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Vasant Panchami

Birthday of the Goddess of Wisdom
About Goddess Saraswati & Vasant Panchami

A s 'Diwali' – the festival of light – is to Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, and 'Navaratri' is to Durga, goddess of strength, might and power, Vasant Panchami is to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and learning. She represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She is the mother of the Vedas , and chants to her, called the ' Saraswati Vandana ' often begin and end Vedic lessons.

The festival is celebrated every year on the 5th day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha ( see calendar ) — the day called 'Vasant Panchami'. Hindus celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm, and temples and households are full of activities on this day. This 'Panchami' is also known as Saraswati Day, because it is believed that on this day the goddess was born.

Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, art and music is the daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga . It is believed that goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning. She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She has sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus — the symbol of true knowledge — in the second. With her other two hands she plays the music of love and life on a string instrument called the veena . She is dressed in white — the symbol of purity — and rides on a white swan that symbolises Sattwa Guna or purity and discrimination. Saraswati is also a prominent figure in Buddhist iconography — the consort of Manjushri.

The colour yellow is given special importance on Vasant Panchami. On this day, Saraswati is dressed in yellow garments and worshipped. People prefer to wear yellow clothes on this holy day. Sweetmeats of yellowish hues are distributed among relations and friends. Some people feed Brahmins, some perform Pitri-Tarpan (ancestor worship) and many worship Kamadeva, the god of love on this day.

However, the most significant aspect of this day is that children are taught their first words on this day, for it is considered an auspicious day to begin how to read and write. Educational institutions organise special prayer for Saraswati. The great Indian guru Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya laid the foundations of the world class academic institution of Kashi Hindu Vishwa Vidyalaya on Vasant Panchami.

Saintly people and individuals inclined towards spiritual progress attach great importance to the worship of goddess Saraswati. As a practice, only educated people and men of principle worship goddess Saraswati for spiritual enlightenment. In their opinion, there can be no comparison between the king and the learned or the spiritually advanced. The king is honored within his kingdom, whereas the learned is respected or worshipped throughout the world.

Hinduism has taken into account special significance of seasons and interwoven them with religious festivals . During Vasant Panchami, seasons undergo change and the coming of springtime is heralded. Trees display new shoots and new life is evident in the woods and fields. Nature decorates the mango trees with new blossoms, wheat and crops enliven with evidence of new life.

Vasant Panchami is a festival full of religious, seasonal and social significance and is celebrated by Hindus all over the world with verve and new sense of optimism. The first faint signals of the forthcoming festival of Holi — the festival of colours — also manifest at Vasant Panchami.


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