This day is celebrated as the birthday of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning, She is the lily-white daughter of Shiva and Durga in spotless white robes and seated in a full-blown lotus. Her carrier is a snow-white swan. Her brother Ganesh, the elephant God, is invariably close at her side, and he receives animal sacrifices in her stead. In her hands Saraswati holds a book, a vina harp, and sometimes a great sword because of which many believe that she and Manjushri are one and the same.
Shri panchami brings people of all castes, ages and creeds together to the temples of Divinity, especially to the idol behind Swayambhunath.The image is inundated with gifts, sweets, fruits, flowers in the hope of gaining Saraswati’s favor. As she rules over the realm of speech, letters, arts and sciences, students, scholars, writers, poets, artists, musicians and also spinners and weavers lavishly fete her. All her tools like pens, books, ink, etc. are also worshipped. According to popular belief, if a person swallows seven rice grains, which are offered to the Goddess, he/she will become wise and knowledgeable. So, students and children clamor for the rice grains strewn around the idol.
This is also the day when children of 5 to 7 are taught their first alphabet, which is repeated after the parent or teacher and traced on wooden slabs. And around the city numerous wedding processions followed by musicians and relatives can be seen, as this day is the most auspicious and popular day in the year for marriages, when the union is blessed by the Goddess Saraswati herself.
This day also coincides with the advent of spring. The ancient royal palace at Basantapur was first inaugurated in Kathmandu on Basant Panchami day with rites still officially commemorated at Hanuman Dhoka by the mid-morning gathering of hundreds of government officials, in formal attire and military officers laden with ribbons and medals. The King arrives in a motorcade, escorted by mounted cavalry officers and military band. Inside the old palace they all stand to attention through the strains of the traditional Song of spring. Then the season is inaugurated with gun salutes, while the royal priest conducts elaborate ceremonies in the honor of Goddess Saraswati.
Purvahna Kaal, which falls between late morning and early afternoon, is considered to decide Vasant Panchami day. Vasant Panchami is celebrated on the day when Panchami Tithi prevails during Purvahna Kaal. Due to which Vasant Panchami might also fall on Chaturthi Tithi. Many astrologers consider Vasant Panchami as Abujha day which is auspicious to start all good work. According to this belief whole Vasant Panchami day is auspicious to perform Saraswati Puja.
During the ancient period when Vasant Panchami was more oriented toward Kamadeva, dancing girls, dhol players, and other celebrants would come to the royal Bakshi’s palace to create an informal durbar with the royals. Specially made Vasanti clothes would be worn by the dancing girls and younger royal ladies, consisting of a skirt, blouse, and pink or saffron sari with tiny red square or circular dots. This clothing would be further embellished with gold and silver borders and brocade work. On the celebration day the dancing girls would collect flowers and mango leaves (a reference to one of the love-arrows of Kama Dev) from the garden of the Bakshi’s palace. The flowers and mangoes were arranged in brass vessels and the informal durbar would be set up. The occasion was marked by the singing of various ragas usually on the theme of love (especially songs involving Krishna and Radha or the gopies of Brij Bhoomi). At the conclusion of the celebration, the flowers would be sprinkled with red gulal and the dancing girls would apply it to their cheeks. They were then gifted a sum of money by the royal ladies. Today this is not practiced, and the festival is oriented toward Sarasvati, however Kamadeva remains an important figure as feasts are held in his honor during Vasant Panchami, and the theme of love remains an important part of the festival with this being the most popular day of the year for weddings in some areas.