Saraswati Puja … It reminds me of the day when my mother won’t pester me to study , the day I was allowed to roam in one of my mother’s fine mekhela chadar , the day I was allowed to wear make-up as per my choice and no scoldings to be heard from teachers back at school and yeah, mostly gorging on sumptuous jujubes or as locally called in Assamese Bogori, the fruit that is so bountiful during the onset of spring season.
How I miss my childhood days of Saraswati Puja in the present era. I feel like turning back the pages of time and once again relive those festive days that I, as a school student adore. Prior to the days of Saraswati Puja, there was hullabaloo in the class as to the attire the girls are going to wear in the day of the biggest religious and fun-filled festival for the students. And of, course how can I forget the days of preparation that are done for Saraswati Puja? The beautiful crafts that were made which speaks volumes of a student’s artistic imagination, the decorations which made the puja venue so colourful and the days of shopping for the items of worship prior to Saraswati Puja and mostly the seriousness of every person to make sure that the idol of Goddess Saraswati is placed properly. The same fun-filled activities went on every year till the completion of my college days. (But yes, during college days I got to wear my own mekhela chador, ha ha).
On the day of Saraswati Puja, the atmosphere of the puja venue was so surreal and beautiful. The chants of the priests and the burning of incense sticks and diyas gave the whole educational institute a feel of positivity and holiness. Again, the bright attire of the students and teachers and the laughter and chatter made the ambience lively and vibrant. The delicious bhog served during the day of the puja further made the puja an unforgettable affair of my student days.
Let me talk of jujube, the fruit that is synonymous with Saraswati Puja. It is considered inauspicious to eat the fruit before Saraswati Puja. The fruit is a must to be consumed on the day of Basant Panchami when Saraswati Puja is performed.
The Indian jujube or Ziziphus mauritiana is an integral food offering made to goddess Saraswati during the time of worship. So it is essential to eat jujube as Prasad after the worship is over. According to Hindu mythology, jujube is said to be a favourite fruit of goddess Saraswati.
The jujubes are either eaten raw or in some puja venues , the fruit is also eaten in a pickled form along with the traditional bhog of Khichuri, mixed vegetables (labda).
The sweet , juicy and sour taste of jujubes reminds me of the joy of Saraswati Puja the moment I bite into this fruit. Moreover, in eastern India , a wholesome prasad of Saraswati Puja can be termed ‘Wholesome’ only when jujbes are present. The smooth and glossy skin texture of the fruit together with the crispiness makes it delicious. Since, the fruit is small, many people savours five or six jujubes together or maybe even more. The sweet aroma of the fruit is also an attractive feature because of which people enjoy eating jujubes.
The earliest mention of jujube can be found in the Classic Of Odes, a Chinese anthology of poems dating back to 6th century BC. Jujube is thought to have originated from Syria and North Africa at least 3000 years ago. It then moved east towards southern Asia and, eventually, China, where it is still widely grown. It is also found in Madagascar, Bulgaria, some more parts of Europe, and in the islands of the Caribbean.
In India, jujube is mostly grown in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh , Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.
Jujubes are rich in Vitamin C. It helps in getting good sleep, soothes anxiety, improves digestion, regulates blood circulation and blood pressure and also helps in strengthening of bones and is a good source of losing weight.
Jujube, the fruit that is around 2.5 cm in diameter can be oval, round or oblong shaped and consists of 20-30 per cent sugar, 2.5 per cent proteins and 12.8 per cent carbohydrates.
Jujube trees grows well on laterite, medium black soil with good drainage or sandy, gravelly, alluvial soil of dry river beds where it is vigorously spontaneous. Some types of jujube fruits ripen as early as October but mostly it ripens between middle of February to end of April.
The importance of jujube in the rituals and worship of Saraswati Puja is quite noteworthy. The fruit is found in almost every puja venue. The fruit is always present either in raw form or pickled form in every plate of Prasad. Sarawati Puja is incomplete without jujubes and the two are so closely associated.
Wish you all a very Happy Saraswati Puja. May the Goddess of Learning shower Her blessings upon you all.