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A Spring in Our Step: Rishikesh’s Annual Fair

Shubham Joshi, from Team TGC interviewed Mr Harshvardhan Sharma to get a little insight into the annual Basantutsav, the committee behind it and the festival’s history and association with Rishikesh.

(Left to Right) Shri Harshvardhan Sharma, Deep Sharma and Dhirendra Joshi

(Left to Right) Shri Harshvardhan Sharma, Deep Sharma and Dhirendra Joshi

The springtime festive week of Basantutsav is right around the corner. The annual city festival will be four days long this year, commencing on the 30th of January and concluding on the 2nd of Feb.

As the name suggests, the occasion is a celebration, a heralding of the change in seasons, from winter to spring.

The warmth of spring-time, is a welcome and a significant seasonal change after the prolonged cold winters, and moreover, a signal and a promise of new life and hope with the appearance of new leaves and blossoms.

The festival of Basant Panchami, which falls on the fifth day of spring or ‘Panchami’ of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Maagh, is also observed during the very period in major parts of North India. Rishikesh too, much like the rest of North India, shares an established and ritualistic history with the event.

Mr Harshvardhan Sharma, secretary of Shri Bharat Mandir School Society, has been a vital member of the committee in-charge of the Basantutsav festival in the city. The committee, founded and established to add a new dimension to the spring festival, is responsible for organising and managing the event annually, and the various activities that have been a part of the event in the preceding years.

Shubham Joshi: Tell us a little about the history of Basantutsav and its relevance in Rishikesh? How and why was the festival started?

Harshvardhan Sharma: As is stated in history, the Basant festival has an old association both with Rishikesh, as well as Bharat Mandir.

The city’s existence came into being with the temple, on the auspicious day of Basant Panchami.

The presiding statuette of holy god Bharat, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Krishna, was reinstalled on the very day by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya.

So, on this day every year, the Shaligram is taken for a holy bath in the sacred Mayakund and then carried in a grand procession for a Parikrama through the city, to be taken back to the temple again for the symbolic reinstallation.

Shubham Joshi: How has the festival and the celebrations of it changed over the course of the years, if at all?

Harshvardhan Sharma: Earlier, the city used to host a traditional mela where people from far off places, especially the hilly areas, came to pay a visit and to shop, buy various things and artefacts from the fair. However, with the passage of time the traditional fair began to take a new shape and for the past six to seven years, the fair has been remodeled under a committee into a city event called Basantutsav.

Shubham Joshi: You mentioned a committee in-charge of the event. What is the committee called, and who are its the members?

Harshvardhan Sharma: A ‘Basantutsav Samiti’ was installed to look over and manage the event. Headed by the Nagar-head, Mr Deep Sharma, the committee has members from various fields and professions from the city. I work as the organiser of the samiti.

Shubham Joshi: A number of talent-based competitions and contests have been a part of the Basantutsav in times gone by. Could you tell us a little more about them?

Harshvardhan Sharma: A list of games and competitions for kids as well as adults have been a part of the event in the past.

Mutki fod (sponsored by ACC cement), Dangal (since last two years), chess (since the last year), photography exhibition from the press club, kavi sammelan (poetry competition), singing and dancing competitions, lucky draws, daily draws, cycle race, marathon, baby show, kite competitions, Uttarakhand cultural competitions, Ram-leela, Krishna-leela and various other arts and sports competition have been and are a part of the event.

We reward the winners to encourage active participation from the citizens of Rishikesh.

Shubham Joshi: What makes Basantutsav 2017 different or new from the past events?

Harshvardhan Sharma: We try our best to incorporate more programs, audience and activities to make the event special and different every year and much like the past, there are a number of programs and activities for the four days.

On January 30, day 1, we have organised a cycle race, a photo exhibition and a dangal.

For day 2, January 31, we have mutki fod, dangal and some cultural programs.

On February 1, which is also Basant Panchami, there will be the ceremonial Parikrama of the Shaligram followed by its reinstallation in the temple, along with the baby show.

On the last day of the event, February 2, there will be a marathon, kite competition, chess competition, kavi sammelan and a lucky draw.

However, there were a list of problems and hiccups that we faced in the process this year.

First of all, the length of the program was shortened from five to six days to four days due to the time clash with elections and its preparations. Furthermore, we have received less response for the stalls, especially from smaller traders and vendors, which we believe is a direct repercussion of the demonetisation in the country.

For all that, we have included a senior citizen marathon to be a part this year and also, Dr Kumar Vishwas, who is the National Executive of the Aam Aadmi Party, will be taking part in the kavi sammelan which will be the highlight of Basantutsav 2017.

Shubham Joshi: What attracts the audience and participants most about this annual event?

Harshvardhan Sharma: People, and mostly kids, like to be a part of the lucky draws and daily draws.

Other competitions also see an active participation.

The cultural program has received a fluctuating response in terms of audience numbers, in the past due to a number of reasons like rain etc. but the visual contests like dance and singing and sports like dangal, mutki fod and so forth garner a guaranteed number of audience each year.

12728868_1021916077867742_7351216746395088816_nShubham Joshi: Basantutsav has been a great help for Rishikesh to bring out new talent in the city. What else do you think can be done in order to boost these new founds talents?

Harshvardhan Sharma: Well, we see an active participation from kids. We award and reward them to encourage and boost their morale.

For now, we’re doing our best to cope with what we have, but there are new things that we plan and intend to do in the coming future.

The talent boost will open new career doors everywhere for kids and students

However, in order to promote it more there is also a need of equal initiative from everyone around.

Basantutsav, so to say, is a distinctive and solitary event in the city that brings to light the culture, tradition and history of Rishikesh, and furthermore provides a footing for the city to discover and bring together new talent and to encourage some more.

January 24, 2017

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Shubham Joshi

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