Mathura/Vrindavan/Agra, Feb 4: The city of the Taj Mahal woke up to a sunny Tuesday, heralding the onset of spring with Basant Panchmi.
But Agra has other reasons to celebrate too - 100 years of Dayalbagh, a utopian spiritual commune of the Radhasoami faith, and the birthday of the 18th century people's poet mian Nazeer Akbarabadi who gave Agra its literary recognition alongwith Mirza Ghalib and Meer Taqi Meer.
"The long foggy and cold spell is over, the mood is upbeat and the lull in socio-cultural activities due to the severe winter is now over," said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
Young and old geared up for kite-flying sessions, to feed monkeys on the banks of the Yamuna or to visit the Taj Mahal that turns a dazzling white in the soft spring sunshine.
In the Sri Krishna-land of the Braj area, Basant Panchmi signals the start of Holi revelries. "Now, nature will wake up, the dominant colour in Braj will be yellow and saffron. Temples in Vrindavan and Mathura will start Holi celebrations with gulal and abeer, musicians will sing Faag. The 40-day festive season begins with Basant Panchmi," said Acharya Madhukar Chaturvedi, a Haveli Sangeet specialist.
Usually, pandas in Braj "dig up holes and install a Holi Danda to announce the arrival of spring and the beginning of the Holi festivities," added Acharya T. Jaimini, a famous musicologist of Vrindavan.
In the Braj area, Basant Panchmi is also the festival of Kamdev, celebrated as Madanotsav.
In Taj city, Tuesday saw see the beginning of celebrations to mark the 100 years of the founding of Dayalbagh. It was started by Huzur Maharaj, who preached secularism.
Hundreds of devotees from the US, France and many other countries have gathered here to participate in the celebrations at Dayalbagh, which means "Garden of the Merciful".
Dayalbagh, which is the spiritual home of the Radhasoamis, is a sort of self-reliant and progressive commune founded on Basant Panchami. The whole area has been decked up with yellow flowers and 'rangoli'.
"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.
The day is also the birthday of 18th century poet Mian Nazir Akbarabadi, described as "people's poet in sharp contrast to Mirza Ghalib and Mir who were patronised by the elite, the sophisticated and cultured citizenry", said Jitendra Raghvanshi of the Indian People's Theatre Association.
The modest tomb of Nazir will be lit up as admirers will queue 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.
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 the 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.