“And spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”
Spring- the king of all seasons has set in. The blossoming ‘palash’ which is popularly known as ‘flame of the forest’ welcomes the advent of spring in every districts of Bengal.
Season of Love
For us Bongs, bosonto also means the “season of love”. Red and yellow flowers cluster of krishnachura sparkle in the sunshine to mark the most gorgeous season in Bengal. Not only the cities, even the rural Bengal come alive with aroma of flora as if someone has injected romance in the air. The messenger of spring, cuckoo coos from behind the bushes and fills every human heart with a thrill of joy. The pristine feeling of love starts brewing in young hearts. Spring season and Valentine’s Day arrive hand in hand, in loud colours for the lovers. The magical atmosphere mixed with the light chill bidding farewell to the winter, white clouds drenched with warmth of sunlight awakens the intensity of romance and love.
Romance in the air
This is also the month of Saraswati pujo in Bengal – a festival of worshipping the Goddess of knowledge and music. For generations the youths celebrate the occasion as the season of love, passion and sharing.
The spirit of togetherness, bonding, promise and anticipation of innocent romance fills in the February sky.
Grown-up for a day
This is one of those occasions which every young heart in Bengal eagerly waited for. While the elders take the back stage and enjoy their journey to the sweet nostalgia, it is the teenagers and students who usually organize the Saraswati puja. Devi Saraswati represents the finer emotions in life. Knowledge, exploration, music, love are all yoked into one, making this a more conducive festival for young romance. The Goddess Saraswati symbolizes creative energy and power in all its form including longing and love. A perfect deity who depicts not only the true meaning of knowledge and culture but also teaches all the purity of love above all things .
Ask any Bengali and he/she will tell u how a teenage heart used to beat much faster than usual with the anticipation of the thought of working together – boys and girls all sharing the platform together in school and college campuses – delegating responsibilities among themselves with all seriousness (and naughtiness) for hours together- away from parents’ watch or teachers’ discipline. Beyond all those busy hands and thoughtful young minds there are always senses of freedom- a license to be “grown up” for a while!
Those nights & those moments
The preparation starts a day before the Puja and continued throughout the night. The decoration, the flowers, the rituals –
utensils and those beautiful alpona (rangoli made by the school girls using rice paste) adorns the floor where the idol of Maa Saraswati is installed together with the music, guitars and those sweet nothings among the shy couples make it a day to remember forever and worth waiting for 365 days.
Please don’t study
What gives the festival a young edge is that on this day parents insist that you should not study! Yes, you heard it right! And that is one more reason it is so much different and yet so popular among students. The ritual says a student needs to ‘offer’ his/her study books, notebooks etc to the Goddess and must not be touched them till the day is over. Thus a ‘free from study’ day and that too with due permission from your strictest parents- the happiness of the young souls can easily be guessed!
However, this day of break from rules’ brings with it the mood of romantic abandon. The vive of this day is also one of happiness, joy of being free.
Young boys and girls step out alluring saris and chic Kurta suits. The streets look exuberant and glamorous with the smiling faces of these young folks.
Love, laugh & puja
The excitement of observing your next door neighbors, friends and classmates changing their usual attire to beautiful and bright yellow saris or a designer dhoti and kurta has always been so thrilling and romantic. This touch of ethnicity makes the festival all the more special and magical. Down the memory lane, one can remember this is also used be those rare days when boys are allowed to enter girls’ school, colleges and vice-versa. Then comes the episode of those super-fun hand-in-hand pandal hopping and mouth watering bhog savouring once the puja gets over.
Hence, cupid might strike in February 14th on other parts of India but in Bengal things work slightly differently. Here Saraswati puja is the day to woo and is a unique take on the Valentine’s Day. So, a note of advice for all those dudes out there to win the heart of your Bengali girl friend , it may not be a teddy bears or chocolates that you should be looking for , but be there with her hand in hand enjoying the ‘khichuri’ and ‘misti’ and a whole lot of Bengali hearts.
Interestingly Saraswati puja festival is a fete affair in Bengal. So, would you like to experience the desi, heartwarming version of Valentine’s Day this season??? Get ready with your dhoti –‘Punjabi’ (yes, that’s what a Bengali would call a kurta )or yellow sari and ofcourse, a Bong partner!
About the writer
Sejuti Chowdhury had been a journalist with leading media groups like The Pioneer and Asian Age in New Delhi. Later she left journalism career and took up her passion of being with the children and younger generation sharing her knowledge and professional experience with them. Presently, Sejuti is working as Assistant Professor in a college in West Bengal under Burdwan University.