February 4 marks the festival of Vasant Panchami 2014 in India. The festival is also known as Saraswati Puja. The word “vasant” means spring, and Vasant Panchami marks the beginning of the spring season and the coming of the festival of Holi.
Vasant Panchami is held during the Vedic month of Magh on the fifth day of the waxing Moon. Panchami refers to the 5th phase of the Moon. In Vedic astrology, the full moon falls in the nakshatra of star of Magha in Leo during the month of Magh.
Saraswati is the goddess of wisdom, learning, speech, and the music. She is shown holding the instrument the veena in two hands, a book in another, and a mala (for mantra repetition) in the fourth hand. Saraswati wears a white sari and is typically seated on a lotus or a swan. Both are symbols of purity.
Students perform a puja (a ceremony) to Saraswati and ask her to bless their books and other school supplies, so that they perform well in studies and are blessed with her qualities. Yellow flowers are offered to Saraswati during the puja. Some consider Vasant Panchami to be Saraswati’s birthday.
Women and men typically wear the color yellow on Vasant Panchami. Yellow is a symbol of spring and newness. The sweet kesar halva is traditionally offered on Vasant Panchami. It is made from flour, sugar, nuts, saffron, milk, and cardamom. The kesar (saffron) imbues this tasty dish with a yellow hue.
Kamadeva, the Hindu god of love, his wife Rati, and his friend Vasant are also honored on Vasant Panchami. Ceremonies are also performed to honor nature, which provides the crops to maintain life and provide a means of financial support for many.
Vasant Panchami 2014 is a public holiday in India. Forty days following Vasant Panchami is the festival of Holi.