Basant Panchami

When winter is over and spring begins, the nature is in a joyous mood.  The ancient Hindu calendar starts with this season. According to the lunar calendar, Basant Panchami or Sri Panchami is celebrated in Jan to Feb.  This day is dedicated to Sri Saraswati Devi or Goddess of learning, knowledge and wisdom, known for her beauty, grace, discriminative wisdom and purity.  She symbolizes the union of power with intelligence and discrimination, from where purposeful creation begins.
Sri Saraswati embodies the very wisdom of Devi.  She is goddess of wisdom, intellectual knownledge, fine arts and creativity.  She is believed to inspire speech and the written word.  She is the ever flowing river of consciousness that is the Shakti of Creation.  She is also Savitri, the goddess of dawn.  She dispels the darkness of ignorance and lights the lamp of Eternal knowledge.  In her absence, chaos and confusion prevail.  To realise her is to know the unchanging eternal serenity of the Spirit.
When creation began, it is said that existence was in a formless, fluid state.  Lord Brahma, the creator, recognised the need to transcend the mind and senses in creating form.  He wondered, “How do I bring order to this chaos?” Lord Brahma had created Saraswati of his own mind.  Her form had eluded him continuously as he had sought her in desire.  She appeared before Him and said. “With knowledge.”

So in came to be that Prajapati Brahma the creator, created yagaya to instil harmony, peace and order in the manifest world.  From the cosmic sound of creation came the Gayatri mantra.  Yagya was the father and Gayatri was the mother.  Lord Brahma was the power and Sri Saraswati was the intelligence.  He was the creator and she was his Yog-Shakti.
The Sanskrit word sara means essence and swa means self. Saraswati denotes the essence of the self.  Saraswati is represented as the divine shakti of Lord Brahma, the creator.  Gyan or knowledge, imperishable, eternal is fundamental to creation.  Sri Saraswati symbolises the creative power of Lord Brahma.
Om Saraswatiye Vidmahe
Brahmaputriye Dhimahi
Tanno Devi Prachodayat
She is usually depicted standing or seated on a fully blossomed white lotus.  She is simplicity and beauty personified.  Clad in white, she rides a white swan.  It symbolises sattwa guna or purity and discrimination.  The lotus is a remainder of her being rooted in Supreme Reality with Supreme Knowledge at her command.  Her smiling face of love and compassion is said to resemble the full moon.  She has no ornamentation.  The pearls of wisdom she wears represent her rejection of the superfluous and her freedom from all but the very essence.
She has chosen swan as her vahan. It has the ability to separate milk from water.  Swan has the power of discrimination.  Sri Saraswati chooses the swan, implying the need for constancy, fearlessness, will to acquire known ledge of the Real.  The peacock is depicted sitting beside her, waiting to serve her.  The peacock represents the arts that she patronises.  It is also a reminder of the unpredictability of the mind, with its many moods, easily influenced.
Her four arms denote omnipresence and omnipotence.  They represent the four aspects involved in learning manas or mind, buddhi or intellect, chitta or awareness and ahankar or ego.  She is generally shown holding the sacred scriptures in one hand. A rosary is held in the other hand.  It is symbolic of knowledge, spiritual wisdom and purity.  With her other two hands she plays the music of life on her veena, a stringed instrument.  Her arms are representative of her perfect balance in the manifest world of physical activity while being every immersed in spiritual Truth.
The sacred book signifies that who acquires knowledge, should use it with love and compassion.  He should promote universal welfare. The rosary symbolises dharana or concentration, dhyana or contemplation and meditation, leading to Samadhi, or One-ness.  It conveys that discriminative knowledge, acquired through devotion, transcends the ego and results in enlightenment.   The mind and intellect must be tuned to e in perfect harmony to live in the world.
While Goddess Saraswati is widely worshipped in her individual capacity as the goddess of all knowledge and wisdom, relatively fewer people worship Sri Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and refinement, along with her eternal consort Lord Brahma, in his aspect as Creator.
Worship of Lord Brahma and Sri Saraswati is ideal for those who pursue knowledge, creativity and academic excellence in their lives, including students, artists and craftsmen, and those pursuing special talents and skills, who seek inspiration, guidance and creativity.  Those seeking spiritual progress through the Gyan Marg, worship them in their deep pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.
According to Buddhist iconography, she is depicted as the consort of Manjushri, the Boddhisattwa of Wisdom, an emanation of Vairochona, the Budddha Resplendent.  He is considered to be associated with the Sun at its zenith or peak glory.  The Boddhisatwa Manjushri is shown carrying the sword of discrimination to slay delusion and ignorance as also the sacred book of Wisdom.
Adi Shankaracharya has also used the name Saraswati in the Dashanami sanyasa tradition.  Among the ten different groups with varied ideologies and following particular philosophical paths, which excel in their own philosophies, beliefs and practise, the order of Saraswati excel in Advaita, Vedanta and Yoga.
The fields ripple with the brilliance of mustard flowers.  Then the festival of Basant Panchami is traditionally celebrated with an abundance of yellow colour, in dress, festive decorations and offering of sweets. This festival marks the beginning of the agricultural season.  It is celebrated in different ways in different parts of India.  It is an agricultural festival.  Also it is dedicated to the goddess of learning.
It is also celebrated as Shikshapatri Jayanti.  Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya laid the foundations of the Kashi Hindu Vishwa Vidyalaya on Basant Panchami.  It is known as Sri Panchami in Bihar and Orissa.  This day ploughs are worshipped and the land is furrowed after the winter months.  In most parts of Garhwal, two types of ceremonies are performed worship of mother earth and worship of crops or agriculture.  The land is ploughed, fertilised and made sacred with cow dung.  Ears of barley and wheat are placed in offering.  Earthen lamps are lit.  Ears of corn and barley are also tied to doors and windows of houses and temples as an offering seeking abundance.
In Bengal, it is celebrated as Saraswati Puja, especially by students, academicians, educational and cultural institutions.  Rabindranath Tagore organised cultural celebrations at Shantiniketan.  This continues to this day.  It has been popularised elsewhere among Bengalis.  They have traditionally worshipped the goddess for the learning they seek.
The day is considered particularly auspicious for initiation into the realm of knowledge. Accordingly, children are made to hold a pencil and led to form the first letter of the alphabet.  It is the beginning of academic learning.  Customarily, students abstain from studying on this day.  Books, inkpots, pens and all objects of writing and study are not used that day.  These are worshipped in veneration of the process of learning.
Through ritual worship, we seek the blessings of those aspects of cosmic consciousness.  It is symbolised through a particular form or manifestation of the divine.  We seek to activate that energy within ourselves that will fulfil the destiny we were born to complete.