Saturday, January 28, 2012
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.