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Dr. Sushil Rudra
THE FESTIVAL OF LOVE & UNITY
Image: PUJA PANDAL IN COLLEGE CAMPUS /kalpatarurudra.org/Saraswati Puja: the festival of love and unity /image
Durgapur , West Bengal
Every year in BASANT PANCHAMI , We celebrate SARASWATI PUJA : the festival of love and unity . Though it is of Hindus , but some other sections of our society also join and celebrate this festival.
¶¶ SARASWATI PUJA , generally is celebrated by the students as well as art – interested people of Indian societies irrespective of all caste and creed . It is also worshiped in Nepal , Srilanka , Bali ,Maldeep , Thaland and Bangladesh . Here is a lesson for the students that they should know that this festival is festival of love and unity. So they must learn to love others and always try to live with a sense of unity.
¶¶ The festival marks the arrival of the Spring, therefore, it’s also called VASANT PANCHAMI. Farmers across almost all the provinces of India celebrate Basant Panchami with much fervor as yellow flowers of mustard crops adorn their fields.
But , some states observes the day by offering prayers to Goddess SARASWATI : the festival of love and unity . According to Hindu mythology , it’s believed that the Goddess SARASWATI was born on the day of VASANT PANCHAMI.
¶¶ The people, generally students, both boys and girls wear clothes of yellow color , and assemble to their Puja Mandap to pray as well as offer Bhog to Goddess of knowledge ,SARASWATI . They pray for knowledge and success ; as Ma SARASWATI is the Hindu Goddess of knowledge, music, art, wisdom and wealth.
¶¶ Saraswati Puja : The festival of love and Unity :
There is another attraction of this ceremony. It a special for its beautiful and delicious Bhog like labra (mixed veg) ,Khichuri , Beguni, Paayesh , Sandesh , Sweet Saffron rice , Papar fried and Chutney.
¶¶ Today , on 16 th January, 2021 , We, early in the morning take bathe and remain fast until the Puja finished. In my student life ( still now I think me a student), we became engaged in collecting subscription from the members of our Hostel in every areas of the then Calcutta ( now Kolkata) for a month before this festival.
We had made Special for the special Bhog to distribute our guest . We had to decorate the entire Hostel with light . Our Hostel managing committee along with Superintendent usually came to visit the idol and pandel in the evening . Sometimes their relatives also attended the fest . There was an introduction season when we had to introduce ourselves before the Hostel Governing Body members. I have a memory in my still after more than three decades when I was a PG student in the University of Calcutta . I spent my student life in a hostel near Thanthonia Kalibari. During Saraswati Puja I sang a song of Rabindranath Tagore (Rabindrasangit) before the governing body members and their families during Saraswati puja. Even the song I sang that day still I can recollect it. So I would say that Saraswati Puja is the festival of love and unity in true sense of the term .
¶¶ SARASWATI PUJA was something special to us because of its delicious foods . That day , varieties menu was to be arranged for lunch like home . But , the priest did not come at the right time. They had a pact scheduled , because the Puja pandal was more than the priest . That’s why they failed to come at the right time. However, after completion of Puja and fantabulous lunch , we generally used to visit other pandels of Kolkata city.
¶¶ During my service life , I didn’t get opportunity to enjoy like before. Because, it was a tradition of our century – old College (Krishnath College) to be maintained secular atmosphere , so no Puja celebrated by the students. But once it was happened not in College premises, but just in front of the College gate .
¶¶ This year , I visit two Puja pandals . I notice , students wearing yellow dresses roam here and there with their friends and getting selfie . Music is running on . We take some Bhog . They arranged a lot . Students wear yellow dresses Sari , Panjabi. Beautiful songs are being played in the sound box . With the music, they are dancing . It’s a very joyful ceremony to them .
¶¶ In this College venue, students of Muslim community are arranging all the important works from marketing to Prosad distribution. Yes , some Hindu boys and girls also there to assist them .In fact , they are students, not Hindu or Muslim. There is Unity in Diversity . There’s only love to each other , no confirmation are there. Obviously Saraswati Puja is the festival of love and unity.
¶¶ But , the condition is not same in villages of Bengal . Three – four decades ago , in every school of Bengal , SARASWATI PUJA was celebrated , but at present , Muslim community students are demanding to continue Friday Prayer in Schools, as there take place SARASWATI PUJA. They are saying if there is no problem for SARASWATI PUJA in school , why not Friday Prayer!
••The problem is there , if Puja is granted in the premises , why is it problem in continuing the Friday Prayer in school premises ?
This is absolutely different matter. SARASWATI PUJA is related to the student and their learning place as well , but there is no connection of Friday Prayer with all the students . Only a section of people used to go Masjid for prayer , not in Schools.
Besides, SARASWATI PUJA is a one day or two days festival, whereas Friday Prayer of Muslim community students are of ones a week, four days ritual in a month and 48 days in a year. Former is just festival , whereas later is ritual. Ritual is your own , but festival is for all .
For festival, schools, college and other institutions are being closed to enjoy it, but for regular ritual we don’t allow for any holidays, or suspension of our working time. So it is a vital issue of the time in Bengal.
Who Can Observe this Festival?
Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in India, Nepal , Bangladesh, Pakistan, Java and Bali (Indonesia) celebrate this fabulous festival.
When it is celebrated?
¶¶ This festival is being observed in every year on the fifth day of the bright half of the Hindu luni – solar calendar month of Magha, which typically falls in late January, or first week of February. In Southern States and in Bengal , the same day is called as Sri PANCHAMI.
¶¶ On the Island of Bali and Indonesia , it’s known as Bari Raya SARASWATI.
¶¶ Goddess SARASWATI is dressed with yellow clothing like the colorful flowers of Mustard crops . It is very favorite color of Mather Goddess . Hindus believe it as a Holy color.
¶¶ This festival is too celebrated, as the king of season, Basanta will be started 40 days after this festival. VASANT means spring and PANCHAMI means fifth . So , according to Hindu Calendar , it is the fifth day of the month Magha. Every year this day is celebrated as VASANT PANCHAMI/ SRI PANCHAMI/ SARASWATI PUJA.
¶¶ Again this festival is marked the start of preparation for other major Hindu festival of Holi and Holika , which take place forty days later.
¶¶ There is another significance of this festival . In many parts of India , it’s considered as an auspicious day for kids to start their first writing words with their fingers , or study some creative art field.
¶¶ Sometimes, somewhere, it is found Ganesha is placed by the side of The idol of Ma SARASWATI for worship who is the God of Success.
¶¶ Saraswati Mantra usually recite in the time of Anjali (sacrifice) with taking some yellow flowers in hand and after reciting the mantra , it is to be given on the feets of Goddess SARASWATI.
¶¶ We enchant a pronam mantra : ‘Vadra kalloi Namo Nittam Saraswottay Namo Namoh ‘.