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Vasant Panchmi: the onset of spring festival

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By Varnika Mahajan

What Diwali is to the goddess of wealth Lakshmi, Vasant Panchmi is to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and arts. The whole country observes this auspicious day of harvest, which indicates the arrival of spring.

It is interesting to observe that in Indian culture, we have three goddesses representing, Wealth (Lakshmi), Power (Shakti) and Education (Saraswati), showing the equal importance being laid on all the three aspects.

Special prayers are offered to Goddess Saraswati on this day and many new schools and training institutes are inaugurated, a trend made famous by the renowned founder of the Banaras Hindu University, educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. He founded the University on Vasant Panchami day in the year 1916.

History behind the festival

The story goes like this- Lord Shiva burnt the god of love, Lord Kamadeva, who was sent by other Gods to tempt Lord Shiva while he was absorbed in Samadhi. This was done so that Lord Shiva would come out of Samadhi, marry Devi Parvati and beget a powerful son who would be able to destroy the wicked demon Tarakasura. Kamadeva discharged a powerful arrow at Lord Shiva from behind a tree, which disturbed Shiva’s meditation and, as a result, he became very greatly enraged. This led to the opening of His third eye which reduced Kamadeva to ashes.

Thus, the God of love- Kamadeva is honored on this day. Kamadeva Puja used to be conducted in many parts of the country in the past though such a practice has greatly reduced in the present. Kamadeva is also known as “Atanu” — one without a body and spring or Vasant being Kamadeva’s close friend, spring is closely associated with the latter.

Saraswati Puja

The major celebration on this day though is the Saraswati Puja. As per the accounts of Brahma Vaivarta Purana, a boon was granted by Krishna to Goddess Saraswati that she would be worshiped on Vasant Panchami.

Traditionally a Kalash containing water is set up with colored powder thrown into the air to mark the occasion.  Men and women wear yellow color which is a sign of auspiciousness and spirituality, representing the ripening of the spring crops.

People celebrating Basant Panchami in The East, generally wear yellow color garments, deck up Saraswati’s idol too in yellow. In the Telugu states, Vasant Panchami is observed with prayers to Maa Saraswati, and also observing Akshara Abhyasam or Vidya Arambham.

Even the food is colored yellow by using saffron with folks getting together and singing songs connected with spring.

Symbolism behind imagery of Goddess Saraswati

Seated on a white lotus, Saraswati draped in White with Veena in her hands, symbolizes knowledge, truth and light. Her four hands often displayed prominently symbolize, manas( sense), buddhi( intellect), chitta( imagination) and ahamkar( self consciousness). The Veena represents all the creative arts and sciences, and her holding represents the harmony created by knowledge.  Sitting on a white swan, it also symbolizes spiritual perfection, transcendence and Moksha. Thus, a sincere worship of Goddess Saraswati will lead one to Vidya and Moksha.

Interesting facts

    • At the end of the festivities, the flowers and mango leaves would be sprinkled with red gulal with girls applying it to their cheeks.
    • Interestingly, there is a gap of 40 days between Vasant Panchami and Holi and it is believed to be the number of days Rati undertook penance, after her husband Kamadeva was burnt to ashes by Shiva’s third eye.
    • Sufi Muslims have been witnessing this day since 12th century AD. It is said that the poet Amir Khusro, dressed in yellow, took flowers to the saint Nizamuddin, who was mourning the death of his nephew which made him feel better. Sufi Basant is observed in Sufi shrines.
    • In Uttarakhand, earthen lamps and incense are lit, to signify worship of the earth as a ‘harvest festival’. On the other hand, people in Bihar and Bengal worship the plough on this day.
    • Saraswati Puja is also called Shree Panchami.
    • Punjab region celebrates it as the Basant Festival of Kites with the observance in Gurdwaras as a Sikh festival.
    • Worshiped not only in India but other countries too, the goddess is called by many names- Brahmani( Goddess of Science), Vani( referring to the flow of music).  In Telugu-speaking states, she is referred to as Chaduvula Thalli( Goddess of education) and as Kalaimagal, Kalaivani in Tamil. A very common name is Sharada, one who loves the autumn season. (Image source: besthdwalls.in)

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Top 3 Most Famous South Indian temples

These temples' architecture is very good. Apart from this, the art in these temples holds great importance

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Temples in South India are decorated with art and paintings. Pixabay

Here is a list of top 3 South Indian temples.

1. Tirupati Tirumala Temple, Lord Vishnu

The Tirupati Temple is one of the most important temples in South India. This Temple is very much popular with all the pilgrims and is located in Chittoor, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Daily, a lot of pilgrims are visiting this temple from all over India, and also from foreign countries. It is one of the richest temples in India. Every year, crores of rupees are received from the devotees through hundial, and also received from various endowment donations. Nithya annadanam scheme is very much popular in Tirupati. A lot of devotees are consuming good and tasty divine food daily. Hence it is a must to visit this temple, at least once in a year and to offer our prayers, to have annadanam and to offer money based on our financial background, and to get Lord Sree Venkateswara’s divine blessings forever.

2. Ramanatha Swamy Temple, Lord Shiva:

The Ramanatha Swamy temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and it is situated at Rameswaram.

People are visiting here for doing their ancestral rituals, and it is very famous for that. This is one of the ancient temples of South India. Free food is offered in the temple for more than 100 devotees. Aadi Amavasya, Thai Amavasya and Mahalaya Amavasya pitru rituals are very popular in this temple. We can take a bath from the sacred wells situated inside the temple. It is a must to visit this temple, to get relieved from various sins, and also by clearing our ancestral debts by doing pitru tharpan. Many sites seeing places are also there nearby Rameswaram. We can visit Abdul Kalam Sir’s Memorial also in Rameswaram. Dhanushkodi is the best sightseeing place situated near Rameswaram.

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There are hundreds of temples in South India where people go to worship. Pixabay

3.Virupaksha Temple of Lord Shiva

The virupaksha temple is one of the most famous temple of south India situated at Hampi, Karnataka. This is one of the sacred temples of Lord Shiva and it was established in 7th century AD and also it is one of the oldest temples in India. It is a must to visit this temple since it is surrounded by natural beauty. The temple continues to prosper and attracts huge crowds for the marriage festivities of Virupaksha in the month of December every year.

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In the month of February, the annual chariot festival is celebrated in a grand manner.

(Hindu Council of Australia)