Vasant Panchami: Celebrating wisdom
Saraswati Mahabhage Vidye Kamalalochane Vishwaroope Vishaalaakshi Vidyam dehi namosthuthe
Vidyam dehi namosthuthe
May Goddess Saraswati,
Who is fair like the jasmine-coloured moon,
And whose pure white garland is like frosty dewdrops;
Who is adorned in radiant white attire,
On whose beautiful arm rests the Veena,
And whose throne is a white lotus;
Who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me.
May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance."
Goddess Saraswati represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She is the mother of the Vedas, and chants to her are compiled in the holy text as `Saraswati Vandana`. She is often depicted as a resplendent deity seated on a lotus flower and rides a swan or a peacock!
The Goddess of knowledge Saraswati is worshipped on `Vasant Panchami`, that falls on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the Magha month of the Hindu calendar. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Saraswati was born. Throughout Bengal and other parts of India, Saraswati Puja is celebrated with great reverence in schools, colleges, institutions of music, arts and science, as well as at homes.
It is believed that Goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning. The colour yellow is given special importance on Vasant Panchami. On this day, the idol of Goddess Saraswati is dressed in yellow garments and worshipped.
Goddess Saraswati 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 the veena. She is dressed in white — the symbol of purity — and rides on a white swan that symbolises purity and discrimination (Sattwa Guna). The Goddess is also a prominent figure in Buddhist iconography — the consort of Manjushri.
Saraswati Puja in Kolkata
Saraswati Puja has special relevance in Kolkata. Almost every household in Kolkata celebrates Saraswati Puja . Infact, the government has declared Saraswati Puja as a state holiday. Every locality erects small bamboo pandals for the Mother Goddess by collecting funds. `Palash` flowers are considered to be the essential component of the ritual. Generally, the prasad which mainly includes “Khichari” and “Dahi Chura” is distributed amongst the devotees.
Relevance for students
The most significant aspect of this day is that the children are taught to read and write their first alphabet – as it’s considered an auspicious day to begin a child`s education. As Goddess Saraswati represents purity and learning, no animal sacrifice is made to her. Everyone has a vegetarian meal on this day.
Being the goddess of learning, students are the most ardent worshippers of Goddess Saraswati. Students associate themselves with various traditions and customs on this day and volunteer for arranging the “Puja Samagri” and “Prasad Vitaran”.
Traditions and customs:
· Girls dress up in yellow coloured sarees and boys wear kurta-pyjama
· A special fruit known as “Ber” is offered first to the Goddess and then consumed by the students.
Pleasant changes in season: Celebration!
Hinduism has taken into account the special significance of seasons and interwoven them with religious festivals. During ‘Vasant Panchami’, seasons undergo changes and the coming of springtime is heralded. Trees display new shoots and new life is evident in the woods and fields. Nature decorates the mango trees with new blossoms, wheat and crops enliven with sprouting 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 a feeling of optimism. The first faint signals of the forthcoming festival of Holi — the festival of colours — also manifest themselves at Vasant Panchami.