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Saraswati Puja is dedicated to the goddess of music, art and knowledge called as Saraswati. This festival is celebrated in January or February in the month Magh also called as Basant Panchami or Vasant Panchami.
During Saraswati Puja Brahmins are fed, god of love Kamadeva is worshipped, special prayers for goddess Saraswati are organized by many educational institutions, Pitr Tarpan or ancestor worship is performed and children are taught to write their first words. On this day, yellow color is considered very important and therefore people dress up themselves in yellow color clothes, consume yellow sweets, and worship Saraswati in yellow clothes. The goddess is offered yellow flowers, gulal, fruits, yellow colored sweets, roli and moli.
Goddess Saraswati is represented as a graceful woman in white, a symbol of purity and peace. She is the Goddess who signifies knowledge, learning, arts and culture. She is seen as the serene Goddess wearing a crescent moon on her brow riding a swan or seated on a lotus flower. Saraswati Puja is performed to pay allegiance to the Goddess of learning.
Goddess Saraswati is the presiding deity of the spoken word. She is considered to be Lord Brahma's ‘maanasa putrika' though later events led to their marriage and they began to be worshipped as the primordial couple.
Mounting on her divine vehicle Swan, she plays on Kachchapi, her veena andis worshipped as the presiding deity of all knowledge.
She resides in Satyaloka along with her consort Lord Brahma. Narada, the celestial saint is their ‘maanasa putra'.
The legend has it, that once Lord Brahma utters a lie of having sighted the nether portion of Shiva Linga and Lord Shiva, angered by the false claim curses Brahma that his speech (Saraswati) be converted to a river. It is believed that the dry parched region of the present day That desert is at one time a stretch of River Saraswati.
To this day, scientists believe that the river still flows underneath the Thar and attempts are onto trace the river. At any confluence of two rivers, Saraswati is deemed to be hidden underneath and thus the place assumes the nomenclature Triveni. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers in Prayaga, Pranahita, Godavari and Saraswati rivers in Kaleswaram (Karimnagar district in Andhra Pradesh) are a case in point.
Uniqueness of Saraswati:
The term Saraswati envelops a vast expanse of meaning ranging from Vaagdevi, river, Vedamata and to the giver of knowledge. The celestial mother Aadishakti manifested herself as Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati. Hence Goddess Saraswati is considered to be the very epitome of Sakthi or Cosmic Power.
Not only mortals, but even the celestial beings in Heaven are said to be the beneficiaries of Saraswati's benevolence. Her shower of mercy empowers speech and all other fine arts. Poets have sung her glory sayign that her breasts are centres of nourishment especially for music and literature.
The word Saraswati means a string of rivers. The goddess is also known by synonyms like Braahmi, Bharati, Bhaasha, Geeh, Vaak, Vaani, Saarada, Saraswati, Maha Sookta, Kaadambari to name a few. All the letters in the alphabet are considered to be the different forms of the goddess.
Saraswati beams a pristine white mounting on a white swan. Dressed in white she wears a garland of white pearls. Whe plays on the divine veena with a lace of beeads in one hand a book in the other. She also adorns parrot in one hand and a lotus in the other.
Saraswati temples dot the whole stretch of India and also in places like Tibet, Java, Japan and China. She is worshipped notn only by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists but also by people all over the world. The Chinese worship her as Neela Saraswati, an Indian version of Syaamaladevi. Mahaakavi Kaalidasa composed Syaamala Dandakam in praise of Syaamalaamba.
The most ancient temple of Saraswati is in Kashmir.
Saraswati's idol belonging to the second century was unearthed in Khajjaali Leeta near Madhura in Uttar Pradesh.
Samudragupta and kings belonging to Gowda dynasty engraved Saraswati images on their coins.
Saraswati's idol is present in Somnath, a Buddhist pilgrimage centre.
Her idols are to be seen in British museum and also in museums in Allahabad, Lucknow, Dhaka and Gwalior.
There is a Saraswati temple at Baasara in Mudhol taluq in Adilabad district (Andhra Pradesh).
An idol of Saraswati dating back to 2 BC is present in Ghantasaala in Godavari district (AP).
Similarly we find the idols of this goddess in Samalkot and Bheemavaram.
Brihadeswara temple in Tanjore, Halebeed in Karnataka, Madhura and Sree Rengam temples in Tamil Nadu.
Adi Sankaracharya consecration of Saraswati idol in Sringeri is quite a significant one.
Of late, an idol of the goddess was consecrated in Sanigaram, near Sidhipet on Hyderabad-Karimnagar Highway in Andhra Pradesh.
Anidol by Birla in Rajasthan, Kaaleswaram and at Shakarmutt in Hyderabad are worthy places of worship.
Goddess Saraswati is deemed to have born on Sudha Panchami in Maagha (February according to the English caledar). Hence celebrations to mar her birthday on Vasantha Panchami take on in all the Saraswati temples.
She is also worshipped in the form of a book during Dussehra on Sapthami or seventh day when Moola Nakshatra is on the ascent. In Maharashtra, Saarada Navaraatri is celebrated during Dussehra from Sapthami to Dashami. Idols of Mahakaali are worshipped and later immersed in water. Saraswati pooja can be taken up either on Maagha Panchami day or on Moola Nakshatra in Dussehra. For those who wish to worship her every week Thursday is said to be her favourite day.
For those who wish to worship her every day, can chant 108 (Ashtottaram) attributes or 100 attributes (Satanaamam) and 100 naamaas of Goddess Saraswati available in booklets.
MODE OF WORSHIP:
A photograph or illustration of Goddess Saraswati should be placed on a slightly elevated platform with a ‘SREE', which symbolises the goddes in letter. This symbol should be written five times on a paer.
Holy books like Ramayana or the Bhagawadgeetha should also be placed.
Turmeric, Kumkum, unbroken rice grains, incense sticks, camphor, betel nuts, leaves, two oil lamps, fruits, sugar, panchaamrutam (a mixture of sugar, milk, honey, curds and ghee) are required along with coconut, sandalwood, flower garland, a new piece of cloth, Saraswati pooja book.
Offerings, which are white in colour like creams, milk, parched paddy, parched rice, jaggery, gingelly balls, sugar cane, white rice, coconut and while flowers are said to be her favourites. At the end of the pooja, it is conventional to render a few songs or slokas followed by her mangala haarathi and Mantrapushpa.
The glory of this divine mother is sung by various saints and sages and there are many books which sketchout the greatness of this goddess. To beginwith, Vyaasa, Vaalmeeki, Kaalidaasa, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Agastya, Sankaraacharya, Bhoja Raja, Ganesha, surya, Rama and Indra authored Saraswati slokas. Among the poets of Andhra, starting with Nannyya, the foremost of all poets, every one of them sang her glory in their prose and poetry