ceremony called ‘Akshar-Abhyasam’ or ‘Vidya-Arambham’, which introduces little children to the alphabet.
Continuing with the learning theme, students all over India offer their stationery to idols and images of Saraswati for blessings in that field.
Same country, same celebration, different name
The southern Indian states call Basant Panchami ‘Sri Panchami.’
Why We Love Basant Panchami
We love the emphasis on learning
Not just learning, but knowledge and wisdom are highlighted too. We think the world can never have enough of this particular talent.
It’s an introduction to a new culture
We see customs and traditions that have been around for centuries. Our minds are thanking us for this glimpse into a different culture.
We love a good, cheerful festival
Music, dancing, and food! To this, we add the color yellow, and you have the recipe for a great, fun festival that everyone wants to know more about.
Basant Panchami dates