The day marked for the propitiation of Saraswati, the Goddess of learning is known as Sripanchami or Basanta Panchami. The words ‘Sree’ and ‘Basanta’ are significant to the festival. ‘Sree’ is beauty and the other name of ‘Saraswati’ and Basanta is spring season which brings beauty and pleasure to the Earth. Therefore it is a festival to welcome beauty through worship of the Goddess.
The worship of Saraswati is prevalent since the age of the Vedas where she has been referred as Bacha. During the Puranic age the tradition became more established and she was adored with anumber of names. At this stage Her form was conceived and accordingly images were built. Clad in white, She rides a white swan while playing a veena. White is the sign of her purity. She is the Goddess of music, poetry, learning and eloquence, indeed, of all the arts and sciences.
In some scriptures Saraswati has been described as the wife of Brahma. But, the widely held view is that She was created by Brahma out of His own intuitive powers and therefore, She was His daughter. Vishnu is the preserver of the universe and for this job He needed both learning and intellect, and Goddess Saraswati fulfilled this need by becoming His wife. In Her four hands She holds a stylus, a book and plays a veena (flute) with two. The stylus and the book signify learning and the veena, music. She is seated on a lotus which signifies beauty and heavenly origin. The swan is the vehicle as of Her father Brahma.
In some scriptures she is also known as Brahmi, Bharati, Gira, Barnamatruka etc. In the Vedas the supreme deity of learning has also been referred to as Agni or fire. This lends credence to a significance that fire is the source of light and light is the source of knowledge. It was, therefore, natural to he early Aryans to propitiate the Goddess as Agni or fire.
This festival, held on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Magha is mostly celebrated in the educational institutions. Students observe fasting since morning, wear new garments and propitiate the Goddess to bestow them with learning and eloquence. They offer ‘Puspanjali’ (handful of flowers) to the deity and then break their fast. Images of the deity are built by traditional clay-modellers, who are famous in the country for their artistic skill. They make hundreds of such images small and big, for sale. In the evening cultural programmes and feasts are arranged as a part of the celebration. The next day, the images are taken in procession to nearby tanks or rivers for immersion.