Always seen as wearing a white dress and sitting on a lotus flower, Goddess Saraswati represents knowledge, purity, peace and cleanliness. She is also a benefactor of arts and sciences. The goddess has her own festivals, notably the ‘Saraswati Puja’, also called ‘Vasant Panchami’. It is a spring festival in which devotees wear yellow. Yellow is the colour of learning, knowledge, wisdom and prosperity. It symbolises happiness, peace, meditation, competence and mental development. It is also the colour of spring with the mustard flowers blooming all across North India. So, bright yellow clothes are worn and yellow food is eaten on this beautiful spring festival.
People dress up in yellow and prepare special sweet dishes like Kesar halwa, Kesar-mewa ke meethe chawal etc. These sweet dishes include the tempting fragrance and attractive tint of saffron strands. They are also loaded with the richness of dry fruits. Yellow flowers are offered to near and dear ones, teachers, mentors, gods and goddesses. The whole celebration bursts with yellow during the festival. Statue of the goddess is also draped in yellow silk and observers pray for the blessings of the goddess on their books, pens, pencils, other stationery items and musical instruments. Small children are taught to write for the first time during this festival. It is because, in religious texts, the goddess is identified as the inventor of ‘Sanskrit’, the mother of all languages. Goddess Saraswati gives Ganesha the appropriate gifts to write – pen and inks. Thus it is considered auspicious for small children to write their first word on this meaningful day. Students worship Goddess Saraswati before their examination as a goddess of intellectual pursuits. As the patron of music, the goddess is frequently prayed by musicians before concerts and other events. However, Vasant Panchami holds a special significance to worship and honour the goddess. She is the Hindu goddess of this festival.
It is believed that the goddess was born on this day. So the day is meant to worship the four-armed goddess with full fervour. The four arms of the goddess represent the four aspects of human personality in learning. It includes mind, alertness, intellect and ego. The goddess is prayed to remove the darkness of mind and bless the devotees with a clear vision and eternal knowledge.
Goddess Saraswati is the epitome of education and knowledge. She carries a lotus and scriptures in two of her hands, plays music on her veena and rides on a swan which has the ability to separate milk from water. This ability of her swan signifies that people should have the intellect to discriminate between the good and evil.
The festival marks the end of winter season and ushers in the springtime. It is celebrated on the 5th day of the Magha month according to the Hindu calendar which corresponds to the January and February of the Gregorian calendar. Apart from Goddess Saraswati, Lord Ganesha, Sun God, Lord Vishnu and Shiva are also worshipped on this day. They are offered flowers and naivaidyam, a pure sweet dish as prasad. Brahmans are also fed with a belief that the ancestors of the observer are accepting the food.
Different hues of the festival can be seen in different states of India. Kite flying has become a part of this festival in Punjab. In Bihar, the day is celebrated as a harvest festival. In North India, the festival is celebrated as Saraswati Puja and the goddess is worshipped in all educational institutes and offices. In the South, the day is mostly celebrated as a temple festival.
Goddess Saraswati is not only worshipped by Hindus but by Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains also as she is a patron of all written and performed arts. The day is also considered auspicious for marriage. It is believed that Lord Rama and Sita got married on this sacred day. The day is propitious for house warming ceremony and other fortunate rituals as well.
This year the festival will be celebrated on Wednesday, 29th January 2020.
Happy Vasant Panchami to all!