Vasant Panchami/ Basant Panchami is celebrated to welcome the arrival of the spring season. ‘Vasant’ means “spring,” and Panchami means “the fifth day.” It is on the 5th day of the Vasant bright half (Shukla paksha) in Magha month (Jan-Feb). Hindus worship Goddess Saraswathi as part of the tradition, and Saraswati Pooja or Vasanta Panchami Puja is also performed. Saraswati is the deity of knowledge, wisdom, and the arts. She is the consort of Lord Brahma, the creator Archetype.
There are many interesting things about this festival. Let us look at 7 of them.
The book, “Brahma Vaivarta Puran”, says that Lord Krishna gave Goddess Saraswati a boon that she will be worshipped on Vasant Panchami. It is also regarded as her birthday. On this day, it is the practice to decorate temples with yellow clothing and flowers. Kesaria bhaat or sweet yellow rice is also cooked on this day. The festival is associated with mustard fields. Around this time, the mustard plants are in bloom, and the fields of yellow mustard flowers make it seem as though the earth is covered with a yellow sheet.
The Arrival of Spring
Vasant Panchami festival marks the end of winter and the arrival of the spring season.
In India, spring is the “king of all seasons.” It brings welcome warmth after the chills of winter. The mustard plants will be in full bloom at this time. The yellow mustard flowers represent light, knowledge, peace, energy, and prosperity. It is a most auspicious time to launch new ventures, get married, buy a house, or start a job.
Worship of Goddess Saraswati
The festival celebrates Goddess Saraswati’s birthday. It also commemorates the day she blessed the great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, who lived around the 4th or 5th century CE.
Legend says that a very intelligent princess called Vidyottama triumphed over many renowned scholars in debate. When it became time for her to get married, she declared that she would wed only a man who was smarter than her. Some learned men who thought she was arrogant decided to teach her a lesson. They planned to trick her into marrying a fool. One day they met a man, Kalidasa, who was cutting a tree branch on which he was sitting. Deciding that he was a big fool, the scholars presented him to the princess.
They said he was a very learned sage and persuaded her to marry him. After the marriage, Vidyottama realized that Kalidasa was a fool and threw him out of the palace. Dejected, Kalidasa decided to end his life, but Goddess Saraswati appeared before him and told him to take a dip in the nearby river. He did so, and when he came out of the river, he had changed utterly. For he now possessed great intelligence and wisdom and went on to become a renowned poet.
Devotees worship Saraswati on Vasant Panchami day, hoping that she will bless them, too, with wisdom and intelligence.
Remembering the God of Love
There is another legend about Vasant Panchami that involves Kamadeva, the god of love. The story is found in works like the Matsya Purana and Shiva Purana. Goddess Parvati was adamant that she would wed only Lord Shiva. But he was deep in meditation after his wife, Sati, died. Despite doing rigorous penance, Parvati could not get the attention of Shiva.
Finally, she approached Kamadeva, the god of love, and sought his help. So he decided to disturb Shiva’s meditation and trigger in him a desire for Parvati, who was actually an incarnation of Sati. Kamadeva created a spring-like atmosphere and fired five of his flower-tipped arrows at Shiva. Shiva’s meditation was disturbed, and he was furious. He opened his third eye and burned Kamadeva to ashes. On hearing this, Kamadeva’s wife, Rati, ran to Shiva and begged him to restore her husband’s life. Taking pity on her, Shiva brought Kamadeva back to life on the condition that only Rati could see him in his physical form. To others, he would remain a disembodied spirit of love and desire.
Hence, Vasant Panchami is remembered as the day Kamadeva incited Shiva’s desire for Parvati, and also as the time of year when he arouses the passions of the earth and its people.
Worship of the Sun God
Many devotees celebrate the founding of the Deo-Sun Temple (dedicated to Lord Surya, the Sun God, in Bihar) on Vasant Panchami. Symbolizing wisdom and light, Surya brings winter to its end. It provides enough sunlight for the trees to sprout new leaves and flowers. After many chilly months, Surya’s warmth invigorates the earth. It also gives new energy and vitality to people.
People in Bihar, therefore, celebrate and honor the Sun God through songs and dance. They also clean the statues at the Deo-Sun Temple.
On Vasant Panchami, there is a kite-flying festival in the state of Punjab. Some two hundred years ago, this tradition was introduced by Maharaja Ranjit Singh on Basant Panchami.
How to Celebrate Vasant Panchami
Vasant Panchami is celebrated in various ways.
Many rise early and wear yellow clothes (yellow is her favorite color). They eat and share yellow sweets and snacks. They also perform Saraswati Pooja/Vasant Panchami Pooja to her idol. Saraswati, being the goddess of knowledge and wisdom, is worshipped by students who want academic success. Others may worship Shiva and Parvati by offering them mango flowers and ears of wheat, and some also honor Surya.
In 2022, Vasant Panchami is on February 5, Saturday.