VASANTA UTSAVA 2014 AT SANTINIKETAN
VASANTA UTSAVA 2014 AT SANTINIKETAN
In essence the Basanta Utsava or the spring festival at Santiniketan starts with the Basantabouri (Coppersmith bird) again peeping out at the end of winter, as the fleet-footed spring steps in rather stealthily. Soon the Madhabi starts to hum along with its coterie of bees, along with sprouts the Kanchan in variety of shades.
Ecstasy is a permissible mood now in Santiniketan. The buzz of festive season slowly picks up; a bit of flirtation with everyone and everything around is accepted with grace. It is time to let thoughts propel the free romantic trajectory. The spring is in Santiniketan.
In the true spirit we are not sure who enjoys the spring most, if it is us, the poetically bent in tandem with Rabindranath, or the nature itself. It is quite confusing- but a wonderful confusion as such. Such confusions make life that much more beautiful; such confusions put life in a tantalizing balance between reality and desire. Spring, after all in Santiniketan, makes everyone desirous of beauty.
To ‘desire beauty’ is a spontaneous aspiration of human beings. Rabindranath urges us to put such desire into expressions; Patha Bhavana expresses the idea with celebrating Basanta Abahana at Amrakunja, prior to Visva Bharati celebrating spring as Basanta Utsava. The power of beauty in life lets the young ones dance in joy. We, on the other hand realize that the unflinching spirit of beauty is essentially immortal, whether expressed by us or nature. So it is Raga Vasant in Santiniketan now.
I sometimes feel that the Indian New Year should have started from spring to embrace beauty at the very first initiation. Rather it is the solemn spirit of summer when the Indian New Year is invoked like a stern warning stance of the ascetic. Before embracing beauty we are supposed to learn the sagacity of the wisdom of Summer- by and large the cruelest season in India. This particular trend in ‘Hindu Philosophy’ or let us put it in a more straight-jacketed form the ‘Great Indian Philosophy’ to renounce the pleasure to embrace the pain does seem to be a clock ticking in the wrong direction at this juncture of time.
How I desire to sing at spring,
Hold my lover while drowning in depths of beauty,
Let the sprout of colours lift me above this visual world,
Into that realm of ecstasy for which I crave lifelong.
I wanted to paint a poem for you, or dance a symphony,
Maybe en-trance you with my flute, with my caress,
Yes, I have longed for so many things for all these years.
Yes, after all, it is the expression Rabindranath urged all of us to indulge in. He also wanted us to cherish the expressions of spring all around. We find in Santiniketan the Kokil (Koel), the Papiya (Brain Fever or Hawk Cukkoo) and the tiny little angel ‘Phatik Jal’(Common Iora) enjoying spring with us. Though Koel is a native bird famous for its powerful renditions of spring; it is the Papiya which is more intriguing. Conscious of its reputation as a Brain Fever bird (what an appropriate nomenclature) Papiya is a pure freak of a bird; with its high pitched ‘Piu Kaha’ calls piercing the rather somber spring night, all through the night and in fact night after night, right up to the rainy season from spring onwards has remained a constant feature of Santiniketan right from my childhood. Where that bird silences down in winter is a pure wonder to me. But it is the ‘Pahitik Jal’ or Common Iora, with its sweet ‘twee tee’ call which literally ushers in the spring. Common Iora is a locally migratory bird; and each spring they visit my house, in fact almost every house in Santiniketan which has some trees, at the very onset of spring; and its sweet ‘twee tee’ call actually makes me aware that spring has set in!
We flow along with such colours and moods of nature at spring in Santiniketan. Though, famously, it is the official celebration of spring by Visva Bharati the ‘Basanta Utsava’ which captivates a whole lot of students, ex-students and visitors at Santiniketan; spring in Santiniketan is essentially a mood to cherish at leisure. Fascinated by this mood, Rabindranath attempted to translate the beauty of spring into a combined expression of joy for the society of Santiniketan. It is one thing to write a poem; one thing to compose a song or etch out a painting; but to create a festival just like a colourful stroke of a brush on live canvass is really a master-piece never to be replicated again. Basanta Utsava is actually a live painting of spring on an open canvass at Santiniketan. Though Rabindranath has left us more that 70 years back; his canvass of Basanta Utsava remains live for painting each and every year in Santiniketan.
We are now into the official celebration of Basanta Utsava 2014 at Santiniketan on 16the March,2014. With my primitive camera, I am in the arena, quietly watching the scene around- though nothing around me is actually quiet. All kind of colours are in movement all around me like the proverbial brush of a painter in a hurry. I really do not know how the next stroke of the brush will evolve. In reality, I never imagined even in my dreams that, I myself is such a colourful person with so much Abir smeared in my face!
Well, the ‘desire for beauty’- the ingrained urge in every human being even in this age of attitudes, where every young soul today vies hard to curve out a distinct ‘attitude’ to define himself or herself, the ‘desire for beauty’ is a great leveler on Basanta Utsava day at Santiniketan. This is actually the expression of a collective ‘attitude’ towards life by the society of Santiniketan. Incredibly the large numbers of visitors also become the part of the Santiniketan society on this very day and the transition is almost seamless. It is an effortless blend actually.
The remarkable ability of the spirit of Santiniketan to soak in a large number of visitors within the natural setting of the Ashrama Complex and to coalesce them with the society of Santiniketan remains a unique effort by Visva Bharati University till date. No other University, most probably in any part of the world, undertakes such mammoth social engagements in form of arranging festivals other than Visva Bharati. It is a fact we all should appreciate even in these days of fast changing values. After all, we do not come across every day a genius who can define the parameters of beauty for the whole society, and express it too. In essence Basanta Utsava becomes a heritage festival, to be conducted with due acknowledgement to Rabindranath’s sense of aesthetics by everyone whether an insider or outsider of Santiniketan.
I have no words on my lips,
Yet I learn to sing
I have no movement in my mind,
Yet I learn to dance
I have no sense of colours,
Yet I am basking in hues
I have never contemplated beauty,
Yet beauty readily embraces me
I have hardly ever lived a day full
Yet I find immortality today….
Yes, Basanta Utsava is a day of full living. At least we can say that it was a day when we really lived to the brim- we loved, expressed and shared all our feelings with our friends, with our elders and brothers and sisters. On this shared plane of spectacular expressions, of vibrant movements of dancing feet, of melodic rendition of gems of poetry, of freaky aspirations of human intellect urged by spring; we, on behalf of ‘Muktodhara’ and everyone in Santiniketan, offer a hearty and colourful hug to the ex-students community spread all over the world.
Hail to the genius of an artist of all expression, Gurudeva, Rabindranath Tagore ; “Asche Bochor Abar Hobe!”