When is Vasant Panchami Celebrated?
Saturday, 5 February, 2022
Vasant Panchami is an important Indian festival celebrated according to the Hindu calendar each year in the month of Magh. The day is on the fifth day of Magh, which occurs according to the Gregorian calendar somewhere in February or March.
What is Vasant Panchami or Saraswati Puja?
Vasant Panchami is a festival marking the preparation for spring’s arrival. Vasant Panchami also known as Saraswati Puja or Basant Panchami. Depending on the region of life in the Indian subcontinent, the festival is celebrated by people in various ways. For Holika and Holi, which takes place forty days later, Vasant Panchami also marks the preparation.
Vasant Panchami, dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, marks the beginning of the spring season in India. The Goddess of knowledge, music, learning, and art is Devi Saraswati. The wife of Brahma, who created the world, is Saraswati. The world would be shrouded in ignorance without Saraswati, as she is the one who represents enlightenment.
The colour yellow is the prevalent colour associated with the Saraswati Puja, the roots of which are supposed to be the mustard fields seen in Punjab and Haryana. This festival is often widely associated with kite flying. To celebrate independence and fun, children, as well as adults, fly kites on this day.
Basant Panchami is the moment when people decide to teach their children the first lessons of education. This tradition is known as Vidyarambam. It is known as Aksharabhyasam as well.
Basant Panchami is a holiday for the public. Offices of government, schools, colleges do not run on the day. However, private offices are operational at the same time. Public transport still runs during the day, but there is significant traffic congestion during processions at different locations.
Why is Vasant Panchami Celebrated?
The beginning of spring marks by Vasant Panchami and falls on the fifth day of Maagh each year. The term ‘Vasant‘ means Spring, and the fifth day on which the festival falls is denoted by ‘Panchami.’ Spring means good weather, free of the scorching sun, cold bites, or dodgy rains. Therefore it is crowned as the king of every season.
The Vasant Panchami festival also marks the birth of the Hindu Goddess Saraswati. The Goddess of knowledge is Saraswati. She has four hands that symbolise the spirit, ego, intelligence and alertness. Goddess holds a lotus and scriptures in her two hands and plays music with her other two hands on the veena (an instrument similar to a sitar). She’s sitting on a white swan. A sign of innocence is her white dress. Her swan implies that people need to be able to distinguish good from evil.
Sitting on the lotus, the Goddess Saraswati symbolises her intelligence. She’s well-versed in the perspective of reality, too. It is a reminder when the Goddess sits on a peacock that a powerful ego can be held back by knowledge.
According to a tale associated with Vasant Panchami, the day marks the togetherness of Kama Deva (the God of love) and his beloved wife, Rati. It also marks the arrival of Shiva and Parvati together. Goddess Parvati sought Kama’s assistance to awaken Shiva from his deep state of meditation.
Using his sugarcane bow, Kama Deva fired an arrow of flowers at Shiva to carry him back to the world, requiring his attention. It signifies Shiva’s return from Vairagya’s (dispassion) state to Grihastha, from a theological view point (family).
Another tale about a poet named Kalidasa is a famous legend associated with Vasant Panchami. Somehow, Kalidasa married a beautiful princess, who threw him out when she discovered he was dumb.
In desperation, Kalidasa decided to kill himself; however, Goddess Saraswati emerged from the river and told him to bathe in the water. The water gave him insight when he did so and led him to write poetry.
How is Vasant Panchami Celebrated?
In the celebration of Basant Panchami, the colour yellow has a great significance. It represents the mustard crop harvest time with yellow blooms, which is the favourite colour of Goddess Saraswati. People wear yellow coloured clothes, and they offer yellow flowers to others and the gods and goddesses. They also fly kites. Yellow symbolises joy, bliss, and wealth.
People also prepare and feast on a special pastry made from flour, sugar, nuts, and cardamom powder called Kesar halwa or Kesar halva. Saffron strands are also used in this dish, giving it a bright yellow colour and a mild fragrance. India’s crop fields are filled with yellow during the Saraswati Puja, as the yellow mustard flowers sprout at this time of the year. Before using, pens, notebooks and pencils are placed near the feet of the Goddess Devi to be blessed.
Vasant Panchami Celebration in Different States of India
Punjab & Haryana
The rituals are not linked to worship in Punjab and Haryana, but this does not make the festival less critical. People fly kites on this day and compete with family members and neighbours while showcasing their kite flying abilities. People decorate their homes with yellow coloured flowers and dress up in yellow clothes.
One such mouthwatering dish served in Punjab is Meethe chawal. Makkei ki roti and Sarso ka saag also include other meals.
For Bengalis, the Saraswati Puja serves as a festival for girls. The children coordinate the preparations to pray to the Goddess of wisdom and understanding. They go out to enjoy the day once the Puja ends.
Schools and colleges observe the Saraswati Puja in Bengal. During Basant Panchami, wearing yellow is deemed auspicious. Women wear yellow sarees, and men wear ‘panjabis’ and ‘dhoti’ or ‘pyjama’. People eat khichuri, a mixture of rice and delicacies, and pair it with different fritters. Sweets such as rajbhog and payesh get prepared at Saraswati Puja.
Another state that observes the Saraswati Puja is Odisha. Yellow flowers offered to the divinity. This offering is pushpanjali as Saraswati is the Goddess of music, culture, and information; the day marks extraordinary vocalists and artists’ exceptional dedication.
People worship Mother Earth & her offerings in Uttrakhand. On the grounds of the Bharat Temple at Basant Panchami, a fair happens in Rishikesh in Uttaranchal. People here often tend to wear yellow clothes and eat sweet rice on this occasion, corn & barley husk bounds outside the doors and windows of the houses.
People visit Goddess Saraswati’s temples in Bihar to worship her. And the practices are more or less the same as those in West Bengal. This day is a holiday at kindergarten, college and university. These educational institutions are open to the Puja and post the cultural program followed by lunch.
International Celebrations of Vasant Panchami
This day is named Hari Raya Saraswati by the Hindus of Bali and Indonesia. The educational institutions often celebrate this festival by adoring the Saraswati goddess wearing colourful clothing. Children carry traditional cakes and fruits to schools to deliver during their prayers.