Maa saraswati is Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts.
The goddess Saraswati is often depicted as a beautiful woman dressed in pure white, often seated on a white lotus, which symbolizes that she is founded in the experience of the absolute truth.
She is mainly associated with the color white, which signifies the purity of true knowledge.
Saraswati is known as a guardian deity in Buddhism who upholds the teachings of Gautama Buddha by offering protection and assistance to practitioners.
In India, it is customary that, out of respect, when a person's foot accidentally touches a book or any written material (which are considered a manifestation of Saraswati) or another person's leg, it will be followed by an apology in the form of a single hand gesture ( Pranam) with the right hand, where the offending person first touches the object with the fingertips and then the eyes, forehead and/or chest.
In the eastern part of India .Tripura, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar and Assam,Saraswati Puja is celebrated in the Magha month (January and February). It coincides with Vasant Panchamior Shree Panchami, i.e. the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha. People place books near the goddess' statue or picture and worship the goddess. As a custom , as the books and notebooks are supposed to be kept on alter by the students for worship,students are not supposed to study on the day. Many choose the day as a symbolic start of learning in form of 'Hate Khori' or starting to learn alphabets.
In the southern states of India, Saraswati Puja is conducted during the Navaratri. Navaratri literally means "nine nights", but the actual celebrations continue during the 10th day, which is considered as Vijaya Dashami or the Victorious Tenth Day. Navaratri starts with the new-moon day of the bright fortnight of the Sharad Ritu (Sharad Season of the six seasons of India) during September and October. The festival celebrates the power of the feminine aspect of divinity orshakti. The last two or three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati in South India.
In Karnataka, the Mysore Dasara festival includes Saraswati Puja. During the Navratri season they keep various dolls on raised platforms this arrangement is called ("Gombe koori suvudu"). Books and musical instruments worship is also done on Saraswati pooja day.
In Tamil Nadu, Sarasvati Puja is conducted along with the Ayudha Puja(the worship of weapons and implements including machines). On the ninth day of Navaratri, i.e., the Mahanavami day, books and all musical instruments are ceremoniously kept in front of the Goddess Sarasvati early at dawn and worshipped with special prayers. No studies or any performance of arts is carried out, as it is considered that the goddess herself is blessing the books and the instruments. The festival concludes on the tenth day of Navaratri ( Vijayadashami), and the goddess is worshipped again before the books and the musical instruments are removed. It is customary to start the study afresh on this day, which is called Vidyarambham (literally, "Commencement of Knowledge").
In Kerala, the last three days of the Navaratri festival, i.e., Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami, are celebrated as Sarasvati Puja. The celebrations start with the Puja Vypu (Placing for Worship). It consists of placing the books for Pooja on the Ashtami day. It may be in one's own house, in the local nursery school run by traditional teachers, or in the local temple. The books will be taken out for reading, after worship, only on the morning of the third day (Vijaya Dashami). It is called Puja Eduppu (Taking [from] Puja). Children are happy, since they are not expected to study on these days. On the Vijaya Dashami day, Kerala celebrates the Ezhuthiniruthu or Initiation of Writing for the little children before they are admitted to nursery schools. This is also called Vidyarambham. The child is made to write for the first time on the rice spread in a plate with the index finger, guided by an elder of the family or by a reputed teacher. The little ones will have to write "Hari Shri Ganapataye Namah" and recite the same to mark the auspicious entry into the world of education. This is considered a memorable event in the life of a person. In some parts of Kerala bordering Tamil Nadu, Ayudha Puja is also conducted during this period.
In Japan, she is known as Benzaiten.
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