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BASANT

INTRODUCTION OF BASANT
Basant is sort form of Basant Panchami (Sanskrit Vasant Panchami), a Hindu festival in honor of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art. It is celebrated every year on the fifth day (Panchami) of the Hindu month Magh (JanuaryFebruary), the first day of spring. Though originally a Hindu festival, it is now celebrated by people of all religious backgrounds; specially in the Northen India and province of Punjab in Pakistan. The history of Basant Basant is a centuries old cultural tradition of Punjab. Over the years, it gained an element of controversy as the fundamentalism wiped the norms of tolerance and co-existence in our society. Disregard of law and for the lives of fellow citizens turned it into a bloody sport. Recently I came across a book “URS AUR MELAY” by Aman Ullah Khan Arman, published by Kitab Manzil Lahore in 1959. I am reproducing the chapter on Basant (p.276-277) here: “Basant (a Sanskrit word for spring) is a seasonal festival of Indo-Pak sub-continent and it has no religious bearings. Basant is the herald of the spring and celebrated in winter (Magh) on the fourth or fifth day of lunar month. This is the reason why it is called Basant Panchami. Basant season starts on this day, therefore, Basant is Malik Sabir Shahzad

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regarded the herald of spring, wheat grows, and mustard blossoms in this season. (Old Aryan tradition divides a year into six seasons each having two months. Mustard blossom that is yellow in color is considered the color of spring and accordingly yellow outfits were worn).

Origin of Basant
In sanskrit Vasant (Basant) means spring and Panchami is the fifth day of the fortnight of waxing moon (Shukla Paksha) in the Hindu month of Magh, January-February of English calendar. In the Vedas the day of Basant Panchami is dedicated to Goddess Sarasvati. It is not a national holiday in India but the schools are closed and the students participate in decoration and arrangement of the worship place. A few weeks before the celebration, schools become active in organizing various annual competitions of music, debate, sports and other activities. Prizes are distributed on the day of Basant Panchami. Many schools organize cultural activities in the evening of the Saraswati Puja day when parents and other community members attend the functions to encourage the children.Sarasvati is the goddess of learning. Sarasvati bestows the greatest wealth to humanity, the wealth of knowledge. In the Vedas the prayer for Sarasvati depicts her as a white lady in white dress bedecked with white flowers and white pearls, sitting on a white lotus, which is blooming in a wide stretch of water. She holds Veena, a string-instrument, like Sitar, for playing music. The prayer finally concludes, "Oh Mother Sarasvati remove the darkness (ignorance) of my mind and bless me with the eternal knowledge." The Vedas describe Sarasvati as a water deity, goddess of a river of the same name. According to popular belief Sarasvati, originating from the Himalayas, flowed southeast, ultimately meeting the Ganges at Prayag, near the confluence of Yamuna. Hence the place is called Triveni. In due time this course of water petered away.

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The mythological history of Sarasvati associates her with the holy rituals performed on the banks of the river Sarasvati. She is worshipped as a goddess of speech, attributed to the formation of Vach (words), invention of Sanskrit language and composition of hymns.

BASANT IN PAKISTAN
In the pre-partitioned Punjab, Hindus of Punjab, especially Lahore celebrated the Basant Panchami by flying kites. Muslims of Punjab at that time did not celebrated the Basant with same enthusiasm as it was considered as a Hindu festival, though younger Muslim folk did participated in kite flying as an event. At the time of partition in 1947, population of Lahore city was almost equally divided between Muslims (52%) and Hindus/Sikh (48%). By the end of September 1947 almost all the Hindus had left West Punjab/Lahore for India but their tradition of Basant remained back and even today Lahore take pride in Basant and fly kite from their rooftops with same enthusiasm.

LAHORI BASANT
Being the historic capital of Punjab there is no other place where Basant is celebrated with as much vigour and enthusiasm as the ancient city of Lahore. Although traditionally it was a festivel confined to the old-walled city it has spread all through out the city. It was for many years officially backed by the government and sponsored by multinational corporations. Although Basant "travels" throughout Pakistani Punjab it is Lahore which made it popular not only in Pakistan but all over the world as the largest kite festivle. he ancient eastern city of Lahore marks the beginning of spring with the Basant carnival, an orgy of kite-flying, rooftop soirees, garden parties and equestrian events, much to the disgust of Islamic clerics. Lahorites and out-of-town enthusiasts don glamorous clothes, in the yellow and green of spring flowers blooming citywide, to bid farewell to the frosts and fogs of winter and usher in spring.

