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Vasant Panchami Festival

Indian girls wear bright yellow dresses during the Hindu spring festival Vasant Panchami. Vasant Panchami is a famous festival that ma...

Indian girls wear bright yellow dresses during the Hindu spring festival Vasant Panchami.
Indian girls wear bright yellow dresses during the Hindu spring festival Vasant Panchami.
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.

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.  During the Vasant Panchami festival, India’s crop fields are filled with the color yellow, as the yellow mustard flowers bloom at this time of the year. Pens, notebooks, and pencils are placed near the goddess Devi's feet to be blessed before they are used by students.

The celebration of the Vasant Panchami is centered on the Hindu goddess Sarasvati. Sarasvati is the goddess of wisdom. She embodies the different facets of learning such as the sciences, arts, crafts and skills.  She is said to be calm and collected. She is often pictured seated on a lotus or a peacock, wearing a white dress.

The Goddess Sarasvati is the goddess of intellect and learning. She has four hands which symbolize ego, intellect, alertness and the mind. She carries a lotus and scriptures in two of her hands and she plays music on the veena (an instrument similar to a sitar) with her other two hands. She rides on a white swan. Her white dress is a symbol for purity. Her swan signifies that people should have the ability to discern the good from the bad.

The goddess Sarasvati, sitting on a lotus, symbolizes her wisdom.  She is also well-versed in the experience of truth.  When the goddess is seen sitting on a peacock, it is a reminder that a strong ego can be held back by wisdom.

The festival of Vasant Panchami is celebrated on the 5th day of Krishna Paksh in the month of Magh.
This day is considered as Annbhuj Muhurth. On this day, marriages and auspicious ceremonies can be performed without reference to the Panchaang (auspicious Hindu calendar).

On this day, Saraswati Devi is worshipped. This day is of special significance for the students. They place their books at the feet of Devi seeking wisdom and blessings.
Saraswati Devi puja is performed by offering roli, moli, yellow flowers, gulal, fruits, yellow-coloured sweets (sohanpapdi sweet made with besan).
Shri Krishna is considered Adi Devtaa of this festival, so the festival is celebrated with great fervour in Vrindavan.

People celebrate Basant Panchami by wearing clothes in various shades of yellow colour. This is in keeping with the prevalent colour of nature at this time when yellow sarson flowers and marigold are in bloom.

In the puja room the deities are dressed in yellow colour.
Yellow—coloured sweet rice is made at home.

Deepak is lit.

Aarti of Saraswati Mata is performed.

Aarti karu Saraswati Matu……
Yakundendu tushar haar dhavala……………….

Puja rituals:
# The idol is in white, symbolizing purity. The sari of the Deity is white or yellow dyed in the natural dye made from "Shiuli" flowers.
# The place where the idol is kept for the puja is decorated with Rangoli and the design of a fish is considered auspicious.
# A flat low stool made of wood is covered with yellow cloth and the idol is placed on it, facing East.
# Then, the face of the idol remains covered till the priest begins chanting the mantras at the commencement of the puja.
# A green coconut is placed on an earthen pot with a red checked cotton cloth called "Gamocha".
# The actual puja flowers are used but the most significant is the Palash or flame of the forest and marigold flowers.
# Students place their books and pen in front of the goddess seeking blessings.
# The offerings to the goddess are mainly fruits--most significant are Berries from the wild plum tree. Other fruits include tapioca. Sweets must include puffed rice, jaggery and yogurt.
# Family members bathe early and dress in yellow attire and assemble in front of the Goddess.
# The earthen pot is tied with a string which will be untied only on the next day by the priest before Bisarjan or the immersion ceremony.
# A havanis done by the priest using special wood, ghee, joss sticks and incense.There absence of a burnt smell signifies the success of the puja. A diya or lamp is also kept lit along with the prasad.
# A handful of flowers particularly marigolds and flame of the forest is given to each devotee to offer to the goddess as "pushpanjali". The offering is done in batches of devotees who repeat mantras after the priest.
# Arati is performed by the priest in the morning and again in the evening. This is done while chanting Sanskrit slokas and accompanied by the blowing of conch shells and the beating of drums.
# The lit lamp used during the Arati is passed around for each devotee to warm his/ her hand and touch their heads.
# Nobody touches books on that day. This signifies that the goddess is blessing the books placed in front of her.

Other rituals:
* All devotees take vegetarian food this day to remain pure.
* The smallest girl of the family has to wear a yellow coloured saree as a custom. This ritual is usually observed in Bengal.
* An infant is asked to write for the first time, the alphabets by the priest.It signifies the first step being taken in the acquisition of Knowledge.
* The next day the children take back their books but stand before the goddess and read from them or write in them.
* The string on the earthen pot is untied and it signifies the end of the puja.
* Yogurt, Khoi (puffed rice) and bananas are offered to the goddess as she departs.
* Bisarjan is act of floating/ sinking of the idol in a nearby river or pond.Alternatively the deity remains in the family puja room for a year till the next Saraswati Puja.