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India is the land of religions, beliefs and festivals. More festivals are celebrated in India than anywhere else in the world. Each festival has its own customs, occasions and importance. Sarasvati Puja is one of the foremost festivals announcing the arrival of the spring season. It is celebrated on Panchami from Magha Shukla Paksh of the Indian calendar; hence it is also named as Vasant Panchami, Sri Panchami, Sarasvati Panchami in some parts of the country. The festival usually falls in the last month of January or February of the Gregorian calendar. In South India, Sarasvati Puja is also celebrated as “Aayudha PujaDuring the Navratri festival (which usually falls in October / November).
Sarasvati Puja has its own meaning as the young children begin their first step in the field of education by writing the letters of the alphabet with a ritual known as’Akshar AbhyasamVidya Arambham“Or”Patti PujanOn this day, goddess Sarasvati is worshiped in Mandirs, schools, colleges, educational institutions, music and cultural houses, and other public places, especially by students and teachers.
In Sarasvati Puja, yellow and white colors have their own importance. The goddess is dressed in yellow or white and traditionally people dress in yellow or white colored clothes. Actually, the yellow color represents energy, knowledge and enlightenment, while white color represents light, knowledge and truth.
Goddess Sarasvati is known by different names such as Vageshwari (Goddess of Speech), Veenapani (Goddess holding Veena in hands), Pustakdharani (Goddess carrying books), Veenavadini (Goddess playing Veena), Hansvahini (Goddess sitting on a swan ), Varneshwari (Goddess of letters), Maa Sharade (who loves Sharad ie autumn season), Bharati (Goddess of history), Vani (melodious speech), etc. By their devotees.
Maa Sarasvati holds Pustak (Book), Mala (Rosary), Jalpatra (Waterpot) and Veena in her four arms, which has a symbolic meaning of importance. The book symbolizes Veda or learning, the rosary represents meditation and spirituality, the water pot represents purifying power to separate good from evil and the Veena symbolizes all creative arts and sciences. Her four arms indicate four sides, as well as four aspects of the human personality in learning, namely: Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (alertness) and Ahankar (ego). Her vehicle is Hansa (swan), a sacred bird, who, when presented with a mixture of milk and water, drinks only milk, thus symbolizing the ability to describe between good and evil. Sometimes Mayur (peacock) is also shown sitting at her feet, symbolizing colorful splendor and prosperity.
Maa Sarasvati is part of Tridevi – Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati, which are associated with the almighty Tridev – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. During Navratri, on the seventh day, the goddess is worshiped in the form of MahaSarasvati, in honor of the goddess of learning and knowledge.
Goddess Sarasvati is mentioned in Rigved, Upnishad and other Dharmashashtra and has remained significant from Vedic period to modern times. In Shanti Parva from Mahabharat, she is called mother of Vedas. Rigved means her both as a sacred river and as a deity. According to Rigveda-2.041.16, “Ambitame Naditame Devitame Sarasvati“, Ie Sarasvati is the best among the mothers, the mightiest of the rivers and the supreme among the goddesses. Mythologically it is one of the sacred rivers of Triveni Sangam in Prayag in an invisible form. Shrishti Khand from Padma Puran and Skand Puran have stated in detail that Sarasvati became the river on Earth.
The goddess is called MahaSarasvati in Kashmir Shakti Peeth and as Shardamba in Sringeri. The ancient Sharda Peeth, located in the Pak-conquered part of Northern Kashmir on the bank of the Kishanganga River (now renamed Neelam), is one of the oldest surviving temple of Sarasvati. As one of the ancient Mahashakti Peeths, Sharda Peeth is the spiritual location of the fallen right hand of the goddess Sati.
Also in Jainism Sarasvati is revered as the goddess of the source of knowledge and responsible for the spread of Thirthnkars. In the Buddhist sect Sarasvati is considered to be the consort of Manjushree – the knowledge of Bodhisatwa.
Sarasvati Puja is celebrated in many countries such as Bharat, Nepal, Bali (Indonesia), Thailand (formerly Siam), Myanmar (formerly Burma or Brahma Desh), Pakistan, Bangala Desh, Bhutan, Mauritius, Suriname, Fiji, Japan, and Tibet according to their own use.
Maa Sarasvati is the deity of language, music and art. She represents Sattwa Guna and Gyan Shakti. She is the possessor of knowledge and protector of the universe. It is believed that any intellectual effort should start with Sarasvati Vandana.
(The author is a technocrat and academic)