THE INDIAN SPRING FESTIVAL
It may be the end of summer in Australia down under but in India, in the northern hemisphere, the shivering cold of winter is slowly giving way to the much more enjoyable mildness of spring. And if that doesn’t call for a celebration, what does!
Actually there is some form or the other of the Spring Festival in virtually every region of the world (Easter, Semanta Santa, Easter, Nowruz and Passover, to name a few) and India is no exception. Like all once-agrarian and/or pagan cultures, the onset of spring is welcomed with much joy and festive celebrations in India as well. The Indian spring festival is named as Basant (or Vasant) Panchami.
Meaning, day and date of Basant Panchami
In Hindi, basant means spring and panchami means the fifth date of the lunar month. As per the Indian lunar Calendar, Basant Panchami is celebrated on the fifth day of the rising moon in the month of Magh. While most years, this festival comes sometime in February, this year, in 2015, it is arriving a little early on 24th January. And believe me, however did the ancient Indian sages worked out their days and dates, be it January of February, however bitterly cold it may have been the day before, the Basant Panchami day always dawns warm and sunny!
Basant Panchami celebrations
Basant Panchami is a festival dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, the Indian deity of all knowledge, learning and wisdom. The frost of winter evaporates, sunshine appears and new life surges forth from the land and the symbolism is taken to be that of dispelling of darkness and renewal of life and hope. Most schools, colleges, workplaces and of course, homes and temples hold worship ceremonies seeking divine blessings and the boon of wisdom As bright yellow is the colour of spring (cheerful yellow mustard flowers bloom in fields that look as if covered with yellow sheets), people wear yellow dresses and yellow coloured sweet and savoury dishes are cooked in most kitchens. It is common to see women wearing bright yellow sarees or long skirts named lehngas, little girls in cheerful yellow dresses and boys and men wearing yellow or mustard jackets or kurtas on this day. As it is the perfect outdoors weather, open air fetes and fairs are held all over, especially in the rural pockets where farmers lay down their farming implements for a day and enjoy the sunshine and gaiety of spring with friends and family.
Basant panchami special delicacies
As we mentioned earlier, this day is a celebration steeped in yellow colour, the colour of sunshine and flowering blooms. As no festivities are complete without a feast, various yellow dishes are cooked in households across India. As saffron and turmeric are two quintessentially Indian yellow coloured spices, either of these is present in the dishes. Saffron features prominently in sweet dishes and turmeric features prominently in savouries.
Some of the popular Basant Panchami dishes are as follows:
Kesari Rawa – A sweet semolina pudding with saffron as its key flavouring ingredient, very worth digging into
Moong Dahl Halwa – A rich sweetmeat made with skinned green gram pulses, very nutty, and totally delicious
Kesari Bhaat – A sweet rice dish coloured deep yellow with saffron and rich in cardamom, very sinfully tasty
Boondi Laddoo- A sweetmeat made of minuscule fried dumplings soaked in sweet syrup and bound together in the shape of a ping pong ball
Khaman Dhokla – A light, spongy and moist savoury cake deep yellow in colour and garnished with green chillies and curry leaves, delicious and low-cal too
Kadhi-chawal – Another savoury dish, kadhi is a yellow thick soup with dumplings that’s served with plain white rice, very filling and yummy
Basant Panchami at Tandoori Flames
Come to Tandoori Flames on this Basant Panchami and take your pick from some very festive yellow coloured delicacies and get into the spirit of spring.
Visit Tandoori Flames @ West Footscray Restaurant, 583 Barkly Street or South Kingsville Restaurant, 15 Vernon Street