Celebrating Basant Panchmi/ Saraswati Puja

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Saraswati Puja or Basant Panchami as the name suggests is celebrated on the fifth day of Maghi Shukla Paksha, which usually falls in February. This year it falls on 25th January. It signifies the worship of Goddess Saraswati or the Goddess of Learning and Music as She holds the Veena in her hand.
The puja is performed in most Bengali households including mine, where my father, a staunch Bengali Brahmin would perform the puja himself. It is also performed in all schools and colleges since it involves education in any form be it academic, musical, or any other form of learning.
In my home, all my academic books including my father’s medical books and journals, his guitar, my harmonium, and tabla were placed before Ma Saraswati’s image. We were not supposed to study or touch any books on this day, which used to be a source of unending fun, since this was one day even your parents couldn’t tell you to study!
The Indian Plum or “Ber” as it is popularly known in Hindi and “Kool” in Bengali, is the most important fruit to be offered in Puja. We were told not to eat this fruit before Saraswati Puja, even though it was available in the market since it had to be offered to the Goddess first.
Traditionally, yellow or white clothes are worn on this day.
After the puja, flowers from the Goddess’ feet are put inside various books by students especially in the most hated or toughest subject in the hope that Ma Saraswati’s blessings through the flowers would help the subject to penetrate the brain in a permanent manner!!
It is a ritual in West Bengal to eat stale food the next day. Therefore all food is cooked at night and eaten the next day. A special dish called ” Gota Sheddo”( Gota means whole and sheddo means boiled) is prepared. Whole moong dal together with whole vegetables are boiled with salt. The vegetables have to remain whole. They are neither to be cut nor fried. Raw mustard oil can be added.
In the morning after the Puja, before immersion of the idol, a ritual called ” Dodhi Karma” is performed. In this, curd, poha, batasha, kheel etc. are mixed together and offered to the Goddess as ‘Bhog’.
After puja and Arti, the idol is immersed in the river or neighborhood pond.

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