Vasant Panchami is a festival full of religious, seasonal and social significance and is celebrated by Hindus all over the world with great fervor, vigor, verve and new sense of optimism. Vasant Panchami is the festival dedicated to mother Saraswati, the Goddess of learning. (Deepavali is dedicated to Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth, and Navaratri Durga is dedicated primarily to Kali, Goddess of strength, might and power.)

Vasant Panchami is a Hindu festival celebrating in remembrance of mother Saraswati, the Goddess
 
of knowledge, music and art. It is celebrated every year on the 5th day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Maagh (January-February). Hindus all over the world celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. This Panchami is also known as Saraswati Day. It is believed that this day is Saraswati’s birthday.

Yellow color is given special importance on this day. On this day everyone dress in yellow and yellow sweets are consumed within the families. It represents the ripening of the crops. Even the food is colored yellow by using saffron. Spiritually, the yellow color is a sign of prosperity. It is the color of love. On Vasant Panchami, mother Saraswati is dressed in yellow garments and worshipped with Puja, Havan etc.. Sweetmeats of yellowish hues are exchanged with relations and friends. The most significant aspect of Vasant Panchami is that it is also the most auspicious day to begin laying one’s foundations of education - of how to read and write. Traditionally during this festival children are taught to write their first words as an auspicious beginning to learning. Pre-school children are given their first lesson in reading and writing on this day. All Hindu educational institutions of music, arts and science special prayer for Saraswati is conduct on this day. It is also a great day to inaugurate training institutes and new schools - a trend made famous by the renowned Indian educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861-1946), who laid the foundations of Kashi Hindu Vishwa Vidyaalay on Vasant Panchami. This has become a world famous top class academic institution.

Brahmins are fed; ancestor worship (Pitr-tarpan) is performed; the god of love Kamadeva is worshipped. Children love flying kites. They enjoy the festival with great fun and enthusiasm. Hinduism has taken into account special significance of seasons and interwoven that with religious festivals. Hindus are ever mindful of the debt they owe to all nature. Worship of nature is extremely important to them. People generally feel inclined to worship the presiding deity of the family (Ishta Devata or Devi) according to the individual’s faith and desires. Also, people generally tend to accumulate wealth and power. During the Kalyug (present age), the pursuit of money (wealth, power, name and fame) is everything to most people. Money is accorded god-like status. But men of principle (men who can discriminate) worship goddess Saraswati for spiritual enlightenment. In their opinion, there can be no comparison between the king and the learned (spiritually advanced). The king is honoured within his kingdom, whereas the learned is respected (or worshipped) everywhere. Saintly people and people inclined towards spiritual progress attach great importance to the worship of goddess Saraswati. The vehicle assigned to each of the three goddesses also symbolically represent their special powers. The white swan of Saraswati is symbolising Sattwa Guna (purity and discrimination).

The owl of Lakshmi and the lion or tiger of Durga symbolise the other two gunas (Rajas and Tamas). The first faint signals of the forthcoming festival of Holi manifest at Vasant Panchami. Seasons undergo change.

Goddess Saraswati, Her expression is so serene and calm even as She is majestic. She is seated on a white lotus in Padmaasan, adorned by a pure white silk sari (sign of purity), has a book in Her lower left hand, Her lower right hand showing the chinmudra, Aksharamala in Her right upper hand, and amrit kalash in Her left upper hand. Both eyes are full of compassion.

Goddess Saraswati is the consort of Lord Brahma (Lord of Creation) and is the Goddess of wisdom and learning. Saraswati is the one who gives the essence (sara) of our own self (swa). She has a beautiful and elegant presence, is pure white in color, representing purity and brilliance. In a different appearance She has four hands representing four aspects of human personality in learning; mind, intellect, alertness and ego. She has the sacred scriptures in one hand and a lotus (a symbol of true knowledge) in the second. With her other two hands she plays the music of love and life on the veena.

Goddess Saraswati rides on a white goose (swan). The swan is known for its peculiar characteristic of being capable of separating water from milk, indicating that we should possess discrimination in separating the bad from the good. The seat being a lotus or peacock implies that the teacher is well-established in the subjective experience of truth. When sitting on a peacock she reminds us that wisdom suppresses ego.

Devotees worship Her in temples, often by keeping books underneath Her idol. However, Saraswati Puja is once again performed during the Navaratri every year in October. It is celebrated by people all over, be it students, workers, craftsmen, businessmen offering their prayers for a successful and fruitful year. On Lalita Panchami (the fifth day), children gather all the books in the house before a sacred lamp and invoke the blessings of Goddess Saraswati. It is also the occasion for all artisans to lay down their tools before the goddess and seek her benediction upon their trade. Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge. She is the goddess of the spiritual knowledge and the knowledge that frees us from this bind of this materialistic world. She is worshipped during the final three days of the Navratri.

Here is some text of the popular Sanskrit prayer, Saraswati devotees utter with utmost devotion on this day:


Om Saraswati Mahabhagey, Vidye Kamala Lochaney |
Viswarupey Vishalakshmi, Vidyam Dehi Namohastutey ||
Jaya Jaya Devi, Charachara Sharey, Kuchayuga Shobhita, Mukta Haarey |
Vina Ranjita, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati Bharati Devi Namohastutey ||

The following hymn is also recited on Vasant Panchami:

Yaa Kundendu tushaara haaradhavalaa, Yaa shubhravastraavritha|
Yaa veenavara dandamanditakara, Yaa shwetha padmaasana||
Yaa brahmaachyutha shankara prabhritibhir Devaisadaa Vanditha|
Saa Maam Paatu Saraswatee Bhagavatee Nihshesha jaadyaapahaa||


English Translation:
"May Goddess Saraswati, who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon, and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops; who is adorned in radiant white attire, on whose beautiful arm rests the veena, and whose throne is a white lotus; who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect me. May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and ignorance."
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and arts, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She is the mother of the Vedas, and chants to her, called the 'Saraswati Vandana' often begin and end Vedic lessons.

