Here comes spring, the most beautiful season of the year! Flowers are blooming atop every shrub, tree, creeper and climber. It feels like nature is dressed at its best. Basant Panchami marks the end of winter and the onset of spring. It is said, “Aaya Basant, Paala udant!” Meaning, ‘Here comes spring! The winter has flown away!’ I always marvel at the way our festivals are timed.
There are three aspects of Trinity. They are Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Brahma is the creator. Vishnu is the protector or the one who sustains. Mahesh is the destroyer of evil.
When Lord Brahma created the universe, he felt that there was no melody in his creation. Everything was quiet. So he created Sarasvati and asked her to fill the world with music, rhythm and melody. This day is celebrated as Basant Panchami. Goddess Sarasvati is the consort of Brahmaji. For Lord Brahma to create the universe, he needs the support of his consort who is knowledge personified. She sits on a white lotus, which is a symbol of purity because it remains pure and pristine despite growing in muddy waters. Devi Sarasvati wears a white saree that denotes unblemished purity. She plays the Veena that symbolises harmony and rhythm. She holds the Vedas, a pot of water, a rosary and a lotus. Devi Sarasvati is also called Hamsvahini because she rides on a swan. A swan can separate milk from water. This denotes that even the vehicle of Goddess Sarasvati can distinguish between good and bad, useful and useless, pure and impure.
Vishnuji provides protection and sustenance. For this, he needs wealth. His consort Lakshmiji is the goddess of wealth. Together they nurture all of creation. Lord Shiva or Mahesh is the destroyer of evil. For destruction of evil he needs Shakti. Shiva’s wife Parvati is also called Shakti.
Basant Panchami is the fifth day of the spring season i.e. 5th day of Magh as per the Hindu calendar. Goddess Sarasvati is worshiped with yellow flowers on Basant Panchami. Yellow colour signifies auspiciousness and abundance. This is the time when children are at the verge of starting new classes. The weather is perfect. What could be a better time for new beginnings? In our culture we believe that everything new should be started with prayers. Children are encouraged to place their new books and stationary at the altar of Goddess Sarasvati and seek her blessings and pray for bestowing knowledge, wisdom, music, arts, language, culture etc.
According to tradition, yellow sweets are prepared and offered to Devi Sarasvati. These sweets usually contain Gur and ghee in generous quantities. These are healthy foods to have in this season. Another tradition around Basant Panchami in the northern states is the tradition of kite flying. Our forefathers realized that during the chilly winter months we stay indoors and wear heavy woollens so our body is starved of vitamin D that is acquired only through the sun’s rays. So kite flying carnivals are organized in many places around Basant Panchami. While we fly kites, there is automatic exposure to the sun. People sit in the Sun and do body massage with mustard oil. All these traditions point towards healthy living and community celebrations and are so very scientific!
Incidentally this year Basant Panchami falls on Feb 14th. Since the past few years this day has become popular as Valentine’s day. St. Valentine was a saint from Rome, who was martyred. Shrewd businesses were able to capture the imagination of young romantics, first introducing cards and then chocolates to celebrate the day!
Our culture and traditions are deep rooted and meaningful. They are much beyond the marketing strategy of a company. Let’s introduce our children to the significance of Sarasvati pooja. Let’s celebrate what is ours. Let’s choose yellow marigolds over red roses.
This piece is published in the HT on 11.02.2023. It can be viewed here https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/sunrays-roses-are-pass-marigolds-are-divine-101707595541227.html