Mixing Basant and Politics: Making a popular festival controversial

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

Salman Taseer has declared that come hell or high water, Basant will be celebrated on 15th March, 2009.     As a vocal supporter of Basant,  I find this a very dangerous thing.   By using Basant to try and divert attention from the Lawyers’ Movement will not hurt the latter but it will lower the stock of a popular and secular festival which had once brought good name and international fame to Lahore and Pakistan even more in the eyes of the populace.  

First it was the Mullahs – who frown on everything that is remotely fun- who destroyed Basant for their own reasons.   Instead of fixing the basic issue with it –  the metallic string-  Mullahs campaigned against it calling it “UnIslamic”.     A festival that was celebrated by Ameer Khusro, Lahore’s sufi saints,  and Pakistan’s poet philosopher Allama Iqbal was being deemed unIslamic by a bunch of straitjacket theocrats who have made a mockery of this country.    Now it is Mr.  Salman Taseer- who is using it to dent the Lawyers’ movement.    We must reclaim Basant just as we must reclaim our country, our constitution, our Muslim League and our PPP.

I think Basant ought to be celebrated after the Long March , provided we can get the menace of metallic string under control for that is dangerous for the public.   I think people need holidays where they can go crazy and this is our great holiday.  We must not allow neither religiousity nor secular political motivations destroy it.    Time has come to take back what is legitimately ours.   Basant Zindabad.  Pakistan Paindabad.

Meanwhile I leave you with pictures from previous memorable Basants.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Mixing Basant and Politics: Making a popular festival controversial

  1. simply61

    Wow,the picture of that huge gateway decorated with kites is so colorful……I think this idea should be ‘stolen’ and used in India also for Basant…..btw, Basant Panchami here was on 31st, Jan.

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  3. alok

    what is basant? i have never heard of it before in India…Yes basant panchami is much before the date given here and anyway i guess its known as lohdi in punjab rite? or baisakhi?……

    arggghhhhhh….. i am terribly confused!

  4. yasserlatifhamdani

    That is because it is our own Pakistani festival… originating in the soil of Indus valley…

  5. simply61

    @Alok
    Lohri comes earlier on 13th Jan(month of Paush or Magh)a day before Sankrant.It is basically a Punjabi festival, a festival of agriculturists basically.They celebrate on seeing their Rabi crop(wheat)at a sort of half way mark.
    It is marked by loads of Gidda(girl’s dance)and Bhangra(men’s dance),singing and at night their are bonfires with loads of popcorn and peanuts and other goodies.
    The south celebrates the harvest festival of Pongal on the 14th of Jan,thanking the sun god and the rain god for the plentiful paddy crop.
    Basant comes at end Jan or beginning of Feb.It basically marks the welcoming of the spring season.The winter does not go away entirely from the north but there is the hint of warmer days ahead.On the religious side this is the day basically devoted to the worship of Saraswati the goddess of learning.Kite flying is the major fun component of this festival and this is pursued more energetically in Pakistani Punjab then it is on the Indian side.Having said that,the skies of Amritsar are also usually full of kites if the weather holds.
    Baisakhi again is a agricultarists festival and a very Punjabi celebration that falls on the 14th of April.This celebrates the harvesting of the rabi crop.It is usually marked by bathing in rivers and holy tanks by both the Sikhs and Hindus of Punjab.The Golden Temple is the most popular place for a dip in its sarovar.
    Your not having heard about these festivals could be because they are very North(basically Punjab/Haryana)centric and it is the same as people in Punjab being unawre of Gudi-
    Padwa and Pongal etc.
    It would be intersting to know if Lohri/Baisakhi have any equivalent festivals amongst Pakistani farmers.

  6. simply61

    @Alok

    1)Lohri,basically a Punjabi agriculturists festival that falls on Jan 13th.Bonfires,Bhangra,gidda and general maij masti.Halyway point sort of in Rabi crop so farmers enjoy their promising wheat fields
    2)Basant Panchami.North Indian festival heralding the arrival of spring.The cold seems to be waning and their is the promise of spring in the air.Kite flying is the main fun component along with wearing yellow clothes.Post partition it is celebrated but with less gusto than in Pakistani Punjab.Punjabi cities like Amritsar etc still do the kite flying in huge numbers.On religious side it is the day of worshipping Saraswati the goddess of learning.
    3)Baisakhi: Falls always on 14th April and basically a harvest festival that celebrates the harvest of the rabi crop.Marked by dips in holy tanks and rivers by Sikhs and Hindus of Punjab.Golden Temple sarovar is the most sought after tank for the dip.
    I hope this clears the confusion about these three main Punjabi festivals for you.
    Would love to hear from the Pakistani side if the farmers in their Punjab have any equivalents of Lohri and Baisakhi.

  7. simply61

    Oops,that was a double dose of Festival ‘gyaan’.I hope the site admnistrator deletes one of the comments I posted above….;)

  8. Hey
    Great post.
    Keep up the good work.
    Janie