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The festival of Vasant Panchami marks the beginning of the spring season and it is celebrated will full fervor all over India. Every year, it is celebrated on the fifth day of Magh and the day falls somewhere in the months of February or March. According to history, the origin of this festival belongs to the Aryan period when they came and settled in India through the Khyber Pass. They crossed the Saraswati River and then most of the development took place along the banks of the river. Thus, River Saraswati was associated with knowledge and fertility and the day began to be celebrated.
Worship of Goddess Saraswati and its significance
Today, the festival is celebrated all over India by farmers as the on-coming of the spring season and is considered to be the most auspicious day of laying one’s foundation of education. On this day, Goddess Saraswati was born and Hindus celebrate this day in temples, homes and even in schools. Young children are given their first lesson in reading and writing by Brahmins. This ritual to start the education of children is also known as Vidya Arambha or Akshar Abhyasam or Hatey Khori. It is also an auspicious day to inaugurate new schools or training institutes.
Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom symbolizes the constant flow of wisdom and knowledge. People worship her to get rid of sluggishness and ignorance and to get enlighten with knowledge.Many people love to keep goddess Saraswati names for baby girl as she represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness.
Saraswati Puja in West Bengal
In West Bengal, Ma Saraswati is worshipped in almost all the households with immense devotion. Temporary arrangements are made to install the idol of Goddess in the locality. Young girls and boys take part in the ritual. Since yellow color is the predominant color of the festival, people wear yellow clothes, make yellow colored sweets, dishes and offer yellow flowers during the puja. The yellow color has a great significance and symbolizes the blossoming of flowers of mustard.
In West Bengal, colorful processions are held while carrying the idols of Saraswati. The idols are adorned with yellow sari and jewelry. The temples are also decorated during the festival and special feasts are arranged on Vasant Panchami. The worship is incomplete without plums, palash flowers, bel leaves and white sandalwood powder. Strictly vegetarian diet is served and a special dish “kooler chutni” (plum jam) is served on the day.
On this day children of age 3 to 5 are also introduced to formal education through a ritual know as Hate Khori where the Brahmin holds the hand of the child and makes him or her write the first letters of alphabet like “Ka”, “ Kha” or OM.
Basant Panchami in Punjab
The season of Basant is celebrated by welcoming new knowledge and in towns and villages of North India, this day celebrated as the Vasant festival of kites. On this day, everyone rises early to take bathe and applies turmeric on their forehead and worship mother Ganga, the Sun goddess and the earth. Goddess Saraswati is dressed in yellow and represents good fortune, spirituality and abundance of knowledge. Books, musical instruments and tools of art are placed before the goddess to receive her blessings. Traditional sweets of yellow color like kesar halva are prepared and offered to friends and relatives.
Several people mark the occasion by flying kites and often conduct competitions to judge the best kite flyer. They also visit gurudwaras and perform the folk dance of bhangra and giddha. Several gurudwaras take out processions and the Chheharta Sahib gurdwara in Amritsar is popular for its Basant Panchami celebration. People also visit colorful fairs that sell bangles, clothes, dupattas and other edible items and the entire night many people stay awake in gurudwaras reciting kirtans.
Celebration in Other States
In Orissa, South India, Vasant Panchami is rejoiced with great fervor and enthusiasm. Across the country, educational institutes celebrate this festival. The goddess represents the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, alertness, ego and intellect. A true symbol of knowledge, the idol is dressed in white, a symbol of purity and wears a garland of white pearls and rides on a white swan. Girls wear sarees and boys wear traditional dresses and seek blessings.Women draw Alpana designs for Saraswati puja in the living room or in the courtyards floors to welcome the Goddess.
Goddess Saraswati is not only worshipped by Hindus but also by Jains and Buddhists all over the world.