Goddess Saraswati, considered the deity of music, culture and learning, was worshipped across West Bengal with traditional gaiety and religious fervour on Wednesday.
Women and girls decked up in traditional bright yellow saris signifying Basant Panchami – heralding the arrival of spring – and men and boys in kurtas offered flowers to the deity, as families shared "prasad" (offering of sweets) in cities, towns and villages.
It was a day of mirth of children, for whom Saraswati Puja is a "no study" day. Too happy to give their textbooks a miss, they participated in cultural functions organised in localities, educational institutes and households.
Clay idols of the goddess were seen with a crescent moon on the brow, riding a swan or seated on a lotus with flowers, fruits and sweets placed as offerings before it.
The rituals started early in morning and continued till midday in schools, colleges, community clubs and households, with priests chanting mantras and devotees placing seasonal palash flowers at the deity's feet to the ringing sounds of cymbals and conch shells.
Students placed their books, pens and musical instruments beside the idol for the entire day to receive the goddess's blessings.
Small marquees came up in almost all localities where neighbours gathered to pay obeisance to the goddess, followed by sumptuous lunch comprising "khichuri" – a mixture of rice and lentils, with potato and cauliflower added to taste – eggplant fry, mixed vegetables and dollops of chutney and sweets. Such feasts were also held in educational institutions across the state.