As 'Diwali' – the festival of light – is
to Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, and 'Navaratri' is to Durga, goddess of strength,
might and power, Vasant Panchami is to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and
learning. She represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She is the
mother of the Vedas, and chants to her, called the 'Saraswati Vandana' often
begin and end Vedic lessons. The 5th day of the bright fortnight of the lunar
month of Maagha is the day of Vasant Panchami. Hindus all over the
world celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. This Panchami is also known
as Saraswati Day. It is believed that this auspicious day is the day when Goddess
Saraswati appeared. Hindu temples are full of activities on this day. Yellow
colour is given special importance on this day. On Vasant Panchami, Saraswati
is dressed in yellow garments and worshipped (with Puja, Yajna etc.). Men and
women try to wear yellow clothes on this day. Sweetmeats of yellowish hues are
exchanged with relations and friends.
Some people feed Brahmanas on this day. Pitri-Tarpan
(ancestor worship; water offerings to the forefathers) is done on this day.
The god of love (Kaamadeva) is also worshipped on this day. On this
day Goddess Saraswati is worshipped as the Goddess of Learning, the deity of
Gayatri, the fountain of fine arts and science, and the symbol of supreme vedantic
knowledge. Religious paintings depict each of these goddess alighted on a vehicle
that symbolizes their special power. The white swan of Saraswati symbolizing
Satwa Guna (purity and discrimination), the lotus of Lakshmi the Rajas Guna
and the tiger of Durga the Tamas Guna. Saraswati is shown possessing four hands
and plays "Veena", an Indian string musical instrument. Children are
taught their first words on this day (as an auspicious beginning to learning).
Schools, colleges etc., (places of learning) organise special worship of Saraswati.
Hinduism has taken into account special significance
of seasons and interwoven that with religious festivals e.g., Makar Sakranti,
Vasant Panchami. People generally feel inclined to worship the presiding deity
of the family (IshtaDeva or IshtaDevi) according to the individual’s
faith and desires. Also, people generally tend to accumulate wealth and power.
During the KaliYuga (present age), the pursuit of money (wealth, power,
name and fame) is everything to most people. Money is accorded god-like status.
But men of principle (men who can discriminate) worship goddess Saraswati for
spiritual enlightenment. In their opinion, there can be no comparison between
the king and the learned (spiritually advanced). The king is honoured within
his kingdom, whereas the learned is respected (or worshipped) everywhere. Saintly
people and people inclined towards spiritual progress attach great importance
to the worship of goddess Saraswati.
The vehicle assigned to each of the three goddesses also
symbolically represent their special powers. The white swan of Saraswati is
symbolising SattvaGuna (the quality of purity and discrimination possessed
by someone). The owl of Lakshmi and the lion or tiger of Durga symbolise the
other two gunas (Rajas and Tamas). The first faint signals
of the forthcoming festival of Holi manifest at Vasant Panchami. Seasons undergo
change. The coming of springtime is heralded. Trees are displaying new shoots.
New life is evident in the woods and fields. Nature decorates Mango trees with
new blossoms. Wheat and other crops enliven with evidence of new life.
Vasant Panchami is a festival full of religious, seasonal
and social significance and is celebrated by Hindus all over the world with
verve and new sense of optimism. 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. Educational
institutions organize special prayers for Saraswati on this day. Saintly people
and people inclined towards spiritual progress attach great importance to the
worship of goddess Saraswati. As a practice, only educated people and men of
principle worship goddess Saraswati for spiritual enlightenment. In their opinion,
there can be no comparison between the king and the learned or the spiritually
advanced. They believe that the king is honoured within his kingdom, whereas
the learned are respected or worshipped throughout the world.