TODDLER Adri’s parents were hoping a Puja blessing had given their girl divine insight.

The Rodbourne three-year-old was one around a dozen Swindon children to receive the blessing at yesterday’s Saraswati Puja, celebrating the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, wisdom and nature.

Traditionally, families mark the day by encouraging their young children to try writing their first words. Youngsters pray to the goddess for wisdom.

But little Adri Debi might not need much help. Proud dad Avijit Debnath, 29, said his daughter was already a good reader.

“I’m really proud,” he told the Advertiser. “She’s getting the learning. She’s preparing to go to school and she’s received the blessing from the goddess.”

Now in its seventh year, the Saraswati Puja has become one of the highlights in the Swindon calendar.

Last year, more than 600 people crowded the Punjabi Community Centre for the evening of dance and music. Organisers expected to attract an even larger audience last night.

Suvapan Roy, one of the organisers of the festival, said yesterday afternoon that 25 groups would be playing that evening.

“Over the years the calibre of the programme is high and a lot of people come and attend,” he said. “It’s a big audience and a good opportunity for people to show off their school or dance group.

“For us, It’s really enjoyable. People working here are mainly volunteers. They love it. They really love it.”

He added: “In the Hindu religion there are lots of devotionals events, but the Saraswati Puja is very significant because Sarawasti is the goddess of learning, wisdom, art, culture and beauty. That’s why everybody completing their studies worships the god, from a very young age to an old age.

"When children start reading and writing, the priest will guide them to write a letter. A lot of people believe it will give the child divine knowledge."

Gagan Gandhi, 40, said: "As Hindus, we all believe in the various gods and goddesses. Saraswati is the goddess of wisdom. That's why we are here."

As people prayed and made their devotions, the air in the Punjabi Community Centre was thick with incense. Drummers competed with the shouts of excited children.

And built at the front of the hall was a scale model of a Rajasthani palace temple. Debabrata Roy, committee general secretary, took a month off work to organise the event. “Hinduism spread from India. We have an ancient temple. Everything is here,” he smiled.

The Sarawasti Puja traditionally marks the start of spring in the Hindu calendar. Holi, the colourful festival of spring, is celebrated 40 days later.