Dilip Mandal and the misunderstood metaphor of 'Saraswati' and 'Wisdom'

NewsBharati    17-Feb-2021   
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Hindus around the world celebrated Vasant Panchami on Feb 16, whereby 'Saraswati' Pujan stands out to be the emphasis of the rituals performed across the horizons of the entire Indian subcontinent, and not just the Indian land. Vasant Panchami mainly marks the arrival of spring and thus a new season for agriculture. Being an agrarian nation, the festival is auspicious for the entire farming community from north to south and from east to west. But then why is Goddess Saraswati worshipped on this day, since ages? What is the significance of 'Saraswati' and knowledge on the day?

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It is absolutely natural to question the relation of the mother deity with the festival of Vasant Panchami because understanding the principles that Hindu dharma has put forth is not easy. The Vedic dharma, that has evolved around river Saraswati is complicated to understand because of its poetic nature that is often misinterpreted. Questioning is the first step in the process of awakening. Therefore, understanding the actual purpose of rituals that have been followed blindly over the years is only facilitated through questioning, which is acceptable. What is not acceptable is the unfounded statements like that of Dilip Mandal, that have caused chaos over the social media with his misinformed belief, that he has articulated in a blatant manner, without even trying to comprehend the core purpose of rituals like Saraswati Pujan.

Dilip Mandal, who himself is a Professor, has shared a highly opinionated tweet on twitter stating how he condemns Saraswati Pujan on the auspicious occasion because he doesn't know what 'Saraswati', who based on his tweet seems to be a human figure to him, has done to educate people. Mandal has therefore compared the mother deity with legendary humans like Savitribai Phule. His tweet excellently portrays what cultural ignorance and knowledge based on hatred towards a particular section of the society can lead to. However, such unthoughtful statements are not expected from someone like a Professor, who shares some responsibility in the society. It is precisely because of his ignorance and hatred that has make him believe that Saraswati is something equivalent a human figure.
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Local people of Haryana worshiping representation of river Saraswati
In order to understand the development of Hindu dharma, it is important to understand human psychology because the deities that are worshiped in Hinduism, just like any other ancient way of life, are what people belonging to the Indian land considered as important factors in their life, and these factors were mainly natural in nature, and not something that man created all by himself. 'Saraswati' is a mother goddess who represents river Saraswati, which according to the Vedas was the mightiest river of the Indian subcontinent.
The river was a source of everything that was necessary for the people to survive, especially for farmers, since in the plain area farming is dominantly supported with the river water. That explains why on 'Vasant Panchami', which is an important occasion for farmers, Saraswati Pujan is done. In fact, it is observed at many places of northern India that people actually worship river Saraswati and not the goddess, even today.
Why 'Saraswati' is associated with knowledge and wisdom?

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A myth explains the story that excellently narrates why 'Saraswati' is specifically associated with knowledge and wisdom, only if the onterpreter is smart enough the understand the symbolism in the story. It is believed that Kaviraj Kalidasa had once fallen for a princess but saddened with her rejection, Kalidasa walks to banks of river Saraswati and decides to end his life. Only after he reached the river, Kalidasa realized the significance of his life and the things around him and that is when he started writing down literature that is referred as source of information to study history even today.
The metaphorism in the myth has deeper connotations and thus seek for a keen interest for understanding. According to the story, an individual who has lost all hope for anything good to happen is revived because of the river and all the wisdom is generated that is evident of the knowledge even today. Besides, on factual basis it is believed that the vedas were created during a period when life in India was highly dependent on river Saraswati.

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It is unacceptable of a person as educated and intellectual as that of Dilip Mandal, who is not only a professor but is associated with big names of left leaning media, to abandon an approach to first understand and investigate why would people since ages practice 'Saraswati Pujan' on the occasion of Vasant Panchami. The act of worshiping, in its purest form, is merely an act of gratitude from man towards various elements of nature to implicate satisfaction for the life everyone is living. In the course of time, these natural elements were idolized by man to structure the act of gratitude towards nature and eventually such practices like 'Saraswati Pujan' became important part of Hindu dharma.
No specific section of the society or caste can take credit for the emergence of such rituals since the practices were developed by people unitedly and replicate natural tendency of human behavior. The tribals even today are used to idol worship, whereby their idols represent natural and environmental factors.
“'Saraswati' and 'wisdom', therefore, remain to be a misunderstood and misinterpreted example of metaphor over the years, merely due to lack of interest to comprehend the core idea of Indian culture.”