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Nighttime kite-flying in the walled old quarter around the 16th century Badshahi mosque and Lahore fort opens the festival. Ancient mughal palaces throw open their doors for allnight parties to view the kites, illuminated by spotlights slashing the sky. Stars from the local ‘Lollywood‘ film industry perform with classical Qawali musicians at parties in traditional haveli homes.

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White paper kites shimmer in the night sky, diving and soaring as rival fliers joust in duels marked by battle cries of Pecha! and victory shouts of bo kata! Bursts of drums and trumpets mark the cutting of a kite’s cord.

Men drape themselves in embroidered shalwar kameeze with matching ankle-length scarves, little boys strut in three piece suits, and women coat their hands with henna and stack their arms with bangles.

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“If you wander through the old city tonight, you will see a lot of freedom. This is the true nature of the Pakistani people,” said Basant fan and veteran political observer Imtiaz Alam, jailed by former military dictator Zia ul Haq in the 1970s for his liberal writings. Islamic clerics have issued edicts each year branding the festival as Hindu or pagan in origin. This year, buoyed by gains made in October elections by religious parties, the clerics have revived public attacks on the festival. “The government should not patronize Basant as many illegal activities related to Basant get protection,” Liaqat Baloch, federal parliamentarian and deputy leader of the fundamentalist Jamat-i-Islami party, told AFP. “It has been hijacked by multinational companies who want to promote free society culture in Pakistan. “There are other honorable ways to earn money.” Festival enthusiasts Malik Sabir Shahzad

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call it a rare chance to step out and celebrate in a country riven by Islamic militancy, a year of anti-Christian and anti-Western terror attacks, drought, poverty and an increasingly bellicose stream of religious fundamentalism. “Let clerics do their job while we rejoice,” said Nadeem Sarwar, 35, a business executive in Lahore. “It is the only colourful event that my city can boast about.”

Pakistanis from across the country flock to Lahore for the festival, crowding the Islamabad to Lahore motorway to catch a glimpse of the flying paper fighting kites. Top hotels reported full bookings. “It is an event not to be missed,” said Islamabad-based lawyer Waseem Ahmed.

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But even such a joyous festival has a dark side, as hospitals invariably are packed with kiteflyers who fell off roofs and children who were hit by cars as they ran down the streets, their faces turned towards the sky to watch the kites. Quarters of the city are plunged into darkness when razor-sharp kite cords rolled in powdered glass or made of steel cut electricity wires. “If there are 50 one-hour breakdowns, it costs us 2.5 million rupees (43,00 dollars),” lamented Lahore Electricity Supply’s company chief Brig Riaz Ahmad Khan Toor.

Steel and glass-edged wires are banned but manufacturers still report roaring trade. Police have already charged 80 people for selling or using metal wire and have made several arrests, Lahore city council administrator Khalid Sultan told AFP on the eve of the festival. The skies above Islamist-ruled North West Frontier Province will be bare of kites as a drive to enforce orthodox interpretations of Islam has prompted a police crackdown on artistic expression, driving musicians and dancers out of business and putting singers in jail. But in Lahore, the party is still a symbol for many, said Alam. “The extremists are a tiny minority in this country,” he said. “That’s what Basant proves.”

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Friends and family gather at common places to celebrate reunions and party for most of the Basant Night. Starting from the sunset, flood lights are lit up all over the city’s skyline as people start off with white-kite flying. BarBQs are served with traditional Lahori dishes as the cries of “Bo Katas” & Dhol (traditional drums) echo throughout the next day.

Friends & Family celebrate Basant People from different cultures and countries are welcomed by their hosts. Many foreign dignitaries, diplomats from the federal capital, Islamabad are invited over to different Basant events in Lahore.

A Kite Shop in Lahore Basant has become the biggest drawer of tourists for this historic city and Pakistan’s cultural capital. Most of the suburbans book roofs in the old city especially for this event. From 5-star hotels to Golf Clubs, from Banks to Telecom companies; all become a part of

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Jashn-e-Baharan (Celebration of the Spring) by arranging functions of their own in different vicinites of the city.

