Vasant Panchami: Hindus and Sikhs herald springtime, begin cycle leading to Holi

Icebreaker!

If you know someone from the Hindu tradition, perhaps at work or in your neighborhood, use this icebreaker: Do you celebrate Vasant Panchami? How does your family mark the occasion?

 

Statue goddess with yellow flowers over her

A statue of the goddess Saraswati. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, JANUARY 22: Welcome the approaching season of spring and don the color yellow, as Hindus and Sikhs in India and beyond celebrate the festival of Vasant Panchami (spellings vary).

Literally the fifth day of spring, Vasant Panchami honors Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of music, art, culture, learning and knowledge. Today, the spring cycle will begin that ends with Holi, the massive spring festival that is now celebrated internationally.

Did you know? Saraswati is often depicted seated on a white lotus, with four hands. The four hands symbolize the aspects of learning: manas (mind, sense), buddhi (intellect, reasoning), citta (imagination, creativity) and ahamkāra (self consciousness, ego).

For Sikhs, Vasant Panchami marks the day in Amritsar when musicians begin singing the Basant Raga, a practice that will continue until the first day of Vaisakh. In some regions of India, kites fill the sky, and the festival is better known as the Basant Festival of Kites.

VASANT PANCHAMI: HONORING SARASWATI, KNOWLEDGE AND SPRING

An ancient celebration stretching back thousands of years, Vasant Panchami reveres Kamadeva, the god of love, and his friend Vasant (the personification of spring). In modern times, however, rituals for the goddess Saraswati have taken precedence over Kamadeva. Hindus treat Vasant Panchami as Saraswati’s birthday, worshiping the goddess and filling her temples with food. Figures of Saraswati are often draped in yellow clothing, and as the deity is considered supreme in many types of knowledge, students ask for her blessings. It is traditional that children begin learning the alphabet or their first words on Vasant Panchami, believing it auspicious to do so. While donning yellow clothing, Hindus often make and distribute yellow foods and treats to neighbors, family and friends.

A log with a figure of the demoness Holika is placed in a public area on Vasant Panchami, and for 40 days, devotees will add twigs and sticks to form an enormous pile. The pyre is lit on Holi eve (this year, March 1) at or after sunset.

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Categories: Hindu

Vasant Panchami: Hindus wear yellow, worship Saraswati & count days to Holi

Girl with medium tone skin wearing gold nose ring, eleaborate gem necklace and headpiece, looking at camera

A young girl is dressed in yellow and fine jewelry for the festival of Vasant Panchami. Photo by Adam Jones, courtesy of Flickr

SATURDAY, JANUARY 24: Wear the color yellow and herald in springtime, joining Hindus and Sikhs in India and beyond in the festival of Vasant Panchami (spellings vary).

Literally the fifth day of spring, Vasant Panchami honors Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of music, art, culture, learning and knowledge. Today, the spring cycle will begin that ends with Holi, the massive spring festival that is now celebrated internationally.

For Sikhs, Vasant Panchami marks the day in Amritsar when musicians begin singing the Basant Raga, a practice that will continue until the first day of Vaisakh. (Wikipedia has details.) In some regions of India, kites fill the sky, and the festival is better known as the Basant Festival of Kites.

Did you know? Saraswati is often depicted seated on a white lotus, with four hands. The four hands symbolize the aspects of learning.

An ancient celebration stretching back thousands of years, Vasant Panchami reveres Kamadeva, the god of love, and his friend Vasant (the personification of spring). In modern times, however, rituals for the goddess Saraswati have taken precedence over Kamadeva. Hindus treat Vasant Panchami as Saraswati’s birthday, worshiping the goddess and filling her temples with food. Figures of Saraswati are often draped in yellow clothing, and as the deity is considered supreme in many types of knowledge, students ask for her blessings. It is traditional that children begin learning the alphabet or their first words on Vasant Panchami, believing it auspicious to do so. While donning yellow clothing, Hindus often make and distribute yellow foods and treats to neighbors, family and friends.

A log with a figure of the demoness Holika is placed in a public area on Vasant Panchami, and for 40 days, devotees will add twigs and sticks to form an enormous pile. The pyre is lit on Holi (this year, March 6).

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Categories: Faiths of IndiaHinduSikh

Vasant Panchami: Spring festivals commence with Goddess Saraswati

Statue of goddess Saraswati draped in long encircling of yellow flowers

Hindus worship Goddess Saraswati during Vasant Panchami. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 4: Hindus usher in spring and look toward the Holi season today, coloring the landscape with yellow—all in honor of the goddess Saraswati on Vasant Panchami (spellings and titles vary by region).

The first of two spring festivals in India, this “minor” festival ushers in the 40 anticipatory days leading up to Holi, the mega-event across India that is as much associated with spring as blossoming flowers and fresh mangoes. During Vasant Panchami, Hindus worship Saraswati Devi, the goddess of knowledge, music, arts and culture. The Hindu faithful wear yellow, partake in yellow sweets and drape statues of Saraswati in yellow flowers and materials, all to honor the deity who, allegedly, showers the greatest blessings onto those who wear yellow today. It’s believed that Goddess Saraswati will grant spiritual enlightenment to her devotees—a gift far greater than riches or nobility.

KITES, THE GANGA

AND EDUCATIONAL BLESSINGS

In light of the springtime atmosphere, children in the Punjab region fly kites on Vasant Panchami, while in regions such as Baithain, Holi gets a kick-start with residents throwing colored powders at one another and singing Holi songs.

Most commonly associated with Vasant Panchami, though, is the seeking of Saraswati’s blessings over educational institutions. Schools hold prayers and pujas for the goddess, and young children are introduced to the alphabet and first words today (Wikipedia has details). Many students also place their books upon her altar. As such, Vasant Panchami is extremely popular among young people and in college hostels. (The Times of India reports.)

Known for her serenity, Goddess Saraswati embodies the peace of mind that accompanies great wisdom. She is often shown with a white lotus, holding a book in her lower left hand and wearing white clothing. Her four hands represent the four aspects of the human persona: mind, intellect, alertness and ego. In Bengal, statues of the goddess are carried through a procession today and immersed in the holy Ganga. For the next 40 days, statues of Saraswati will be replaced with figures of Holika, a demonness, whose effigy will be burned during Holi.

IN THE NEWS:
MAGH MELA AND DILIGENT DEVOTEES
 

Despite heavy rains and adverse conditions, Hindu devotees are persisting through Magh Mela with determination, Indian publications report, remaining in camps and temporary sheds during the month of holy baths. (Read more at India Today.) During the month-long Magh Mela, holy baths in sacred rivers have taken place twice, beginning on January 16 and continuing today, on Maghi Poornima (Feb. 14) and on Maha Shivratri (Feb. 27).  Special trains have been coordinated to escort pilgrims to and from their destinations during the month, and several places of business—from the court at Kanpur to tanneries—will be closed on Vasant Panchami.

Note: During Vasant Panchami, Sikhs participate in singing the Basant Raga.

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Categories: Faiths of India