Feb 12, 2016: Vasant Panchami (or the glorious day of Saraswati Puja) is on February 12, 2016. At this time, spring bows its head and bids a goodbye to winters. Goddess Saraswati blesses us with wisdom. This festival is celebrated every year on the 5th day or ‘Panchami’ of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha, which falls during January-February, (see calendar). ‘Vasant’ comes from the word ‘spring’ as this festival heralds the beginning of the spring season.
(!) Understructure Of Education: The most important aspect of Vasant Panchami is that it is also the most auspicious day to begin laying one’s foundations of education – of how to read and write. Pre-school children are given their first lesson in reading and writing on this day. All Hindu educational institutions conduct special prayer for Saraswati on this day. It is also a great day to inaugurate training institutes and new schools – a trend made famous by the renowned Indian educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861-1946), who founded the Banaras Hindu University on Vasant Panchami day in 1916.
(!) Spring Celebration: Basant Panchami, the fifth day of spring, is celebrated by propitiating Goddess Saraswati. As she symbolizes the constant flow of wisdom, she also represents the full blossoming of multi-hued Nature, kindling the light of inspiration and hope. During Vasant Panchami, the advent of spring is felt in the air as the season undergoes change. New leaves and blossoms appear in the trees with the promise of new life and hope. Vasant Panchami also announces the arrival of another big springtime event in the Hindu calendar – Holi, the festival of colors.
(!) What Do People Do: On this day 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.
(!) Symbols: 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.
Basant Panchami is a festival full of religious, seasonal and social significance. It is celebrated by Hindus all over the world with enthusiasm and new sense of optimism.