The city of the Taj basked in shades of yellow as bright sunshine greeted people on Basant Panchami, perking up the festive mood here.
The occasion that marks the onset of spring was celebrated in various forms in the city of diverse culture with many joining the annual celebrations at the Samadhi of the founder of Radha Soami faith at Dayalbagh.
The day was also celebrated as the birthday of the 18th century poet Mian Nazir Akbarabadi. The modest tomb of Nazir was lit up as admirers queued up to pay homage to the poet, who sang of love and the life of the common man in Agra and gave the city its unique literary identity.
Young and old were seen flying kites, feeding monkeys on the banks of the Yamuna or visiting the Taj Mahal that dazzled white in the soft sunshine.
Basant Panchami is an auspicious day for the followers of Radha Soami faith. The colony of Dayalbagh, which translates as "Garden of the Merciful" and is the spiritual home of the followers of the faith, was decked up with yellow flowers and rangolis on the floor.
Dayalbagh was founded on Basant Panchami in 1915 by Huzur Sahabji Maharaj, the fifth revered leader of Radha Soami faith, by planting a mulberry (shahtoot) sapling.
Hundreds of devotees from the US, Singapore, France and many other countries have gathered here to participate in the three-day celebrations to mark 150 years of the founding of the faith.
Huzur Maharaj essayed secularism through his teachings. This found expression in the birth of the Radha Soami faith. His mausoleum is also coming up in this city.
"The entire stretch around the mausoleum and the colony looks out of this world with so many flowers and rangolis," said a devotee from Andhra Pradesh.
In Vrindavan, the day heralded the start of a month-long Kumbha Mela. Hundreds of people took a holy dip in the Yamuna river early Wednesday.
In temples all over Braj Mandal, ‘khichdi’ was distributed among the devout as ‘prasad’.
For most part of the year, Nazir’s tomb in the Taj Ganj area lies in a neglected state, but on Basant Panchami it springs back to life as a ‘mushaira’ or poets’ conclave is held there.
The Agra Nagar Nigam and the Agra Development Authority took the initiative some years ago to provide a canopy to cover the tomb and spruce up the area to draw in tourists who visit the Taj Mahal, barely 100 metres away.
It was Nazir who gave Agra a new identity through his poetry. Called the people’s poet, he wrote about ordinary things that touched the hearts of both Muslims and Hindus, like festivals, dance and theatre, bird fights and kite-flying.
Nazir looked at the follies of royalty with disdain but sang about the antics of Lord Krishna and poked fun at fundamentalists.
The staging of his "Agra Bazar" play made noted theatre personality Habib Tanvir famous. His poem "sab thath pada rah jayega jab lad chalega banjara," is still popular in Agra.
"With Mirza Ghalib, Mir Taqi Mir and Nazeer Akbarabadi, Agra’s contribution to Urdu Adab is indeed unique and constitutes what could be called the real heritage of the city," says Chandra Kant Tripathi, registrar of the Central Hindi Institute.
–Indo-Asian News Service