Photo & Text: Stefano Romano
Celebration for Saraswati Puja, the goddess of learning, wisdom, knowledge, fine arts, refinement, science and technology in Hinduism, the second biggest Puja (prayer) after Durga Puja. With the Bangladeshi and Indian community of Torpignattara in the “Om Hindu Mandir” Temple.
Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of learning, wisdom, knowledge, fine arts, refinement, science and technology. Vasant Panchami is treated by celebrants as Saraswati’s birthday. People worship Goddess Saraswati to attain enlightenment through knowledge and to rid themselves of lethargy, sluggishness and ignorance.
The day before Vasant Panchami in Nepal, Saraswati’s temples are filled with food so that she can join the celebrants in the traditional feasting the following morning. In temples and educational institutions, statues of Saraswati are dressed in yellow and worshiped. Most educational institutions arrange special prayers or pujas in the morning to seek blessing of the Goddess. Poetic and musical gatherings are held and children are initiated to learn the alphabet and are often taught to write their first words. This ritual of initiating education to children is known as Akshar-Abhyasam or Vidya-Arambham/Praasana, one of the famous rituals of Vasant Panchami. Older students clean their pens and inkwells but abstain from reading or writing on this day. In Bengal, idols of Saraswati are taken on procession and immersed in the holy Ganga.
The color yellow plays an important role in Vasant Panchami as it is related to the bloom of mustard flowers during this period. Celebrants usually wear yellow garments, Saraswati is worshiped in a yellow dress, and sweet saffron rice and yellow sweets are consumed within the families.
Saraswati Puja is 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.”
Accordingly, Saraswati Puja has grown in popularity in recent years and is associated with schools generally. The festival is fast becoming or indeed has become a pan North Indian festival.
Rome – 1 February 2017