Saraswati Puja: A Day Of Rituals, Learning & Academic Beginnings

Saraswati Puja: A Day Of Rituals, Learning & Academic Beginnings

The day is considered auspicious because it is believed that the mother goddess took the incarnation of Saraswati on this day.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Thursday, February 15, 2024, 02:26 AM IST
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Saraswati puja | File

The city celebrated Saraswati Puja on Wednesday, with religious rituals honouring the goddess of learning. It was also a day when young children initiated their academic life by writing the first letters of the alphabet.

Saraswati Puja: Significance & Rituals

The day is considered auspicious because it is believed that the mother goddess took the incarnation of Saraswati on this day. The day is significant for Bengalis, with the oldest Durga Puja pandal in the city, the Bombay Durga Bari Samiti, holding a one-day celebration at Tejpal Hall in Gamdevi. The day’s rituals included puja, pushpanjali, hom, aarti, and bhog or consecrated food.

An important ritual on the day was hathe khori where children began their life-long mission of reading, writing, and quest for knowledge. Susmita Mitra, president, Bombay Durga Bari Samiti, said, “One of the most important ceremonies of this day for young students is hathekhori, a sacred ritual. Newly enrolled young children bring their books and notebooks, participating in the puja where, after a series of rituals, the purohit invites them to write their first letters. This symbolic act is believed to invoke the blessings of Ma Saraswati for a bright and prosperous future in their educational endeavours.”

The ritual, also called Vidyaarambham and Aksharabhyasam, is also done on other auspicious days like Vijaya Dashami, Guru Purnima, and Shravana Purnima, but is usually conducted in Bengal during Saraswati Puja.

Academic Beginnings

Older children who are already in schools and colleges place their study materials before the goddess to seek divine guidance for upcoming exams. "In Bengal, the children write the first letters of the alphabet with white chalk on a piece of black state. We follow the same ritual here. Traditionally the children write Bengali alphabets, but some children write the Roman alphabets,” said Subir Ray, chairman of the social and cultural committee of the Samiti who explained that the words hathe and khori meant hand and chalk.

Other pandals and homes followed similar religious programmes on the day. At the Spandan Foundation event in Powai, there were cultural programmes, including instrumental music, dances, and songs. “Rituals like pushpanjali, bhog, and pujas are similar to those during the Durga Puja, but on a much smaller scale. Guests are fewer and have to register in advance,” said Prosun Roy of Spandan Foundation.

The day was also observed as Basant Panchami in the Hindu calendar, marking the end of winter and the onset of the spring season. The festival marks the fifth day of the month of maagh. Lahiri House in Juhu, the home of late singer-composer Bappi Lahiri, held an event with cultural programmes by singers Shaan, Alka Yagnik, Ila Arun and others. The Bappi Lahiri Memorial Awards were presented at the function.

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