Lesson 1: Welcoming Spring
Springtime. What does it evoke for you?
Perhaps… New beginnings. Creativity. Fresh inspiration. Clarity. Vibrancy. Light. Joy!
On the 5th day of the lunar fortnight that begins this month of Māgha, we celebrate the beginning of spring!
This celebration is known as Vasanta Pañcamī (literally, “spring” and “fifth day”). It is particularly special in northern India, where winters can be harsh, dry, and very cold! Finally, the temperatures have started to rise; flowers are starting to bloom; life wants to begin anew.
All over northern India, you can see huge fields of yellow mustard flowers dancing in the sunlight.
And the entire celebration is imbued with this vibrant yellow essence!
On Vasanta Pañcamī, we wear yellow, offer and eat saffron (which is golden yellow!), and even dress our deities in yellow.
The color yellow is associated with the energies of a clear mind. Studies show that this color helps the mind to focus (perhaps this is why school buses and pencils are yellow?) And, springtime naturally promotes new inspiration and creativity.
Accordingly, the primary sacred practice on this day is to worship Sarasvatī-devī. Sarasvatī is a flowing goddess associated with water, and also the name of a river. The advent of spring is also the beginning of snowmelt and the descent of water from the mountaintops.
Sarasvatī-devī is one of the most iconic and beloved goddesses of this tradition. We recognize Sarasvatī-mātā as divine intelligence, the power of mantra, speech, music, and all knowledge, and the source of all creative and artistic inspiration. She is both our ability to learn and knowledge itself. Every idea, every word, and every moment of comprehension happens through her power. She is the power of the mind and intellect.
One of her physical forms is books. Traditionally, we maintain our books with care and reverence – for example, it is disrespectful to step on or be rough with our books. The same goes for instruments or other tools of artistic expression (for example, a dancer’s bells).
On Vasanta Pañcamī, it is traditional to gift students or children with a new notebook and pen. It is also an auspicious time for young children to begin learning how to write.
Parents traditionally do Sarasvatī-pūjā and then help their children write their first Sanskrit letters, which also serves as initiation into the practice of mantra and the path of sacred knowledge.
If there is something new you have been wanting to learn, today is the day to start! Everything supports this energy of fresh inspiration and clarity of mind. Wherever you are in the world, let today be an opportunity to enthusiastically receive this blessing!
1) The core practice for this day is to honor Sarasvatī-mātā. If you have an image, statue or yantra of her, we invite you to set aside time to do pūjā for her. A traditional pūjā offering on this day is saffron, which, like wisdom, is very hard to find, immensely valuable, and a little bit goes a long way!
2) If you don’t have any sacred art of Sarasvatī to put on your altar, you can still chant mantras for her and honor her inside yourself. Here is the link to the Sarasvatī Gāyatrī Mantra, which we invite you to chant 3, 11, or 108 times (Lesson 2).
3) If you are new to the study of Sanskrit or of mantra, you can pray for Sarasvatī’s grace and then practice writing and chanting the mantra ॐ – Oṃ. If you like, you can also learn her different names and attributes in Lesson 3.
4) You can meditate on and contemplate Sarasvatī’s form. Lesson 4 is an in-depth class that will help you understand her representations in sacred art and the meaning of the various attributes that she holds in her arms.
5) The traditional prasāda for Vasanta Pañcamī features saffron. We invite you to learn about saffron’s qualities and benefits according to Ayurveda, and also learn how to make delicious saffron milk in Lesson 5.
6) Wear yellow clothing, put fresh colorful flowers around your home, and if you’re inspired, you can also dress Sarasvatī in a yellow dress!
7) As we mentioned earlier, if you have ever wanted to learn something new, today is an auspicious day to start. This is true even if it is a symbolical beginning (for example, reading the first line of a book or spending five minutes learning). Is there something you want to learn or study this year? We invite you to set aside a few minutes to pray for Sarasvatī’s blessings and begin your learning journey!