By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Goddess Saraswati has arrived on earth to the great joy of the student community. This is the time for her annual visit. Actually she did come once before along with her mother Goddess Durga Devi and her siblings in the autumn. But for her it was a negligible visit, as her presence was not given any importance by the hoi polloi. She was not even noticed at that time. But now it is her day and her annual solo visit to earth is a matter of great joy and enthusiasm. This year her date of arrival is January 25 and as usual Lord Ganesh, her brother, preceded her and arrived on January 24.
Goddess Saraswati is the goddess of learning and she has been worshipped by the student community since time immemorial. This year also the preparations for her welcome have been going on since a week. The weather has been particularly kind and it is sure to help in making the celebration a great success. The young students are having a wonderful time. It is a mixture of joy, fashion and piety. There is bound to be a feeling of devotion, still there is also a kind of party spirit and the young students love to discard their stiff uniforms for the day and don the trendiest of eye–catching dresses. They really look very colourful and brighten the atmosphere. Little girls in shortened mekhela chadors and saris look simply delightful and very attractive. This is the day for them to display their fineries, and they are not going to miss the joy of looking elegant and attractive. The mornings are meant for devotion and for worshipping the deity with floral offerings. The evenings are meant for pandal hopping and the young people as well as others visit various puja pandals to observe the lighting miracles and the decorations.
Goddess Saraswati comes every year at this time, just before the examitions are held. So the time is particularly opportune for her arrival since the examinees greatly need her blessings at this time. The student community turally welcome her with fervour. Once Saraswati Puja was confined to only the educatiol institutions; it was a very simple affair and there was no glitz and glitter. But now the deity has become very popular and her puja is not confined only to the educatiol institutions. But the puja is performed in various shops, some banks and other establishments as well; and why not? Saraswati is the goddess of learning—is it not? So to keep the accounts correctly and to calculate profit and loss you do need her help—don’t you? Hence you see decorated puja pandals all over the city and the puja is no longer a simple affair. It has become a grand affair and pots of money are spent in the me of the pujas. Educatiol institutions, hostels, and other organizations do the puja in an impressive way. There seems to be an undeclared competition among the organizers as to whose decorations are the best.
But the old tradition is not lost. In the schools you see the same picture which was seen in the earlier times. Possibly the school children are more interested in the deity than in the decorations. You can still see little children in their best dresses going to their respective schools with flowers in their hands, their faces bright with joy and hope. It is really a heart warming scene. They still place their books at the feet of the Goddess with the idea that the Goddess will bless them and their books. It is a funny idea really, but the tradition of offering books, pens etc. to the Goddess has been continuing for ages. It is merely a faith of the children without any validity. But where would we be without faith? If this faith gives the students some hope for doing well in the examition, then surely it would inspire them to study more, which would filly be extremely beneficial to them and that is all that matters.
The problem is that today’s young people often forget that they are after all students and not some die–hard politicians. But politics has vitiated the educatiol atmosphere to a great extent and the college elections have become more or less like political elections. Many of the student leaders become politicians in later life. Hence you see that today’s student leaders often talk like politicians. But in earlier times educatiol institutions were treated as temples of learning and politics never entered into the portals of an educatiol institution. Hence those students knew very well that it was their duty to study only and do nothing else. But now the situation is entirely different. The students have started to dabble in politics ostensibly for the good of the country. Various political parties have entered the temples of learning and have divided the students into various sections. The student sections seem to belong to diverse political parties. Often we hear of unpleasant situations arising amongst different sections; which is a great pity. I think that the students should have political awareness, but they should never get actively involved in politics. There is time enough for that. After their student life is over, they can do whatever their conscience dictates. The problem is that the young students are not mature enough to realize what is good for them or what their duty is. Even those parents who belong to the economically backward section do not hesitate to spend money on the children’s education. Their only hope is the future success of their children. I think the students should make every effort to fulfil the wish of the parents and it is their sacred duty. That is what I think and possibly most of the parents also will agree with me.
Anyway, the students may not bother about the opinion of the elderly people, who for them are out–dated. Whatever they think, the examitions are bound to arrive at some fixed time. After spates of bandhs, strikes, dhars, processions and other forms of agitations throughout the year, the students wake up to their dismay that the fil examitions are only a few weeks away. Saraswati Puja, in fact, gives the sigl that the time to get into the study table has arrived and that life is not all pleasure. And then it is time to make frantic search for notes, guide books and probable questions. After all, their aim is to pass the examition and not to acquire knowledge.
Now with the arrival of Goddess Saraswati the youths of the city have filly realized the bitter truth that “life is not roses, roses all the way”. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said in “A Psalm of Life”— “Life is real! Life is earnest And the grave is not its goal.”
The world is a mixture of opposites and one has to acquire the necessary qualification to face all sorts of odds in this earth of ours. The children should know what should be their priorities. They must understand that education is their major priority. As the former Prime Minister of U. K. Tony Blair said in 1963 at a Labour Party Conference, “Ask me my three main priorities for Government, and I tell you: education, education and education”.
We only hope that the Goddess of learning blesses the students and forgives them for any lapses. Mere ritualism and decor may not please her. Perhaps she becomes happy if the students worship her with devotion from the heart. It is turally accepted that the pujas also give the students the opportunity to demonstrate their talents through their ingenuous ideas. The decorated gates and pandals as well as the artistic designs mutely exhibit the talents of the budding artists. I am sure that after the pujas are over the student community will concentrate on studies. Education is extremely necessary for success and they should also get value education. As William Ralph Inge said, “The aim of education is the knowledge not of facts, but of values”. Only with value education the children would learn to be good human beings; which is so necessary to make life happy and peaceful and as a consequence the world will be a harmonious place to live in. After the departure of the Goddess to her heavenly abode, the students should get ready to cross the hurdles of examitions. They should remember that time and tide wait for no man. All our best wishes are with them. Happy puja, dear students!
(The writer is a former Head, Department of Philosophy, Cotton College, Guwahati)