Bengali traditions & culture/ Festivals & Occasions/ Recipes

Bengali Saraswati Puja / Vasanta Panchami – Spring Festival

या कुन्देन्दुतुषारहारधवला या शुभ्रवस्त्रावृता
या वीणावरदण्डमण्डितकरा या श्वेतपद्मासना।

या ब्रह्माच्युत शंकरप्रभृतिभिर्देवैः सदा वन्दिता
सा मां पातु सरस्वती भगवती नि:शेषजाड्यापहा

शुक्लां ब्रह्मविचारसारपरमामाद्यां जगद्व्यापिनीं ।
वीणापुस्तकधारिणीमभयदां जाड्यान्धकारापहाम् ।

हस्ते स्फाटिकमालिकां च दधतीं पद्मासने संस्थितां
वन्दे तां परमेश्वरीं भगवतीं बुद्धिप्रदां शारदाम्‌॥२॥

…to the Goddess of learning, knowledge, wisdom, art, science and conscience.

After the huge response I had received from my post on Kojagiri Lakshmi Puja for sharing the details on rituals etc, I got similar request on Instagram for Saraswati puja as well. Hence this post.

bengali saraswati puja

Basant panchami always has a special place in our hearts. And the above Sanskrit shlokas was part of Saraswati vandana that we used to recite on the early mornings right after the prayers on the day of Saraswati puja.

In my home, we have a slightly different rituals and preparations for this day and my dad used to be very particular about this puja.

After all knowledge, wisdom and conscience are the three main virtues of life, without which we are nothing.

When we celebrate Saraswati Puja?

Saraswatai puja falls on Magha Sukla panchami (5th day of waxing moon period). Goddess Saraswati symbolizes creative energy and is considered as the goddess of knowledge, music, art, wisdom, and learning.

This is the reason why on Saraswati puja – we also do “haathe khori ” or “vidyaarambh” or “Aksharabhyaas” for the child, his/her initiation into the world of knowledge and learning.

This ritual is specially done by the priest / pandit.

At home we keep it simple. Apart from cleaning and cleansing oneself and surroundings, Saraswati puja is usually performed before noon. So most of the preparations are done on the previous night.

bengali saraswati puja

Since yellow is the color of the season and Goddess Saraswati is often portrayed as a beautiful woman dressed in pure white, with veena (a musical instrument) in one hand, holds scriptures / veda in other hand and often seated on a white lotus- the color white symbolizes light, knowledge and truth.

That is the reason why yellow (like marigold) and white color flowers are being offered to Ma Saraswati. But there is one flower without which it is said that the puja remain incomplete – and that is the unopened bud of Palash flowers or flame of forest, also known as sacred tree.

Maa Saraswati is otherwise known as Swetapadma as she sits on a precious white lotus, holds the vedas and always accompanied with a swan. The swan who can discern milk from water is a symbolic representation of choosing good over evil.

What are the rituals for performing Saraswati Puja at home?

  1. The image or idol of Ma Saraswati – is first cleaned and then adorned with sandalwood tika / tilak and garland.

2. A white cloth (vastram) for the Goddess.

3. Alponas (Bengali traditional drawing with rice paste (no acrylic paints) for pujas and other auspicious occasions) must be drawn.
4. An earthen pot or kalash filled with water is placed before the idol, and over it mango leaves (five in a bunch) are placed. A red cloth or gamcha is used to cover the pot. A small garland is also placed over this.

5. In front of Ma Saraswati two ink pots (symbolic) with quill on each side are placed, filled with raw milk and topped with narkel kul / apple ber / Indian jujube.

6. Books, pens, musical instruments, paint boxes, brushes etc are also placed near Ma Saraswati for blessings.

If you could not get apple ber (extremely seasonal and available in market for very short period of time), you can place any small fruit also.

7. Five different seasonal fruits like water apple, jicama (misrikand / shakalu) are also offered.

8. Yellow flowers like marigold and white flowers are offered to the goddess along with bel pata or bel leaves. I have already mentioned about the palash flowers before.

