Saraswati Puja also known as Vasant Panchami is celebrated by people in various ways depending upon the region.
Updated: October 11, 2019
Saraswati Puja also known as Vasant Panchami, or spelled as Vasant Panchami, is celebrated by people in various ways depending upon the region. The Vasant Panchami also marks the start of preparation for Holika and Holi, which take place forty days later. The Vasant Utsava on Panchami is celebrated forty days before Spring. It is a festival that marks the preliminary preparations for the arrival of spring.
Significance of Saraswati Puja:
Vasant Panchami is a festival that marks the beginning of Spring. It is celebrated by people in various ways depending on the region. Vasant Panchami is the festival dedicated to goddess Saraswati. Goddess Saraswati is the sign of purity and peace. She is the goddess of knowledge, language, music and all arts. She is also consider as the energy of Brahma, and symbolizes creative energy and power in all its form, including longing and love. The season and festival also celebrates the ripening of agricultural fields with yellow flowers of mustard crop, which is the favorite color of godess Saraswati.
The festival is particularly observed by Hindus in India and Nepal. It's also has been a historical tradition of Sikhs as well. The same day is called Sri Panchami in southern states. It is known as "Hari Raya Saraswati" on the island of Bali and the Hindus of Indonesia. It also marks the beginning of the 210-day long Balinese Pawukon calendar.
Many families mark this day by sitting with babies and young children, encouraging their children to write their first words with their fingers. In Odisha, toddlers start learning from this day in a unique ceremony named 'Khadi-Chuan'/Vidya-Arambha on this day. Worshiping Lord Saraswati increases and hones your skills. You become more talented, experienced and skilled. White swan is the Vahanas of godess Saraswati. As she is associated with purity, delicacy, and importance of the arts and sciences, the bird is used by the Goddess Saraswati as her vehicle which is a symbol of purity and beauty.
Celebration of Saraswati Puja:
Vasant Panchami is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the bright half of the Hindu luni-solar calendar month of Magha, which typically falls in late January or February. This festival is also celebrated as the festival of spring, called Basant in the northern Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, and in Punjab. There is also a tradition among Sufi saints in which special floral wreaths are placed on the graves of passed saints in celebration of the Basant festival.
As per legend, Vasant Panchami is based on the Hindu god of love called Kama. Pradyumna is Kamadev who is the son of Rukmini and Krsna. He awakens the passions of the earth and it's people and thus the world blooms anew. Thus Vasant Panchami is also known as "Madana Panchami". Parvati approached Kama to wake up Shiva in Yogic meditation. Kama helped her and shoots arrows, made of flowers and bees, at Shiva from his heavenly bow of sugarcane in order to arouse him to pay attention to Parvati. This initiative is celebrated by Hindus as Vasant Panchami.
Saraswati Puja is celebrated in many ways depending on the region, custom and tradition in the Indian subcontinent.
For Hindus, Vasant Panchami is the festival dedicated to goddess Saraswati who represents knowledge, language, music and all arts. She is the energy of Brahma, and she symbolizes creative energy and power in all its form, including longing and love.
The season and festival also celebrates ripening of agricultural fields with yellow flowers of mustard crop. As Yellow is associate with favorite color of Saraswati, people dress in yellow saris or shirts or accessories, share yellow colored snacks and sweets. Some add saffron to their rice and then eat yellow cooked rice as a part of an elaborate feast. Statues of Saraswati are dressed in yellow and worshiped in temples and educational institutions. Many educational institutions arrange special prayers or pujas in the morning to seek blessing of the goddess.
Most of the schools arrange special Saraswati puja for their students in their premises. Food offerings of spring fruits are offered to the Goddess as Prasad. Students pray for excellence in the arts and in learning by offering flowers to the feet of idols of the Goddess and preserving those flowers in their books for blessings.
- People visit the temple of godess Saraswati and worship her in Nepal, Bihar and eastern states of India such as West Bengal including north-eastern states like Tripura and Assam.
- All major educational institutes and universities observe it with holiday and a special puja in Bangladesh. Homas and Yagnas are done in Schools and Colleges across the state in Odisha. Students celebrate Saraswati Puja with great sincerity and fervor. Usually, toddlers start learning from this day in a unique ceremony named 'Khadi-Chuan'/Vidya-Arambha.
