Vasant Panchami is a famous festival that marks the end of the winter season and ushers in the springtime. Sarasvati is the Hindu goddess of the Vasant Panchami festival. Young girls wear bright yellow dresses and participate in the festivities. The color yellow holds a special meaning for this celebration as it signifies the brilliance of nature and the vibrancy of life. The whole place bursts with yellow during the festival.
History of celebrating the festival
According to the popular belief, the origins of this festival lie in Aryan period. Aryans came and settled in India through Khyber Pass, crossing the Saraswati River among many others. Being a primitive civilization, most of their development took place along the banks of the River Saraswati. Thus, River Saraswati began to be associated with fertility and knowledge. It is then that the day began to be celebrated.
According to mythology, a popular associated with this day is connected with poet Kalidasa. After he was married off to a beautiful princess through trickery, the princess kicked him out of her bed as she learned that he was foolish. Following this, Kalidasa went to commit suicide, upon which Saraswati emerged from the waters and asked him to take a dip there. After taking a dip in the holy waters, Kalidasa became knowledgeable and began writing poetry. Thus, Vasant Panchami is celebrated to venerate Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of education and learning.
Significance of Basant Panchami
Basant Panchami is celebrated to honor the Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning who bequeaths the greatest wealth to humanity, the wealth of knowledge. It is believed that Goddess Saraswati was born on this day. Students worship the goddess on this day. The prayer of Goddess finally concludes as, “Oh Mother Saraswati remove the darkness (ignorance) of my mind and bless me with the eternal knowledge.”
People worship Goddess Saraswati to get enlighten with knowledge and to get rid of lethargy, sluggishness and ignorance. This ritual of initiating education to children is known as Akshar-Abhyasam or Vidya-Arambham/Praasana which is one of the famous rituals of Vasant Panchami. Schools and colleges arrange pujas in the morning to seek blessing of the Goddess.
Traditionally children place their books on the altar, at the goddess’s feet. No one is allowed to touch the books during this period as they believe that goddess Saraswati is blessing the books.
Moreover, there is a belief that children who are yet to start their education, are taken to the nearby Saraswati temples on this day by the parents. And it is a customary to do Aksharaabhyas or the start of learning on this day at the temple premises. Small children are held the slate and chalks and are made to write start writing with Aum and then other letters as well. It is believed that children will shine in their education when they start their education on Basant Panchami day.
Devotees believe that worshipping of goddess Saraswati will lead to spiritual enlightenment Other activities performed on this day include worshipping of Kamadeva, the God of Love. On this occasion, people offers prayers to the Sun God and the deities associated with Ganges. The festivities of Basant Panchami include kite flying and a kite festival is observed in Ferozepur, Punjab. Basant Panchami marks the arrival of spring and can be noted from the colored blooms in trees and crops.
Significance of wearing yellow
People dress in yellow and they offer yellow flowers to others and to the gods and goddesses. They also prepare and feast on a special pastry called kesar halwa or kesar halva, which is made from flour, sugar, nuts, and cardamom powder. This dish also includes saffron strands, which gives it a vibrant yellow color and mild fragrance.
‘Yellow’ is the dominant color of this festival as it signifies the ripening of fruits and crops. The mustard fields in North India blooms during this season giving a yellow coat to nature. People wear yellow clothes, offer yellow flowers to Goddess and put a yellow, turmeric tilak on their forehead. They visit temples and offer prayers to various gods.
Yellow attire is worn by the followers of Saraswati. Most of the sweets and dishes prepared for the festival are usually yellow and saffron in color.
The time of celebration
Vasant Panchami is an important Indian festival celebrated every year in the month of Magh according to the Hindu calendar. Celebrated on the fifth day of Magh, the day falls somewhere in the months of February or March according to the Gregorian calendar.
Vasant stands for spring, and Panchami means the fifth day. Thus, the festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the spring season. According to the Hindu calendar, it falls during the Purvahna Kaal on the Panchami Tithi. In other words, it occurs on the fifth day of Magha (which works out to early February).
The actual celebration
On the day of the puja early morning bath is taken. The prayer room is cleaned up and goddess saraswathy is kept as the main deity. She is dressed in yellow and gold jewels are put for her. All those who are participating in the pooja should also wear yellow. The articles they use for wisdom and earning are place in the feet of the goddess to invoke her blessings on them. Then fruits and eatables that are yellow in colour like mango banana papaya is offered. The goddess is decorated with yellow colour flowers and women of the house also wears yellow flowers. Then the lamp is lit and aarthi is taken and the prasad and aarthi is given to all.
In certain places they give offerings to Kamadeva and play love music and also observe this day as kite festival and fly kites.
Since the goddess is considered to be an epitome of wisdom, therefore the day is celebrated in educational institutions also. Statues of Saraswati are adorned with yellow sari and jewellery. These are then worshiped, prayers are offered, and musical events are organized to please the goddess.
In many parts of the country, the celebrants set up a grand pandal to welcome the goddess and worship her. In West Bengal, it is celebrated as Sri Panchami. Colourful processions are held to carry idols of Saraswati and immerse it in the holy water of river Ganga.
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