A “Home Connect” Essay by Ishani:
“Since around the early 1950’s, my great grandmother started the tradition of celebrating Saraswati puja every year, in gratitude to the goddess of learning…What was most enjoyable about the puja was not just the puja itself, but all the preparations and excitement around it”
The Home is located in Patna, capital of the State of Bihar in India. The Writer is Ishani.
Read the story of Ishani’s home here…
Celebrating the Goddess of Learning Every Year
Education is the most valuable, and you must never stop learning – something both my brother and I grew up being taught, and had ingrained in our systems. It’s no surprise then, that since around the early 1950’s, my great grandmother started the tradition of celebrating Saraswati puja every year, in gratitude to the goddess of learning. A few years down the line when my grandfather got posted to another town on work, the bigger puja was replaced with a small one at home. Towards the mid- 60s, they returned. For the next few years, my great grandmother noticed that my five to six year old father would always run off to the big Saraswati puja at the neighbor’s house, and not want to return home. He loved the puja, and all the festivities surrounding it. She then decided the tradition of a big puja at our home must continue.
Around the 80s, the staff members of the diagnostic center started by my grandfather in the same complex, decided to adopt the puja celebrations. Every year since then, it was celebrated with great involvement and enthusiasm of not just the center employees, but also their families, many of who lived in and around the same complex.
Saraswati puja celebrations have therefore, always been a highlight of our growing up years in Patna, and continue to be something to look forward to every year. What was most enjoyable about the puja was not just the puja itself, but all the preparations and excitement around it. A day before the puja, the center’s staff would bring the deity’s idol to the premises, and spend the evening after work dressing up the entire compound with lights, flowers and streamers. There’d be music, and dancing, and good food. My mother, and often a family friend who is an artist, would get together to decorate the floor in front of the idol with spectacular alpona (Bengali floor art) designs in red and white. My brother, I and the other kids of the campus would enthusiastically assist.
The actual puja the next day involved prayers by a priest, anjali ie; the offering of flowers and of course aarti. That didn’t take more than about an hour or so. Some Saraswati pujas, children would go through their hathey khuri ceremony ie; get the blessings from the goddess of learning for the first time they started writing- the initiation. Then followed in the afternoon the best part – the bhog– khichri, charchari and labra(Bengali mixed vegetables),sweet chutney, beguni (fried aubergine pakora/crisps),papad and for desert, mishti doi (bengali sweet curd) and boondiya(a sweet). Several people I know,and I, always feel like there’s nothing quite like the taste that’s achieved in the food made for bhog.
As children, the evenings would involve competitions, prizes and performances – painting, singing and dancing. We’d often practice for days, for the big day. There was also the evening aarti and halwa puri offering to look forward to. The other thing we enjoyed was of course, the dressing up – Saraswati puja always gave us a reason to wear our saris or finest fines, often yellow, the color of basant (spring) and Saraswati. The next day, we’d be the saddest, because it would be time to bid Saraswati ‘ma’ adieu. The farewell too, however, was an exciting affair – it involved riding or walking along a cart with the idol, all the way to the Ganga riverside from our home, singing and dancing with great gusto. There, she’d be bid farewell amidst the river, until she returned the next year.