Happy Basant Panchami and Saraswati Puja Day to all my Readers!

Basant Panchami a.k.a. Vasant Panchami is celebrated in many parts of India. In Eastern States it is celebrated as Saraswati Puja Day.  In the Northern States, it is celebrated as the end of Winter and beginning of the Spring season. Basant Panchami  is celebrated, both, in East Punjab (now in India) and West Punjab (now in Pakistan).

For the farmers, from this day, the fear of winter frost is over. The crops sown in the months of November- December have survived through extreme winter and should be ready for harvest in April, around Baisakhi.

Needless say, Agriculture has been a  highly risky venture compared to trade and services sector. The agriculturist’s total investment is up and out under the open sky, subject to all sorts of natural calamities. That is perhaps the reason why farmers worship more than one deity to protect their crops, animals, income, and family from natural disasters. They worship gramdevta, kuldevta and Ishatdevta. Gramdevta is worshiped to protect the place/ entire village. Kuldevta is worshiped to protect the entire clan or community. (Kul means lineage, clan, or community). And Ishatdevta is worshiped to realize your real-self, attain spirituality and liberation from the worldly attachments.

Despite risks and uncertainties of agriculture, it has always been considered best of the three human occupations. A saying goes: Uttam Kheti (top of the three is Agriculture), Madhyam Vyapar (Medium is Trade and industry) , Niman Chakri (lowest of the three is Service). Non- depreciable asset (land), Highest margin of profit (one seed multiplying into many), zero income tax, government subsidies and support should still put agriculture at the top of the three, even in 2021.

Babain Di Khichari (in Honor of Elderlies of the Clan)

On Basant Panchami day, Khichari (rice and lentils) is cooked by all families in honor of elderlies of the clan. All families assemble in one place and enjoy khichari and yogurt; all three meals of the day. It is a true community day. Two strict conditions, however, for every member. First, the entire stock of milk collected on Chaturthi (the previous day) will be converted into yogurt overnight for consumption on the Basant Panchami day. No sale or evening lending of milk on Chaturthi. Second, not a  single grain of khichari will be left over or wasted by anyone. What a way to teach youngsters the value of food!

Story of Baba Jitto

On that day, seniors of the clan relate story of Baba Jitto (originally Jit Mal) and Bua Kauri. Bua Kauri was the (minor) daughter of Baba Jitto. Punjab farmers considered Baba Jitto as their Kudevta. Till date, an annual fare is held in Jhiri village near Jammu in the month of November where farmers from all around Punjab visit to seek blessings of the deity before sowing the November- December crop.

The story of Baba Jitto, briefly, is as follows:

Baba Jitto was a landless farmer, tilling land on crop sharing basis. At one point of time, he was so upset by the demands of the landlord for the crop share that he committed suicide by stabbing himself and falling on the heap of grain, spilling all over his blood and  spoiling it for consumption. While committing suicide, he spoke a couplet:

“Jis Khet se na mayassar ho do June ki roti’

Us khet ke har gosha-e gandum ko jala do’.

Meaning, if by working on an agricultural field you don’t get even two square meals of a day, burn all the produce of that field.

That had then become the uniting slogan of the tenant farmers of that region against unjust and exploiting landlords.

The legend is that at the same time, Bua Kauri had committed suicide by sacrificing herself on a pyre. This legend dates back to some 200 years.

Alama Iqbal (1877-1938) has a very famous couplet on the same lines which reads:

jis khet se dahqāñ ko mayassar nahīñ rozī

us khet ke har ḳhosha-e-gandum ko jalā do

Hindus Elders’ Responses to Atrocities

Whenever I hear or recollect this story, I am compelled to think, was that committing suicide, the only and the best response of Baba Jitto to the atrocities of the landlord. The management textbooks talk of flight or fight, as two broad, responses to every situation. And when I am further reminded of responses of Bhai Mati Das and Guru Teg Bahadur, submitting without resistance, for beheading, for refusing to convert to Islam, by Aurangzeb; and Guru Gobind Singh’s armed resistance with thousands of Hindus against atrocities of Aurangzeb to convert Hindus to Islam,I am compelled to ask which of the four should have been the best response:

  1. Fight
  2. Fly
  3. Commit Suicide
  4. Submit without resistance.

My take is fight, if you can; or fly (to regroup and fight back; strategic retreat as modern management literature call it; or what Lord Krishna did and was called ‘Ranchhod’ for).

Committing suicide and submitting without resistance never made sense, then or now. It has not and will not work with devilish, ever.

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