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Saraswati Puja in Bengal : Vasant Panchami - Netglimse.com

Date of celebration: 4 February, 2014

Worshipping the Goddess of Knowledge, Arts and Music, Saraswati, is most popular in the "cultural capital of India" - Kolkata. The Goddess is worshipped with bel leaves, fresh white/yellow spring flowers (mainly marigolds, chrysanthemums, palash), grains of spring (specially, malt), phaag and abhro (herbal powdered colours) and white sandal wood paste. Saraswati Puja is celebrated in India and Bangladesh to invoke wisdom and consciousness in the human being. Apart from wisdom, Saraswati is also the deity for fine and performing arts. The day is also called Basanta Panchami or Sri Panchami, which falls in the bengali month of Phalgun of the Bangla calendar; that is between January and February of the Gregorian calendar. Goddess Saraswati is represented as a refined woman with white skin, who wears a crescent moon (chandrakala) on her brow, and rides a swan. She is also depicted as a deity seated on a white lotus flower. Saraswati Puja, in Kolkata is hugely popular. Almost every household in Kolkata celebrate Saraswati Puja .Infact, the day of Saraswati Puja has been declared as a state Holiday. Every small locality even erects small Bamboo pandals by pulling in funds and worship Mother Goddess. 'Palash' flowers are considered to be the essential component in Saraswati Puja. The puja is considered to be incomplete without using Palash flowers. Generally the Prasad is distributed amongst the devotees.

In Bengal, Vasant Panchami is known as Saraswati Puja as on this day, Saraswati, goddess of learning and knowledge, is worshipped. In fact, the day when puja of Maa Saraswati is done is declared as a state holiday. Calcutta Saraswati puja festival is celebrated with great pomp and show. It is on this day that the youngest female of the family is asked to dress up in yellow clothing. Sarswati puja of Kolkata India is dedicated to the goddess of learning. On this day students invoke the blessings of the goddess for success in learning, arts and crafts. Throughout Bengal, Saraswati Puja is celebrated in schools, colleges as well as homes. In all educational institutions of music, arts and science, Saraswati Puja is observed with great reverence. Saraswati Puja is observed religiously almost in all parts of India especially in Bengal. The most significant aspect of this day is that Hindu children are taught reading and writing their first words on this day - as it is considered an auspicious day to begin a child's education. Goddess Saraswati being pure and white and representing learning, no animal sacrifice is made to her.Everyone will have vegetarian meal on this day. Since Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of learning, the students are the most ardent worshippers of Goddess Saraswati. The Saraswati Puja, Kolkata has associated with itself various traditions and customs. Mostly girls wear a yellow ('Baasanti') colored saree as a custom. Popularly dubbed as the Bengali Valentine’s Day,Saraswati Puja , Kolkata has become an occasion when young would be couples go for a date. Floral offerings are made in a big scale. Books, articles, instruments of music and arts, earthen inkpots and bamboo quills are placed before her. The ink is made from unboiled milk water, colour powder and silver glitter called abhro. On this day nobody writes or reads any book, or play any musical instrument. This signifies that the goddess is blessing the books placed in front of her that day. This puja is celebrated in all schools and colleges. Young boys could be seen engaged in the preparation of pujas from early morning. From cutting of fruits to assisting the priest, everything is taken care of by the students. No matter whether a student is religious or irreligious, everyone participates in this in the hope of doing, well in their examinations. Saraswati Puja is also the day of eating plums. Plums, called 'kool' in Bengali is the most sought after fruit on the day of Saraswati Puja. 'Kooler Chatni' is a must for that day. 'Kool' or plum is a fruit of spring time. Hence, it must be eaten on the day of saraswati Puja. The time of Saraswati puja is also the time for selling plums at a premium. With the end of spring, the demand for plums also ebb. On the day of Saraswati puja, young children starts writing through a ceremony called 'Hatey-Khori'. This is a ceremony which marks the beginning of writing for young children. People think that one become a learned person if one starts his introduction with letters from this auspicious day. Saraswati Puja has tremendous importance among Bengalis. The puja starts early in the morning. The day has been declared a state holiday. The pujas are held in every locality and in most homes as well. Since Saraswati is the goddess of learning, the students are the most enthusiastic. They give 'Anjali' to the goddess and pray for their future. Traditionally, members, specially students and youngsters, of the family wear a mustard yellow ('Baasanti') coloured saree/kurta as a custom. An essential requirement for the Saraswati puja are the 'palaash' flowers and phaag (coloured herbal powders) without which the puja is considered to be incomplete. Marigold, chrysanthemum and dahlia are also an integral part of the puja and decorations. All the young people living in the locality gather in the pandal to celebrate the occasion. Music blares in the pandals and the children enjoy themselves. The puja is performed by the 'pujari' or 'purohit' (hired brahmin worshipper). After the puja is over, the 'prasaad' (offered food) is distributed among all the people present. In some places, they make it a point to feed all the poor living in the locality. All children dip their bamboo quills into the earthen inkpots and write "Aum Sarswatyai Namah" on the bel leaves or their books the following day, and rebegin their studies. After the puja prasad is distributed to people. In the evening after the Puja is over, the idol is immersed in the sea, river (mainly Ganges) or in ponds with serenity. Alternatively the deity remains in the family puja room for a year till the next Saraswati Puja. Books are kept back in places. Saraswati puja is conducted in almost every locality of West Bengal, and of course, Kolkata, and even all over the world, including Europe and the Americas. People of the locality get together and assemble at the pandal to celebrate the festivity. Kids are really enthusiastic about the puja. It is during this puja that children pray to the goddess for their academic success. It is usually the pundit who performs the puja. After the puja is over, prasad is distributed to all. So, if you are on a trip to Kolkata during the Saraswati Puja to Kolkata make it a point to be a part of the Saraswati puja celebrations and have loads of fun and frolic!!!

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