Basant Panchami (Vasant Panchami) is a Hindu spring festival celebrated in the month of Magha as per traditional calendar.
For many Hindus, Basant Panchami is the festival dedicated to goddess Saraswati. She is an ancient goddess of knowledge, music, language, learning and arts. She is the wife of God Brahma, and she symbolizes creative energy and positive power in all its form, including Longing & Love (kama).
Goddess Saraswati is worshipped on Basant Panchami day, people ask her to grant them wisdom and knowledge. Saraswati Vandana is the famous Stuti and part of the Saraswati Stotram which is dedicated to goddess Saraswati.
“Kajal purit lochan bhare, sthanyug shobhit mukt hare,
Veena pustak ranjit haste bhagwati bharti devi nameste”
The description of the goddess goes like this – Her eyes are decorated with kajal, she wears pearl necklace around her neck. She has Veena in one hand and books in another. We bow down to you, goddess.
Basant Panchami is also known as Shri Panchami and Saraswati Panchami.
The word ‘Basant’ means spring. Basant Panchami is also celebrated as harvest festival reflects the agricultural fields which are ripening with crops. Hindus associate Yellow color as Saraswati’s favorite color. People dress in yellow saris or shirts or accessories, share snacks and sweets. Some add saffron to their rice than eat yellow cooked rice as a part of the feast.
Many families mark this day by sitting with their children, encouraging them to write their first words with their fingers. In Bengal, we call it ‘Hathekhori’, the first alphabet a child writes with the help of the elder most in the family, especially grandfather with their grandchildren in the presence of the goddess. And some just create music together.
Saraswati puja brings back a lot of childhood memories. In the month of January –February, I used to eagerly wait for this puja because we were supposed to give all our study materials and book to the goddess for two days. Saraswati Puja used to be a totally no study day. We used to dress up in yellow color saris (wearing sari at that day was a novelty). The whole day was merrymaking, dressing up well, eating good food and no studies. From the previous night, we use to decorate the seat of the goddess and decorate the floor with alpona or rangoli. The earlier time, it used to be done with rice flour and natural dyes but nowadays people use postal colors to decorate.
For every Bengali student, this is a very special day. Saraswati Puja bhog usually comprises of Khichuri, Bandha Kobir Torkari (Cabbage), five kinds of Bhaja, Kuler Tok – a type of a seasonal berry (Recipe below) and Nolen Gurer Payesh.
Bengali Kul which is a very seasonal and is grown around this time had a very different meaning to us. We were told that we have to wait till the puja happens because consuming the Kul before will deprive us of the goddess’s blessings. Therefore, during student life blessings from the goddess of learning was so important! I never used to touch Kul although they were extremely tempting to me.
Although I have finished my education, eating Kul even today before Saraswati Puja is still a taboo for me. Even today Saraswati puja is celebrated in all Bengali homes. We invoke and welcome the goddess and pray for the knowledge, wisdom, music and arts in our lives.
In Nepal, Bihar and eastern states of India such as West Bengal, Odisha and Assam, Saraswati Puja is celebrated all over. In the South region such as Andhra Pradesh, Basant Panchami is called Sri Panchami where “Sri” refers to the goddess Devi.
Recipe for Kuler Tok – Sweet and sour relish made with Kul
- 250 gms Kul, chopped
- 250 gms Tomatoes, chopped
- 100 gms Sweet Potatoes, juliennes
- 2 tbs Mustard Oil
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp Mustard seeds
- 1 tbs Panch phoran
- 2 tbsp Bhaja Moshla
- Salt to taste
- Take a non-stick pan and heat 2 tablespoons of oil in it. When the oil is hot enough, add the mustard seeds saute till it stops spluttering.
- Add chopped Kul, Tomatoes and sweet potatoes to the pan, add some salt and saute. Cover the pan. Cook until all the ingredients are soft. It will take 5 minutes to cook.
- Open the lid and add the sugar to the pan. Now higher the heat from low to medium to evaporate all the water.
- Dry roast the panch phoron and powder. Keep aside.
- After 5 minutes turn off the heat and sprinkle bhaja moshla and panch phoran powder on the prepared mixture. Your Kuler Tok is ready!!!
Enjoy cooking and do share your cooking experience with me. Till then stay tuned for more recipes on Happy Tummies Around the World.