Vasant-Basant Panchami is the celebration commencing the preparations for the Holi festival. The Utsava / celebration of Vasant-Basant Panchami is 40 days prior to Holi.
Vasant-Basant kaal is the period heralding the spring season called Vasanta Ritu. The fifth day from Magha Amavasya is known as the Vasant-Basant Panchami festival. This also marks the transition of the season from winter to spring.
For this purpose, the day when Panchami tithi falls before noon is considered. If it falls after noon, Panchami tithi will exist for two days. Then the first day is considered. This is the day of welcoming colours and happiness.
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Vasant-Basant Panchami – ascribed God / Goddess
The festival is ascribed to Sri Saraswathi Devi, the Goddess of knowledge, education, wisdom, music and arts.
Sri Saraswathi is also called as Vak-Devi, the Goddess of speech.
It also signifies the day when Lord Rama had partaken the partially eaten grape fruit from Maa Shabari.
It is believed that the Sun – Deo temple at Aurangabad, Bihar was established on Vasant- Basant Panchami day. The Deities of Lord Shiva and Sun God are given abhishekam with water. They are adorned with new clothes.
In some places this festival is also celebrated as Madana Panchami in commemoration of Rati and Manmada, the Deities of love. The dawn of this festival is said to awaken the earth (along with the inhabitants); Even the flora gets new blooms.
Vasant-Basant Panchami – Sri Saraswathi association
As per the legend, Vasant / Basant Panchami denotes the birth of Sri Saraswathi Devi. Lord Bramha was happy with His creation of the world. He was so pleased that He wanted to visit the World.
When He came down, He found everything beautiful. But He was aghast that there was total silence. He then immediately sprinkled some water on a tree. From the sprinkled water, a divine Deity emerged. She was beautiful. She carried a musical instrument as well. Lord Brahma requested Her to play some music.
She had played the instrument. From then on, the World got filled up with good noises and there was cheer all around. That Goddess is considered as Sri Saraswathi Devi. Her occurrence had happened on Vasant-Basant Panchami day.
Hence Saraswathi Puja is observed.
Vasant-Basant Panchami – celebrations
At this time of the year, all the mustard fields bloom with yellow colour. This colour is associated with Saraswathi Devi.
Hence people wear yellow costumes and prepare yellow colour sweets & dishes for Neivedyam. Yellow coloured rice is also partaken.
People wear colourful dresses in pink or yellow or saffron. They prepare the garlands of flowers with mango leaves. These garlands are offered to the Deities with reverence.
People wear white or yellow garlands. They take sweet dishes. Jasmine garlands are made and offered to Deities.
Newly married couple visit temples. The first Basant Panchami after marriage is considered special. They wear yellow dresses to the temples. Mango flowers are offered to Deities.
Yellow or white head gears are worn.
The festival is called Basant festival. Kite flying is done.
Central Indian States
Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi are specially worshipped on this day. Mango flowers are offered to Deities.
Down South India, this is celebrated as Sri Panchami in some places invoking Maa Devi.
In most parts of North India, Sri Saraswathi Puja is observed in all educational institutions. Homams / Yagnas are performed invoking Maa Saraswathi. Toddlers / Kids are given Vidhyarambam, the beginning for learning.
Hindus in Bali and some other places in Indonesia celebrate this festival as Hari Raya Saraswathi.[Note: Only the synopsis of the festivities are given. Actual celebrations may be elaborate.]
Sri Saraswathi Sloka for commencing education
ॐ सरस्वति नमस्तुभ्यं वरदे कामरूपिणि I
विद्यारम्भं करिष्यामि सिद्धिर्भवतु मे सदा II
Om Saraswathi namastubhyam varadae kaama-roopiNi
Vidhyaarambham karishyaami siddhir bhavatu mae sadaa
Our humble salutations to Sri Saraswathi Devi.
She bestows boons; She fulfills our desires.
We commence our education with your benevolence; Maa Saraswathi, please bless us always with accomplishments.