India is a land of festivals. We observe thirteen festivals in twelve months. Festivals and Pujas are celebrated to enlighten us and purify us. They are still in us and provide a strong sense of confidence and goodwill.
Importance of the puja
Saraswati Puja is one of the important festivals of the Hindu. It is celebrated to seek the blessings of goddess Saraswati, Who is the goddess of knowledge. It is mainly celebrated in educational institutions and in such other institutions where intellectual pursuits are carried on.
When is it celebrated?
Saraswati Puja is celebrated on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Magha. So that this day is also known as Magha Panchami. The day is celebrated at the advent of spring. It is also known as Basant Panchami or Shree Panchami. The puja is celebrated when the weather remains amusingly fine. The cold winter has just left the world. The angry summer is yet to arrive. Everywhere there is a procession of flowers. Granary of farmers is full after the harvest. All enjoy the day in the real festive spirit.
How do we celebrate Saraswati Puja at home ?
On the day of Vasant Panchami wake up early, clean your house, puja area, and take a bath to perform the Saraswati Puja rituals. Since yellow is the favourite colour of goddess Saraswati, make a paste of Neem and Turmeric all over your body before taking bath. After the bath get dressed in yellow coloured clothes. After setting up the Saraswati idol in the puja area. Take a clean white/yellow cloth and place it over araised area table. After that, place the idol of Goddess Saraswati in the center. Along with Goddess Saraswati in the center. Along with Goddess Saraswati, you need to place an idol of Lord Ganesha by her side. You can also place your books, notebook, musical instrument near the idol. Then, take a plate and decorate it with turmeric, kumkum, rice, flowers, and offer it to Saraswati and Ganesha to seek their blessings. Light a small lamp in front of the idols, close your eyes, join the palms of your hand and recite the Saraswati Puja mantra and aarti. Once, the puja rituals are over, share the prasad among family and friends.
Celebration in differrent states
In Odisha, many schools and colleges celebrate by doing as homas and yagnas for their students. Kids or Toddlers between the age like 2-5 years start formally learning on this auspicious day in Khadi-Chuan or Vidya-Arambha, wherein they are introduced to the local music, dance, and language.
Bengal and Bihar
Saraswati Puja serves as a children’s festival. Schools and colleges celebrate Saraswati Puja. Wearing yellow is considered to be auspicious during Basant Panchami. Yellow-colored sweets and rice dishes are prepared using saffron. Delicacies like boondi, ladoo, kheer, malpua, kesar halwa, kesari bhat, sondesh, and rajbhog are offered along with Ganga jal and mango wood.
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh
According to the legend belived in these states, this was the day when Madana, the Hindu God of love, shot arrows of flowers and bees to Lord Shiva to bring him back from his meditation and pay attention to wife Parvati.
That’s why, in these states, people also go to Shiva temples and worship the couple, offering mango flowers and the ears of wheat. In uttar Pradesh, Saraswati idols are immersed in River Ganga as part of the rituals.
Punjab and Harayana
In this Northern state, the festival is celebrated by the Sikhs as Basant Panchami. Dressed in bright yellow clothes and turbans, they engage in spirited competitions of kite-flying, young and old alike. On this day, Sikhs also commemorate the martyrdom of Haqiqat Singh who was arrested by Muslim ruler Zakariya Khan on false charges of insulting islam.
It is customary for women and young girls to wear jasmine garlands.
Basant Panchami or Saraswati Puja is celebrated in Assam as well. The birth of Saraswati is associated with getting up early in the morning, cleaning the surroundings of the puja area.
Celebration in other countries
Saraswati is an important goddess in Balinese Hinduism. She shares the same attributes and iconography as Saraswati in Hindu literature of India. In both places, she is the goddess of knowledge, creative arts, wisdom, language, learning, and purity. In Bali, she is celebrated on Saraswati day, one of the main festivals for Hindus in Indonesia. The day marks the close of 210 day year in the Pawukon calendar. This festival has a long history in Bali.
The concept of Saraswati migrated from India, through China to Japan. Saraswati appears as Benzaiten. She arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries. She is often depicted holding a Bisw, a traditional Japanese lute musical instrument. She is enshrined in numerous locations throughout Japan such as the Kamakura’s Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine or Nagoya’s Kawahara Shrine. The three biggest shrines in Japan in her honor are at the Enoshima Island in Sagami Bay, the Chikubu Island in Lake Biwa, and the Itsukushima Island in the Seto Island Sea.
Saraswati was honored with invocations among Hindus of Angkorian Cambodia, suggests a 10th century and another 11th-century inscription. Saraswati and Brahma are referred to in Cambodian epigraphy from the 7th century onwards. She is praised by Khmer poets for being the goddess of eloquence, writing, and music. She is also referred to as Vagisvari and Bharati in Yasovarman era Khmer literature.
In ancient Thai literature, Saraswati is the goddess of speech and learning, and consort of Brahma. Many times Hindu and Buddhist concepts on deities merged in Thailand. Icons of Saraswati with other deities of India are found in old Thai wats. Amulets with Saraswati and a peacock are also found in Thailand.
In the Buddhist arts of Myanmar, Saraswati is called Thurathadi. Students in Myanmar pray for her blessings before their exams. She also believed to be, in Mahayana pantheon of Myanmar, the protector of Buddhist scriptures.
A special occasion for students.
Students observe the day with much devotion. They decorate their schools with much care. They clean the entire campus before the puja day. They decorate a pendal and set on it the clay image of the goddess Saraswati. Goddess Saraswati is seen to sit on a lotus or one a swan. She is clad in immaculate white clothes. She holds a bina in her hands. A priest is called to perform the puja as sanctioned by the religious scriptures. At the end of the puja a sacrificial fire is lit into which pure ghee is poured with chanting of mantras. The puja comes to an end with the offering of Pushpanjali. Then only the students break their fast and take some prasad.
Saraswati Puja is an auspicious occasion. It is more a day of an observation than celebration. Devotees worship the goddess to achieve intellectual perfection with her blessings.