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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 3 | January 28, 2007|


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Saraswati Puja:
A Celebration of Education

Kazi Ahmed Farhan & Taslima Rawshan Tinni

Right upon opening of classes, a great festivity of the Hindu religion was celebrated in different halls of Dhaka University. The most gorgeous and largest celebration was held in Jagannath Hall. The festival is celebrated to pay reverence to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and learning. Hindus, especially in Bengal, celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm. We went to the halls last Tuesday to enjoy the extravaganza. It was awesome! The pandels, mandops and different styles of celebration were simply fascinating.

The festival is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the Magh month of the Bangla calendar, on the day called 'Basanto Panchami'. It is believed that on this day, goddess Saraswati was born. During this day prayers and pujas are offered to her, especially by students who invoke the blessings of Saraswati for success in learning, arts and crafts.The most significant aspect of the day is that Hindu children are taught their first words on this day; known as Hate Khori - as it is considered an auspicious day to begin a child's education.

Saraswati is shown holding a book, which is the sacred Vedas, representing the universal, divine and eternal knowledge as well as her perfection of the sciences and the scriptures. She wears mala of white pearls, representing the power of meditation and spirituality.

Also seen is a pot of sacred water representing creative powers, and the goddess holding a Bina; a musical instrument that represents her perfection of all arts. Saraswati is also associated with music, which represents all emotions and feelings expressed in speech or music. It is believed that children born with that name will prove to be very lucky in their academic pursuits. The lotus represents true knowledge. A white swan is often located next to her feet.

This sacred swan, if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be able to isolate and drink only the milk, and thus symbolizes distinction between good and bad or the eternal and the evanescent.

The female student halls of Dhaka University also celebrate this event. Puja mondops were made in Ruqayyah Hall, Shamsunnahar Hall and other halls. Girls wore yellow saree as a custom. Students gathered together before the idol of Saraswati and prayed for the blessing of knowledge. Flowers, Sweets and Fruits are offered to the goddess and students place their books before the deity and do not do any reading or writing on the day. Early in the morning the 'Pujari' or pundit performs Puja. After the puja is over, the 'prasad' is distributed among all those present.

When I was there, it did not seem like a hall. People, hawkers, tom-toms and temporary stalls; it seemed like a fair. People were given prasads when they entered regardless of their religion. Gates of the girls' halls were open for all after 3 in the afternoon. With time the place became more and more crowded. In the evening a cultural program was held in Ruqayyah Hall, sponsored by a company where some well-known artists performed.

Many departments of Dhaka University arranged different pandels, and different departments used different motives. Institute of Fine arts placed the Goddess in the middle of the hall pond. They also used various colored clothes to decorate the pond. Accounting and Information systems Department was decorated with a lot of colorful flowers. Geography and Environmental Science Department placed the Saraswati under a big graduation hat. Marketing Department made a large book in front of the pandel. Some departments made pandels fashioned like temples. In the evening, the lightings were wonderful.

Saraswati embodies wisdom, fortune, intelligence, nourishment, brilliance, contentment, splendor and devotion. Whatever the religion, may the spirit of wisdom and education enlighten everyone.

(The writers are DU student)

“Though this may be the religious program, but it turns out as an ocean. Swaraswati is Devi of Knowledge. I hope that Devi Swaraswati will enhance the unity and prove that we are still secular and always will be. This will surely increase the unity between different religion”, Dr. Dalim Chandra Barman, Professor, Department of Peace and Conflict.

“Swaraswati is the symbol of knowledge. Every year we celebrate this festival. We enjoy this day very much. We have arranged the festival with full enthusiasm”, says Sujit Kumar Saha, resident of Jagannath Hall.

“Whatever I have seen here, I do believe nowhere you can see so many mandaps of Devi Swaraswati. This will help the devotees to follow the rituals shown by the Devi Swaraswati”, says Mamur, 5th year student Dhaka Medical College.

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