Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Phyllis Granoff
This thesis reflects an attempt to arrive at a full description of the ancient and medieval Indian Spring Festival (Vasantotsava) on the basis of descriptions found in Sanskrit texts and an analysis of the ritual activities of which this festival is composed. The thesis is divided into three chapters. The first contains a discussion of some of the problems encountered in studying the Spring Festival such as the time at which it was clelebrated, differences in the manner in which it was celebrated and various sources which describe the festival. Chapter Two contains a description and analysis of the festival on the basis of five primary texts, the Ratnāvalī, the Kathāsaritsāgara, the Vikramacarita, two chapters from the Bhavisya Parāna, and the Virūpāksavasantotsavacampū. Chapter Three provides a general concluding statement pertaining to the Vasantotsava and examines Vedic precedents often cited for this festival as well as selected descriptions of modern manifestations of this festival.
The classic Ratnāvali, written by Sri Harsa in the sixth century A. D. in central India, not only contains a detailed and vivid description of the Spring Festival but it was written to be performed on this occasion as well. The Ratnāvalī, in its description, empahasizes the rowdiness which characterizes this festival. Participants engage in drinking, singing, and dancing as well as the ritual of powder throwing. The Ratnāvalī also gives us information regarding the ritual worship of Kāma, the Hindu god of love.
The Kathāsaritsāgara and the Virkamacarita are both collections of stories written down in North India in the eleventh century A.D. Both of these texts are significant for our discussion in that they highlight the role played by kings in the celebration of this festival. The Vikramacarita in addition gives us information on a variety of deities worshipped at this time.
Two chapters from the Bhavisya Purāna relate myths in association with this festival. The first chapter (135) contains the myth of Kāma's destruction by fire issuing from the third eye of Siva and tells us that the Vasantotsava celebrates his revival. The second chapter (132) relates the story of the demoness Dhaundhā/Pūtanā/Holākā and her destruction by fire during the Vasantosava.
Finally the Virūpāksavasantotsavacampū is a fifteenth-century text which hails from South India. This text describes the Spring Festival as a temple festival revolving around the worship of Siva and his consort Pārvatī. The festivities include a Car festival, a Hunt festival, and a Marriage festival.
Having arrived at a full description of the Spring Festival as it was celebrated in ancient and medieval times. Chapter Three briefly reviews some of its essential characteristics. Spring celebrations are multi-sectarian, seasonal, and fertility festivals; fire and marriage are here central motifs. This final chapter moves to a description of earlier celebrations and concludes with an outline of some modern versions of the festival of spring.
Anderson, Leona, "A Study of Indian Spring Festivals From Ancient and Medieval Sanskrit Texts" (1985). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1157.