Saraswati by Raja Ravi Varma
|Mantra||Om Eim Saraswatyei Swaha|
|Mount||swan, Hansa Bird, and often peacock|
In Hinduism Saraswati (Sanskrit: सरस्वती sarasvatī, IPA: [sərəsʋət̪iː]; Chinese: Biàncáitiān, 辩才天; Thai: สุรัสวดี Surasawadee; Japanese: 弁才天/ 弁財天 Benzaiten) is the goddess of knowledge, music and the arts. She is considered as consort of Brahma. She is the daughter of Durga and is seen alongside her during Durga Puja celebrations along with her sister Lakshmi and her brothers Ganesha and Karthikeya. Saraswati's children are the Vedas, which are the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism.
In the Rgveda, Sarasvati is a river as well as its personification as a goddess. In the post-Vedic age, She began to lose her status as a river goddess and became increasingly associated with literature, arts, music, etc. In Hinduism, Saraswati represents intelligence, consciousness, cosmic knowledge, creativity, education, enlightenment, music, the arts, and power. Hindus worship her not only for "secular knowledge", but for "divine knowledge" essential to achieve moksha.
The original (spiritual) forms of devas including Saraswati are present in the spiritual world:
- In the centre reside the deities of fire, sun and moon, Kurma-avatara, Ananta Sesha, and Garuda, the master of the three Vedas. The Vedic hymns and all sacred mantras also stay in that holy place, which is made of all the Vedas, and which is known in the Smriti-sastra as the yoga-pitha.
Rupa Gosvami elaborates:
- Accompanied by Goddess Lakshmi and other associates, the catur-vyuha expansions headed by Lord Vasudeva are manifest in the eight directions, beginning with the east. In the directions beginning with the southeast, the palaces of Lakshmi, Saraswati, Rati, and Kanti respectively are situated.
In the Devi Mahatmya, Sarasvati is in the trinity of Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati. She is depicted as eight-armed. Her dhyana shloka is, -
- Wielding in her lotus-hands the bell, trident, ploughshare, conch, pestle, discus, bow, and arrow and possess a radiant lustre. She is born from the body of Gowri and is the sustaining base of the three worlds.
Mahavidya Nila Saraswati
Nilasaraswati is another form of Mahavidya Tara. There are separate dhyana shlokas and mantras for her worship in Tantrasara.
Saraswati is known as Benzaiten in Japan. She is venerated as a Guardian Deity in Buddhism who upholds the teachings of Gautam Buddha by offering protection and assistance to practitioners along their spiritual path towards liberation.
The Goddess Saraswati is often depicted as a beautiful, light-skinned woman dressed in pure white often seated on a white Nelumbo nucifera lotus (although Her actual vahana is believed to be a swan), which symbolizes that she is founded in the experience of the Absolute Truth. Thus, she not only has the knowledge but also the experience of the Highest Reality. She is mainly associated with the color white, which signifies the purity of true knowledge. Occasionally, however, she is also associated with the colour yellow, the colour of the flowers of the mustard plant that bloom at the time of her festival in the spring. She is not adorned heavily with jewels and gold, unlike the goddess Lakshmi, but is dressed modestly — perhaps representing her preference of knowledge over worldly material things.
She is generally shown to have four arms, which represent the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness, and ego. Alternatively, these four arms also represent the 4 Vedas, the primary sacred books for Hindus. The Vedas, in turn, represent the 3 forms of literature:
- Poetry — the Rigveda contains hymns, representing poetry
- Prose — Yajurveda contains prose
- Music — Samaveda represents music.
The four hands also depict this thusly — prose is represented by the book in one hand, poetry by the garland of crystal, music by the veena. The pot of sacred water represents purity in all of these three, or their power to purify human thought.
She is shown to hold the following in her hands:
- A book, which is the sacred Vedas, representing the universal, divine, eternal, and true knowledge as well as her perfection of the sciences and the scriptures.
- A mala (rosary) of crystals, representing the power of meditation and spirituality.
- A pot of sacred water, representing creative and purificatory powers.
- The vina, a musical instrument that represents her perfection of all arts and sciences. Saraswati is also associated with anurāga, the love for and rhythm of music which represents all emotions and feelings expressed in speech or music. It is believed that children born with that name will prove to be very lucky in their studies. Anurag is a great believer in Maa Saraswati
A 'white swan' (Sanskrit: hamsa) is often located next to her feet. The sacred swan, if offered a mixture of milk and water, is said to be able to drink the milk alone. The swan thus symbolizes discrimination between the good and the bad or the eternal and the evanescent. Due to her association with the swan, Goddess Saraswati is also referred to as Hamsa-vahini, which means "she who has a swan as her vehicle".
She is usually depicted near a flowing river, which may be related to her early history as a river goddess. The swan and her association with the lotus flower also point to her ancient origin.
Sometimes a peacock is shown beside the goddess. The peacock represents arrogance and pride over its beauty, and by having a peacock as her mount, the Goddess teaches not to be concerned with external appearance and to be wise regarding the eternal truth.
In Hindu beliefs, great significance is attached to offering honey to this goddess, as honey is representative of perfect knowledge. Slokas (hymns) dedicated to her include Saraswati Vandana Mantra.
Saraswati Puja is performed on the 5th day of Magha month of Vedic Calendar (also known as Basant Panchami). This would be Jan 20, 2010.
In Eastern Part of India,West Bengal,Bihar, Assam, Puja is celebrated on Magha Month .People places books near the God Statue or Picture and Workships the Gods.Books reading are not allowed This day.
In several parts of India, generally states to the south, Saraswati Poojas are conducted during Navaratri – a 9 day long festival celebrating the power of the feminine aspect of divinity or shakti. Navratri is celebrated in all goddess-temples of India, with especially great pomp and splendor in south and east India. The last three days of Navaratri starting from Mahalaya Amavasya (the New Moon day) are dedicated to the goddess.
On the ninth day of Navaratri (Mahanavami), especially Sharad Navaratri celebrated by Durga Puja, books and all musical instruments are ceremoniously kept near the gods early at dawn and worshipped with special prayers. No studies or any performance of arts is carried out, as it is considered that the Goddess herself is blessing the books and the instruments. The festival is concluded on the tenth day of Navaratri (Vijaya Dashami) and the goddess is worshipped again before the books and the musical instruments are removed. It is customary to study on this day, which is called Vidyarambham (literally, Commencement of Knowledge). All students are traditionally required to study a part of all that they have learn till that day, and also to start the study of something new on the same day. Gurus (preceptors) are worshipped on this day as embodiments of Saraswati. In major part of India this Navratri is associated with goddess Durga, but in southern India is celebrated as Saraswati Puja.
Although Saraswati temples are rare, major temples for the goddess are present as,
- Mookambika near Kollur, Karnataka
- Sarala temple of Jhankad in Cuttack district of Orissa,
- Saraswathi temple in Basar town in the Adilabad district of Andhra Pradesh,
- Ananthasagar, Shri Saraswathi kshetramu, Ananthasagar, Siddipet Division, Medak district of Andhra Pradesh,
- Shringeri in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka,
- Pushkar in Ajmer district of Rajasthan,
- Panachikkad in Kottayam district in the state of Kerala,
- Thiruvarur in Tiruvarur district in the state of Tamil Nadu,
- Saraswathi Amman, located opposite to the famous Shiva temple of Nellaiappar Temple, Tirunelveli in Tirunelveli districtof Tamil Nadu,
- Sharada Peeth in Jammu and Kashmir and
- Bhadrakali, Gairidhara and Handigaon in Nepal also have Saraswati temples of historical and/or popular significance.
- Saraswati temple in adloor village, Shaligowraram mandal of nalgonda district,
- Sarasvati River
- Hindu Goddess
- Sharada Peeth
- [*Harahvatī] Aredvi Sura Anahita, Saraswati's equivalent in the Avesta.
- Benzaiten a Japanese goddess equated with Saraswati.
- "Saraswati Origine". http://sathyasaibaba.wordpress.com/2008/07/12/saraswati-hindu-goddess-of-learning-saraswati-devi.
- Sunil Sehgal (1999); Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, p. 1214; Sarup & Sons, ISBN 81-7625-064-3, 9788176250641
- Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda 256.23
- Laghu Bhagavatamrta 5.288-290
- Kinsley, David, Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine p 98
- Ghosh, Niranjan (1984). Sri Sarasvati (Saraswati) in Indian Art and Literature. Sri Satguru Publications.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
- Kinsley, David, Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine, The Ten Mahavidyas, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Ltd., Delhi, India, 1998. (ISBN 81-208-1523-8)
- Sankaranarayanan, S., Glory of the Divine Mother (Devī Māhātmyam), Nesma Books, India, 2001. (ISBN 81-87936-00-2)
- Saraswati Puja for Children (ISBN 1-877795-31-3) by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Devi Mandir.
- Ankerl, Guy. Global communication without universal civilization. INU societal research. Vol.1: Coexisting contemporary civilizations : Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western. Geneva: INU Press. ISBN 2-88155-004-5.
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