It is that time of the year once again! Saraswati Puja is being celebrated in Assam once again with pomp and splendour, as the city’s residents are busy thronging malls, decked out in their best attire. Despite concerns over COVID-19, the crowds are back on the streets and festivities are again underway with unbridled enthusiasm and joy. Inarguably one of the most important festivals among the Assamese people, the state’s enduring love affair can be summed up as below:
1. Unofficial Valentine’s Day: Usually held during the month of February (same as the world-famous Valentine’s Day), Saraswati Puja is especially popular among lovers. Yes, restaurants, parks, and hotspots frequented by lovebirds are likely to be jam-packed today. Couples — dressed up in their best — are likely to be found sharing some sweet moments at the nearest cafe or lounge. Another thing that we have noticed in recent times is ‘twinning’ —
2. Assam’s biggest beauty pageant: Even though the fashion industry in Assam is surging ahead by leaps and bounds, nowhere will you see the kind of glitz and glamour that is on display during this festival. In fact, the grandest ramp pales in comparison to the collective beauty that is on display during Saraswati puja. While girls will likely be found wearing colourful mekhela chadors — an Assam specialty — guys will be found wearing kurta pajamas.
3. The aroma of ‘khichdi’: For a day, khichdi (South Asian cuisine made of rice and lentils) becomes the favourite food of the entire state. At makeshift pandals, you will come across the fine odor of khichdi and the ‘labra’ (mixed vegetables) that it is usually consumed it. Tempting, isn’t it?
4. News crews: If you visit any of the larger cities of Assam on the occasion of Saraswati puja, you will undoubtedly see newsmen scurrying around, trying to find the ‘most beautiful girl’/’most handsome man’ amid the thronging crowds. In Assam’s news channels, panels of experts will hold discussions and deliberations about which youngsters are the best dressed. In recent times, however, the media organizations have faced flak for ‘objectification’ of beauty and their usual enthusiasm has been toned down in recent years owing to the ‘circumstances.’
5. The controversies: Just as it is incomplete without the ‘khichdi’, Saraswati puja is also incomplete without controversies. Just last year, Jorhat girl Aanchel Malakar’s ‘controversial’ outfit on Saraswati puja drew the wrath of netizens, with charges being leveled against her for ‘defiling the sacred day.’ Over the new few days, citizens of Assam were divided into two camps — those supporting the youngster’s fashion choice and those opposing it for ‘religious reasons.’
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