Basant Panchami, the fifth day of spring, is celebrated by propitiating Goddess Saraswati. As she symbolizes the constant flow of wisdom, she also represents the full blossoming of multi-hued Nature, kindling the light of inspiration and hope. During the eight phases of the day, Saraswati manifests through everyone’s speech at least once. Each one of us has experienced sometimes that what has been uttered by someone – even casually has come true. Engrossed as we are in the material world, we are unable to understand it.
It is possible to attain this state where one’s speech is consistently governed by Kamalasana or the One who is seated on a thousand-petalled lotus each petal denoting a particular quality. Saraswati’s vahan or vehicle is the hans or swan. The swan has the ability to hold the mix of water and milk in its beak and spew out pure water from one side and milk from the other side.
This is known as neerkshir vivek or the water-milk wisdom in Indian philosophy. A wise person is one, who, like the swan, picks out pearls of wisdom from a vast spread of knowledge.
The veena that Saraswati holds in her hands has seven strings representing the body, food, humans, work, intelligence, religious and spiritual cultures. Besides these, the seven colours, glands, charkas, skies, rishis or holy wise men, and also the seven steps of consciousness are to be experienced and understood in the right perspective. Whosoever has accomplished these symbolic seven swaras or notes, will be safeguarded from drowning in the samsara sagara or worldly ocean by the two hollow tumbas or globes on either side of the veena.
At least seven years is required to do penance or sadhna that leads to complete transformation, to manifest divine qualities. This is the message of Saraswati who is also known as Veena Vadini. The strings should be in perfect tune for us to hear and experience the sweet music of life. Saraswati holds a pen in one hand, the power to manifest truth through words.
Gyan Yog or the path of wisdom is the force to dispel ignorance, foster the wise, compassionate, and the authentic in speech, and so is the incarnation of light, always victorious the cosmic mother. The Saraswati Gayatri Mantra is an invocation to the spirit of knowledge.
Saraswati’s food is made up of the five magaz or seeds that provide essential nutrients for the brain banslochan or the nodes of the bamboo shoot, misri, nuts, elaichi or cardamom, lotus stems, and lotus seeds or makhanas. These fortify brain cells, increasing their potential. Goddess Saraswati is always shown clad in white, the colour of purity. A white sari with a red border also represents sensitivity and desires in life so that it can blossom creatively, to experience the joy of living.
The tulsi mala or the rosary made of tulsi beads represents perseverance and consistency in sadhna or bhakti. The Vedas held in her hand signify knowledge and wisdom, which form the basis of the 64 art forms. These art forms express the evolved nature of our ancient civilization and culture.
The colour yellow is of special import during Basant Panchami as it the coming of Spring after a long and arduous winter. It is the colour of the energy giving Sun; the mustard fields in bloom are a bright yellow, exuding the warmth of an imminent season of Basant or Spring. Fittingly, therefore, the radiance is associated with knowledge – symbolized by Goddess Saraswati.