Saraswati Puja or Vasant Panchami is celebrated to pay obeisance to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and learning. Hindus celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm and Hindu temples and households are full of activity on this day. This 'Panchami' is also known as Saraswati Day, because it is believed that on this day, goddess Saraswati was born.
Time of The Year
The festival is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the Magha month of the Indian solar calendar, on the day called 'Vasant Panchami'.
The most significant aspect of this day is that Hindu children are taught reading and writing their first words on this day - as it is considered an auspicious day to begin a child's education. Educational institutions organize special prayers for Saraswati on this day. The great Indian guru Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya laid the foundations of the world-class academic institution, Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya on Vasant Panchami.
Saintly people and people inclined towards spiritual progress attach great importance to the worship of goddess Saraswati. As a practice, only educated people and men of principle worship goddess Saraswati for spiritual enlightenment. In their opinion, there can be no comparison between the king and the learned or the spiritually advanced. They believe that the king is honored within his kingdom, whereas the learned is respected or worshipped throughout the world.
Hinduism has taken into account special significance of the seasons and interwoven them with religious festivals. During Vasant Panchami, seasons undergo change and the coming of springtime is heralded. After the chilly winter, trees display new shoots and new life is evident in the woods and fields. Nature decorates the mango trees with new blossoms, and the crops in the fields enliven with the evidence of new life.
Vasant Panchami is a festival full of religious, seasonal and social significance and is celebrated by Hindus all over the world with verve and cheer. The first signals of the forthcoming festival of Holi-the festival of colors-are also evident during Vasant Panchami. Surprisingly, Vasant Panchami is the second most important festival in the Pakistani city of Lahore. Despite being a Hindu festival, it is still celebrated in Lahore with the same enthusiam that was evident in the pre-partition times.
There are various rituals that are followed in the worshipping of goddess Saraswati. The ones common to all those worshipping Saraswati are that the idol of the goddess wears white clothes, the other predominant color in the celebrations is yellow, to indicate the onset of spring and the blossoming of mustard flowers.
Families dressed in bright yellow gather together before the idol of Saraswati and pray for the blessing of knowledge. Flowers and wild berries are offered to the goddess and students place their books before the deity and do not do any reading or writing that day. An elaborate puja, with sandalwood, ghee, joss sticks, and incense is done to the sound of shlokas, conch shells, and drums. On this day, people eat vegetarian food and initiate children into the world of the written word. Traditionally, priests make children write the word 'Om'.A ritual not connected to the worship but equally essential to the celebration is that of flying kites on this day. The sky looks like and interesting mix of colorful waves, as young and old take to this age-old sport.People also perform pitri-tarpan (homage to the souls of one's ancestors) on this day and many even worship Kamadeva, the god of love on Vasant Panchami.
Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of learning and speech (Vak). She represents the union of power and intelligence from which organized creation arises. Saraswati possesses all the learnings of the Vedas, scriptures, dances, musical power and poetry. She revealed language and writing to man. Her origin is traced to the lost Vedic river Saraswati. This is the source of her profound connection to fluidity in every aspect. She embodies wisdom, fortune, intelligence, nourishment, brilliance, contentment, splendor and devotion.
Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, art and music is the daughter of lord Shiva and goddess Durga. It is believed that goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning. She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She has sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus - the symbol of true knowledge - in the second. With her other two hands she plays the music of love and life on a string instrument called the Veena. She is dressed in white - the symbol of purity - and rides on a white swan - symbolizing Sattwa Guna or purity and discrimination.
Being a festival of the Hindu religion, the Saraswati puja is celebrated all over the country. The festivity and celebrations though, vary from place to place. Across the country, educational institutions celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. Girls wear sarees and traditional dresses and offer puja. The puja places are brightened up with the small girls in their mother's sarees and the boys in traditional dresses.
Places To Visit
Since the festival is celebrated all over India with equal fervor, a glimpse of the celebrations can be had in any part of the country. However, the best place to go to would be a school as it is there that the young devotees are the most enthusiastic and eager to worship the Goddess of Learning.