- In Kutch (Gujarat), the festival is celebrated by preparing bouquet and garlands of flowers set with mango leaves, as a gift. People dress in saffron, pink or yellow and visit each other. Songs about pranks of Krishna with Radha are sung. This is symbolized with the Hindu deity Kamadeva with his wife Rati.
- In Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, after bathing in the morning, people worship Shiva and Parvati. Offerings of mango flowers and the ears of wheat are traditionally made.
- In Aurangabad (Bihar), the shrine of the Sun-God known as the Deo-Sun Shrine, was established on Basant Panchami. The day is celebrated to commemorate the founding of the shrine by King Aila of Allahabad and the birthday of the Sun-Deo God. The statues are washed on Basant Panchami and old red clothes on them are replaced with new ones. Devotees sing, dance and play musical instruments.
- In Maharashtra, newly married couples visit a temple and offer prayers on the first Basant Panchami after the wedding. They wear yellow colored dresses on this day.
- In the Punjab region, Sikhs and Hindus wear yellow turban or headdress. Basant is celebrated as a seasonal festival by all faiths and is known as the Basant Festival of Kites. Children buy Dor (Thread) and Guddi or "Patang" (Kites) for the sport. The people of the Punjab wear yellow clothes and eat yellow rice. They play by flying kites. the tradition of flying kites on various festivals is also found in northern and western Indian states.
- In Uttarakhand, people worship Shiva, Parvati as the mother earth and the crops or agriculture along with Saraswati Puja. People eat yellow rice and wear yellow.
- In Rajasthan, it is a custom for people to wear jasmine garlands. Kite flying is associated with the period prior to Uttarayan.
- On Bali and among Indonesian Hindus, Hari Raya Saraswati is celebrated in family compounds, educational institutions, and public venues from morning to noon. Teachers and students wear bright coloured clothes instead of their usual uniforms, and children bring traditional cakes and fruit to school for offerings.
Namdhari Sikhs celebrate Basant Panchami to mark the beginning of spring. Other Sikhs treat it as a spring festival, and celebrate it by wearing yellow colored clothes, imitatating the bright yellow mustard flowers in the fields. The founder of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh encouraged the celebration of Basant Panchami as a social event in the Gurdwaras. He gave 2,000 rupees to the Harmandir Sahib Gurdwara in Amritsar to distribute food. He held an annual Basant fair and sponsored kite flying as a regular feature of the fairs. Maharaja Ranjit Singh would also hold a darbar in Lahore on Basant Pachami which lasted ten days when soldiers would dress in yellow and show their military prowess. Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his queen Moran would dress in yellow and fly kites on Basant Panchami.
- The festival of Basant Panchami is celebrated with wearing of yellow dress and kite flying in the Malwa region.
- A Basant Panchami fair is held in Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur. People attend the fair awearing yellow clothes, turbans or accessories.
- Sikhs also remember the martyrdom of the child Haqiqat Rai on Basant Panchmi, who was arrested by the Muslim ruler Khan Zakariya Khan after being falsely accused of insulting Islam. Rai was given the choice of converting to Islam or death. After refusing the conversion, he was executed on the Basant Panchami of 1741 in Lahore, Pakistan.
Sufi Muslim Basant:
Basant Panchmi is a Hindu festival adopted by some Indian Muslim Sufis in the 12th century to mark the grave of the Muslim Sufi saint dargah of Nizamuddin Aulia in Delhi. According to local Sufi traditions, the poet Amir Khusrau saw Hindu women carry yellow flowers to a temple on Basant and they were dressed in yellow, and he adopted this practice. Once the Chishti order of Sufi Indian Muslims continue to practice
After creation of Pakistan it evolved into a highly competitive sport which is not limited to “basant” only. There are regional teams, competitions, and trophies. Kite And string making is an industry all over central Punjab providing livelihood to thousands. The Punjabi Muslims in and around Lahore also celebrate kite flying as a sport in Pakistan from home rooftops during the Basant season.