A popular Hindu festival, Vasant Panchami, also called Basant Panchami, is celebrated on the fifth day of the month of ‘Magh’ which corresponds to the January or February of the Gregorian calendar.
This festival celebrates the onset of the spring season and the day of birth of Goddess Saraswati, who is the Goddess of Knowledge and Learning. It also announces the arrival of the colourful festival of Holi.
Vasant Panchami is celebrated in different ways by the Hindus of the North and South India. While it is a kite festival in Punjab, it is a harvest festival in Bihar. While it is celebrated as Saraswati Puja in educational institutes in the North, it is mostly a temple festival in South India. But universally, yellow rules the colour of the day, as it heralds the arrival of spring and signifies the positive energy of life and nature. It is also the colour of mustard flowers that bloom during this season. Not only Hindus but also Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists worship Goddess Saraswati as She is the benefactor of all written and performed arts.
In households, which have children who study and in all educational institutes, Vasant Panchami is celebrated by a prayer sung in praise of Goddess Saraswati, whose idol is decorated with yellow or white flowers and garlands. Study materials and instruments of music and arts are placed in front of the deity. No studies are conducted on this day as it is believed that the Goddess is blessing the study materials. Educational institutes organise special functions and cultural activities which are devoted to Goddess Saraswati. Yellow coloured sweetmeats are offered to the Goddess and distributed among the children. Teachers wear yellow coloured clothes.
Children who are initiated into learning, write the first characters of the syllabary on this day. In the South, it is written on sand or on a tray with rice on it.
The day is considered auspicious for marriage and for a house warming ceremony(‘Griha Pravesh’). On this auspicious day, devotees get up early in the morning and worship the Sun God after taking a bath and wearing yellow clothes. Women make beautiful floral designs at the entrance of their houses, to welcome the Goddess and usher in the spring season. The deity is dressed in yellow or white and a ‘puja Kalash’ is established in front of her. The Goddess is worshipped and religious songs are sung. Devotees offer colours and yellow sweets at the feet of the deity. Later, this is distributed among people. Children fly colourful kites and the sky comes alive with blobs of colour. Women swing on colourful swings tied to trees, singing traditional folk songs. In Rajasthan, people wear garlands of the pale yellow Jasmine flowers.
Vasant Panchami is celebrated not only by the Hindus in India but also in Nepal and Bali.
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