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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saraswati Puja


Today is Basant Panchmi, or Saraswati Puja, or the day that heralds the coming of spring. It also pays homage to the Goddess of letters and knowledge, Saraswati, wife of Brahma The Creator. It is a special day for me, for it fills my mind with memories of a childhood spent in Kolkata, where this Goddess is truly revered on this day. I do not think if I had had my early education in Delhi, I would look upon this day as so meaningful, nor would nostalgia fill my being with happiness. I actually see the huge white marble statue of Saraswati, that adorned the entrance hall of my school in Kolkata, in front of my eyes, with all of us schoolgirls gathered there. We  joined in the puja or prayer, and sang Bengali songs in homage to her. I can never forget her, she is linked to my school and childhood in Kolkata.

We  wear something yellow on this day, it is the colour of Spring. My mother says that my grandmother would dye their hankies and ribbons yellow for that day and they would wear them to school. And she would make sweet saffron rice  (for the orange yellow colour in food) with cashew and raisins. My mother herself made pulao for us on that day , with the turmeric lending the yellow to the rice. Since it is Panchami, my Bengali maid tells me that they prepare five  (pancham means five) vegetables today, and also a sweet kheer.

I feel really happy that we have this festival honouring letters and learning, for to me, education is the most important weapon to fight darkness. And as the strong yellow sunlight bathes the world around me, and the mustard fields sway in the breeze somewhere in my land, I know that winter is disappearing. I feel the joy of Spring and song, both in my mind and in my step. 

4 comments:

  1. This 'Panchami' is also known as Saraswati Day, because it is believed that on this day, goddess Saraswati was born. Ma Saraswati is the goddess of learning, so those associated with the performance footsteps of Ma Saraswati in order to receive her special blessings. It is particularly popular among the students community.
    I don't know much about rest of India but in West Bengal it is has its own flavour.
    The preparation starts a day before with decoration of pandals, late night hopping in market for selecting the most beautiful statue, flowers and other stuff for performing puja. Puja starts early in the morning with aarti, chanting of various mantras and finally the most important one "The Pushpanjali". Children do not eat anything until they give puspanjali. Basically students fear studies most and this is the shortcut for the scoring good marks in exams.
    Families dressed in bright yellow gather together before the idol of Saraswati and pray for the blessing of knowledge. Flowers and wild berries are offered to the goddess and students place their books before the deity and do not do any reading or writing that day. An elaborate puja, with sandalwood, ghee, joss sticks, and incense is done to the sound of shlokas, conch shells, and drums. On this day, people eat vegetarian food and initiate children into the world of the written word. Traditionally, priests make children write the word 'Om'.
    All the young people gather in the pandal to celebrate the festival. Puja is performed by pujari or pandit, after puja, prasad is distributed among all the people present. Saraswati puja is also the day of eating plums.

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  2. Thanks, Sunny. I see that your blog has no blog post. This information is wonderful and I am wondering how to share it. If you are on FB, let me know your full name so that I may send a friend request to you.
    Abha

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  3. Beautiful pic of the Goddess of knowledge and music

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