Saraswati Puja is celebrated with a lot of fervor and zest in every household in Eastern India especially in Bengal. This puja is celebrated by the educated class of people only as they feel if they are blessed by the deity of learning, Goddess Saraswati, they can attain moksha or salvation of soul. This festival is celebrated in the month of Magh-Phalgun which is January-February. Being a very popular festival celebrated in almost every household in the Northern and Eastern states of India, children are acquainted with this festival and they are given Saraswati Puja essay to write in schools.
Goddess Saraswati is the embodiment of knowledge, wisdom and learning. The word Saraswati has been derived from the two words, knowledge (Sara) and self (Sva).She is draped in a white saree or mustard coloured or basanti saree. White signifies purity and her demeanour reflects the same. In her two rear hands she holds akshmala or prayer beads in her right hand and pustaka or book in her left hand. With her two fore hands she plays the musical instrument veena that symbolizes harmony.
Playing the veena signifies the tuning of the intellect with the mind and knowledge, so that the devotee can blend harmoniously with the universe. The prayer beads signify spiritual knowledge and bring across the message that spiritual knowledge is more powerful than the secular knowledge contained in books. The deity sits on an inverted lotus that symbolizes knowledge and her vehicle is a white swan.
The Distinctive Features of the Festival
Students pile up their books in front of the deity earnestly seeking her blessings. On this auspicious occasion of Saraswati Puja, students are allowed to study. Young girls on this day wear mustard or basanti coloured saree after taking a refreshing bath early in the morning. The worship of the Goddess takes place in the morning and rangoli art is made with powdered rice and flowers in from the deity.
Apart from the leaves of tulsi, barley shaeves and mango blossoms offered to the deity, palash is an important flower used for this festival. Kool or berry is a distinctive fruit used in this puja. “Prashad” or cut fruits are distributed to the devotees and their family members after worshipping the deity. With the immersion of the statue of the Goddess of wisdom in the following evening, the Saraswati Puja comes to an end.