Vasant Panchami: January 28
Vasant Panchami is a religious observance for Hindus and it is a national holiday in Nepal.
Vasant Panchami is a Hindu festival that celebrates the birthday of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, art and music. It is celebrated on the fifth day of the Indian month of Magh.
History of Vasant Panchami
Saraswati is the daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga. She represents wisdom and consciousness, she is the goddess of knowledge and arts. Her gifts to humans are wisdom, speech and learning. Saraswati has four arms that signify mind, intellect, alertness and ego. With one hand she holds sacred scriptures and within another she has a lotus, that is a symbol of true knowledge, while with the other two she is playing an instrument called veena, and she is said to be playing music about life and love. Vasant Panchami is the celebration of this goddess birthday, and also the beginning of Vasant Ritu, or spring season.
According to Hinduism, the oldest sacred texts Vedas, are Saraswati’s children. Legends say that Saraswati was born from the forehead of her father, Lord Shiva, like greek god Athena who was born from the head of Zeus. It is told that the god Brahma fell in love with Saraswati the moment he saw her, but she did not like him so she kept running from him. Brahma trying not to let her escape grew four faces in his head so that he could see her wherever she was, but still Saraswati was intelligent enough to escape Brahma.
Legend says that somehow Brahma managed to marry her and from the marriage the Vedas came to being. One day a great sacrificial fire was setup by Brahma, as the time of the offering approached he asked his wife not to be late and be by his side as the sacrifice was to be offered by them as husband and wife. But Saraswati is somewhat absent minded and was late. Brahma was furious and threw the wife in the fire as the sacrifice itself. Saraswati then remained forever alone, she is said to have a fiery temper and independent will, and living in a perpetual self imposed exile.
Vasant Panchami Traditions, Customs and Activities
Families on this day wake up early to bathe and dress in new white or yellow clothes to celebrate the festival. It is tradition for Hindu families that during this festival their children will be taught to write their first words. Brahmins, who are educators, law makers, scholars and preachers of Dharma in Hinduism, on this day, are offered gifts. It is also customary to worship ancestors, since they are the guardians of knowledge that was passed from generation to generation. And schools, colleges and universities organize special prayer rituals for Saraswati.
The predominant color on the festival is yellow, as people dress in yellow to adore Saraswati and also sweets are colored yellow and offered on this day as gifts. Yellow signifies the beginning of spring time and the blossoming of flowers in the fields. Flowers are offered in the temples to images of the goddess, and also students are to place their books in front of statues of Saraswati and do not do any studying on this day. Also musical instruments and different artist’s tools are placed in front of the goddess to receive her blessing of inspiration and wisdom.