The Songs of Spring

  • Wonderful article about the seasons of India esp spring and the songs associated with it esp those sung in languages of U.P. and Bihar

India is the land of Shad Ritus or six seasons: Vasant (spring), Greeshm (summer), Varsha (monsoon), Sharad (autumn), Hemant (early winter) and Shishir (deep winter). Most festivals of India are deeply connected to these seasons as each of them holds significance in the nation’s agrarian way of life. Each season is a unique experience and brings along natural gifts. It is these seasonal abundances that are celebrated in the art and culture of the Subcontinent.


Two seasons that are celebrated the most in Indic literature, music, dance and folklore are Vasant or spring and Varsha or monsoon.


In Hindi literature, Vasant is called Rituraaj or the king of seasons and Varsha is considered the queen.


In Uttar Pradesh and parts of Bihar, special seasonal songs in semi-classical and folk style, are sung during both. Baramasi, Kajari, Saawani and Jhoola are songs of monsoon, sung particularly during the month of Shravan or Saavan. Phaag, Hori, Ullara and Chaiti are the songs of spring, sung during the months of Phaalgun and Chaitra (called Phaagun and Chait, colloquially).


Vasant Panchami (fifth day of the bright half of the month of Magha) marks the onset of spring. However, it takes a month and a half after Vasant (colloquially called Basant) Panchami for winter to leave completely. Ten days of Magha and the entire month of Phaalgun form a period of change from Shishir (extreme winter) to Vasant.


According to the Panchang (Indic calendar), Phalgun is a Shishir month but in popular culture, it is considered a Vasant month. It is spent witnessing the magical transition of winter to spring : the thick winter fog of northern India lifts, gentle breeze or Basanti byaar blows, days become longer, sunrays become warmer, leaves fall, new shoots take their place and flowers bloom.


In Phalgun, cheery yellow marigolds and mustard fields gradually make way for the passionate reds of Semal (Silk cotton), Tesu/Palash (Flame of the forest) and Mahua blossoms. The Asian Koels break their silence after many months and Bumblebees or Bhanwrey buzz around the gardens. This natural celebration peaks on Holi when humans join in, smear colour made from Tesu flowers on each other’s faces and throw scented water on one another to mark a complete riddance from winter. The Phaag and Hori songs describe the beauty of this seasonal transformation.


In the Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh, the birth place of Ram, the songs speak of ‘Ram ji’ playing Holi. While in the Braj region, birth place of Krishna, they retell stories of the epic holi ‘Kanhaiyya ji’ used to play with Radha and Gopikas. However, this doesn’t mean that songs in praise of Krishna are not sung in Awadh.


A popular Awadhi Hori - Hori khelen Raghuveera awadh maa (Ram plays Holi in Awadh) was adapted for Amitabh Bachhan’s film Baaghban in 2003. An authentic version of this Hori, rendered by Malini Awasthi can be heard by clicking HERE.


These songs are mostly in languages like Awadhi, Brajbhasha and Bhojpuri.


All these languages are different from each other. Most people, including some natives of North India, tend to think that the entire Uttar Pradesh and Bihar speaks Bhojpuri. This is an unfortunate misconception.


The fact is that the region popularly called the Hindi heartland or Hindi belt (BiharChhattisgarhHaryanaHimachal PradeshJharkhandMadhya PradeshRajasthanUttarakhandUttar Pradesh and the National Capital Territory of Delhi)  has multiple languages.


Both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have five to six local languages and not all of them are merely dialects of Hindi. They share an affinity with Hindi and Urdu but they are distinct in character. It is believed that some of them were spoken even before Hindi and Urdu came into existence. These languages play an important role in folk traditions.

It is worth mentioning that the classical Holi compositions are different from folk and semi-classical songs. Phaag, Hori and Ullara songs are based on ragas but don’t strictly adhere to the raga structures. They are simplified, fluid and more ornamental in nature

Birds during spring.

After Holi, the month of Chaitra or Chaita begins. Songs called Chaiti are sung during this month. Mostly, they can be identified by the leitmotif ‘Ho Rama’ that is repeated throughout the composition.  A beautiful Awadhi Chaiti by Girija Devi - Chait maase chunri rangaibe ho rama! piya ghar aiye hain (I will get my scarf dyed in bright colours during the Chait month, my beloved will come home then) can be heard by clicking HERE


Pt. Chhannulal Mishra has also rendered a melodic Benarasi Chaiti - Sejia se saiyan ruth gaile ho rama! koel tori boliya (My beloved is upset and refuses to make love while the Koel calls incessantly), it can be heard by clicking on the link below.  In the recording ‘Pandit ji’ also speaks about Chaitaa and Ghato, two other forms of Chait songs. To hear click HERE


Given below are the links to a Hori Aaj biraj mein Hori re rasiya (Holi is being celebrated in Braj today) and a Chaiti Piya milan hum jaibe (I shall go to meet my beloved) rendered by Shobha Gurtu. 


One -

Two -


Vasant and Varsha are considered seasons of love. Therefore, their songs are predominantly romantic or Shringaar rasa-pradhan in their themes. The intense pangs of Viyog (separation) shringaar and the pleasures of Sanyog (union) shringaar are expressed in them. These songs also have a spiritual meaning. Piya or Saiyyan (beloved) is a metaphor for Parmatma or the supreme soul and the Jeevatma or living being yearns to unite with Parmatma.


Synchronising one’s lifestyle with the seasons is a way of becoming one with nature, the purest manifestation of Parmatma. Songs of the seasons facilitate this process of living in harmony with nature. Spring is a season that invigorates the senses and stimulates the mind.


Phaag, Hori and Chaiti songs make one appreciate the beauty of this season even more.


P.S. The words Phaag, Phaagun and Phalgun are pronounced with a Ph sound created by pressing both lips together. The sound of Ph has no equivalent in English. Fa is pronounced by touching lower lip and upper teeth. Fa and Ph are distinct sounds and both are present in Indian languages. Faag, Faagun and Falgun are incorrect pronunciations and spellings as words of Sanskrit origin have no Fa sound, it is present in words of Arabic and Persian origin.


Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Shivangini Yeashu Yuvraj, Hindustani vocalist and expert on seasonal songs, for her inputs.


Author is from Lucknow. She is a Jewellery Designer, runs and lots more.


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