A local McDonald’s celebrates Basant For a Lahori, Basant is a blend of joy, happiness, love and celebration; a moment of rejoicing with loved ones and that of just chilling out. As other Metroblogging make eforts in gift giving, David Markland from Los Angeles has been maintaining a regularly updated, day-to-day Guide to Metroblogging Cities’ Gifts to the World

2005 KITE BAN IN PAKISTAN
Historically, there have been hundreds of people killed or injured each year falling off rooftops and being cut by kite strings. While participating in "kite battles," some kite fliers even coat their strings with glass or shards of metal, leading to more injuries. The Lahore High Court (LHC) has been moved against the official celebration of Basant in Pakistan.

In 2005, an advocate MD Tahir of Lahore High Court, Pakistan, contended that Basant was purely an event of Hindu community who observed it as part of their religious rituals. He said that forefathers of Pakistani Muslims had never taken part in Basant celebrations, though they also deemed it a part of their culture. The petitioner said that Pakistan was a poor country and Basant festivities could not please them by any means. He argued that frequent power breakdowns because of kite-flying were depriving people of electricity supply for hours and they were also exposed to life threats by kite-string on roads. Aerial firing and use of firecrackers was another factor of disturbance for patients, students and the elderly people, he said. He also counted the death toll taking place every year on Basant day as a ground to seek a complete ban on kite-flying and Basant festivities in the country. The petitioner said that the government was spending millions Malik Sabir Shahzad

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of rupees to entertain foreign guests on Basant, rather than spending it to improve literacy rate, inadequate medical facilities and the provision of basic amenities to common people. As a result, in 2005, kite flying has been banned in Pakistan. Violent protests have occurred outside the Pakistani Supreme Court house, and further protests are planned. Despite the ban on kite flying one can see hundreds of kites every afternoon and evening on Lahore's sky and the number of kites is even higher on Sundays and public holidays. The Basant ban was lifted by the supreme court of Pakistan for 15 days in March but was again enforced late night on 10 March by the chief minister of Punjab, Pervaiz Elahi. On January 4, 2006, the provincial government of Punjab lifted the ban for 24 hours so that kite flying can be enjoyed on the holiday. [

Why Lahore is better than every other city on Earth
Bill Oreilly, that hawkish blabbermouth host of the ’Oreilly Factor’ aired on the not so fair and balanced ’Fox News’, once arrogantly exclaimed ’Who would wanna go to Lahore for vacation’. Obviously he hasn’t been to Lahore on the Basant Night for had he been there, he would know that any person with half a brain would prefer Lahore to that artificial paradise, the entertainment capital of the west ’Las Vegas’. Had he looked up in the sky on the brightly Basant night in Lahore, he would have awed at the bright colors of Pakistan, all the lights of the West would have paled in comparison, and he forever would have been the devoted slave of the superior Pakistani culture. Had he been to Yusuf Sali’s Haveli and danced all night with the most beautiful women under the sky he would have denounced his own notions of white racial supremacy and would have been sung hymns in the praise of the East. The ancient land of Indus, aka Islamic Republic of Pakistan, has been celebrating Basant for over 3000 years. Religions, invaders and rulers have come and gone, but the people of Indus, the stock that is proudly known as Pakistani in the modern world, have never stopped celebrating Basant. The Mullahs, the same Mullahs who were once the greatest enemies of our Republic’s founding in 1947, have tried in vain to convince the people of Pakistan that to celebrate Basant is some how un-Pakistani, because no precedent is Malik Sabir Shahzad

