The significance of Saraswati puja

Offering prayers to the goddess of knowledge

Culture

January 25, 2018

/ By / New Delhi

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Goddess Saraswati, the deity of music, is portrayed with the veena-an Indian classical musical instrument, in her hand

It is the time of spring when this puja (worship ritual) is performed to pray to the goddess of art and knowledge, while ushering in the season of new blooms.

The temple has been decorated with flowers, incense sticks fuming at a corner. The idol of Goddess Saraswati has been placed in the centre and beside it is the idol of Lord Ganesha. There are books kept at the foot of the goddess, not as an offering but for blessings. There is also an inkpot filled with milk and a wooden pen dunked into it. Most devotees are dressed in yellow. The flowers, and prasad (religious offering to be eaten) offered are also yellow in colour. It is the day of Basant Panchami and the goddess of music and knowledge is being prayed to.

Basant Panchami or Vasant Panchami is observed on the fifth day of the spring season. The word vasant means spring and panchami means fifth day. Welcoming the new season, the day falls every year around late January or early February on a date decided as per the Hindu calendar.

It is believed that Goddess Saraswati, who is said to be the deity of music, wisdom, knowledge, art and science, was born on the day of Vasant Panchami. Her devotees offer prayers, while chanting the Saraswati Vandanaa, hymn written in her name.

“As a family of musicians, we particularly organise the puja every year to thank the goddess. We make sure to invite all our students to it, who bring along their books and stationary and keep it in the altar to seek blessings,” says Vandana Goswami, a teacher of Indian classical music in New Delhi. “Besides singing hymns dedicated to goddess Saraswati, raagas (classical compositions) from the musical families of Basant and Bahar are sung on this day to usher in spring,” she adds.

Prayers are also offered to Lord Ganesha, as part of the tradition as per which the lord, also known as vighan harta, literally the obstacle remover, is remembered and prayed to before the start of any event.

Spring, for the freshness it brings in everyone’s life with new blossoms and the hope of a good harvest, is considered a vital season. Also, this is the reason why people adorn yellow apparel on this day, for the colour symbolises prosperity. Yellow is also symbolic of the mustard flowers that bloom at this time of the year. It is also why all prasad offered is yellow in colour. Fruits like bananas and a preparation of sweet-rice coloured with kesar (saffron) are distributed amongst devotees.

Kesaris also used to offer prayers, besides other samagri or puja ingredients. Mango wood, shriphal (coconut), haldi (turmeric), kumkum (vermillion), gangajal (Ganga water), chandan (sandalwood), and Baer (jujubes) are also offered, particularly by Bengalis, who believe it to be a fruit enjoyed by the goddess. The devotees do not eat the fruit themselves before the puja.Being a spring fruit, the first harvest of the season is offered to the goddess. It is after the prayers that devotees can enjoy it. In some Bengali households baer pickle or kooler achaar is prepared in the evenings after the puja.

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