Basant festival is celebrated with utmost vigor and enthusiasm in Lahore. The festival ensues flying of colorful kites during the Spring season and is celebrated by both Indians and Pakistanis.
History of Basant
Basant, also referred as the festival of kites, is a centuries old cultural tradition celebrated in Punjab. A book published by Aman Ullah Khan Arman in 1959 quoted Basant as a seasonal festival celebrated in unity with no religious bearings or restrictions. The Festival of Kites is celebrated in February in herald of Spring. There is an old Aryan tradition wherein people during Basant festival wear yellow colored dresses, as the color indicates mustard blossom during Spring. According to a famous Indo-Pak poet, Kalidasa, Basant is celebrated to welcome blossoming flowers, flowing rivers and unity.
Before partition, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs celebrated Basant in all major cities of Punjab. Yellow clothes adorned with jewelery were happily worn by women where as men wore yellow turbans. Basant traditional songs were sung by everyone which reflected merriment and liveliness.
Although Basant is celebrated throughout Pakistan, it is Lahore which serves as the hub of the Festival of Kites. People from all over the country visit the City of Gardens to celebrate the event. However, in recent years Basant lost its joy. The festival led to an increase in throat-slit accidents due to thick and strong strings infused with tiny glass shards. Mostly children were killed and endured serious injuries during the kite flying festival. The number of children killed went high in 2007, leading the government to ban the festival and impose heavy fines to those caught celebrating Basant. Almost 1,000,000 people were laid off due to the ban.
The festival was further opposed by government institutions including WAPDA and LESCO where the kite string damaged various important wire installations leading to electricity and water problems in housing societies.
In April 2016, the Punjab Government decided to revive the Festival of Kites. However, the committee has issued a statement which clearly mentions rules for a safe kite flying. The proposal submitted ensues strict rules for people celebrating the event. In case any safety rules are violated, the authorities can sentence the person for 7 years of imprisonment. Many NGO’s have emerged protesting the revival of Basant. The festival paved ways for lower class folks whose main source of income revolves around selling kites and strings. The National Institute of Folk and Heritage, in recent years are conducting training sessions to promote traditional skills of making kites. The program brings in the hope for the revival of the festival as well as aims to promote the value and dignity of labor work among youngsters.
Here is to hoping that the colorful Festival of Kites, Basant, will be celebrated in 2017 in full vigor and enthusiasm and foremost safely!