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found in Islamic (read Arab) History. No doubt Pakistanis are very conscious of their Muslim identity and rightly so, but their identity is only part Muslim, they are also the harbingers of an ancient civilization, a civilization which is older than the civilizations of those who call themselves civilized. This ancient land of Indus was exclusively home to the Indus Valley civilization, the most advanced civilization of its time. The verdict of the Pakistani people is overwhelmingly in favor of Basant, a tradition that is almost as ancient as the land itself. Legend has it that there was once a Raja called Basant who ruled over the ancient land of Indus. One year when there was drought, he cancelled all the taxes on his people, and then the people celebrated Basant every year at the arrival of Spring... But now there is another legend.. there is a new rajah, and he lives amongst the Lahoris in modern day lahore. His name is Yusuf Sali, and every year he holds the number one social event of the year where everyone congregates to pay homage to the most ingenious party host the city has ever seen. And that is why we celebrate Basant. Yusuf Sallahuddin’s party is by all means the most exhilarating experience and by all accounts the must-attend party where the whos who of the world are invited. Allama Iqbal’s grandson, and a scion of a family considered a stalwart in the Pakistan Movement, Yusuf Sallahuddin is an extremely cultured and highly educated man. His 17th Century Mughal Style Haveli is located in the center of ’Shahi Mahala’ or the ’Heera Mandi’ perhaps the most cultural red light district in the entire world. As always the most good looking celebrities went to his party... and these celebrities were not just Pakistanis... It was a pleasant surprise to see some of the biggest names of Indian Music industry in attendance there. Ofcourse there were all the major politicians, though the regular feature, Imran Khan wasn’t seen there. The surprise of this Basant however was the bash arranged by Pakistan Muslim League Q, the ruling party. Atleast the "ruling" party is good for something, for the dance floor there was perhaps the most happening in all of Lahore. Those who were not over awed by the ’celebrities’ had a much better time at this party. Though it is viewed as more of a local event, Basant is perhaps the one truly national

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festival Pakistan has which has nothing to do with religion. Lahore is undoubtedly the hub of all activity, but on Basant Day, from Karachi to Peshawar the entire country celebrated as one. Perhaps the fact that it fell in a week in which also saw Eid, the Hajj the start of the World Cup and finally the Valentines Day made it even more significant. Government sponsorship for the Jashn-e-Baharan definitely was a plus. Pakistan’s loss against Australia was one serious party pooper though. Pakistan unfortunately has faced a lot of malicious propaganda initiated by certain hawkish Indians in the west. It is a much maligned country, which is viewed unfairly as a volatile Islamic country and as the ’new epicentre’ of Global terrorism. The truth is totally different. Pakistan is today witnessing an era of unprecedented stability and prosperity. Spending is high and the economy is booming. Democracy, albeit controlled democracy, has been restored, and Pakistanis have a lot to be thankful about. After all that is what Jashne Baharan, and Basant are all about ie happiness, peace, and celebration of all that is good in life.

BASANT AND SUFI CULTURE
Sufis are credited for bringing the festival into the Muslim pantheon in the India subcontinent. By the Mughal period, Basant was a popular festival at the major Sufi shrines. We have, for example, mentions of Nizam Auliya ki Basant, Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki ki Basant, Khusrau ki Basant; festivals arranged around the shrines of these various sufi saints. Khusrau, the famous sufi-poet of the thirteenth century, even composed verses on Basant: Aaj basant mana lay suhagan, aaj basant mana lay Anjan manjan kar piya mori, lambay neher laga lay Tu kya sovay neend ki maasi, so jaagay teray bhaag, suhaagun, Aaj basant mana layñ. Oonchi naar kay oonchay chitvan, Celebrate basant today, O bride, Celebrate basant today Bring out your lotions,and decorate your long hair Oh why are you the servant of sleep? Even your fate is wide Malik Sabir Shahzad

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awake, Celebrate basant today O high lady with high looks, […], when the king looks at you, you meet his eyes, O Bride, Celebrate basant today [bad translation Another historic account is given in the book "Punjab Under the Later Mughals." According to this book, when Zakariya Khan (1707-1759) was the governor of Punjab, a Hindu of Sialkot, by the name of Hakeekat Rai Bakhmal Puri spoke words of disrespect for the Prophet Muhammad and his daughter Fatima due to teasing by Muslim boys. He was arrested and sent to Lahore to await trial. The court, gave him capital punishment. The Hindu population was stirred to request Zakariya Khan to lift the death sentence given to Hakeekat Rai but he did not accede to their request. Eventually the death penalty was carried out and the entire Hindu population went into mourning. As a tribute to the memory of this child, a prosperous Hindu, Kalu Ram initiated the Basant 'mela' in (Marrhi) Kot Khwaja Saeed (Khoje Shahi) in Lahore. (This place is now known as Baway di marrhi.) It is the last stop on the route of Wagon no. 60 from Bhati Gate. Dr. B.S. Nijjar states on Page no. 279 of his book that the Basant 'mela' is celebrated in memory of Hakeekat Rai.

