Place of Merriment: West Bengal
Bengalis are known for their artistic and literary brains. Do you what is their secret behind their God sent talent? They are die-hard believers of Goddess Saraswati. That’s why West Bengal celebrates Saraswati Puja magnificently. It is celebrated on ‘Vasant Panchami’ day, which falls during the last week of January or early February. According to Hindu calendar, it is celebrated on the fifth day of the lunar month of Magha. At this time of the year, the colors of spring season are heralded. It is also called as ‘Saraswati Day’ because, it is believed that she was born on this day.
Who is GODDESS Saraswati?
In Hindu mythology, every Goddess is symbolic. Each one of them is worshipped with full devotion. While Goddess Durga and Lakshmi represent ‘strength’ and ‘wealth’ respectively, it is Goddess Saraswati who is responsible for helping us to seek knowledge and wisdom successfully.
Goddess Saraswati—is the Goddess of Wisdom and Knowledge. She is daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga. She is a consort of Lord Brahma. She endows human beings with powers of speech. She has four hands reflecting her different personas.
A graceful woman, she is always attired in her pure white sari. She rides on a white swan and plays the veena—an Indian stringed instrument. Her divine personality symbolizes purity, knowledge and discrimination.
How Saraswati Puja is Celebrated?
The colorful aspect of ‘Saraswati Puja’ is that the color ‘Yellow’ is given due importance. On this day, Saraswati is clothed in ‘yellow’ as it signifies the onset of spring which mustard flowers blossom all over the fields.
In West Bengal, all educational institutions and centers of learning are declared as a holiday. Families, young and old, are all decked up in hues of bright yellow for the Saraswati Puja ceremony. Saraswati Puja is an auspicious day for children to start reading and writing the first letters and alphabets. Educational institutes organize special ‘Saraswati’ prayers with the full preparations and organizing taken care of by the students.
Irrespective of the fact, whether they are religious or not, everyone participates in the hope of excelling in their examinations. Students place their books before the deity. They do not read or write on that day. Young school going girls are clad in their ‘yellow’ colored sarees’ and put ‘alta’ on their feet and go to school.
It commences at a time when the weather is cool and pleasant. ‘Palash’ flowers and wild berries is an essential ingredient of Saraswati Puja. A relatively simpler ritual, this puja is performed with the help sandalwood, ghee, joss sticks, and incense. The Puja is done with the loud sound of shlokas, conch shells, and drums. Books, articles, instruments of music and arts, earthen inkpots and bamboo quills are placed before her. On this day writing ink is prepared from unboiled milk water, red colour powder and silver glitter.
The children dip their bamboo stick in this ink and write the words, ‘Aum nama Sarswatyai namah’ on her ‘ber’ leaves to seek Goddess Saraswati’s blessings. After the Saraswati Puja, a vegetarian meal is feasted with family and friends. For Bengalis, it is the day of munching their favorite fruit ‘Kool’, or Plums’—a fruit of springtime. Thereafter, in the evening, the idol is immersed in the sea with serenity unlike other major festivals.