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Foodie at Festival

Goddess Saraswati

We celebrated Vasant Panchami and Saraswati Puja on 5th Feb 2022. This festival is very special for bengalis because it is also a celebration of learning as Goddess Saraswati is also called the Goddess of learning. This is the only day when we dont study but worship our books. Since learning is an integral part of my profession, so my excitement for this festival is same even today as it used to be when I was a kid.

Prasad

We get up early, take bath and dress up in yellow. We then have a small ceremony at home and then we go to the community hall where the celebration is organized at a larger scale. We used to apply leave in school for this festival as it used to be a working day. One of my fondest memories of this festival is the Prasad(offering). As part of prasad we have a meal which comprises of Khichadi, mixed veg curry, a fry and sweet. After the offering is made to the Goddess, it is served to the people. The community hall used to have a separate space for meals. We used to stand in line. It used to be fun seeing people dressed in different shades of yellow. The wait in queue had its own charm. We would discuss about everything, different kind of yellows, news, movies and ofcourse the upcoming exams. Everytime a known elder passed us, there would be one common question “Poda shona kamon cholche” (how are your studies going on). We used to answer this question a number of times on this day. Incase if you are in grade 9 or above, the question would shift to your preferred college and course. The khichadi (Rice and lentils cooked togather) used to be so hot that one could feel the steam coming out of it. Some of us would even compare the yellow of khichadi with the yellow of our dresses. We would sit with our friends and eat while the discussions would still continue.

This year the meals had to be taken home because of covid protocols. We wished each other while maintaining social distancing. I still hope, those days would come back when we would again have similar community festivals. May Goddess Saraswati bless everyone with the knowledge and health.

Celebration of Learning

Today is Vasant Panchami, a festival to welcome spring in India. It is celebrated on the fifth day of month of Magh in Hindu Calendar. It is either in February or last week of January. The celebrations are performed to welcome spring(Vasant). In East India, people worship Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Saraswati is called the Goddess of learning, music, knowledge and arts. We dress up in yellow, decorate the temples with yellow flowers. We put up our books and musical instruments at the house temple. With the exams scheduled for April, we pray to the Goddess to bless us with good scores. Community functions are organized where we all meet up. This is special for kids who are about to start schooling. A ceremony called “Hathe Khodi” is performed. The priest prays in the name of the kid and then helps him/her write a few alphabets with chalk on the slate.

During my school days we used to have drawing competition and poetry recitation competition making it a celebration of learning. The poetry competitions were very special. I learnt to face the stage from them. We used to be given a poem of one of the notable Bengali poets. The community hall used to be filled by members. We had to stand on stage and recite it. It used to be interesting to see different kids recite the same poem. The first poem I had recited was Lichu Chor. It describes the experience of a village lad while stealing lychee and getting caught. I was 8 years old. I could remember only 4 lines from the middle of that poem today. Funny part is these were the lines that I forgot while reciting on stage. There are music and dance performances. These events made me realize my love for performing arts. This year the celebrations were different with social distancing and mask rules in place. On this Saraswati Puja, I pray to the Goddess Saraswati the pandemic phase gets over and life returns to normalcy. Happy Vasant Panchami.