Vasant Panchami, refers to the following festivals: the religious Hindu festival of Saraswati Puja also called Shree Panchami; Sufi Basant observed in Sufi shrines; the seasonal spring festival of Vasant Panchami observed in many regions; the Basant Festival of Kites of the Punjab region; observance in Gurdwaras as a Sikh festival; the birthday of the Deo-Sun God in Bihar and a harvest festival. The festivals are celebrated on the fifth day of Magha.
The Story of Saraswati Puja
The story of Saraswati Puja is related to the Brahma Vaivarta Purana. Sri Krishna granted Saraswati a boon that she too will be worshipped on Vasant Panchami. After performing morning ablutions and bathing, a Kalasha is established. After worshipping Ganesh, the Sun, Vishnu and Shiva, Saraswati is worshipped. Thereafter, coloured powder is thrown into the air.This is the general form of observance of praying to Goddess Saraswati on Vasant Panchami. In places such as Uttar Pradesh, prayers are offered to Goddess Saraswati and people sing religious verses to celebrate the festival. Interestingly, in Tamil Nadu and South India Saraswati is worshipped on the ninth day of navratri in the month of ashwin.
Traditions of Saraswati Puja in Bihar
The day before Vasant Panchami in Bihar, Sarasvati’s temples are filled with food so that she can join the celebrants in the traditional feasting the following morning. In temples and educational institutions, statues of Sarasvati are dressed in yellow and worshiped. Most educational institutions arrange special prayers or pujas in the morning to seek blessing of the Goddess. Poetic and musical gatherings are held and children are initiated to learn the alphabet and are often taught to write their first words. This ritual of initiating education to children is known as Akshar-Abhyasam or Vidya-Arambham/Praasana, one of the famous rituals of Vasant Panchami. Older students clean their pens and inkwells but abstain from reading or writing on this day. In Bengal, idols of Saraswati are taken on procession and immersed in the holy Ganga.
The color yellow plays an important role in Vasant Panchami as it is related to the bloom of mustard flowers during this period. Celebrants usually wear yellow garments, Saraswati is worshiped in a yellow dress, and sweet saffron rice and yellowsweets are consumed within the families.