It is believed that goddess Saraswati endows human beings with the powers of speech, wisdom and learning. The learned and the erudite attach greater importance to the worship of goddess Saraswati. As a practice, only educated people worship her for knowledge and wisdom. They believe that only Saraswati can grant them 'moksha' - the final liberation of the soul.

Saraswati literally means 'the flowing one'. In the Rigveda it is said she represents a river and the deity presiding over it. In the later mythology, Saraswati was identified with Vach or Speech. The `flowing one' in allegorical sense may mean speech also; perfect speech which denotes intelligence. On this Vasant Panchami day, Brahma is said to have created Saraswati and infused speech into her and bestowed the Vina in her hands. She was thus named as 'VeenaVandini (Vina player) and 'VaniDayyani' (giver of speech). As the spouse of Brahma and the goddess of wisdom and eloquence, She is known by various names such as Vinapani (due to holding the Vina), Saarada (giver of essence), Vagisvari (mistress of speech), Braahmi (energy of Lord Brahmaa), Mahavidya (knowledge supreme) and so on. Saraswati is the consort of Lord Brahma and is the Goddess of Wisdom and Knowledge. She is the personification of knowledge - arts, science, crafts. She represents Shakti, creativity and inspiration and presents herself when the weather is complacement and Nature is in its full grandeur. It is a season of inspiration and passion.

There are various traditions, customs and rituals that are followed in the worshipping of goddess Saraswati. The ones common to all those worshipping Saraswati are that the idol of the goddess is clothed in white, the other predominant colour in the celebrations is yellow, to indicate the onset of spring and the blossoming of marigolds, mustard flowers etc. Flowers and wild berries are offered to the goddess and students place their books before the deity and do not do any reading or writing that day. An elaborate puja, with sandalwood, ghee, joss sticks, and incense is done to the sound of shlokas, conch shells, and drums.

Celebrated on the onset of spring, it marks the beginning of new life with yellow mustard flowers starting to bloom and nature displaying her majestic best. Thus the colour of the festival is yellow and women can be seen dotted in saffron dresses. The puja on this day is devoted to Saraswati and people pray for wisdom and understanding. There are several ways in which puja is conducted on this day. The `flowing one' in allegorical sense may mean speech also; perfect speech which denotes intelligence. Floral offerings are made in a big scale. Books, articles, instruments of music and arts are placed before her. In the evening after the Puja is over, the idol is immersed in the sea with serenity unlike other major festivals.

Here is some text of the popular Sanskrit prayer, Saraswati devotees utter with utmost devotion on this day:

Om Saraswati Mahabhagey, Vidye Kamala Lochaney |
Viswarupey Vishalakshmi, Vidyam Dehi Namohastutey ||
Jaya Jaya Devi, Charachara Sharey, Kuchayuga Shobhita, Mukta Haarey |
Vina Ranjita, Pustaka Hastey, Bhagavati Bharati Devi Namohastutey ||

Shuklaam Brahmvichaar Saar Paramaadyaam Jagadvyaapinem Veenna Pushtak,
Dharinnebhamay Daam Jad Yaapandhkaaraapahaam,
Haste Sfatik Malikaam Vidhateem Paramaasane Sansthitaam Vande Taam,
Parameshwarem Bhagwateem Buddhi Pradaam Shaaradaam.

Saraswathi Namasthubhyam,Varadey Kaamarupinee,
Vidhyarambham Karishyami,Sidhir bhavathu mey sada.

Saraswati Mahabhage Vidye Kamalalochane
Vishwarope Vishalakshi Vidyam dehi namosthuthe.

Om Aim Kleng Saum Saraswatiya Namaha

The offerings to the goddess are mainly fruits--most significant are Berries from the wild plum tree. Other fruits include tapioca. Sweets must include puffed rice, jaggery and yogurt.

Nobody touches books on that day. This signifies that the goddess is blessing the books placed in front of her. The next day the children take back their books but stand before the goddess and read from them or write in them.

Yogurt, Khoi (puffed rice) and bananas are offered to the goddess as she departs.

According to the Brahma Vaivarta Puraan (Prakriti Kaanda, Chapter 4),

We worship Mother Saraswati in order to get rid of confusion from our lives by the light of knowledge. Everything that she stands for is simple, pure and a part of nature.

Us Hindus worship Mother Saraswati because of the knowledge and wisdom that she can embody on us. She is the goddess of dawn that will be able to enlighten the being and dispel darkness away from them. If there is no knowledge and wisdom on this earth, then the earth will be thrown into darkness and mayhem. In order to get the true meaning of wisdom for oneself, one has to give up the pleasure that is sensual and dependent on our senses but must search for the peace and calmness of the spiritual well being.

One who is a student should chant the following mantra of Sarasvati Devi daily: -

Om saraswati namas tubhyam Varade kama rupini, Vidya rambam karishyami, Siddhir bhavatu me sada.

"My salutations unto you Mother Sarasvati. By your will I begin the process of learning. Let my efforts be crowned with success."
(You can chant this mantra just once before the start of your study and in the morning when you are performing Sarasvati puja.).

More mantras of Mother Sarasvati to chant on Vasant Pancham i : -

Om shreeng hreeng sarasvat-yai namah

Om aing hreeng shreeng vaag-dev-yai saras-wat-yai namah

May Mother Saraswati Bless you & yours with wisdom, peace, happiness, good health & prosperity