In 2008, I attended the Saraswati Puja at the Saccidananda Society. It was the very first time in my life that I was in Kolkata on the occasion of Saraswati Puja. As most of you are aware, Babathakur’s birthday falls on Saraswati Puja.
Before the spring of 2008, I had never seen Saraswati Puja outside of the San Francisco Bay Area (where I stay). I had however heard from some of Sri Sri Babathakur’s devotees that celebrating Saraswati Puja in His presence is a completely different experience, with His revealed bhajans performed after the Puja. I had once seen a video of Saraswati Puja being celebrated in Sri Sri Babathakur’s presence. The video captured all the happenings of that day – from morning until night – and featured Shri Kedar Narayan Bodas (the singer of Sri Sri Babathakur’s revealed bhajan albums) singing a few bhajans. A unique thing I found about the Saraswati Pujas conducted at the Saccidananda Society and other parts of Kolkata was that they were held on the actual day of the Puja - unlike the Saraswati Puja I attend in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Puja is typically celebrated on the nearest Saturday/Sunday, since most people aren’t be able to attend to the festivities on the actual day of the Puja due to work, school, and other commitments.
On Feb 11th 2008, my dad, grandmother and myself arrived at the Society around 10:15am. We saw that the Puja had already started, with Sri Sri Babathakur sitting on a chair, facing the devotees. The puja took place on the topmost floor of the society. A large number of devotees from outside Kolkata were also attending the Puja.
Saraswati Puja being performed in the morning at the Saccidananda Society
I sat down and observed the Puja, taking pictures from time to time. At around 12:45 pm – I saw Sri Sri Babathakur sitting in His chair, facing the audience, dressed in white colored clothes, with two hands up.
Sri Sri Babathakur’s pose showering blessings on devotees
Close up view of Ma Saraswati
Soon after that, there were quite a few batches of anjali and prasad. I think I was in the first batch. Devotees of Sri Sri Babathakur prepared the prasad plates.
Prasad plates being prepared by devotees of Sri Sri Babathakur
This was followed by lunch – of which khichuri (my favorite) was the main item. We went to stand in the lunch line, but there were no spoons available – I had never eaten without a spoon before! My father and Utsav Dada (another devotee of Sri Sri Babathakur from New Jersey) went to get spoons from somewhere else.
An interesting thing about the lunch was that it was prepared by a special cook in Kolkata. Back in the Bay Area, the Saraswati Puja that I usually attend has both lunch as well as dinner catered by an Indian Restaurant! The taste of the khichuri was very unique.
After lunch, I left the society to rest at my grandparents place. We returned to the Society in the evening to attend the arati and bhajan sessions. When we entered the society at around 6:30pm, Sri Sri Babathakur left the topmost floor (where the Puja had taken place in the morning) and went back to the second floor. Attending the arati was a unique experience because I don’t remember attending arati at any of the Saraswati Puja functions in the Bay Area. The outside of the society was decorated very nicely with lights.
Priest performing the evening arati
The evening arati was followed by a bhajan session performed by certain devotees of Sri Sri Babathakur, who reside in Kolkata. This in turn was followed by dinner prasad at around 8pm.
Bhajan session by certain devotees of
Sri Sri Babathakur residing in
Attendees having the dinner prasad
The “Bishorjon Puja” took place the day after the Saraswati Puja. This again was a new experience for me since in the Bay Area, Ma Durga’s and Ma Saraswati’s pratima are reused in the following years!
Before Ma Saraswati was bade farewell, Sri Sri Babathakur delivered a speech on “Why do we do Saraswati Puja”. Some of Sri Sri Babathakur’s devotees were seen dismantling certain stuff in preparation for the bhashan.
Then, at around 1:30pm, the Murti of Ma Saraswati was brought down. People said that it would be loaded onto a Van – I expected to see a real van like a Honda Odyssey or a Maruti! But I soon realized that Ma Saraswati would actually be riding on a rickshaw after seeing Her being loaded onto one. By 1:40pm, Ma Saraswati was already at the bhashan place.
By 1:45pm, Ma Saraswati’s bhashan into the nearby lake was completed.
In summary, it was a very unique experience for me. I look forward to attending Saraswati Puja in the company of Sri Sri Babathakur again.
I am also attaching a picture of the Saraswati Murti used in the Puja that I usually attend in the Bay Area. Incidentally, the Saraswati Puja will occur on a Saturday this year. And the Bay Area Puja that I usually attend will also be celebrated on the actual day of the Puja - January 31st, 2009.
* "To know that I am not the doer nor the
enjoyer nor even the experiencer is right Knowledge." : Sri Sri Babathakur.