Monday, January 22, 2007


Originally uploaded by dalbhat.
For a few days before the Saraswati festival, local markets see a surge of color as hundreds of Saraswati images, in a range of sizes to suit, are displayed for sale. The day before Saraswati Puja, the images can be seen out and about the city, propped up carefully in the back of van rickshaws and trucks as they make their way to homes where studious Bengalis dwell, post offices, or institutions of learning where pujas for the goddess of learning are sure to happen. Then the morning arrives, as you wake to the day there is a faint beating of drums or blasts from sound systems that were rented out for the day. Loud speakers are being tested. And wafting through the air is a delicious nutty and wholesome smell as huge pots of a dal-rice hodge podge known as khichuri are cooked up to feed everyone around.

Saraswati is actually the goddess of all the creative arts, particularly that of poetry and music, learning and science. She dresses modestly, as she prefers the pursuit of knowledge to things material. She gracefully rides on a swan or a peacock, and is often seated on a lotus flower. She is master of the veena.
In Bengal, children place their books in front of the image on this day to ask that her powers help them to do well at school, and in classes where they are particularly weak.

Young people living in a community are most enthusiastic about this festival and many schools hold special ceremonies on this day, with the khichuri pot brewing in the background and friend potol or begun frying up to accompany it. Students and postal carriers go door-to-door the week before to gather donations so that the celebrations can happen. Girls wear yellow ("basanti") sarees with splashes of red. Makeshift "altars" have been set up all around to celebrate the occasion. Time to put the hard-core, high-pressure studies away and enjoy a dance and big meal!


Anonymous jude said...

i have just found your blog and i love it!!!! great inspiration.

7:17 AM  
Blogger tito said...

yup, these pujas are the heart and soul of us bengalis...don't know where we would be without 'em, or who we would be without 'em, for that matter! the entire bengali culture and society is finely
ingrained in these rituals and customs, and we love it that way!

by the way, a very, very, very belated happy new year, maura aunty!
here's arnab smiling atcha with that trademark toothy smile!:)

8:12 AM  
Blogger shula said...

I'd give my eye teeth to be there for a Saraswati puja.

4:20 AM  

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