Vasanta Panchami – Saraswati Puja

Vasanta Panchami - Bishnupriya Thakurani's Divine Appearance

Vasanta Panchami – Saraswati Puja

What is Saraswati Devi Puja?

The fifth day of Shukla Paksha (the fortnight between the new moon and full moon) in the month of Māgha, is observed as Vasanta Panchami. Winter bids farewell and spring begins from this day. Traditionally, Saraswati Devi is worshiped on Vasanta Panchami. It is also called “Shri Panchami.” On this day Saraswati Devi is worshiped everywhere. Since Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge and art, little children who are going to start their first writing and learning, observe the “Haat Khari” (first writing ceremony) ritual on this day. On this day many artists and sculptors start their new projects after paying their obeisance to the goddess Saraswati.

Additional specialties on this day are:

  • Divine Appearance of
    – Srimati Vishnupriya Thakurani
    – Sri Pundarik Vidyanidhi
    – Srila Raghunath Das Goswami
    – Sri Raghunandana Thakur
  • Divine Disappearance of
    – Srila Vishvanath Chakravarty Thakur
    – HDG Srila Bhakti Svarupa Parvata Maharaj
    – HDG Srila Bhakti Viveka Bharati Goswami Maharaj

How do materialistic people contemplate Saraswati Puja:

Shri Bhagavan has numerous kinds of Shakti. We can divide those into three categories:

  • Chit Shakti
  • Jiva Shakti
  • Maya Shakti

Chit Shakti is called the internal potency. Maya Shakti is the external potency and Jiva Shakti is the marginal potency of the Lord. Jiva Shakti is called “tatastha” or marginal because it can be influenced by both Chit Shakti and Maya Shakti.

When the Jiva considers himself to be related to Maya Shakti, despite being superior to Maya, he is forced to serve Maya. There is another kind of Jiva who devotes himself to the service of Bhagavan under the influence of Chid Shakti. This kind of Jiva is called “Bhakta.”  Therefore, Jivas can be categorized into two types:

  1. Jivas who have been bewildered by Maya,
  2. Jivas who are beyond the influence of Maya, and are under the shelter of Chid Shakti.


Srimad Bhagavatam (1.2.27) says,

rajas-tamaḥ-prakṛtayaḥ, sama-śīlā bhajanti vai
pitṛ-bhūta-prajeśādīn, śriyaiśvarya-prajepsavaḥ

 

Translation: Those who are in the modes of passion and ignorance worship those in the same category—namely the forefathers, other living beings, and the demigods who are in charge of cosmic activities—for they are urged by a desire to be materially benefited with the opposite sex, wealth, power and progeny. According to this verse of Srimad Bhagavatam, they worship material nature in different forms. Among them are seen:

  • Shakta
  • Shaiva
  • Saura
  • Ganapatya
  • Vaishnava (such Vaishnavas worship saguna Vishnu & treat Vishnu as a demigod). 

Being affected by the three modes of material nature, materialistic people accept one demigod among five, according to their tendencies and tastes. They might be known as Shaktas, Shaivas, Vaishnavas, i.e. the worshippers of saguna forms of Vishnu, or any of the five mentioned above. But they worship Lakshmi for money to enjoy their senses or Sarasvati for material knowledge by which they acquire material gains.

The identity of Saraswati Devi, worshiped by mundane people:

Srila Jiva Goswami in paragraph 17 of Tattva Sandarbha writes on the identity of Saraswati Devi worshiped by conditioned souls:

Sankirneshu saraswatya pitrnancha nigadyate

(Tattva Sandarbha 17, quotation from Matsya Purana)

In the commentary of “Sankirna” Srila Jiva Goswami writes, “sankirneshu sattva rajastamomayeshu.” “Sankirna” denotes people under the influence of sattva (goodness), rajas (passion), tamas (ignorance) or mayik / prakrta (illusory / material).

For the definition of  “Saraswati,” Srila Jiva Goswami writes: “nanavanyatmakah tadupalakshitaya nama devataya ityarthah,” meaning ‘the presiding deities of words’ which means ‘various demigods.’

Therefore here “Saraswati” implies the Devi (a demigoddess) who only guides jivas towards material enjoyment. This Saraswati Devi serves the instruction of Sri Krishna and provides “apara vidya” (material knowledge), however, this knowledge does not carry Jivas towards Krishna, but rather makes them averse.

Hence this “Sankirna” (ungenerous) Saraswati Devi provides material gains for sense gratification. In this material world, we can see her among the “avarana” (companion) deities of Mayadevi Durga.

Identity of the Saraswati Devi worshipped by devotees:

The intimate devotees of the Lord, worship Saraswati Devi as the internal potency of the Lord. “Mahabhagavata Vara” (greatest amongst the great Devotees of the Lord) Srila Suta Goswami Maharaja paid his obeisance to “para vidya rupini” (embodiment of spiritual knowledge) Saraswati Devi in the mangala charan verse of Srimad Bhagavatam:

nārāyaṇaṁ namaskṛtya, naraṁ caiva narottamam
devīṁ sarasvatīṁ vyāsaṁ, tato jayam udīrayet

 

Translation: Before reciting this Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which is the very means of conquest, one should offer respectful obeisance unto the Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa, unto Nara-nārāyaṇa Ṛṣi, the super-most human being, unto mother Saraswatī, the goddess of learning, and unto Śrīla Vyāsadeva, the author.

