Festival for goddess of art

Hindus will gather in Columbia to worship and make offerings to the deity Saraswati.
Friday, January 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:55 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

There is no formal Hindu temple in Columbia where Hariprasad Trivedi can take his 9-year-old son Aditya to learn about his religion and culture.

However, on Saturday the Knights of Columbus Hall will be transformed into a place of learning, worship and celebration that mirrors the temples of Trivedi’s native India.

The hall is the site of this year’s Saraswati Vandana Festivity.

The 14th annual event marks a day of worship and cultural activities celebrating Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and arts.

“I think our goal is to have our kids to learn about our culture,” said Trivedi, a physician at Truman Veterans Hospital.

More than 200 local Hindus are expected to participate in the event, which started as a gathering of families from the Indian region of Bengal. The celebration has since grown to include more of Columbia’s Hindu community.

Celebrating spring in India

Dr. Shivendra Shukla, a professor of pharmacology, is coordinating the puja, or ritual worship, that celebrates the arrival of spring.

“This is the time in India when the flowers come,” Shukla said.

Mustard-yellow flowers are indicative of the celebration.

During the puja, Shukla will bathe the goddess with milk, yogurt, sugar, honey and clarified butter, dress her and decorate her with ornaments.

Other attendees will then be asked to offer flowers to the goddess and bring books, pens and other elements of learning to be blessed.

Shukla said this holiday takes on even more significance in a university town where learning is central to the town culture.

In addition to the worship, there will be cultural activities throughout the day. Groups will recite hymns, act out plays from the Hindu epics and perform traditional dances.

Because the ceremony does not end until after sundown, lunch will be served as well.

Although the weather will not be like in India, he said the sentiment will be the same.

“It’s a matter of devotion and feeling,” Shukla said.

For young Aditya Trivedi, it’s an opportunity to learn about his culture, heritage and religion.

“The celebration is based on the goddess Saraswati,” he said. “She’s the goddess of knowledge and wisdom.”

For him, the celebration offers other things besides opportunities to learn.

“My favorite part would probably be playing with my friends,” Aditya said.

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