Basant Panchami is a Hindu festival, celebrated in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. It falls in the month of Magh(Jan-Feb).Panchami means numeral five and Basant refers to spring. Basant Panchami marks the beginning of spring and the end of cold, harsh winters.
On Basant Panchami, goddess Saraswati is worshipped by Hindus. The goddess of wisdom and learning bestows knowledge to all. According to Hindu mythology Saraswati is the consort of Brahma, the creator. The deity wears a white silk sari seated on a lotus with Veena in hand symbolizing purity and exuberance.
Basant Panchami is an auspicious day for taking a holy dip at Sangam, the confluence of three rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mystical Saraswati at Prayag.The Goddess Saraswati is worshipped as a river deity.
According to old Hindu myth, Saraswati river once originated from the Himalayas in the north and had its course towards south east, just like river Ganga and its many tributaries. But as of today it is invisible and seems to flow underground.
The Hindi word basant is also related to yellow color. The fields are blooming with yellow mustard flowers. On Basant Panchami, ladies adorn yellow color saris, prepare yellow sweet and put a yellow turmeric tilak on forehead. Yellow flowers are offered to Gods in the temple.
The Bengalis celebrate Basant Panchami as Saraswati Puja. In schools and colleges throughout West Bengal there are saraswati vandana(hymns) recitals. Men wear traditional Indian attire white kurta and dhoti while girls dress in vibrant shades of yellow, to mark the occasion.
Adorned deity of Saraswati is placed in special pandaals (makeshift tents, for worship).People visit these pandaals to offer prayer and take the blessings of goddess. Saraswati has four hands each symbolizing the four aspects of learning; mind, intellect, alertness and ego. In one hand she carries sacred scriptures while a lotus in another. The remaining two hands hold Veena, a stringed musical instrument, spreading the music of love.
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, showers its blessings on all students, craftsman, musicians and artists. Musicians place their instruments and students keep their books, pens and pencils, at Goddess’s feet for blessings to excel in respective fields.
Every Hindu deity has a vahan(vehicle), for travelling around, generally a bird or animal.The vahan for Saraswati is swan. The goddess wants human to possess prudence like a swan to discriminate good from evil. There are very few temples in India where you’ll find a deity of Saraswati. On Basant Panchami people worship goddess Saraswati to illuminate human mind with knowledge and wisdom and drive away ignorance.