Saraswati Puja is a special occasion for students all over India. Worship of goddess of learning holds special meaning in schools and colleges. Goddess Saraswati is an Indian Hindu deity who is associated with not only formal education of sciences and language, but also all forms of arts. On the fifth day of Magha, also known as Vasant Panchami, Saraswati Puja is celebrated by students from all walks of life in Eastern India.
Radiant in White, Goddess Saraswati mirrors absolute truth. Alternatively, she is also dressed in Yellow which is the colour of the season. White is favoured colour for Goddess as it symbolizes purity in knowledge. Even her vahana Swan is of purest white. Traditionally It has been known to separate milk from water i.e. Able to distinguish between good and evil. She holds these items in her hand:
Veena: It represents all the art form – music, dance, painting and other creative art forms.
Tamrapatra: It represents the Vedas and the science and knowledge that emanate from it
Rosary: Not your usual rosary, but one made of crystal lays emphasis on meditation and spiritual awakening which will lead us to God.
Fresh seasonal fruits like Indian Plum, Yam Beans, Black carrots are specially offered to deity. Coloured powder or Abeer is also an essential item in the ritual. White flowers or flowers in the hues of yellow are offered to goddess. A special mantra is recited to invoke goddess:
Yaa Kundendu tushaara haaradhavalaa,
Yaa veenavara dandamanditakara,
aa shwetha padmaasana
Yaa brahmaachyutha shankara
prabhritibhir Devaisadaa Vanditha
Saa Maam Paatu Saraswatee
Bhagavatee Nihshesha jaadyaapahaa
Meaning: She who is fair like Jasmine and dew drops, dressed in white, holding the majestic Veena in her hands, sitting on a white lotus, forever worshipped by Brahma, Shankar, Vishnu and other gods, O Mother Saraswati Bhagwati save me from ignorance.
In states of Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Orissa, a ceremony called Hathe Khadi or Khadi chuan is held on this day. Young children are introduced to learning. After Saraswati puja has been performed, the child, for whom this ceremony is held is placed in the lap of eldest member of family. Holding her hand, the letter “Om” is etched on the writing board. Sweets are then offered to everyone as a celebration of start of formal education of child. Earlier, the ritual was done with palm leaves and a special wooden pen dipped in red ink. Today, people use a writing board made of slate and chalk. Some even use pen and paper in case on non-availability of slate and chalk.
Almost all schools and colleges in these states celebrate Saraswati puja in a grand way. Students take a break from studying and celebrate the festival. An idol of the deity is brought a day before and on the day of puja, all students and every teacher join in worshipping Goddess. Girls wear traditional dresses in shades of yellow and boys in white. Some institutions hold a cultural extravaganza in the evening.