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Vasant Panchami

Goddess Saraswati

Goddess Saraswati

Today was Vasant Panchami. It means the fifth day of spring. In eastern side of India, it is celebrated as Saraswati Puja and falls generally in the month of February. The academic session in India begins from June and ends in April. The tension of exams starts clouding from February. Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of learning. Hence Saraswati Puja is very important for every person learning something be it studies, music, art, etc. It is a very special day for 3 year olds. They are dressed in traditional attire of dhoti or saree. The priest makes them write a few alphabets on a slate with chalk. This is called ‘Hathe Khodi’. It marks the beginning of education in a person’s life. During our school days we used to dress up in new clothes mostly yellow and go to the venue with our school books. We offered our prayers with flowers to Goddess Saraswati. Then we used to have competitions for drawing, poetry recitation, etc. The flowers used for the ceremony were often taken by the students to be kept in books. I used to make sure those flowers are placed in all my textbooks, particularly those of mathematics. I still remember once a classmate in college started teasing me when a rose was found in one of my books. But the entire joke came to an end when I said its the flower from the Saraswati puja ceremony.

Detailed view of decorations

Detailed view of decorations

This year I wanted to attend this ceremony. It was going to be organized by the Bengali association of Pittsburgh. I was glad when my friend Sahana said she too was also going there and I can join them. It was -12 degrees Celsius as we drove. All the way there was snow on both sides of the road. I was reminded of my school days as soon as we entered the hall. The goddess was decorated with bright flowers. People were dressed in their traditional best. The kids looked elegant in their cute dresses. Everything was just as I had always celebrated, the prayers, the flowers and ofcourse the food. It was the super tasty khichadi with mixed veg curry, chutney, sweet, papad and fruits. We immediately felt at home inspite of being strangers. Below is my platter:

The delicious prasad

The delicious prasad

I am very thankful to my friend Sahana for taking me there. Kudos to the Bengali association of Pittsburgh for organizing this event so far. I just hope Goddess Saraswati blesses us all with knowledge. Happy Vasant Panchami and Happy Saraswati Puja.

A new experience

Sight from my window on Gudi Padwa and Ugadi

Sight from my window on Gudi Padwa and Ugadi

Today is Ugadi(Telegu new year) and Gudi Padwa(Marathi new year). This was always a day of celebration in my hometown Baroda as well as in Mumbai and Pune. In school days, march was a month of tension as April used to be the month of final exams of the academic year. The classes used to be in full force with syllabus being completed for every subject. Everyday we used to be told to prepare for the exams by every adult we met, be it the teachers, parents or neighbours. Also the 10th and 12th boards would be going on. Hence the entire neighbourhood used to be silent. Still Gudi Padwa used to bring happiness and cheer. Some of us used to reschedule our new year resolutions to this day.

My best memories of Gudi Padwa are in Mumbai and Pune. In mumbai, I used to have a team mate Preeti. Due to our long working schedules we had become fast friends. Every year she used to bring Puranpoli for me on this day. In pune almost the entire city seemed to be decorated. People would be wearing new traditional clothes. The shops would be decorated. Sometimes the entire building would be decorated. Even in our software companies, ladies would come dressed in Sarees. There would be mails wishing everyone. Last year my maid specially made puranpoli for me.

Puranpoli

The month of march is really beautiful in Baroda(Vadodara), Pune or Mumbai. All trees are green and gardens are full of flowers. I loved to see the unripe mangoes(karies) hanging on the trees.This year I am in Baltimore and had a completely different Gudi Padwa. After a week of sunshine, it snowed. Hence instead of a bright I had a cold snowy Gudi Padwa making the new year a new experience. But then we all should have some unique experiences, thats what makes our life colorful. My work went smoothly throughout the day. Also 20th march’2015 is the first day of spring. Even google is celebrating it with a google doodle. I thank everyone who made this festival special for me.

I wish everyone a very Happy Gudi Padwa and Happy Ugadi.