Some Nostalgic Memories

Traditions, customs, and cultural practices are fast disappearing, happily sacrificed at the altar of metro living.

A thought that gets triggered off every now and then. Our technological and robotic lifestyle has no space for them! The trigger for this thought brought along some memories from the past that made me downhearted on a busy workday morning. The only consolation was that many of these practices maybe good riddance to bad rubbish. But certainly not all of them. Certain rituals and practices associated with specific occasions are not only enjoyable but serve to add fun and zest, breaking the monotony of life in general.

Today is Basant Panchami – a festival associated with welcoming the arrival of Spring. Not a major festival, but for me this day is associated with Saraswati Puja and that was the trigger for today’s thought. In the Eastern India, this day is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, who is an embodiment of knowledge, language, music and all kinds of art. Goddess Saraswati’s association with knowledge makes her special. Afterall, studies are foremost and that’s the only thing children and young adults are supposed to be focusing on in our country. Back home, every household ensures she is invoked on this day.

What We Used to Do

Back in the days, Saraswati Puja belonged to those most eagerly looked forward to days. It used to be a day to say no to books. The only day in the entire year when we wouldn’t have to hear the usual “destined to be doomed if we don’t study” from parents. Books were dedicated to the Goddess on this day and one was not supposed to touch them. With exams lurking around the corner, this time period used to be a hectic study period. As school students, what could be a more welcome break than to get away with a day without studies!

Yellow used to be the colour of this day – considered to be Goddess Saraswati’s favourite colour (associated with the yellow mustard flowers that bloom in Spring). Draping a saree on this day used to be a must and more often than not, the saree would be yellow or at least have a dash of the colour yellow. As we grew older, the saree to be worn on Saraswati Puja used to be decided days in advance. The puja would be completed in the morning and the rest of the day would be spent gallivanting with friends.

In the globalized world of today’s metro cities, I cannot visualize children indulging in such activities. Rather they are busy chasing the likes of Haloween and Thanksgiving. Though I believe children in Eastern India still celebrate this day in pretty much the same way.

Saraswati Puja is sometimes unofficially called “Bengali Valentine’s Day”. This is more so in West Bengal than in other parts of East India. With parental restrictions waned on this day, young hearts dressed in their ethnic best celebrate love in their own way. I guess I needn’t elaborate anymore on this.

The first thing we would do the following day of the Puja would be to write “Namo Saraswati Devi Namah” 108 times on a piece of paper. The norm was to write with the pen/pencil that was dedicated to the Goddess the previous day. Usually it would be written in Bengali. For small children, this would be a difficult task and hence writing the letter ‘A’ or ‘অ’ (first letter of Bengali alphabet) 108 times was considered enough. Thereafter, the paper was supposed to be immersed in a flowing river or stream. In the absence of easy access to a river or stream, we would simply immerse it in drums at home that were used to store water.

All of these nostalgic remembrances suddenly resurfaced today. The reason being my parents, who are on their annual visit to my home in Bangalore and Saraswati Puja becomes a must do at my Bangalore home too. As my parents make the necessary arrangements, my mind goes on this trip down memory lane with nostalgia dripping all way through.

Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

16 thoughts on “Some Nostalgic Memories”

