The world is in the Valentine’s day mode. Everywhere you look, you see red.. literally. Everyone out there is trying to woo out the moolah from your pockets by selling Love. The restaurants, the showrooms for clothes, jewellery, gift items, shoes, home appliances and even gyms and travel industry are going ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ reminding you constantly that you have to celebrate valentine’s day or else you will have wasted a year of your life. The chocolate makers (both company and home made), florists and card companies have gone into the overdrive, stocking up for the day!!
How the trend started in India I don’t quite remember, but as a child I have no memory of a Valentine’s day. It was around the time I was in college, that the winds of Valentine coated love arrived on our shores. It was limited to the bigger cities at first but the winds of consumerism and the idea of selling love by various industries quickly carried it to all parts of the country.
In the mad rush to follow this imported version of a ‘Love Day’ , we forgot that we have our own valentine’s day, that has been around for as long as one can think of. The colour of our Valentine’s day is- Yellow and its called the ‘Vasant Panchmi’.
Vasant Panchmi falls on the fifth day of Magh month of the Indian calendar. Vasant means- Spring and Panchami- the fifth day. It marks the official beginning of spring. It is one of the most auspicious day in the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated mostly in the northern regions of the country.
Traditionally, this day is celebrated as the day of goddess Saraswati - goddess of knowledge, wisdom and music. Prayers are offered to the goddess in all educational institutes of the country. Children receive their first lessons on this day. Years ago, as a child, I remember, people living within a particular area would get together and erect a pavilion for the goddess where we would offer our prayers. Music and singing competitions would be held in the evening for all age groups and it would be a major ‘outside day’ after the cold winters. Kites are also flown in many parts of the country.
This day is also celebrated as the day of ‘Kamadev’- the Hindu god of love and lust (aka Cupid). He brings spring to the lands and arouses the feeling of love into the hearts of the people. Nature itself celebrates the season of love as the trees sprout new leaves, flowers bloom and and the weather turns warm and bright.
Marriages take place on this day as it is considered auspicious for the couples wanting to step into matrimony and don’t need to consult the date of births, positions of planets and constellations for a suitable marriage date, as this day is considered good for all couples.
Yellow is the color of the day, as the fields of Punjab and Haryana turn golden yellow with mustard blossoms. People wear yellow clothes, (women wear bright yellow shades and men, the much subdued tints of yellow). In our homes (we are from Rajasthan, hence Rajasthanis) the food prepared is also yellow colored- mostly sweet rice colored yellow with saffron and in combination with yellow seasoned and salted rice.
This year the Vasant Panchmi falls on the 15th February, a day after the Valentine’s day. Wishing everyone a Happy Valentine’s day and a Happy Vasant Panchami.