The next morning of Saraswati puja, after the puja is completed, while seeking the blessings of Ma Saraswati, there is a ritual followed in Bengali homes to keep flowers (the one that are offered to Ma Saraswati only) and bel leaves inside books and pencil boxes.

9. Other than this popped rice (khoi in bengali), white til /sesame or revdi (tilkut in bengali), dates, honey, curd or mishti doi (sweet curd) are also offered to the Goddess.

10. Panchamrit made with raw milk, curd, ghee, honey and holy basil (tulsi leaves).

11. Every household has their own way of offering naivedya. We usually make this with uncooked rice, three or five different fruits like grapes, bananas , apple or oranges, batasha (candied sugar drops), sandesh or any sweet, dates and camphor.

12. Saraswati puja bhog is little different in my home. Unlike in every puja occasion, we give a skip to bhoger khichuri and labra here . Instead we offer Ma Saraswati – basanti pulao, payesh, roshogolla, kalakand, boonde, luchi – bandhakopi ghonto and kuler chatni (Indian jujube chutney).

13. Dodhikarma – Saraswati puja is never complete without the traditional helping of this special offering known as Dodhikarma that is offered to the Goddess, the next morning on the day of completion of Panchami Tithi.

Dodhikarma comprises of sweet curd, popped rice, cut fruits (that is being offered to the goddess), sweets and ripe banana, while the priest performs the rituals of worship afterwords these ingredients are mixed together to prepare the delicious ‘Dodhikarma’, which is then offered as Prasad of the puja.

14. No Immersion – Not everywhere, but in many Bengali homes including ours, we do not immerse Ma Saraswati as we do with other goddess after the puja ritual is completed. Immersing Ma Saraswati is like symbolic to “vidya visarjan” to us which should not happen.

Saraswati Puja means different thing to different people. Some celebrates her birthday, some associated her with the wealth and some holds her as the supreme reality, Brahmavidya herself, the goddess of the wisdom of ultimate truth. Truth is the ultimate object of knowledge. Knowledge will remove the darkness of ignorance and lead us to the light.

The priest simply sprinkle ganga jal all over the idol. The idol is then carefully wrapped up and put away safely . She will be brought out again a year later, spruced up, decked up in new clothes and jewellery.

These are the payers and pushpanjali mantra I would love to share here –

Saraswati Puja Pushpanjali Mantra – (recite 3 times)

ॐ भद्रकाल्यै नमो नित्यं सरस्वत्यै नमो नमः
वेद-वेदांग-वेदान्त-विद्यास्थानेभ्य एव च

एश श चंदना पुष्पा बिलवा पत्रांजलि
ॐ ओयिंग श्री सरस्वत्यै नमः
Om bhadrakalai namo nityam Saraswatai namo namah |
Veda Vedanga Vedanta vidhya sthaneybhya eba cha ||
Esha sha chandana pushpa bilva patranjali
Om Owing Saraswatai namah

Saraswati Puja Pranam Mantra

जय जय देवी चरा चर सारे
कुचजुग शोभित मुक्ता हारे

वीणा रंजित पुस्तक हस्ते
भगवती भारती देवी नमस्तुते
ॐ सरस्वती महाभागे
विद्ये कमल लोचने
विस्वरुपे विशालक्ष्मी
विद्यम देहि नमोहस्तुते
Jaya Jaya Devi, Charachara Sharey, Kuchayuga Shobhita, Mukta Haarey|
Vina Ranjita, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati Bharati Devi Namohastutey I
Om Saraswati Mahabhage Vidya Kamal Lochane
Vishwaroope Vishalakshmi Vidyam Dehi Namohstute II
Saraswati Puja Vandana ( I have shared in the beginning, see top of the post)

These are some of the aspects of doing Saraswati puja at home in short. Traditions and rituals helps bind us together as family and community , this is important, I believe, but I always ask myself why we do this? Answer is simple- for inner peace, hopes and positivity. So at the end of the day it is not important how you do it, but why you do it.

May Ma Saraswati blessed you all.

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