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Saraswati Puja of Bengalis

It is said that a characteristic feature of a Bengali is his/her inclination towards fine arts and literature. Many believe that this talent is gifted to him/her by none other than Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of wisdom, learning and supreme knowledge. If literary abilities, verbal skills and creativity come naturally to Bengalis then there is no wonder that they are devout worshippers of Ma Saraswati, the symbol of absolute truth!

Bengalis, who first find a mention in the atharvaveda around 1000 BC, are the most ardent followers of the goddess Saraswati who is arguably the mother of the Vedas according to Hindu mythology. Bengalis worship Goddess saraswati on the day of ‘Vasant Panchami’ (the spring festival) which is actually the fifth day of the ‘Magha’ month of the Hindu calendar. As per Hindu mythology, on this day, Goddess Saraswati, daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati was born.

 

Saraswati Pooja is normally enacted during morning hours amidst chants of ‘mantras’ and ‘shlokas’. Pooja is performed by using sandlewood, ghee and burning of ‘agarbattis’ and incenses of various types. The idol of the deity is wrapped in a white sari, she holds ‘Veena’, an Indian string instrument and books in her four hands and sits on a white lotus, a symbol of purity while having a white swan as ‘Vahana’ a sign of righteousness! Among other fruits, ‘Kool’ or Plums are offered to the goddess and later eaten as ‘Prasad’.

Bengalis don’t eat Plums before Saraswati Puja as an age-old belief. ‘Palash’ flower blooming in the spring season forms an integral part of this Pooja.

‘Aamer Mukul’ or the mango flower, another occurrence of the spring season is also an essential element which is placed on the ‘ghat’ or the small pot in front of the deity. After Pooja, Bengalis eat a vegetarian meal of ‘khichri’, ‘torkari’ and ‘bhaja’ along with ‘kooler chatni’ or chutney made from ‘Kool’.

Bengalis wear ‘Vasanti’ or orangish yellow clothes on this day to mark the beginning of the season “Vasanta’ or spring and also to represent the colour of the blooming mustard flowers in the fields of Bengal. In earlier days this colour was home made from the stems of the ‘Shiwli’ flower, by a natural process and clothes were dyed using this colour. This occasion is also very auspicious for the students as they don’t study for the day and keep their study books near the feet of the deity for her blessings which they believe is essential for their exams.

 

In earlier days they also used to keep their inkpots and bamboo quills for her blessings and used to write ‘Aum Namo Saraswatyai Namah’ on ‘Ber’ leaves with them.

Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of mystic sound and clarity of thought. Bengalis believe that she has endowed the human beings with the power of speech. Bengalis thus celebrate a function called ‘Haatekhori’ on the same day where kids are made to learn writing for the first time using slate and chalk. The priests make them write the spiritual word ‘Om’ in front of the Goddess. Schools and colleges organize special prayers for this occasion for the students. Many visit the beautifully decorated ‘Pandals’ amidst fun and gaiety. After a full day of celebration, the idol is immersed in a nearby river in the evening in a quiet way unlike the other major Bengali festivals like Durga and Kali Pujas.

Saraswati, the Goddess of nobility of ideas, is thus a revered deity among the usually highly educated Bengalis. The day is declared a state holiday in West Bengal. Pandals are erected on every nook and corner and the pooja is celebrated in almost each and every household making it one of the most popular occasions in the Bengali calendar. Often the pooja is hailed as the Bengali form of the Valentines Day with young, would be couples going in for a date and the ones without them to find their perfect soul
mate. The Saraswati Pooja is one of the most important socio cultural events after Durga Pooja in the Bengali society and perhaps one of the few religious events that still invokes the excitement and passion of the young and new.

Contributed By: DEEPANNITA HALDER,  is an MBA Finance working in a financial organisation as well as pursuing part time web article writer. She also calls herself an amateur story writer. deepannita_h@yahoo.com

 

 

 

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