Vasant Panchami (Vasant meaning 'spring' and panchami meaning 'fifth') is a festival that falls on the fifth day of the Hindu lunar month of Magha (January-February in the Western calendar) marking the beginning of winter’s end and the coming of spring.
Vasant Panchami is also celebrated as the birthday of the Goddess Saraswati (the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, and art). Devotees, thus, pray to Saraswati on Vasant Panchami to be blessed with wisdom.
In most parts of India, people wake up early and choose to wear yellow colour considering it being favourite of Goddess Saraswati. They eating and sharing yellow sweets and snacks, and performe puja.
On Saraswati Pujo in Bengal, the houses are decorated with alpana arts. Flowers, fruits and home-made desserts like naru, moya, chal makha and dal makha are offered to the Goddess followed by distributing the prasads among their neighbours. Young people get together on Saraswati Pujo, dressing up in their best ethnic attires.
Bengal's Valentine's Day
Saraswati Puja is also called 'Bong's Valentine’s Day' in Kolkata. On this day, entire Bengal gets to see young couples twinning in traditional attires, mostly yellow in colour and walking hand in hand.
How did it start?
It is believed that Goddess blesses the text books, note pads, pens, pencils, reference books placed under the watchful eyes of the goddess and they then legitimately claim a day off from studies.
Single-gender schools are the preferred choice of education in Bengal and even the ‘elite’ schools were also either boys only or girls only schools.
It was then believed that of a student fails to get admission in any of the single-gender schools in the city, has to go to a co-education school. However, on puja day, groups of boys go around girls’ schools and hostels checking out their Saraswati pujas, and vice-versa. They hang out together in and around schools and colleges, talking, walking, eating, cracking jokes and taking photographs. The free intermingling draws no social sanction on this one day.
It was thus, on Saraswati puja, when the members of the opposite genders could legitimately excuse themselves from studies and home for an entire day.
How is it celebrated today
Love is felt in the air on this day as young girls step out in alluring sarees and boys in kurta pyjamas. They go pandal hopping, snuggle under trees or eat together to enjoy some quality time together. Prinsep Ghat in Kolkata is the place where school and college going students are seen spending their cosy time in the open air at this scenic location.
The vibe of the day is of happiness, joy, of being free. The streets look exuberant and glamorous with the smiling faces of these young folks.
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