Basanta Utsav – The Heritage of Shantiniketan

Basanta Utsav – The Heritage of Shantiniketan

March 4, 2015

Holi is celebrated as the festival of Basanta Utsav with fervour in many parts of West Bengal. The tradition of Basanta Utsav, meaning 'Spring Festival', was started by the poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in Shantiniketan, the university town he founded.

There is a marked difference in which Basanta Utsav is celebrated in the state as compared to Holi in the rest of India – the grace and dignified manner as compared to the all-pervading boisterousness. Boys and girls joyfully welcome spring, the season of hope, not just with colours but with songs, dances, and the  chanting of hymns in the serene ambience of Shantiniketan. Anybody who witnesses or participates in, this elegant way of celebrating Holi remembers it with fondness for the rest of his life.

Basanta Utsav in Santiniketan

The tradition

Basanta Utsav in Shantiniketan begins with morning prayers, followed by cultural events at the Ashram Math. 'Ore grihabashi' rings in the air as students of Visva-Bharati University dance their way into the venue. Right from kids to graduate students – everyone participates in the dance and revelry. The cultural programme continues with all the Rabindra Sangeets of the season of spring being performed and danced to in their purist forms.


Ore Grihobashi, khol dar khol laglo je dol

Sthaule jaule bono taule laglo je dol, dar khol

Ranga hashi rashi rashi ashoke paulashe

Ranga nesha meghe mesha probhaatho akaashe

Nobin pathay lage ranga hillol, dar khol dar khol

Benu bauno maurmore dokhino bataashe

Projapothi dole ghashe ghashe

Moumachi phire jachi phulero dokhina

Pakhay bajay tar bikhariro bina

Madhobi bithane bayu

Gaundhe bibhol, dar khol dar khol...

As the programme draws to a close, the riot of colours begins – as soon as the last line of the Rabindra Sangeet 'Rangiye diye jao' is performed, students and strangers alike start indulging in a kind of merrymaking hardly seen elsewhere. A speciality of Basanta Utsav in Shantiniketan is the absence of water-based colours and the tradition of playing with only organic colours. It is a true celebration of nature.

People celebrating nature

Parting thought

Basanta Utsav has become a milestone in Bengal's cultural history, and is looked forward to by many people as a time to take a memorable trip to Shantiniketan. It has also captured international interest that is proved by the presence of numerous foreign tourists during its celebration.

Festival of colours

A glimpse of Basanta Utsav as celebrated in Shantiniketan

Savour Basanta Utsav through these all-time favourite spring melodies

Lead image: Prasun Dutta

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