Basanta Panchami, Saraswati's spring festival

"Panchami" is derived from the Sanskrit word "panch" meaning five. And every Nepali month has a Panchami festival on the fifth day of the waxing moon. But Sri Panchami, also called Basanta Panchami, is the most important of all Panchami festivals. This day though falling on January officially marks the beginning of spring in Nepal. This festival is also associated with the worship of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning and knowledge. On the day of Sri Panchami thousands of devotees in the Kahtmandu Valley pay homage to her. School children and students make up the majority of the crowd. They make puja to their books, visit a Saraswati’s temple and pray for success in the coming year or in any important examination they may be taking. It is believed that worshipping Saraswati on this day increases one’s knowledge and improves studies.

The day is observed with incense burning, lighting of butter lamps and offering of flowers. Traditionally parents introduce their young children from 5 to 7 years of age to the alphabets. At the temples people can be seen using any available surface to practice their letters, or write supplications for success. Nothing is spared. By the end of the day the walls, ground, benches and even the statues of the Buddha at Swayambhu are covered with chalk.
This day is also considered very auspicious for marriages. That is why it is chosen to marry Newar girls. Newar girls are married thrice in their lives. The first marriage is called "Ihi." This ceremony takes place when the girl has reached an age of an odd number of years (5, 7, 9, etc.).

During the ritual young girls are married to gods. The girls wear red bridal clothes and jewelry, their faces, feet and hands are decorated. The father gives the girl over to the god as a “virgin”. To which god the father entrusts his daughter as companion remains secret. By being married to a god, the Newars say, the girls evade widowhood, a fate that can have grave consequences in Hinduism. The divine husband will live forever and thus the girl can never become a widow, even if her later, human husband dies.

The girls looked beautiful but also bored and tired. No wonder – the ceremony lasts many hours and you can’t expect from a child to be exited that long sitting in one place and listening to the priest.

No comments:

Post a Comment