DISADVANTAGES OF BASANT

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As the joyful people of the Punjab metropolis celebrated the festival of Basant, the herald of Spring in Pakistan with traditional extravagance on Sunday, shocks jolted multiple dwellers who lost their loved ones in tragic episodes. Reports filed by ‘Pakistan Times’ staffers till mid-night speak of awful incidents during the past 24 hours wherein almost 20 people lost their lives with over 500 injured—some of them are reported to be in critical condition in sickbays. The overall number of causalities could increase, as there could still be similar occurrences, which remain unreported from within the jurisdiction of Lahore as well as from elsewhere, explicitly from the remote areas in Pakistan. Sorry to say that most of the victims were kids, who succumbed to the wounds, inflicted by lethal strings alike sharp wires which are used for Kite-Flying. Though the use of such filament as thread to fly the kites was banned by authorities, the affluent, born with a silver spoon in mouth did not care and clutched their delight to their fullest satisfaction—least bothered about the catastrophes the elfin class could face. STRAY KITES Seven persons were crushed to death while trying to catch stray kites, six others died after falling from rooftop of their houses, two teenaged boys died after being hit by stray bullets in two different incidents in Gowalmandi, while a 7-years old boy was electrocuted and a four

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years-old girl was killed when a stray string slit open her throat. At least 500 persons were injured due to similar causes, though a large number of those on the injury list were in fact hit by stray bullets. At least 54 of the 180 injured treated at the Mayo Hospital emergency ward, were hit by stray bullets, which exposed the tall claims of the city police of having kept a strict check on aerial firing. “We have received at least 180 injured people at the Emergency Department since 3.00 am Sunday,” a Senior Medical Officer (SMO) at the Mayo Hospital said, adding that 54 of them were brought with bullet injuries. AERIAL FIRING AND OTHER INCIDENTS Throughout the day, the city remained echoing with aerial firing and fireworks, and peaked at the sun set. Some police officials, however, had a different story to narrate. “We could not control aerial firing due to the official duties,” a senior police officer said. He claimed that heavy police contingents were deployed on protocol and VVIP duties. While the use of metal twine led to power breakdowns all day long, it also proved fatal in some cases. Two minors were electrocuted when metal twine came in contact with power cables. Rescue (1122) officials said they picked up at least 24 patients whose throats were cut by twine at different roads, and shifted them to hospitals. “Majority of them were on motorcycles when they came in contact with twines,” an official said.

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Seven people with severe head injuries died in the Lahore General Hospital (LGH), officials said. “At least 156 people majority of children and teenagers, have been admitted to the Neuro-surgery and Orthopedic Departments of the LGH,” on-duty doctors said Sunday evening. They said that most of such cases include people with broken bones and head injuries.

The emergency wards of Services Hospital, Children’s Hospital and Institute of Child Health (CH&ICH), Sir Ganga Ram Hospital were also packed to their capacity, according to the Emergency Departments management of the said hospitals. “We are providing free of cost medical treatment to these patients at the Emergency Units and are shifting them to other wards after initial medical treatment,” they added.

The Victims Police said Miran Shah (16) of Nisbat road Gowalmandi was flying kite when a stray bullet hit him. As a result he received serious head injuries and was rushed to the General Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

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In the second incident, Noman (13) of Temple road Mozang also received stray bullet in head and he was shifted to General Hospital where he died. Throat Slit In another incident, twine of a stray kite slit the throat of a four years old girl Kashafa of Peco Road Liaquatabad when she was going alongwith her father on a motorbike. She was taken to General Hospital in precarious condition where she expired.

In the fourth incident, Amjad Ali (7) was crushed to death when he was trying to loot a stray kite at Hanjarwal area. Aurang Zeb (12) of Dharampura, Muhammad Awais (20) of Sanda, Muhammad Ashraf of Nishtar Colony, Muhammad Awais (20) of Kot Lakhpat, Bilal Abubakr of Gulberg and Muhammad Aslam(18) of Rang Mahal were flying kites on the roof top of their houses when they fell on the ground and died. Muhammad Riaz (20) resident of Sanda died after taking poisonous liquor.

