Being Women

Saraswati Puja: Memories Of Playful Childhood And Heartfelt Rituals

Saraswati Puja is not just a religious event, but is also a cultural and personal experience filled with tradition, joy, and even a touch of mischief.

Celebrating Saraswati Puja

“Batashe bohiche prem (there is romance in the sir),
Noyone lagiche nesha (the eyes are intoxicated),
Kara je dakilo peeche (who called me from behind),
Bosonto eshe geche (the spring is here)”

Saraswati puja is celebrated on the fifth day of Shukla Panchami of the Hindu month Magh. It also heralds the beginning of the spring season as winter starts fading away. It is also known as “Basant Panchami”.

This day is of special significance as

🙏🏼 It is a day to celebrate the Goddess of knowledge, music, and arts. All of these qualities are treated with utmost respect by the community.

🙏🏼 It is a day where yellow ethnics are a must. The girls get to don the beautiful yellow sarees from their mother’s wardrobe.

🙏🏼 And last but not least, it is a day for Cupid to keep his arrows ready! When the trees are filled with Magnolia (Champa) and the Flame of the Forest (Yellow Palash) and the elders are all busy in the pandal, it gives a unique opportunity to the budding lovers.

Nostalgic Childhood Memories

My earliest memories of the pujo are all filled with laughter and glee. More so as it meant two days of “book-free” survival. Our “para” (or society) would have a pujo where all the work was done by the members of the families. From setting up the pandal to bringing in the idol, from preparing the prasad to the immersion of the Goddess, it was a community effort.

The morning would start with taking a bath, putting on the yellow attire, and preparing for the ‘Pushpanjali’. It was a ‘study-free’ day as all the books were kept at the feet of the Goddess for her blessings. Some of the families performed the ‘hathe khori’ (a ceremony for the initiation of children into learning) where the child would write the alphabet for the first time on a slate with chalk. After Pushpanjali, we would take the prasad and retire to a secret play area at the back of the pandal.

While the little kids played there in glee, most of the time the teenage boys and girls would be missing in action. None of the parents came searching for them as they were engaged in the pujo rituals. It was much later that I realized the ‘why’ behind their vanishing act.

The Delights of Tradition and Rituals

Saraswati pujo is incomplete if there is no –

🥘 Bhog – We used to wait for the pujo bhog that comprised khichuri, labra (mixed vegetables), chatni, papad and payesh. The recipe was nothing new, but the taste was par excellence.

🍊Kul (Indian jujube) – Bengalis are not supposed to eat kul before the pujo. It is said that knowledge will bid farewell if we break the tradition. Such was the terror! The endless wait for this day finally got over when we ate the ripe and unripe kul.

🍶 Dodhikorma – It is a tradition of the pujo to prepare Dodhikorma – a mixture of puffed rice (khoi), mishti doi, bananas, dry fruits, sugar, and some fruits. Delicious and creamy, we loved it.

🫛Gota SeddhoGota (whole) seddho (boiled). It is made of six types of vegetables (potato, sweet potato, eggplant, peas with the pod, hyacinth beans, and baby spinach) mixed with green moong dal. These are soaked overnight on the day of the pujo and served on the next day of ‘Shital Sashti’, which is a no-cooking day in most households. The taste of gota seddho, mixed with mustard oil and piping hot white rice is heavenly.

Anecdotes that Bring Memories Alive

Saraswati Pujo has many memories attached to it.

🥀 During our college days, we were anticipating that one of our friends would get proposed by the cute boy next door on Saraswati Puja. The hunch grew stronger when he sent a letter to our friend asking her to meet him on the auspicious day. We waited with bated breath for the proposal to happen. But it did not! Two years later the same boy proposed to my friend with a dried-up rose. Guess why? He did turn up on that day, two years ago! But was too nervous to act. He preserved the flower in a book for two years till he mustered the courage to propose. How sweet was that!

💑🏻 On another occasion, a couple went missing by creating alibies that involved us. Soon the girl’s mother came searching for her at the secret back pandal. We immediately sent a messenger in search of the couple, while we distracted the mother with different versions of our stories. I don’t know if she believed us, but luckily our messenger was pretty good at finding out the hiding spot and came back within 10-15 minutes. We were saved for the day!

Such was the fun and laughter-filled days of the pujo. As we chanted “vidhyarupe vishalakshi vidhyang dehi, namastute”, we all prayed to the Goddess to bless us with the power of knowledge of creativity across the generations to come.

Happy Saraswati Pujo to everyone!


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