A festival of new blooms, Vasant Panchami marks the onset of spring. Considered an auspicious day (Annbhuj Muhurth), the festival falls on the fifth day (Panchami) of the lunar month of Magha. The festivals obser ved on this day include Saraswati Puja, also known as Shree Panchami, and Basant Festival of Kites in Punjab and Haryana.
Saraswati Puja among Bengali community is one of the most important socio-cultural events after Durga Puja. Bengalis are ardent devotees of goddess Saraswati, who is believed in Hindu mythology to be the mother of the Vedas.
The occasion is hailed as the Bengali form of the Valentine’s Day as youngsters are said to find their perfect soul mate. Bengalis believe Saraswati has endowed human beings with the power of speech. So, the most important Saraswati Puja ritual followed in Bengal is a function called Haatekhori. On this day children are made to learn how to write alphabets.
Priests make them write “Om”. The significance of Saraswati Puja is that it marks the beginning of spring. Yellow colour forms an integral part of the festival. Yellow coloured flowers are offered to the deity, such as Marigold and Palash. Young girls drape themselves in yellow or basanti-colored saree. Legend has it that Lord Brahma created earth and humans. However, he was disappointed with silence all around. So, he created Saraswati by sprinkling some water in the air.
As she came from water, she is also called water deity. Saraswati was born with Veena in her hand and filled the world with beautiful music and blessed the world with voice. Another legend associated with Saraswati says Kalidasa, the famous poet, tried, to commit suicide in Saraswati river, as he was called foolish by his wife.
While he was about to jump into the river, Saraswati emerged from the water. She asked him to take a dip in the water, making Kalidasa erudite. Thus, Goddess Saraswati is worshiped for bestowing knowledge and learning. She is invoked as the goddess of culture, music, art, and education. Schools and colleges organise special prayers on this occasion. Students place their study books near the deity, seeking wisdom. In earlier days they would also keep their inkpots and bamboo quills for her blessings Aamer Mukul, or the mango flower, another symbol of the spring season, is also an essential element and is placed on the “ghat” or a small pot in front of the deity.