16th February 2021 – India celebrated Saraswati Puja or Vasant Panchami, the way the religious festival is known in different parts of the country. On a lighter note, the day is also considered in West Bengal (eastern India) as Bengali Valentine’s Day. The fact that young girls drape themselves in bright yellow sarees and glittering ornaments; woo the guys who propose their lady loves and even spend a fun-filled time with them; has earned the name. Today I felt sharing the concept of Saraswati Puja and the way the festival is celebrated in India, to my international readers.
Saraswati Puja had been an integral part of my life since childhood and still, it is. The fact that I am a resident of West Bengal, emphasizes it more. The festival has many memories associated with it. Waking up early in the morning for a warm water bath; since its winter in India at this time of the year. Wearing a new saree or a new dress, preferably yellow in colour.
Well, I am going to specify soon why yellow is the choice of the day. And then preparing for the rituals of the Saraswati Puja is another excitement. Normally a priest performs the puja or if the family is Brahmin, an elderly person can perform the same. The custom is to fast till the puja completes. It is traditional to prepare a special lunch and enjoy with family and friends. Different types of sweets and fruits are offered to Goddess Saraswati; the main deity of the Puja.
The Auspicious Belief
As per Hindu mythology, Saraswati Puja is popularly known as Vasant Panchami. It is believed on this day, Goddess Durga gave birth to her daughter Goddess Saraswati. She is the power behind knowledge, art, craft and music. The day marks the arrival of the spring season in India. The festival is celebrated in Nepal and Indonesia as well by the Hindu population residing in the two countries.
Another popular tradition followed during the Puja is of kids writing their first letters in front of the Goddess before starting their school.
Significance of the colour “Yellow”
Saraswati Puja or Vasant Panchami festival ushers in the ripening of the mustard crops. Mustard crops being yellow in colour, Hindu devotees have defined yellow to be the favourite colour of the Goddess. Hence men, women, kids, boys and girls all prefer to dress up in yellow during this festival. A popular food being cooked during the festival is Khichuri (rice and yellow lentils boiled and cooked together with a tinge of turmeric and saffron for that yellow effect). The idols of Goddess Saraswati are too draped in yellow coloured saree.
Goddess Saraswati, being the deity for music, knowledge etc., is worshipped in various educational institutions, colleges and universities. Students perform musical programs involving traditional songs and dances. In various parts of India, temples worship the Goddess with devotees offering their prayers and seeking blessings of the Goddess. The households of several Hindu communities perform the Puja at their residences. You can find books or any musical instrument at the sides of the idols as a customary tradition.
Preparing and offering sweets to family and friends are performed religiously. You can find coloured and decorative floor patterns or Rangolis in the houses and the temples. It is one of the customs of any religious festival held in India. The patterns are nowadays created with either powdered colours or flowers. In ancient times rice flour mixed with water was used for the patterns. Even some households still follow the ritual. Some communities even arrange cultural programs where people join in to hear as well as perform various activities like reciting poems, singing songs, dancing, enacting plays etc. In West Bengal, many of the schools remain closed and even the government offices or agencies.
Om Shri Saraswatyai Namah। Anena Pujanena Shri Saraswati Devi Priyatam। Namo Namah।
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