Vasant Panchami is a famous festival when Saraswati, the goddess of intellect, learning and wisdom is worshipped. Young girls wear bright yellow dresses and participate in the festivities. The color yellow holds a special meaning for this celebration as it signifies the brilliance of nature and the vibrancy of life. The whole place bursts with yellow during the festival. People not only dress in yellow but they also offer yellow flowers to Goddess and Gods and also to others. They also prepare and feast on a special mithai called kesar halwa, which is made from flour, sugar, nuts and cardamom powder. This dish is flavoured with saffron strands, which gives it a vibrant yellow color and mild fragrance and also its name.
Some believe Vasanti Panchami to be Goddess Saraswati’s birthday and perhaps for this reason, it is also known as Vagishvari Jayanti Panchami. Others believe that on this day the goddess came down to earth, along with Durga, to drive away the demon king, Mahishasura. Some people feed Brahmanas on this day while some perform Pitri-Tarpan (ancestor worship) and some others worship Kamdev, the god of love!
Goddess Saraswati has four hands which symbolize ego, intellect, alertness and the mind. She carries a lotus and scriptures in two of her hands and she plays music on the veena with her other two hands. She rides on a white swan. Her white dress is a symbol for purity. Her swan signifies that people should have the ability to discern the good from the bad. Goddess Saraswati, sitting on a lotus, symbolizes wisdom.
Traditionally a child’s basic education is started on this day and prayer is offered to the goddess seeking her blessing. Colleges and schools organize special worship of Goddess Saraswati. Many colleges, schools and other learning institutions organize cultural programs. Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya had laid the foundations of Kashi Hindu Vishwa Vidyalaya on Basant Panchami. This has now become a world-renowned academic institution.
Rites and rituals
In parts of Bihar and Orissa it is the day when farmers worship the plough and start sowing the fields once again. It also marks the end of winter when the cold, miserable days usually give way to warmer ones and the fields are lush with the swaying of yellow sarson (mustard). Yellow is therefore very significant to Basant Panchami as on this day people wear yellow clothes, worship the goddess with yellow flowers and decorate the house with yellow colour. On this day ber and sangari form the main prasad. Ber is the fruit of the ber tree, which grows in abundance in North India. Sangaris are the beans that bear the seed of the mooli (white radish). These two items are placed in a thaali (a flat plate) along with some yellow barfi or ladoos with paans (betel leaves), a nariyal (coconut) and a few sheaves of sarson (mustard leaves). Another thaali with puja items of water, sindoor, rice and yellow flowers is made ready. The lady of the house in a yellow dress with zari and gota, with yellow and red bangles on the arms, then does the puja and the festivities begin.