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I hadn’t heard of this holiday before. It sounds lovely. We don’t celebrate any holidays in our home – mostly because there are none we particularly believe in. (Take Christmas for example: We are neither Christian nor Consumerist so neither side of the tradition really speaks to us). Still, there is a part of me that feels a pang – a wish for a few traditions and maybe a big extended family to share them with. So thanks again – it was lovely reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is not a very big festival and hence you wouldn’t have heard about it. Moreover, it’s celebrated in east India – the part of India that you are yet to explore 🙂
      It’s a holiday only in certain places in the East. In fact, it is celebrated in offices too….
      Some traditions are really nice, I feel they make us feel alive and happy and also brings people closer.
      Thank you for reading this Todd, especially as it’s quite alien to you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My first visit to Guwahati just happened to be on a Basant Panchami. It seemed to be a bigger festival there than I’d ever seen before. There were groups of teenagers walking about, in high spirits. Some of the young girls had probably worn a saree for the first time in their lives, in yellow, and were busy taking selfies. The valentine aspect was clearly visible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, young girls walking awkwardly while managing their sarees is a very common sight on this day. Young boys will also wear kurtas and again mostly yellow. 🙂
      It’s nice to know that you had a glimpse of this day on your very first visit to Guwahati.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve summed it up aptly. Though some of our traditions and customs seem to lack meaning in the present context, I have found quite a few do have some logical reasoning from “those days”. I am not a very ritualistic person, but many a times when I happen to watch a ritual being performed, I tend to think of how and why it would have originated and later I search literature for its origins. Quite often – even if we are blindly following it – there is an underlying scientific reasoning and that is quite satisfying to the mind. Some meaningful customs and traditions are a valuable inheritance; teachings of our ancestors laying down ethics and keep us rooted.

    I am happy that you are getting to enjoy Saraswati Puja with your parents. Have a wonderful time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some rituals and traditions have reasoning (maybe logical, maybe not, sometimes scientific too as you rightly point out), while some others don’t and perhaps they exist only because they are fun and bring people together. Many of these have also gotten molded over time. I also usually stay away from rituals but if they are fun, I am all in :D….
      If you think of weddings, there used to be so many rituals associated with them and each region had their own set of rituals….many of those are gone now, due to lack of time and resources.
      Some of these do have teachings and values ingrained in them and I also feel they contribute in creating holistic personalities. Again, it is important to demarcate rituals/traditions vs. superstitions – sometimes the line between the two is a thin one.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I completely agree with you – there is nothing I could add. Superstitions, of which there are countless, are the bane of humanity and a hindrance to progress. I find it paradoxical that many a times something illogical is carefully carried down the generations, while meaningful traditions are forsaken at the altar of modernisation! Probably, the fear of the unknown has a greater hold than the love for goodness. Such are the travails of our society…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. True! Sometimes superstitions are passed off as traditions, seen that happening quite often even with friends and family members who are otherwise modern and open in their outlook. Sometimes we blindly follow something just because it’s been that way always without putting our minds into it. And, yes sometimes its the fear of the unknown that keeps us from letting go certain irrational and illogical practices.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing your memories and experiences from life. I remember in one of the schools that I went to during childhood, the day began with a prayer dedicated to Saraswati even though it was a modern school. I guess all this has changed because we have become “global” and old customs and traditions are being booted out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right! We are global and cosmo now…most of us don’t even know these traditions, neither do we care. We are too busy getting around our daily lives, especially in busy cities like Bangalore…
      I had completely forgotten what we used to do on this day, its just suddenly resurfaced and felt like something of past life 😀
      Thank you for giving this a read, Arvind 🙂

      Like

  5. Yeah tradition always give value to our roots. But unfortunately we all become too busy to keep our tradition alive. Credit goes to our villages for upholding our tradition by way of celebrating the festivals in a traditional manner. But for them we would have forgotten our traditions and customs long back !

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Living in Bangalore for so long, I can understand the nostalgia for Saraswati Puja. However in Bengal things are pretty much unchanged, at least about the basic aspects.

    About the craze for Halloween and Thanksgiving in Bangalore, I completely fail to understand.

    The aspect of writing Namo Saraswati 108 times I wasn’t aware of, as I never did it. Of course, when I was a kid, Saraswati Puja at home was held only a few times as we had one in our locality where all the kids congregated and had fun all day, along with khichuri bhog.

    One thing you didn’t mention is the ritual of ‘hathekhori’, wherein children were initiated in learning to write, and write the first few letters of the Bengali alphabet, and when I was a kid, we did that on a piece of slate board with a chalk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand in Bengal it would still be the same as it is in Shillong too. We used to have a community Pujo in our locality too but it would be done at home too. The hathekhori thing is not very prevalent in the NE. We never did it and hence it didn’t find a mention here. And you aren’t aware of the 108 times writing of Namo Saraswati. How amazing is that. The same pujo celebrated in so many different ways in the same community. So same, yet different 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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