Tag Archives: spring

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 spiritual exploration

Last week a colleague of mine suggested that I should visit the Washington Kali Temple. I immidiately contacted my friend asking them if they are ready to visit that temple over the weekend. They agreed and so on Saturday morning, we all got ready by 10:00 am. The sun shone brightly and there was a cool breeze. It almost seemed as if the weather itself is taking us towards the temple. After a drive of 40 minutes we reached our destination.

The Washington Kali Temple

The Washington Kali Temple

Apple trees around the temple

Apple trees around the temple

Surrounding Greenery

Surrounding Greenery

As we reached there, we were greeted by beautiful apple trees. The temple stood amidst large green trees. It was so peaceful that one can meditate. As we entered the temple, we were greeted by this beautiful quote by Swami Vivekananda. This reminded me about the story of the Chicago Conference attended by Swami Vivekananda.

Beautiful words by Swami Vivekananda

Beautiful words by Swami Vivekananda

A part of temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva, another to Navagraha and the rest was to Goddess Kali and Goddess Durga. We refer to our Goddesses as Ma(mother). We even saw a mongoose eating peacefully in the temple compound and realized that everyone is welcome at the doors of the Ma. The photos of Ramakrishna Paramhans dev reminded me of my home. The compound had beautiful flowers. After a long time I had come across such a beautiful representation of co-existence of humans, animals and trees. It was so serene that we forgot all our worries and started praying.

A beautiful sight

A beautiful sight

Beautiful flowers around temple

Beautiful flowers around temple

We were told by the priest that its an auspicious day and there will be a small ceremony. We attended the ceremony and offered our prayers. Then we had the bhog. I almost felt at home, as if my mom had prepared lunch for me since I had returned after a long time. The peace and tranquillity of the temple continued with us all throughout the weekend. Thanks to my friends Ravi and Saritha for this trip. In our fast paced lives, we often forget the importance of small things like spending some time with ourselves, praying and appreciating everything around us. But once we do these, life becomes so much more beautiful. Don’t you think so?

Celebrating Spring

Flowers

Flowers

It was 1st march, 2015. My friend Ravi called me up and said “Do not keep any plans for 11th april 2015”. When I asked the reason, he replied “Don’t you know, its Cherry Blossom”. I looked up the internet and found its a spring celebration. Being a bengali, I have always celebrated spring in India as Basant Panchami. That day I realised Spring is celebrated here too.

Flowers with trees and no leaves

Flowers with trees and no leaves

Everyone celebrating spring

Everyone celebrating spring

On 11th april’2015, we set out for Washington, D.C. After days of rain and snow, it was a beautiful sunny day. This lifted our spirits. As soon as we entered the city, we saw people walking everywhere. I had never seen so many people on the streets. We parked the car and started walking towards the Jefferson Memorial. As we reached there we saw trees with beautiful pink and white flowers. I was amazed to see that these trees had only flowers and no leaves. The city itself looked colourful. There were food stalls on trucks with images of mouthwatering dishes. At some places the entire lane was filled with the aroma of delicacies from all over the world from kabobs to pretzels. People came with their families. As a result there were kids all around. This reminded me of Mela(fairs) in my home town Baroda. I used to go with my parents and friends. Those were the amazing days when we used to have every near and dear one around us.

Cycle Rickshaws

Cycle Rickshaws

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Another surprise was cycle rickshaws. The last time I saw them was in my school days in my native place Raiganj. They looked really beautiful with all the spring colors painted on them. They say Spring is the king of seasons. It seemed so true, as if entire world has come to welcome it with open arms. The city personified happiness and cheer with kids running around hear and there.

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Celebrating Holika Bonfire

Celebration of Holika bonfire

Celebration of Holika bonfire

There was a mail on friday for holi celebrations in building on friday. Holi is on 17th march this year. The night before holi is a full moon night and it is called phagun poornima or doll poornima. A bonfire is made using dry sticks and dung cakes. This fire is made as a mark of respect for Prahlad who was a strong devotee of Lord Vishnu. It is the killing of holika, the demon, to protect Prahlad. A mark of victory of good over evil. Hence it is also called Holika Daahan.

This bonfire is generally done in the neighbourhood and so it is attended by all the people. As I saw the kids playing around, I was reminded of my school days. I have early memories of going to see it with my mother, much before I came to know its reason. The fire is bounded by small bricks. Ladies come with water, sweets and coconut and these used to be offered as a part of the prayer. One such plate is visible in the photo. For kids it marks the start of holi. Holi is a spring festival and so it is celebrated with colors. We already have the colors at home and the pichkaris(water guns) ready. On the day of holika daahan, we used to fill the pichkaris with plain water and start using it on our friends. We used to plan out the time when we would start playing with colors the next morning. Even today I saw a few kids playing and one of them even had an idea to dry up “I got wet while playing and then dried up in the heat of the bonfire”.

Although it was a bonfire, but it used to give everyone a reason to meet up and greet each other. Holi also was the last festival of the academic session and right after it, we used to start preparing for final exams. As I saw the bonfire today, I couldn’t help wishing for the carefree school days. Happy Holi to everyone.