Monday, March 16, 2015

Let's save BASANT


End of winter and beginning of spring is the time of celebration,time of tasting mithai and flying kites in Pakistan especially in the province of Punjab.This celebration is called "Basant"........"the festival of kites".

It was traditionally celebrated from the last week of febuary to mid-march.People dressed up in beautiful yellow outfits,enjoyed sumptuous mithais comprising "zarda" and "barfi" and flew brightly colored kites. People danced on the beat of popular songs and everyone tried their best to fly their kite higher than others.The smell of henna and the trickle of bangles laced the air.

The tradition of wearing yellow , dates back to the Aryan conquerors who used to dress up in yellow colored clothes which was believed to be the colour of "victory" and "joy"!

This festival started more than 300 years back when the Sufi poets and Mughal Emperors celebrated the start of spring by a "jashan"or celebration called "Jashan e Baharah"(celebration of spring).It is one of the most colorful festival in the world.

It was celebrated all over the sub continent but it was in the city of Lahore where it was celebrated with the greatest enthusiasm.Initially the festival was staged inside the old walled city of Lahore but later on it spread all over town.Streets were decked up in honor of the festival. Dance of kites glorified the sky and screams of " woh kata " could be heard all around.

It was few years back when people started to criticize Basant . The paichas (metallic thread) commonly used to fly kites became increasingly hazardous. Henceforth, the spring season was haunted with the news about repeated slitting of throats, people falling from rooftops, electrocution of people and power breakdowns.

The local government, instead of making strict regulations and laws to control kite-flying activities, found the easy way out and outrightly banned the festival in 2005.
accepts the fact that this particular festival caused casualties but Basant also provided several benefits, particularly for the tourism industry. It was regarded as an international festival as people would fly in from UK, Australia and North America to participate in the kite flying activity .Ambassadors of several countries including eagerly celebrated the festival. It was an occasion to prove that Pakistan is a peace-loving country. Pakistan also became famous for the export of kites and the intricate kite-shaped souvenirs.

Not only was it a source of entertainment but a source if income of many kite makers across the country who have been jobless since then.

The question rises why can't we continue with this centuries old celebration ?

Can't the government enforce security measures like creating " safe kite fly zones" , restrict the length of kite flying threads and replace the hazardous manjha ( thread) with some other improved version.

Strict regulations and laws to control kite-flying activities can still revamp this age old tradition. Let's raise our voices , let's save Basant.