Another rich culture of West Bengal was on display here on 23rd of March this year as people dressed in kurtas and T-shirts with the words ‘Laglo Je Dol’ (the Dol purnima has begun) smeared each other with organic colored powder, danced to the rhythm of Rabindra sangeet and joined in various cultural programs observing the arrival of spring, known as Dol Jatra or ‘ Basanta Utsav’.

This day marks the end of evil and the beginning of a blessed life. An evening before this magnificent celebration, the people of West Bengal have a tradition to burn bundles of hay which is symbolic of burning all the evils and demonic powers. This practice even has a mythological relevance which marks the death of a lady demon ‘Holika’ who tried to kill ‘Prahlad’, a devotee of Lord Narayan. The next day being a full moon day, shows people the right way to start their life and so people make it special by exchanging colors among known and unknown. As the morning progressed, youngsters moved around their neighborhoods in groups, throwing water missiles and smearing colored powder (abir) on one another. People even exchange sweets and pleasantries.

The festival is also known as ‘Dol Purnima’ or the ‘Swing Festival’. The festival is celebrated in a pompous manner by placing the idols of Krishna and Radha on a decorated palanquin. The devotees swing them by turn while women dance around the swing and sing devotional songs. At Nadia district’s Mayapur, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) celebrated the day as the birth anniversary of 16th century Vaishnav saint and social reformer Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Thousands of people assemble at Mayapur on the occasion and participate in kirtans (devotional songs). The Noble laureate poet of West Bengal, Rabindranath Tagore introduced the tradition of ‘ Basanta Utsav’ in spring festival at Shantiniketan and from then onwards students of Visva Bharati University, Bolpur, immersed themselves in a lively ambience of music, dance and chanting of hymns in the serene environment of Shantiniketan.

A joyfully welcoming of the Spring, the season of hope, is celebrated at Shantiniketan not just with colours but with songs, dance, chanting of hymns. P.B.Shelley in one of his poems wrote “O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” The rhetoric is evident. Spring arrives in India with fun, frolic and fiesta are. Again on the very next day the whole nation drowns in the madness of the Spring Festival commonly known as Holi.

~ Aaj Basanta ~

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