Slim chance of 'Basanta Utsav' celebration in Visva Bharati

No meeting has been held by the varsity's executive committee about organising the festival of colours

Visva Bharati University (photo: National Herald archives)
Visva Bharati University (photo: National Herald archives)


The heritage 'Basanta Utsav' (spring festival) of Visva Bharati University, introduced by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore over a century back, has plunged into uncertainty for the fifth consecutive year.

With only about a week left for the festival of colours, no meeting has been held by the varsity's Executive Committee about organising the Basanta Utsav, a university official told PTI on Tuesday, 19 March.

The festival, which was last held in 2019, used to be a grand affair with about one lakh people participating in it.Besides the ashramites, people from various places used to gather at Santiniketan to celebrate the festival.

People used to smear each other with 'gulal' and celebrate by dancing to various Tagore songs.

"As of now, there is a remote possibility of the university holding the festival on its own. Not a single meeting has taken place with the Birbhum district administration either," the official said.

"But we are mulling a much smaller festival of colours with regulated entry for ashramites and select invitees. It can be organised in an open ground on the campus after this year's Doljatra (March 25)," the official said.

The spring festival or 'Basanta Utsav' was introduced by Tagore, who had founded Visva Bharati, in the early 1920s.

It soon became a spontaneous vibrant festival of colours with the enthusiastic participation of students, residents of Santiniketan and others.

During the past 20 years, the festival got bigger and turned into an important tourism event in the university town as all hotels and resorts used to get fully booked and traders got an opportunity to do brisk business.

There was also criticism that Basanta Utsav was losing its identity and character over the years.

While Basanta Utsav could not be held in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities, during the tenure of former Vice Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty, did not take the initiative to organize the festival in 2022 and 23.

"After UNESCO declared Santiniketan a heritage site, any large gathering celebrating Holi may cause damage to the structures in the campus and there will be an outcry. We wish to avert any such situation," the official said, adding that the central university authorities had to face lots of criticism when chaos prevailed during the 2019 Basanta Utsav celebrations in the open grounds.

Further, in the wake of the announcement of poll dates, the university authorities are not sure if the administration can make decisions about security arrangements and provide logistical assistance to the university authorities which are important to hold such a festival, the official added.

Visva Bharati University Faculty Association (VBUFA) spokesperson Sudipta Bhattacharya said the university should have taken the initiative to organize Basanta Utsav with the help of students and involve local traders and ashramites.

"It is an emotional issue for every one of us. Basanta Utsav like 'Poush Mela' (winter fair) is integral to the heart of every member of the Visva Bharati family, every resident of Santiniketan," he said.

The state government had come forward to organize the Poush Mela, another heritage event in the Visva Bharati calendar, with the support of the university last December after a gap of five years.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines