Goddess Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, music, and wisdom. Saraswati comes from the words ‘saras’ meaning flow and ‘wati’ meaning she who has or possesses. She is also associated with flowing water. Saraswati forms part of the female Trinity with Parvati and Lakshmi being the other two. She is also known as ‘Vagdevi’, an epitome of sound and speech.
According to Hindu legend, Lord Brahma created the universe but found it lacking in substance. To remedy this, he created Saraswati, an incarnation of wisdom who gave him direction to create the cosmos as we know it—the sun, moon and stars. The puranas believed that Lord Brahma was so enamoured with Saraswati’s beauty that he started following her around wherever she went. Upset with this amorous side of Lord Brahma, Goddess Saraswati placed a curse upon him that no human shall worship him. In yet another version it is said that Saraswati was late in appearing for a yajna that Lord Brahma was performing in Pushkar. This yajna could not be completed without a wife and so Lord Brahma married a common girl, Gayatri, to perform the yajna. When Saraswati arrived and discovered this, she cursed that he would not be worshipped anywhere except for Pushkar. There are other versions for the curse of Brahma also but these are the ones that are associated with the goddess. These are often said to be the reasons why despite being part of the Trinity of Gods along with Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, we seldom see Lord Brahma being worshipped. There are only two temples in India of Lord Brahma, one in Pushkar in Rajasthan and the other in Tamil Nadu.
In the Rig Veda, there is a mention of the river Saraswati, which is often considered to be an earlier form of the goddess. It is said that before she married Lord Brahma, Saraswati, along with her sisters Ganga and Lakshmi, were the three wives of Lord Vishnu. An altercation among them resulted in Ganga and Saraswati being cursed to be rivers on earth. This is also when Lord Vishnu asks Saraswati to go to Lord Brahma. Popular legend believes that while Saraswati went on to become Brahma’s wife, a part of her incarnated as a river on earth.
Goddess Saraswati is depicted as a beautiful woman wearing a white sari and seated on a lotus. She typically doesn’t wear too many ornaments as a symbol of the fact that she places learning over material pursuits. She has four hands and is seen holding a veena, a book, a mala of crystals and a pot of water, each of these having a special significance.
Veena: The veena is often known to represent the entire Indian music and is commonly used to refer to all stringed instruments. The music produced by the veena is considered to be closest to the sound of the female human voice. The veena also represents all creative sciences and arts.
Book: The book symbolises the four Vedas, symbolising universal, divine and eternal knowledge. Goddess Saraswati is said to be repository of all knowledge and wisdom in the entire cosmos.
Mala: The mala held by Saraswati symbolises the concentration and meditation required to gain true knowledge.
Pot of Water: This symbolises sacred water which purifies everything.
Lotus: A symbol of absolute purity and endurance.
Her four hands also represent four aspects of the human personality—mind, intellect, alertness, and ego.
Popular mythology says that Goddess Saraswati sits on the tongue once in a day, making whatever is uttered come true. This is why one is often told to be careful with what one says.
Powers of Saraswati
- Endowing humans with power of speech and thought
- Removes darkness of mind
- Makes the mind clear and focused
- Creating an aptitude towards arts and music
- Bestows wisdom of thought and speech
Basant Panchmi is celebrated as the day of Saraswati’s birth, which also heralds the start of spring. On this day people wear yellow, make yellow food at home, and worship the goddess. It is interesting to note that yellow also is the colour of the planet Jupiter, known as the planet symbolising knowledge and intelligence. According to Hindu tradition, children are made to write their first word on this day as a tribute to the Goddess of Knowledge.
The most popular prayer of Goddess Saraswati is the Saraswati Chalisa, a 40-verse prayer, asking the goddess to bless the reader with wisdom and the power of clear thought and speech. Older children are often taught this chalisa to give them the ability to study well through their school years. It is also believed that regular recitation of the Saraswati Chalisa gives peace of mind and wards off evil.
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