In the eastern parts of India - Odisha and West Bengal, Saraswati Puja is celebrated on Vasanth Panchami (which literally means the fifth day of Spring). Hindus, especially the student community, worship Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, with great devotion and reverence. The goddess is also a patron of music, art and science.
I had the good fortune to visit a puja organized last week by the Bengalis in Bangalore (BIB) association. And it did trigger a trip down memory lane. Saraswati Puja is not celebrated in a big way in Bangalore (or I can probably extend it to the whole of South India). But back home, in Odisha, educational institutions across the State will have a festive ambience on this day.
Seeking blessings of the goddess of knowledge, students from primary schools to universities organize the puja with fervor and gaiety. The rituals start early in the morning and last till midday in schools, colleges, coaching centers, community places and households. The environment is abuzz with chanting of mantras by priests and the ringing sounds of conch shells. Students line up to perform pushpanjali, offering flowers to the goddess along with the chanting of mantras. Devotees place books, pens and musical instruments at the feet of the goddess. The worship of books also meant this day has traditionally been a no-study day.
Also, this day is considered auspicious for Vidya Aaramabh or Khadi Chuan, as it is commonly called. Young kids mark the beginning of their academic journey on this day by learning the first letters of the alphabets with the blessings of the goddess.