Vasant Panchami literally means the fifth day of the spring season (vasant ritu). This day is also considered as the day of Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning and wisdom. In earlier days, pre-school children were inducted to schools on this day, or were made to write from this day. In a country where education is a religion, this day has its own importance. In the Eastern parts of India, every household which has children in schools or colleges perform Saraswati Puja, besides the community ones held on this day.
Saraswati is the consort of Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe and the originator of all knowledge in the form of Vedas. In the eastern parts of India, Saraswati is considered to be the daughter of Shiva and Parvati. She is clad in white, symbolising purity. The vahana or the carrier of Saraswati is a white swan and this too has its own significance. The swan is supposed to have the ability to separate water from milk, signifying that learning and wisdom enables man to distinguish good from bad.
Mythologically, Saraswati is the sister of Goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth), but both are considered to be poles apart. Saraswati is permanent, where is Lakshmi is temporary (chanchala – fidgety, and thus does not stay anywhere forever). Worshipper of Saraswati is blessed for life, but the worshipper of Lakshmi is wealthy till the whims of the goddess.
Saraswati has her counterparts in other mythologies too.
We surely do live in times of dichotomy. Lakshmi or Saraswati? Wealth or Wisdom? To acquire wisdom, we need wealth, and the moment we acquire wisdom or learning, our objective turns to earn wealth. Somewhere, or the other, the pursuit of Saraswati seems to be to acquire Lakshmi. Serious worshippers of Saraswati have humble dwellings, and worshippers of Lakshmi live in palaces. Teachers travel in public transport while students come in chauffeur-driven cars. In the land of gurukuls and unflinching devotion to teachers, one needs to be a strong worshipper of Lakshmi to attain the blessings of Saraswati! Once the blessings of Saraswati are acquired, it’s time to appease Lakshmi again!
If this is not a serious dichotomy, then what is?