Srila Sukhdev Goswami, the greatest of all munis, says in the second canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam:

“Prachodiya yena pyu Saraswati, Vitanvatajasya satim smrtim hrdi
Svalakshana pradurbhut kilasyata, Sa me rshinamrshabha prasidatam”

Translation: Saraswati Devi manifested the knowledge of creation inside the heart of Brahma before the creation. Under Her influence, another Saraswati Devi appeared from Brahma’s mouth as the embodiment of the Vedas. She considered Sri Krishna as the supreme worshippable deity. May Shri Bhagavan, who is the supreme among those who deliver knowledge, be pleased with me.

According to this verse, as per the directions of the Lord, Saraswati Devi took birth from the mouth of Brahma. In this context, Shri Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur writes: “Saraswati kathamvuta – tvam sri krishnam lakshayati.” “Saraswati Kathamvuta” – Who is this Saraswati? The answer is: she is “sva lakshana,” she who indicates herself that Krishna is The Supreme. 

Sri Chaitanya Bhagavata, Adi 2.9-12 says:

purve brahma janmilena nabhipadma haite
tathapiha sakti nai kichhui dekhite

tave jabe sarva bhave laila sharana
tave prabhu kripay dilen darashan

tave krishna kripay sphurila saraswati
tave se janila sarva avatara sthiti

hena krishna chandrera durjneya avatara
tara kripa vine kara sakti janibar

Translation: In the beginning of creation Lord Brahma was born from the lotus sprouted from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Still, he had no power to see anything. When Brahmā took full shelter of the Lord, then out of compassion the Lord appeared before him. Then, by the mercy of Krishna Brahmā received transcendental knowledge so that he could understand the various incarnations of the Supreme Lord. Lord Krishna’s incarnations are very difficult to understand. Who has the power to understand Them without His mercy?

Are both Saraswatis the same or different?  

In this context, the natures of Saraswati Devi Puja, by both mundane people and devotees are shown. Now the question is are they the same or different from one another?

The answer is although both Sarasvati Devis are considered to be the potencies of Lord Krishna, they are similar to an extent. But they are not the same, as one is “Maya baddha” (conditioned) and the other is “Maya mukta” (free from Maya).  One is the function of the internal potency and the other is of the external potency. One is the embodiment of the Vedas and Krishna Kirtan, showing the way of Krishna bhajan to the Jivas. The other bewilders conditioned souls and promotes mundane discussions, not Krishna bhajan.

The internally potent Saraswati Devi is Krishna Preyasi (beloved of Krishna):

The Saraswati Devi who is the presiding deity of transcendental knowledge is the internal potency of Krishna. She conducts the innate desires of Lord Krishna. Without her, Lord Krishna’s pastimes cannot manifest, because she is the consort of Lord Krishna’s pastimes.

 The reasons why she is Krishna’s companion are:

  • She churns the hearts of the Vrajavasis, manifesting as Krishna’s flute tune.
  • In Lord Ananta’s mouth, she manifests herself as the verbal form of Krishna’s pastimes.
  • She constantly makes Krishna and His devotees happy by propagating Krishna’s pastimes.
  • In this material world, she manifests in the form of scripture which implies Bhakti.
  • She serves Krishna in several ways. Therefore, she is an internal associate of Krishna.

Despite being under the control of Lord Krishna, the extrinsically potent Saraswati Devi can never please Him. The presiding Saraswati Devi of material knowledge cannot please Krishna because:

  • She misleads the conditioned souls by trapping them in material knowledge. Every living entity is Krishna’s child, therefore Krishna does not become happy at the material bondage of the Jivas.
  • She traps the Jivas who are not inclined to Krishna, by developing their false pride in whatever knowledge they possess. She is therefore an external potency.

This Maya Shakti is nothing but an energy of Krishna. But Maya cannot be in front of Krishna due to her hesitation.

It is stated in Srimad Bhagavatam 2.5.13:

vilajjamānayā yasya, sthātum īkṣā-pathe ’muyā
vimohitā vikatthante, mamāham iti durdhiyaḥ

Translation: The illusory energy of the Lord cannot take precedence, being ashamed of her position, but those who are bewildered by her always talk nonsense, being absorbed in thoughts of ‘I and mine.’

Though this external potency is a consort of Krishna, she becomes ashamed to be in front of Him. Just like an unchaste wife fears to go before her husband lest she should be suspected by her husband.

