Had it not been for Rabindranath Tagore who started the Basanta Utsav at Shantiniketan, where would the World in general and Bengali’s in particular converge on the occasion of Holi and go back home with colorful and vibrant memories of an event traditionally and culturally so rich and diversified.
For the last couple of years I have longed to witness this event, but somehow or the other have always managed to miss it. So this year when I got the opportunity to accompany some of my fellow colleagues, I made sure I did not mess this up.
Unlike the Basanta Utsav celebration at Jorasanko, Kolkata the celebration and cultural program at Shantiniketan starts pretty early in the morning ( around 6-6.30am).
Interesting Fact !!
Thanks to the increasing footfall, the event which was actually held at ‘Amrakunja’ ( the mango grove inside the Visva Bharati campus) was shifted to more spacious grounds of the ‘Shingha Sadan’.
When that also fell short, owing to the massive gathering, the event was ultimately shifted to the Mela Ground – with the primary performance area barricaded to prevent the viewers interfering with the performers.
Gist of the story – The earlier you reach, the greater chance you have to get close to the barricades surrounding the epicenter of action and witness the splendid performance.
Starting at 2 am from Kolkata, we reached Shantiniketan at around 6 am ( we wish we had reached earlier !!!).
From the parking it is another half a kilometer walk to the Mela Ground.
The sides of the barricades were already flooding with people and after some considerable amount of pushing and trying to slip in, I somehow managed to reach the front.
Thanks to the guy who managed to get his hand and camera in almost all the consecutive shots, I could find only one frame worth posting.
As with Jorasanko , people from across the world and country come here to celebrate this event.
I met one group of such tourists and they were jovial enough to let us photograph them as they enjoyed smearing each other with abeer of various colors.
While the main festival and celebration happens within the boundaries of the barricades, the general public has the full remaining ground to celebrate and enjoy.
Families come together, engaging in dances to the tunes of Rabindra Sangeet, greeting each other with colors and often smearing the unsuspecting passerby with a handful of the colored powder.
With each passing hour the crowd increased like anything and we felt it was time to leave.
Roughly 12 o’ clock on our watches, it was too early to head home and so our way back we decided to make a short trip to the nearby village.
Well that was great fun and I also got to ride a buffalo cart for the first time.
It was a long back way home and we had to stop somewhere for lunch. What better place for a break when you are passing right through Saktigarh – the Land of ‘Langcha’ (a famous and delicious Bengali sweet).
On any given day a typical shop sells around 1000 langchas which rises Ten to Fifteen times during the festive season. That’s around 10-15,000 Langchas per day !!!
Langcha Bhavan, Langcha Mahal, Adi Langcha Mahal, Langcha Palace, Mama Bhagna r Langchar Dokan …. The list of shops is never ending.
It will be another couple of hours drive from here, before we enter Kolkata. I could barely keep my eyes open . Its been 30 hours since the last time I managed some sleep.
With the road as smooth as butter, the car cruised at speeds exceeding 100 kmph, but we could barely feel. Did not realize when I felt asleep.
A faint song touched the ears, as if coming from some far away land … the same song …
রাঙিয়ে দিয়ে যাও যাও যাও গো এবার যাবার আগে
তোমার আপন রাগে, তোমার গোপন রাগে,
তোমার তরুণ হাসির অরুণ রাগে অশ্রুজলের করুণ রাগে॥
(Paint my soul O dear before you are gone.
With your own tone, with your secret tone.
With your youthful shiny, smiley tone or tearful melancholy tone.)
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