Saraswati Puja / Vasant Panchami

By Dhruva Arcot (Grade 4)

 

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Saraswath Sen Chakraborty who lived in the United States of America. He was 10 years old and he celebrated Saraswati Puja with his family every year, but he never took interest in learning about the origins of the puja. As he grew up, Saraswath’s curiosity increased to know more about Saraswati Puja, because his name and the Goddess’s name were almost the same. So, he scoured the internet to learn more. Lo and behold, the internet was flooded with a lot of information. After a lot of reading and thinking of his own experiences, here is how he summarized it.

Saraswati Puja is one festival that many Bengalis wait for every year. Bengalis celebrate this festival with great fervor. Bengal is in the northeastern part of India. The festival of Vasant Panchami or Saraswati Puja focuses on worshiping knowledge, music, and art, which symbolizes Goddess Saraswati. These three parts of the puja/festival are an important part of many Bengalis’ lives.

In Hindu mythology Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge, music, speech, wisdom, learning and art. She has four hands which symbolize ego, intellect, alertness and mind. She is often pictured sitting on a lotus or a peacock, wearing a white dress. She has many different names, Bharati (eloquence), Shatarupa (existence), Vedamata (mother of the Vedas), Brahmi, Sarada, Vagisvari, and Putkari. It says that she was the creator of Sanskrit, a sacred Hindu language.

Saraswati puja is celebrated on the fifth day of Maagh month of the Hindu calendar, which typically falls in late January or early February. Vasant means spring and panchami means fifth day, hence the name Vasant Panchami, it marks the preparation for arrival of spring. In 2022 it falls on Saturday, February 5. Saraswati puja is celebrated by all but more so by students, musicians and artists to seek Goddess’s blessings. On the day of the pooja, all items related to studies (like books, stationary), music (like instruments) or work (computer) are placed near the idol of the Goddess. Some people also introduce their toddlers to writing or education on this auspicious day, it is called “Hathe Khori”, “Vidyarambh” or “Aksharabhyas”.

Saraswati Puja is celebrated by waking up early, cleaning homes / puja areas, decorating Goddess Sarawati’s idol and adorning courtyards with artful alponas (Rangoli made with rice flour). Bengalis apply turmeric and/or neem paste all over their body before taking a bath on this day. Yellow is Goddess Saraswati’s favorite color hence, yellow colored foods like Khichdi, Pulao and sweet foods made with jaggery are offered. Fruits like ber(jujube) and mishrikand(jicama) are also made as offerings, because fresh fruits are her favorite foods. People mainly wear yellow clothes on this day. Yellow and white flowers are offered to Goddess Saraswathi. People perform rituals of lighting lamps, reciting holy chants and performing aarti. They then share food offerings (prasad or bhog) made to the Goddess with friends and family.

Saraswati Puja reflects the Bengali culture of respect towards wisdom, knowledge, art and craft.