Queens, New York:- An essay competition for youths on Goddess Saraswati was held in New York in January. The competition was open to the public. Winners were announced on Feb 10 on Goddess Saraswati Janamdhin (or birth anniversary) immediately followed by distribution of prizes. The event was held at the Dayaram Mandir in Hollis, Queens. This was the first of what is planned as an annual essay competition dedicated to Mata Saraswati.
February 9th and 10th, 2019 was known as the spring festival of Vasant Panchami which is the most auspicious time period of the year to honor the Divine Goddess Maharani Devi Saraswati. Vasanth Panchmi is the beginning of the Spring and it is celebrated with much fervour and gaiety with prayers. As a gentle and loving Mother, Saraswati Mata is easily pleased and bless her devotees so they can excel in education and other academic pursuits. Saraswati is dressed in white symbolizing purity and peace. She is the Goddess of wisdom, learning, knowledge, and culture (music and the arts). She is seen wearing a crescent moon and seated on a lotus flower She is propitiated to earn blessings of learning. She is revered among students.
According to an article on Wikipedia, Saraswati Maa wears a white sari because white represents purity of thoughts, purity of speech, purity of true knowledge, and truth. Saraswati Maa’s mode of transportation is a white swan. The white swan represents telling the truth from lies, right from wrong, and good from bad. Saraswati Maa is seated on a white lotus flower because she is the spouse of creator Brahma and the lotus is his favorite seat. Lord Brahma created the universe with Saraswati Maa as his knowledge. One of the essay winners made references to these pointers.
In the Devi Bhagavatam, one of the Hindu scriptures, it is mentioned that the most auspicious time of the entire year to worship Saraswati Maa is on Vasant Panchami. The Sanskrit word “samarpan” can be translated as ‘honoring’, or ‘paying homage to’ a revered figure. Mandirs celebrated the festival with special puja and lectures in what was known as “Saraswati Kaa Samarpan”. Cultural programs were staged for the occasion. There was reading of excerpts of the essays, brief speeches, and singing of religious songs dedicated to Mata Saraswati.
To commemorate the festival, the essay competition was planned and organized by Shri Anil Bedasie, a stalwart promoting Hinduism in the community. The competition was open to the youths under 18 years. The young devotees were encouraged to research the scriptures and visit one of five writing centers in Queens & The Bronx on Sunday February 3rd from 1 PM to 3 PM to write their essays. The time allotted was one hour and all writing materials were provided. Prizes were given to the top three rated essays in three groups (elementary, middle and high school).
Pandit Ganeshwar Ramsahai was one of the driving force of the essay competition and opined that we have many talented young devotees who have achieved academically in their respective schools and we need to showcase these exceptionally brilliant students. The purpose of the competition is twofold. The first is to get young devotees interested so that they can go through the exercise of doing the research of the scriptures and report their findings through their essay writing. The second is an opportunity for youths to learn about the greatness of the deities and facilities the student’s mind to think differently about their relationship with Divinity. It is hoped they will have a greater understanding of this Divine Mother by attending the event, where they can learn more about the Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom.
Anil emceed the program and honoring of the winners of the essay competition. The program at the Dayaram Mandir consisted of an invocation dance by one of the community based dance schools, a drama skit performed by members of a leading community humanitarian organization, and an inspirational message by a spiritual leader of the Indo-Caribbean Hindu community. There were also a number of sangeet segments in which talented vocalists of the community sang bhajans dedicated to Saraswati. Trophies were donated by Navin Phagu of Akash Vaani media. Winners were also interviewed by local TV personalities.
Youths from Shri Surya Narayan Mandir copped several of the honors. and its devotees are very proud of all the children who participated in the 1st Saraswati Kaa Samarpan Essay Competition on the occasion of Vasant Panchami – 2019. Thanks to the organizers and sponsors of the event. The organizers and Shri Surya Narayan mandirr expressed heartfelt congratulations to young Riya Mahabir for winning the 1st prize in the Elementary level of the competition and her sister Naya.
Riya is 10 years old and is a 2nd-year student of the Surya Veer Sang four-year program. Riya along with her sister Naya (3rd place winner in the high school level of the completion). They are regular attendees of the mandir. at Shri Surya Narayan Mandir.
Shri Surya Narayan mandir offers a unique free program for children and adults to know more about Hinduism. This course starts with the basics of Hindu Dharma and culture