Vasant Panchami, which is also known as Saraswati Puja is celebrated in the honor of the Hindu Goddess of learning, Maa Saraswati for the pursuit of knowledge and the arts. The festival marks the preparation for the arrival of spring and is celebrated among the Indian Religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism) in different ways depending on the region. Vasant Panchami also marks the start of preparation for Holika and Holi, which take place forty days later. The Vasant Utsav (festival) on Panchami is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the bright half of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Magha, which typically falls in late January or February. Spring is known as the ‘King of all Seasons’ so, the festival commences forty days in advance!
It is generally winter-like in Northern India and more spring-like in central and western parts of India on Vasant Panchami, which gives credence to the idea that spring is actually in full bloom 40 days after the Vasant Panchami day. The festival is particularly observed by the Hindus in the Indian subcontinent, notably in India and Nepal. It has been a historical tradition of the Sikhs as well whereas in southern states, the same day is called Sri Panchami. On the island of Bali and the Hindus of Indonesia, it is known as ‘Hari Raya Saraswati’ (Great Day of Saraswati). It also marks the beginning of the 210-day long Balinese Pawukon calendar.
One of the most significant aspects of Vasant Panchami is its association with the goddess Saraswati. She is considered the goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning, and is often depicted holding a book, a rosary, and a musical instrument. On Vasant Panchami, devotees offer prayers to Saraswati for blessings in their pursuit of knowledge and artistic talents. Many students, especially those in traditional Indian schools and universities, begin their studies on this day, as it is believed that the blessings of Saraswati will bring them success!
Another significance of Vasant Panchami is that it marks the arrival of spring. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and gaiety, with people dressing in yellow, the colour associated with the festival, and adorning their homes with yellow flowers. Spring is considered a time of new beginnings, and the festival is seen as a symbol of hope and renewal. Many people take this opportunity to start new projects, begin new business ventures and make new resolutions.
Vasant Panchami is also a time for social and cultural gatherings. Families and friends come together to celebrate the festival, and there are many traditional customs and rituals that are performed. Some of these include the singing of devotional songs, the recitation of hymns and prayers, and the distribution of sweets and savories. In addition to the religious and cultural significance, Vasant Panchami is also an important day for farmers and agriculturists. This is the time when the Rabi crops are harvested, and the festival is seen as a way of offering thanks for the bountiful harvest.
In conclusion, Vasant Panchami holds great significance in the Hindu culture and tradition, as it is dedicated to the goddess of learning, it marks the arrival of spring, it is a day for social and cultural gatherings, and for farmers and agriculturists, it is a day to give thanks for the bountiful harvest. It is a festival that is celebrated with great enthusiasm and gaiety throughout India and is an important day for people to come together and celebrate the pursuit of knowledge, the arts, and the blessings of a new beginning!
Written By NEEL PREET – Author of the Books, Voice From The East (2016); Journey With Time Place And Circumstances (2018) & Indian Defence Files (2021).