Bengal celebrates Saraswati Puja
Goddess Saraswati, considered the Hindu deity of music, culture and learning, was worshiped across West Bengal with traditional gaiety and religious fervour on Wednesday.
However, with Basant Panchami - heralding the arrival of spring - stretching from Wednesday upto Thursday morning as per the almanac, in many households the goddess will be worshipped on Thursday.
Women and girls decked up in traditional bright yellow sarees and men and boys in kurtas offered flowers to the deity, as families shared "prasad" in cities, towns and villages.
It is a day of mirth of children, for whom Saraswati puja is a ano study" day.
Too happy to give their textbooks a miss, they participated in cultural functions organised in localities, educational institutes and households.
Clay idols of the goddess were seen with a crescent moon on the brow, riding a swan or seated on a lotus with flowers, fruits and sweets placed as offerings before it.
The rituals started early in morning in schools, colleges, community clubs and households, with priests chanting mantras and devotees placing seasonal palash flowers at the deity's feet to the ringing sounds of cymbals and conch shells.
To receive the goddess's blessings, students also placed their books, pens and musical instruments beside the idol for the entire day.
Small marquees have come up in almost all localities where neighbours gathered to pay obeisance to the goddess, followed by sumptuous lunch comprising "khichri" - a mixture of rice and lentils, with potato and cauliflower added for taste - eggplant fry, mixed vegetables and dollops of chutney and sweets. Such feasts were held in educational institutions also.
In a Saraswati puja gift to teachers, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced a policy decision of "posting all teachers in their respective home districts".
"This historic decision will help them take care of their own families and work with complete peace of mind and full attention while contributing to the great work of Nation building," she said.
The state government has also announced a three-day holiday from Wednesday to Friday on account of Saraswati Puja.
With Saturday and Sunday being weekend holidays, the state government employees are set to get a five-day break.IANS