For the uninitiated, Saraswati Pujo beckons the arrival of Spring, and is a celebration of Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. During this, schools and colleges in West Bengal place idols and offer food for anyone who wishes to come and worship books and the pursuit of study. It's also known as another Valentine's Day.
Love makes its way into their hearts during Saraswati Puja, also known as Vasant Panchami. Saraswati might be the Goddess of knowledge, but she's also got her eyes on love and longing.
She's an altogether bohemian figure, looking over humans dabbling with art, music, and the pursuit of knowledge. Her free love sensibilities make her the perfect deity for an Indian Valentine's Day.
On Saraswati Puja, the women mostly wear yellow saris while the men wear panjabis. Kids are not supposed to study, and instead go to each others' schools as well as pandals to offer obeisance and catch furtive glances with their to-be lovers.
Yes, the day is meant to pray to the god of knowledge, and that's done by taking a break from studying and devoting oneself to thanking god for the gift instead. You keep your study books at the idol's feet and hang out with that 'special friend'.
In earlier times, schools weren't co-ed, and they would only open up during Saraswati Puja. That would be the one time girls and boys got to meet each other, mingle, and let sparks fly.
The vibe of the day is also one of happiness, joy, of being free. Winter is fading and Spring is in the air - an overwhelmingly carefree feeling like that is hard to ignore.
Visiting your old school/ alma mater with friends to chow down on some of the best khichuri (khichdi) you've ever had also creates opportunities for new love.
It's also a day when there's no real judgement - kids are free to do what they want, without any nosy uncles telling them off. After all, it's the kalchaar!
Happy Vasant Panchami and Saraswati Puja. Also otherwise known as the Bong Valentine day pic.twitter.com/xr4s90XMyV— Nandini Sen Gupta (@nandinisgTOI) January 29, 2020
Another fun fact about celebrating #SaraswatiPuja the Bengali way.#DYK, 14th Feb is not even a thing for us Bongs.— Sajeda Akhtar (@Sajeda_Akhtar) January 29, 2020
Saraswati Puja is the original Valentine’s Day for us.😛
Bengali women draped in sarees & men wearing kurta-pajamas...They go head over heels for each other😍 https://t.co/3uVNqa1eVf
All in all, Saraswati Puja is a unique take on the day of love, and one that several parts of India won't really be familiar with. For the ones who are however, you folks are lucky, 'cos there might not be teddy bears or chocolates, but there's definitely mishtis and a whole lot of heart.