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Vasant Panchami

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Saraswati f. Strassenpuja

Goddess Saraswati prepared for Vasant Panchami in the streets of Kolkata

Vasant Panchami (Devnagari:वसन्त पञ्चमी), sometimes referred to as Basant Panchami or Shree Panchami (Devnagari:श्रीपञ्चमी), is a Hindu festival celebrating Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, music and art. It is celebrated every year on the fifth day (Panchami) of the Indian month Magh (January-February), the first day of spring. Traditionally during this festival children are taught to write their first words; brahmins are fed; ancestor worship (Pitr-tarpan) is performed; the god of love Kamadeva is worshipped; and most educational institutions organise special prayer for Saraswati. The color yellow also plays an important role in this festival, in that people usually wear yellow garments, Saraswati is worshipped dressed in yellow, and yellow sweets are consumed within the families.

Saraswati puja

Also known as Saraswati Puja (Bengali: সরস্বতী পূজা shoroshshôti puja), this festival is celebrated in Nepal, India and Bangladesh to invoke wisdom and consciousness in human beings. Apart from wisdom, Saraswati is also the deity for fine and performing arts. The day is also called Basant Panchami which falls in Falgun (Phalgun in Hindi) month of Bangla calendar; that is February of the Gregorian calendar. In West Bengal saraswati puja is celebrated in Hindu households and also in schools and colleges. Bengali men are usually dressed in traditional paijama and punjabi. Women are dressed in yellow (basanti) coloured sari. With Her grace, the mute, it is believed, have been able to speak and people have been blessed with the ability to write or compose poems. Musicians sing here and many even choose to perform here first. Instrumentalists have puja performed for their instruments here. Apart from art and culture, Goddess Saraswati also showers Her blessings for the education of children.

Notebooks, pencils and pens are kept at the Devi's feet for blessings and then used by the students. A noticeboard asks the students to write their names, address and the roll number on a piece of paper and put it in the hundi after praying for success! It is believed the Goddess blesses them for good and positive results.

Goddess Saraswati

Her expression is so serene and calm even as She is majestic. She is seated on a white lotus in Padmasana, adorned by a pure white silk sari, has a book in Her lower left hand, Her lower right hand showing the chinmudra, Aksharamala in Her right upper hand, and Amrithakalasam in Her left upper hand. Both eyes are full of compassion. The vehicle assigned to each of the three goddesses also symbolically represent their special powers.

Goddess Saraswathi is the consort of Lord Brahma (Lord of Creation) and is the Goddess of wisdom and learning. Saraswati is the one who gives the essence (sara) of our own self (swa). She is considered as the personification of all knowledge - arts, sciences, crafts and other skills. She has a beautiful and elegant presence, is pure white in colour, clad in a white sari, seated on a white lotus, representing purity and brilliance. She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning; mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She has the sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus (a symbol of true knowledge) in the second. With her other two hands she plays the music of love and life on the veena.

She is dressed in white (sign of purity) and rides on a white goose (swan). The swan is known for its pecliar characteristic of being capable of separating water from milk, indicating that we should possess discrimination in separating the bad from the good. The seat being a lotus or peacock implies that the teacher is well-established in the subjective experience of truth. When sitting on a peacock she reminds us that wisdom suppresses ego.

Like Brahma, she is not worshipped much in temples. However, every year Saraswathi Pooja (Navarathiri) is celebrated by people all over India, be it students, workers, craftsmen, businessmen offering their prayers for a successful and fruitful year. However, Saraswathi does have a temple in Koothanur in Tanjavur district (Tamil Nadu).There is an important Saraswati Temple in Basar at a distance of 40 km from Nizamabad in Adilabad District, Andhra Pradesh on the banks of Godavari River. There is also a small but very old temple in Hasanpur and a relatively new one in Bakhri Bazar, Bihar.

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