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.
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’.
eat Plums before Saraswati Puja as an age-old belief. ‘Palash’
flower blooming in the spring season forms an integral part
of this Pooja.
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’.
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
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.
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.