विहरति हरिरिह सरसवसन्ते।
नृत्यति युवतिजनेन समं सखि विरहिजनस्य दुरन्ते॥
When winsome westerly winds
caress comely creeping cloves
As bumblebees’ buzz-buzzing and cuckoos’ coo-cooing
resound in huts, in coves, in groves,
In springtime, the sensual season so languorously
long for forlorn lovers,
Krishna strays and plays, my friend,
dancing with young girls.
After the cold, dark and barren winter season, Basant rtu arrives with Holi, bringing colour and life and joy to all. Nature is resplendent; flowers bloom on trees, soft breezes carry the scent of Mango blossoms and Kama’s arrows pierce the hearts and minds of all with desire. It seems as if a great painter has splattered colour across the canvas of Earth. Ancient poets, beguilingly, ask who would not fall prey to the beauty of this season?
Holi Bhai Dooj falls on March 11 this year. This Bhai Dooj is also known as Bhartri Dwitiya and while it is popular in some regions, it is lesser known than the second Bhai Dooj which arrives two days after Diwali. The rituals for celebrating both the days, however, remain the same.
A few days after Holi, Ranga Panchami is celebrated on March 13 this year. Ranga Panchami is celebrated in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa as Shimgo or Shimga festival characterised by the famous Palkhi dance. It is mainly celebrated by the fishing communities of the states. However, in temples of Vrindavan and Mathura Ranga Panchami marks the end of the festivities of Holi and is celebrated with a fervour equivalent to the celebrations of Holi itself. It is also believed that on Ranga Panchami colours are used to activate the five elements – Earth, Fire, Water, Space and Air – of the human body.
The tithi for Papmochani (remover of sins) Ekadashi, which is the last Ekadashi of the year as per the traditional calendar, begins from 4:30 a.m. on March 19. The ideal time to break this Ekadashi fast is between 1:58 p.m. to 4:22 p.m. on March 20.
The Spring Equinox arrives on March 20. On this day the Sun, on its journey from South of the equator to North of the equator, is directly above the equator of the Earth. This makes the length of the day and night nearly equal. This Equinox marks the first day of Spring, as per Astronomy.
Ancient cultures have acknowledged the Spring Equinox as a time of renewal through their rituals and traditions. Most tribal cultures associated this Equinox with fertility such as the Germanic tribes who associated this day with Ostara – the goddess of fertility. Or the Saxons who associated it with their goddess of fertility – Eostre. Even in ancient architecture, this movement of the Sun has been influential. The El Castillo pyramid in Mexico, for example, was built in such a way that during the exact moment of the Equinox and about half an hour after it, the Sun’s rays create a downward slithering snake on the staircase of the pyramid. This snake represents Kukulkan, a snake deity whose head is carved at the bottom of the staircase. At the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, “the iconographic nature of much of its sculpture, particularly the asuras (‘demons’) and devas (‘deities’) are intended to indicate the celestial phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes and the slow transition from one astrological age to another. On the morning of the spring equinox, the Sun rises up the side of the central tower of the temple and crowns its pinnacle.”
The Spring Equinox marks a moment of balance when day and night, and light and dark are equal. As nature creates this balance outside, we can also take a moment of pause to bring balance within and begin Spring with hope and joy in our hearts.
Chaitra Amavasya arrives on March 24, bringing Krishna Paksh, the waning lunar phase, to a close.
The next day on March 25, Shukla Paksh, the waxing lunar phase, begins with Pratipada. This day also marks the start of the Chaitra Navratri, which begins Ghatasthapana where the Kalash (earthen pot) is ritually established in the house, invoking Shakti. The ideal time for Ghatasthapana is from 06:38 a.m. to 07:42 a.m. on March 25. This day is also celebrated as Ugadi in the Telegu community and Gudi Padwa in the Marathi community.