Metallic Wire Metallic wire slit the throat of Mahmood Ali of Sialkot when he was going to somewhere by a motorbike. Two unknown persons were crushed to death by rashly driven vehicles while looting stray kites at Lower Mall and Sanda areas.

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More than 300 people were injured in kite flying related incidents. The majority of them cosisted of children and teenagers. The injured were rushed to the local hospitals for first aid. Ali Haider (8) of Model Town, Nasir Ali (30) of Kot Lakhpat and Yasin (24) s/o Arif Hussain of Faisalabad, received head injuries and were rushed to the General Hospital where their condition was stated to becritical. Extra-bonanza Basant The extra-bonanza Basant festival, heralding culmination of winter was celebrated in the Punjab capital Sunday with traditional enthusiasm and fervour. Provincial capital echoed with "Bo-Kata" [Hacked] punctuated by trumpet-blowing from flash lights-fitted roof tops while young and children made desperate attempts to loot floating kites. The festival picked up last evening, was marred by light drizzling at night that failed to dampen kite-flying spirt of youngsters who resurfaced after a brief lull, blowing hand-made bugles with cheer and joy. Residents said public parks and rooftops of all big buildings, shopping plazas and hotels were crowded with revellers celebrating the annual festival.

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The celebrations include music concerts and dinner parties being organized privately or as public events Saturday night. Pakistan Railways ran special trains this year to carry thousands of people from other parts of the country to the city to celebrate Basant with their relatives and friends. The festivities will continue late into Sunday night amid chanting over the cutting of the strings of rival kites and celebrations of victory with drumbeats and the bursting of firecrackers.

Special Bar-B-Q At some places special Bar-B-Q was arranged to entertain guests both from within and outside the country. Prominent Lolly and Bollywood actors also celebrated Basant with great enthusiasm and fervour. A large number of Indian movie stars are either staying in five-star hotels or with their hosts at different places, majority of them in Defence Housing Society. Officials said more than 50,000 people from across the country had arrived in Lahore along with 10,000 other Pakistanis residing in the Middle East, Europe and the United States to celebrate the occasion. Taking advantage of the situation some hotels enhanced room charges on the occasion. Walled City: Focal Point

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As usual, walled city remained focal point of Basant celebrations where historic "haveli" of Mian Salahuddin attracted some of Islamabad and Lahore-based diplomats and elite of the town. Certain multi-national firms also sponsored Basant by hiring roof-tops of five-star hotels and some skyscraper buildings in city. Hundreds of shops and stalls across the city were selling kites while many multinational companies distributed free kites carrying their insignia as part of publicity campaigns.

Hotels and restaurants cooked traditional Pakistani food as men and women attired in glamorous yellow dress thronged the streets.

Basant also coincides with the blossoming of mustard flowers in the fields of Punjab. Kites worth millions of rupees are sold during the twoday festivities.

Repeated appeals from the Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) to avoid using of metallic wire by the kite-fliers, went unheeded that resulted in frequent power breakdown in the city, forcing cable operators to switch off the system in some localities. Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) has suffered a loss of Rs 60 million caused by 2,400 minor and 90 major power losses and fluctuations that hit the city s electricity transmission system on Saturday night following Sunday Basant celebrations.

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Sunday’s killing of 17 persons took the death toll to 20 the number of persons killed in the night-and-day festival this year. Last year too, as many as 20 persons were killed in the city of Lahore while celebrating Basant festival.●

References • • manzoor.wordpress.com/2007/02/25/the-history-of-basant/ http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.views.pk/wpcontent/uploads/2007/04/lahore-basantfestival.jpeg&imgrefurl=http://www.views.pk/bansant-jashan-ebaharaan&h=265&w=384&sz=49&tbnid=Tq7BkuOAZ7cJ:&tbnh=85&tbnw=123 &prev=/images%3Fq %3Dbasant&hl=en&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=1&ct=image&cd=1 • • • http://www.chowk.com/articles/5891 http://pakistantimes.net/2005/02/07/top.htm

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