Saraswati herself expressed this to Keshava Kashmiri:

krpadrshtye bhagyavanta brahmanera prati
kahite lagila ati gopya saraswati

saraswati bolen shunaha vipravara
vedagopya kahi ei tomara gocara

kara sthane kaha yadi e sakala katha
tave tumi shighra haiva alpayu sarvatha

yara thain tomar haila parajaya
ananta brahmanda natha sei sunischaya

ami jara padapadme nirantara dasi
sammukha haite apanare lajja vasi

(Chaitanya Bhagavata: Adi,13.126-131)

Goddess Saraswati glanced mercifully at the fortunate Brahmana and confidentially spoke as follows. ‘O best of the brāhmaṇas, listen as I disclose to you the secrets of the Vedas. If you disclose these topics to anyone, you will meet a quick death. Know for certain that He by whom you were defeated is the Lord of innumerable universes. I am an eternal maidservant at His lotus feet, and I’m embarrassed to appear before Him. The illusory energy of the Lord cannot take precedence, being ashamed of her position, but those who are bewildered by her always talk nonsense, being absorbed in thoughts of ‘It is I’ and ‘It is mine.”’

As soon as these verses of Chaitanya Bhagavata are read carefully along with the words of the devotees, it is understood that these two Sarasvati Devis are always separate from one another.

The Opaqueness of the blessed sons of Saraswati:

We came to know the name of Kalidasa who received boons from “Mayashaktigata” (under the influence of Maya) Saraswati. Later on, Keshava Kashmiri was the blessed child of Saraswati and a contemporary of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Keshava Kashmiri was also blessed with poetic empowerment by worshipping Saraswati. After this as well, India received many blessed sons of Saraswati, whose scholarship has stunned the world.

 

Srila Bhakti Vinoda Thakura writes in his “Kalyana Kalpataru:”

mana re kena kara vidyara gaurava?
smriti saahtra vyakarana nana bhasha alochon

briddhi kare yashera saurava
kintu dekho chinta kari yadi na bhajile hari

vidya tava kevali raurava
krishna prati anurakti sei vije janme bhakti

vidya haite taha asambhav
vidyay marjana tara kabhu kabhu opakara

jagatete kari anubhava
ye vidyara alochane krishna rati sphure mane

tahari adara jano sab
bhakti badha jaha hate se vidyara mastakete

padaghata kara akaitava
saraswati krishnapriya krishna bhakti tara hiya
vinodera sei se vaibhava

Translation: 

“Oh mind, why do you give such importance to mundane knowledge? Your discussion and deliberation on the SMRTI scriptures, various languages, and grammar certainly increase the sweet fragrant aroma of your own material reputation, name, and fame.”

“But just look here and consider this for your judgment. If you have not worshiped Lord Hari, then all of your so-called knowledge is just like a vicious hell. True devotional service takes its birth from the seed of attraction and affection for Krsna. Such a seed is impossible to get by the cultivation of ordinary worldly knowledge.”

“I feel that the hair-splitting scrutiny of mundane knowledge is harmful. On the other hand, however, everyone will appreciate the cultivation of that transcendental knowledge which awakens love and attachment for Krsna within the mind.”

“Among all the obstacles to devotion, this mundane knowledge is certainly the foremost. You must sincerely kick it out, dear mind, for the real understanding is that Mother Sarasvati, the Goddess of learning, is very dear to Lord Krsna, and devotion to Him is her very heart. This very devotion is indeed the sanctifying grace of Bhaktivinoda.”

 

How Srila Prabhupada worshipped Saraswati Devi:

The “Paravidyapitha” and its part “Avidya Harana Vidyalaya” were founded to make the transcendental knowledge that was propagated by Veda Pati Gaurahari. It was made easily available for all to restart the worship of Vishnu-Kanta Saraswati in the land of Sri Navadvipa (which is the land of knowledge and also the birthplace of Saraswati-pati Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu) and to inaugurate the innate spiritual knowledge inside the heart of eminent personalities.

The Vedas are the source of all scripture. The master of the Vedas is Shri Gaura Sundara; Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The transcendental teachings, preached by Sri Gauranga, are available in the scriptures. This transcendental knowledge should be available for everyone as Navadvip is the land of knowledge. It is said in

Chaitanya Bhagavata:

Trividha boyose ak jati laksha laksha।
Saraswati prasade sobai mahadaksha।।

Save maha adhyapak Kari garva dhare।
Balakeo bhattacharya sane kaksha kare।।

Nana Desh haite lok navadvipe jay।
Navadvipe padile se vidyarasa pay।।

Atayeva paduyar nahi samucchaya।
Laksha koti adhyapaka nahika nischaya।।

This is the lost tradition of Navadvipa. To restart this lost tradition, by the grace of Sri Gaurasundara (the master of Saraswati Devi) Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Thakur established Paravidyapith. This Paravidyapitha is also known as “Avidya Harana Vidyalaya”.

Saraswati Puja in Gaudiya Matha of Srila Prabhupada:

After founding Gaudiya Matha, Gaudiya Goshthipati Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Thakur established two different temples. One is the Garbha Mandira, where the deities are served every day; another one is the Natya Mandira where the Lord and His associates are served through shravana and kirtana. That is why this Natya Mandir is the playground of Saraswati Devi.

Gaudiya Vaishnavas serve Saraswati Devi through sankirtana. This is Vani seva or Saraswati Devi Puja of Gaudiyas in all Gaudiya Mathas and preaching centers.

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