Blessings for a better life
Saraswati puja is a festival that children really look forward to, as it is believed that with the blessings of goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, one can achieve success in their studies or any other field. Some well-known figures from various creative fields reminisce the celebrations during their childhood days and how they still observe this festival.
“Since I am a devout believer in God, Saraswati puja holds a lot of importance in my life,” said actor Deepak Raj Giri. Sharing his childhood experience during this festival he said, “I remember even as kids my father used to put up a beautiful picture of goddess Saraswati, and we sat around it, he made us right down the Saraswati bandana and then we read it aloud.” Despite the foggy and chilling winter mornings artist Bidhata KC and her three sisters went to the Saraswati temple near their home in Satdobato. Along with the puja items she also took a book along she shares, “Like most children I believed that I would score better marks so took my books along, placed in infront of the statue and atleast read a line from it.” She was also quite keen on following the other rituals associated with the festival, “I never missed swallowing seven rice grains without it touching my teeth and picking really fine ones as it is considered to bring good luck,” she added.
“Saraswati puja celebrations are quite elaborate in Biratnagar and held for around a week in schools,” said singer Sugam Pokhrel, who still cherishes the celebrations he was a part of. The splendour of the huge statues of goddess Saraswati that were made for the festival was one of the main attractions. “Besides the pujas it also gave us a kind of platform where we could sing and show our talents, and I really enjoyed it, he added.
The trend is quite similar in Morang as well, theatre artiste Ghimire Yubaraj remembers the special temple being put up with the statue of the goddess in it. “Almost everyone got busy with preparations, from cleaning the school to making a special rope attached with colourful papers, we actually fought with each other so that we could attach those papers to the rope,” he said. On this day the children would all sit down infront of the statue and read the Saraswati puja, mostly with the Nepali teacher in-charge.
The most interesting part for Pokhrel and Ghimire was Saraswati Selaune, or taking the statue to a river to immerse it there, which marked the end of the festival. “It used to be a kind of picnic,” said Pokhrel. “Only the senior boys from school went to the river, we went all the way from Morang to Chitwan, which took us around two days in a bus, so it was a kind of tour for us,” said Ghimire.
Though Giri has celebrated this festival each year with equal enthusiasm he remembers one particular incident that has strengthened his belief even more. “I was around 10 or 11 when my elder brother one day suddenly decided to move out from the house, and we lost all contact with him, for two years there was a lot of tension at home. On this day I had gone to Saraswati temple, and I wrote a prayer to God on the wall of temple to send my brother back home. Amazingly he turned up at the house the very next day.” He added that, at that time it was just an innocent wish of a child but it was fulfilled and so this day holds a lot of importance for him.
No festival is complete without special delicacies to go with it, and Ghimire fondly remembers,
“It was the bayar and buniya we received as prasad that we looked forward, I’ve never tasted
bayar that tasted that good, and getting an extra handful of buniya was always a joy.”
Giving it continuity
The celebrations are not as profuse as in his school days, but Pokhrel keeps a fast on that day and makes it a point to worship his musical instruments. “I go and visit my teachers, my gurus and take them gifts on this day,” shared Ghimire.
For Giri it has become a kind of annual ritual to visit Saraswati temple at Swoyombhu, “I will be going there this year as well,” said Giri. Previously, there were times when eve-teasing was also a part of going to the temple, but not an important part he clarifies. But these days since he has become a well-known figure, “Now it’s the girls who tease me.” And he has made sure to pass what he has learnt from his father to the next generation, even his children read Saraswati bandana on this day.
They all feel that Saraswati puja plays a positive role in building ones confidence and it provides encouragement not just to children but adults as well to do good in their field.